The JC letters page, 27th July 2018

Neville Landau, Jonathan Burg, Barrington Black, Russell Ballen, Carol Caplan, Robert Dulin, Stan Labovitch, Dr Robert Stone and Vivienne Trenner share their views with JC readers

July 26, 2018 11:21

Hodge and beyond

I listened with horror to an LBC radio phone-in in which members of the Jewish community expressed such fear of the current situation that they were considering selling up and leaving the UK.

I have fought racism and antisemitism all of my adult life and, in my eighth decade, I am well aware that antisemitism exists within the right and left extremes of political parties.

Recent gains within the far-left of the Labour Party have intensified the problem and brought it to the forefront of public attention.

However, we are far from being at the brink of a second Holocaust and the fears expressed by the participants in that LBC phone-in were totally unjustified.

It is my opinion that the leading organisations within our community, the Board of Deputies, the JLC and the Community Security Trust, have missed an opportunity to reassure the community and allay their unjustified fears.

The CST in particular, whose work in protecting and defending the community I have long admired, should be sufficiently confident in the protection they have put in place, both physical and political, to issue assurances to the community that the UK is as safe a home for Jews as anywhere.

Fear is a virus that can spread like wildfire through a community. The solution lies in standing up and facing adversity, not fleeing from it.

Let us take a lesson from Margaret Hodge, Luciana Berger, Ruth Smeeth and other MPs, both Jewish and non-Jewish, who are in the front line of the battle against the antisemitism of the far left. They deserve our admiration and our support.

Neville Landau.

London SW19

For a bloc of Jewish MPs to resign as a collective (JC, July 20) would be to introduce into British politics a clear grouping of Jewish MPs acting as a bloc for the first time in history.  But what would they stand for?

Surely it cannot be right to permit the pressure of an institutionalising antisemitism by the present and extreme Labour leadership, to define how Jewish members affiliate?

A more positive approach would be to build a liberal consensus around a centrist bloc that rejects antisemitism, seeks European Economic integration, attracts Remainers from both Conservative and Labour benches, and brings out all the aligned PLP from Labour  — Jewish or not — who must by now be sick to death of Corbyn’s militant agenda and happy to escape the clutches of the trade union movements.

An alternative would be to simply cross the bench and join the Liberal Democrats in force after negotiation of a new agenda and repositioning.

Such a strong centre bloc would at least be standing for something, rather than against it, and would restore the kind of leadership at Westminster that is so sorely missed.

Furthermore, by changing the parliamentary arithmetic to allow a clear choice between EEA membership and a hard Brexit, such a bloc could drive a clear wedge and sideline the Brexiteers of the hard right and the militant socialists of the hard left.

Jewish MPs cannot do this alone but by catalysing a new consensus they can transform British politics into a forward-looking stance, and leave only the recidivists on right and left behind.

Jonathan Burg

London NW3

There will be few who admire Jeremy Corbyn less than I do. However, to those who persistently accuse the Labour Party, and Corbyn in particular, of antisemitism, I say, give it a rest.

The effect is totally counter-productive. His rating in the polls has increased despite his friendship with Hamas and Hezbollah. That Margaret Hodge has had a tussle with him can be mirrored by the fact that she describes herself as one who is a “critic of Israel”.

Reasoned and balanced observers are aware of Jeremy Corbyn’s reluctance to equate antisemitism with criticism of Israel and, on its own, that is perfectly reasonable.

The real danger lies in those voters in many parts of the country who might be eager to give their support to someone whom they believe is not favourable to the Jews.  And they are not the sort of people who will also give balanced thought to the somewhat convoluted official definition of antisemitism.

I give thanks that there are  some others in the Labour Parliamentary Party who may, just may, enable me in due course to once again give them my vote. But the first hurdle is to avoid giving Corbyn the opportunity to ingratiate the malevolent. 

Barrington Black

London NW3

You report that Fabian Hamilton MP not only criticised Dame Margaret Hodge over her outburst towards Jeremy Corbyn but told constituents not to be “hysterical and angry over antisemitism crisis”.  The fact that he regards it as a crisis contradicts his pathetic response. 

I suggest that Mr Hamilton strongly considers his options outside of Westminster after the next general election in the interests of the good folk of East Leeds.

At least the Campaign Against Antisemitism removed him as Honorary Patron.

