Jeremy Corbyn is defeated, but hate will get a lift from resurgent far right

Michael Gove can give all the reassurances to the Jewish community he likes, but it won’t stop antisemites joining the Tories, writes Michael Goldfarb

December 20, 2019 14:39

Panic averted? Sighs of relief heaved? Bags unpacked?

How much did solidarity among Britons with a small, fearful, minority community play in the choices that led to Labour’s crushing defeat last Thursday? Probably not much.

If Golders Green could not show solidarity with Luciana Berger, who suffered most at the hands of the antisemites tolerated by Jeremy Corbyn — just as Golders Green declined in 2015 to return a Labour MP to help a Jew, Ed Miliband, the son of refugees, whose grandfather and more than 40 other family members perished in the Holocaust, into Downing Street — it isn’t likely that the residents of Bolsover looked at their ballot papers and said, the Jews need my help, I’m voting Tory.

The election results were the chronicle of a death foretold from the moment Labour’s entryist membership used the party’s new one member, one vote system to select Mr Corbyn as the party leader back in 2015.

His IRA baggage probably meant more than his presence at wreath laying at Palestinian terrorist graves when voters rejected him in Labour’s northern heartlands.

And the exit polling demonstrates that neither were critical on their own. It was Brexit to an extent — but all the post-election polling tells us clearly, it was just HIM wot lost it.

So now, Michael Gove can promise Britain’s Jews, “You will never have to live in fear again” on the morning after Mr Corbyn’s defeat.

Yet within days of making that statement, he was forced to comment about two of the new Conservative intake who have been indulging in antisemitic theorising about Geroge Soros being the mastermind behind the EU.

No surprise there. Political parties that build their appeal around ethno-nationalism — and Brexit is, more than anything, an English ethno-nationalist project — often attract antisemites.

The party leader’s rhetoric will often contain coded references about minorities not really being of the “nation” or of the “people”. That encourages those already seething with Jew hatred to act out. We are, after all, the people for whom the expression “a nation within the nation” was coined.

Because of this it seems a good bet that antisemitism will continue to thrive even after Labour’s defeat. The arrival of nationalist governments in two key EU 2004 accession countries — Hungary and Poland — has seen a rise (or return?) to overt antisemitic activity and rhetoric there.

An even more worrying example is the sharp increase in violent antisemitism in the US since the ethno-nationalist Donald Trump took office.

The emblematic event was the white supremacist “Unite the Right”  march in Charlottesville, Virginia in August 2017. Ostensibly organised to stop the removal of a statue of Confederate General Robert E Lee, its centerpiece actually had nothing to do with the Civil War. The main event was neo-Nazis marching by torchlight chanting, “Jews will not replace us."

The two-day event devolved into violence in which one woman was killed. Mr Trump’s response was to decry the violence and say there were “very fine people on both sides”.

Since then, the US has witnessed the Tree of Life synagogue massacre in Pittsburgh last year in which 11 people died.

In the ensuing 12 months there were two attacks on synagogues in California. Last week, a kosher supermarket was attacked and four people were killed. The perpetrators have come from across the antisemitic spectrum: white Supremacists, Black Israelites, a Somali immigrant.

In New York, hate crimes against Jews were up nearly 25 per cent in the first three quarters of this year.

We spend a lot of time worrying about antisemitic attacks in France; maybe we should all worry about antisemitic violence in America more.

The point is that where leaders legitimise discriminatory or violent language against minority groups, discrimination or physical violence usually follows.

Mr Gove can give all the reassurances to the Jewish community he likes, but it won’t stop antisemites joining the Tories. Boris Johnson is a man with a long history of insensitive remarks about minorities, in some cases downright Islamophobic.

It would not be a surprise if the Tories became a home for xenophobic antisemites, just as the intemperate language about Israel used by Mr Corbyn and his followers made Labour a resting place for left-wing anti-Israel antisemites.

There is a reason why, for the most part, Jews in the European and American diaspora have lined up on the liberal side in questions about immigration and integration. We know better than anyone, having essentially been treated as immigrants even if our people had lived on the same soil for centuries, that a nation is much more than a narrowly defined ethnic or racial category.

In the inevitable arguments and disappointments to come over the new trade deal to be negotiated with the EU, the idea of what this nation is and who really belongs to it will be under the spotlight.

Those kinds of discussions are never good for the Jews.

December 20, 2019 14:39

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