Britain is at long last making the anti-Zionism/anti-Semitism link

The moment we are in now is one of profound importance to Britain’s Jews.

Britain's leader of the opposition Labour Party Jeremy Corbyn (photo credit: REUTERS)
Britain's leader of the opposition Labour Party Jeremy Corbyn
(photo credit: REUTERS)
THE CURRENT leadership of the British Labour Party is deeply hostile to Israel and to Jewish interests. This hostility stems from the leader himself. Jeremy Corbyn would rather cut off his own arm than see Ken Livingstone, the veteran hard-left former mayor of London who recently claimed that Hitler was a Zionist, expelled from the Party.
It would seem existentially impossible for him to do otherwise, any more than it would have been possible for him declare that Hamas and Hezbollah were no longer his “friends” (as Prime Minister Cameron urged him to do four times in the space of one recent House of Commons exchange) or for him to even have uttered the word “Israel” when he attended the traditional Leader’s greeting at the Labour Friends of Israel Reception at the annual party conference.
He has shared platforms with Holocaust deniers, and supported their anti-Israel organizations.
All this makes for uncomfortable reading for both British Jews and, for other reasons, many of the liberal-left in Britain (forced to face the realization that their more decorous distaste for Israel may not be free of the same pathology).
Indeed, many have, seemingly absurdly, repeated the mantra that Corbyn himself does not appear anti-Semitic. And yet, I would maintain, that there is a body of evidence suggesting the contrary. But, make no mistake, the current continuing furor surrounding Labour and anti-Semitism remains unresolved because of the leader’s deeply held and highly problematic views on this issue.
So, what should Britain’s Jewish community do? Long gone are the days when British Jewry had any real demographic or electoral purchase, save for in a handful of parliamentary constituencies. The community has declined significantly in numbers, is more concentrated geographically than it once was, and is now vastly outnumbered by another considerably larger interest group, which is, to a significant extent, deeply hostile to Israel and Jews.
To add to the problem, there are highly visible groups at both extremes of the Jewish community ‒ the deracinated to the left and some Haredim to the right – who are ambivalent on the central issues of concern to the mainstream, particularly regarding Zionism.
All is not gloom, however. The current spat has ensured that, for the first time, the central issue is now at the fore – namely anti-Zionism as the new home of anti-Semitism. Many have been arguing this case for years, but Livingstone’s remarks have forced it center- stage. This has helped firm up pro-Israel support in certain important quarters, most notably inside Cameron’s government.
Labour Party figures opposed to Corbyn have also realized the hypocrisy of a party that parades its anti-racist credentials but simultaneously harbors disturbing echoes of the oldest and most murderous of hatreds.
The moment we are in now is one of profound importance to Britain’s Jews. The leader of the opposition and his grouping are not an irrelevant sideshow, and could quite plausibly form the next government of the country. The large gaming firm, William Hill, is offering 6-1 odds on Corbyn being the next prime minister – far from fantasy numbers. British Jewry has been hampered by internal divisions, a lack of professionalism, a desire to keep its head below the parapet and over-optimism. There is intense competition between the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Jewish Leadership Council that complicates development of a coherent community strategy.
But British Jewry has strengths, too – a surfeit of intellectual and professional capital, which, if properly harnessed could make a significant impact. History will judge whether we respond to this challenge.