Saturday, March 24, 2012
As a Jewish school is attacked in France, one British mother's utterly shocking account of the anti-Semitism her children suffer
Every weekday morning I drive to a building surrounded by razor wire. It has bomb-proof windows, security guards posted next to its tall, iron gates, and sturdy fences that ring the perimeters. Access to anyone is by entry phone — or by convincing the guards you have a right to enter.
So do I work in a prison? No. I have children who attend a Jewish school near our home in Manchester.
Though the security at the school may sound shockingly heavy-handed, my sons barely notice it and we parents gratefully accept it. However, every so often I ask myself: is this how we really need to protect a school in modern Britain?
Sadly, there is no choice. And after the horrific events in Toulouse this week, which saw the killing of three children and a rabbi at a Jewish school just like my children’s, I can’t see that changing.
I was driving when the news came through on the radio and, shaking hard, I just about managed to manoeuvre the car through the morning traffic as I fought to take it in. As soon as I could, I pulled over to phone my husband and tell him what had happened.
Not only was there deep shock and profound sorrow, there was something else, too — a cold dread that fingered the spine. Put simply, I was terrified.
For the sorry truth is that schools like my children’s would not need such protection if there was a not a genuine threat in Britain, too. Don’t believe me? Three of my four children attend Jewish schools (the fourth is now on a gap year), and over recent years they, along with many of their friends and classmates, have been targets for anti-Semitic abuse.
Only recently, my 13-year-old son and his friends were walking home from the local Jewish high school when a group of yobs from across the road taunted them by shouting: ‘You Jews, Sieg Heil! We hate you, Jews.’
Ask any of the pupils about this kind of incident and they will tell you — to quote my 16-year-old son — that ‘it happens all the time’.
These are not teenagers who are ultra-orthodox, so there are no overt signs of their religion, except that they are walking home from a Jewish school. They look like any other scruffy kids as they amble along with their skewed ties, untucked shirts, backpacks and pockets jammed with jaw-rotting sweets. But even that relative anonymity doesn’t protect them.
The tragedy in France has crystallised the fear of every Jewish parent in this country
The son of one friend of mine had eggs thrown at him by a group of youths as he made his way home, while another was actually set upon by a trio of mindless young idiots — though he managed to break free and run away, thankfully, with just a few bruises.
Little wonder that on the afternoon of the Toulouse murders, as I went to collect my seven-year-old daughter from school, the atmosphere in the playground was febrile with what I can only describe as a collective terror.
For the tragedy in France has crystallised the fear of every Jewish parent in this country: that racial hatred takes no prisoners — even innocent ones — and can, in the worst-case scenario, lead to unimaginable tragedy.
Thank goodness that our children, buoyed by youthful optimism, seem almost to take it in their stride. Part of me admires their fortitude.
As a mother, I would fight like a lioness with anyone who threatened their safety.
But I don’t want my teenage sons yoked to my side by a prevailing fear of anti-Semitic attack. I want to raise them to hold their heads high, to be proud of their Jewish heritage, to contribute to and integrate with the wider community and, above all, to know who they are.
Unfortunately, being Jewish and going to a Jewish school puts them in the firing line for threatening and abusive behaviour.
Where I live, the situation is compounded by the fact that more anti-Semitic crime took place in Greater Manchester than London last year, despite seven times more Jews living in the capital.
There is no obvious reason for this except, perhaps, it is easier to target the tight-knit Jewish community in Manchester, which is concentrated in an area that is relatively small compared to London’s sprawl. In terms of the aggressors, there doesn’t seem to be any consistent racial or religious profile.
According to the Community Security Trust (CST), which provides additional protection at schools and communal events to the Jewish community across the country, the victims include two Jewish schoolgirls who were approached by two other youngsters who held cigarette lighters up to them and threatened to ‘burn you like Hitler’.
On another occasion, a lit firework was thrown from a car at three Jewish schoolchildren as they walked home. Let me ask the non-Jewish mothers and fathers reading this: wouldn’t your blood chill if pupils at your children’s school were being threatened this way?
