David Wolpe is the Max Webb Senior Rabbi of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles.
After several Labour officials made anti-Semitic comments, it’s time for self-examination in the party
I was sitting with a small group of students in a lounge at the University of Edinburgh when he said it. In a conversation about World War II Justin, an English student, remarked: “Well, Hitler’s only mistake was removing the gentlemen of the star.” I was an anglophilic Jewish kid from Philly and had never met English anti-Semitism head on. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.
“Do you mean, murdering millions of people?” I said. At that point my friend Eric stepped in, and said to Justin, “I’d like you to meet Rabbi Wolpe’s son, David.”
Justin had the good grace to be embarrassed. He and I had many conversations over the course of that year. He told me frankly that he revered his father, and his father hated Jews. All his father’s friends hated Jews. That was how he had grown up. He couldn’t bring himself to believe they were all wrong.
Apparently things have not changed much. The Labour party is enduring a spasm of public anti-Semitism. First MP Naz Shah posted on her Facebook page: “Solution for Israel-Palestine conflict. Relocate Israel into the United States… The transportation costs will be less than 3 years of defence spending.” Shockingly she was then defended by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who said in a dizzying display of spin: “She made remarks … that she doesn’t agree with.”
The public outcry led to her suspension and to an apology. The deeper question is not her retraction but the constituents who, presumably aware of her beliefs, voted her into office in the first place.
Of course there is evidence the voters knew exactly what they were getting. Naz Shah replaced George Galloway, who openly supported Hamas and Hezbollah and called for the end of Israel. Whether anti-Semitism took a step up or down in the election is an open question.