WHY has antisemitism recently raised its ugly head in the British Labour Party?
It seemed to have crept in almost by accident after Jeremy Corbyn entered the Labour leadership race at the last minute.
If Corbyn would not have received the 35 nominations necessary to qualify for the contest, we would now have a more mainstream Labour leader in the form of Yvette Cooper, Andy Burnham or Liz Kendall.
But for some strange reason it was not to be. Entering as a fringe candidate, Corbyn immensely benefited from former Labour leader Ed Miliband’s rule change allowing anyone to vote for a mere £3 registration fee and romped home to victory, bringing in his wake a rabble of far-left supporters, some of whom have rabid anti-Zionist and antisemitic views.
But why should such extremism be found so prevalent in a party formerly known for its strong anti-racism agenda and which traditionally has attracted so much support from Jews for its caring and compassionate agenda?
Maybe it is because so many of the far-left are so prone to toeing the party line and swallowing hook, line and sinker Marxist doctrines that they don’t bother to think for themselves and accept anti-Israel propaganda unthinkingly. Yet this does not totally explain why today we are facing so much hatred on all sides.
Indefatigable Zionist activist Joy Wolfe said last week that she spent seven hours solid on her computer campaigning against antisemitism in the Labour Party, the NUS, UN, UNESCO and the PA all in one morning!
There has been a long-running debate in many religions, including Judaism, as to why bad things happen to good people. In Judaism, religious scholars are deeply divided as to why God allowed the Holocaust to happen.
Benjamin Vincent recently published the controversial booklet The Holocaust, Zionism and Faith which catalogued Jewish theological responses to the Shoah.
Some rabbis controversially regard the Holocaust as a punishment for either European Jewish assimilation or Zionism. Others regard it as a punishment for European Jews’ failure to espouse Zionism. Yet others totally reject the notion of the Holocaust as a punishment.
Antisemitism is as old as the Jewish people. It began in Egypt in the Pesach story, continued in Persia in the Purim story, in Greece in the Chanucah story, etc, etc. The haggada states: “In every generation they rise up against us.”
It is most certainly still happening. The current upsurge in antisemitism in Britain can in no way be described as a religious punishment for British Jewry, which is flourishing as never before with massive demographic increases in the charedi population and increased Jewish commitment across the spectrum.
Antisemitism is a perpetual challenge with which we have to constantly contend.
Just as poverty is a constant challenge set to enhance our virtues of compassion, generosity and justice, so antisemitism challenges us to increase our support and defence of our people and spiritual home of Israel.
As long as there are activists like Joy setting the pace for younger volunteers, Am Yisrael Chai — Israel will continue to live, prosper and challenge all its enemies.
However, self-hating Jews like those who attempted to shout down Joy, Angela Epstein, MP Louise Ellman and Rabbi Benjy Rickman on Sunday’s The Big Questions are making a rod for their own backs by jumping on the antisemitic bandwagon.
ONCE upon a time, I was a Woman of the Wall. It was Shushan
Purim, 2002, at the heart of the Intifada when few were courageous
enough to visit the Kotel.
I was in Jerusalem at the time and heard that the women were holding a megilla reading there. In those early days, the group was run according to Orthodox — although rather unconventional — lines. Women-only megilla reading has now become accepted in many Orthodox synagogues.
That Purim morning I got up bright and early and went to the women’s section of the Kotel to hear the megilla. When family members who had arranged to meet me near the Wall arrived later after sleeping in, the holy area was so deserted because of the terror threat that despite the proximity of so many male yeshivot they failed to find a megilla reading in the vicinity.
The women had stepped where no man feared to tread. Kol hakavod!
But since those early days, the Women of the Wall have become multi-denominational and much more politically aggressive, intent on trampling on accepted custom and imposing their own confrontational agenda on Israel’s holiest place. Last week’s news that the women wanted to recite the priestly benediction at the Wall beats it all.
Historically, Reform and the other Progressive movements do not recognise Jewish priestly status, yet these women are now claiming a privilege their movements no longer believe in.
You can’t have your cake and eat it, even on Pesach! Yet these women are determined to cause religious havoc by wanting to have it all.
What a pity Women of the Wall did not remain a predominantly Orthodox movement, sensitive to the traditions of those around them, rather than purely intent on their own confrontational agenda.