Dame Margaret Hodge summed up the feelings of many Jews and their ambivalent relationship with the Labour Party: “I feel an outsider in the party I have been a member of for 50 years.”
Her speech, like almost every contribution to Tuesday’s extraordinary three-hour debate on anti-Semitism, was heard in most parts of the Chamber in respectful silence, as non-Jews absorbed the full horror of Jewish race hatred in 2018 – an issue with which Jews are sadly all too familiar.
But among the most powerful contributors were great friends of the community – John Mann, Ian Austin, Joan Ryan, Wes Streeting – even Priti Patel, who has had more cause than most to suffer from anti-Semitic/anti-Zionist backlash.
It was heartening, too, to hear the frequent words of praise for the CST and its sterling work in keeping the community safe as well as documenting the almost endless anti-Semitic material levelled at Jewish MPs.
Nevertheless, we can only wonder at the speech made by the woman who expects to be home secretary in a future Labour government. Diane Abbott’s track record is truly lamentable and she did not disappoint on this occasion, choosing to speak about Charedi schools in her constituency and poor Ofsted reports, rather than address the burning issue of the day.
And, like those who sit shiva and always note those who did not come to visit, we are obliged to ask – just where was former Labour leader Ed Miliband? If he is not embarrassed at the poisonous legacy so avidly deployed by his successor, he should be.
Where would we be?
We weren’t that many to start with. Just 16.6 million Jews walked the earth in 1939. Just over 10 million of us were left a few years later. Thankfully we’re recovering, after the Nazis sought to reduce our number to zero. But still today, 70 years on, we are still nowhere near that 16.6 million. There are 14.5 million of us, according to Israeli government stats. The last century has seen us go from ‘not a lot’ to ‘even less’.
Where would that number be without Israel? Few of us dare seriously to contemplate it. The recovery of a people in all their glory after sustained industrial slaughter was only made possible with the founding of the state.
Unlike most 70-year-olds, Israel is not sat on a cruise ship playing bridge. She is stuck in an unfriendly neighbourhood, continuously on the lookout for dangers and threats, as she carves out a living and a life.