In response to Friday’s letter by Stephen Spencer Ryde on the rise of anti-Semitism, I think it is important to highlight the dangers of conflating anti-Semitism and criticism of Israel.
It is certainly not anti-Semitic to boycott Israeli products (as the National Union of Students has democratically voted to do) and George Galloway’s desire to make Bradford an “Israel-free zone”, while perhaps offensive, is also not to be conflated with Jew-hatred.
Anti-Semitism still thrives in Europe – primarily in Eastern Europe – but it is dangerous and disingenuous to conflate activism against Israeli war crimes with general Jew-hatred.
Such a conflation is particularly offensive to the large number of Jews and Jewish organisations who have taken part in protests against the siege on Gaza.
It also plays down, as was previously highlighted by your columnist Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, the much more virulent and – most importantly – state-sanctioned Islamophobia.
Muslims are being demonised, attacked and subject to scrutiny by state security services in a way often reminiscent of early 20th century Jew-hatred. Ironically, much of the hatred against Muslims is purportedly justified by accusations of anti-Semitism in Muslim communities.
Stephen Spencer Ryde and Jeff Bracey (letters, 15 August) should not be so surprised at what they see happening in this green and pleasant land. It is not happening in a vacuum.
The reaction they are experiencing is a protest against the disproportionately brutal actions being taken by a state which proudly claims to be acting on behalf of their “kind”. Like any other form of racism, anti-Semitism is never acceptable. But this reaction is not anti-Semitism, it is anti-brutalism – and any complaints should be addressed to the government of Israel.
We must not associate our Jewish friends and neighbours with the actions of the state of Israel. Many Jews living in the UK, Europe and the US are appalled by the actions of Israel towards the Palestinian peoples.
Israel has occupied Palestinian homes and farms, built new towns and colonised areas of Palestine. Hamas is making a futile endeavour to win back Palestine against overwhelming odds. No other nation would be permitted to get away with Israel’s atrocities. We see over 2,000 Palestinian men women and children killed and 7,000 injured by Israel’s use of heavy shells, missiles and bombs in Gaza.
In the face of these Israeli crimes we must not condemn our Jewish friends and neighbours – many of whom share our abhorrence. Our condemnation should be directed only at Israel. Our efforts and anger should be directed towards our governments in the UK, Europe and the US, demanding action against Israel and justice for the Palestinian people.
Peerages for party donors
Chris Green’s revelation (14 August) that one Tory donor was ennobled under false pretences misses the crucial point. Not one peer has any mandate from the electorate. Never mind the lingering smell that some peerages appear connected to multiple party donations.
By adding 22 more peers to an already bloated House of Lords, every party leader who put forward a name spits in the face of democracy. The “Big Society” was supposed to redistribute power from “the elite in Whitehall to the man and woman on the street”. But our leaders are deaf to the needs of the poor, but listen to the rich.
The House of Lords is beyond reform. It must not be used as a back door for party donations. Abolition is the only solution.
Vicky Beeching freed from guilt and shame
Vicky Beeching’s inspiring account of a painful path suffered, finally resulting in announcing her sexuality (14 August), will no doubt ring true with many a Christian both within the church and among those who have left.
For many, guilt and shame are burdens laid upon them by fellow believers, not just in terms of sexuality, but also with many other perceived undesirable human traits. Certain parts of the evangelical and charismatic church are quick to judge and rid people of these “demons”. Consequently many feel they are unworthy and leave, some traumatised, quietly carrying their burdens with them.
The Christian faith teaches love and forgiveness; it is not Vicky Beeching’s faith that considers her sinful and wrong, it is other Christians. The trouble is that so many Christians seem to forget how inclusive Christ was in his life. Perhaps if the church were to be less judging and more accommodating, following in Christ’s example, there might be more enjoying their faith.
Vicky Beeching, thank you, and may many be free from their burdens through your testimony.
Walberton, West Sussex
No ‘surly’ staff on this train
I would like to give a different picture of railway staff from that conveyed by Oliver Wright (“Why a John Lewis business model might solve the problem of surly station staff”, 13 August).
I was travelling on a CrossCountry train two days ago, when sadly someone threw themselves in front of this train between Birmingham International and Coventry.
We were sensitively told that there had been an incident, kept informed that we would have to stay stationary for a couple of hours, and as things developed told what would happen. The young manager walked along the whole train giving people an opportunity to ask questions, and then he gave out claim forms for delays.
I was impressed how they handled this sad situation. When I asked how the driver was, I was glad to hear that the driver had to be seen before the train could move on. Apparently this driver had had similar situations happen to him three times. They were extremely appreciative that someone had even asked.
The consequence of all of this was that I didn’t get to my appointment. The whole of the rail system was upset for hours, and I presume there must have been a very unhappy family somewhere.
Although I have never been happy with the privatisation of the rail system, we all had exemplary service.
Whaley Bridge, Derbyshire
Publicity for Cliff Richard raid
It is the remit of the police to investigate any allegations reported to them, but since when has it been permissible to brief the media that investigations are under way, even to the extent that a helicopter was able to monitor the arrival of investigating officers?
The publicity regarding the police search of Cliff Richard’s property calls into question the whole concept of “innocent until proven guilty”. The conduct of the police in this instance is reprehensible.
Shooting estates help grouse to thrive
Tony Hams (letter, 14 August) is fundamentally mistaken in his understanding of grouse shooting.
Grouse are not reared – they are a wild bird whose population can only be encouraged by sympathetic habitat management. This is carried out by moorland owners. Creating and encouraging the habitat which allows grouse to thrive also benefits many other species, such as lapwing and golden plover.
At least 941,000 hectares of upland Britain are managed for grouse shooting. This includes land, particularly heather moorland, preserved and maintained by upland shooting estates, which is of international conservation importance for breeding populations of waders and other wildlife.
In addition, the economic benefits of grouse shooting, such as the jobs provided and income generated for local rural economies, support upland communities. Without grouse shooting, jobs would go, schools, pubs and local businesses would suffer.
In addition, red grouse – a bird unique to the UK – provides delicious game meat which is widely celebrated and enjoyed.
Director, the Moorland Association
Director of Conservation, the British Association for Shooting and Conservation
Beers that taste different
Gillian Orr has just discovered that all lager tastes the same (“Labels of love”, 14 August).
The Campaign for Real Ale and its 160,000 members have known that for years. Next time Gillian is in a pub she should avoid the lager and try some proper beer.