‘ …there were over 250,000 Jews living in Britain at the start of the First World War. They integrated and in the main, were accepted.’
– Archbishop maps social change for Britain
The Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, has delighted some by arguing that post-war multiculturalism has led Britain to lose its sense of vision. In a speech to the Smith Institute he goes on to develop an idea of the Chief Rabbi, Sir Jonathan Sacks, that since the 1950s migrants have treated Britain like a hotel; ‘they are guests – they do not belong… any sense of a shared common culture is eroded risking increasing segregation.’
What seems most bizarre is that the Chief Rabbi might agree with Sentamu when he says: ‘…there were 250,000 Jews living in Britain at the start of the First World War. They integrated and in the main, were accepted.’
This is nonsense. Jewish people suffered constant discrimination; ‘Problem of the alien – London overrun by undesirables – vast foreign areas a growing menace’ screamed the Evening Standard in 1911 as it ran a series of articles on ‘the alien problem’. A reasonable desire to be close to people of a similar cultural background, no doubt reinforced by anti-Semitism, led Jewish people to form close-knit communities. They did not choose to become Christian and instead set about forming communities large enough to sustain synagogues, kosher food shops and so on. Had Dr John Sentamu been preaching then, it’s hard to imagine he’d have been talking up Britain’s Judaeo-Christian values.
In the hands of the Daily Mail’s Steve Doughty, the bishop’s words come close to becoming a call for migrants to ‘go home’ as they ‘just don’t belong’. Between the wars, the Daily Mail famously supported the Blackshirts in Britain and acted as cheerleader to Hitler’s invasion of Europe. Now it contains more stories on asylum seekers than any other newspaper, but doesn’t cover the human rights abuses from which they flee.
Remarkably, Steve Doughty finds it necessary to misquote Sentamu in order to conflate refugees and economic migrants: Dr Sentamu did not say ‘it was important to remember that Britain had always provided refuge for economic migrants,’ but was careful to distinguish between economic migrants and asylum seekers.
Economic migrants don’t require refuge; that there are no jobs in your country of origin is not grounds for asylum. Doughty feeds the myth that today’s asylum seekers are simply after British jobs; in truth those who qualify for refuge have shown that they are fleeing persecution and the stories of today’s refugees are as horrific as ever.