Yesterday’s Enough Is Enough rally was the most extraordinary event of my almost ten years as editor of the JC.
We are not, by nature, an angry community. Nor do we take to the streets. When we have a worry, we – more often than not – talk for ever to ourselves about it and then, perhaps, try to talk behind the scenes to the powers that be.
So when, on Sunday, the Board of Deputies and the JLC proposed a rally at Parliament Square, and issued a strongly worded open letter to Jeremy Corbyn, there was an intake of breath in some quarters. Not the way we do things. Not enough people will turn up. It will backfire. No one will care.
But the naysayers were wrong.
Such is the level of anger – and, one has to say, fear – in our community over the indulgence of antisemitism from the leadership of the Labour Party that over 1500 people came with 24 hours notice just a few days before Pesach to make clear their feelings.
In every sense it was truly extraordinary.
The Board of Deputies rarely gets praised. It is, at best, taken for granted. As for the JLC: there is almost no one with a good word to say for it. So let me say it: over the past few days, the leadership of the Board and the JLC has been exemplary. Jonathans Arkush and Goldstein have spoken powerfully and as one.
They sensed that something had happened over the weekend in the community – that the endorsement by Jeremy Corbyn of an unambiguously antisemitic mural was a step too far even for our naturally quiet community. And their response to that change was pitch perfect.
Yes, we need to see if Monday’s events will have any real impact on Mr Corbyn and those around him. For what it’s worth, my own view is that next to nothing will change, because it cannot change. These people cannot change their core beliefs and behaviour. And they wouldn’t, even if they could, because despite some warm words, they do not believe that antisemitism is real racism.
But in many ways that is not the point. Until now, you had to be something of a political obsessive to be aware that there were any problems at all with Jeremy Corbyn and the Jews. It didn’t matter how many reports there were in the JC of antisemites operating within the Labour Party, because no one else would see them.
Last night’s news bulletins and the front pages of almost every newspaper today have changed that. The issue is now front and centre.
This is wholly the result of the Board and JLC’s leadership and wholly to their credit. They have shown that they deserve the right to lead on this most vital issue of issues.
And rightly, almost every organisation within the community agrees, and has supported their efforts both to date and – crucially – in future.
Astonishingly, one organisation thinks that it knows better, that it has the right to break with our communal unity and that it should speak with another voice.
Despite last night’s triumph, the Campaign Against Antisemitism insists that it alone knows how to tackle the issue and that last night’s rally somehow does not count. It is staging its own “J’Accuse!” demonstration on April 8th when, as it puts it, the British public will take a national stand against antisemitism in London.”
In the absence of any other response, that might once have been a sensible idea. But there was a response, and a rally: last night. And it succeeded beyond measure, dominating the news agenda last night and today.
But the CAA nonetheless still intends to go ahead with its own, entirely superfluous demonstration next month.
They are, of course, perfectly entitled to demonstrate wherever and whenever they wish. But for all the good work that CAA sometimes does – it has unearthed some cases – this insistence on ignoring the unity showed by every other communal body involved in antisemitism demonstrates nothing other than a disgraceful, unthinking, divisive arrogance that is the very last thing we need now.
Instead of treating the issue as an opportunity for continued denigration of the communal leadership, those leading the CAA would, if they truly cared about making progress rather than screaming loudly for the sake of it, praise the Board and the JLC, say how welcome it is to see real leadership, and row in behind.
I will not be holding my breath.