The Morning Star's Mirvis mystery

Submitted by AWL on 4 December, 2019 - 6:15 Author: Jim Denham

Chief Rabbi Ephraim is certainly a small-c conservative on both political and theological matters. He congratulated Boris Johnson on becoming Prime Minister (though in fact religious leaders routinely offer congratulations and promises of prayer to all incoming prime ministers).

Whether or not Mirvis is a Tory is not the issue. His attack on Labour over antisemitism addressed a real problem.

Even the Morning Star, in a rambling and not entirely coherent editorial (27 November) noted that a 2018 poll conducted for the Jewish Chronicle “said more than 85 per cent of British Jews think Jeremy Corbyn is anti-semitic”, concluding (in a first for the Morning Star) “Labour must open a more productive dialogue with the whole spectrum of British Jewish opinion and detach the malign motives of some to deal with genuine concerns that are rooted in real experiences.”

That small, faltering step forward by the paper was offset in the same issue by Jewish Voice for Labour’s Mike Cushman describing claims of Labour antisemitism to be “grossly exaggerated” and saying they had “reduced the quality of life and personal security of Jews.” Cushman told the paper that the issue was that “Jews, like non-Jews, have need of schools, hospitals and homes” but risk losing the opportunity to benefit from “Labour’s transformational manifesto” through “this fear campaign.”

Cushman’s comments came very close to what a writer in last week’s Solidarity caricatured (he described it as “especially obscene”) as: “Because of your selfish, and probably manufactured, concerns about antisemitism, you’re going to be complicit in policies that kill people; and if you’re prepared to do that ... maybe people were right to hate you in the first place?”

If Cushman didn’t go the whole way to complying with the “obscene” caricature, another Morning Star article did.

In a quite extraordinary piece entitled “Rabbi Mirvis is overplaying his hand” followed by the strap-line “Voters are being asked to call the rabbi’s bluff in the face of increasingly unbelievable allegations – and this relentless politicking only threatens the safety of the Jewish community”, one Adam Lewinski launched into an attack on the entire British Jewish “leadership” (including the “far-right extremist Rabbi Jonathan Sacks”) who – according to Lewinski – have a “four-year history of anti-semitism smears directed at the party.”

Lewinski goes on to issue what I can only understand to be a threat towards all Jews in Britain: “They [Jewish leaders] are, in effect, playing a dangerous game of chicken with the electorate: explicitly asking them to place their faith in the word of official institutions purporting to represent the Jewish community over and above their hopes for a better country for themselves, their families and their children.”

If that’s not a demand to Jews (all Jews — not just the “leaders”) to shut up about antisemitism or risk antagonising the rest of the “electorate”, I don’t know what is.

And here’s a strange thing: although the Lewinski article appeared on the Morning Star website (and can still be read here), it never appeared in the print edition.

In June 2018, a writer in the Morning Star proclaimed “mainstream Jewish communities everywhere... appear unwilling to accept the connection between developing international anti-semitism (or anti-Israel sentiment) and Israel’s decades long … acts of barbarism”.

The article continued: “No amount of protestations about the symptoms of rising anti-semitism or anti-Israel sentiment in Britain and elsewhere will end the problem until its root cause — Israel’s criminal behaviour — is dealt with.”

Protests from two prominent (Jewish) CPB members (Mary Davis and Phil Katz) forced the paper to formally retract that too explicit and candid statement of what, in reality, they believe. Did Davis and/or Katz intervene again to prevent the Lewinski article appearing in print?

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