British Prime Minister Theresa May took time away from the pressures of Brexit with a forceful condemnation of antisemitism as it impacts Jewish women in public life, in a speech on Monday night.
May was addressing a reception at the her 10 Downing Street residence in London attended by delegates to the Sara Conference on women and antisemitism, held earlier in the day at the Houses of Parliament. At that event, a number of Jewish women parliamentarians spoke of their experiences of antisemitic, misogynistic abuse from far-right and far-left provocateurs.
The prime minister said that 2018 had been “the year in which Parliament heard women MPs, many of whom are here today, describing the deluge of vile misogynistic and antisemitic threats they receive on a near-daily basis.”
Said May: “The research published at today’s conference, showing that Jewish women politicians are more likely to attract the attentions of far-right hate groups, was deeply disturbing. But I doubt it came as much of a surprise to those who have been on the receiving end.
In both data and anecdote, the evidence is clear: in 2018, in the United Kingdom, Jewish women are increasingly coming under dual attack. Abused for being women and abused for being Jewish.
These attitudes are not limited to the far right. As is so often the case with antisemitism, bigotry directed at Jewish women also comes from those who would never consider themselves to be racist, including within the women’s rights movement itself.
Some Jewish women have been told that they’re not ‘real’ feminists unless they publicly disavow Israel’s right to exist, or been thrown off pride marches for flying rainbow flags that feature the Star of David. And as one British Jew put it earlier this year, ‘Going on a … women’s rights march can be a tricky affair when you find yourself marching alongside people carrying banners merging the Israeli flag with a swastika.’
This kind of double-standard is often justified by the old canard that antisemitism isn’t really racism, as racism can only ‘punch down’ and Jews are universally wealthy and powerful — an argument that is, in itself, deeply antisemitic.
I have no time for equivocation. Antisemitism is racism — and any ‘equality’ movement that indulges or ignores it is not worthy of the name.”
May added, “Antisemitism and misogyny have no place in this country.” She concluded, “When I look around this room and see so many brave, dedicated men and women, I know that hatred will be defeated.”
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