For all her failings, Theresa May gave Jews and Israel unprecedented support

JC political editor Lee Harpin looks back on the PM who made time for the community, even at Brexit flashpoints

May 23, 2019 17:44

If Theresa May’s overall achievements as Prime Minister are difficult to highlight– for British Jews she will be remembered by most as a leader who offered them and Israel unprecedented support.

It was her Cabinet who led the adoption of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance's definition of antisemitism – a landmark decision that recognised how much modern day Jew-hate comes from opposition to the Jewish people’s right to self-determination.

To her credit, Mrs May also stood tall and strong against the anti-Zionist ideology of Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour – often challenging and defeating him in heated Commons exchanges on the issue.

It is a little known fact, that after last year’s emotionally charged antisemitism debate in the Commons, it was the Conservative PM who wrote to congratulate MP Luciana Berger - who later quit Labour over Jew-hate - on her speech on the issue. Jeremy Corbyn did nothing.

The May Government also played a leading role in facilitating the visit of Prince William to Israel – ending a de facto boycott on official visits to Israel by senior British Royals.

Even when she was fighting the toughest polititcal battles, she made time for Jewish causes.

Speaking at the United Jewish Israel Appeal dinner last September, she said: “It sickens me that anyone should feel like that in our country.

“I do not underestimate the threat posed by those who promote antisemitism, or hatred in any form. Nor the pernicious nature of what those people say and what they stand for.”

And in support of Zionism she said: "Criticising the actions of Israel is never, and can never be, an excuse for questioning Israel’s right to exist; any more than criticising Britain’s actions could be an excuse for questioning our right to exist.”

Last November, she kept a pre-planned engagement to address a Downing Street reception for those who attended a conference on antisemitism, despite having just spent more than two hours on her feet defending her EU withdrawal agreement to angry MPs.

She told the reception in honour of that day’s Sara Conference: "Antisemitism and misogyny have no place in this country Hatred can be defeated. Hatred must be defeated.”

The following month, again speaking in Downing Street, Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis praised her "fortitude and resilience" and said the Jewish community held her "in the highest esteem."

He also compared her qualities to the Maccabees.

May 23, 2019 17:44

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