This morning, I glanced at my calendar. I knew I had a dinner party in a few days and wanted to check the date. The calendar showed me that it was Wednesday, no problem, August, that sounded about right, although the heavy rain was a bit puzzling, but then I noticed the year – 1939.
How did that happen? I was sure it was 2018 when I went to bed last night. But then I opened my daily newspaper – “BODYGUARDS ASSIGNED TO JEWISH DELEGATES AT UK LABOUR PARTY CONFERENCE” screamed the headline. Yes, in Great Britain today, Jews need bodyguards if they want to attend a Labour Party event.
Of course, this is nothing new. Synagogues in the UK must have guards to stop attacks by the many British extreme right-wing, or extreme left-wing, groups (that’s polite British-speak for anti-Semites). Back in 2016, Amber Rudd, the Home Secretary, pledged millions to provide guards for all Jewish schools, colleges, and nurseries and synagogues. Many articles have been written addressing a major problem for orthodox Jews; is wearing a kippah in the streets of Britain a good idea.
What a way to live.
But guards and security checks will do nothing to stop the resurgent institutionalized antisemitism that is gripping the country. In an eerie echo of Germany in 1939, Jeremy Corbyn has claimed that British Zionists “don’t appear to understand English irony”. This has been widely interpreted as meaning “British Jews are not really British”. The leader of Britain’s second-largest party, a man who could well be the next prime minister, does not accept Jews as full members of society.
In the 1930s some European Jews fled to England to escape the Nazis. But, in pre-war Britain, the Jews faced anti-Semitism. Often, this anti-Semitism went along with anti-German sentiments and Jews were equated with Germans, (even though the English themselves are a Germanic ethnic group). As a result, many Jewish immigrant families (my own included) changed their “bad”, German-sounding, names to “good” English names. Just as Corbyn is saying today, they were not accepted as “really British”.
British Jews have long-since sorted out the good name, bad name problem. But now along comes Corbyn; he insists on dividing British Jews into “good” anti-Zionist Jews and “bad” Zionist Jews, Jews who have the temerity to support Israel.
Surprisingly, we in Israel find ourselves agreeing with Mr. Corbyn. It is clear to us that the thousand-year Jewish “stop-over” in Britain is coming to an end. The journey, starting with the expulsion from the Land of Israel by the Romans (and the renaming of our land as the Roman province of Palaestina), and passing through other way-stations such as Germany, Poland and Russia, is over. For the first time in 2,000 years we have our country back and all Jews have a place to be “really Jewish”.
In Britain, some may wake up in time and come home to Israel; most will be lost to inter-marriage with “real” Britons, and the rest may find themselves victims of Mr. Corbyn’s as-yet secret plans for a Jew-free Britain.
In the 1960s there was a popular song written by Pete Seeger “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” Sung by Peter, Paul and Mary, it included the refrain “Oh, when will they ever learn?”
We could ask the same question of the Jews of Great Britain, both “good” and “bad”.