Labour antisemitism and last week’s JC
A decision to withdraw from the Labour Party because of antisemitism is principled and focused. MPs, members of the House of Lords and others occupying prominent positions in UK society have announced their withdrawal of support for the Labour Party. The focus of their decision is Jeremy Corbyn and those who surround him at the heart of Labour Party.
But the withdrawal comes at a cost because it removes Labour Party supporters like myself, from continuing to provide antisemitism education to the branches of the Labour Party.
Can this be right? Does it make sense to draw back from confronting antisemitism where it exists — inside the Labour Party. The place to be for those who want to continue the fight against anti-semitism in the Labour Party is four-square in front of Party members in the constituencies. Sometimes, this is training; sometimes confrontation and sometimes explanation.
Regardless, the one place to be is encountering Labour Party members and answering their questions on a range of issues: Does Israel want peace? Is Israel a racist state? Are all Jews wealthy? Are diaspora Jews part of a “Zionist conspiracy”?
We should encourage, and solicit, invitations to speak from Labour Party branches. Public statements and letters to the Times have a role but we need to be at the cutting edge — eye to eye with Labour Party members in their meeting halls addressing the issues in their minds.
Speakers will receive a warm welcome from the mass of members. Based on my experience of 13 recent meetings with Labour Party members in Wales and England, the members are not antisemitic. But we know that antisemites do nestle in the membership and they need to be exposed. That is our goal. We do that best if we do it face to face and see the whites of their eyes.
By what right does a sectional newspaper consider it appropriate to address “those who would not normally read the Jewish Chronicle” (JC, Nov 8) how to vote? Did I miss that the JC has suddenly joined Murdoch’s News Corp stable?
Newspaper editors regard freedom and independence of the press as sacrosanct. But there are other factors to consider when drafting editorials, such as exercise of judgment and wisdom. For example, were the lay leaders of the Jewish community consulted about the wisdom of going ahead with this editorial line?
Was it considered that, having let loose this firecracker on social media, the JC has, not for the first time, succeeded in making the Jews the story instead of Corbyn and Labour? For two years, this paper has pedalled paranoia and fear-mongering in its editorials, news content and columns with spurious claims about nearly half the Jews being willing to quit the country if Corbyn gets to No.10. As has been proven many times, there is a huge disparity between what people say to pollsters and what they would do in reality.
The vast majority of British Jews work hard, knuckle down and get on with things when the going gets rough. It usually goes unreported that the Jewish contribution to Britain is far and away out of proportion to its numbers. We need to change the narrative to something more positive and confident about Jews in Britain, something that helps people understand that we are not just out to “get Corbyn” and his antisemitic disciples in the Labour party, and that we are not apologists and don’t need to hide our fears behind the apron strings of others.
Not for the first time, the estimable Dr Anthony Isaacs makes a temperate, balanced and cogent argument, this time in a fulsome defence of Jeremy Corbyn (Letters, Nov 8),
If, as Dr Isaacs’s analysis seeks to prove, Mr Corbyn’s parliamentary voting record shows consistent support for matters of concern to Jews, then one is bound to ask why Dr Isaacs did not go on to ask the next obvious question. Why, if Mr Corbyn is in his estimation not a antisemite, has he not acted with determination and conviction to root out those within his party who have in defiance of his long held solidarity with the Jewish community brought the party into such disrepute? A possible answer may, very disturbingly, lie at the door of those planning Labour’s strategy for the next election, following successive defeats. In other words, this was and is policy, which I would argue makes matters even worse. Seeking voter support by resort to racism would, if proven, be unconscionable. Hence, and notwithstanding Dr Isaacs’s impressive case, Mr Corbyn still has questions to answer.
My local corner shop usually stocks the JC on its low newspaper shelf with headlines upside down to prevent browsing.
Last week, your November 8th edition was piled high on top of an upturned crate in front of the usual shelf, the front-page editorial on display for all to see. The owner of the shop is from Afghanistan, the staff from Pakistan.
Thank you to my fellow British citizens for supporting the JC’s stand against antisemitism and racism.
Pulling down your opponent’s posters during a general election campaign is pretty much standard procedure.
I should know, I have run my fair share of election campaigns for Labour MPs. It is certainly not polite, nor advisable behaviour, but Jonathan Metliss, who was responsible for such an act at a local Lib Dem campaign headquarters, has rightly apologised.
But what your piece (JC online and P2) fails to mention is that Jonathan Metliss, who has done more than anyone I know to champion the cause of anti-Jewish racism in football, raised money for great causes like the Technion in Haifa and promoted the work of the Board of Deputies, also lost his dear mother just a few days before this extremely minor incident. And, of course, the point Metliss was making is absolutely correct. This election is a choice between Jeremy Corbyn and Boris Johnson. Luciana Berger, who is an old friend and colleague and has suffered terribly at the hands of Jeremy Corbyn himself and Labour antisemites, has made a dreadful mistake in making a Jeremy Corbyn entry into No. 10 more likely.
Tel Aviv, Israel
Former Director of Labour Friends of Israel
Board of Deputies representative, Jonathan Metliss’s actions must not go unchecked. It is not for him to judge the effects of his own thuggish behaviour.
The Board of Deputies displays double standards when it is so quick to condemn others and so slow to keep its own representatives (from the defence committee no less) in check.
Since the incident is in the public domain, no formal complaint should be necessary. Mr Metliss should be suspended and an investigation launched with immediate effect.
How not to protest
Both rabbis endorse, with qualifications, the actions of the Extinction Rebellion disrupters (Rabbi, I have a problem, November 8).
We are privileged to live in one of the minority of countries in which protest is lawful. But disruption is unlawful. It places expensive demands on taxpayers and upon the authorities, detracting from law enforcement by diverting the police and the courts from their proper tasks.
It is selfish and counter-productive, alienating many people and adding to their stress of getting to work and earning a living in an ever-more stressful world.
The Extinction Rebellion is based upon the tacit premise that the governments of the world are doing little or nothing to address climate change.
In relation to the British government, this premise is false. It is unchallenged by either rabbi. Nor does either speak of dina demalchuta dina — the halachic obligation to obey the law of the land in which we live.
If climate change is the universalist issue of our age, Soviet Jewry was, from the 1960s, the particular Jewish one. I am proud to have been one of a group of Jewish students who took up the cause.
We took to university campuses, the media and the streets. In our planning of protest marches the police met us, facilitated our protests and escorted us. Not one of us was ever arrested. And it is fair to say that the students set in motion a process which led ultimately to the liberation of Soviet Jewry.
I would like to propose a solution to Angela Epstein’s recent cry for help (If I’m chatting at kiddush please leave me in peace, JC, November 1).
The two important elements of a shul kiddush are eating and chatting, and sufficient time should be allocated to both.
Combining the two, as Ms Epstein observed, is a recipe for disaster. The answer, surely, is to begin each kiddush with a five-minute talking amnesty, during which congregants can avail themselves of the food and drink without worrying that they’re being rude by not saying “Shabbat Shalom” to fellow members.
Once members have troughed and gorged sufficiently, conversations can then ensue.
Communities could of course decide whether a longer or shorter period is appropriate for them.
If it proves successful, this policy could even be extended to wedding receptions and bar and bat mitzvahs.
Who’s with me?