After a summer of turmoil in Israel made itself felt among Jewish communities around the world, the British Jews are to hold a pair of rallies against anti-Semitism, set to take place in Manchester and London later this month.
The northern city of Manchester has the second-largest population of Jews in Britain. It was the site of multiple protests against Israel during Israel's Operation Protective Edge, many centered outside a shop in the city center selling Israeli beauty products. The protests and counter-protests became so filled with animosity that police were often forced to intervene between the two sides.
The rally in Manchester will take place on October 19, in city center's Cathedral Gardens. The speakers will include Labour shadow cabinet members Jim Murphy and Ivan Lewis and Jonathan Arkush, the vice president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews.
"We never thought we’d be organizing a rally against anti-Semitism," Raphi Bloom, chair of the North West Friends of Israel told the Jewish Media Agency this week. "I guess what’s shocked a lot of people is that whilst we always knew there was a level of anti-Semitism in the UK, I don’t think anyone quite appreciated how close to the surface it was. People have been surprised and shocked that so many people – people who they went to university with, who they work with, who they went to school with – displayed not only anti-Israel sentiment but strayed over into anti-Semitic sentiment as well."
A similar rally was held in central London on August 31, attended by British Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis and other Jewish community leaders. Some five thousand people turned out for the rally.
The Jewish community responded strongly to the anti-Israel protests in Britain during the summer, calling the criticism of Israel one-sided. Prominent members of the community even ended their funding of a London theater that cancelled the UK Jewish Film Festival due to its sponsorship by the Israeli government, while the British Association of Social Workers came under fire for a statement on the Gaza conflict that a Jewish member of the union called “distressing, manipulative, inflammatory, one-sided and disturbing.”
Last month, German Chancellor Angela Merkel led a protest in Berlin against anti-Semitism.
"Anyone who hits someone wearing a skullcap is hitting us all," Merkel told the September 14 rally. "Anyone who damages a Jewish gravestone is disgracing our culture. Anyone who attacks a synagogue is attacking the foundations of our free society."