Yes, a Corbyn government could pose an 'existential threat' to the UK's Jewish community

We don't need to look at the Nazis to see how this could happen. The far-left has provided us with two more recent examples.

August 23, 2018 14:31

In the past few weeks, there has been a great deal of discussion about the idea of an “existential threat”, after three papers, including this one, ran a front page editorial warning that a Corbyn government could pose such a threat to the Jewish community in this country.

One of the most common questions I have heard in response to that comes from the far-left, usually posed in a sneering tone. What do they really think is going to happen?

It's a good question, despite  the way it is usually asked.

I don’t know what will happen if Jeremy Corbyn becomes Prime Minister. But I know what could happen. Because the far-Left has already provided two examples of what could happen – one fifty years ago, one in the last two decades.

The first example took place in Communist Poland. Despite the Holocaust having killed over 90 per cent of the prewar Jewish population, with some 200,000 survivors emigrating in the post-war years, tens of thousands of Jews opted to remain in Poland after the war.

Their repression started after the Six Day War in Israel.

It began with “anti-Israeli imperialism” rallies held in towns and cities throughout the country. Wladislaw Gomulka, then First Secretary of the Polish Communist Party, spoke at the Trade Union Congress in Warsaw about how Israel’s “aggression” in the war of 1967 had been “met with applause in Zionist circles of Jews – Polish citizens."

An “anti-Zionist” jobs purge was instituted, with hundreds of Jews in the armed forces and government losing their positions. Jewish organisations in Poland were banned from receiving contributions from Jewish charities elsewhere.

The rhetoric of Gomulka grew stronger. He began to denounce Polish Jews as “a fifth column”, and talked of consequences for those people who had "two souls and two fatherlands".

In March 1968, however, the repression grew far worse. Thousands of Polish Jews, as well as Poles of Jewish ancestry, were hounded from their jobs, denounced in the press as criminals and enemies of the people, whether they had shown the slightest bit of sympathy for Zionism or not. According to Professor David Engel, professor of Holocaust and Judaic studies at NYU, “the Interior Ministry compiled a card index of all Polish citizens of Jewish origin, even those who had been detached from organised Jewish life for generations.

“Jews were removed from jobs in public service, including from teaching positions in schools and universities. Pressure was placed upon them to leave the country by bureaucratic actions aimed at undermining their sources of livelihood and sometimes even by physical brutality."

And yet, remarkably, the Polish government continued to insist that this was not antisemitism. A national strike called in Warsaw voiced its opposition to “antisemitism and Zionism”. Gomulka himself, responding to criticism from Jews across the world, stated that "Western Zionist centres that today charge us with antisemitism failed to lift a finger when Hitler's genocide was exterminating Jews in subjugated Poland, punishing with death Poles who hid and helped the Jews." He said this at the same time as thousands of Polish Jews were being persecuted, not for their belief in an ideology, but because of the religion of their forebears.

Of the approximately 35,000 Jews left in Poland by 1968, around 25,000, many of them Holocaust survivors, fled or were forced to leave Poland over the next two years. Only in 1998 did the Polish government publicly admit that what was always claimed to have been an “anti-Zionist” purge was in fact antisemitic, and apologised for it.

The second example is perhaps even more relevant, because it took place in a country extravagantly praised by many of the current leaders of the British far-left. Venezuela.    

Many (though not all) of these ardent backers have fallen silent now, given that Venezuela has become the latest charnel house of the full socialist experiment. But back in 2013, things were far less bleak financially, although the storm clouds were already gathering. 

When Hugo Chavez, the president of Venezuela died, Jeremy Corbyn knew where he stood. “Thanks Hugo Chavez for showing that the poor matter and wealth can be shared,” he tweeted. “He made massive contributions to Venezuela & a very wide world.”

Another thing Mr Chavez did was help to destroy the Venezuelan Jewish community. 

When he took office in 1999, there were some 22,000 Jews in the country. By the time he died, that number was fewer than 9,000 and dropping fast. 

In the early 2000s, state controlled media began regularly referring to Israeli Jews as Nazis. Fast forward a few years, and the Venezuelan community was dealing with repeated synagogue desecration, frequent comments from Mr Chavez which could easily be seen as antisemitic, and regular articles in the government-run press inflaming the situation further. In 2013, Venezuela’s severely shrunken Jewish community had reported over 4,000 cases of antisemitism in that year alone.

So how could a Corbyn government prove an existential threat to the UK’s Jewish community? Pretty easily, if the actions of other far-left governments are anything to go by. The reluctance of the Labour leadership to accept the full IHRA definition of antisemitism has been particularly notable in this regard. To accuse Jews of dual loyalties is apparently not antisemitic, just “wrong”, according to Labour’s own definition. And to go into pretty much any Corbyn supporting social media group is to uncover fetid pools of antisemitism, occasionally disguised as far-left “wokeness”. If you look at the far left in this country and their attitude towards Israel, Zionism, and by extension the British Jewish community, most of whom remain Zionists, and think that none of the scenarios in the above examples could come to pass here in the event of a far-Left government, then I envy your certainty and hope you can excuse my strong doubts.

What do we really think is going to happen to the British Jewish community if Jeremy Corbyn becomes Prime Minister? I don't know. But I know what could well happen, and yes, it would be existential. And I'd like to avoid that at all costs, if you please.

August 23, 2018 14:31

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