I try to give my sons obvious advice such as never allow yourselves to be goaded into a street fight, and if someone yells abuse from a car, try to get the number plate. (My friend’s son who was covered in eggs did this, and police tracked down and charged the culprit.)
So why is Britain’s 350,000-strong Jewish community — and particularly its children — under the kind of attack that has uncomfortable echoes of 1930s Germany?
The simple answer could be that anyone who seems different will always be a butt for old-fashioned xenophobia, patriarchal bigotry and inherited prejudice.
Perhaps, and this is far more depressing, it’s down to a cultural hatred of Jews that has bled through the generations, creating an unapologetic loathing of anything to do with our religion.
Certainly I believe anti-Semitic attacks are influenced by events in Israel — the CST, which also monitors incidents against Jewish people and organisations — said anti-Semitic incidents spiked during last year’s conflict in Gaza.
But the vitriolic feelings that manifest themselves in this country must be fuelled by something more than politics. I simply fail to understand how a tiny democracy in the Middle East, one that is no larger than Wales and surrounded by hostile neighbours, elicits such loathing.
In the end, I’m afraid I believe that our children are a target because no one fears a Jewish reprisal. As comedian Jackie Mason once said, ‘Nobody ever crossed the street to avoid a group of Jewish accountants.’ It sounds light-hearted but it’s true. We don’t make excessive demands for the State to absorb our culture. We just want to live a peaceful coexistence.
So what of the legacy of the terrible events in Toulouse? Well, security at our school could barely get any tighter. Though judging from the pale, pinched faces of parents on the school run this week, confidence in what is already a well-fortified system is understandably shaken.
Meanwhile, it doesn’t matter how hard we Jews work to feel part of a broader culture, there will always be others who won’t stop reminding our children that we’re not.
My own children — along with many classmates — are only too happy to integrate. They attend a Jewish school because my husband and I want them to get a first-class secular education as well as knowledge of their heritage and tradition.
That way, as they make the journey to adulthood, they can have a foot in the Jewish and the non-Jewish world, with no recourse to mutual exclusivity.
What a pity the yobs who yell Nazi slurs at them as they make their way to and from school will never see it that way.
Leftie bishops, liberal judges, a biased BBC and how the gutless Tories lost control of our national institutions
When Rowan Williams resigned as Archbishop of Canterbury last week I thought Dr John Sentamu, the traditionalist Archbishop of York, was favourite to succeed him. He may still have the shortest odds, but I am now far from convinced he will make it.
Unidentified senior ecclesiastical sources are putting the knife in. Sentamu lacks judgment, they claim. Bit of a wild card. It is suggested he has blotted his copybook by writing a column for the Sunday edition of The Sun. We need a safe pair of hands, say his detractors.
What they really mean, of course, is that Dr Sentamu is a social conservative, and therefore unacceptable to the liberals who constitute a majority in the upper echelons of the Church of England. They will do their utmost to have one of their own chosen as the next Archbishop of Canterbury.
In the Anglican Church there is at least a strong socially conservative element. Not so at the BBC, where the search is on for a new director-general to succeed Mark Thompson. It is inconceivable that his replacement could be a social conservative, or indeed a conservative of any stripe.
The choice is between BBC apparatchiks: Caroline Thomson, Helen Boaden, George Entwistle and Tim Davie. I’m told Ms Boaden may lean fractionally more to the Right than the others, but none of them could be fairly described as conservative with a big or small ‘c’, and it is unimaginable that anyone of such a persuasion could become director-general of the BBC.
Mark Thompson himself admitted 18 months ago that the Corporation was guilty of a ‘massive’ Left-wing bias in the past, while contending it is now a broader church. I don’t see much evidence of that. Sceptics will say the BBC is so innately Left-of-centre that it wouldn’t make any difference if a full-blooded Tory were put in charge.
And before we run away with the idea that its quite recently installed chairman, Lord Patten, could be so described, let it be remembered that he was a leading ‘wet’ and anti-Thatcherite who resided on the far reaches of the liberal wing of the Tory Party, which was several degrees to the Left of what used to be called ‘Right-wing Labour’.
