Thanking UK's Labour Party for mainstream anti-Semitism
I returned to the UK for Passover having been out of the country for about six months. Living in Florida had shielded me from the anti-Semitic goings on in the mother country, that is, until I landed.
It is not uncommon for the far right or far left in politics to heap scorn on the State of Israel or indeed for moderates to criticize its policies; the opposition party in the democratically elected country is very good at leading the charge. I have no issue with people expressing opinions with which I may not agree on the state of the Palestinian conflict, the building of settlements or even the supposed maltreatment of the minority Israeli-Arab population and I would expect nothing less from those who have never had anything good to say about Israel as par for the course. However, when a Member of Parliament (akin to a Congressman) says that Israel should be relocated to America or a former mayor of London espouses that Hitler was a Zionist wanting to send all the Jews to what is now Israel, the time to see what is really going on has arrived.
The main opposition party in the UK, the Labour Party (the party of the working people as they like to tell us and with strong historical Jewish support and funding), currently has no less than eight separate enquiries being carried out into members of its party in various senior positions both national and local resulting from anti-Semitic comments and even the deputy leader of the party has come out and said that “we [the Labour Party] will get a grip on anti-Semitism.” So what is going on?
The BBC is currently running an article which is high ranking on its website (www.bbc.co.uk) about the difference between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism. It is worth reading and concludes that “agreement on how the two relate remains elusive.” Really?
Just because someone is Jewish, it does not make them a Zionist although it should be said that the majority of Jews support the state of Israel albeit there is much debate on their policies inside the Jewish world. There are several UK Jewish groups that campaign vigorously for Palestinian rights and, while they are a small minority, they are a voice. They do not call for Israel to be relocated or wiped out and that is the point at which the blur between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism becomes clearer.
When the rhetoric changes to doing away with Israel it is not a big leap before the foul cries of “Death to the Jews” and “Hitler was right” is heard albeit wrapped up in a more politically correct manner. The old stereotypical retorts of Jews being too powerful, controlling the world and the like come into play and Jews go on the defensive arguing for their very existence against bigots whose views have not changed over two millennia and will not change now. When this becomes mainstream and questions are raised on the front pages of national newspapers asking whether the Labour party is anti-Semitic, we have reached a whole new ball game.
There are in the region of 250,000 Jews in the UK out of a population drifting toward 60 million. This simple fact seems to be as overlooked as the fact that in the world population 0.2 percent (or about 16 million Jews) are to be found, with the USA having the second largest gathering of Jews at fewer than six million. When I ask my non-Jewish friends to guess the number of Jews in the UK, the most common answer I get is about five million. Therein, lies the problem: ignorance.
The Jewish world and Israel have lost the public relations war so that in the minds of ‘the common man’ Israel is a mighty political and military force in the Middle East and Jews are vast in number and are successful all over the world. Yet Jews do not blow themselves up or seek to take over the world; they merely contribute vastly to the countries in which they live and seek nothing in return, save for a peaceful existence and a right to be free: no more and no less than any other democratic-minded person. Yes, Jews proportionate to their population can be considered successful in medicine, politics, finance, law and the arts and are certainly not categorised as a minority group when it comes to positive discrimination but this benefits the societies in which they live. They do not seek to do any more than integrate into their countries and become worthwhile and patriotic citizens quite often to the detriment of the religion as so many Jews now have married out with assimilation becoming perhaps the greatest threat to the continuance of the Jewish people.
As I write this, I notice I have slipped into that common mistake of apologizing for the Jewish people and if someone has to apologize for something by implication, they must have done something wrong. And so the wheel turns.
The Jewish people need to stand tall and proud but to continue to play their part in both their chosen country of domicile and the world. Anti-Semitism will not go away anytime soon, if ever, even if Jews cured cancer or brought world peace; it is historical and deep rooted. What is more concerning is that it is becoming more mainstream and has reached the heart of the political establishment in the UK not in a covert way but so openly that the whole of the country is now discussing it. This might just be the opportunity to deal with all the ignorance that now exists and put the positive case forward whilst not being apologetic for being a Jew. The positivity about being Jewish starts now and it seems it starts in the mother country. Ironically it may be that we as Jews should be thanking the Labour Party for giving us this opportunity.
Lloyd Green is a member of Ohev Shalom and emigrated to Florida from the UK in July 2012. He lives in Heathrow and takes an active role in Jewish matters in the Central Florida area.