Even in the woods, it's the same old song - the woes of the left

November 24, 2016 23:22

The peaceful Oxfordshire countryside feels a very long way from the power and plotting of Westminster.

But even in this rural idyll it is hard to escape the turmoil affecting left-leaning British Jews.

Last weekend, I attended Limmud in the Woods - the scout camp-based version of the popular annual conference. Among the expected sessions on Kabbalah meditation techniques and Jewish veganism, there were numerous slots set aside to talk politics.

There was an hour dedicated to looking at Labour Friends of Israel's work on the left, and the difficulties in making a progressive case for Israel at a time of rising anti-Zionism.

Clive Lawton, the Limmud co-founder and leading educator, led a debate looking at Jeremy Corbyn, Ken Livingstone and their friends, assessing the depth of the challenge Labour faces over antisemitism.

I had been invited to sit on a panel discussing how the political conversation has become increasingly fraught. Would the fall-out from the EU referendum, Labour's crisis and the ongoing ugliness of the presidential election in the United States leave us incapable of returning to a more tolerant level of discourse?

As the rain poured outside our marquee, clouds gathered inside too. My musings on the urgent need for serious statesmen to emerge and appeal to voters across the spectrum only worsened the atmosphere when no one - me included - was able to identify any.

At the end of the session, one woman came over to explain how her son, harbouring political ambitions, had undertaken an internship at the Commons with a well-known Conservative MP.

But so unimpressed was the young hopeful with how politics is conducted in Parliament that he had decided to make aliyah instead.

The overriding impression I took away was of genuine, deep-seated concern about the future of the left in British politics.

But those on the right should not rush to celebrate. If an entire generation of politically-minded young Jews decide to abandon their activism, we will all be the worse for it.

November 24, 2016 23:22

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