May 19, 2024

Hilary Freeman Shares Her Shocking Anti-Semitic Experience

The Community Security Trust (CST) – a charity that monitors antisemitism – received a record number of reports of anti-Jewish hate in the first six months of 2021. Chief executive Mark Gardner said British Jews in 2021 were suffering «levels of hatred that were worse than anything seen in recent decades», likely due to the Israel-Gaza conflict.

Antisemitism continues to be experienced by many Jews in the diaspora, most recently in the form of Kanye West’s weeks-long spate of bigotry. The artist took to Twitter and Instagram, where he has a combined following of over 30 million, to express conspiracy theories that have spurred hate and violence against Jewish people in the past – including that they have outsized power and influence in the media.

After backlash from users, West’s Twitter account was suspended, and there has been a public outcry demanding that influential brands cut ties with him. After sustained public pressure, Adidas has announced the termination of their Yeezy partnership with West.

The impacts of the rapper’s comments, initially played down by many as “harmless rants” or “free speech”, are already being seen, with thousands having taken to social media over the past week to express their support for the rapper, reaffirm antisemitic tropes and vehemently deny that Kanye expressed anything “wrong. ”

Over the weekend, a well-known Neo-Nazi hate group in Los Angeles set up a demonstration of support on a 405 Freeway overpass, raising alarms from local officials and residents that the rapper’s rhetoric was inspiring more public bigotry. The demonstrators gave Nazi salutes as they stood behind a large overpass banner that read, “Kanye is right about the Jews,” according to images collected by anti-discrimination organisations and Jewish residents.

Here, Hilary Freeman, a 49-year-old journalist and author who lives in Camden with her partner and daughter, shares the shocking realities of experiencing antisemitism on her own doorstep in London.

At seven years old, I had my first taste of antisemitism. While playing out in a street in Wembley, North London with my little brother, a group of children shouted at us from the opposite side of the road. “Oy, are you Jewish? ” they taunted, probably recognising our Jewish primary school uniforms. I bristled. Then came the killer line: “Jews are dirty and mean. ”

I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t acutely aware that some people not only dislike Jews, but want us to be obliterated from the face of the earth. Antisemitism is the original racism, known as “the oldest hatred”. Whenever and wherever Jews have lived, throughout history, we have been persecuted. My grandparents were teenage refugees from Nazi Germany, so from a very early age I knew that most of my relatives had been murdered in the Holocaust. Records show that my great-grandfather was shot into a mass grave, while my grandma’s sister and her five-year-old daughter were gassed in Auschwitz.

After the Holocaust in 1945, people – briefly – believed that antisemitism would never again never rear its ugly head in civilised societies. But that optimism was short-lived. Jew-hate has never gone away and, in the past few decades, has been increasing all over the world, especially in Europe and even in the so-called ‘tolerant’, multicultural UK. Figures released earlier this year show that the number of antisemitic hate incidents in the UK has reached a record high, with 1,805 reported in 2019.

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