“Why the Democrats don’t have to go the way of Labour” (& Italian Holocaust survivor Liliana Segre under guard amid death threats)

November 07, 2019

 

DIRE WARNINGS

[Notes by Tom Gross]

Pictured above, tomorrow’s front page of the Jewish Chronicle, Britain’s oldest Jewish newspaper, which has been published every week since 1841. The paper does not normally take a political stance in elections.

Even if these fears are exaggerated, the situation is still dire, and Corbyn has done next to nothing to dilute them following decades of cozying up to Holocaust deniers, antisemites and terrorists. Furthermore some of those close to Corbyn such as his senior advisor Seamus Milne, whom I criticized on many occasions in this dispatch list while he was the opinion editor of the Guardian, have a track record of hatred towards Israel that goes far beyond reasonable criticism.

 

WHY AMERICANS SHOULD BE PAYING ATTENTION TO THE UK ELECTION

Below, I attach two articles in connection with next month’s “snap” British general election, from Haaretz and from the American news agency JNS which explains what is at stake in the British election for Americans.

First, a story from Sky News today. Ian Austin is a subscriber to this email list and a friend of mine. He becomes the latest MP on the moderate (Tony Blair / Gordon Brown) wing of the Labour Party to say that a Corbyn government would pose a threat to the UK (and I would add to some extent, given his world view, potentially a threat to the stability of the West).

Last night, Tom Watson the deputy leader of the Labour Party and until yesterday the most senior moderate remaining in the party, announced he was resigning from Labour and stepping down as an MP.

“A DISGRACE TO THIS COUNTRY”

Ian Austin, who worked a special adviser for Gordon Brown and in Downing Street, said that Corbyn was an “extremist” who is “completely unfit” to be prime minister and told The Times that he would be voting for the Conservatives on election day.

“Voting for anybody other than Boris Johnson risks Corbyn getting into No 10 and I think that would be a disaster for Britain,” he said.

After he made his comments he was joined by John Woodcock, 41, another Labour MP-turned-independent who called Corbyn a “disgrace to his party” and “a disgrace to this country”.

The pair were joined by Tom Harris, 55, the Labour MP for Glasgow South from 2001 to 2015 and a minister under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, who told Sky News: “Even if it’s a minority Labour government I would be extremely unhappy. Like Ian I would be far happier with Boris Johnson.”

 

ITALIAN HOLOCAUST SURVIVOR LILIANA SEGRE UNDER GUARD AMID DEATH THREATS

The BBC, which for a long time under reported anti-Semitism, reports today that Italian Holocaust survivor Liliana Segre, who is aged 89, has been placed under police guard amid a spate of death threats.

Liliana Segre, who was deported to Auschwitz from Milan when she was 13, is currently receiving about 200 antisemitic hate messages and threats each day.

They come after Segre, who was last year appointed to the Italian senate by President Sergio Mattarella, called for parliament to establish a committee to combat hate.

Her father and grandparents were killed in the Auschwitz death camp, but she survived.

 

“I JOINED THE LABOUR TO FIGHT RACISM AND I CAN’T BELIEVE I HAD TO LEAVE IT TO FIGHT RACISM TOO”

General election: Ex-Labour minister urges voters to support Conservatives as Jeremy Corbyn is “unfit” to lead the country.
Sky News
November 7, 2019

Extracts:

“I regard myself as proper, decent, traditional Labour, but I think Jeremy Corbyn is completely unfit to lead our country. He and people like John McDonnell have spent decades working with and supporting all sorts of extremists, and in some cases terrorists.

“I do not believe Jeremy Corbyn loves this country. He and the people around him always seem to back our country’s enemies - whether that’s the IRA when they were murdering people in shopping centers, hotels and pubs, terrorist groups like Hamas and Hezbollah or even parroting Putin’s propaganda when he tried to murder people here in Britain.

“Finally, I think their economic plans would put businesses, investment and jobs at risk and it is impossible to take their Brexit policy seriously.”

“This has been a very difficult decision to take. There are good people and lifelong friends of mine in the Labour Party, but the truth is that only two people can be prime minister on December 13th: Jeremy Corbyn or Boris Johnson.” …

[And on anti-Semitism]: “My dad was a Jewish refugee from the Holocaust. My aunts and grandmother were murdered by the Nazis.

“I was brought up always to stand up to racism and prejudice. I have done that all my life and I could not stand by as the Labour Party has been poisoned by racism, extremism and intolerance under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership.

“I joined the Labour to fight racism and I can’t believe I had to leave it to fight racism too.”

 

“WHY THE DEMOCRATS DON’T HAVE TO GO THE WAY OF LABOUR”

Why the Democrats don’t have to go the way of Labour
The British party’s drift towards anti-Semitism wasn’t inevitable; it was the result of a centrist collapse. While their situation is different, Democrats could face a similar situation.
By Jonathan Tobin
JNS
November 6, 2019

The upcoming general election being held in Britain on Dec. 12 isn’t getting much coverage in the United States. Americans generally don’t pay much attention to foreign policy, and the principal issue this year in the United Kingdom – Brexit – is something few Americans really understand.

