For the past week I’ve been working round the clock with a small group of people to pull together what we’re calling the October Declaration. It was originally the idea of Laura Dodsworth and she’s been the prime mover behind the project. It’s a statement of support for British Jews, decrying the antisemitism we’ve witnessed on the streets of our major cities since October 7th, as well as the dramatic rise in antisemitic incidents, and calling out Hamas for what it is – an evil terrorist organisation. We launched it last night, with one of our band – the journalist Allison Pearson – writing a terrific piece about it for the Telegraph.
We managed to persuade over 200 people to sign the Declaration, including Sir Tom Stoppard, Dame Maureen Lipman, Sir Tim Rice, Vanessa Feltz, Sir Richard Dearlove, Countdown’s Rachel Riley, journalist Andrew Neil, an array of politicians, including David Owen, David Frost and Jacob Rees-Mogg, as well as the historians Niall Ferguson, Robert Tombs, Tom Holland, Simon Sebag-Montefiore and Andrew Roberts, and a raft of distinguished scientists and academics, including Richard Dawkins, Nigel Biggar, David Abulafia, James Orr, Eric Kaufmann and Matthew Goodwin. But this is just the start. With the aid of Ian Rons, who helped me launch Lockdown Sceptics in 2020, we’ve created a website and a form that anyone who wants to sign the Declaration can fill in. The site is here. Within an hour of going live at about 10pm last night we already had over 1,000 people wanting to sign.
Here is Allison speaking for all of us about why we felt it was necessary to do this:
We all stand in support of British Jews and their right to live their lives in this country without fear. We unequivocally condemn the horrifying terrorist attacks by Hamas in Israel on 7 October and the suffering Hamas has brought on the Palestinian people. We deplore the subsequent increase in antisemitism, we ask the media, members of all political parties and the general public to call Hamas what it is – a terrorist organisation…
None of us ever imagined such a thing would be necessary in this country in the 21st Century but, sadly, here we are. As TV presenter Rachel Riley says in an emotional statement supporting the declaration, “What has been so hurtful here at home has been the denial of the atrocities, the tearing down of posters of the abducted children and the willingness of so many to side with Hamas – from football heroes to ‘peace activists’ who have nothing to say about what Hamas did. It feels like a layer has been peeled off society; we are seeing how little some people care about Jewish lives.”
The idea for British Friends of Israel first came from Laura Dodsworth, author of A State of Fear. Laura was appalled by the scenes she was witnessing on the TV. “Within hours of the terrorist attacks there were marches around the world with chants of ‘Death to Israel’ and ‘Gas the Jews’ before the bodies had even been counted. Antisemitism skyrocketed here in Britain which has been a safe home for Jews for hundreds of years. Children were too scared to go to school. What have we become? Frankly, it has sickened me. I thought, this has to be the time to stand in solidarity with British Jews.”
Like Laura, I was disgusted by the speed with which the media narrative moved on from shock at the savagery with which Hamas thugs slaughtered 1,400 Israelis, many of them youngsters and elderly people, to concern about the destruction in Gaza. The latter is horrible, undoubtedly, but it is not in the same league of depravity as going into a kibbutz, tying the hands of children behind their backs, throwing them on a pile and setting fire to them.
An open letter from Artists for Palestine U.K., signed by Steve Coogan, Maxine Peake and nearly 4,000 other halo-polishing artists somehow managed not to mention any of the atrocities or, indeed, the name Hamas. In Israel, pathologists were still struggling to identify young festival-goers from dental records and DNA samples because their bodies had been so horribly burned and butchered, but the celebs chose to swiftly change the subject.
“Shame on those bleeding heartless liberals,” raged Dame Maureen Lipman, another name who has signed our declaration, in an excoriating blast at the moral vapidity of many in her trade. “If there was a charter signed by a terrorist group which vowed to kill every Protestant and drive every English institution into the sea, which abducted two hundred men women and children in Oxford Street (on Christmas Day) including Chelsea Pensioners and Nadiya Hussain and Mary Berry – and tortured and raped your sons and daughters – if that happened, Messrs Social Conscience, tell me, please tell me, in your view, what would be a PROPORTIONATE RESPONSE?”
Very much worth reading in full.
The picture above was taken at a vigil held in Trafalgar Square yesterday for the hostages taken by Hamas on October 7th. I was there, standing with several thousand British Jews, and it was a moving occasion in spite of the parade of idiots shouting abuse as they walked past. But there were depressingly few non-Jews in attendance. Many of my Jewish friends have felt isolated and vulnerable over the past two weeks and I want them and all British Jews to know that they are not alone. Now is the time to show our solidarity, so please do sign the Declaration.
Stop Press: Within 24 hours of the Declaration being published, nearly 34,000 people had signed it, including two former Prime Ministers. The Telegraph has more.