The British Jews Who Helped Create Thatcherism

Aug. 16 2017

When Margaret Thatcher became the leader of the UK’s Conservative party in 1974, it had been weakened by repeated electoral failures and had adopted much of the Labor party’s economic and even social ideas. It was also not particularly hospitable to Jews, and Jews tended to be wary of it. Yet, by the time Thatcher was first elected prime minister in 1979, she had presided over an ideological rejuvenation that she would put into practice during her many years in office, leading to economic privatization, a muscular foreign policy, and a reaffirmation of British values. Two Jews, who would become her closest political allies, were responsible for this change, as Robert Philpot writes:

They were Sir Keith Joseph, the scion of a wealthy Anglo-Jewish family, and Alfred Sherman, a former Communist working-class Jew from London’s East End whose parents had fled Tsarist Russia. . . .

The son of a former lord mayor of London, Joseph was an improbable revolutionary by both background and temperament. Sherman would later note his ally’s “tendency to wilt under pressure” and aversion to conflict. And yet Joseph was to be the man who lit the torch that, as Sherman put it, “sparked off the Thatcher revolution.”

Thatcher and Joseph shared a common attribute: the sense that they were both outsiders. Hers stemmed from her grocer’s-daughter upbringing, the snobbery and disdain she encountered at Oxford from both the upper-class grandees of the Conservative Association and the liberal intelligentsia that dominated its academic body, and later, her gender, as she sought a safe Tory seat. His originated from his Judaism. . . . Despite his rapid rise through the Tory ranks once he had entered parliament in 1956, Joseph remained, in the words of one observer, “almost alien.” . . .

[Sherman, the] son of Jewish immigrants, would later speak of his disapproval of the term “Judeo-Christian values” and would insist that Thatcher should root her message in her own Methodist upbringing and the Tories’ close relationship with Britain’s established church. Thatcher proved more ecumenical. As her close friendship with Chief Rabbi Immanuel Jakobovits illustrated, she saw, and often remarked upon, the close harmony between Judaism and the nonconformist insistence on individual responsibility, community self-help, and the moral necessity of self-improvement and wealth creation imparted by her father. Not for nothing would the Sunday Telegraph later admiringly suggest during her premiership that Judaism had become “the new creed of Thatcherite Britain.”

Read more at Commentary

More about: British Jewry, Conservatism, Margaret Thatcher, Tories, United Kingdom


When It Comes to Peace with Israel, Many Saudis Have Religious Concerns

Sept. 22 2023

While roughly a third of Saudis are willing to cooperate with the Jewish state in matters of technology and commerce, far fewer are willing to allow Israeli teams to compete within the kingdom—let alone support diplomatic normalization. These are just a few results of a recent, detailed, and professional opinion survey—a rarity in Saudi Arabia—that has much bearing on current negotiations involving Washington, Jerusalem, and Riyadh. David Pollock notes some others:

When asked about possible factors “in considering whether or not Saudi Arabia should establish official relations with Israel,” the Saudi public opts first for an Islamic—rather than a specifically Saudi—agenda: almost half (46 percent) say it would be “important” to obtain “new Israeli guarantees of Muslim rights at al-Aqsa Mosque and al-Haram al-Sharif [i.e., the Temple Mount] in Jerusalem.” Prioritizing this issue is significantly more popular than any other option offered. . . .

This popular focus on religion is in line with responses to other controversial questions in the survey. Exactly the same percentage, for example, feel “strongly” that “our country should cut off all relations with any other country where anybody hurts the Quran.”

By comparison, Palestinian aspirations come in second place in Saudi popular perceptions of a deal with Israel. Thirty-six percent of the Saudi public say it would be “important” to obtain “new steps toward political rights and better economic opportunities for the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.” Far behind these drivers in popular attitudes, surprisingly, are hypothetical American contributions to a Saudi-Israel deal—even though these have reportedly been under heavy discussion at the official level in recent months.

Therefore, based on this analysis of these new survey findings, all three governments involved in a possible trilateral U.S.-Saudi-Israel deal would be well advised to pay at least as much attention to its religious dimension as to its political, security, and economic ones.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Islam, Israel-Arab relations, Saudi Arabia, Temple Mount