WILEY RUINED MY WEEKEND

Your fight against racism has to incorporate the fight against anti-Semitism

27.07.2020

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It goes without saying that this weekend had a very strange tone, but unless you are a member of the Jewish community, you may not have noticed. Starting on Friday night, while most Jews were sitting down for their Shabbat dinner, British grime artist and MBE Wiley embarked on an hours-long, openly racist, rant about the Jewish community. As the vitriolic tirade took place across his social media platforms for his 500K followers to see, I balked as I scrolled through 10+ hour’s worth of slurs, conspiracy theories about and direct threats to my community. In the midst of the Black Lives Matter movement, I found it difficult to comprehend that we were seeing more hate.

For every 10 comments and responses Wiley received from Jews begging him to stop or arguing back, there was at least one comment from individuals who agreed, or noted that he was giving them food for thought. I was scared reading the latter, but moreover I was disappointed. Disappointed at the lack of visibility or allyship from the same non-Jewish friends who so ardently showed their solidarity to BLM, and disappointed that Twitter and Instagram allowed an individual to have a platform to spew hate speech for hours on end. After an initial 12-hour ban, Twitter has since taken measures to suspend Wiley’s account for a measly six days and removed most (although not all) of the abhorrent comments he has made. Instagram however has taken no action at all, and the racist and anti-Semitic content posted by the so-called “father of grime” remains live for all to see.

Let me be clear: anti-Semitism is a form of racism that has plagued the Jewish community for centuries. My grandparents fled Nazi Germany, many of their families did not. I experienced Jewish slurs from classmates and teachers alike, and even when I moved to a Jewish school, our school bus had rocks thrown at it. Synagogues are guarded so we feel safe while we attend. It brings me no joy to say so, but everyone I know has had one, if not many, anti-Semitic experiences, and often it feels like it comes part and parcel with being a Jew. But the onus shouldn’t be on me and my friends and family to have to retreat, fight back or even explain ourselves - this is an issue that affects the whole of society, the same as any other racially-charged issue, and we should all know better.

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When the BLM movement gained traction, I put my hands up and acknowledged that I could be a better ally. I read books and listened to podcasts I might have not done otherwise; I researched Black-owned brands to shop from, and I had conversations with Black friends about how this was affecting them, and how I could show my support. When I woke up on Saturday morning, the silence in my inbox from my non-Jewish friends (save for a few) was deafening. I understand that many people are scared to show allyship; for so long anti-Semitism has been politicised and lumped in with the debate about anti-Zionism. It’s an incredibly complex and political issue, but this is not about Israel. (FYI, you can be Jewish, a Zionist and still be critical of the Israeli government.) This is about a religion/ethnicity/community coming under attack for their beliefs.

Anti-Semitism in the UK is at an all-time high. In its 2019 report, the Jewish charity the Community Security Trust recorded 1,805 antisemitic incidents - the highest total that the CST has ever recorded in a single year. As you can imagine, it’s a scary and extremely troubling time to be Jewish.

To that end, I implore you to show your support for the community not only by denouncing anti-Semitic behaviour but by educating yourself on the matter, the same way you have done for BLM and so many other issues. Martin Niemöller’s First They Came… (a poetic form of a post-war confessional prose - see below) feels more relevant now than ever, but we have a chance to change the narrative. Will you stand with us?

First they came ...

by Martin Niemöller

First they came for the Communists

And I did not speak out

Because I was not a Communist

Then they came for the Socialists

And I did not speak out

Because I was not a Socialist

Then they came for the trade unionists

And I did not speak out

Because I was not a trade unionist

Then they came for the Jews

And I did not speak out

Because I was not a Jew

Then they came for me

And there was no one left

To speak out for me

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