By Paul Harris
GORDON Brown’s demand last week that antisemitism is eradicated from the Labour Party was not his first intervention on the subject.
As a 12-year-old, the future Prime Minister contributed a 400-word article, Persecution, to Zeal, the parish magazine of St Brycedale, the church of which his father, the Rev John Ebenezer Brown, was minister.
Brown junior wrote in December, 1963: “Persecution — this is the pernicious eclipse under which the Jewish people have always existed.
“Ever since Biblical times, there have been controversies between the Jews and other nations.”
Recalling “Adolf Hitler and his bloodthirsty regime”, he said that Jews had now subdued part of the Holy Land to make a national home.
Brown added: “The new State of Israel is, however, not recognised by the United Arab Republic, which comprises Egypt, Syria and other Arab countries.”
And he pointed out that the controversy between Arabs and Jews “is perhaps best illustrated by the recent event of Lord Mancroft, a Jew, being forced to resign from a board of directors because of pressure from ambassadors belonging to the UAR”.
Brown went on: “The question we may now ask ourselves is, ‘Why did God allow these other nations to persecute His Chosen People?’
“Could He not have allowed this to happen in order to correct the Jews hoping that they might become a perfect people? They seem to have had a lot of suffering and persecution to endure.
“Is there a Divine purpose for them and the world in all this?”
While Brown did not provide the answer, he observed that, despite all their persecutions, Jews had made a valuable contribution to the world, naming Einstein, Epstein, Mendelsohn and Yehudi Menuhin.
Brown averred: “Perhaps the greatest contribution has been in the realm of religion.
“The Old Testament gives us names of the prophets. Nor should we forget that our own Christian faith came to us through the Jews.”
He pointed out that Jesus “belonged to this persecuted people”, concluding: “Truly our debt to the Jews is very great.”
The parish magazine article is recalled in Gordon Brown: The Biography, by Paul Routledge, published in 1998.
Routledge, political correspondent of the Daily Mirror, writes: “This mixture of religious and social concern, politics and a dash of current affairs suggests an extraordinary maturity — an unduly serious outlook, even — for a boy of 12.
“Just why he chose this subject is not known, though his father’s great interest in the Holy Land is well attested.”
Rev Brown visited Israel several times between the 1960s and 1980s as a representative of the Church of Scotland and then as a leader of church tour groups.
Brown, during his time as Chancellor of the Exchequer and Prime Minister, frequently recalled to Jewish audiences how his father would return from visits to Israel and screen for the family the cine films he had taken.