Wednesday, 14 January 2015

The Campaign Against Anti-Semitism - Asking the questions you need to get the answers you ought not to want...

Jewish life in Britain is vibrant, flourishing, and unashamedly public. We have our own book festival and food festival, our own newspapers and magazines. More children go to Jewish schools than ever before. Jewish youth movements take hundreds of children on summer camps each year. At Christmas each year, hundreds of Jews go to a conference, Limmud, to discuss and celebrate Jewish life. As the Jewish Policy Research (JPR) concluded after conducting a survey on anti-Semitism:

“…compared with other Jewish populations in Europe, Jews in the United Kingdom generally experience less anti-Semitism and are less worried about it. There is evidence to indicate that most British Jews feel fully integrated into British society, and that discrimination against Jews is largely a thing of the past”

The JPRs findings were published in July. Yet now a survey by the Campaign for Anti-Semitism (CAA) – a grassroots organisation of activists – claims that over half of British Jews see no future in the UK. And this finding has been making headlines.

It seems too bad to be true – and that’s probably because it isn’t true.

How can it be that the CAA’s findings deviate so drastically from the findings of the JPR report? The JPR survey of anti-Semitism was conducted by experts in their field and subjected to careful statistical testing, all of which is detailed in their report. In contrast, the CAA survey of anti-Semitism was not, and it shows.

In fact the CAA’s survey had two parts. The first, in conjunction with Yougov, examined non-Jewish attitudes towards Jews in Britain. That part wasn’t too bad, although I’d take issue with a couple of things. For example, according to that survey, not wanting a family member to marry a Jew is anti-Semitic. But that logic would surely cast as racist any Jew who opposes a family member marrying out – something I suspect many British Jews feel.

The second CAA survey, of UK Jews perceptions of anti-Semitism, was deeply flawed. Firstly, it fell foul of selection bias, where the method of selecting respondents biases the ultimate findings. I completed the survey after finding it on the CAA's facebook page – and I suspect many other people will have found it in similar ways. People who are looking on websites about anti-Semitism are clearly going to be more likely to consider anti-Semitism to be a big issue, thereby distorting the results.

Secondly, the survey asked questions that were laden with assumptions and extremely leading. For example, ‘Media bias against Israel fuels persecution of Jews in Britain’ – a question that presupposes the existence of anti-Israel bias.

Finally, the report shows no record of which respondents said what. Is there a difference in the responses of respondents depending on how they learnt of the report? Without more data about the backgrounds of the respondents, it’s very difficult to properly analyse the results.  

Most problematic, in my view, is the odious suggestion that the current experience of anti-Semitism in Britain ‘has echoes of the 1930s’. According to CAA, that’s what over half of UK Jews think. Really? Is our community really that lacking in perspective? 1930s anti-Semitism was state sponsored and quotidian. Modern anti-Semitism is challenged by the state and – as evidenced by the JPR’s data on how frequently people actually experience anti-Semitism – is thankfully rare.  

The authors of the CAA survey report purport to convey a community living in fear. But through the hyperbolic headlines they have prompted they are guilty of contributing towards the very climate of fear about which they claim to be so concerned.  

No comments:

Post a Comment