The JC Letters Page,14th June 2019

David Miller, Jenny Nemko, Ze'ev Portner, Dr Stanley Jacobs, David Lawrence, Pamela Melnikoff, Dr Rebbeca Beaconsfield, Jo Freeman and Stan Labovitch share their views with JC reader

June 13, 2019 10:45

Antisemitism ignored

The election of Lisa Forbes in the Peterborough by-election is widely seen as proof that the Labour Party is unable or unwilling to deal with the issue of antisemitism among its officials and candidates. 

Of greater concern should be that nearly 10,500 people voted for her. This suggests that, outside of constituencies with a significant Jewish population, the rest of the country either doesn’t understand about antisemitism or, more worryingly, doesn’t care. 

It is sadly ironic that the by-election took place in the same week that we commemorated the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings to free Europe from tyranny.  Given the Conservative Party’s inexorable quest for self-destruction, a Corbyn-led government is now a frightening reality. If it should come to pass, the ultimate sacrifice made by tens of thousands of young servicemen to save us from racism and bigotry will have been in vain.

David Miller
Chigwell, Essex 

Good, bad, ironic 

Keith Kahn-Harris (If you’re the right kind of Jew, JC, June 7), in calling out two kinds of antisemitism — the historical, fantastical and often innate antisemitism prevalent among people who may never meet a Jew  and that among people who know Jews and pick and choose who is a “good” or a “bad” Jew according to their attitude towards Israel, reminds me of the Labour Party’s attitude to the “good” and “bad” Jews.  

Last year, Jeremy Corbyn attended a “third night” Seder with a Jewish group who define themselves as socialist, anti-Zionist and anti-racist. It seems that  Corbyn views as “good” Jews those who refuse to hold the Palestinian leadership to account for terror attacks, professing they are a legitimate means of resistance to occupation. Sadly, Corbyn did not attend a first or second Seder night with any of the 90 per cent of  mainstream UK’s “bad” Jews who put Israel’s security issues first and believe in Jewish rights to self-determination. 

 The irony is that Corbyn’s intention to demonstrate that he is not an antisemite by allying himself with Jewish anti-Zionists, reinforces his strident antisemitism

Jenny Nemko
Pinner, Middlesex

Galloway’s poor shot 

George Galloway’s recent argument on Good Morning Britain that his remarks about Israeli flags on the Champions League Cup can’t be antisemitic because most Spurs fans are not Jewish is fallacious.  

Sections 13 and 26 of the Equality Act 2010, describes a concept of associative discrimination. What this means in practice is, for example, if a Caucasian man was dating a Black woman and was mocked and humiliated at work for this, he could bring a case for racial discrimination in his workplace, even though he is not himself Black, on the basis of associative discrimination.

In the Spurs context, Spurs fans identify as the “Yid Army” which, as Lord Mendelsohn among others has pointed out, has been a consistent and long-standing act of solidarity with the Jewish community. So, on the basis that Spurs fans identify and associate with the Jewish community, Galloway’s remarks can be construed as antisemitic. Galloway was essentially gloating, in his infamous tweet that the Jewish supported club did not win the Champions League. 

Even more serious, in Rome in 2012, there was an attempt to murder two non- Jewish Tottenham fans by supporters of the Italian club Lazio which an Italian judge recognised as motivated by antisemitism.  

Would Mr Galloway argue that this could not have been an antisemitic attack because the Spurs fans involved were not Jewish?

Ze’ev Portner
High Wycombe

Handed down to us 

Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg (Judaism June 7) criticises humanity, “as a species” for  “semi-deifying itself above all other forms of life…” to the detriment of ourselves and the rest of nature. But what of God’s hand in our semi-deification, and the resultant subjection of nature?  Did He not say: “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth…” And let them...Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.”? (Genesis 1:26 &28). 

 While the term “dominion” can be benignly interpreted as one of caring governance, the Hebrew for “subdue,” kabash, does not yield to such refinement. Unambiguously, it refers to the subdued agent as hostile. In fact, it is possible to understand these passages as one of the earliest written intimations of evolutionary theory. (The idea was brutally abused in the West to justify slavery and the inferiority of other races).  

