JPR’s report on antisemitism released today while encouraging should give us all a moment’s pause. The report shows that when presented with an array of different statements considered antisemitic by the Jewish community, 70% of respondents rejected all of them. And yet this still leaves 30% of respondents who agreed with one or more of these statements which included notions of Jews benefitting financially at the expense of others, having too much control over society and emotionally exploiting the Holocaust. This remains a cause for concern. While levels of antisemitism in British society appear to be low and the number of people who could be deemed to be antisemites (by their strong association with several antisemitic beliefs and statements) is also low, the diffusion of various antisemitic ideas into the general population is worrying.
The report also showed that anti-Israel beliefs were significantly more widely held and agreed to than antisemitic or anti-Jewish statements, and that people who held anti-Israel beliefs were statistically more likely to agree with one or more antisemitic statements. This demonstrates that the interplay between antizionism or anti-Israel beliefs and antisemitism is incredibly complex and must be handled sensitively.
At CCJ our work endeavours to respond to all of these issues. We regularly feature discussions, seminars and educational workshops about antisemitism to consider how the phenomenon has changed, and how it continues to affect the Jewish community today. Increasingly we are working with Muslim partners to also understand and tackle Islamophobia alongside antisemitism as we agree with one of the speakers at the launch of the JPR report that “if you are not committed to combatting all hate crime, you are part of the problem”.
Engagement with the Jewish community is one of the primary ways that we are able to dispel illusions and misunderstandings about Jews and CCJ’s programmes to foster dialogue between Christian and Jewish communities, as well as with others, allows us to foster a culture of tolerance and understanding. Our Israel/Palestine dialogue between Christians and Jews, particularly faith leaders, brings better understanding and more complex, nuanced conversations about the situation. We work in all spheres to educate people of all ages about Judaism and Christianity and how to improve relations between faith communities, and hope that our work will help to lessen the numbers of people associating with negative opinions of Jews into the future.