OPINION - Wearing my kippah in London feels like inviting antisemitic abuse

 (Benji Park)
(Benji Park)

As I walked through east London last week, someone shouted “Heil Hitler” and delivered the Nazi salute from a passing car at me. This unsettling incident crystallised the ongoing challenges faced by us in the Jewish community.

Suddenly, my kippah and the Star of David I proudly wear seem like targets on my back. Instances such as the recent firebombing of a German synagogue and the stabbings of Jews in France evoke disturbing parallels with pre-Holocaust crimes. These incidents aren’t isolated; they’re part of a broader surge in religious hate, with antisemitic incidents in London rising by 1,350 per cent and Islamophobic-related offences increasing by 140 per cent.

Condemning antisemitism shouldn’t be controversial, and it doesn’t diminish other struggles

Antisemitism isn’t new for European Jews, but today anti-Zionism has become a new mutation for this age-old discrimination. It’s important to say that not all anti-Zionists are antisemitic, but a discernible link between the two has emerged.

In the progressive circles I move in, there’s a common misconception that addressing antisemitism undermines broader efforts for social justice. It doesn’t. Condemning antisemitism shouldn’t be controversial, and it doesn’t diminish other struggles. All forms of religious hate are reprehensible, yet antisemitism is often sidelined. “Whataboutism” in liberal spaces hinders meaningful discussions about antisemitism.

Likewise, the framing of Jewish attempts to highlight antisemitism as simply the “fragility of colonisers” distracts from the issue. Similar issues plague the Muslim community, with surges in Islamophobia being perpetuated by ridiculous stereotypes of some tenuous connection to terrorism. While freedom of speech and expression are vital, they should be used to promote justice and peace, not hatred. The man wearing a kippah or the woman wearing a hijab walking past you in the street pose no threat to you.

All forms of hatred thrive on cognitive dissonance, they are all perpetuated in the same cycle. London-based Lebanese artist Marwan Kaabour sums this up best: “All systems of oppression reinforce one another and none can be fought in isolation.”

Benji Park is a fashion journalist