“In October 1947, the 43 Group was attacking an average of 15 outdoor fascist meetings a week, and by whatever means, causing more than half to close down prematurely,” wrote Morris Beckman in his memoir of the 43 Group’s exploits.
Those “means” included knives, knuckledusters and bricks. And it worked. By the end of 1949, the fascists had been driven out of east London.
In these dark days, the experience of the 43 Group reminds us that in the not-so-distant past, Jews have refused to accept their lot as passive victims. The challenge now is balancing our respect for the law of the land with our resolve not to allow our synagogues to be burned or ransacked, as they were less than a century ago in Europe.
Used sparingly and when necessary, self-defense is no offense. And if it contributes to the authorities’ taking pre-emptive action against anti-Semitic demonstrations – as has occurred in France, where the police have banned another anti-Semitic rally scheduled for this past weekend in Paris – then so much the better.