A Zero Tolerance Approach

Anti-semitism is a regular topic of conversation amongst Jewish people. Recently, in the UK, Jeremy Corbyn has been heavily criticised for his (in)actions and words on this subject. Often you will hear the sound-bite from Jewish Leaders and activists, that there should be a “zero tolerance approach” towards anti-Semitism and anti-Semites.

(This picture was taken from https://antisemitism.uk/act/labour-hold-corbyn-to-account/ )

Most law-abiding citizens would agree, however, that child sex abuse is an horrific crime and one that certainly should fit into the criteria of having a zero tolerance apporoach. But is this actually the case in our communities?

In order to satisfy a zero tolerance approach towards child sex abuse, all abusers must be brought to justice and all alleged abusers must face a fair and independent investigation by the police (and subsequently face trial if necessary). Despite this sounding seemingly obvious, there are large swathes of our Jewish communities that fall down at this basic first hurdle. Even in the UK there have been numerous cases where abusers have received financial aid from the community, organised communal shunning against victims and their families, and in some cases witness intimidation.

An often neglected part of the elusive zero tolerance approach regards the enablers of abuse. These are the people who cover up or try to minimise the abuse, or help abusers escape to a difference country (as has happened countless times). It is irrelevant what their motivation is, the intended (and often achived) outcome is to prevent the abuser from facing justice and leaving open the very likely possibility that the abuser will be free to abuse other innocent victims.

Enabling of abuse can take many forms and is certainly not restricted to the above. Again, many communities are happy for enablers to operate freely. Often, enablers are even appointed for this very purpose and are usually placed in positions of significant influence and seniority. In many cases enablers operate within the law (or is very difficult to provide enough evidence of illegal behaviour), and whilst there may not be any practical legal recourse, this doesn’t mean that communities do not need to operate responsibly in preventing enablers from averting justice.

To genuinely claim to have zero tolerance requires the calling out of enablers and anyone who supports the enablers. As noted previously, enablers usually rely on their communal influence to achieve their objective. As such, once it is known that a person is an enabler, they should not be given any platform within the community unless they have publicly and sincerely retracted their support for the abuser(s), and apologised to their victims. They should not be afforded any respect above anyone else, and where possible (there may be legal implications preventing this), they should be removed from all positions of communal authority even in unrelated matters. It is not possible to have enablers of abuse maintaining any level of authoritative respect and still claim that the community is zero tolerance when it comes to child sex abuse.

Zero tolerance means abusers must not be tolerated and enablers must not be tolerated. Protecting abusers, and respecting those who have enabled abuse, only allows abusers to create more victims.

If we, as a community, rightly demand a zero tolerance attitude towards anti-Semitism, shouldn’t we demand the same standards towards child sex abuse in order to protect our children?

Whilst Jeremy Corbyn receives condemnation for not adequately addressing the problems within his party, how many of us are guilty of the doing the exact same thing? Maybe his Passover message should encourage us to take a look at ourselves in the same light?


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