Britain is in Chaos; Anglo-Jewry is Scared

Britain is in Chaos; Anglo-Jewry is Scared


Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.

The basic fabric of the British political system is in chaos. Almost three years after the citizens of the United Kingdom cast a referendum, Brexit, to leave the European Union, the departure day passed last Friday without an exit route having been determined by the Parliament. The Government and the English people continue to have no idea as to how Britain will proceed with its future relationship with the EU.

Britain is not opting for an authoritarian ruler but the country appears to lack an acceptable leader to deliver the country out of its disarray. The English Parliament is shaking without any party discipline as it fails in vote after vote to approve an exit strategy. Democracy is not directly under attack, but anarchy may be on the horizon. The public is divided and they want Brexit resolved. In strictly economic terms many Brits are very scared; yet no plan currently looks to be on the horizon to save the country from potential political, financial, and social disaster. Prime Minister Theresa May appears to be quite literally fiddling while London is figuratively in flames.

As if this chaotic scene were not worry enough, the last week in Britain has seen an escalation of anti-Semitic attacks and anti-Zionist call outs. These attacks are, as was pointed out by Dr. Dave Rich of the Community Security Trust, double sided charges. First, Jews are confronted with many of the classic anti-Semitic, anti-Israel tropes which have been proliferating in England over the past several years. This is then followed by counterattacks by the Jews and their allies. The anti-Semitic promoters then attack the Jewish defenders seeking to intimidate them; urging boycotts and disassociation with those who have spoken in defense of the Jewish community.

While there are some outspoken political voices of support for the Jewish community such as former Labour Prime Ministers Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, even within the generally more sympathetic Conservative Party there are now serious voices of indifference at best and rabble-rousing. Jacob Rees-Mogg, a leading pro-Breixt voice in the Tory leadership, invoked the mantal of the German AfD, right-wing neo-fascist party, which has promoted racist and anti-Semitic attacks since it emerged four years ago as an anti-EU party.

As the English Jewish community surveys the current situation, there seems to be very little hope emerging from either political party. The political machinations and developments certainly suggest a very depressing situation for Anglo Jewry. The situation may not be as violent as France, but Jews are feeling an enormous level of discomfort coming from both the Conservative Party as well as the Labour Party.

Perhaps the only saving grace in all of this madness is the fact that Anglo Jewry—especially some of its public leaders–appears to be prepared to dismiss their classic, proper manner and to speak out. They are confronting directly the anti-Semitic voices, the Holocaust deniers, the anti-Zionists and those who attack Israel (as opposed critics of the Israeli Government’s policies).

Whether these attacks are coinciding with public frustration with the Brexit debate is not clear, but, historically, when people are angry and scared, they frequently blame the Jews. The most frightening part of the activity in Westminster and throughout Britain is a sense of the unrest of the British people. The English are angry and Jews are as well; but, Anglo Jewry is also confronting Jewish history.

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