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Today, an Islamist terrorist, Usman Khan, attacked an event hosted by Cambridge University’s Institute for Criminology. The conference, tragically entitled Learning Together, aimed to offer prisoners educational opportunities:
Khan was wearing an electronic tag and had reportedly been invited to attend a justice conference on prison rehabilitation at Fishmongers’ Hall, on the northern side of London Bridge,
For some twisted reason, he decided that no good deed should go unpunished–targeting activists and educators trying to improve the lives of ex-felons (of whom he was one). He stabbed several of the attendees and killed two. He then ran outside the event venue, where he was apprehended by civilian passersby. News reports say that one of the brave men who subdued him is a Polish immigrant. So much for the Tories hatred of immigrants.
After Khan exposed what he warned was a suicide vest wrapped around his waist, the Good Samaritans backed away from him. Police arriving at the scene, fearing the vest was real, shot and killed him. The vest was fake.
There have been a number of Islamist terror attacks in the UK in the past decade. Undoubtedly, the Tories, in the midst of a national election campaign, will showcase their vaunted Islamophobia by railing against UK Muslims. But it’s important to remember there have also been many murders committed by white supremacists, most notably the assassination of Labour MK, Jo Cox.
Misidentifying Jewish Enemies
You would think that UK Jews, most of whom vote Tory, would be joining in such Islamophobic triumphalism. But they and their leaders see their enemies even closer to home. The most dangerous enemies of the Jewish people, in the eyes of these communal leaders, are the Labour Party and its leader, Jeremy Corbyn. In fact, Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, the chief rabbi, took the unprecedented step of penning an op-ed (paywall) in Rupert Murdoch’s Times of London. With the pitiable title, What Will Become of Jews in Britain…Mirvis launched into a shocking diatribe, citing the alleged anti-Semitic record of Corbyn and the Party as a whole.
This is nothing new. The UK Israel Lobby and the Israeli government itself have been engaged in a years-long attack on Labour for its purported anti-Israel bias. What is new is the naked political intervention in a national election by a national religious leader. Never before has any cleric of any denomination told its religious adherents who to vote for; or more specifically, who they must not vote for. Though it has a state religion, the Anglican Church, the UK has a long tradition of separating religion from politics. Mirvis threw a huge spanner in the works and deliberately sabotaged that precedent, to the detriment of English society as a whole.
The Times column is riddled with exaggerated claims and devoid of facts or evidence. From the beginning, he seeks to establish his bona fides in speaking on behalf of all the nation’s Jews:
…Just weeks before we go to the polls, the overwhelming majority of British Jews are gripped by anxiety.
During the past few years, on my travels through the UK and further afield, one concern has been expressed to me more than any other…What will become of Jews and Judaism in Britain if the Labour Party forms the next government?
This anxiety is justified.
How does Mirvis know what the “overwhelming majority of British Jews” feel? Undoubtedly, he rests his belief on the polls of the communal tabloid, the Jewish Chronicle, which regularly unfurls banner headlines claiming half of Jews plan to emigrate out of fear of anti-Semitism; that 90% believe Labour to be anti-Semitic. When you examine the alleged polls, their methodology, their questions, and the polling companies who conducted them, you find the surveys riddled with bias that would inexorably lead to the results the newspaper sought.
In the above passage, Mirvis clearly implies he knows what the majority of the nation’s Jews feel. But does he? Who does he represent? With the grand title of Chief Rabbi of the United Kingdom and Commonwealth, you would think the Jewish community had recognized his leadership by acclamation. Nothing could be farther from the truth. In fact, he is designated as chief rabbi of a distinct minority of that community, the United Synagogue, known in the U.S. as the modern Orthodox. Mirvis isn’t even recognized as the leader of all Orthodox Jews in the UK, as the fastest-growing movement there is the ultra-Orthodox or Haredi, who do not recognize him.
