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Much of the reaction to the Chief Rabbi’s dramatic and unprecedented intervention in Britain’s general election campaign has proved the truth and importance of what he has said.
In a comment piece in The Times (£) today, Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis writes:
“The Jewish community has watched with incredulity as supporters of the Labour leadership have hounded parliamentarians, members and even staff out of the party for challenging anti-Jewish racism. Even as they received threats, the response of the Labour leadership was utterly inadequate.
“We have endured quibbling and prevarication over whether the party should adopt the most widely accepted definition of antisemitism. Now we await the outcome of a formal investigation by the Equality and Human Rights Commission into whether discrimination by the party against Jews has become an institutional problem. And all of this while in opposition. What should we expect of them in government?
“…How complicit in prejudice would a leader of Her Majesty’s opposition have to be to be considered unfit for office? Would associations with those who have incited hatred against Jews be enough? Would describing as “friends” those who endorse the murder of Jews be enough? It seems not.
“…A new poison – sanctioned from the top – has taken root in the Labour Party.”
Chief Rabbis never get involved in politics. In person, Mirvis is averse to controversy. The fact that he has felt the need to make such an intervention, that British Jews feel so appalled by what surrounds them and fearful for their future that this is felt necessary, has caused decent British people to express their shock and concern.
Much of the reaction on social media, however, has itself consisted of vile antisemitism. Well, of course. Over the past few years, leaked emails and Facebook posts circulating in and around the Labour party have consisted of astonishingly virulent antisemitic messages and images depicting Jews as Nazis, or parroting the medieval blood libels that Jews eat children, or accusing Israel of supporting Isis or being behind 9/11 and demonising Jews as a demonic conspiracy against humanity.
Some of this comes from Labour party members, as this shocking Telegraph story reported last Sunday.
Much of it, however, extends way beyond Labour. For the “poison” of antisemitism, which has been legitimised and encouraged by the party hierarchy’s refusal even to acknowledge the nature and extent of this depravity, goes much further than Jeremy Corbyn and his hard-left acolytes. It has penetrated deep into progressive western circles.
This is because the signature belief of progressivism has become the unholy triad of anti-Zionism, Israel-bashing and support for the Palestinian cause. And many if not most decently-minded progressives, as well as many fair-minded people beyond such circles (including even some Jews), fail to understand that anti-Zionism, Israel-bashing and support for the Palestinian cause are the modern mutation of the protean and never-ending scourge of antisemitism.
They think that antisemitism is a prejudice against Jews as people, that anti-Zionism and Israel-bashing are merely attacks on a political project which are therefore legitimate, and that Palestinianism is a worthy cause supporting the rights of a displaced and oppressed people.
This is all deeply misguided.
Antisemitism isn’t like other prejudices. It has unique characteristics applied to no other group, people or cause: an obsessional and unhinged narrative based entirely on lies; accusing Jews of crimes of which they are not only innocent but the victims; holding them to standards expected of no-one else; depicting them as a global conspiracy of unique malice and power.
Anti-Zionism has exactly the same characteristics directed agains the collective Jew in Israel: an obsessional and unhinged narrative about Israel based entirely on lies; accusing Israel of crimes of which it’s not only innocent but the victim; holding Israel to standards expected of no other country; depicting Israel as a global conspiracy of unique malice and power.
The Palestinian cause, meanwhile, is based on an attempt to wipe out another people’s country, a campaign consisting entirely of lies about the present and the past in an attempt to write the Jews out of their own history in the land, accompanied by virulent antisemitic bigotry.
Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Authority regularly present the Jews as the source of all evil in the world and a conspiracy against all humanity. They claim that the Jews were behind 9/11 and that they control the world’s media, finance and US foreign policy.
So why should anyone be surprised when Labour party supporters and other so-called “progressives” come out with their claims that the Jews were behind 9/11 and that they control the world’s media, finance and US foreign policy in a conspiracy against all humanity?
Alas, experience tells us that the Chief Rabbi’s intervention is likely to make antisemitism in Britain even worse. Yet he was right to have spoken up; indeed, he had no moral alternative but to do so.
Because decent people need to be in absolutely no doubt about the nature of the Labour party which is campaigning to become the government of the country.
And because Jews have a duty to bear witness to the truth, however painful.
But even if the Labour party is defeated at this general election, even if Jeremy Corbyn is removed as the party’s leader, that will not eradicate the terrible scourge of antisemitism which now courses through Britain.