I was 7 years old and looking at books in the children’s section of our local public library in north London. A teen walked over to me and whispered “Jewbag” in my ear. That was the first time I experienced anti-Semitism. Growing up in the UK, you didn’t need to look far to see it, although it went under-reported. Jewish cemeteries were regularly defaced and Jewish schools, synagogues and communal centers began to appear more like fortresses. Most Brits are not anti-Semitic, but the capacity for anti-Semitic word to turn into violent deed has always been present.
Years later, I moved to Israel. I was not “pushed out” (as some more unfortunate Jews have been over the decades, fleeing antisemitism to find safety in Israel), in contrast, I was pulled towards living in the Jewish homeland. Being Israeli, I do not think, as a principle, that I should have a vote in Britain’s General Election. I love Britain, but I chose to live abroad. However, the law gave me a vote and I am using it in this – the most critical UK election of my lifetime – to ensure that Jeremy Corbyn is not elected Prime Minister.
Just a few years ago, the idea that Corbyn could even get close to power would have been met with laughter by most Brits. Hard-Left, with a worldview that allied him with many of Britain’s enemies and clinging on to outdated ideas and politics, Corbyn was a rabble-rouser but nothing more. Then suddenly, he was a step away from becoming Prime Minister.
Britain has always been a warm home to my family and friends. Had my ancestors not moved to Britain, and remained in Poland, they likely would have perished together with the 90% of that community wiped out in the Holocaust. Jews have played a growing and central role in British life since arriving in England during the reign of William the Conqueror. Since that time, they have played their part in contributing to society, including in leadership roles in the Labour Party. So it is a cruel irony that today, no-one has done more to enable Antisemitism and empower anti-Jewish extremists than the Labour leader.
He has, of course, a deep-seated hatred for the world’s only Jewish country and equally has an affinity to the Mullahs in Iran (he was employed by them at Iran’s “Press TV”) as well as the terrorist groups whom he has called “his friends” that would destroy Israel and that also hate British values. I shudder to think of a future for British Jews under a Prime Minister Corbyn.
Politically, I have personally always found ideas I can support on the right and left and have voted for different parties since supporting Tony Blair in the first election in which I could vote. This time – this critical time – there is no choice. A vote for Labour locally brings the ominous prospect of Jeremy Corbyn winning power closer.
Jeremy Corbyn is a frightening relic of the uncompromising hard-left who has filled a once-great party with his acolytes who are hell-bent on enacting bad, divisive and dangerous policy. Corbyn doesn’t deserve just to lose – he and his cronies need to be electorally crushed to ensure they are forced from the mainstream political stage. I believe in the British voter and hope they will do just that. I will, I must, play my part.
Inasmuch as Corbyn brought about a resurgence in antisemitic words and deeds, during this time something else awoke too, something amazing. Britain’s Jews found their voice and spoke up, and people of conscience have stood with them. Many lifelong Labour voters will not support their party because it represents hatred towards the Jewish community. Despite bullying, intimidation and physical threats, ordinary people and well-known personalities alike – heroes, all – have shone a light on the rot in Corbyn’s party and held hands in solidarity with the British-Jewish minority community.
There will be a day after Corbyn. It will take many years indeed as he has been relentless in pushing out moderate voices within Labour and giving a platform to those who have engaged in the most egregious forms of Antisemitism. But I am hopeful.
Antisemitism in the UK is not new but never in my lifetime has such a spotlight been placed on this cancer, or have people called it out with such strength. The Antisemites will continue to deflect in every which way, using their hatred of Israel as a shield, and will minimise Antisemitism as if it were a lesser form of racism than any other. In the aftermath of this election, we must not drop our guard or our lose the solidarity we have forged in standing against this pernicious evil.
I am hopeful. Brave people raising their voices have given me that hope. Eighty years on from the Battle of Cable Street when Jews and non-Jews stood arm-in-arm against the fascists, people of good conscience are standing up and making themselves heard, saying once again – this time to the Antisemites of today: “They Shall Not Pass.”