Stephen Fry decries antisemitism
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British actor and writer, Stephen Fry, recently issued a heartfelt Christmas message addressing the surge in antisemitism in the United Kingdom. In his message, he called on the country’s Jews to take pride in their heritage and highlighted the need for unity amidst ongoing conflicts. However, his remarks sparked a torrent of online trolling and backlash, with accusations that he was ignoring the plight of Palestinians in war-torn Gaza. Despite the criticism, Fry stood firm in his condemnation of antisemitism and urged individuals to stand together against all forms of racism.

Channel 4’s Alternative Christmas Message

Fry’s message was broadcast on the British Channel 4 network as an alternative to the traditional Royal Christmas Message. This annual alternative message has been a platform for thought-provoking speeches since 1993. The choice to have Fry deliver the message in 2023 was seen as refreshing, especially considering that in 2008, Iran’s then-president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who denied the Holocaust, was given this honor. The decision to have Fry address the issue of antisemitism demonstrated Channel 4’s commitment to promoting open dialogue and raising awareness about pressing social issues.

Fry's message

“The great Irish thinker and writer Conor Cruise O’Brien once said that “anti-Semitism is a light sleeper.” “Well, he seems to have woken up lately,” began Stephen Fry, who himself was an old-line Jew but was not brought up in a religious family and does not identify as Jewish. “The horrific events of October 7 and Israel’s response seem to have awakened these ancient hatreds.”

“I know because I was warned that I was on lists of British leaders that some far-right newspapers and websites published over the years. “And I’ll be damned if I allow anti-Semites to define me and appropriate the word “Jew”, instilling their evil poison into it,” continues the 66-year-old actor. “So I accept my identity and claim it.”

The Wake-Up Call: Rising Antisemitism in the UK

Fry began his message by quoting the renowned Irish thinker and writer, Conor Cruise O’Brien, who once said that “antisemitism is a light sleeper.” He acknowledged that this ancient form of hatred seemed to have awakened in recent times, particularly due to the events unfolding in the Israel-Hamas conflict. Fry, who has Jewish heritage on his mother’s side but did not grow up in a religious household, expressed his refusal to let antisemites define him or inject their venom into the word “Jew.” He boldly claimed his Jewish identity and urged others to accept and embrace their own heritage.

Highlighting the alarming statistics, Fry referred to the Metropolitan Police’s rising incidents of antisemitism in London. Since October 7, there has been a staggering 1,350% increase, with incidents including smashed shop windows, defaced Jewish property with Stars of David and swastikas, and forced closures of Jewish schools. The climate of fear among Jewish communities in Britain is palpable, reminiscent of the dark days of the past. Fry emphasized that this form of racism is unacceptable and called on Britons to reject such hatred.

Stephen Fry

Unity in the Face of Adversity

While acknowledging the agonizing violence and destruction in the Israel-Hamas conflict, Fry stressed that there can be no excuse for the behavior of some citizens. He called for unity and support, emphasizing that the British society he knows and loves does not condone hatred towards Jews or any other minority. Fry encouraged individuals to speak up, stand with the Jewish community, and be proud of their Jewish heritage or, if not Jewish, to acknowledge and appreciate the contributions of the Jewish population to the nation.

Online Backlash and Support

Despite Fry’s sincere intentions, his message faced significant backlash online. Some accused him of playing the victim and diverting attention from the situation in Gaza. However, many others expressed their support for Fry’s stance against antisemitism and his call for unity. One user commended his powerful words about the UK being a safe place for Jewish people and his caution against using slurs targeting anyone. Supporters praised Fry’s bravery and good humor, appreciating that he used his platform to shed light on the issue of antisemitism.

The Global Rise of Antisemitism

Antisemitism has surged worldwide since the outbreak of the Israel-Hamas conflict on October 7. The conflict resulted in the deaths of 1,200 people in Israel and the kidnapping of hundreds. Israel’s military campaign aimed to topple the Hamas regime in Gaza and secure the release of hostages. However, the high death toll and mounting criticism of Israel’s actions drew international condemnation. In the UK, the period between October 7 and December 7 saw a record number of over 1,500 reported antisemitic incidents, highlighting the urgent need to address this escalating issue.

Stephen Fry

Standing Against Antisemitism for a Better Future

Stephen Fry’s Christmas message served as a wake-up call to the rising tide of antisemitism in the United Kingdom. While acknowledging the ongoing conflict in the Middle East, he emphasized the importance of unity and rejecting all forms of racism. Despite facing backlash, Fry remained steadfast in his condemnation of antisemitism and urged individuals to stand together against this ancient hatred. The online response to his message was mixed, with both criticism and support. However, Fry’s courage and willingness to speak out against antisemitism have resonated with many, reminding us all of the importance of standing up for what is right and promoting a more inclusive and tolerant society.

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