Wikipedia’s demographic analysis of UK’s Jewish community indicates that nearly 50% are secular. That is, they belong to no religious denomination. Of the other half, 65% are Orthodox (which includes both modern and ultra-Orthodox). The bottom line: Mirvis represents less than half of the one-half of UK Jews who identify with any religious denomination (and there are others including Liberal, Reform, Masorti and Sephardi Jews who do not recognize him)
Noted British Jewish public intellectual, Antony Lerman, tweeted that in his estimation Mirvis represented perhaps 20% of UK Jews. That should put the claims of his Times column in some perspective:
Membership of @chiefrabbi Mirvis’s denomonation, the United Synagogue, constitutes less than 20% of estimated UK Jewish population. He has no authority to speak on behalf of all Jews. @bbcr4today bias in unleashing attacks on @UKLabour and @jeremycorbyn is disgraceful 2/2
— Antony Lerman (@tonylerman) November 26, 2019
Below you’ll find my point-by-point rebuttal of Mirvis’ argument. He begins his attack with the plaintive refrain of a reluctant truth-teller:
Raising concerns about anti-Jewish racism in the context of a general election ranks among the most painful moments I have experienced since taking office.
But is it? Mirvis has a long history of not only animus toward Labour, but fulsome praise of the Tories. Here you see him pictured with current PM Boris Johnson, delivering an encomium about Conservative rule:
Mirvis’ embrace of right-wing politics is something bred in the bone. Though he was raised in South Africa to parents who valiantly fought apartheid, he turned toward not just Orthodoxy, but rampant religious triumphalism at Yeshivat Har Etzion, a settler seminary which also produced Trump bankruptcy lawyer and recently-resigned Middle East ‘peace expert,’ Jason Greenblatt. There, Mirvis earned his rabbinic degree. His endorsement of Tory politics is of a piece with his embrace of settler Judeo-supremacy.
Apart from this, Mirvis has voiced some particularly appalling views both toward Muslim immigrants and toward Jewish Holocaust victims :
“In the same way, Jews in Germany in the 1930s declared ‘Deutschland über alles’ – regardless of what might transpire to us we express a natural loyalty towards the country of which we are proudly a part.”
Does any Jew in their right mind believe that German Jews sang the Nazi anthem with anything other than antipathy and fear, if they sang it at all? And is Mirvis really making even a tacit claim that if the UK is preparing to send Muslims to the ovens, that they should be singing ‘God Save the Queen’ with gusto and conviction? The very notion is appalling.
Then there’s Mirvis’ invocation of a wretched Tory “loyalty test” which measured the purported trustworthiness of UK Muslim immigrants by whether they rooted for England or their native countries in cricket matches:
“A large proportion of Britain’s Asian population fail to pass the cricket test, Which side do they cheer for?…Are you still harking back to where you came from or where you are?”
One could easily turn this around and throw it back in Mirvis’ face: who are the Board of Deputies and UK Jewish leaders ‘rooting for?’ England or Israel? I’d say in many cases their loyalties are far stronger to the latter than the former. Of course, they believe that loyalty to one is the same as loyalty to the other. Which is a spurious, ludicrous belief.
The Rabbi’s distrust, even revulsion against Palestinians, has aroused his animus against any figure or political movement supporting their national rights. That is the reason Mirvis hates Corbyn. Not because he is anti-Semitic. Not because he hates Jews in the UK. But because he embraces a political vision in which Israeli Jews and Palestinian each realize their national rights. In the views of the settlers from whence the chief rabbi sprang, there can be no Palestinian rights that do not annihilate Israeli Jewish rights. That’s what makes Corbyn Mirvis’ sworn enemy.
Here Mirvis continues in the guise of the poor soul forced to do what he had no will to do. And it’s all the fault of the sheer enormity of Labour’s anti-Jewish perfidy:
Convention dictates that the Chief Rabbi stays well away from party politics — and rightly so. However, challenging racism is not a matter of politics, it goes well beyond that. Wherever there is evidence of it, including in any of our political parties, it must be swiftly rooted out.
The claim here is that “racism” transcends politics. Therefore he, as a religious figure, is obligated to violate political norms to call out so-called evil for what it is. It sounds good on paper, till you examine on what basis he rests these claims. Here is one:
…Supporters of the Labour leadership have hounded parliamentarians, members and even staff out of the party for challenging anti-Jewish racism.
That is an outright lie. Those Jewish Labour MPs who have attacked their own Party and abandoned it were not “hounded” or driven out. On the contrary, they made dramatic shows of their disgust and themselves elected to leave. And they did so in ways designed to do maximize damage to the Party. These were not Party leaders who left reluctantly, or in disappointment. They did so vindictively and viciously. Further, the number of Jewish Labour MPs who left is tiny: two MPs and three peers. Three Jewish MPs remain in Labour.