In the earliest of times, it is said that humans numbered only in thousands, and  even sometimes only in hundreds.  Hence the need to be fruitful and multiply.  Moreover, early man was extremely vulnerable to his environment, to the powerful beasts roaming earth, to voracious creatures in sea and air, and to poisoning by unknown toxic vegetation.  Hence, the need to subdue these hostile surroundings to survive.  And only the fittest would have survived.  

However, as humanity increasingly attained its dominant “semi-deified” position over nature the possibility arose of adopting a more munificent approach 

Dr Stanley Jacobs 
London SW18

Stones of desecration

You reported (JC, June 7) that Bezalel Smotrich, from Israel’s United Right List  “explained that he did not mean by ‘Jewish  Law’ that ‘people be stoned for desecrating Shabbat’.”

In the early 1970s, I was learning ecology so as to research an epidemic of Leptospirosis in the Upper Galilee, in which more than 200 people were infected by small mammals while irrigating crops, and at least three died. 

Some time later, my ecology mentor from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, accidentally drove into the Mea Shearim district on a Shabbat and was brain damaged by stone throwing. 

Surely a fundamental of Jewish Law is Pikuach Nefesh and not harming people, and does not stone-throwing on Shabbat of itself desecrate Shabbat?

David Lawrence
London NW11

Operatic Bravo to Bravo                                                                                                 

Bravo to Renee Bravo for her defence of Esau (Letters, June 7)!

I once wrote the libretto of an opera (with music by David Fligg) in which Esau, not Jacob, was the hero of the story.  This entails reading both the biblical account and some of the rabbinical commentaries. In the Bible story, Esau comes across as honest, guileless, likeable and perhaps not very bright. The rabbis, on the other hand, in order to burnish Jacob’s image, have recast Esau as a satanic villain capable of conjuring up demons to do his bidding.

The opera unfortunately has never been performed because we could not obtain the funding we needed from the Arts Council.”

Pamela Melnikoff
Ilford, Essex

Trent Park hero 

Trent Park and its one-time owner, Sir Philip Sassoon, was the subject of an interesting piece in your recent New Homes and Interiors Supplement (JC, May 24).

However, an opportunity was lost by simply referring to him as a “socialite”. He was much more than that.

A scion of a wealthy Iranian/Indian/Jewish family that came to Britain at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, Sir Philip was well-educated, astute and a charmer. He went into politics, at one time was an MP, and found his way into many governing circles, while hosting them most generously at Trent Park or one of his other homes and discussing with them the problems of the day.

He was a director of the Air Ministry and found to his horror that not much was going on there, though a frisson of fear was just beginning to be felt.
He confided his fears to Churchill, not a popular person with his fellow politicians at that time, and showed him that the Germans were a long way ahead of us on developing the Luftwaffe.

Thanks to Sir Philip’s many warnings, Churchill managed to convince the Air Ministry that a big build-up  in men and machines was vital if Britain was to defend herself against the Germans, if and when war broke out — which it did, when plans for improvement in all munitions industries were still in the developmental stages. 

Fortunately, the RAF, because of his urging and planning, became ready in time to fight and win the Battle of Britain.

Sir Philip died relatively young and before the war was over. He does not seem to have received the degree of recognition for his work in preparing reluctant parts of Britain to get ready for the inevitable.

So much was done on a quasi-social level at Trent Park that it seems worth mentioning, especially to would-be future home-owners there.

Dr Rebecca Beaconsfield
Chiswick, London

Around the table

I was most interested in the article featuring Ilana Epstein’s views on the fact that food is a major point of connection for Judaism (JC, June 7).

I have always considered myself “Jewish by food” — from rolling the kneidlach with my grandmother and now making cheesecake with the help of my two-year-old grandson and sharing my Jewish traditional  foods  with friends and family.

Over 30 years ago, the great Rabbi Lionel Blue wrote that the kitchen was the heart and soul of the Jewish home —  his full thoughts (with which I fully concur) are in the Study anthology of the Reform Siddur.

Jo Freeman 
South Lanarkshire

Banging his own gong

Congratulations to those honoured in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list (theatrical costumier, acclaimed TV producer and charity worker who helps Syrian refugees honoured in the Queen’s Birthday Honours). 

But what about me? 

As a frequent contributor to the JC’s letter page, why haven’t I been awarded the OBE  for my Outrageously Blunt Epistles?

Stan Labovitch

June 13, 2019 10:45

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