The truth is that it is very difficult for a conservative or Conservative to be appointed to lead any of our great national institutions. It has been thus since at least the dawn of New Labour in 1997. What is surprising is that it should continue to be so even after nearly two years of a supposedly Tory-led Government.
Of course, there are many institutional posts that are not within the gift of any government, and most of these continue to be taken up by people of the Left. One small but telling example is the rash of recent appointments of outsiders as heads of Oxbridge colleges. All come from the Left.
At Oxford, there is the former BBC executive Mark Damazer, economist Will Hutton and Labour peer Helena Kennedy. Magdalene College, Cambridge, will soon be presided over by the outgoing Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, who without apparent irony once described himself as a ‘hairy Lefty’.
My point is not that these people are unworthy of their new positions. It is simply that I cannot easily imagine luminaries of the Right — say the distinguished philosopher Roger Scruton, or the former newspaper editor Charles Moore — being chosen in significant numbers, if at all, for posts of this sort.
This shows that the culture wars of the past half century have been largely won by the Left, whose denizens increasingly dominate institutions beyond the reach of government patronage. These include the judiciary, by the way. According to rumours, a new judge being chosen for the European Court of Human Rights may be a Left-leaning QC called Ben Emmerson, who works with Cherie Blair in Matrix Chambers.
But if the Left has captured many institutional strongholds in which the Right once had a role, a Tory-led government is far from powerless, controlling as it does hundreds of important official appointments in quangos and other bodies. New Labour was adept at ruthlessly packing these with its own people.
The Coalition, by contrast, is much more tentative, and cheerfully tolerates many Left-of-centre figures who thrived in the Labour years. This indulgence is probably the consequence of undue Lib Dem influence, and of a kind of easygoing amateurishness at the top of the Tory Party.
Whatever the reason, a large number of Labour appointees continue to hold important public positions. There is Lord Smith (the former Labour cabinet minister, Chris Smith) who has been chairman of Advertising Standards Authority since 2007 and of the Environment Agency since 2008.
The ubiquitous academic Lisa Jardine has been chair of the Human Fertilisation And Embryology Authority since 2008, while that inveterate quangocrat Suzi Leather clings on as chair of the Charity Commission, having previously had Professor Jardine’s present job.
I could go on. There are innumerable examples of ‘progressive’ and Leftish types appointed to key positions by the last government who remain happily in post. They are not all bad people, and some of them may be doing a good job.
Nonetheless, the timidity of what, after all, is supposed to be a Tory-led Coalition, is both striking and depressing. Are Tories never to play a part in public life again? I do not want to get rid of all the Lefties in the way many of them would like to drop every Tory off Beachy Head. All I am asking for is fair representation.
At the last election, the Tories won 36 per cent of the vote. I’ve no doubt there are many who voted Labour and Lib Dem who would describe themselves as small ‘c’ conservatives. There is an enormous swathe of opinion not reflected in our institutions.
As I’ve said, there are many of these over which government has no sway, and in which the Left has prevailed after its long march. A Tory history don at Oxford told me the other day that in his estimation about 90 per cent of his colleagues in his department are of the Left. There isn’t a great deal the Government can do about that.
But it can redress the grotesque imbalance in its own backyard by removing some of the Leftist dinosaurs installed by New Labour, and appointing people who have the temerity to hold Right-wing views.
David Cameron did not have to appoint Lord Patten. He could have put a real Tory in charge of the BBC, which is by far the most powerful Leftist institution in Britain. Nor, in fact, does he have to accept the first name of two nominees for the Archbishopric of Canterbury if it is that of an off-the-shelf liberal with Dr Sentamu as the second nominee.
There are lots of ways in which ‘David Cameron’s Tories’ could turn the tide if only they had the guts and the gumption. If they think government is only about getting the deficit down, they are sadly misguided. The Left knows differently — which is why, even when it is not in government, it remains in power.
