It’s tricky knowing what to do with the kids at the weekend. Petting zoo? Soft play? Well, this Saturday we’re trying something different – we’re going to see some real-life Nazis. [“Yes, sweetheart. These men are silly pooh-pooh heads! No, darling. I don’t think their arms are stuck in that position.”]
It seems like something from a bygone age but, nonetheless, white supremacists will stage an “anti-Jewification” rally on the Jewish Sabbath in central London, after police barred them from holding it in Golders Green – the heart of Jewish London.
Their tempting itinerary includes a talk on the “Holohoax”, the tearing of Israeli flags and the burning of religious Jewish books. All that’s missing is face painting and nappy changing facilities.
A promotional flier, headlined “We’re going to have an absolute gas!”, features a bottle of pesticide spraying a Der Stürmer Jew hiding behind weeds in Auschwitz. No expense spared with the evil iconography.
Needless to say, the good people of Golders Green and beyond are incensed. More than 12,000 have signed a petition to the home secretary urging her to ban it outright.
David Cameron has warned that any demonstrators involved in anti-Semitic hostility will face the “full force of the law”, but police are powerless to prevent a static demonstration unless it turns into a full-on march – which it may well do, as marching is one thing Nazis are really good at.
I’ll use the occasion to give the kids a beginner’s guide to free speech. “Yes darling, even the worst people in the whole wide world are allowed to say really mean things as long as there’s no biting or kicking.”
For London’s Jewish community, Saturday was fast turning into the social event of the season. Before it was relocated on Tuesday, synagogues has been braced for their lowest Shabbat attendance figures in years. I’d made family lunch plans between the Holocaust denial and book burning.
More than 2,500 people RSVP’d on the Campaign Against Antisemitism’s Facebook page, while hundreds more backed the now successful #GoldersGreenTogether campaign formed by Jewish organisations, local politicians and anti-fascist group Hope Not Hate.
This spiteful shindig will still take place – only now in a far less provocative place. Golders Green can breathe a sigh of relief. It hadn’t witnessed such commotion since Carmelli’s bakery ran out of bagels.
Notably, the reaction has been a mix of curiosity and contempt; not fear. While support for nationalist parties has surged across Europe – Front National in France, Golden Dawn in Greece and Jobbik in Hungary – we Brits tend to baulk at bigotry. Witness the recent political annihilation of the BNP, which garnered a measly 1,667 votes across eight constituencies in May’s general election.
The real threat to British Jews comes from fundamentalists, not fascists. So showing up in our thousands to watch Hitler fans stomp around in their shiny boots and blinkers would have been like using a javelin to lance a boil.
Now the circus has been moved on, there’s a chance it’ll end up being a bit of a Stormtrooper in a teacup. Maybe they won’t even show up at all. If they do they’ll be overwhelmingly outnumbered. I’ll still swing by to make my voice heard.
It’s either that or Legoland.
• First published at http://www.independent.co.uk