UK: "Why was I born a Jew?" - Mother's agony as son is bullied because of his religion
Debby Taylor's son was punched in the face by a classmate when he was 16 and now she is highlighting the impact of anti-semitism as attacks double in a year.
20/9/2015- When he was 16, Debby Taylor’s son asked: “Mum, why was I born a Jew?” The dismay in his words left her numb and, sitting in her Aberdeenshire home, she was reminded that Scotland is not immune to the evils of anti-semitism. The question had been prompted by an incident a few days before when her son was punched in the face by a classmate. When Debby picked him up from a party, his nose had been bleeding but he didn’t want to discuss what happened. Later that night, his attacker told him on Facebook that if he went to police, he was going to kick Debby “in the ovaries, so she doesn’t produce any more f****** Jews”. He was hit again by the same boy a few days later.
Debby said: “It was heart-rending for my child to say, ‘Why was I born a Jew?’ What do you say to a young man when he asks that? You think you are safe, yet he was hit simply because of religion.” On another occasion a boy shouted at him from a window and called him a “f****** Jew”. Debby approved when the teacher insisted that the boy write him a letter of apology and she believes that the offender learned from it. That was in 2008 but Debby says her son has considered leaving Scotland many times since. Police Scotland have spent the last week looking at the issue of anti-semitism as part of their campaign against all hate crime targeting minorities because of race, religion or disability.
The number of anti-semitic attacks reported in Scotland has doubled in 12 months. Last year there were 31, the year before just 12. Of the incidents reported last year, 21 were in Glasgow, up from just two the year before. There are 5887 Jewish people in Scotland – just 0.1 per cent of the population. But Jews are cited as being the victim in four per cent of our hate crimes. Police are keen to emphasise that this is not a widespread issue in Scotland but they want to ensure that complacency doesn’t make it become a bigger problem. Social media have given rise to bedroom bigots who feel that they can use it to channel an endless stream of bile.
Debby said she often feels overwhelmed by the anti-semitism she sees online. She said: “It is horrible and because it is faceless, there don’t seem to be any boundaries. “You regularly see ‘f****** Jew’. It is on the web all the time. You are being told you are a dirty Jew. It is insidious.” Perpetrators of such vile abuse can be traced by police. They will be warned first by letter and if that is ignored, they will be charged. Growing up in the north-east, Debby remembers incidents of prejudice, like a boy in her class refusing to lend her an eraser because “you’re a Jew”. But most of the children treated her like anyone else.
In the late 80s when her father Albert Jacob, a Zionist, spoke out against the twinning of Dundee with the Palestinian town of Nablus, “Jacob must die” was scrawled across the synagogue and a swastika was daubed on her grandfather’s door. Debby believes the police are now doing their best to tackle any such incidents.
She said: “I think that people need to work with the police. “If you don’t report to the police, nothing will be done. In all walks of life, including among employers, there needs to be zero tolerance. ”Hate crime makes you feel powerless, silenced, threatened, bullied, alienated and marginalised and that is not acceptable.”
Superintendent Ross Aitken of Police Scotland’s Safer Communities team said that the incidents rise with Israeli incursions into Gaza. He said: “The problem is that you get people who conflate the politics of the Middle East with religion. “People need to realise that Scottish Jewish people are not responsible for the domestic or foreign policy of the Israeli government. “Some people with a predisposition for anti-semitic behaviour jump on to that bandwagon and use it as a platform. They are using the actions of the Israeli military as a trojan horse to legitimise their argument, where they occupy an extreme right-wing viewpoint in any case.” It is certainly not anti-semitic to criticise Israel and many Jews have been the strongest critics of all.
But Aitken says it’s important for Scots to be aware that anti-semitism is an issue in Scotland, however small. He said: “Sadly we are not exempt from anti-semitism and it is absolutely something we need to take cognisance of. “People mistakenly believe that this is some kind of German wartime issue that is not relevant in contempo-rary Scotland but from a policing perspective, that is not the case.” Police Scotland take online hatred seriously and have invested £1.5million in a new cybercrime hub. Aitken said: “People think that they can post what they want and be anonymous. That is not the case, we will trace anyone posting hatred of this kind and we will deal with them.” But he said if victims of hate crime, such as anti-semitism and Islamaphobic abuse, didn’t come forward, the problem would remain largely hidden. And those in minorities sometimes fail to acknowledge that they are victims.
He said: “It is a drip, drip effect. People in the Jewish and the Muslim communities become desensitised to what is hate crime and it will take a lot before they report it. We want them to know that they don’t need to put up with behaviour that others in the larger community wouldn’t tolerate.” And Aitken warns it is important that people are conscious that their behaviour and comments could be offensive. He said: “A person might make a joke about a Jewish person and there may not be malice on their part but it is the perception of the victim that is the critical component in hate crime.” But he maintains it remains a minority who perpetrate anti-semitism. Aitken added: “By and large people in Scotland are genuinely decent people and you just need to look at our history to see that we are welcoming and tolerant. “But there is still a lack of awareness of this issue and it is important we recognise it.”
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