Members of the Jewish community hold a protest against Corbyn in 2018. Photo: TOLGA AKMEN/AFP via Getty Images

November 19, 2020   4 mins

Now Labour has its civil war, where does that leave Labour Jews? The Corbyn-supporting Jews — Jewish Voice for Labour (JVL) and Jewdas — live in their crippling delusion that Corbyn is, really, an accident-prone advocate for Jews; see here, in a Skwawkbox crib sheet, 50 things Jeremy Corbyn did for Jews; see, here, he praised the Jews of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising; see, here, he condemned the desecration of a Jewish graveyard.

Dead Jews don’t complain and are easy to assemble in support; a true anti-racist, though, will fight racism when its victims are his political enemies. He ignored Luciana Berger’s plea to ask his social media followers to stop attacking her and Ruth Smeeth with racist and misogynistic tropes. That would have been meaningful. Ignore Jews who tell you that the Jewish community is more pro-Corbyn than the media will tell you: it isn’t.

I would like JVL to release its membership statistics, so it can stop pretending to speak for more than a clutch of Jewish people. They have demonised the mainstream Jewish community and they have helped Corbyn supporters chase all but one female Jewish MP from the party. (For now, Margaret Hodge remains, but Corbyn supporters desire her to leave. Read Twitter for the manner in which they ask her. She is entirely dehumanised, and they should know better what that is, and what it means, and where it ends).

If these groups believe, as they say they so, that Zionism is murderous, why do they not act to protect non-murderous Diaspora Jewry, rather than incite hatred towards it? They have no answer. They have, at best – and this is a generous analysis — been used.

But I am, in one sense, in sympathy with them: I am willing, if not happy, to stay in a Labour Party that also contains Jeremy Corbyn. I rejoined the day he was suspended, and I will stay, at least for now. I believe Corbyn to be a Jew-hater for everything he has done to imperil British Jews: that he is not conscious of it is hardly my affair.

I should thank him. These last years have been an education for British Jews. That which was once theoretical — it is true there was a lull in anti-Semitism post-War, and that was the true aberration — has bloomed again. We have returned to the Status Quo. There is no Jew-hate without Jewry and, you might cynically argue, the opposite is likewise true. Why does the only surviving tribe of the ancient world endure? Part of the answer is in Exodus 32.9, and I write that even though I have no faith: “The Lord said to Moses, ‘I have seen this people, how stiff-necked they are.’”

If you believe that a small minority in Labour, in the world, are fanatical Jew-haters — and I do, and many of them were attracted to Corbyn’s Labour — you need not be too fearful for Jewish life. The Longest Hatred is old news, after all; we should accept it. We should not ask what we desire but what can we live with? It is not the perpetrators who make the pogrom. It is the would-be bystanders who hold the balance; by their actions shall Jews be judged imperilled or secure.

Jew-hatred is many things, but it is, most prosaically, a pressure valve: when society fractures — or believes itself to be fractured — it thrives. Perhaps that is why it found a home in Corbyn’s Labour, for they believe their world is entirely broken. That the ancient Christian Jew-hatred has metastasised into modern socialist Jew-hatred (they are reliably irreligious) is one of the only things in the last half decade that has made me, reliably, laugh; aren’t they supposed to be progressives?

But what if this worldview jumped out of fragments of news, and their own neurosis and rage, and into life: what if the country was entirely broken? What if a series of corrupt, incompetent, nativist Conservative governments, succoured by a warring Labour Party, destabilised the country without end? Would British Jews be safer then — really?  The Weimar Republic fell during economic crisis when the Left was split; we should remember that always.

Conservatives have celebrated this week, happy that Corbyn’s suspension is over-turned, happier that Keir Starmer, in response, has denied him the whip. They congratulate themselves on their anti-racist credentials, even as the Muslim Council of Great Britain has asked the EHRC for an enquiry into Conservative Islamophobia, which is just and is, so far, denied. Even so, they write thorny rebukes on Twitter. They shouldn’t: their Judeophilia is grisly and opportunistic, even if it soothes some Jews. It is also worthless; whatever they offer, it will not last. Racisms rise together. The Left and Right, when engaged in Jew-hatred, will meet each other there in solidarity.

A Jew-hater is no longer leader of the Labour Party. He may be a member still, thanks to an Corbyn-leaning NEC panel who expeditated his case before new processes could be established, but he is denied the whip. He is shrunken.

Starmer has pledged to eradicate Jew-haters from the party, which I think is unlikely, but they might be silenced if outnumbered and that is good enough. His first act as leader was an apology, which I think was heartfelt; he asked to be judged on this. It is early days still. Only Twitter rushes to judgment, because it can’t help it. The Jew-hating rhetoric on Twitter is fierce, but I would be amazed if Labour voters felt the same way.

Judaism is about acts; Christianity is about faith. Yet it is Jews who need faith now: in Starmer’s Labour. I understand as well as any Jew the trauma the last five years has brought: something in memory reborn before us. Even so, Jews who left under Corbyn should return; each one is a defeat for the Jew-hating elements. Britain is a still-functioning democracy. A social democratic Labour Party is something worth saving: if it isn’t, what is?

Tanya Gold is a freelance journalist.