LAWYER Mark Lewis’ emigration to Israel with partner Mandy Blumenthal paved the way for a sold-out panel discussion.
The event was organised by the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America and co-sponsored by UK Lawyers for Israel; Israel, Britain and the Commonwealth Association; and the Israel-Britain Chamber of Commerce.
The couple, outspokenly opposed to verbal and physical onslaughts against Israel and the Jewish people, had been subjected to persistent and aggressive hostility.
There had been hate mail on social media, threatening phone calls and more — so much so that Manchester-born Mr Lewis had been advised by police to change his route to work.
Panel moderator Eylon Levy, an investigative journalist with i24 News, suggested that Mr Lewis was perhaps exaggerating the gravity of the situation in England.
But Mr Lewis replied that if their respective grandfathers had been having a similar conversation in Germany in the early 1930s, they would have shrugged off the prevailing political environment as a passing phenomenon — and that’s what a lot of Jews in Britain are doing today, even though a poll indicated that 85 per cent of British Jews believe that Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is antisemitic, and 40 per cent of British Jews would consider moving to Israel if Corbyn becomes prime minister.
Asked by Mr Levy whether he considers himself to be a refugee, Mr Lewis replied that in some sense he does, “because Israel is a place of refuge for Jews”.
Ms Blumenthal dismissed the refugee concept by asking “How can you be a refugee in your own home?”
She said that she never expected some of the frightening things that had happened to her, including one phone message of “Mandy don’t forget, we know where you live”.
A video clip was shown of Mr Lewis and Ms Blumenthal being interviewed on the BBC by Victoria Derbyshire during the controversy over the definition of antisemitism.
Mrs Derbyshire wanted to know why they thought that England was no longer a safe place for Jews to live.
But, in asking her questions, she threw in one about membership of the UK Zionist Party.
When told that there is no such political party, she offered an airy apology, saying that her notes had been prepared for her.
But Ms Blumenthal is convinced that Mrs Derbyshire was clearly against them and had an agenda.
Journalist Melanie Phillips emphasised that antisemitism didn’t start with Corbyn and won’t end with him.
“The UK has a troubling history of antisemitism,” she said.
She commented that most British people perceive Jews to be much more numerous than they really are. If you tell someone in Britain that there are only 280,000 Jews in England, they will be incredulous, she observed.
“They can’t get their heads around that, because Jews are always jumping up and down about Israel,” Ms Phillips said. “Most British people don’t want to hear about Jews, Israel or antisemitism. They just want it all to go away.”
King’s College undergraduate Tamar Berens said that on campus “antisemitism far outstrips everything else going on in the world”.
Ms Blumenthal added: “It’s socially and institutionally acceptable to be antisemitic.”
Hadar Sela, managing editor of CAMERA BBC Watch, said that too many journalists are unaware of what constitutes antisemitism.
Asked whether aliya is the only sensible response to antisemitism, Mr Lewis replied that if he had a chance to have an audience with every single Jew in Britain, “I’d tell them to leave”.
Ms Blumenthal added: “It used to be that Israel needs the Jews in the Diaspora. It’s changed. Jews in the Diaspora need Israel.”
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