Howard Epstein



After a week in which the 2017 UK Labour Party Conference looked more and more like a series of Nuremberg rallies, with leader Jeremy Corbyn playing the part of Der Führer, that impression was confirmed: at the end of the centrepiece Corbyn speech to the assembly, this is what got the most enthusiastic response: “Let’s give real support to end the oppression of the Palestinian people … [up to 5,000 people on their feet – loud cheers – high handclaps] … the 50 year occupation and illegal settlement expansion, and move to a genuine two-state solution to the Israel/Palestine conflict.” at 1 hour 5 minutes. [continuing vociferous exaltation]

Note that this was after a week of fringe meetings that were openly hostile to Israel – but expressly not anti-Semitic! For example, Free Speech on Israel called the Middle East’s only democracy a racist, Nazi, apartheid and colonialist state, and went on to ask that conference debate whether there really had been a Holocaust. Loud cheers resulted.

In the meantime, the Tory government is no longer merely referred to as being led by a Prime Minister who is a dead (wo)man walking. The whole shebang is seen as being trapped in a zombie apocalypse. Few doubt that, if the government were to fall, Labour would stroll into power. There may be no time to appoint a populist successor to Theresa May, such as Boris (Brexit-Damaged-Goods) Johnson, dark horse Ruth Davidson, or any other contender.  The UK would then be transfixed by an approaching Venezuelan catastrophe. Don’t just take my word for it. The Labour Party Conference was told by its avowedly Trotskyite shadow chancellor (finance minister), John McDonnell, that the promotion to power of Labour would mean a run on the pound. Given that Labour will want all the liquidity they can preserve, in order to renationalise everything that moves: water, electricity, the railways and so on, it does not take the most brilliant pundit to conclude that they would immediately introduce controls on the movement of capital.

What future then for the British Jewish community? Kashrut, under attack for years as being cruel – as if pre-killing stunning (the Christian way ) has been proved not to hurt condemned cattle – may be left untouched, given a Muslim population that requires something very similar for Halal requirements to be satisfied; but brit milah, on the eighth day after the birth of a Jewish boy? That – referred to as “male genital mutilation” by many on the Left – would be at serious risk of abolition and criminalization under a Corbyn-led government. Again, the Muslims might save the day, and the Jewish way of life, but you can certainly expect to see Hamas and Hezbollah representative offices in Mayfair or Belgravia within weeks after the handover of power to Corbyn. The prime minister himself would cut the red ribbon at the inaugural ceremonies. Feeling uncomfortable? There could be worse to come.

From New York to Berlin there have been reports of Jewish school-children being abused by their Muslim class mates. How long will it take for their British counterparts to be emboldened to emulate them, by a Labour government that is openly hostile to Israel (whilst being self-declared as non anti-Semitic, of course).

There is no need to fear the establishment of concentration camps in the UK, much less extermination camps, but the general atmosphere will be less decorous than has traditionally been the case. Three years ago this Yom Kippur, British Jews were relieved to find that they could walk safely to shul and back. A few short months earlier they did not expect to be able to do so: street demonstrations, against Israel’s incursion into Gaza in response to thousands of rockets being fired indiscriminately into Israel, made the ground tremble under the feet of Anglo-Jewry. Fifteen hundred dead in Gaza led to protests by 150,000 concerned Brits. (Jeremy Corbyn himself was in the vanguard of the protests.) By the same token, 465,000 dead in Syria should have brought 46.5 million protesters out onto the streets of British cities. So far there has been no sighting of any: not a single, solitary protester. But next time Israeli guns bark, so will the British bulldog – at Jews. And a Corbyn government will blame Tory funding cuts for the failure to find sufficient police to provide the continuation of the protection so far afforded to the Jewish communities of Britain. The slope will become ever more slippery.

So up sticks and go? To where? Australia is as tempting a destination as the moon, given the distance: there is no popping back from there three or four times a year. Canada and the USA really want only Third World entrants: the British have to put their names in a hat (the annual ballot, see to gain entry to America.

Of course, the door is always open in Israel but, with an exchange rate half what it traditionally was, it is no longer the obvious choice financially. And even if one family unit thinks it could start over in Israel, what about the parents and the siblings and their families? Are they all going to sell up their homes and businesses and undertake Aliyah? Well, if you have been concentrating – and perceptive – you will already have realised that house prices will tumble as soon as Labour takes power and, even if a buyer could be found and accommodated at his price (not the seller’s), the money would be trapped in a British bank.

So what to do? For the bulk of Anglo-Jewry, in any event, it will be better (or unavoidable) to await the collapse of the UK economy and the return of the Conservatives. The process could take a few years but surely the danger will blow over given time? That was exactly the hope of Germany’s Jews – the ones who were not Nobel prize-winning scientists or fabulously wealthy and light on their feet in the early 1930s. After 1938 and the Anschlüss it was too late. Of course, there was no Israel then….

As for Israel, even without any significant Aliyah, given its strong population growth, there will be 9 million citizens next year, 10 million by 2024, 11 million by 2030 and 12 million by 2035. Better start building those super-cities in the Negev about which I wrote earlier this year. About one every five years, starting now, should do it. Pity is there is no sign or sound of any Israeli politician advocating this.

As for the American Jews, what they see in Britain today, they can expect too, when the pendulum swings away from the Right. Already admitting you are Jewish in an American college is to invite opprobrium and worse from the Left, which is just as unnerving as the British variety.

Of course, all that is looking on the bright side. It assumes that the world is spared some thermo-nuclear event, facilitated by either Clinton’s mismanagement of North Korea or Obama’s similar achievement with Iran. One atom bomb anywhere, much less a hydrogen bomb such as Kim Jong Un tested, apparently successfully, last month, and its curtains for globalization. At that point it will be open season on the Jews of the diaspora, and a pounding for Israel’s miraculous export-led economy in a world that will be able to afford merely to subsist.

Do I see the glass as half empty as opposed to half full, or is there just a great wide fissure running through it? As Leonard Cohen wrote:-

Ring the bells that still can ring

Forget your perfect offering

There is a crack, a crack in everything

That’s how the light gets in That’s how the light gets in That’s how the light gets in

Shana Tova to all.

© 2017 Howard Epstein

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