It’s been two weeks since the horrific terrorism of October 7th. Within days, the balance of sympathy in the West tilted rapidly away from the atrocities and towards pro-Hamas sympathies. Antisemitism has skyrocketed here in Britain, which has been a safe home for Jews for hundreds of years.
A small group of us urgently felt the need to redress the balance and show support to British Jews. The result was the October Declaration which launched on Monday with over 200 high profile signatories from politicians to playwrights, including Sir Tom Stoppard, Professor Richard Dawkins, Lord Frost, Dame Maureen Lipman, Andrew Neil and Professor Niall Ferguson.
What we all share is the belief that antisemitism has no place in British life and firm solidarity with British Jews.
Who would have thought this should even be necessary?
Sadly the response to the attacks in some quarters was extraordinary and shameful. Before the people of Israel had the chance to count the bodies, there were marches around the world with chants of “death to Israel” and “gas the Jews”. To some academics in the West, Hamas’s blood-soaked pogrom was a fine example of decolonisation. Student unions who are normally all over the concept of ‘safe spaces’ tweeted cartoons of paragliders. People who normally obsess over hate speech failed to condemn acts of hate.
It was dizzying that after the worst examples of terrorism I’d ever heard of (and the stories and photographic evidence have only got worse) people were on the streets in this country to celebrate mass murder.
In the immediate aftermath of the terrorism a friend told she was worried about how her half-Israeli children would be treated at school. I’m ashamed to say I had no idea how correct her fears were. In the first week, four Jewish schools felt compelled to close, in London, in 2023. A letter was sent to a Jewish school in London, saying, “Well done Hamas. You Jews will pay the price for what you have done. From a PLO Team”. I know of another family sending their children to school in non-uniform because they feel unsafe. No British child should be afraid to go to school.
In the days that followed October 7th there have been 24 assaults, 35 cases of damage and desecration to Jewish property, 64 direct threats, 475 cases of abusive behaviour, including verbal abuse, graffiti on non-Jewish property, hate mail and online abuse and two instances of mass-produced antisemitic literature. The litany of examples on the Community Security Trust makes shameful reading. It is abhorrent that British Jews are being called “filthy Jew”, “dirty fucking Jew” and children have been told to “go back to the chambers”.
I was naïve and didn’t know antisemitism was this serious, alive and ready to burst through the surface.
The disproportionate treatment meted out to Israel and Hamas by the media makes it clear. The media quickly replicated Hamas’s false report that Israel bombed a hospital in Gaza. Intelligence experts expressed their surprise that anyone could have known who was responsible so soon after the explosion. The BBC and other media organisations around the world chose to put due diligence and restraint to one side and believe Hamas, an organisation which butchers babies and parades desecrated corpses through the streets.
The refusal of the media, including our national broadcaster to call Hamas what it is in fact and law – a terrorist organisation – has not helped. This misleads the public and creates a false impression that the state of Israel and a terrorist group are moral equivalents. They are not. It’s also an abominable affront to the dead, the bereaved and those living under the threat of terrorism. It is shameful that the media are being dragged kicking and screaming to call Hamas a “proscribed terrorist organisation”. Monsters would be better.
One letter signed by over 2,000 actors and artists – “bleeding heartless liberals” as Dame Maureen Lipman called them – condemned Israel’s military response but did not once mention the terrorism itself. When I first read it I was sure I’d made a mistake, missed the part where they expressed shock and grief about the butchering of babies and condemned Hamas. They did not. This letter was a stinging slap in the face to British Jews at a time when they should have expected commiseration, solidarity and friendship.
This felt very wrong.
I exchanged emails with Dame Maureen Lipman about signing the October Declaration. She told me she had written a letter of her own. You can read quotes from it in this moving article about the October Declaration by Allison Pearson, but I wanted to share her words in full.
I find it astounding that any newspaper published the heinous letter (by Artists for Palestine U.K.), signed with a flourish by the great and the not-so-great of our trendiest actors and the usual Jew-ish ashamed Jews of the peripheral Left. How dare they accuse the Israelis of war crimes against Gaza without once mentioning the bestial slaughterhouse which was perpetrated on Israel in that very same week or the hostages taken by Hamas – these are the entire cause of the current retaliation.