Mr Hamilton is an example of Labour MPs who wanted shot of Corbyn before the last general election but, because of his unexpected good result (down to Theresa May’s disastrous campaign) now see him as their best hope of forming a government regardless of their previously held principles. The fact that Hamilton is Jewish makes it even worse.

Russell Ballen

Ilford, Essex

Higher definition

I have a suggestion for a further, two-part, definition to be added to the official version for antisemitism  and it applies specifically to the media:

  1. They shall not specifically bury any news that shows Israel in a good light, as CBC in Canada did by omitting all mention of Israel’s role in the extraction of the White Helmets from Syria.
  2. They shall not reverse or otherwise engineer headlines or articles to the detriment of Jews or Israelis, as for example prominently stating that “Israelis kill Palestinians” before writing, in smaller type lower down, “because they attacked a group of Jews”.

This well-established form of antisemitism is one of the most damaging and probably a significant factor in the increase of other forms of antisemitism.

Carol Caplan,

London N11

Miracle of miracles! Israel has been in the news in a productive way.  TV media, including the BBC, reported in glowing terms Israel’s involvement in their act of taking 800 Syrian white-helmeted humanitarian aid workers out of danger to Jordan.

I wonder how the BDS movement will react to something that is anathema to them, namely the world seeing a different, positive side of Israel.

Probably in their usual way, screaming that it was an act of propaganda. Also, I wouldn’t  be surprised if the likes of Seamus Milne and other Corbyn acolytes put pressure on their leader to recall Parliament for an emergency meeting to censure Israel for risking the lives of the Syrians in a such a dastardly dangerous venture.

Robert Dulin

London N21

Little brains washed

Insofar as many Muslim immigrants come from countries where virulent antisemitism is endemic, it should come as no surprise that Muslim immigrants often hold antisemitic views (Does Muslim immigration into Europe pose a threat to Jewish communities? JC online July 20).

As a teacher, I found that many otherwise delightful Muslim children held disturbingly negative opinions about Jews —presumably picked up from their parents or the mosque —including blaming Einstein (and therefore Jews) for nuclear weapons and the usual trope about Jews controlling the world. The solution lies in teachers vigorously challenging antisemitic myths in schools and the granting of asylum only to those genuinely fleeing war or persecution.

Stan Labovitch


Leave Nina alone

As one of three old men who are Deputies for Finchley Reform Synagogue I, like my two colleagues, was delighted when Nina Morris-Evans, a young woman, was elected earlier this year as our fourth Deputy. She is intelligent, dynamic, active in the Jewish community and a passionate Zionist.

I am therefore appalled not only at her persecution by social-media trolls but also at the high-handed and arbitrary treatment of her by Reform Judaism and UJIA. She attended the Kaddish for Gaza in May and used intemperate language about the Israeli government’s role in the Gaza shootings (language for which she has since apologised).

I do not share Nina’s views, but I totally support her right to express them. Reform Judaism and UJIA are riding roughshod over that right. Not only did they ban her from leading RSY-Netzer Israel tour (then un-ban her, then ban her again), but UJIA even criticised Liberal Judaism for recruiting her to lead their tour (JC, July 20).

This is a notable contrast to the position of Jonathan Arkush and Marie van der Zyl, outgoing and incoming Presidents of the Board of Deputies respectively, who wrote to Yachad: “We welcome the vibrant diversity of opinion in the community… We are proud of the dynamic, sometimes raucous, tone of debate in the Jewish community over many issues, including the situation facing Israel and its neighbours.”

I am proud that Israel is a vibrant democracy that is committed to respecting the right of free speech, the only one in the Middle East. It appears that neither Reform Judaism nor UJIA shares that commitment. UJIA in particular should recognise that their dictum — “There is such a thing as going too far” — works both ways.

Dr Robert Stone

Stanmore, Middlesex

Women leyning

There are those who believe women should not or cannot contribute to synagogue services. Susan Reuben writes (JC, July 20) of how, when she leyns, she bears the responsibility for her congregation’s prayer experience.

She talks of the beauty of tradition, and the exploration and elucidation of the Torah text which are inherent in learning the cantillation.

Surely her article demonstrates that women become more involved with Judaism, more learned, and closer to their community through active participation in religious rites and practices than by simply sitting in the ladies’ gallery gossiping during the service.

How can this be a bad thing?

Vivienne Trenner

London N12

July 26, 2018 11:21

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