Two Jewish Old Ladies’ Purim-Spiel to a British Prime Minister
Now that the poppy seeds have settled, and we have drunk our fill, let me introduce you to the longest running Purim-Spiel in Anglo-Jewish history.
If features two bright eyed and bushy-tailed holocaust survivors, Ruth and Dorit, aged 85-86, who shortly before Purim sent a video and open letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, asking to meet him to request he support the Genocide Amendment to the Trade Bill.
This seeks to deter genocide by preventing the UK continuing or striking preferential trade deals with countries currently committing genocide, if a committee of judicial peers, make a preliminary determination of Genocide, after proper legal analysis of the evidence. Although the amendment is aimed currently at China for its treatment of the Uyghur Muslims, which has caused outrage in the worldwide Jewish community, it can also help others like Rohingyas, Dafuris or Armenians.
A petition supporting them on Change.org rapidly received 50,000 signatures, but when the ladies rang up Downing Street, they were told they would “have a response in 5-6 weeks”. Not only would the vote on the amendment be over, but as someone said, “could be dead by then!”
It is apposite that the letter and video went out just before Purim, the festival commemorating the Jewish people’s rescue by Queen Esther from an attempted Genocide by Persia, for what the ladies said in that letter was “Trade is not worth the price of a people.”
Haman, the Persian Grand Vizier, and architect of the Genocide, actually came up with a price to liquidate us. He was prepared to pay 10,000 talents of silver to the Persian Emperor for backing his plan (Esther 3.9). This is £14BN in today’s prices. How much money would Boris Johnson be prepared to gain from increased trade with China to overlook the Uyghur Genocide? His Minister of International Trade stated in Prime Minister’s Questions (21st January) that “China is a major trading partner and….I intend to pursue bilateral trade deals.” In 2019, the UK’s exports to China were worth £30BN. I suppose a 50% increase would be respectable, generating a tad more than £14 BN. Evidently our PM, agrees with Haman, later hanged as a war criminal (Maharsha to Esther 7.10), that the value of a people is around 10,000 talents of silver!
There are other similarities in this story. Haman hated the Jews because they saw life differently (Esther 3.8), holding God’s authority above that of the state, as shown by Mordechai’s refusal to bow to Haman (Esther 3.2). It is the same for the Uyghur Muslims, who see life differently to the Chinese Communist Party. God comes first.
Haman issued four commands regarding the Jews, “destroy, kill, exterminate and plunder (Esther 3.13)”. The Chinese Communist Party have issued four commands regarding Uyghurs, “break their lineage, break their roots, break their connections and break their origins.”
Fortunately, Haman spent his money in vain. The situation back in the UK is less clear cut. The Government is contriving to prevent a vote, knowing they face a large rebellion in the Commons. Dorit and Ruth have still no word from the Prime Minister, despite the petition, and an additional email campaign urging him to meet, making this the longest running Purim Spiel in Anglo Jewish history. Well, let us hope that MPs with more moral backbone, frustrate the PM. If not, the government risks being on the wrong side of the public in an increasingly popular cause and losing a chance to use our vaunted “post Brexit sovereignty” to lead the world in a judicial decision on genocide and resetting the world’s relationship with China in an alliance of democratic nations.
Eliezer Berkovitz, Modern Orthodox Theologian, wrote in Faith After the Holocaust”, in the weeks before the six-day war, poised between one recent and one impending holocaust, “God does not intervene in history to right wrongs and prevent injustices.” He believed history was the arena for human responsibility, with nations’ fates the result of the interplay of power and economics.” As the late Chief Rabbi Sacks famously said, “Ask not where God was during the Holocaust, but where was Man?” In this case, the question will be “Where was Boris?”
It will take a global effort to halt the Uyghur Genocide but we Jews hope that one day the Uyghurs will celebrate the end of their Genocide as we do, eating triangular pastries stuffed with poppy seeds, representing the ears of the main persecutor, in our case Haman, in theirs, Xi Jinping. In Yiddish, we call these delicacies Hamantaschen. Pingtaschen has a certain ring to it!
From my mouth to God’s ears!