British Jews challenge community leaders over Corbyn

On Thursday 17th September 2015, The Guardian published a piece that unquestioningly reproduced demands from so-called leaders of the Jewish community that Jeremy Corbyn clarify claims that originated with a self-confessed Holocaust denier. Jeremy has answered these allegations numerous times, but our self-appointed spokespersons simply repeat them again and again, and The Guardian seems happy to be a willing vehicle for this attempted witchhunt.
This is the letter Jews for Jeremy sent in response to that article. We have included some additional names that arrived late, and it has now been signed by 88 people. We know that other individuals also wrote responses to that article.
The Guardian has chosen not to expose itself to questioning or criticism, so we are publishing our letter here and on our Facebook page, and encourage people to share it as widely as possible.

Dear Letters Editor
The UK Jewish “leaders” who “seek clarification” from Jeremy Corbyn know that he has already answered their questions, again and again – in the Jewish Chronicle, The Guardian, Channel 4 News and elsewhere. But in their desperate attempt to undermine him, they continue to repeat these smears like mantras.
One such mantra is that “…15 years ago he attended meetings of a group called Deir Yassin Remembered, founded by Holocaust denier Paul Eisen.” Since Eisen didn’t reveal himself as a Holocaust denier until 2005, Jeremy Corbyn and the many other audience members, including rabbis and MPs, would have had to be psychic to know this in 2001. Indeed, in going to the press, Eisen himself seems to share the intention of these Jewish “leaders”, to taint him with the accusation of antisemitism.
Jeremy Corbyn is well able to answer this mischief-making on his own behalf, but we want to challenge the assumption that the Board of Deputies and the Jewish Leadership Council speak for all Jews in Britain.
The article claims that the “Community wants ‘straight answers to straight questions’.” Apart from the patronising and insulting tone towards the leader of Her Majesty’s Official Opposition, these so-called leaders are not “the community”. They do not speak for British Jews who are critics of Israel, oppose the Occupation, or support secular, rather than faith schools.
Many Jews are delighted that Jeremy Corbyn has won such a clear democratic mandate to lead the Labour Party. In contrast, we have no recollection of being invited to participate in any democratic process to elect these people who claim to represent us.
Yours faithfully
Julia Bard, David Rosenberg, Ian Saville, Steve Tiller on behalf of Jews for Jeremy, plus
Daphna Baram
Haim Baram
Nick Barnett
Shereen Benjamin
Jay Blackwood
Geoffrey Bindman
Jenny Bloom
Alice Bondi
Danny Braverman
Councillor Barry Buitekant
Mandy Carr
Julian Peter Clegg
Norma Cohen
Ron Cohen
Shaun Cohen
Judith Cravitz
Miriam E David
Ivor Dembina
Michael Ellman
Sai Englert
Professor Debbie Epstein
Rayah Feldman
Deborah Fink
Joseph Finlay
Sylvia Finzi
David Freedman
Dr Ophira Gamliel
Dr Sarah Garfinkel
Lillian Gerber
Max Gerber
Mike Gerber
Lynda Gilbert
Claire Glasman
Murray Glickman
Tony Graham
Tony Greenstein
Sue Gutteridge
Michele Hanson
Abe Hayeem
Rosamine Hayeem
Sue Hughes
Anthony Isaacs
Selma James
Dan Judelson
Ann Jungman
Eran Kahane
Michael Kalmanovitz
Sue Katz
Sarah E Kosminsky
Mark Krantz
Richard Kuper
Warren Lakin
Dave Landau
Antony Lerman
Leah Levane
Sonya Levene
Hope Liebersohn
Sue Lukes
Ruth Lukom
Deborah Maccoby
Stephen Marks
Karen Merkel
Jonathan Meth
Dr Gabriel Moshenska
Mica Nava
Judith Nesbitt
Diana Neslen
Dan Ozarow
Susan Pashkoff
Charlotte Prager
Naomi Paul
Roland Rance
Ronne Peltzman Randall
Brian Robinson
Michael Rosen
Jacob Bard-Rosenberg
Reuben Bard-Rosenberg
Raphael Salkie
Andrew Samuels
Joel Samuels
Elizabeth Segal
Lynne Segal
Michael Shade
Sappho Shapoznik
Henry Stewart
Sam Weinstein
Miriam Yagud
Binnie Yeates
Benjamin Young

Vote anti-racist, vote pro-immigrant – vote Jeremy Corbyn, says David Rosenberg

The smear campaigns against Jeremy Corbyn aimed at dissuading voters in the Labour leadership election from backing him has been led by an undeclared alliance of Blairites, a swathe of right wing and liberal media commentators, and self-appointed leaders and protectors and “spokespersons” of the Jewish community.

The thrust from the Jewish press – whether it be the Jewish Chronicle or the Jewish News – and from other Jewish bodies, has been a morass of innuendo about Jeremy’s political positions and alleged friendships in his activity on Israel/Palestine. In addition to simply ignoring his longstanding support for Israeli Jewish peace campaigners, and his cooperation with Jewish bodies here such s Jews For Justice For Palestinians, in his work for Palestinian rights to self-determination, the thrust of the anti-Corbyn campaign from Jewish bodies has been to attempt to make Israel the key factor for Jewish voters – a continuation of how they approached the General Election. It is as if the lives of Jews as British citizens and the values they hold in relation to social and political issues in the country where they live, are asked to take second place to a distorted assessment about how the candidates’ views stack up on Israel/Palestine.

