April 12, 2018
Published on ‘The Times of Israel’ site on April 20th:
Avi Gabbai has bravely shown the way, but Corbyn is only a part of a much larger problem. The Israeli Establishment is in deliberate, willful denial over the imminent rise to power of the Hard Left in the UK.
Americans and other foreigners may be unfamiliar with the expression “Cor Blimey”, so let’s start with a definition:
“May God blind me!” was once a serious oath, not sworn in anything but earnest. It’s shortening was partly to avoid offence and partly for brevity… used when someone saw something they shouldn’t have. Commonly used in expressions by upper-class Brits when in shock, surprised etc. mainly as a form of exaggeration”. The Urban Dictionary
Avi Gabbai, the new-ish leader of Israel’s Labour Party, must be congratulated for an act of signal bravery. Last Tuesday (April10), Gabbai notified Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of Britain’s Labour Party, that the Israeli Labour Party and all its allied institutions were cutting their links with Mr Corbyn personally.
The move was motivated by the ongoing scandals that surround Corbyn regarding his attitude toward anti-Semitism in general and within his party in particular. Anyone who follows British politics or has any connection with British Jewry will be well aware of Corbyn’s Jewish problem, as exemplified in various incidents, statements, comments, etc., — and of its recent intensification.
Just how bad things have become with regard to Corbyn and anti-Semitism may be seen from the fact that the two rival “leadership organisations” of Anglo-Jewry felt obliged to join forces and actually take to the streets and demonstrate in the public arena — in Parliament Square, Westminster — against Corbyn.
This behaviour is without precedent and suggests that British Jews, belatedly but unavoidably, see Corbyn as a real threat to them.
Meanwhile, in Israel, the response of the Israeli political, cultural and business Establishment to Corbyn and his antics has been almost British in its arrogant aloofness, willful blindness and sheer obtuseness. In a word, “Cor blimey”.
Hard Left Labour
The fact that it is the upstart outsider, the kid from a poor Jerusalem neighbourhood whose parents were Moroccan — the bottom of the Israeli socio-cultural ladder in the 1960’s — who has been the first senior Israeli personality to make a move against Corbyn, is extremely telling.
Because the real issue is not Corbyn and what he said and did, whom he met with, and all the rest. Everyone in British politics knows that Jeremy Corbyn is an awful person, totally unfit to be leader of a local council, let alone of the Labour Party and hence of Her Majesty’s Opposition. That is so without reference to his visceral hatred of Israel and Zionism and his long-standing problem with Jews in general.
The very fact that Corbyn is patently unsuited to be in any position of importance, yet occupies one — and, according to the polls (for what they are worth), is set to be the next Prime Minister — shows that beyond the specific problem of Corbyn lies a much greater problem: the collapse of the traditional structure of British politics and the rise of political extremism in the United Kingdom, formerly the paradigm for parliamentary democracy working through a two-party system.
If Corbyn were somehow removed tomorrow morning, the underlying problem — for British Jewry and for Israel — would remain. Most of Corbyn’s shadow cabinet share their leader’s Hard Left ideology on everything from anti-capitalism to anti-Semitism; some of them make Corbyn look centrist by comparison.
If/ when this Labour Party leadership comes to power, its declared policy agenda will surely do immense damage to the UK; it will most likely initiate legal and other moves that will make life difficult for practicing Jews in the UK; and it will most certainly do everything it can to downgrade relations with the Jewish state in every sphere (ironically, British membership of the EU would be a restraining factor here).
What a duly-elected British government might do to the UK is no business of anyone in Israel. What it might do to British Jews should be a matter of grave concern to Jews everywhere — and certainly to the government and people of the Jewish state. As for what it might do to UK-Israel relations, that should now be high on the agenda of the Israeli government, rather than dismissed as a remote, hypothetical threat.
However, the entire Israeli establishment has enormous difficulty in relating, emotionally or intellectually, to what is happening in the UK. More even than in regard to Western Europe as a whole, educated Israelis are locked into a romantic illusion about the UK. They are unwilling and psychologically unable to accept that the Britain they venerate simply does not exist any longer.
The former bastion of liberalism is ridden with irrational extremism of every stripe. The Mother of Parliaments is now incapable of producing a stable, single-party government. The culture that was a byword for fair-play is riddled with rot, from MP’s wholesale fiddling of their expense accounts, to police routinely fabricating evidence, to financial institutions rigging markets and ripping off their retail customers.
The demise of the UK
But the Israeli Ashkenazi elites, brought up to believe that Israel is a Levantine cess-pit while Western Europe and, above all, the United Kingdom, represent the acme of culture and democratic values, are willfully blind to the demise of the old UK. They refuse to believe that the British Labour Party, with which the Israeli Labour Zionist movement maintained deep and close ties for many decades, is now in the thrall of virulently anti-Zionist fanatics who are engaged in extirpating the pro-Israel elements from the party and driving out any Jews, except those useful idiots who espouse — and often lead — the anti-Israel line.
The Israeli Foreign Ministry cannot imagine that the next Labour government will put Britain’s ties with Israel in the deep freeze. The Israeli defence establishment cannot believe that its long-standing co-operation with its British opposite numbers could be terminated by that Labour government. Israeli bankers, businessmen and high-tech entrepeneurs cannot conceive of a situation in which London turns from a welcoming to a hostile environment for investments, ventures and win-win deals.
Yet all of these are not merely possible, but likely and, in some cases, certain — if and when Labour comes to power. Arguably, they are more likely if it comes to power under Corbyn, but they will happen with or without him.
So well done, Avi Gabbai, for once again poking the Israeli Establishment in the eye. Gabbai’s letter is not really addressed to Corbyn, to whom it makes not a hap’worth of difference whether or not Gabbai and Co. are in touch with him.
Rather, it is directed to the government, from Netanyahu downward; to the Foreign Ministry, from Netanyahu downward; to the Finance and Trade ministries, from Kahlon and Cohen downwards; to the banking sector, from Karnit Flug downward.
To all these, and to many others, the message is clear: It’s happening people, wake up and smell the rancid Marmite.