Features Australia

That Jewish problem

25 August 2018

9:00 AM

25 August 2018

9:00 AM

I recently wrote of anti-Semitism in the US Presbyterian Church. It would, however, be wrong to suggest this is an exceptional conduit for it into Western society. Among many others are now the British Labour party and the Episcopalian (Anglican) Church in the US.

In April, Israel’s Labor Party suspended relations with British Labour because Jeremy Corbyn failed to address its anti-Semitism adequately. Corbyn responded ‘I wish they’d read Shami Chakrabarti’s report.’ This referred to an inquiry the Labour Party held into itself, chaired by a Labour politician, in which it cleared itself of anti-Semitism. Corbyn then refused to attend a dinner in London for the centenary of the Balfour Declaration, which established British support for the creation of a Jewish national home.

For many British Jews this confirmed that Corbyn’s antipathy to Israel goes beyond hostility to ‘settlements’ or romantic attachment to the Palestinian cause. He does not support the existence of Israel at all. Corbyn’s snub was reported to have been gleefully tweeted by Hamas. It appeared on the internet with a photograph of Corbyn in the forefront of a demonstration attacking Israel’s alleged ‘war crimes’ in Gaza.

Corbyn was previously a member of a Facebook group which published anti-Semitic messages and Holocaust denialism, and has a history of closeness to extremists. He has declared Hamas and Hezbollah his ‘friends’ and was upset over Hamas (a listed terrorist organisation) being barred from Britain. Shockingly, Corbyn was filmed, wreath in hand, at a memorial honouring the Black September 1972 Olympic Games murderers who killed 11 Israeli athletes before being shot themselves. A picture shows him apparently joining in prayers at the graves.

Proverbially disagreeing Jewish groups published a joint editorial in the three leading British Jewish newspapers, warning that Corbyn poses an existential threat to British Jewry. Under the headline ‘United we stand’, the Jewish Chronicle, Jewish News and Jewish Telegraph took the ‘unprecedented step of speaking as one by publishing the same front page.’

‘We do so because the party that was, until recently, the natural home for our community has seen its values and integrity eroded by Corbynite contempt for Jews and Israel,’ they said. ‘The stain and shame of anti-Semitism has coursed through Her Majesty’s Opposition since Jeremy Corbyn became leader in 2015.’

Many British Jews are shocked at what has happened in the country whose soldiers liberated Belsen, and by the man with a strong chance of leading its next government. One, Angela Epstein, interviewed by leading Fleet Street journalist and author Melanie Phillips, said her children’s schools in Manchester were already encircled by fences, CCTV cameras and security guards. ‘Elsewhere, every Jewish building has a guard permanently at the door,’  she said. ‘In 21st Century Britain, the place of our birth and our home.’

‘Most Jewish people I know have endured cat-calling as they leave synagogues, schools or other Jewish centres. There have been countless Saturday mornings when, as I walk to synagogue, a car screeches past with the occupants shouting something indeterminate from the window. Friends have had eggs thrown at them.’

A YouGov poll earlier this year showed almost a third of British Jews are now talking of emigrating should Corbyn come to power. Epstein says: ‘As the Labour Party continues to reveal its toxic underbelly, for many British Jews the question of uprooting our families and leaving Britain is a matter of when, not if… If history has taught us Jews anything, it’s knowing when it’s time to pack.’

Labour MP Dame Margaret Hodge called Corbyn ‘a [expletive] anti-Semite and a racist… You have proved you don’t want people like me in the party.’ Corbyn reportedly replied: ‘I’m sorry you feel like that.’ The leadership has threatened to discipline Hodge for ‘bringing the party into disrepute’. The party’s new policy states rather feebly that anti-Semitism is ‘unacceptable’, but it does not follow the full definition of anti-Semitism of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA). In June 2016, with MP Ann Coffey, Hodge requested a vote on a motion of no confidence in Corbyn. The IHRA claimed the party was still:

Accusing Jews of being more loyal to Israel than to their home country; claiming that Israel‘s existence as a state is a ‘racist endeavour’; requiring higher standards of behavior from Israel than other nations; and comparing contemporary Israeli policies to those of the Nazis.

Sixty-eight British rabbis wrote accusing Labour of choosing to ignore the Jewish community:

As British rabbis, it is with great regret that we find it necessary to write, yet anti-Semitism within sections of the Labour party has become so severe and widespread that we must speak out with one Jewish voice.

The Labour party’s leadership has chosen to ignore those who understand anti-Semitism the best, the Jewish community. By claiming to know what’s good for our community, the Labour party’s leadership have chosen to act in the most insulting and arrogant way.

Meanwhile, in the US, Washington, DC-area Episcopalians hosted Reverend Naim Ateek, a Palestinian Anglican known for his anti-Israel activities, and a leading light in the anti-Semitic BDS movement, aimed at crippling Israel economically and therefore militarily.

Anglican rector Sari Ateek, Naim Ateek’s son, introduced his father as the ‘father of Palestinian liberation theology’. He had founded the anti-Israel Sabeel Palestinian Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center and denied any Jewish claim to a homeland in theology or history.

Sabeel hosts conferences internationally where speakers portray Israel as a Nazi-like state. International Friends of Sabeel has groups in the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Ireland, Australia, the Netherlands and Scandinavia.

Ateek of course condemned President Trump’s recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s historic capital. He claimed Muslims have ‘governed Jerusalem hundreds of years more than the Jews’. However only Jews have had a capital in this city. Muslims have only occupied it through military conquest. He said Trump’s ‘blunder… just gave Jerusalem on a silver platter to one religion, to one group, and totally disregarded the specialness, the holiness of the city of Jerusalem to the Muslims and to the Christians.’ Actually, I believe it has some – indeed rather more – significance to Jews as well. As for Christians, Israel is the only country in the Middle East where they flourish.

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