Elections, Jews and what of tomorrow?

Many Jews have said if the Labour Party wins the election, they will exit the United Kingdom.

IFNOTNOW SUPPORTERS protest outside of Trump International Hotel in Washington, against the US Embassy opening in Jerusalem, on May 14, 2018 (photo credit: REUTERS)
IFNOTNOW SUPPORTERS protest outside of Trump International Hotel in Washington, against the US Embassy opening in Jerusalem, on May 14, 2018
(photo credit: REUTERS)
For Jewish voters in the US and UK, the forthcoming elections present disturbing challenges.
US voters have a choice between incumbent President Donald Trump and a number of candidates vying to be the Democratic candidate. Front runners, Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), with the support of the Jewish organization J Street, are calling for the withdrawal of aid to Israel while Senator Joe Biden is adamant that Israel will continue to receive American aid.
Trump, in his first years in office, appeared to be the best thing for Israel since sliced bread until he decided to withdraw American troops from Syria, leaving the Kurds (who played a vital role in the elimination of ISIS) to be cannon fodder for the invading Turkish army. Then we viewed a White House press conference of Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, where Trump called Israel’s enemy his best friend.
In the UK, it is possible for Labour Party head Jeremy Corbyn to become the next prime minister, the result of split votes between the Torys and the Brexit Party with additional votes splitting off for the LibDems who promise to remain in Europe.
Many Jews have said if Labour (currently being investigated by the Equality and Human Rights Commission for its antisemitism) wins the election, they will exit the United Kingdom. Lord Eric Pickles, a keynote speaker at the recent Israel, Britain and the Commonwealth Balfour Dinner, mourns the fact that UK Jews are considering leaving the country as he believes the Jewish community is a positive, vibrant and contributing force for Britain. To contemplate a Corbyn victory is to envisage a time of state antisemitism – a terrifying thought.
TODAY’S REALITY poses challenges for Israel and the Jewish people, but what of tomorrow when both Jewish identity and support of Israel are on the wane?
In the US, out-marriage is on the increase. A 1990 survey by The Council of Jewish Federations (now known as the Jewish Federations of North America) showed that 52% of the community was marrying out; two million Jews no longer acknowledged being Jewish and one million Jewish children were being raised as non-Jews. In 2019, there is talk of 70% out-marriage rates.
With little or no knowledge of how Israel came into being and for whom the Holocaust is history (unlike for their grandparents who viewed the creation of a Jewish state as answering the most horrific form of antisemitism), many in the younger generation, raised with political liberalism, are ready to take on the Palestinian narrative.
The new reality is epitomized by the growing number of young Jews joining If Not Now, J Street, J Street U and Open Hillel. This should be of concern to Israel. Sadly, however, our government’s negative attitude toward the majority of US Jews belonging to the Conservative and Reform movements increasingly alienates American Jewry – the largest Jewish community after Israel.
Jewish students at universities in America are facing increased antisemitism. The Jerusalem Post’s Ilanit Chernick recently wrote about George Washington University, where anti-Zionism has evolved into blatant antisemitism with vile attacks against Jews posted on social media. Similarly, at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) where hitherto BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) resolutions claimed to protest Israel, not Jews, the most recent attack openly condemns Jews and their opposition to BDS.
Regarding the UK, the Magazine contacted the Union of Jewish Students, celebrating its centenary this year. UJS chief executive Arieh Miller explained that the organization represents the voice of 8,500 Jewish students to government, to universities and to the wider population. It is the engine for future leadership both within and outside of the Jewish community.
What are the challenges facing Jewish students regarding Israel?
Miller: The relationship with Israel is complex. As much as [it] unites the Jewish community, [it] divides it. For the vast majority of Jews, and indeed Jewish students, Israel plays an important role in their identity, but that doesn’t mean that there is a homogenous view on Israel. That being said, students regularly stand up against attempts to support BDS, to single Israel out for unfair critique and attempts to undermine Jewish students’ right to celebrate and discuss Israel and Zionism.
UJS’s policy on Israel is debated and passed each year at its annual conference. Israel Engagement is a core value of UJS and, as such, is hotly discussed. We believe in the importance of a two-state solution – a secure Israel alongside a viable Palestinian state. We support hundreds of Israel-related events every year. Israel is a vibrant democracy with opportunities for all its citizens to vote. We do not seek to influence the voters of Israel but to educate our community and wider student community on the values upon which we stand.
How might a Corbyn-led government affect Jewish students?
Miller: As a charity, we cannot comment on individual parties, but students will be considering their options voting in this election, looking at the track record of each party in respect of the issues that matter to them.
UK campus antisemitism is on the rise (no longer hiding under the guise of anti-Zionism) as confirmed by the Community Security Trust, whose objective is to protect Britain’s diverse and vibrant Jewish community from external threats of bigotry, antisemitism and terrorism. Recently CST wrote to Bristol University’s vice-chancellor, Hugh Brady, taking strong issue with the fact that David Miller, professor of sociology at Bristol, suggested to his students that CST encourages, condones or generates Islamophobia or anti-Muslim prejudice. Jewish students in Miller’s class have stated that they feel uncomfortable, fearful and intimidated. Seb Sultan, a third-year Jewish student who co-founded the Bristol Students against Antisemitism campaign, said he believed Professor Miller should be removed. Mark Gardner, CST director of communications, said his organization had been “deeply shocked by Bristol’s failure to seriously engage with the content of both our complaint and that of the Jewish students. The university has been an utter disgrace.”
While not underestimating the importance of UJS providing the tools for Jewish students to come together, feel proud of their Jewish identity and support of Israel, it would seem that for many, the priority is to obtain a good degree, enjoy their university years without the hassle of becoming embroiled in fighting antisemitism or anti-Zionism.
HERE IN Israel, we are on the brink of a third election. We are left without a working government, without a national budget – one result being that Israel’s embassies worldwide have gone on strike because they lack the funds to function.
On November 29, 1947, the UN voted for the partition of Palestine and, thereby, the rebirth of Israel. Until now, world Jewry has given steadfast support to Israel which, simultaneously, intensified its own Jewish identity and love of Israel.
Today, it is Israel’s responsibility to support Diaspora Jewry. Israeli embassies should be the center and catalyst for providing the Israeli narrative to the local Jewish communities. It is a matter of urgency to bring back an understanding of the significance of the State of Israel, together with a sense of pride in being Jewish.
The writer is public relations chairwoman of ESRA, which promotes integration into Israeli society.