Enough really is enough.
Although we enjoy the anonymity, it is a fairly open secret that nearly all of us in Jewdas are synagogue-going Jews, most with either paid or voluntary positions within our communities. With members across the country, for the last thirteen years we have been the only place many people could come to be both left-wing and religiously Jewish.
That is not because nowhere else was interested. That is because, across the Jewish community, synagogues had made the decision to actively push out everyone on the far left. Philanthropists tried to assimilate radical Jews into their structures, and, in the cases where they failed, declared that the people who refused to conform were beyond the pale. Critics of Israel were shunned by their friends and families. A narrow Conservative clique took over our major communal bodies, newspapers and schools. (If you think they don’t all know each other, check the guest list for the President’s Club event where women were sexually harassed and assaulted.)
Most of the remaining left-wing Jews either disappeared into nothingness or found each other in niche Trotskyist factions or single-issue campaigns. Groups like Jews for Justice for Palestinians, Free Speech on Israel and Jewish Voice for Labour are, whatever you think of them, the remnant of radical Jews who have been forced out of their own communities.
In 2005, a small group made the decision that, this generation, we would not be forced out. Despite our deeply held beliefs in opposing capitalism and nationalism, we wanted to remain loyal to our own community. We wanted to stay members of synagogues and be part of our communities, full of all the complications and contradictions that would involve. We wanted to be able to persuade people of our opinions and, where we couldn’t, we would accept the joy of being in diverse spaces. Most of all, we wanted to be able to laugh at ourselves, each other and the Anglo-Jewish establishment. We wanted to have fun. And we tried.
But now enough is enough.
Over the last decade, because of our position straddling the left and the Jewish community, Jewdas has been the only radical faction that took antisemitism seriously. When we joined pro-Palestine marches (which we did, proudly), we brought with us leaflets explaining how to criticise Israel without being antisemitic. We called out offensive placards and engaged in constructive conversations with people who held them.
When the entirety of the left engaged in circle-jerks about free speech after the Hyperkasher killings in Paris, we were the only group on the left to denounce those acts of terrorism as attacks on Jews.
When neo-Nazis marched through Stamford Hill, we were the only group to go out and protest them. When the same group marched on Parliament, we managed to convince the Campaign Against Antisemitism (though not the Board of Deputies) to join us.
We lost plenty of friends when we were the one of the only left factions to call for Ken Livingstone’s expulsion.
But now enough is enough.
What has happened over the last week is anything but an attempt to address antisemitism. It is the work of cynical manipulations by people whose express loyalty is to the Conservative Party and the right wing of the Labour Party. It is a malicious ploy to remove the leader of the Opposition and put a stop to the possibility of a socialist government. The Board of Deputies, the (disgraced for corruption) Jewish Leadership Council and the (unelected, undemocratic) Jewish Labour Movement are playing a dangerous game with people’s lives.
What triggered this was an antisemitic mural. There is no question that the mural was antisemitic. Michael Segalov can give you the rundown of why it was. Six years ago, that mural got taken down. At the time, Jeremy Corbyn consoled the artist who drew it. Inconsiderate? Definitely. Dodgy? Yeah. Racist? Maybe.
But is it a communal crisis that the leader of the Labour Party posted an unthinking comment on a Facebook post six years ago? Only if you’re a hired troll whose job it is to dig up dirt on left-wing politicians to force them out of office. Only if you’re an outgoing president of the Board of Deputies with a special place in your heart for Trump, Bibi and May. Only if you’re a disgraced wannabe-politician that is being investigated for financial corruption and you need a distraction. Only if, ultimately, your goals have nothing to do with combatting antisemitism and everything to do with ousting the first successful socialist in a lifetime.
