When Thomas Mair was found with numerous films, books and artefacts about the Third Reich in his home, I doubt anyone was surprised. Jo Cox’s murderer’s conviction this week was a reminder of a country where a campaign about sovereignty and internationalism was not only soundbites and big red buses; it was violent and frightening. Mair’s conviction speaks to an undeniable element of white nationalism pervading our national conversation, which at best, is Nigel Farage swanning around with a pint in one hand, and at worst meant the death of a female Labour MP, a partner and a mum.
In a year where Labour’s record on anti-Semitism has dominated the worries of British Jewry, the concerns about the growing white nationalist sentiment seems to have fallen to the wayside. MP Luciana Berger said in a recent talk for World Jewish Relief that despite the significant discontent over Corbyn amongst the community, the worst anti-Semitic abuse she received always came from the far right.
It’s certainly true that the Left has been a bit crap for Jews this year. There have been a number of times where the state of British politics has made me feel like I had to choose between being Jewish and being on the Left; or being female and being on the Left. At a Momentum branch meeting in South London earlier this year, I sat through a member giving an impassioned floor speech about her growing fear of a ‘Rothschild Banking State’ taking over the world (whilst myself and my Jewish neighbour had an intense discussion about whether she meant America or Israel – it was hard to tell). Not to mention the disappointment and alienation Jewish students felt at the election of Malia Bouattia as NUS President.
The most despairing part of the unease being created by the hard left and right in this country, is the way it cuts into our identity in order to make us feel different and unwanted. That it doesn’t matter how many generations we have lived here, or what we give back to our wider community, we still do not quite belong. Often that difference is highlighted through age old stereotypes and narratives that are almost reinforced when we attempt to challenge them. A coordinated response by Jewish communal leadership organisations? Does that not sound like a conspiracy to you? It goes on.
But it is also important to acknowledge that there is a growing conscience of Labour MPs, and supporters who deeply care about ensuring that left wing and Labour spaces remain welcoming and inclusive to Jews and all minorities. It is important to stay in the fight, not only because we cannot let ourselves be pushed out due to the ignorance and prejudice of those who seek to blame us for the world’s problems, or for the actions of the Israeli government. Whether you agree with the sentiment or not, Tom Watson’s rendition of Am Yisrael Chai this week certainly speaks to this.
This isn’t a feeling that is unique to Jews. Minority communities across the country experience this kind of alienation on a daily basis. The world is on the brink of something new and uncertain; it is essential we push back against the hostility and unpleasant sentiment that seems to have overtaken our political systems. Remaining part of organisations and institutions that put themselves at the forefront of fighting for equality, tolerance and diversity is now part of that responsibility.