When Britain’s Labor Party Loved Israel

April 20 2018

Last week, Israel’s Labor party made an official decision to sever ties with its British counterpart in response to the latter’s becoming a bastion of anti-Semitism and hostility toward Israel. But it was not ever so. Robert Philpot recounts Labor’s early support for Zionism, and the gradual and uneven descent into today’s attitudes:

Three months prior to the publication of the Balfour Declaration in November 1917, the party issued the first draft of the War Aims Memorandum, its vision for the postwar world. Written by Arthur Henderson, the Labor leader, and Sidney Webb, the party’s intellectual driving force, it declared: “The British Labor movement expresses the opinion that Palestine should be set free from the harsh and oppressive government of the Turk, in order that the country may form a free state, under international guarantee, to which such of the Jewish people as desired to do so may return, and may work out their salvation.” . . .

It was also the moment which cemented the alliance between Poalei Zion—a Jewish workers’ movement founded in Eastern Europe in the early 20th century which preached a blend of socialism and Zionism [and was a precursor to Israel’s Labor party]—and the [UK’s] Labor party. A year later, on the eve of the 1918 general election, Poalei Zion, which had established its first branches in Britain in 1903, urged Jewish voters to back Labor. . . .

Labor proved itself a steadfast supporter of the establishment of a Jewish homeland. Its own annual conferences, and those of its allies in the trade-union movement, repeatedly endorsed this principle during the 1930s. In May 1939, Labor opposed the Conservative government’s White Paper, which sought to halt Jewish immigration to Palestine and effectively reneged on the undertakings made by Arthur Balfour nearly twenty years before. . . . In 1945, shortly after Germany’s surrender and as Britain prepared for its first general election in a decade, Labor nailed its colors firmly to the Zionist mast. Addressing its annual conference in May 1945, Hugh Dalton, who two months later would become chancellor of the exchequer following the party’s landslide win, declared it “morally wrong and politically indefensible to restrict the entry into Palestine of Jews desiring to go there.” . . .

[Yet] Clement Attlee, who led Labor to victory in July 1945 and is often regarded as one of the party’s greatest ever prime ministers, . . . betrayed the Zionist cause which Labor had consistently advocated for nearly three decades. The party, he announced, would honor the terms of the 1939 White Paper it had voted against six years previously.

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Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Anti-Semitism, History & Ideas, Israel & Zionism, Labor Party, Labor Party (UK), United Kingdom

To the Anti-Semite, Jews Aren’t Just One Problem among Many, but the Source of All Problems

While it likely had some ancient antecedents, the blood libel—the myth that Jews murder Christian children and consume their blood as part of a Passover ritual—as we know it began in Norwich, England in 1144. That same city was the location of one of several blood-libel-fueled massacres of Jews in 1190, and researchers have recently concluded that a mass grave found in Norwich contained the bones of the victims. Meir Soloveichik reflects on this discovery:

The popularity of the blood libel, in its very absurdity, captures the essence of anti-Semitism. By taking the tale of the origin of Jewish chosenness—the exodus from Egypt—and turning it into a pernicious plan for annual evildoing, the libel illustrates how, as Robert Nicholson once wrote, hatred of Jews “isn’t just any old hatred or racism. It is a grand anti-myth that turns Jewish chosenness on its head and assigns to the people of Israel responsibility for all the world’s ills.”

The readiness of all today to denounce the massacres of medieval Jewish communities often highlights how, as the writer Dara Horn put it, “people love dead Jews.” The blood libel is not a thing of the past. It is ongoing. The world is all too prepared to bemoan the injustice against Jews in the past and yet all too ready to overlook those who purvey blood libels today.

Such a phenomenon can be seen in the successful career of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. As Seth Mandel has noted, . . . the congresswoman has taken rhetorical dishonesty about Israel to entirely new level, linking—like the libelists of old—purported Jewish activity to grievances around the world. Commenting on the situation at the Mexican-American border, she accused, without offering any evidence, Israel of placing Palestinian children in cages. During one debate, standing on the floor of the House next to an image of a dead Palestinian child, she linked Israel’s airstrikes to the naval base in Vieques, Puerto Rico.

The bones of murdered Jews may have been exhumed from the soil of the site where the blood libel was born, but what has yet to be exhumed from the present is the blood libel itself. And it is only if we do all we can to identify, and call out, the liars and the libelists that we can honestly hope that the murdered Jews of Norwich will rest in peace.

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Read more at Commentary

More about: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Anglo-Jewry, Anti-Semitism, Blood libel