On October 7, 2023, the world witnessed a devastating terrorist attack by Hamas on Israeli soil. The significance of the date was not lost on anyone: it was Shabbat, Simchat Torah, and the day after the 50th anniversary of the Yom Kippur War. The loss has been catastrophic, with more than 800 Israelis killed and thousands injured at the time of writing this. This dreadful event casts a long shadow that stretches far beyond the borders of Israel, its effects palpably felt in Jewish communities around the world, including the United Kingdom.
The implications of this event for Jews in the UK are far-reaching and troubling. There are individuals and groups in Britain who openly support Hamas, flouting the UK Government’s designation of Hamas as a terrorist organisation. Under the Terrorism Act 2000, supporting a recognised terrorist entity is a criminal offence. The failure to hold these individuals and groups accountable is more than just a legal oversight—it is a breach of the social contract that places the safety and well-being of all citizens at its core.
Accountability isn’t just the responsibility of legal institutions; it is also the remit of the media, which plays an outsized role in shaping public perception. Take the BBC, for example. An organisation that prides itself on impartiality, the BBC frequently fails to live up to its own standards when it comes to reporting on issues concerning Israel and Hamas. When media outlets fail to refer to Hamas operatives as terrorists, or imply that the root causes of their violent acts are attributable to broader geopolitical issues like the failure of the peace process, they blur the lines of culpability. This irresponsible journalism not only muddies the waters but also creates an environment where antisemitism can and does flourish.
The involvement of external actors like Iran in funding and supporting Hamas further complicates the landscape. There is ample evidence to suggest that Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps plays an active role in aiding Hamas. The UK Government must act decisively and label this entity as a terrorist organisation. Failure to do so undermines international efforts to combat terrorism.
When Israel is attacked by one of the many genocidal Islamist extremist organisations at its borders, the aftershocks are felt globally. In the United Kingdom, these tremors manifest as increased antisemitism, emboldened by a media that is often less than impartial and individual actors who openly support Hamas. The British Jewish community finds itself between the proverbial rock and a hard place: vulnerable to both physical violence and a toxic, biased narrative.
For Britain to remain true to its principles, it must enforce existing laws that proscribe support for terrorist organisations like Hamas and the IRGC. At the same time, it must hold media organisations accountable for how they shape public perception around these grave issues.
The hatred that fuels the rockets in Gaza is the same hatred that fuels antisemitism on the streets of London, Manchester, and other cities across the UK. This is most demonstrably manifest in the pro-Palestine rallies taking place across the UK staged by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement. Defending “Palestinian resistance” writ large at this moment is indistinguishable from supporting and condoning Hamas.
These tragic events serve as a grim reminder that as Jews, we are all interconnected in a global ecosystem where acts of terrorism in Israel invariably fuel hatred and violence closer to home. It is imperative that we act, and act decisively, to sever the tendrils of the terror actors and their sympathisers who relish the thought of harming us.
As we navigate these unfolding events, and mourn in the immediate aftermath of that fateful day, let us be guided by a commitment to justice, truth, and the shared values that bind us as a democratic society. The fight against terrorism and bigotry is not someone else’s problem; it is a collective struggle that we must all engage in. Complacency is not an option; the stakes are simply too high.
Steve Winston is the Managing Director of the National Jewish Assembly.