(photo credit: REUTERS)
This title is meant to shock you. The very juxtaposition of the name of the greatest murderer of Jewish life in history and the movement which captures the national aspirations of the Jewish people for a home of their own should be utterly jarring. But this is exactly what a former mayor of one of the world’s greatest cities, London, just said, without paying much of a price.
Watching the tsunami of anti-Semitism currently pouring forth from leading public personalities in Britain you would forget that this was the country that, together with the United States, delivered the world from Hitler. Hardly a day passes by without some British public official saying something so vile about Jews and Israel that you wonder why the British aren’t mortified.
Does Britain want to be known as an anti-Semitic country? In the 11 years I lived in England and served as rabbi to the students of Oxford University, and in my many visits since, I have become all too familiar with the growing voice of British anti-Semites. Six of my nine children were born in Britain and I once considered myself a strong Anglophile. It actually pains me to see what’s becoming of a country where I spent my formative years.
Even in the hallowed halls of Oxford, where I once gathered together tens of thousands of students to hear the likes of Simon Wiesenthal, Elie Wiesel and Benjamin Netanyahu I have now encountered rabid Jew hatred, as in my debate at the Oxford Union together with Dennis Prager when my opponents accused Israel of being a Nazi state. I happen to love Union debates and have participated in many. But comparing Jews to those who murdered six million of our number is an abomination. So it came as no surprise to me when the British Labour Party was roiled by public revelations of the anti-Semitism seething within the party.
The history of Jew-hatred in Great Britain goes back centuries and included blood libels and massacres before culminating in the expulsion of Jews from Britain in 1290 by King Edward I. Jews were not permitted to return for more than 350 years, until Oliver Cromwell came to power and was convinced by Menashe ben Israel to readmit the Jews.
Last century, despite the Balfour Declaration’s promise of the creation of a Jewish homeland in Palestine, the British government refused to grant the Jews independence, imposed quotas on immigration to mandatory Palestine that prevented hundreds of thousands of Jews from escaping the Nazis and went so far as to place the survivors of the Holocaust in internment camps in Cyprus rather than allowing them to enter Palestine.
On June 6, 1946, president Truman urged the British government to relieve the suffering of the Jews confined to displaced persons camps in Europe by immediately accepting 100,000 Jewish immigrants. Britain’s foreign minister, Ernest Bevin, replied sarcastically that the United States wanted displaced Jews to immigrate to Palestine “because they did not want too many of them in New York.” It was anti-Semites in the Foreign Office who also vigorously opposed the creation of the State of Israel.
To be sure, the Labour Party has produced extremely good friends of the Jewish state, like Tony Blair. But that now seems a million years ago and leaders of the party are now spewing disgusting anti-Jewish drivel.
The same Ken Livingstone who said Hitler was a Zionist then went on to declare that the State of Israel was “a great catastrophe.” The rot in the Labour Party starts at the top, with Jeremy Corbyn sharing platforms with supporters of Hamas, a terrorist organization committed to the destruction of Israel and the murder of Jews everywhere. Just a few days ago British Prime Minister David Cameron challenged Corbyn to disavow comments he made in which he referred to Hamas and Hezbollah as his “friends.” Corbyn refused to do so.
Just a few weeks ago the National Union of Students elected a new president, Malia Bouattia, who described the University of Birmingham as “something of a Zionist outpost,” complained that the government’s anti-extremism policy was fueled by the “Zionist lobby,” and was endorsed by the anti-Semitic Muslim Public Affairs Committee. That someone of such strong anti-Jewish views can be elected to the national leadership of Britain’s students is astonishing. Or perhaps not. British academics have also been at the forefront of the campaign to boycott Israeli academic institutions.
According to the Metropolitan Police, 2015 was the worst year ever for anti-Semitic attacks in London, which increased 61 percent from the previous year. The Campaign Against Anti-Semitism (CAA) reported that 2015 “saw the most anti-Semitic crime ever recorded in Britain, with a 26% rise in anti-Semitic crime and a 51% leap in violence against Jews, but a reduction in the number of anti-Semites charged by police.” The group also found that “25% of British Jews have considered leaving Britain in the past two years due to anti-Semitism and 77% have witnessed anti-Semitism disguised as a political comment about Israel.” The situation has grown so serious that the CAA said “Britain is at a tipping point: unless anti-Semitism is met with zero tolerance, it will continue to grow and British Jews may increasingly question their place in their own country.”
Indeed.The author, whom The Washington Post calls “the most famous rabbi in America,” is the founder of The World Values Network and is the international best-selling author of 30 books, including his just-published The Israel Warrior: Fighting Back for the Jewish State from Campus to Street Corner. Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.