“It has never been easy for the Jewish people. But what courage and resolution. So much suffering yet so much capacity to renew in the face of it. So much persecution yet so much determination to conquer it. So much pain but so much joy in a faith, that throughout the travails of the centuries, burns as brightly today as ever it did.”
A fitting tribute to the People of the Book. The occasion? The 350th anniversary of Jewish resettlement in the UK. The speaker? Leader of the Labour Party. Oh alright, not that one. Tony Blair.
The then Prime Minister’s words have taken on a poignancy that is piquant.
12 years later, the party which he led to four disastrous victories (thanks to Hugo Rifkind for that gem) is a different beast: “Antisemitism doesn’t exist in the Labour Party!” They cry. “It’s a smear!” They chorus. “Look- Jeremy even sat with the extreme Jewish group, Jewdas. What more can Jezza do?” They whine.
Newspapers throughout the land have cottoned on to the phrase “enough is enough”. (A nod to a popular refrain sung on Seder night at Passover). It’s even become a hashtag. Before Easter, the Jewish community staged an unprecedented protest outside parliament decrying the Antisemitism which is rampant in the party Jeremy Corbyn leads.
The Jewish community is exhausted with such abnegations of responsibility. Of such stubborn and continued refusal to understand the concerns and the fears of the Jewish community. And frankly, to lead, to take action.
It took Mr Corbyn one week to respond to the joint letter from The Jewish Leadership Council and Board of Deputies. This was after Mr Corbyn’s ill-conceived attendance at a dinner with Jews who are in no way reflective of the mainstream community. Does Mr Corbyn simply not get it? Or was it a deliberate snub?
The most articulate of our community leaders, members of both Houses of Parliament, leaders in the fields of science, art, law, culture, have deplored the pernicious Antisemitism happening on Mr Corbyn’s watch. As Jonathan Goldstein, chair of the JLC has said, Mr Corbyn is no longer a fringe backbencher languishing in political anonymity. He is the leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition. But does he listen? Has he actually heard our plight and our plaint?
It’s a bit like this oft cited philosophical scenario: when a tree falls in a forest and nobody hears, does it make a sound? If we protest and complain, and decry this most pernicious of hatreds, do we make a sound? Or is it all for naught?
Seder night on Passover is filled with symbolism and song, (not quite like the songs apparently at Jewdas’s gathering…) and we retell the Exodus from Egypt. Though a joyous occasion, we also recite a sobering phrase:
“In every single generation people rise up to destroy us”.
Take note Mr Corbyn. Take note and educate your members. Clear the stables of the muck of Antisemitism; expel Ken Livingstone from the Party as The Times has suggested today. Build bridges with our community. The mainstream. Not the fringe.
Or can’t you hear us make a sound?