Tony Blair’s Straight Talk to British Jews

Tony Blair’s Straight Talk to British Jews


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

The Jews in Great Britain historically have been of two minds. Many of them saw the Conservative Party as the most inclined to protect Jewish interests and concerns, while many other Jews—who came out of leftist, socialist background–actively aligned themselves with the Labour Party. In the middle of this debate there was always the question as to which of the two parties was more supportive of the State of Israel.

The New Labour Party which emerged in the 1980’s became a very strong force supporting Jewish interests and backing Israel. Many of the leaders of this new wing of the Labour Party became acquainted with Jews and a pro-Israel agenda while university students. They also experienced numerous visits to Israel. It was out of this experience, at least in part, that Tony Blair emerged. As he rose in the ranks of Labour leadership, Blair maintained close relationships with many Jews and with the State of Israel. Today’s Labour Party, however, has been clearly taken over by left-wing forces which are pro-Palestinian, anti-Israel, and explicitly anti-Semitic.

If British Jews needed any additional confirmation as to how serious the anti-Semitism is within the Labour Party, they heard it last night from former Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair. Speaking at the annual President’s Dinner of the Board of Deputies of British Jews—the main representative body of the British Jewish community–, Blair stated that “…antisemtism was killing the [Labour]Party.” While suggesting that his own voting position was “fixed”, he understood why people –Labour supporters— “…will want to support what I [Blair] would call reasonable centre-ground candidates.”  Blair was very clear that the growth of antisemitism on the left was a “phenomenon” and was “not limited to few bad apples”.

Blair indicated that he did not see the Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn winning the newly called election on December 12. In fact, Blair said that “…there is going to be a complete battle in the Labour Party because of what has happened over these past years—particularly over antisemitism—is [sic] killing the party.” A process of re-education about the true meaning of Zionism was required, said Blair, for those people who are “obsessed with a hatred of Israel.”

The former Prime Minister went so far in his comments that he singled out the Jewish Labour MP Luciana Berger–who was in attendance at the dinner– who was forced out of the Labour Party. He specifically wished her well in her election in December as a candidate of the Liberal Democrat Party.

For British Jews, many of whom also oppose Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s decision to leave the European Union, it is likely that many of them may well follow Berger and vote for the Liberal Democrat Party. The 6000 Jews in Scotland may vote for the Scottish National Party.

As for the national electorate, polls suggest that the public has recognized the anti-Semitism which has engulfed the Labour Party. While many will vote for the Conservative Party their dissatisfaction with Johnson’s position on Breixt may also move a significant number of Tory voters to the Lib-Dems. Johnson, therefore, would face a distinct possibility of another hung parliament.

What this will mean for Johnson, Brexit, and the future of British politics is unclear. This vote may cause Johnson to relinquish power of the Conservative Party. Most important, however, would be if a resounding defeat of Jeremy Corbyn would drive him out of the leadership of the Labour Party. Such a result might force the Labour Party to reexamine its core positions and to address the anti-Semitism which has been espoused by many in the Labour.



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