Does Israel "cause" anti-Semitism?

That's what the numbers seem to suggest

The Community Security Trust, which monitors anti-Semitism, says that anti-Semitic attacks in the UK doubled in the first half of this year compared with the same period in 2008. The trust said it recorded 609 incidents between January and June - up from 276 last year - a "record rise".

Hmm, I wonder what provoked this rise in anti-Semitic attacks? From the BBC website:

"The trust said the rise had been driven by anger over Israel's military campaign against Hamas in Gaza.

"That conflict, between December 2008 and January 2009, was followed by an almost immediate rise in anti-Semitic incidents in the UK."

In fact, a similar spike in anti-Semitic attacks occured in the latter half of 2006, in the wake of Israel's bombardment, and invasion, of Lebanon over that summer, which killed over a thousand Lebanese civilians and displaced hundreds of thousands from their homes.

I personally echo and endorse the words of the Community Cohesion minister, Shahid Malik, who said today:

"This rise in anti-Semitism is not just concerning for the British Jewish communities but for all those who see themselves as decent human beings.

"The fight against anti-Semitism is a fight that should engage us all. This country will not tolerate those who seek to direct hatred towards any part of our community.

"It may be legitimate for individuals to criticise or be angry at the actions of the Israel government but we must never allow this anger to be used to justify anti-Semitism."

Nothing justifies anti-Semitism - or any form of racism, racial discrimination or, I might add, Islamophobia. But I do find it both tragic and ironic that the state of Israel - created ostensibly to protect Jews from across the world from hatred, prejudice and violence - through its actions today, and through its self-proclaimed role as the leader and home of world Jewry, provokes such awful anti-Semitic attacks against diaspora Jews who have nothing to do with the actions of the IDF or the policies of Netanyahu, Olmert and Sharon.




Mehdi Hasan is a contributing writer for the New Statesman and the co-author of Ed: The Milibands and the Making of a Labour Leader. He was the New Statesman's senior editor (politics) from 2009-12.

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Why Theresa May won't exclude students from the net migration target

The Prime Minister believes the public would view the move as "a fix". 

In a letter to David Cameron shortly after the last general election, Philip Hammond demanded that students be excluded from the net migration target. The then foreign secretary, who was backed by George Osborne and Sajid Javid, wrote: "From a foreign policy point of view, Britain's role as a world class destination for international students is a highly significant element of our soft power offer. It's an issue that's consistently raised with me by our foreign counterparts." Universities and businesses have long argued that it is economically harmful to limit student numbers. But David Cameron, supported by Theresa May, refused to relent. 

Appearing before the Treasury select committee yesterday, Hammond reignited the issue. "As we approach the challenge of getting net migration figures down, it is in my view essential that we look at how we do this in a way that protects the vital interests of our economy," he said. He added that "It's not whether politicians think one thing or another, it's what the public believe and I think it would be useful to explore that quesrtion." A YouGov poll published earlier this year found that 57 per cent of the public support excluding students from the "tens of thousands" target.

Amber Rudd, the Home Secretary, has also pressured May to do so. But the Prime Minister not only rejected the proposal - she demanded a stricter regime. Rudd later announced in her conference speech that there would be "tougher rules for students on lower quality courses". 

The economic case for reform is that students aid growth. The political case is that it would make the net migration target (which has been missed for six years) easier to meet (long-term immigration for study was 164,000 in the most recent period). But in May's view, excluding students from the target would be regarded by the public as a "fix" and would harm the drive to reduce numbers. If an exemption is made for one group, others will inevitably demand similar treatment. 

Universities complain that their lobbying power has been reduced by the decision to transfer ministerial responsibility from the business department to education. Bill Rammell, the former higher education minister and the vice-chancellor of Bedfordshire, said in July: “We shouldn’t assume that Theresa May as prime minister will have the same restrictive view on overseas students that Theresa May the home secretary had”. Some Tory MPs hoped that the net migration target would be abolished altogether in a "Nixon goes to China" moment.

But rather than retreating, May has doubled-down. The Prime Minister regards permanently reduced migration as essential to her vision of a more ordered society. She believes the economic benefits of high immigration are both too negligible and too narrow. 

Her ambition is a forbidding one. Net migration has not been in the "tens of thousands" since 1997: when the EU had just 15 member states and the term "BRICS" had not even been coined. But as prime minister, May is determined to achieve what she could not as home secretary. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.