Jon Benjamin, the British Ambassador to Mexico, appeared on the most recent episode of Podcast Against Antisemitism where he discussed the varying rates of antisemitism in countries around the world.
Mr Benjamin, who has represented the United Kingdom in several countries throughout his 36-year-long diplomatic career, said: “My experience of antisemitism around the world varies so hugely. It has something to do with whether there is or isn’t a Jewish community in the country concerned. Early on, I was posted to Indonesia, there are effectively no Jewish people in Indonesia. I’ve been in other countries where the Jewish minority is very small, such as in Turkey.
“And there is always a difference between whether people are basing whatever views they have, favourable or negative, on personal interaction or a more abstract notion of a people, or religion or ethnic group, however they define it, which they don’t actually interact with themselves.”
Mr Benjamin went on to note that “perceptions of Israel…of the Middle East, in general, have a lot to do with how Jewish people are perceived in various parts of the world.
“There is always a spike of antisemitism when there is a spike in the conflict between Israel and Hamas, or Hizballah, or in the intifada periods…there’s always some sort of relationship.”
An intifada is a rebellion or uprising, but the Palestinian intifadas were characterised by acts of terrorism targeting Jews.
Speaking on his current country of residence, Mr Benjamin said: “I’m very struck here in Mexico, [when] I’ve met with the leaders of the Jewish community…and they themselves say that they think the Jewish community here in Mexico may be 40 to 50,000 strong in terms of its size, suffers less antisemitism than any other sizeable Jewish community almost anywhere in the world.
“It doesn’t mean there’s none, and again, it can be linked to what’s going on in the Middle East itself. But it was very pleasing to me in my first meeting with them to hear them say that broadly speaking, they don’t suffer huge waves of antisemitism.”
Throughout the interview, Mr Benjmain touched upon a wide variety of topics which included the incident in which West Ham fans reportedly chanted “I’ve got a foreskin haven’t you, f***ing Jew” to a visibly Jewish man on a flight, how he first became involved in the fight against antisemitism and why he believes that travelling can help combat prejudice.
The podcast with Mr Benjamin can be listened to here, or watched in its entirety here.
Podcast Against Antisemitism, produced by Campaign Against Antisemitism, talks to a different guest about antisemitism each week. It streams every Thursday and is available through all major podcast apps and YouTube. You can also subscribe to have new episodes sent straight to your inbox.
Previous guests have included comedian David Baddiel, television personality Robert Rinder, writer Eve Barlow, Grammy-Award-winning singer-songwriter Autumn Rowe, and actor Eddie Marsan.