Jeremy Corbyn the Zionist
Yes, I really do think that Jeremy Corbyn qualifies as a Zionist! By now, I think that everyone is aware of the situation in the UK, where the Labour party under Corbyn has a serious problem with antisemitism. No Jew, however removed from his or her Jewish identity, feels comfortable with the antagonistic and abusive atmosphere that pervades the Labour party hierarchy, even when the Jews concerned are either not supporting Israel or critical of its policies.
It is true that the disease of antisemitism is deeply imbedded in British society, despite there being a counter-strain of philo-Semitism. For proof, just read Anthony Julius’s great and comprehensive book Trials of the Diaspora: A History of Anti-Semitism in England. The pathology has equally affected the right and the left in the UK over many years. As we know, much of the aristocracy was favorably inclined towards Hitler and the fascist party led by Oswald Mosley, who with his blackshirts led marches into the heavily Jewish East End of London.
The Labour party used to be the natural home of Jews, very much like the Democratic party in the US. In my youth, there were more Jews in the Labour party than in all the others combined. Sure, Ernest Bevin, the foreign minister in the post-war Attlee government, was viscerally antisemitic. But the charismatic duo of Aneurin Bevan and Jennie Lee more than compensated with their passionate support. Hugh Gaitskell, the party leader, was pro-Israel and married to a Jew, and Harold Wilson was a great supporter of Jewish causes.
In Europe, the socialist parties were enthusiastically pro-Israel. The kibbutzim were idealized socialist havens. That began to change after the Six Day War, when Israel was no longer regarded as a struggling, endangered state at risk, surrounded by enemies, but rather as a militarily successful aggressor. This, combined with the economic need for oil and the massively larger Muslim markets and bloc vote, led to the alienation of most of the European socialist world from Israel.
This mood of antagonism led to the left supporting the most dishonest and prejudiced resolution at the UN ever, calling Zionism racism, on November 10, 1975. Even in the UN there were enough who realized what a pathetic travesty this was and the resolution was overturned in 1991.
The success of Jeremy Corbyn’s extreme left-wing takeover of the Labour party has brought all the subcutaneous cancerous hatred out into the open. Anyone who supports Israel, even with plenty of qualification, is a fascist, imperialist, and racist aggressor.
On June 1, 2017, the European Union, much to everyone’s surprise, adopted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA)’s working definition of antisemitism. The definition includes examples such as Holocaust-denial and attempts to apply a double-standard to the State of Israel.
The Labour party has refused to accept any part of the IHRA’s definition that refers to Israel. In other words, one can say what one likes, true or not, and not be accused of being offensive to Jews. Can you imagine if that same position was taken towards Muslims?
Anglo-Jewry has woken from its stupor. A 1,000-strong protest outside Parliament in March, led by disaffected Jewish members of the Labour party, resulted in an internal report that almost everyone else agreed was a whitewash. Labour retorted by claiming that a series of expulsions and new rules would demonstrate that Labour, at last, was taking the problem seriously. Instead, its attempt to cover up its anti-Zionism has resulted in Britain’s three main Jewish newspapers giving an unprecedented warning that a Labour government under Jeremy Corbyn would be an “existential threat to Jewish life in this country.”
“A lot of Jewish people are genuinely scared of the Labour party,” says one Jewish member, “and it feels like the leadership doesn’t understand that.”
This has led the Jewish community to completely lose confidence in Labour, and more and more Jews are seeking escape routes. The numbers making aliyah to Israel are growing exponentially and many Jews who never thought much about being Jewish are now coming back into the fold.
This is why I say that Corbyn is a Zionist. He has done more to bring about support for Israel than anyone else. He has generated a change in a lukewarm attitude on the part of most Anglo-Jews. He has inspired more Jews since the Six Day War to go to Israel, to support Israel, and to fight back. He has done more than anyone else to prove why — in a post-modern, supposedly post-nationalist world — the Jews have a right and an ongoing need for a land of their own.
Who knows where it will end. In the meantime, as someone brought up in a Labour family and who always voted Labour in the past, I never, ever thought I would say this, but thank goodness for the Conservative party.
Rabbi Jeremy Rosen has worked in the rabbinate, Jewish education, and academia for more than 40 years in Europe and the US. He currently lives in the USA, where he writes, teaches, lectures, and serves as rabbi of a small community in New York.