Nor were Jewish MPs the only ones who left. In fact, of the eight prominent parliamentarians who left, most were not Jewish and their departure had nothing to do with claims of anti-Semitism. The truth is that the Labour Party has been moving to the Left since before Corbyn became leader. This has partly been a reaction to the stodgy corporatist politics of the Blair years. Those leaving were Blairites who rejected the swing to the left. They have sought, with little success, to strike out on their own with an independent party. When that didn’t work, some became absorbed into the centrist Liberal Democrats.
Next, Mirvis mischaracterizes the IHRA anti-Semitism definition forced down the Party’s throat:
We have endured quibbling and prevarication over whether the party should adopt the most widely accepted definition of antisemitism.
No, there wasn’t “quibbling” or “prevarication.” There was legitimate debate about the deeply-flawed so-called anti-Semitism definition. Further, the IHRA is NOT the “most widely accepted definition.” It is the most widely disputed definition. In fact, it isn’t even a definition. It is a set of rules that restrict legitimate speech about Israel and its racist apartheid policies. IHRA conflates Israel with Judaism and tries to cloak criticism of Israel in the ancient, deep-seated hatred of Jews. But contrary to Mirvis’ tacit claim, Judaism is a religion and Israel is a nation. They are not the same. But the extent to which figures like the chief rabbi transform Israel into a religious theocracy, guarantees the continued flourishing of real anti-Semitism.
Mirvis next attempts to set Labour apart from the British nation with the spurious claim that its values are alien to it:
The way in which the leadership has dealt with anti-Jewish racism is incompatible with the British values of which we are so proud — of dignity and respect for all people.
While it may be arguable that the “values” of the British Empire for centuries represented “dignity and respect for all people,” even if we accept it for argument’s sake, Mirvis’ claims still are wanting. Labour has indeed affirmed the dignity and respect of all people: that is, both Israel and Palestinian peoples. It is the good Rabbi who denied respect and dignity to the latter. And that is the crux of this debate: one he deliberately obfuscates. You will never hear the word “Palestinian” from his mouth. Either they don’t exist; or if he deigns to admit they do, it is only as the bete noire of the Jewish people: the sworn enemy of Israel.
The claims that the party is “doing everything” it reasonably can to tackle anti-Jewish racism and that it has “investigated every single case”, are a mendacious fiction. According to the Jewish Labour Movement, there are at least 130 outstanding cases before the party, some dating back years, and thousands more have been reported but remain unresolved.
Note that Mirvis bases his claims on the group called the “Jewish Labour Movement.” This is a Blairite group that represents the interests of the Board of Deputies far more than those of the Party. In fact, it announced to great fanfare that it was withdrawing its election support from the Party. How does it have any right to use the word “Labour” in its name? It has been infiltrated by figures who’ve cloaked their past affiliations with the Israeli embassy and other Israel Lobby outfits.
As to the charges he raises: they are misleading at best. Note that Mirvis offers no links or documents supporting his claims. That leaves it to the reader to either do the research the Rabbi should have done, or to throw up his/her hands in despair at the shoddiness of this enterprise.
But there are some pertinent facts which Mirvis conveniently omits: of the cases investigated less than 0.1% have been found to be justified. 40% of all cases brought were not even found to be attributable to the Party itself. Instead of vacuous pre-programmed junk, let’s review some actual facts about anti-Semitism in the UK. A Pew Research poll of Britons showed that 7% were anti-Semitic, amongst the lowest percentage in the EU (similar to Scandinavian countries). The Institute for Jewish Policy Research found 3.6% of the far left harbored anti-Semitic views as compared with 13% on the far right. The Campaign Against Antisemitism (a pro-Israel organization) reported that antisemitism had declined since Corbyn became leader in 2015. A British Social Attitudes report said antisemitism in the Labour Party generally is a mere 0.08% of members as opposed to 3.6% in the ‘far left.’
Here Mirvis attempts to shear the Party from its progressive roots by claiming its embrace of anti-racism is a fraud:
Many members of the Jewish community can hardly believe that this is the same party that they called their political home for more than a century. It can no longer claim to be the party of equality and anti-racism.
