The mask has been torn away. Supposedly anti-Israel protests over the Gaza war have convulsed Europe in the worst scenes of open Jew-hatred since the 1930s. In Paris, predominantly Muslim mobs screaming ‘death to the Jews’ have repeatedly tried to storm synagogues, torched cars and burnt Jewish-owned shops to the ground. In Berlin, demonstrators shouted ‘Gas the Jews’ while an imam beseeched Allah to ‘count and kill Zionist Jews to the very last one’.
In Britain, physical and verbal attacks on Jews have doubled. One woman was assaulted by a group of 50 protestors who heard her discussing Gaza on her mobile phone. Shouting ‘get her’ they surrounded and pushed her, calling her a Jew, Zionist, murderer and thief.
People are aghast. Yet this lynch-mob mentality has been building for years. Every time Israel takes military action to prevent further Palestinian attacks, it is falsely presented as the aggressive persecutor of the innocent.
Unless British Jews join this demonisation, they are deemed complicit with Israel’s ‘war crimes’. As a result, attacks on British Jews always spike during Israel’s wars. So much for the supposed distinction between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism.
Even more appalling is the silence in the face of all this of the political class.
Sure, the occasional Lib Dem is slapped down for blurting out some ripe anti-Jewish canard. But no politician has addressed this for what it is: a fundamental crisis of decency, which is a knife through the moral heart of Britain.
Anti-Semitism singles out Jews for treatment applied to no other people: the application of double standards, false claims they are committing crimes of which they are instead the victims, and demonic conspiratorial powers. This is precisely the treatment applied to Israel.
Anti-Semitism can never be eradicated. Yet much could be done to push it back under its stone if both the Prime Minister and leader of the opposition were to display moral leadership and state a number of home truths. This is what David Cameron should say: ‘I am utterly appalled by the attacks on the Jewish people on the streets of Britain and in our public discourse. This hatred and bigotry is being fuelled by warped and distorted reporting about the Gaza war.
‘Newspapers and broadcasters are uncritically treating Hamas propaganda as fact. Indeed, since Hamas uses its people as human shields to paint Israel as child-killers, the media have effectively turned themselves into accessories to murder and incitement to hatred.
‘Frankly, in Iraq and Afghanistan we showed nothing like the care Israel is taking to avoid killing civilians wherever possible, even sacrificing its own soldiers to do so.
‘I have become aware that this Jew-hatred is fuelled by falsehoods about Israel’s historic and legal rights. Accordingly, Philip Hammond will ensure that the Foreign Office corrects its untrue claims about the ‘occupation’ and ‘illegal settlements’.
‘I have also realised that Muslim anti-Semitism is the principal driver of the Islamic war against both Israel and the West. Accordingly, the government will suspend its support for Mahmoud Abbas until the Palestinian Authority stops glorifying terrorism, promulgating blood libels and instructing its children that their highest ideal is to destroy Israel and murder Jews.
‘To combat anti-Semitism in Britain, I will also ensure that all schools teach the history of the Jewish people and its eternal connection to the land of Israel. I acknowledge that colonial Britain’s betrayal of its legal obligation to settle the Jews in their historic homeland and its appeasement of their Arab persecutors lie at the core of the Middle East conflict and stoked the Jew-hatred we now see erupting again. As Prime Minister, I feel under a moral obligation to try to put this right.’
And this is what Ed Miliband should be saying: ‘I am horrified, not just because of the resurgence of the madness from which my own family so grievously suffered in the Holocaust, but also because we on the left bear no small responsibility for this current obscenity.
‘Hamas has placed its rocket arsenals below hospitals, schools and mosques. It is using 12-year-old kids as human bombs against Israeli soldiers. Yet the left isn’t protesting against this depravity but instead demonising the Israelis who are trying to stop it.
‘I am shocked that John Prescott called Gaza a concentration camp and said Israel should be a pariah state. The EU rightly says equating Jews with Nazis is anti-Semitism.
‘But then the left marches side by side with Islamists, who are committed to the persecution of gays and women, while it boycotts Israel, the only place in the Middle East where Muslims enjoy human rights.
‘We ignore Muslim on Muslim violence in Iraq, Yemen, Libya or Gaza. We ignore the 800 or so civilians killed in Ukraine. In Syria, more than 200,000 people have been slaughtered, 2,000 in the past two weeks alone. Yet we don’t march against Assad or Putin, only against Israel.
‘We think we are progressives building a better world. We tell ourselves anti-Semitism is right-wing. We are terribly wrong. Today, anti-Semitism is overwhelmingly on the left.
‘Only now I am starting to understand that Zionism, the movement for the self-determination of the Jewish people, is part of Judaism. Hostility to Zionism means hostility to Jews. We on the left shout “Free Palestine”. But that means “Destroy Israel”. How did we progressives get on the wrong side against civilisation?
‘I am ashamed of the part the left has played in fomenting this evil we now see all around us. Under my leadership these lies and this bigotry will now end.’
All of that would help. So do you think there’s any chance that either of them will say it? No, me neither.
Such silence and worse by our politicians makes them complicit in this resurgence of the oldest hatred. Small wonder many British Jews now feel so betrayed, so nauseated and so alone.
Melanie Phillips is a columnist for the Times.