For weeks it was the talk of our Jewish shtetl.
A group of neo-Nazis planned this Shabbat’s provocation in the centre of Golders Green, to protest the so-called ‘Jewification’ of the neighborhood. Government and police seemed powerless to ban what was not to be a Skokie-style march, but a ‘static’ demonstration just within the legal limits of freedom of expression. Community rabbis were at odds in their sermons over the last two weekends; some urging large numbers to stand and be counted amongst the many anti-fascist groups whilst others asked their members to ignore the scum and honor the Shabbat instead.
The Nazi ringleader is 22-year old Joshua Bonehill who, not long out of short trousers, has already developed an aversion to Jews breathing the same air as he does. I could understand if he felt so racially stifled living in Golders Green or the heavily black-hatted enclave of Stamford Hill where he planned his first protest. But no – he hails from Yeovil in Somerset, 130 miles away from London. I don’t know if any Jews have ever lived in that tiny Saxon parish but it would be like an Eskimo having issues with a tribe in East Timor.
Despite all the community angst, the threat to our Shabbat and community peace was ultimately lifted by the Nazis themselves. You see they just couldn’t resist the idea of goading Jews even more, with threats to burn copies of the Talmud and by publishing the most vile posters invoking the Holocaust, gas chambers and caricatures from Der Sturmer. This led to Bonehill’s arrest days before the event and a police order moving his demo far away from Golders Green; to Whitehall in fact, just opposite Downing Street. In the end, just 20 of Bonehill’s lackeys turned up and were pilloriedby hundreds of antifascist demonstrators of every racial and cultural stripe.
The ‘Mountain’ I captioned is not all the fuss that was made in the shuls and among our community groups. Undoubtedly all of that was well-intentioned and the work of the CST and Jewish leadership was particularly commendable.
I am talking about a mountain of community strength, cohesion and solidarity. Bonehill’s threats activated, almost overnight, a ‘GoldersGreenTogether’ committee which prepared a counter-protest rally and had volunteers festooning the area in ribbons of gold and green. The entire community was ready to come out in force, united against these vile bigots.
I have a client who is a prominent and devout member of London’s Muslim community and the UK’s leading expert on Halal food. We became friendly and have often discussed Kosher and Halal issues, notably when British supermarkets were found selling horsemeat. When I mentioned the Nazi demonstration, he immediately contacted local imams who said they would send groups of their young men to march with me down to Golders Green Station. ‘We will not allow these people to harm any Jew’ he said.
This fits with my own personal experience as a Londoner, in that the only incidents of antisemitism I have experienced have not been from Muslims, but from WASPs. It’s true that Muslims can be violent to Jews and others in society – but most of the time that is traced to incitement, which is the greatest evil we all face.
By contrast, the anti-Semites in media, academia, NGOs and trade unions never needed any incitement.
He may be only 22 years old, but Bonehill is already a dinosaur. Today’s anti-Semites don’t turn up with swastikas and SS motifs.
They use Palestine.
Meanwhile for us it was, thankfully, a Shabbat Shalom.