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Criticising Israel doesn’t mean we are antisemitic | Antisemitism

Criticising Israel doesn’t mean we are antisemitic | Antisemitism
Criticising Israel doesn’t mean we are antisemitic | Antisemitism

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I read and carefully reread Jonathan Freedland’s column (Those who attack Jews in the UK are not striking a blow for Palestine: they are behaving as antisemites always have, 16 February). I always do. He is one of the most thoughtful and perceptive columnists around, but in this column he seems to me – and I apologise if I have misunderstood him – to suggest that it is virtually impossible for me, a liberal-minded non-Jew, to say publicly that the current policy of the Israeli government and actions of the Israeli Defense Forces make me sick to my stomach, without being antisemitic. As, of course, did the actions of Hamas on 7 October.

I understand his point that the one can lead to the other; that the damning of Israel’s politics and policies sits alongside racism. But it is not the same thing. While the dividing line is thin, it does exist. And if it is not maintained, how do people like me express honestly held views? I would never do anything to harm or to insult a Jewish person or institution in this country as a means of expressing my contempt for and rage over the actions of Benjamin Netanyahu and his far-right coalition.

I understand that the statistics Mr Freedland cites show that others do. But I am with the woman on Question Time last week who spoke out for the importance of being able freely to condemn the current government of Israel without being held to be a racist.
Tim Miles
Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk

Jonathan Freedland’s sensitive article gave an important account of the attacks, misery and anxiety experienced by Jewish individuals and communities in Britain: a reminder of the need to hold together an understanding of that, along with anguish at the ongoing trauma and suffering of Palestinians, as Gaza is relentlessly destroyed.

Like antisemitism, Islamophobia is also rife in this country, and the situation in the Middle East can only widen the gulf between the two faiths. So it is deeply disturbing that Michael Gove intends to withdraw funds from the Inter Faith Network (Inter Faith Network headed for closure as Gove ‘minded to withdraw’ funding, 16 February). This is a time when interfaith dialogue is more important than ever. We must campaign to save this charity, now.
Diana Francis
Bath

While I agreed, and with some sympathy, with most of Jonathan Freedland’s article, I was very uncomfortable with his suggestion that antisemitic feelings “lurk even in the most seemingly blameless hearts”. That, I guess, includes most of us and, frankly, it prompted near-outrage in me. Are those of us who are not Jewish unable to think, at the bottom of our hearts, that antisemitism is despicable? Are we really incapable of separating our attitude to Jewish people from strong objection to what the current Israeli government is doing to Gaza?

I am British and have hated with some venom what the British government has done to my country over the last 14 years. That scarcely makes me anti-British. Yes, it is true that there are those who can’t distinguish between a people and a government, but please accept that there are many of us with a semblance of a brain who can.
Geoff Holman
Knutsford, Cheshire

Jonathan Freedland leaves me with an acute moral dilemma. If I speak out against the Netanyahu government’s unacceptable disregard for the loss of life in Gaza, I will inevitably add fuel to the flames of antisemitism. If I do not speak out, I give the Netanyahu government a free hand to do whatever it wishes. Which of these alternatives does he believe is the least bad?
Geoff Renshaw
Leamington Spa, Warwickshire

As someone whose grandfather lost his entire family to the Holocaust, having to bear witness to this latest upwelling of global antisemitism has been chilling.

Seeing the gleeful willingness of people I’d never have suspected capable of antisemitism to speak of “the Jews” in ways that would be immediately condemned if targeted at any other minority has been gut-wrenching. Not just because many were friends but also because of the ease with which they are able to share their hate in public without consequence.

I never was a supporter of Israel, because I had been foolish enough to believe the Holocaust was some sort of closing act. But now I’m reminded on a daily basis exactly why it is that Jewish people need a refuge and why Israel came into being in the first place.
Hugo Bodenham
Cape Town, South Africa

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