What will it take?
In the event of a Corbyn government in the UK, please break the emergency glass.
Former Editor-in-Chief of America’s Boston Jewish Advocate and the U.K.’s Jewish News, Charles Golding asks the question that dare not speak its name.
[First published in the Jerusalem Post, September, 2019]
“Is this Zionist cow?” asked Ken Livingstone, as we sat down to lunch at the Dizengoff restaurant in London’s Golders Green. Ken was a serving Labour member of Parliament at the time, and I was the boss of LBC Radio, offering him and a suitably right-wing Conservative MP the chance for an hour phone-in programme on the talk station. I remember vaguely wondering at the time what would happen if either of these politicians ended up with serious power. I concluded that there wasn’t a chance.
Four weeks ago one of my former clients, Dr Phillip Lee MP, Secretary Of State for Justice and a member of the Cabinet resigned from the government on a matter of principle. An unashamed Remainer (those who do not want Britain to leave the EU) he took an honourable if Kamikaze position against the British Prime Minister Theresa May and could well find himself fighting for his seat before the next general election.
Yesterday David Davies, Secretary of State for Brexit resigned again in the full light of adverse media publicity. He felt he couldn’t support the Prime Minister’s soft approach to leaving Europe. Then today, Boris Johnson does the same, leaving the country rudderless in the key Brexit negotiations and the Conservative party imploding. Now there’s a call for a leadership contest.
The philosopher Adler once observed that “democracy is like a raft, it never sinks but dammit, your feet are always in the water!” It looks like I’ll be watching the political and media Tweedledums and Tweedledees, the Brexiteers and Remainers battle it out over the next couple of years from the safety of my new home in Israel.
One thing is for certain-the Conservative party is fighting for its political power - once again caused by the toxic subject of European membership - and is only being held in power by support from Northern Ireland’s party, the DUP.
Which brings me to the old Jewish question “how does it affect us?”. At least in the UK. For the community in Britain, the possibility of Jeremy Corbyn gaining office is now more than a political joke. It could be a reality.
Having made aliyah just 18 months ago it got me wondering-what would it take before most of Britain’s 230,000 Jews started actively making plans to leave the UK? What would Jeremy Corbyn have to do to start that process? I should imagine the bleak scenario would begin like this:
After the Sun headlines of Corbyn Laden – Judeophobe Jezza’s now the PM settle down and the pound steadies itself at a new low, a certain group of fairly affluent, middle-class Jews who already own properties from Jerusalem to Netanya via Raanana and Modiin, will start making plans that they would have anyway, once their children had finished university. They will be joined by many retirees, who’d planned to spend their final decades in the Jewish state.
Corbyn’s disastrous old left-wing plans for the country-a sad corruption of the well-intentioned socialism-with-a-conscience once beloved by Britain’s Jewish community-would be instantly put into effect.
Clause 4-the Labour party’s plans to nationalise banks, utilities, and anything the government feels the state should own would be a disaster for the country. The financial and social effects of Brexit would appear minuscule against the new Prime Minister’s Little Red Book of Policies, a ragbag assortment of internationalist and largely bankrupt policies that Britain had seen the back of after the election of Mrs Thatcher decades before.
So far Britain’s Jews would fare as well or as badly as the rest of the population. I would predict the small spurt in aliyah numbers bolstered by young Jews, brought up on a mixture of Israeli and Jewish culture, who in their late teens and early 20s would be swayed by the radical changes being executed by a Labour Britain.
Looking at the new Prime Minister’s record on matters Jewish and Israel-and if it’s possible, separating the two-it’s clear that there would be radical legislation afoot. The Labour Party’s last week rejection of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s Definition of Anti-Semitism, has proved that Corbyn is no longer a follower of new left theory born of Marx and Stalin; he is no follower-he is a leading proponent in the UK, now with the power to act.
Interestingly Labour has dropped the Definition’s view adopted by so many countries that it was racist to accuse Jewish people of having a greater loyalty to world Jewry than their own country.
Jew-loving Jeremy without doubt will start to integrate his anti-Zionist obsession into British life, both legislatively and socially.
I wonder what the Jewish community would do when pictures of Jeremy entertaining his Hamas “friends” in 10 Downing Street hit the newsstands with the accompanying social media stories about how the U.K.’s PM and the leader of Hamas discussed Palestine, the Jews and legitimate acts of lethal violence against Jewish civilians in Israel and abroad?
The legislation will come fast and furious. Corbyn’s Labour Party will undoubtedly rescind current laws which prevent local councils from operating boycotts against Israel. New legislation incorporating BDS aims will be introduced, restricting all trade with Israel including but not limited to what it calls ‘occupied territories’.
No doubt there will be a raft of supposed ‘human rights’ legislation, defining Israeli soldiers whatever their rank, as automatically culpable for any alleged war crime activity in Israel, that the UK or the United Nations considers unacceptable. This in turn would make the majority of Israeli citizens vulnerable to prosecution and incarceration when they arrived in the UK.
Often proposed within the Labour Party would be legislation making dual nationality with Israel illegal, forcing Jews to choose between the two countries. Socially, bans would be encouraged on any Israeli citizens coming to the UK to talk professionally about anything; from universities, the NHS to the civil service-although these things are already happening at the moment in an unofficial capacity.
The affects of this tirade of anti-Israel demonization via laws and social media bullying, will immediately cause a tsunami of anti-Jew sentiment throughout the population, irrespective of age, class and ethnic origin. The Jewish community’s main criticism of the current anti-Semitism within the Labour Party is that labour is willingly blind when it comes to anti-Jewish racism. So no change there.
How will the Jews of good old Blighty react? No doubt, at least at the start, the leadership will do nothing. I have written about this before-it is nothing new. The elected Board of Deputies, the self-appointed Jewish Leadership Council, the myriad of official Jewish representative bodies throughout the UK and the Commonwealth will definitely decide to do something at some point. Soon. Honest.
Then the Jewish grassroots will organise themselves as they did so brilliantly a few years ago, exploiting social media in defence of Israel. In turn this will force the aforementioned Jewish political bodies to organise debates, the odd rally, and make a general noise about how upset they are. They might even arrange meetings with the Labour leadership and even the Prime Minister, to express their concern.
But would they leave? Would Jews decide to leave a country where many have been for at least three generations? If the nightmare scenario comes into effect, how many British Jews would actually leave and live in Israel? It is of course a question no one can answer.
My five shekels worth says this; perhaps there will be a small spurt of aliyah activity, from younger people, retirees and Israeli property owners. But I believe we will not see a mass movement of British Jews from the UK to Israel. We don’t have to look further back than Iran before the Shah, or Germany before and during the rise of Hitler to see that we Jews are sometimes blindly optimistic, waiting in the belief “that too will pass”.
And I think that’s a mistake. Don’t you?
Charles Golding was a former Deputy Editor of the Sunday Express, Features Editor of the Sunday Mirror, Editor-in-Chief of America’s Boston Jewish Advocate, the U.K.’s Jewish News, and a published author. He is currently a media consultant. www.bowtie.co.uk