The Bigger Picture: The City in the Global Village


Jewish Fundamentalism Is Also Dangerous

In the voluntary question on religion in the 2001 decennial census 59.1% of the city's population described themselves as Christian, 27% No Religion, and 8.9% did not answer the question. The Jewish and Muslim figures were as follows: Jews 1.4% and Muslims 1.5%.

So Jews and Muslims are tiny minorities in the city, together not amounting to more than 3% of the population. Yet 2.9% is equal to about 7,000 people, and it is possible that the 35.9% of the population who answered No Religion or who chose not to answer the question includes some who might be described as cultural Jews and Muslims or secular Jews and Muslims.

It would not be surprising if Jews and Muslims in our city look at the brutal conflict in Israel / Palestine and feel a close empathy with the plight of their co-religionists. But as British citizens we all need to understand the conflict and take a view about how it can be resolved according to principles of democracy and justice, because as the bombings in London on 7th July 2005 demonstrate the conflict has spilled over into our own society, and the latest war between Israel and Hezbollah will have inevitably increased the likelihood of more such attacks.

The city also has quite an active branch of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, and a recent peace demo on the Israel-Hezbollah conflict has provoked a public debate because of what has been seen as a heavy-handed police presence with about 100 police officers mobilised to police a demo of about 150 people.

Likewise the accusation of the police superintendant that the demo was a deliberate provocation to the city's Jewish community has caused yet more controversy.

Then there is the case of Omar Deghayes, a resident of Saltdean, and a detainee at Guantanamo Bay.

Finally, the discovery that the young mother with triplet babies, who made national news when she was evacuated from Lebanon at the start of the war, is a city resident, has further brought it home to us that we live in a global village, and that we can't and should not ignore what's going on in the Middle East.

British citizens need in their own self-interests, as well as in the name of democratic principle, to take a view about the nature of British foreign policy on the Middle East.