Children looked after by their grandparents often develop better than those put in nurseries
This is consistent with previous research showing that institutional care stresses even very young kids much more than being cared for in a loving home. But it is true that the small minority of children from feral homes would be better off in formal care
Young children looked after by middle-class grandparents develop better vocabulary than those in nurseries, a study has revealed. They are ‘significantly ahead’ by the age of three due to the amount of one-on-one time they spend with a loving adult.
The head start relates more to children who live in better-off households, where grandparents tend to have higher levels of education and ‘are likely to be better carers than formal carers’ in relation to the early learning of new words.
For less well-off homes, the researchers believe that while children are not put at a ‘significant’ disadvantage in terms of vocabulary, their grandparents ‘may not confer the advantages’ formal care provides.
A similar distinction was suggested in social development. The researchers found a ‘positive association between socio-emotional development and being looked after by grandparents among more educated families’, which was still apparent by the age of five.
By contrast, children from disadvantaged backgrounds were thought to receive a slight benefit from formal childcare.
The findings were published in a review of childcare studies by researchers from the Institute for Fiscal Studies, Bryson Purdon Social Research, Essex University’s Institute for Social and Economic Research and the National Centre for Social Research.
Funded by charity the Nuffield Foundation, the conclusions highlight the important role grandparents can play through ‘informal’ childcare.
Half of pre-school children whose parents work are looked after part of the time by relations, usually grandparents. At primary school age, the proportion increases to 60 per cent and then 82 per cent by the time children start secondary school.
The report says that most parents choose to leave their children with grandparents for ‘positive’ reasons such as the ‘caring environment’ rather than simply because they can’t afford formal childcare.
The researchers, led by social scientist Caroline Bryson, examined the Millennium Cohort Study, which follows almost 19,000 children. ‘By the age of three, they [those looked after by grandparents] were significantly further ahead than children in centre-based care,’ they said.
‘Evidence suggests in terms of vocabulary development, if you are from an advantaged background, grandparents are likely to be better carers than formal carers, maybe because of differences in their education levels or potentially through differences in type of engagement that both groups have with the children in their care.’
Hundreds of Lobbying Atheists Prepare to ‘Flood’ Capitol Hill On Friday
Washington D.C. is in for an infusion of anti-religious sentiment this weekend. On Saturday, thousands of atheists and secularists are expected to converge on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. to celebrate their non-belief through a massive event called the “Reason Rally.”
But the day before this supposed amalgamate of non-believers descends on the nation’s capitol, the Secular Coalition of America is holding the “Lobby Day for Reason” — an event aimed at training atheists in how to interact with Congress.
The event, which will take place on Friday morning, will include free lobbying training followed by an opportunity for participating “atheists, humanists, freethinkers, and other nontheistic Americans” to meet with offices of the House and Senate. The issues they plan to discuss with lawmakers, of course, focus on the separation of church and state and their views on the intermingling of government and religion.
In a press release on Tuesday, the Secular Coalition announced that 280 “non-theistic Americans” have pre-registered to take part in this massive lobbying effort. It read, in part:
"Lobby Day for Reason will encourage and support secular and nontheistic Americans to speak out to the elected officials who were put in office to serve all of their constituents regardless of religious beliefs. The Secular Coalition for America will support these taxpaying Americans as they put faces to the nontheistic and secular communities and tell their federal representatives that they are voters and are paying attention to issues."
With recent polls showing that non-religiously affiliated individuals account for 16 percent of Americans, it’s not surprising to learn that this pool of citizens planning to attend the training represents 36 states and the District of Columbia. Already, the Coalition claims to have setup 50 meetings with Senate offices and more than 100 meetings with Representatives’ offices — with more to come.
“We wanted a wave of nonreligious and secular voters to flood the halls of every congressional building—and that’s just what we are going to have,” proclaimed Amanda Knief, who serves as government relations manager for the Secular Coalition.
Knief is quoted as saying in the release that these non-believing taxpayers plan to show their representatives that they are voters who care about their country. It is their plan to, thus, share their vision for a government free of theological influence.
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when blogger.com is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.