British Jewish TV Presenter Rachel Riley Says Antisemitic Attacks Have Made Her Jewish Identity Stronger
Rachel Riley, co-host of the British television game show “Countdown,” said last week that the antisemitic attacks she has been receiving on social media, for speaking out against Jew hatred in the UK’s Labour party, have made her more in tune with her Jewish heritage.
Riley, whose mother is Jewish, talked about the online hatred she has been the target of in the last few months during an interview with Britain’s Channel 4 News. When asked if her Jewish identity was “developing” and if she was more “conscious” about her Jewish background as a result of the abuse, the Oxford University graduate said yes, adding, “I’ve soul searched a lot. I’ve soul searched so much because so many people are telling you that ‘You know you’re wrong’ and ‘You’re evil’ or whatever, and I’m like ‘Am I missing something?'”
“So I’ve had to do so much research to find out where this has come from and really examine myself,” Riley, 33, explained. “Have I come from this upbringing and this is why I think this [way]? So it’s just made me question things, which I think is good. You have to question things. You have to look at both sides. You have to read [and] listen.”
The invective Riley has been facing on Twitter began in September when she started speaking out against Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. Riley explained her determination not to stay silent, despite the barrage of criticism that ensued.
She told Channel 4 News, “If good people stay quiet then all you’re hearing is the extremist voices. And that can’t happen because then the appearance is that this is what everybody thinks, and actually with all this so many people have been fantastic and shown their support. So many people. And I can’t thank them enough for actually voicing their support and I know, from meeting people in the street, that there are so many more that don’t say anything that are the silent majority that feel the same. …you have to be brave to speak out against antisemitism. I want people to be louder. If you see something, call it out.”
Riley educated herself about Israel, anti-Zionism and antisemitism so that she could combat her critics, and has gained much knowledge she did not have before the ordeal began, she acknowledged.
She said she wanted to highlight the level of abuse and, ironically, antisemitic messages she receives from people who claim they are not antisemitic because such attacks are happening to many people who voice support for Israel, but are not garnering the attention they need.
Riley stated, “This has been happening to so many people, in choir, they being abused. I know one instance of suicide attempt, I know one instance of violence against them — and it’s not gotten the platform and it shouldn’t be allowed to happen in Britain in 2019 without people knowing about it. This should be a national scandal.”
“There’s a mistaken belief that you can say anything you’d like about Israel [and] Zionists,” she went on to say, “and it’s really a complicated situation, and over and over and over we’re having to say you can criticize Israel, of course you can — I don’t stand by everything our government does, but I don’t hate everybody in England for something the government does. It’s insane.”
Riley also talked about her own Jewish background, memories of going to synagogue once a year for Yom Kippur and calling her grandfather “zaidy.” She said despite being an atheist now, she was “proud” of her Jewish heritage. She visited Israel once at the age of 13 and explained her connection to the country as “the notion that Jews should have a place where they’re not gonna be able to be chucked out and they’re not gonna be able to be murdered.”