This week’s Progressive Judaism debate tackles…the rise of the right.
Q: Should we be concerned about the rise of right-wing parties in Europe?
- Rabbi Danny Rich says…
A Jew is, I suggest, required to be an optimist with an eye on the reality of human existence. The murder of Jews outside the Jewish Museum in Brussels is a stark reminder of the evil to which humanity can sink, but Judaism teaches the goodness of creation and affirms the probability of free human beings choosing life and good.
Concerning the recent European elections, I am reminded of Talmudic sage, Nachum, who earned the epithet Gam Zu because whatever befell him he always responded ‘This is also for the best’. The rise of extreme right-wing parties across Europe must be monitored and challenged.
Yet we shouldn’t forget that only one in four European citizens bothered to vote in the recent election, and many who voted for racist parties did so primarily as ‘a plague on all parties’ – a phenomenon that should be taken seriously by all responsible political parties.
While it’s dangerous to make political predictions, I believe that many who voted for UKIP are embarrassed by the increasing revelations that its candidates are at least inept and in many cases much worse.
Perhaps its success will be a wake-up call for democracy, and voters will turn out in droves at the next election and indicate support for responsible parties that offer a caring and competent vision of a society in which the positive consequences of immigration are celebrated.
• Danny Rich is chief executive of Liberal Judaism
Luke Face says…
Had I written this article a week ago, perhaps I would be writing something different. I would have pointed to voter apathy, stating that Jews have nothing to be concerned about, that it’s large-scale voter indifference, not racism, which has allowed the over-representation of the right-wing across Europe, from Britain to France to Greece.
What changed my outlook? Three people being shot dead in a Jewish museum in Brussels. Should Jews be concerned about the rise of the right-wing? Yes, but so should any group or person who has been considered an ‘other’. People fear the other, the strange and unfamiliar.
Though Jews may no longer be the odd foreign presence we once were, be assured that vacuum has been filled by other unwilling parties. Gay marriage, Muslims and immigrants have all become totems that stoke fear in the minds of the fearful.
It is because of this that we cannot afford to be apathetic, as Jews, as voters, as people. We should remember that strikes against the other are ultimately strikes against us.
We must not be apathetic or fearful. We must be strong and speak up. We have a history that must never be repeated, against anyone of any creed.
• Luke Face is a member of Kingston Liberal Synagogue