When babies were garrotted, women dragged by their hair and a family had eyeballs gouged out and fingers chopped off in front of their children – do they really think that Israeli blockades on the border with Gaza are a justification for such acts of violence?
Those bigoted signaturists, do they have no soul as well as no judgement? These bleeding heartless liberals care so deeply for the Palestinians (who, since 1937, have turned down no fewer than five offers of a two-state solution) that they espouse their cause at the expense of every other oppressed people of the world. The Palestinians are not Hamas, I agree; they just elected them. And, 17 years later, Hamas has done nothing for the Palestinians save stealing the millions donated in aid money while keeping them in penury.
I would love the signaturists to answer me this question: if your beloved country had been under attack for 70 years, with concrete tunnels under Birmingham and York and Ipswich, and rockets landing daily on Oxford University and Penny Lane and the Tiny Tim toddlers club, and the world despised your success in turning a desert into the most beautiful and innovative and free-thinking democracy in the region and wanted it handed back. And if the world felt that it was deserved when your country’s neighbours carried out bloody pogroms. Again. So, tell me, how angry and exhausted and how determined to defend your country against any future attacks would you be?
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 200 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? To give the English coast back to the Normans?
What do you want of these beleaguered people of the book who are forced by their neighbours to be people of the tank? Do you want them, perhaps, to give back the land given to them by the UN – perfectly legally? Or to give up Gaza? Again.
Or maybe you want them to sit down and have gentle talks sitting on Persian carpets with avowed murderers backed by Iranian mullahs.
You artists purport to work in a business which, above all, demands empathy. Yet, you cannot see an inch past your own prejudice that the only good Jew is a homeless, victimised, impoverished one.
Shame. Shame. Shame on every one of you.
As the book of Proverbs says (12:18): “The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” If one letter pierced, another can heal. This is what the October Declaration seeks to do for British Jews. It has three clear purposes: to show solidarity with British Jews, unequivocally condemn the terrorism and ask the media to call Hamas what it is: a terrorist organisation. If there is a time to show we stand with British Jews it is now.
Our group has received messages from Jewish friends which communicate how necessary this was. Here are just a few:
I really wanted to share with you how completely empowered I felt signing the October Declaration today. Both, the Declaration and Allison Pearson’s article in today’s Telegraph made me stand a little taller and steadier. Everyone I spoke to felt the same way. So many of us feel like the rug has been ripped from under our feet. We feel alone, unheard and a little frightened about what the future holds for our Jewish communities in the U.K. and around the world. I am so grateful to all those who worked on this declaration and all those who signed it. We have a greater chance of creating a world we can all live in, if we are proactive about taking a stand on the important issues that are needed to maintain the healthy fabric of our society.
I felt heartened and then more so to read about the British Friends and Declaration and to know we have friends brave enough to speak out in the way you, along with Toby, Allison, Francis and your other co-organisers, are doing.
As a British Jew, I wanted to thank you sincerely for your involvement in putting together the October Declaration.
It means a lot to me and my family to know that at least some of our compatriots “have our back”.
It goes some way towards neutralising the shock I have experienced at the reaction of many of my fellow colleagues, many of whom have never once called for the Israeli hostages to be released – which has shaken me to my core.
It’s no good to say it “goes without saying”. It does need to be said. We do have your backs.
The public response has been overwhelming and it’s just getting started, which shows the importance of the initiative. More public figures have signed, including former Prime Ministers Boris Johnson and Liz Truss, as well as 35,000 members of the public.
We’re humbled to play a small role in highlighting the underlying decency and wisdom of the British people. Please add your name. Sometimes all you can do is speak up and use your words to heal.
Sign the October Declaration
Laura Dodsworth is the author of the Sunday Times bestseller A State of Fear: how the U.K. Government weaponised fear during the COVID-19 pandemic. Her new book is Free Your Mind: The new world of manipulation and how to resist it. This article first appeared on her Substack page, the Free Mind, which you can subscribe to here.