British Jews on heightened alert

LONDON, Sept. 16 (JTA) — While American Jews have canceled an Israel solidarity rally scheduled for next weekend, British Jews have expanded their rally to include support of the United States following last week’s terror attacks on New York and Washington.

The rally, scheduled for Sept. 23 in downtown London, is expected to attract 2,500 people, which would make it the largest Jewish event of its kind here in years.

Yet even while they make plans to demonstrate in support of the United States, many British Jews are worried about family and friends in the United States.

“There will inevitably be a number of British Jews who will have been lost,” a Jewish security expert said.

A spokeswoman for the Board of Deputies, the umbrella organization that represents most British Jews, said that “due to the nature of the firms in the buildings, numerous British Jews have been touched by the event.”

As many as 300 British citizens are believed to have died in the attacks, although its not clear how many Jews are among them.

One British newspaper said the terrorist attack resulted in the largest number of British people ever killed in a single day outside of wartime.

Scotland Yard has asked the London-based Jewish Emergency Support Services to be ready to provide counseling to Jews in Britain and the United States who have been affected by the tragedy.

British Jewry remains on a state of high security alert, as it has been for several months.

The aforementioned British Jewish security expert said the attack was not a complete surprise.

“We were told months ago to expect a major terrorist outrage, but didn’t know the target or when or where,” said the security expert, who asked not to be identified.

He warned that “if the U.S. and Britain strike back, as they undoubtedly will, there could be retaliation” against Jewish targets.

Winston Pickett, of the Institute for Jewish Policy Research, a London-based think tank, said British Jews face another problem that American Jews do not in the wake of the attack — an ambivalent message from the media.

The day after the attack, the Guardian newspaper published a commentary by Muslim journalist Faisal Bodi saying that the World Trade Center and Pentagon meant different things to Americans than to Muslims.

“Inside America, the Trade Center, the Pentagon, Camp David and Capitol Hill are all seen as symbols of global U.S. power and prestige, of the triumph of democracy. Outside, in the Muslim world, they are popularly regarded as symbols of terror and oppression,” he wrote. “Yesterday’s attacks are the chickens of America’s callous abuse of others’ human rights coming home to roost.”

Barry Kosmin, the policy institute’s director, said that such commentary was a result of the over- representation of the extreme left in the British media.

“We saw it in the Gulf War — they feel sympathy for every Third World dictator,” he said. “The attempt to be even-handed has meant that extremist Muslims are given more air time than would be expected.”

The BBC, meanwhile, apologized for its Sept. 13 episode of its public affairs discussion program “Question Time” in which a disproportionate percentage of the audience appeared to be extremist Muslims who attacked the United States.

The Board of Deputies has requested a videotape of the program and is considering filing a complaint.

But the vast majority of the British public is solidly behind the United States in the wake of the attack.

“The Star-Spangled Banner” was played at the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace on Sept. 13, and a tearful Queen Elizabeth sang it at a memorial service last Friday — the first time the queen ever has sung another country’s national anthem.

The mainstream Muslim Council of Britain condemned the attacks unequivocally.

“No cause can justify this carnage. We hope those responsible will swiftly be brought to justice for their unconscionable deeds,” council officials said in a statement.

But Kosmin said British Jews had to be on their guard in the wake of the attack.

“There is a clear line, even among Muslim moderates, that this attack is all to do with the Palestinians,” he said.

NEXT STORY