My friend David

I hadn’t seen my friend David for some years, and in 2015, after a period of over 30 years I saw him again when I stayed with him at his home one Shabbat [Jewish Sabbath from Friday night to Saturday night].

It was for me a change since David is much more observant than me. So it was no TV, no e-mail or phone, just chatting with him and his family and going to the Synagogue.  David showed me around the synagogue and sadly explained that the previous year, two men had run in one morning with guns and knives and killed 4 congregants.  David showed me the bullet marks on the pews where some of the victims had been sitting, the hole in the curtain which covered the ark (where the scrolls of law were kept) and the mark on the door of the ark.

He explained that there had been some discussion as to whether the curtain should be replaced, and the pews repaired, but it had been decided not to, so that the memories of that day did not fade.

I hadn’t thought about David’s synagogue for some time until last Saturday when I heard the chilling news from Pittsburgh, that a man had run into a synagogue there, yelling ‘kill all the Jews’ and at the end of his murderous spree, 11 Jews lay dead.  The condemnation has run far around the world, and here in the UK there have been vigils, speeches and a vast outpouring on social media.

The tweet that has caught my attention is that from Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition.  He said “My thoughts are with those killed or injured in this horrific act of antisemitic violence, and with their loved ones. We must stand together against hate and terror.”  I think what struck me most about this comment was that I finally understood Mr Corbyn.   This was the first time I had heard him make any comment about any incident concerning attacks on Jews where he expressed a specific opinion and furthermore some support. At which point the penny dropped.

Mr Corbyn, when he speaks of fighting anti-Semitism is being mischievous, at best. It appears that he is deliberately misleading his listeners. He is not interested, as I am, in the identity of the victim.  His motivation and those of his supporters (as a friend of mine Rivka has already written) is based on the identity of the perpetrator.

In other words, he is at the outset only interested in the person who pulled the trigger. In his world therefore, and those of his supporters, it appears that a Jew can only be a victim of anti-Semitism if their attacker is white and crucially a neo-Nazi or white supremacist.

If though the attacker is not white and is left wing, the attack cannot possibly be anti-Semitic.  So, when those attending prayers at David’s synagogue in Har Nof, Jerusalem in 2014 were murdered by Arab men shouting “Allah Akbar”, Mr Corbyn would not recognise that as an attack against Jews.  The murders of the Jews in the Hyper Cache supermarket in Paris the following year, passed Mr Corbyn by as just another incident where people died.

Here in the UK, the writing is not only on the wall about the risks of a Labour Government, it is in letters of fire.  What Mr Corbyn has now made perfectly clear is that he will not protect the Jewish citizens of this country if they are attacked by anyone other than a white neo-Nazi.  Since the threats against us are mostly from the left, including from some members of Mr Corbyn’s party, if he becomes Prime Minister we will not be safe.

For now, we must realise that Jeremy Corbyn is not a man who will negotiate with us, nor will he see our point of view or try and reach some accommodation. For him, he sees us as a community which is largely white, middle class and by a hefty majority, supporting the idea of the State of Israel and so, we are his enemies.  It is a depressing thought that if my Synagogue was attacked by the same people who attacked my friend David’s place of worship in Jerusalem, Jeremy Corbyn would be nowhere to be seen.

I feel the deaths of my brothers and sisters in Pittsburgh keenly, since they were doing just what I did last Saturday morning, going along to the Synagogue, chatting with their friends and taking part in the service.  For me it was a Shabbat morning service like any other, for them it was their last.  May their memory be a blessing to their families and their community.

About the Author
Robert Festenstein is a solicitor based in Manchester with considerable experience in Court actions. He is active in representing groups opposing BDS and fighting the increase in anti-Semitism, particularly amongst the left-wing in the UK.
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