Certainly, there are some useful idiots who are willing to go along with this charade. Centrist dads who’ve been complaining that nobody represents whiny middle-aged small business owners anymore probably sincerely believe that Monday’s amateur dramatics were akin to storming the Bastille. There are no doubt some people who have joined in with these protests out of a wildly misplaced loyalty to the Jewish community, despite knowing that they are being treated as pawns. But the engine behind this bout of faux-outrage is greased with hypocrisy and opportunism.
Enough is enough.
This is not about dealing with antisemitism. Jonty Liebowitz has rightly complained in the Times of Israel that the Jewish communal leadership and the leader of the Labour Party are now in open opposition to each other for the first time in history. That is true. But it is a result of conscious decisions that the Jewish communal leadership have made.
When David Cameron decided to withdraw from Merkel’s centrist grouping in the European Union to team up with Holocaust deniers, white supremacists and unreconstructed fascists, our communal leadership decided that they could work with him. Whatever his faults, they’d influence him. This was not a communal crisis.
When Donald Trump declared to a room full of Jews that they wouldn’t like him because they couldn’t buy him, and hired Steve Bannon as his Chief Strategist, Jonathan Arkush tweeted his warm congratulations. He nearly fell out of his seat celebrating when the same President risked World War Three by declaring Jerusalem the eternal capital of Israel. This was not a problem for the Jews.
But decades ago our communal leadership decided that any criticism of Israel was beyond the pale. People could flirt with Nazis and threaten our communal life all they wanted, as long as they stood up for Israel. Far right evangelical Christians were our friends, while Jewish public figures like Gerald Kauffman, Hugo Gryn and Avi Shlaim were denounced as antisemites. As far as they were concerned, Corbyn was already beyond the pale before he started. They would not have needed any evidence to attack him. The evidence was already there in the fact that he championed the cause of the Palestinians.
But they did find evidence. He has met with people who are anti-Semites. He used ill-advised language. Somebody close to his dog-walker once said something problematic. They reached through every last bit of his history and uncovered what they could. Some of it was compelling. Some of it less so. All of it was treated as if it was a new edition of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.
Now, in the build-up to local elections where Labour were expected to make significant gains, they have turned rumours and half-truths into a narrative that pretends that another Holocaust is round the corner in Britain. Unfortunately, some fools even believe them.
Enough is enough.
This is not even just about Israel.
This is about people of a certain age, class and political persuasion who have no idea how to function in a system where every political party isn’t pandering to their views exactly. It is about the threat that the possibility of nationalisation, rent caps and redistribution of wealth poses to the people whose ‘philanthropy’ funds our community. We have allowed our community to be dominated by middle- and upper- class people who are actively opposed to our material interests for way too long.
Enough is more than fucking enough.
The next steps from here are usually predictable. A non-Jew like Wes Streeting, Luke Akehurst or Stephen Pollard will appear on TV and claim to be the sole representative of the Jewish community, who they will say will settle for nothing less than the sacking of the entire shadow cabinet to be replaced by their friends. They will be contested. A cranky Jew will sit on the other side of the news table assuring everybody that there is no such thing as antisemitism and that the Holodomor Famine never happened.
Then our communal leaders will rally together and tell all the Jews who disagree to shut up. And denounce all the Jews who continue to disagree as traitors. And proclaim all the Jews who still disagree are not really Jews. That only the Jews who agree with them are Jews. And, because only the Jews who agree with them are really Jews, the whole community is unanimously united behind the vomit-inducing ‘progressive Zionist consensus.’ Already now, the Jewish Chronicle is flipping its lid that a politician has acknowledged the existence of a Jewish group that isn’t on their list of ‘correctly Jewish’ organisations.
The Labour leadership will recover from this mess, but this fiasco may well leave scars that cannot be healed within the Jewish community. We refuse to follow the script that has been prepared for us. Enough is enough. We are not going anywhere. We are not going to accept this second-rate leadership. We are not going to be treated as idiot pawns in politicians’ turf wars.
We are not going to shut up. Not this time.
Enough is enough. Fuck you all. Chag Pesach sameach.