In the real lives of many Jews in Britain Israel is a factor, but it does not dictate their day-to-day actions or dominate their social and political perspectives. It is clear that Jews are very concerned about and involved in matters relating to immigrants and refugees, based on their own families’ historical experience and that of Jews in continental Europe during the Nazi period, and often state their fears about the rise of the far right in Europe and groups like UKIP here.

Toxic immigration headlines dominated much of the press in the run-up to the last election. These resurrected, albeit against different targets, the press clamour against Jewish immigrants at the turn of the 20th century, who were accused of swamping areas, taking homes and jobs and endangering local health. They also recalled the clamour against Jewish refugees allegedly “pouring in” from Germany and Austria in the late 1930s. Many Jews also know how cruel and false are the distinctions drawn by the media today between “economic migrants” and “refugees”.

My grandparents and great-grandparents fled in fear of pogroms and from an authoritarian political system but they were also fleeing economic discrimination and seeking better opportunities for themselves and their children. They were part of a wave of immigration over a period of 25 years. Most did not flee overnight, but did that make them less worthy of seeking a new home where there would be more freedom and more opportunities? In 1905 Britain passed the Aliens Act – its first modern immigration law. All the machinery of border control today – immigration officers, medical officers barring immigration on medical grounds; the right to deport people even after they have been given entry… are all enshrined in that first Act of 1905, an act by the way that was overseen by the Tory Premier Lord Balfour, yes, that Lord Balfour. That act didn’t completely end Jewish immigration but it made it much harder, and the principle behind it was one that distinguished “desirable” from “undesirable” migrants

Imagine for a moment that a newspaper such as the Jewish Chronicle gave prominence to immigration/refugee matters as the key issues to guide Jewish voters in the leadership election. OK, that is hard to believe given that the newspaper’s editor has made not just right wing Tory noises, but rather comforting noises for UKIP over the last couple of years, but park your scepticism for a little while and imagine…

They would have to report that Liz Kendall is partial towards Tory plans to bar migrants from claiming tax credits for four years. “That’s definitely something we should look at.” They would add that she is very much in favour of an Australian points system – that is one that takes a one-dimensional look at the needs of the economy rather than the individual need of the immigrants/asylum-seeker. As for those whom Kendall would “welcome”, they would report her somewhat intemperate tone in greeting them: ”You should come to work and not claim benefits. You should respect the community you live in and our culture.” I don’t think that is Jewish culture she is talking about. Or indeed any multicultural notion of culture.

Focusing on this issue they may not be able to report Andy Burnham in such a positive light either. He says that he “understands Labour members’ concerns about the levels of migration into their communities.” As if “Labour members” and “migrants” were two completely different categories. He advocates “a package of changes so that there is no entitlement to benefits [for immigrants] for at least two years.”

All the candidates understand the need to win back ex-Labour voters who have started to support UKIP but they would report that Burnham seems to imitate aspects of Nigel Farage’s style in developing a narrative about “British” workers. Farage complained about feeling isolated on a train journey where everyone around him is speaking every language except English (he is bilingual actually – he also speaks fluent Rubbish). Burnham tries to evoke sympathy for a man who says: “When you’re at work and you have a tea break, you go into the tea room and have a chat with people. When I’m at work I have my tea break on my own because I’m the only one who speaks English.”

Yvette Cooper comes out relatively better than these two contenders, arguing for discussing issues about immigration but without imitating the Tories or UKIP and wanting to develop a “moral” response to the “Migrants Crisis” that would see Britain taking more refugees than it does at present. Nevertheless on general immigration matters she likes to divide immigrants into the ones “we” want and the ones “we” don’t want… that old binary of “desirable”/”undesirable”. She says: “The system isn’t distinguishing between different kinds of migration – the migration we need and the migration that causes problems.”

Now, for the benefit of its readers, the Jewish Chronicle might even feel obliged to ask who this “we” are, recognising that it probably does not mean Jewish Chronicle readers.

Cooper adds, “We need different controls and targets for different kinds of immigration – so that we can get top university students and help those fleeing persecution, whilst reducing low skilled migration and strengthening action against abuse.”

So that leaves one more candidate – the one who asked in a parliamentary question last November: “Will the Minister for once acknowledge the massive contribution made to our economy and our society by those who have migrated to live here and who have sought and gained asylum in this country, which we are bound to offer under the Geneva Convention?” He is also the one who says he is “proud to live in a multicultural society” but “…not proud of the way we treat many of our asylum seekers.” That one is Jeremy Corbyn who can look back on a lifetime of anti-racist activism on the domestic and international front; who is often present at anti-racist and anti-fascist mobilisations, at Holocaust commemoration events, at events to support marginalised groups who are victims of racism such as the Roma.

The Jewish Chronicle will not tell you how to vote – you decide.