For four years now, the vast majority of the UK’s Jewish community has made it clear that they will not countenance voting for Jeremy Corbyn in a general election. They have pointed to Mr Corbyn’s associations with Jew haters, Holocaust deniers and terrorist groups with genocidal antisemitic agendas.
At best, what they have received from a significant percentage of Labour members is total indifference or denial. At worst, they have suffered vicious attacks on their character, attacks which very frequently have veered into antisemitic territory.
Now, however, it seems likely that at some point in the near future there will be another general election. And suddenly, many Jewish voters reiterating what they have been saying for years have been met by a surge of indignation. Apparently, if Jews do not vote for Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour, they will be voting for “Fascism”. Jews are being told, (apparently without a trace of the English irony Mr Corbyn thinks we’re unable to understand), to “study history”.
At the risk of pointing out what should be unbelievably obvious, Jewish history has shown that when someone says they hate you and want to kill you, you should believe them. And when a politician hangs around such people for decades and speaks of them in glowing terms, as Jeremy Corbyn has, you do not want to vote for their party. Ever.
Not everybody is so quick to dismiss the concerns of UK Jews, of course. I know many left-wing people who understand exactly what Jeremy Corbyn is and why the Jewish community is justifiably extremely concerned about him potentially becoming PM. One such person, a left-wing Muslim writer I know, has been outspoken regarding his dislike of Jeremy Corbyn and antisemitism in the Labour party.
Yesterday, I saw, this person had written the following:
“I am a liar if I said I haven't been thinking about gritting my teeth and voting Labour. I've seen enough Islamophobia in the last year or so to just feel selfish about my family's safety and want Boris Johnson and Tories nowhere near power.
“And I hate it. I hate Jeremy Corbyn so much. Voting for a socialist should be the easiest thing for me, especially when the opponent is a terrible, destructive Eton-educated rich man with a propensity for exploiting social divisions. But I hate Corbyn and how he views the world.”
I understand that attitude completely. I know the writer accepts that Labour has a serious antisemitism problem. But he is saying that when it comes down to a choice between a Prime Minister whom he believes has helped ratchet up Islamophobia and one he believes will increase antisemitism, he has to think about his own family when considering who to vote for. That is a far more intellectually honest attitude than those supporters who flatly deny Labour has an antisemitism problem in order to enable them to sleep at night.
Various people within the Jewish community may take issue with the notion that the Conservative party has a problem with Islamophobia, but they are wrong – it does. Tell MAMA, the watchdog monitoring anti-Muslim hate which works closely with our own CST, has said as much for years. Those who deny that the Tories have an Islamophobia problem are the mirror image of those people who deny that Labour has an antisemitism problem.
Yet, just as I understand why my Muslim acquaintance, fully aware of Labour’s antisemitism problem, nonetheless feels he needs to strongly consider voting Labour, I understand why people in our community who accept that the Tory party has an Islamophobia problem nonetheless are seriously considering voting Conservative. I may not agree with such a consideration on their part, but I certainly understand it.
To deny now, in September 2019, that Labour has an antisemitism problem or that Jeremy Corbyn personally has an intensely problematic attitude towards Jews, is to demonstrate a lack of intelligence frightening in its severity. And yet that is what many Labour supporters and outriders for Mr Corbyn continue to do. Recent history has given us examples of left-wing governments as well as right-wing ones employing antisemitic persecution and causing Jews to flee. I know any number of Jews with contingency plans to leave the UK if Mr Corbyn becomes Prime Minister.
Labour members and politicians have had years to listen to what the Jewish community was telling them about Jeremy Corbyn. The most they were willing to offer, it often seemed, were vacuous “solidarity” tweets. Most stood idly by as a female Jewish MP, Luciana Berger, was effectively driven out of the party, citing its institutional antisemitism as a prime cause for her leaving.
I do not know how the Jewish community will vote as a whole. I don’t even know how I will vote – in 2017, I voted Lib Dem, having been repulsed by Conservative incompetence while confident (wrongly, as it turned out) that the British people would reject Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour en masse. In the European elections this past May, I voted for Change UK.
What I do know is that in the next election, the vast majority of British Jews will, at the very least, strongly consider voting Tory, even if a number don’t end up doing so. And if your response to that is to accuse us of bigotry, or say that we’re siding with Fascists, then maybe it’s not us who needs the history lesson.