Is this the tipping point?

Malcolm Gladwell defines a tipping point as “the moment of critical mass, the threshold, the boiling point”.

On Tuesday, Baroness Warsi resigned because the government refused to attack Israel sufficiently.

Later that day, the Tricycle Theatre told a Jewish charity it was not welcome unless it denounced Israel.

On Sunday, Ed Miliband decided to cast Israel to the wind and use its citizens’ security as a domestic political pawn.

Also at the weekend, anti-Israel mobs attempted to strong-arm supermarkets into dropping all Israeli produce. Some forced stores to close.

The previous week, an Israeli theatre troupe was banned by its venue from performing in Edinburgh. The list goes on but you get the picture. And that’s without even mentioning the huge rise in antisemitic incidents since the start of Operation Protective Edge.

I don’t think I’m going out on a limb by wondering if this is a tipping point.
Take John Prescott. Hasbeen he might be but when a former deputy prime minister thinks it’s ok to compare Israel with the Third Reich by calling Gaza a concentration camp, and when there is not even a hint from his party that his comments might be worth even mild condemnation, then something has changed in the political ether.

That something was given its head by Ed Miliband. In June, the Labour leader ended his speech to Labour Friends of Israel with fine words: “If I become Prime Minister… I will be proud to do so as a friend of Israel, a Jew and, most of all, someone who feels so proud to be part of the community”.

Fine words, but utter drivel.

One way to gain cheap applause in the modern Labour Party is to attack Israel. For some years, its leaders have stood above that fray. Not Mr Miliband.

With internal whispering against the Labour leader ramping up again, turning on Israel gives him an instant popularity shot within the party. At the very time when Israel needs support most, this self-described friend has injected even more anti-Israel poison.

But it’s clearly not just the Labour audience that Mr Miliband had in mind. Do the maths. Muslims account for only three per cent of the population. But it is highly concentrated and there are around two dozen marginal constituencies with a significant Muslim vote. For a politician with no shame, the maths point in one direction.

As a former Labour minister put it to me on Sunday: “Just look at his record. He likes to pretend he’s driven by some moral compass but the truth is he’s the most cynical leader Labour has ever had. Syria, now Israel. He’ll sell anyone out for a vote.”

Another senior Labour figure told me he was “ashamed to be in the same party as this excuse for a leader”.

Which is all very well, but it makes the point. Mr Miliband may be playing to the gallery but the problem is that it’s what the gallery wants to hear.

On social media, the outpouring of antisemitism is shocking even to someone who, as editor of the JC, has to put up with it as a daily part of my inbox. But it’s not even the antisemitism itself that’s so troubling. It’s the well into which it drops — and the feeling that it’s normal and acceptable to speak of Jews as some kind of alien species.

In that context, attacks on Israel seem innocuous to those with no understanding of the issues. Then, without noticing that it happened, we find we are caught in a pincer of antisemitism and Israel hate.

Last updated: 9:59am, August 7 2014