Jewish community in NI is cherished but vulnerable

Morning View
Morning View

The rise of anti semitism in recent years is by no means confined to Britain and Ireland - it has been a feature in a number of countries.

There has been, indeed, racial tension across most of the western world affecting various minorities in many nations.

Such unpleasantness is one of the most alarming features of the current turbulent political age, and it comes from both the ideological hard left and hard right.

The racist far right is of course objectionable and culpable and prone to abusive rhetoric.

The hard left though is also to blame, even though it believes it is not, because the far left despises Israel to an extent that often tips into anti semitism.

The Jewish community in Northern Ireland is one of the smallest and thus one of the most vulnerable minorities in the Province.

Yet it has played such a vital role in the history of modern Ulster, in spheres such as the professions and arts and in business and politics.

The latest abuse has been on social media.

The only chink of comfort is the fact that social media is a forum for every type of abuse. Every community, minority or otherwise, finds that it is targeted by so-called venomous trolls. How to maintain both freedom of speech and to stamp out such abusive commentary from anonymous people is one of the key freedom-of-speech challenges of the digital age.

But there has been physical anti semitism in Northern Ireland too. In August Jewish graves were attacked in Belfast. That was an unforgivable act of desecration.

Such attacks, while reprehensible, need to be seen in the context of the widespread admiration that there is in Northern Ireland for the Jewish population.

Even critics of Israel do mostly steer clear of anti semitism. Those who do not deserve our contempt.