What if Jeremy Corbyn became prime minister?

Miriam Shaviv takes a look at an imagined dystopian future for Anglo Jewry

July 19, 2018 14:57

Rosh Hashanah, 2020.

It’s just over two years since Jeremy Corbyn was elected Prime Minister, after Boris Johnson’s attempted coup against Theresa May went so horribly wrong.

Despite PM Corbyn’s repeated assurances that he was a strong ally of the Jewish community — he has “fought against racism and antisemitism [his] whole life”, he declared on the footsteps of 10 Downing Street — the community is still reeling.

In fact, the pressure started piling on immediately.

Although it fought on a platform of anti-austerity and greater equality, the new Labour government’s very first act in power was to declare that Britain no longer accepted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of antisemitism. Instead, it would use a more limited version of the definition — the same one adopted by Labour’s National Executive Committee back in 2018 — which allowed Jews to be accused of being more loyal to Israel than to their own country, and permitted claims that Israel is a “racist endeavour”.

This was swiftly followed by a bill declaring that Zionism is Racism, thus restricting political displays of support for the Jewish state.

Thousands of British Jews quit Twitter in fear, after incessant abuse and death threats by antisemites — who now felt the political winds were at their back. Many Jews, feeling unsafe, deleted all traces of their presence online. (David Baddiel not only quit Twitter a broken man, but made aliyah, declaring that the levels of antisemitism he had experienced had finally turned him into a Zionist.)

But real-life consequences soon followed. A furious row erupted when a Labour MP accused Jewish schools of fostering support for the Jewish state. Ofsted was mandated to ask students, during inspections, whether they believed in a Jewish homeland, and inspected books in the libraries to ensure that all references to Israel were redacted. Several Jewish schools were put into special measures when it emerged that they had been “promoting racism” — otherwise known as celebrating Israeli Independence Day.

At universities across the country, Jewish professors were incensed to be called into meetings with their vice-chancellors, where they were asked to disavow Israel before being allowed back into the classroom. It was nothing personal, they were told, but the BDS campaign now considered any supporter of Israel a legitimate target in the UK, and universities did not want to attract that kind of attention.

The crisis intensified after Corbyn hosted his first foreign leader — Hezbollah’s Hassan Nasrallah. Tens of thousands of supporters of the terror group gathered in central London, waving Hezbollah flags, and burning the Israeli flag. Unlike in 2018, there was no counter-demonstration. (In hindsight, that seems like a golden age for Anglo-Jewry.)

Instead, a group of Jews was forced to hide out in a central London synagogue, which was surrounded by Hezbollah supporters screaming about “Zionists”. They had to be smuggled out by police.

In the wake of the incident, and a sharp rise in threats to Jewish institutions, the Board of Deputies requested an urgent meeting with Jeremy Corbyn — only to be denied. The main representatives of Anglo-Jewry, they were told by government spokesman Seumas Milne, were now Lady Leah Levane and Lady Jenny Manson (formerly chairs of Jewish Voice for Labour, given peerages in the New Year’s Honours List, 2019 for services to the Labour Party.) Marie van der Zyl was persona non grata, but — Milne helpfully advised — she could always join Jewdas if she wanted access to the PM.

An emergency appeal by the CST to fund additional security for Jewish synagogues and schools, was similarly turned down by the government. Nor was any private funding available. The CST’s annual fundraising dinner was cancelled; anyone who could afford a ticket had escaped London during the Great Capital Flight in the weeks following Corbyn’s election. Terrified Jewish parents who could not afford to leave simply had to pray that the threats against their children never materialised.

Luckily, the Jewish community was not left completely to fend for itself. MPs Wes Streeting and Chuka Umuna continued to tweet prolifically about how “something must be done”, and even attended the community’s 17th “Enough is Enough” rally.

Ed Miliband turned into Jeremy Corbyn’s most vociferous critic on this subject and… Nope, who are we kidding? He didn’t say anything.

But then, neither did anyone else.

July 19, 2018 14:57

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