OPINION – Naftali Bennett: We won’t let Labour divide the Jewish people

OPINION – Naftali Bennett: We won’t let Labour divide the Jewish people

Minister for Diaspora Affairs says Labour's rejection of the IHRA definition is an attempt to 'drive a wedge between Jews and Israel'

Naftali Bennett

Naftali Bennett is Israel's Minister for Defence and Diaspora Affairs, as well as the leader of the Jewish Home Party

Naftali Bennett
Naftali Bennett

 As an Israeli born to American parents who were deeply rooted in the Peace Corps and the left wing movements in the US and Europe during the 1960s and 70s, I have always had great respect for the British Labour Party.

I could not say that I agree with many of their political policies or overall outlook, but as an institution with a great heritage of integrity and service to the people, it stands out as one of the great movements in modern history.

Sadly, however, history seems to be where that reputation belongs. Today, the party’s leadership has chosen to turn its back on its principles in favour of a politics that is not for the many, but for the few, or at least for all but the Jews.  The long running saga of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party has been well covered in the Israeli media, with many on the left and right shocked at the seemingly unimaginable disregard for the sensitivities of the Jewish community, let alone the well-being of the Jewish supporters and Members of Parliament of their own party.

Yet what we have seen this week marks a truly new low. Rather than deal with the issue of anti-Semitism, and tackle the root cause of this vicious poison running through the veins of the Labour Party of late, the party’s governing body has chosen instead to redefine what constitutes anti-Semitism. Thus allowing their members free range to commit acts of racial hatred with impunity.

As Israel’s Minister for Diaspora Affairs, and as head of the Jewish Home party which is committed to fighting for the rights of Jews all over the world, I want to offer my support and appreciation to Chief Rabbi Mirvis, to the Jewish Leadership Council, and the Board of Deputies, for their brave and unwavering stand in the face of this perhaps unprecedented assault on the rights of the Jewish community in modern Britain.

Jonathan Goldstein addresses the large crowd in Parliament Square at the #EnoughIsEnough demo, protesting anti-Semitism in the Labour Party. Credit Marc Morris

Even against a background of rising anti-Semitism in Europe and around the world, to witness such vitriolic anti-Jewish attitudes being expressed in the mainstream of British society is truly shocking.

It must serve as a reminder for us all to stand united in the face of the attacks on our people.  Of course, it is no surprise that the clauses of the nearly universally accepted IHRA definition of anti-Semitism that the party disregarded relate to Israel.

Jeremy Corbyn, in welcoming extremist speakers and representatives of even Hamas and Hezbollah as friends, has made clear his dislike for Israel, and his preference to cozy up to those who have as their stated aim the destruction of the Jewish state.

Jeremy Corbyn at a Stop The War demonstration in 2012.

But more worrying for me, is that in denying causing offence – well beyond acceptable criticism – to Israel constitutes anti-Semitism, the Labour party is seeking to drive a wedge between the Jewish people and their homeland.

By proposing that it is not anti-Semitic to suggest Jews are more loyal to Israel than to the UK, the Labour party is looking for Jews to distance themselves from Israel, their ancestral homeland, and the land which is home to more than 6 million of their brothers and sisters.

And in failing to condemn outright as anti-Semitic the comparison between Israel’s policies in the face of regional threats and terrorism, and the Nazi’s systematic annihilation of the Jewish people, the Labour party has plumbed the depths of offence, seeking to not only distort the present but desecrate the memory of the past.

Israel remains committed to working with the Jewish communities around the world to stand up to all expressions of anti-Semitism, and to strengthen Jewish identity, and the bond between Israel and the Diaspora. Because, while the Labour Party has forgotten its history, it will not be able to make the Jewish people turn our back on ours.

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