Watching the ferocious criminality displayed during the recent riots in British cities, one might be forgiven for thinking that this explosion of mob violence was taking place in some dilapidated, God-forsaken Third World country. The horrific scenes of homes and businesses of ordinary Britons going up in flames will not be easily forgotten. Britainâs police have unfortunately had to function within a society paralyzed by the politics of victimhood, loudly defended by an increasingly misguided liberal intelligentsia. Within this victim culture most social problems are conveniently blamed on the âracismâ or oppression of the majority, while ignoring the failings or delinquency of criminal individuals or gangs â often but not always belonging to ethnic minorities. Not unexpectedly, Londonâs leftist former mayor, Ken âRedâ Livingstone immediately blamed the âThatcherismâ of the present Conservative government for the violence. For Livingstone and most of the Labor Left, it is all stunningly obvious â no spending cuts, no riots. But as Max Hastings pointed out in the London âDaily Mail,â the British mayhem was not sparked by hunger or evidence of real want, let alone any social or political agenda. It reflects the emergence not just of an amorphous underclass but of an amoral, brutalized subculture, in which intellectually challenged youngsters claimed to be showing the rich and the âfuzzâ [police] that âwe can do what we like.â British Prime Minister David Cameron got it partially right when he responded to the chaos by stating: âThis is not about poverty, itâs about cultureâ â a culture of rights and no responsibilities. The seeds were already sown by Englandâs supine, feckless and libertine intellectuals in the 1960s who so eagerly advocated the ill-considered utopia of multiculturalism (which would gradually loosen the remaining social bonds in Britain) and encouraged contempt for authority in the name of unrestrained individualism. I grew up in a very different Britain at the end of the 1950s when state grammar schools still provided a good education and a way out of poverty and class-deprivation, inculcating a sense of discipline, hard work and national pride. Two-thirds of the pupils at our school were Jewish and highly motivated, and a significant number went on to make successful careers as adults. Punishment for bad behavior was not yet a âdirty wordâ; our teachers were still respected figures of authority and were expected to guide pupils as well as communicate moral values. Drugs, for example, were still considered beyond the pale. However, by the late 1960s this had radically changed for the worse, smoothed over by the faÃ§ade of âswinging Londonâ and the increasingly omnipresent Welfare State. The next 30 years would see the breakdown of the family, households with absent fathers (especially in the black community), high divorce rates in general, and the encouragement of a sexual free-for-all, embroidered by the dominant clichÃ©s of lifestyle choice. The liberal intellectuals continued their relentless assault on British national identity in the name of multi-culturalism and âantiimperialismâ; calls for drug liberalization became increasingly frequent; education became more and more âchild-centered,â leaving issues of sexual morality and drug-taking largely in the hands of teenagers themselves. Power was effectively removed from teachers who were unable to maintain discipline or discouraged from offering any serious guidance or maintaining high educational standards. To stand up for patriotism, let alone moral values in the current âmulti-culturalâ relativist climate in Britain, means to risk being accused of âracism,â xenophobia or bigotry. This state of affairs has serious implications for Jews, as well as non-Jews, not only in Britain but in other Western democracies whose prosperity and security is closely linked to social stability as well as respect for the law. It is striking that the recent explosion of violence has followed a decade of growing antisemitism â much of it under the mask of hostility to Israel â itself the symptom of acute social tensions, educational decline, moral relativism and the pretense of liberal intellectuals that they have transcended the nation-state. The burning of synagogues and assaults on Jewish institutions across France after October 2000 preceded and portended the urban riots five years later, sparked by marginalized African and Muslim youth. What begins with the Jews never ends with them. By the same token, trends in the general society invariably impact on the Jewish minority and Israel itself. During Londonâs recent intifada (which spread to Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham and other cities), the mob briefly took over the streets and effectively terrorized the population. Unruly Britannia for a few days became a global symbol of social anomie â a signpost of what could also happen in European or American cities. Jews were not singled out but suffered like the rest of the population from the collapse of any notion of civilized behavior. No doubt Britons will eventually recover from this debacle but not without learning the hard way the price of moral laxity and of encouraging a culture of such unrestrained narcissistic selfishness. They could certainly learn something from the exemplary democratic form that mass social protest has taken in Israel during the past months, which indicates that the spirit of community and social solidarity is not yet dead among the youth of the Jewish State. The current collapse of the British welfarestate model into mindless thuggery is a warning to all countries of the fragile nature of supposedly stable Western democracies. The thin faÃ§ade of civilization protecting us from barbarism and mob rule has been exposed to full view. Judaism as a value system has stood for several millennia as a rock against such trends of social disintegration with its emphasis on the family, communal values, educating the young, the value of discipline and respect for the law combined with a premium on the autonomy of critical reason. No society in which a significant sector of its youth are without fathers, without guidance, educational qualifications, modern skills or positive ambitions, can expect to survive, let alone prosper. The images of lawlessness emanating from civically debilitated British cities are a warning signal that must be heeded in time. The writing is on the wall for all to read and its most effective antidote can be found in the Hebrew prophets. Robert Wistrich is Professor of Modern European History at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He made his Aliya from Great Britain 30 years ago.