“So what if Corbyn wins? Nothing much will change”
These are words which those of us who are campaigning against Labour – due to its institutionalised antisemitism – have heard frequently and will hear many more times before 12 December.
So what will change? It is highly unlikely that Labour would attack the ‘fundamentals’ of Judaism such as kosher meat (though this cannot be ruled out, on ‘animal welfare’ grounds) , male circumcision, freedom of worship and faith schools. So what are we worried about? Should we just shut up and let democracy take its own course?
The reason why we should NOT shut up – and neither should you – was neatly expressed (albeit extremely understated) by Jonathan Freedland in The Guardian. It has to do with how we regard the country where we live. Until now most – maybe all – Jews have enjoyed living in the UK. For most of us, the UK accepted our relatives in the 19th or 20th century and the UK’s rule of law and tradition of democracy and fair play allowed them – and then us – to live in broad equality with the established population and to practice our religion freely. When the concept of a Jewish State (or ‘Zionism’) began to be promoted in the 19th century – alongside the wave of nationalism in Europe – some non-Jews in the UK were even more supportive than some Jews. The Labour Movement was a strong supporter of Zionism as was CP Scott – the legendary editor then owner of the Manchester Guardian who befriended Chaim Weizmann and introduced him to Lloyd George. The result was the Balfour Declaration in 1917; the British government ‘viewed with favour’ the establishment of a Jewish homeland in Palestine. Jews fought in the British Army to defeat Hitler and the state-sponsored antisemitism which swept through Europe in the middle of the 20th century never reached the UK.
But a Labour win would change all that. As Jonathan Freedland wrote (understating it…………), ‘it means that what we thought about this country wasn’t quite true. ‘
The first thing Labour is likely to do is to recognise a Palestinian State. Since the Palestinian Authority does not even concede Israel’s right to exist as a majority Jewish State, this would be a kick in the teeth for British Jews, 90%+ of whom support Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state. If – as I expect – Israel protests, a Corbyn-led government could break off diplomatic relations. In any case it is likely that there will be an arms embargo imposed as well as some form of economic boycott.
Israelis – including family members of British Jews – will be very reluctant to visit the UK. A Labour government might well reverse the changes to Universal Jurisdiction introduced by the Conservatives to stop the possibility of Israelis who have served with the IDF (almost all of them) being arrested when they land at a UK airport. Israeli arts groups (eg Habima, Batsheva, Israel Philharmonic) will no longer tour to the UK (truth is, they have already stopped coming; the last visit was seven years ago when Habima performed a wonderful ‘Merchant of Venice’ at the Globe).
British Jews who openly support Israel would become Pariahs. They will find themselves rejected for all public sector appointments and all university jobs. Those in jobs will be ostracised by their colleagues and their children will be bullied at school. Their homes could be targeted by far Left mobs.
The need for security of Jewish schools and synagogues will increase under a Corbyn-led government but with the economy hit by Labour’s profligate spending, there will be strong pressure to cut government grants for security of these institutions.
Universities are the hub of anti-Israel sentiment and under Labour this will intensify. Only five universities have adopted the IHRA definition of antisemitism. They will feel free to ignore it and no more will adopt it. Antisemitic meetings will mushroom with administrations no longer considering that they violate a modified Prevent programme. Pro-Israel speakers on the other hand will be banned as extremists. Most if not all Jewish Societies will ban any discussion of Israel. Jewish Year 12 students will not feel comfortable applying to any UK University.
The anti-extremism Prevent programme would be modified to include anti-Zionism and watered down so that few far Left and Islamist extremists would be identified and deradicalised. Together with the ending of Israeli security cooperation which would follow a break in diplomatic relations, this would mean that terrorist outrages would increase, particularly targeted at Jews.
Interfaith bodies would no longer recognise Jews as a minority to be included, due to the near universal support of Jews for Israel.
The spread of IHRA acceptance by local authorities would come to a halt. In any case IHRA will no longer be respected, with local authorities seeing nothing amiss in having their building used for antisemitic meetings.
In short, a normal life will become impossible for many UK Jews and many will leave.
Speaking about antisemitism, the great Isaiah Berlin said ‘Before the War we were sleepwalkers, now we are insomniacs’. I don’t believe these predictions are those of an insomniac. But there is still time to avert what would be a tragedy for UK Jewry and indeed for the UK. Unless they are in a ‘safe’ Conservative constituency (defined as a majority of at least 18,000 (unlike Finchley and Golders Green!)); unless they are in a LibDem constituency where Labour is at least 12,000 votes behind; unless they are in a Labour constituency where the LibDems are in second place and the Conservatives are at least 12,000 votes behind them – voters must vote Conservative. This is the only way to avert a Labour win – and I say this as someone who has campaigned long and hard for the UK to remain in the EU. I like Jo Swinson but only a naive fool believes that ‘in the national interest’ to avoid a hung Parliament she would not support Corbyn on a case-by-case basis.
The prospect of a racist in Downing Street trumps all – even countering Brexit. It is existential. Brexit is terrible but it isn’t existential.
A friend in Israel mentions that another important issue -widely discussed in Israeli business circles – is the possibility of closing off the London Debt and Equity markets to Israeli companies.