Genuine Fear Behind the Vote in Parliament

Genuine Fear Behind the Vote in Parliament


Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.

Prior to yesterday’s vote by the Conservative Party in Great Britain to keep the Government of Theresa May in power at least for the moment, there were many British citizens who feared Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party would very soon be assuming the reins of power in Westminster. The process would have necessitated several more steps had May lost the vote of no confidence yesterday in her party caucus.  Britain would likely have seen a change in leadership in the Tory Party and probably a change in Government as well. Yesterday’s vote at least postpones that scenario.

The overall crisis in Britain revolves around implementing the Brexit referendum; the terms under which Great Britain will leave the European Union by March 29, 2019. For many among the British public, however, an equally important issue was the potential ascendancy of Corbyn as Prime Minister. This concern or even fear was especially present within the English Jewish community.

Corbyn became the leader of the Labour opposition in 2015. He views himself as a democratic socialist.  Corbyn comes from the left wing of the Labour Party and has consistently exhibited an insensitivity to Jewish concerns as well as his lack of support of Israel. His support of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanction Movement (BDS) from Israel and his consistent support for Palestinians has given many in the Jewish community grave concerns. Corbyn has tolerated patently anti-Semitic positions articulated and supported by many in his leadership and hierarchy.  This has caused serious unrest among British Jews. In a September 2018 poll, 85% of British Jews considered Corbyn to be anti-Semitic as did 39% of the general public. The organized Jewish community has responded to many of these eruptions; but the fact that Corbyn has been rather blind or at least indifferent to these officials and their statements have made many Jews uneasy.

Anti-Semitism is ripe and growing throughout Europe as well as in the U.S. It has been present throughout Western Europe especially in France and is growing in Germany with the ascendancy of the AfD party on the political right.  Anti-Semitism continues to thrive in Hungary and Poland, although it manifests itself differently from country to country. Its source and motivation is not exclusively Muslim based or anti-Israel; but there are recurring themes of more classical forms of anti-Semitism, including outright hatred of Jews based on religion or race. The anti-Semitic bias is not class restricted. Governments are being hard pressed to prevent it, but it continues to present itself in of its classical mutations.

Jews in Great Britain currently number under 300,000 representing less than .5% of the total population. They are well organized and largely engaged in all aspects of English life.  British Jews are now considering all their options given their concern over a future political turn by the British to a future Corbyn-led Government.

For the moment Anglo Jewry is staying put, but more and more of them have already begun to consider finding a possible refuge—most likely in Israel—should Corbyn gain power. It seems clear at the moment that if Corbyn is not removed from within by his party leadership—presumably as a result of other polarizing issues—and he becomes Prime Minister, many Jews in Britain will leave the U.K.

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