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Nicola Sturgeon sparks Chanukah pride as Labour woes continue

As the season of goodwill approaches, how pleasing it is to bring positive news on the political front — and especially so from Scotland.

    Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland's First Minister, will light Edinburgh's giant menorah for the first time
    Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland's First Minister, will light Edinburgh's giant menorah for the first time

    For so long the scene of rising antisemitism and antagonism towards Jews and Israelis, there is now a sense of better times on the horizon.

    Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s First Minister, will on Tuesday light the giant menorah in Edinburgh’s St Andrew Square for the first time.

    MPs and local councillors striking matches or clambering up ladders for the festival are of course 10-a-penny,  but it is only six years since the same 15-foot Chanukiah was smashed up by vandals.

    Ms Sturgeon has invested substantial time in working with the Jewish community. Her efforts have been sufficiently impressive that even her political arch-enemy, Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson, praised her in the JC in September.

    Rabbi Pinny Weinman, of Edinburgh Chabad, told me the First Minister’s attendance “brings so much pride to the Jewish people of Scotland” — her support was “greatly appreciated”, he said. 

    Amid such political turmoil in our country, it is reassuring when senior figures make a point of supporting British Jews. You may disagree with her politics, but Ms Sturgeon is becoming a firm friend of the community.

    • Is our political discourse so awash with Jew-hate that there are now too many cases to cover them all with the attention they warrant? 

    There was relatively little coverage during the general election campaign when Andrew Percy, Jewish Conservative MP, received antisemitic abuse while out canvassing.

    Now, when Louise Ellman, veteran Labour MP and Jewish Labour Movement president, finds herself on the end of absolutely foul hatred from a party member who has already been suspended over antisemitism allegations, the silence from all quarters is deafening.

    Described as the MP for “Tel Aviv South” and a “racist supporter of the child abuse of Palestinian children”, Mrs Ellman was repeatedly attacked by Tony Greenstein, a noxious Jewish anti-Zionist.

    In fact, his attacks on her last year were the tipping point which prompted the party to suspend him. He now awaits his fate at the hands of Labour’s disciplinary team. 

    Mrs Ellman is one of the community’s strongest supporters in Parliament and has never been afraid to call out racist abuse within her own party and further afield. 

    Where is the support for Jewish MP Louise Ellman?
    Where is the support for Jewish MP Louise Ellman?

    So why is no one rushing to her defence? Why are her colleagues and our communal organisations not pursuing the expulsion of her abuser with the same vigour they have directed at Ken Livingstone or Jackie Walker?

    When the JC revealed last year that antisemitic campaigners were “hell-bent” on deselecting Mrs Ellman in her Liverpool constituency, there was, similarly, barely a ripple of anger.

    The dozens of antisemitism cases over the past two years have taken a heavy toll on Labour Jews, anti-hate campaigners, and indeed the media. But allowing some cases to slip by, while others are highlighted, sets us on a dangerous path. The community and its defenders must redouble their efforts to tackle every instance of racism with equal determination and energy.

    The report published by think tank Bicom last week should therefore be welcomed for attempting to address some of the key issues relating to Israel which would be raised if Labour returned to power.

    There was much stating the obvious — for instance that the Labour leader has long supported “anti-Zionist positions that frame Israel as… a racist colonial enterprise” — but a couple of points should be kept in mind.

    Bicom concluded, sensibly, that many of Mr Corbyn’s prime ministerial positions would be tempered by “the specific political conditions following an election — eg size of majority; portfolio allocations; potential coalition partners; balance of power and views in cabinet”. Food for thought. 

    This report should serve as a block to build on for communal organisations to begin to fill the void in thinking which has apparently existed since June’s general election.

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