But Americans ought to be paying attention to the outcome of the British vote because the transformation of the Labour Party in recent years illustrates what happens when a major political party in a democracy gets hijacked by extremists.

The December vote opens up the very real possibility that Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn could become Britain’s next prime minister. Corbyn is a radical leftist who has sympathized with anti-Israel terrorist groups like Hamas and Hezbollah, and is openly hostile to Israel and Zionism. Under his leadership, anti-Semitism has found a home in Labour as his followers’ disdain for Israel and Jews has led Britain’s Jews, who were once as pro-Labour as American Jews are pro-Democrat, to view the possibility of a new such government as a direct threat to the future of their community.

How did Labour end up in the hands of someone like Corbyn?

The party traces its history back to 19th-century socialists. It in its early days, it may have had more in common with revolutionary movements like communism than with Britain’s established Conservative and Liberal parties. But in the aftermath of World War I, Labour supplanted the Liberals and has alternated in power with the Conservatives since the 1920s. Its platform in that era was radical, though as it became one of the natural parties of government in the postwar era, it dropped its revolutionary tone. Its leaders seemed to have a lot in common with American Democrats.

Labour took a turn to the hard left in the 1980s while the Conservatives’ Margaret Thatcher dominated British politics. It then returned to power under the leadership of Prime Minister Tony Blair in 1997. Blair helped rebrand Labour as a moderate party that was sympathetic to the interests of business and the middle class. That version of Labour closely resembled – and was to some extent modeled – on the way President Bill Clinton was able to steer the Democrats to the center in the 1990s.

Nevertheless, Blair’s political magic evaporated with his support for the war in Iraq starting in 2003. And when Labour eventually lost power in 2010, his supporters were supplanted by more left-wing figures. That came to a head in 2015 when Corbyn, who had long been regarded as a marginal figure, surprisingly won the leadership of the party. The party’s leftist grass roots and labor-union base loved him, even if most Labour members of Parliament did not. Within a few short years, Blair’s Labour vanished.

This transformation led to the marginalization of Jews in Labour. It wasn’t just that the party’s leaders and its leading activists embraced anti-Zionist rhetoric. Their detestation for Israel was expressed in ways that made it indistinguishable from classic anti-Semitism sending a signal that anything goes with respect to bashing Jews. While Corbyn and the party pay lip service to the problem, hate for Israel and its Jewish supporters is now so deeply ingrained in the culture of the British hard left that it’s clear there isn’t room for Jews in Labour’s ranks.

It’s little wonder that British Jews regard the possibility that Corbyn might win next month as a potential disaster. Though the polls show Corbyn trailing Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservatives, if the British right splits its vote between his Tories and the hard-right Brexit Party, then it’s not out of the question that Corbyn will be the one tapped by Queen Elizabeth to lead the country.

Do Americans need to worry about the possibility that the Democratic Party could undergo a similar transformation?

There are vast differences between the Democrats and Labour in terms of their history and ideology. Still, the Democrats’ turn to the left in recent years is undeniable. Bernie Sanders was once as marginal a player in American politics, as Corbyn was during his 32 years as a Labour back-bencher, but he now has a not-insignificant chance to win his party’s presidential nomination in 2020.

Elizabeth Warren’s plans for the country are every bit as radical as those of the Vermont septuagenarian. And both have called for conditioning aid to Israel as part of a policy of pressuring it to make concessions that its citizens have rejected.

This is also a party that widely regards people like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) as a rock star who represents the face of the future. The same is true of fellow “Squad” members Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), who are open supporters of the BDS movement and guilty of repeated instances of anti-Semitic and anti-Israel rhetoric.

Many, if not most, Democrats – in Congress and out of it – still support Israel, and don’t think much of AOC and her pals or the radical plans of Sanders and Warren. But these radicals are popular among the party’s left-wing activist base.

Only a few short years ago, Labour was a moderate party that Jews saw as their natural home. All it took was one leadership election and the unleashing of extremists to change that.

Someone like Corbyn might be alien to American sensibilities. But it is not out of the question that a victory of the left in the Democratic primary race could produce a result that – while not identical to the debacle in Britain – would still leave one of our major parties in the hands of its left-wing with unknowable consequences. And with the hopes of centrist Democrats resting on the declining candidacy of former Vice President Joe Biden, such an outcome is by no means inconceivable.

Corbyn’s rise is a warning to Jewish Democrats that what happened in Britain can happen here. It’s up to them to work to find alternatives that will ensure that their party doesn’t fall into the hands of radicals who could marginalize pro-Israel Jews who still remain loyal Democrats.

 

ANTI-SEMITISM IN CORBYN’S LABOUR FORCES U.K. JEWS TO FOREFRONT OF GENERAL ELECTION

Anti-Semitism in Corbyn’s Labour Forces U.K. Jews to Forefront of General Election
By Anshel Pfeffer
Haaretz
November 6, 2019

Britain’s relatively small Jewish community won’t have much of an impact on the general election next month; at most there are perhaps half a dozen seats in north London and Manchester where the number of Jewish voters could prove decisive. To win these seats, if the latest polls are to be trusted, the Labour Party led by Jeremy Corbyn will struggle because only 6 percent of British Jews plan to vote Labour, according to polling company Survation.