There is much self-serving nonsense here. First, UK Jews began abandoning the Labour Party long before Jeremy Corbyn came on the scene. And they did not do so because of anti-Semitism. They did so because of economic, class and religious-nationalist reasons. As they became wealthier, the class consciousness of the Labour Party became anathema to them. The Orthodox community, the fastest-growing segment of the Jewish population, became increasingly Judeo-nationalist in its views of Israeli politics. It viewed its natural allies as the Tories, because they were closest ideologically to the Israeli religious nationalist parties and ruling Likud. That’s why UK Jews vote Tory. That’s why they left Labour.
The other noxious element of this passage is the notion that Labour’s advocacy for Palestinian ‘equality’ and its rejection of Israeli ‘racism,’ means it has somehow abandoned its commitment to all equality and anti-racism, but especially the rights of Israeli Jews. What really bothers Mirvis is that Labour does not uphold the primacy of Israeli Jewish rights. In the rabbi’s view, Israeli rights are the only ones that matter. If you infringe in any way on them, then you are denying them entirely. The breathtaking presumption of this claim is patently obvious.
How far is too far? How complicit in prejudice would a leader of Her Majesty’s opposition have to be to be considered unfit for office? Would associations with those who have incited hatred against Jews be enough? Would describing as “friends” those who endorse the murder of Jews be enough? It seems not.
Once again, the charges are so oblique as to be meaningless. But Mirvis’ media minions shilling for the Israel Lobby have already fleshed them out, so we know to what he’s referring. Corbyn once visited a cemetery in Tunis commemorating the deaths of 60 Tunisians and PLO leaders murdered in a 1985 Israeli revenge attack. The attack was itself condemned by the UN Security Council at the time and by then-PM Margaret Thatcher.
The accompanying claim that Corbyn was honoring the Munich terrorists buried there is false. Those individuals are not buried in the cemetery attended by Corbyn. They are buried in Libya. There are two individuals buried in a different part of the Tunis cemetery than the part visited by Corbyn, who Israel claims were associated with the Munich attack. Their involvement has never been proven, nor has any evidence been offered to support the Israeli claim.
Others have claimed that Corbyn laid a wreath on the grave of the most important PLO leader murdered in the Tunis attack, who is also buried there: Salah Khalaf whose nom de guerre was Abu Iyad. Once again, the Palestinian’s grave is in an entirely different part of the cemetery and Corbyn paid no attention to it.
The last part of the Mirvis passage alleging “association” with “those inciting hatred of Jews” is another misleading charge. Jeremy Corbyn has always advocated a stance toward Hamas that, while controversial in some quarters, is endorsed by numerous Middle East analysts and academics.
Here is a statement he delivered a decade ago at a political rally which included Hamas representatives. Keep in mind, that when he delivered these words, some of which even I would consider naive, he was not even Opposition leader. He was a junior back-bencher:
“…the idea that an organisation that is dedicated towards the good of the Palestinian people and bringing about peace and social justice and political justice should be labelled as a terrorist organisation by the British government is a big, big historical mistake…”
Of course, his views have evolved over time. He would never say today what he said then about Hamas. It is only Mirvis’ implacable hatred which has not changed and will never do so, no matter what Corbyn does or says.
The fact of the matter is that continuing to label Hamas a terrorist organization and refusing to talk to its leaders and include them in peace negotiations, renders the prospect of resolving the conflict impossible. Hamas is a genuine representative of the Palestinian people; it plays a crucial political role in Palestinian society; any solution of the conflict must include Hamas at the table for it to be comprehensive and legitimate.
Remember as well, that Yitzhak Shamir was responsible for the assassination of UN peace negotiator, Count von Bernadotte. Menachem Begin was the author of the King David Hotel bombing which killed 97 people. Would Mirvis say that these former terrorists should never be eligible to play a political role in determining the future of the State of Israel, as he’s claiming about both Corbyn and Hamas? If he held the same views of Begin and Shamir that he holds of Corby and Hamas, then at least I could say he was consistent. But of course, he is not. Israeli terrorists are on the side of the angels. While Palestinians and all who support them are of the devil.
Now comes the most disingenuous statement in Mirvis’ entire diatribe:
It is not my place to tell any person how they should vote.
Really. You spent hundreds of words screaming bloody murder that Corbyn is a liar, alien to British society and values, untrustworthy, an anti-Semite, etc. and you have the gall to deny what anyone with eyes in their head could see? What does he take us for? Fools and idiots?