LONDON (Aug. 18)
Police surveillance has been increased in Hendon, North-West London, following a number of attacks on Jews. Over the past three weeks there have been four unprovoked attacks on Orthodox Jews returning home synagogue. The police maintain that the attacks were not exclusively aimed at Jewish people but were part of a wider pattern of muggings and assaults in the district. This view has been officially accepted by the defense committee of the Board of Deputies of British Jews.
The synagogue goers who were assaulted belonged to the ultra-Orthodox Agudas Yisrael Congregation, which has refused to comment on the matter. However, Reverend Leslie Hardman, of the nearby Hendon Synagogue, said that while he, too, accepted the police reassurances, the community had to be increasingly on the alert.
The attacks coincided with anti-Semitic daubing on a large synagogue in nearby Edgware, bearing the hallmarks of the racist National Front. A few weeks ago. National Front sympathizers were suspected of having tried to damage Hardman’s home–an adjacent house was attacked by mistake. The incident occurred on the same weekend that the local newspaper had published a letter by Hardman praising Israeli Premier-Menachem Begin. He had written the letter in answer to an anti-Begin campaign by the National Front.
While urging his congregation to put its faith in the police, Hardman said he was nonetheless distressed to hear that the religious Jews had not hit back when attacked but stood “petrified.” Anglo-Jewry’s sensitivity over such minor incidents has been heightened because of the wave of racial violence in other parts of the country involving the National Front and their leftwing opponents.
DANGER OF THE NATIONAL FRONT
Although British racism is at present much more directed against non-whites than against Jews, most Jews agree that the National Front is little different from pre-war British sympathizers of Hitler’s Nazis led by Oswald Mosely. That is why the Board of Deputies is so closely associated with the struggle against the National Front. Martin Savitt, chairman of the Board’s defense committee, was one of the speakers at a public rally before last Saturday’s bitter clashes in the London district of Lewisham.
Since then, the Board has added its voice to those who want the government to ban marches by the National Front through immigrant areas which are likely to incite violence. Under a law introduced at the time of the Moselyite disturbances in 1936, the government can ban such marches but only in consultation with the local police commissioner.
The police in Lewisham refused to ban the Nation Front march and has been widely criticized for the disturbances which followed. Savitt this week claimed that the responsibility for the violence there rested “squarely with the commissioner of police who was not able to maintain law and order and misjudged completely the emotions of the citizens of the borough.”
However, Anglo-Jewry is also dissociating itself from the extreme left-wing groups, which clashed with the police protecting the National Front marchers. According to Savitt, the National Front’s racist activities concerned ordinary citizens throughout the country, and last week’s incidents were not solely a confrontation between the extreme left and extreme right.
As far as the Jewish community’s own defenses are concerned, special care will be taken to protect synagogues and worshippers during next month’s High Holidays. If nothing untoward happens, this may confirm that the latest attacks in North-West London were merely isolated acts of hooliganism. But a repetition of such incidents would be regarded as a serious matter for the whole community.