New Leader of UK Labour Party Alarms Jews

Categories: Letters From Leadership, Letters from the Leadership
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British Jews are mostly mortified at Jeremy Corbyn’s election to lead the British Labour Party.  This Forward analysis by Liam Hoare explains why, but also suggests that Corbyn is probably more naive than sinister when it comes to antisemitism and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict:  “Why Jeremy Corbyn Scares British Jews So Much.”

This contrasts with analyses from David Hirsh, a British sociologist, who identifies with the left, but as the mainstay of the Engage online publication, is dedicated to contending with the strident anti-Israelism fashionable within British academia.  Hirsh may seem strident himself at times, but at bottom, he makes a serious critique of Corbyn’s views.  The following (from “Antisemitism, not the accusation of antisemitism, is the dirty trick“) sums it up:

“Jeremy Corbyn thinks of himself as an opponent of anti-Semitism and he seems to have no personal dislike of Jews. But he warmly supports Hamas and Hezbollah, organisations set up to kill Jews as a strategy to prevent a peace agreement between Israel and Palestine; Corbyn leaps to the defence of anti-Semites, blood libellers and conspiracists, saying they aren’t anti-Semitic and they aren’t dangerous. He heads the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, which is dedicated to the boycott of Israel. Corbyn has presented a show on the Iranian propaganda channel, Press TV.”  

These titles link to two other recent pieces by Hirsh: 25 Things you should know about Jeremy Corbyn” and “Corbynistas prefer denouncing critics to engaging with criticism.” 

Also somewhat scary, but thorough in discussing a gamut of British Jewish community reactions on the left (including pro-Corbyn views) is this article of a week ago in The Times of Israel: “Is there a place for Jews in a Corbyn-led Labour Party?.”

Corbyn is a 66 year-old veteran Member of Parliament, a far-left Labour Party backbencher until suddenly emerging to win a four-way race to succeed Ed Miliband (the first Jewish leader of Labour).  Miliband himself had emerged from the 2010 defeat of Prime Minister Gordon Brown and the more centrist “New Labour” brand associated with his predecessor Tony Blair, to narrowly defeat his brother David and move Labour somewhat further left.  On Israel, Miliband (son of a Belgian-Jewish refugee and prominent Marxist theoretician Ralph Miliband), opposed Israel’s 2014 invasion of Gaza and supported a unilateral declaration of Palestinian statehood, but held the line against the ideological anti-Zionist tendencies of Labour’s left.  Miliband’s downfall came with Labour’s poor showing in this past spring’s general election.

The United Kingdom (UK) is the only country in the Jewish Diaspora with a Labor Zionist group that is formally affiliated with a non-Israeli political party.  It’s called the Jewish Labour Movement (with this Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/groups/jlmuk/?fref=ts).  Since a JLM member, MP Luciana Berger (Liverpool), has just been appointed to Corbyn’s shadow cabinet, there should be no concern that Corbyn is personally antisemitic.  But the party’s sharp leftward turn under his leadership may lead to further losses, and the possible reemergence of the Liberal Democrats as a third force.

About Ralph Seliger

A veteran editor, freelance writer and blogger, I edited the print magazine, "Israel Horizons," from 2003 until 2011; and I've blogged for and edited the Meretz USA and now Partners for Progressive Israel Blog since its inception in 2006 (although I no longer edit the PPI Blog). I've been an active supporter of the Zionist peace camp since 1982. Other print and online platforms where I've been published include: The Forward, The Daily Beast, History News Network, Tikkun, In These Times, Jewish Week, New Jersey Jewish News, Jewish Currents, Huffington Post, and Dissent.
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