But the Jewish question, or more specifically the issue of anti-Semitism associated with Corbyn’s Labour, could have a much wider implication for the election. A key element in the campaign strategy of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party is to encourage a split among voters who support remaining in the European Union and who in the last election in 2017 voted overwhelmingly for Labour.

The Conservatives, who are trying to monopolize the “leave” vote, know there is no chance that these remainers will come over to them. But a mass defection from Labour, which under Corbyn has been incoherent over the future of Brexit, to the strenuously pro-remain Liberal Democrats could push Labour down to second place in many constituencies and help the Conservatives win enough seats to gain a majority in the new parliament.

For many pro-remain voters, Corbyn’s history of left-wing euroskepticism and his insistence on running the campaign on issues other than Brexit will be enough to make them vote Lib Dem. Some may need just a bit of an extra push.

Focus groups have shown that the relentless series of revelations on Corbyn’s questionable associations with anti-Semites and Holocaust deniers, his history of controversial statements on Israel and the surge in the number of Corbynist party members making anti-Semitic comments on social media has registered with the broader public. It may not be the key issue for many non-Jewish voters, but together with Brexit and other question marks over Corbyn’s suitability to serve as prime minister (his personal ratings are the lowest for an opposition leader in polling history), this could be enough to nudge many wavering voters away from Labour and into the Lib Dems’ arms.

ESCAPE FROM BRITAIN?

Corbyn’s rivals are already using the anti-Semitism talking point against him. The slavishly pro-Tory Sunday Telegraph ran on its latest cover an interview with Conservative Party Chairman James Cleverly claiming that Jewish families will leave Britain if Corbyn is elected. The report was notable for not quoting any Jews. And it failed the basic test of news because it simply wasn’t. A raft of polls in recent years have said that a significant chunk of British Jews would consider emigrating should a Corbyn government come to power. The recent Opinium poll put this number as high as 47 percent.

Cleverly wasn’t alone. On Monday it was senior Conservative Minister Michael Gove who embarked on a long series of tweets demanding that prominent Labour activists condemn Corbyn for calling “anti-Semitic killers Hamas and Hezbollah” his friends in a speech back in 2009.

And it’s not just the Conservatives. At an event launching the Liberal Democrats’ campaign Tuesday, party leader Jo Swinson said a main reason she won’t join a Corbyn government if no party wins a majority in the next parliament is “Corbyn’s complete and utter failure to root out anti-Semitism in his own party … a total dereliction of duty when it comes to protecting that value of equality.”

There is a cruel dilemma for British Jews in this election. Naturally, the overwhelming majority – 87 percent of British Jews believe Corbyn is an anti-Semite according to the Survation poll and only 8 percent think he isn’t – want the country’s most prominent figures to call out what has been happening in Labour, but when it’s his political rivals doing the calling out during an election campaign, it leaves many Jews with a feeling of unease. Are they being treated as British citizens with equal rights and standing or as convenient political footballs?

JEWS GOING CONSERVATIVE

British Jews are torn between their right to have their own political views and voting preferences and the need to stand up for their identities as Jews and in solidarity with their community. Sixty-four percent of them intend to vote Conservative. Many would have voted for the party anyway, but since two-thirds of British Jews are believed to have voted in the 2016 Brexit referendum to remain in the European Union, it seems that for many of them the vote for the now staunchly pro-leave Conservatives is principally due to their hope that Boris Johnson can block Corbyn’s path to Downing Street.

But many Jews are incapable of voting Conservative, especially when the party is going through one of its most right-wing and nativist evolutions. While there isn’t reliable data on Jewish voting patterns going back decades, it’s pretty safe to say that the 24 percent of British Jews planning to vote Lib Dem next month is the highest proportion in a century – since the days when the Zionist David Lloyd-George and Arthur Balfour (of Balfour Declaration fame) led the Liberal Party.

Even the small number of Jews who still intend to vote Labour are split three ways. There are those who have held on, despite the abuse at party branch meetings and online, in the hope that it’s still possible to “fight from within” and that Corbyn will eventually be ditched by the party.

Even Jewish Corbyn supporters are split and bitterly at war with each other. Some, like Jon Lansman, the founder of Momentum, the Corbynist party within a party, acknowledge that Labour has anti-Semitism issues, and while continuing to support Corbyn, they have called for the more egregious Judeophobes like former London Mayor Ken Livingstone and MP Chris Williamson to be expelled from the party. And then there’s the tiny group of Jews who tokenize their identity to give cover to just about every anti-Semite on the left.

There has a been a lot of debate in the Jewish community about what kind of threat to Jewish life in Britain a Corbyn government would pose. Some of it has verged on the hysterical with words like “existential.” But one thing is now certain. The election has forced British Jews to the forefront of a toxic political struggle they never wanted, and certainly don’t deserve.

 

BLACK HUMOR

Tom Gross adds:: something bizarre to finish with:

People In Medieval Art Who’re Getting Murdered But Just Don’t Give a Damn

 

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