Friday, 1 November 2019

Rabbi urges congregation to vote against Corbyn

Though Jonathan Romain is a fairly high profile Rabbi, writing in several papers and popping up on TV and the radio, this story doesn't seem to have made it to the Guardian yet, so I'll take the unusual step of linking the Stephen Pollard edited Jewish Chronicle:
Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain has taken the unprecedented step of writing to his congregation urging them to vote for whatever political party stands the best chance of beating Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour candidates in the forthcoming general election.

The Maidenhead synagogue minister revealed he had sent the letter to 823 families who are members of the Berkshire shul across 16 different constituencies suggesting that “a Corbyn-led government would pose a danger to Jewish life as we know it.”
The source article notes that it is unusual for a Rabbi to be issuing political advice like this, then continues with a lengthy Romain's letter.
"I should stress that the problem is not the Labour Party itself, which has a long record of fighting discrimination and prejudice, but the problem is Jeremy Corbyn. Corbyn-led Labour, has at best, let antisemitism arise within its ranks, or at worst, has encouraged it.

“This has never happened under any previous Labour leader, whether under Tony Blair on the right, Neil Kinnock in the centre or Michael Foot on the left, so the finger of responsibility really does seem to point to Jeremy Corbyn.

“I am therefore suggesting we should each put aside all other considerations and vote for whichever party is most likely to defeat Labour in whatever constituency we are in - even if we would never normally vote for that party.”
I am quite happy with Rabbi Romain expressing his opinion.  I can't see the point of religion that isn't engaged in social and political activity.  Religion is a political activity, and religion that tells its members not to be political is an inherently political act.  Quiescence and silence are de facto support for the status quo.  You can't be neutral or disengaged.

That doesn't mean I agree with what the good Rabbi says, of course.  I hate what you say but I defend to the death the right to et cetera, et cetera.  It's a ridiculous mish-mash of nonsense.

It's absurd to say "Corbyn-led Labour, has at best, let antisemitism arise within its ranks"; 'let' implies a degree of quiescence and apathy.  Labour has not been passive.  It might not have done as much as the Jewish Chronicle or, it would seem, Rabbi Romain would like, but it has not ignored the issue with the passive indifference that 'let' suggests.

But Corbyn's Labour party has taken far more action against anti-Semitism and anti-Semites within Labour than any previous iteration of the party in the time frame laid out by Romain.  Setting aside Corbyn's long history of engagement and expressions of sympathy for British Jews, following the Chakrabarti inquiry anti-Semitism is now something you can specifically be expelled from Labour for.  Previously, it was fudged under the heading of 'bringing the party into disrepute'; the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism has been adopted by the party, controversial examples and all; and many, many cases have been processed, and at a faster rate than previously.

It has been alleged - by Jon Lansman - that the delays in processing of anti-Semitism cases was not due to indifference by Corbyn and his team but by politically motivated neglect by anti-Corbynites on the NEC, who delayed processes in order to generate negative headlines about anti-Semitism.

On this troubling issue, where justice is being delayed and anti-Semitism used as a prop in political theatre, Rabbi Romain appears silent.

That was his 'best case' scenario, remember.  He suggests that, at worst, "has encouraged" anti-Semitism with in the party.

I think claiming Corbyn has "encouraged" anti-Semitism is someone wanting to be martyred. He's either hoping for a libel writ or (more likely) fishing for abuse so he can jump up and down and say, "See! Anti-Semitism!" and Pollard can write more articles bloviating about the wickedness of Corbynites and Corbyn.

I hope people will observe the distinction between criticism and abuse.  It is not wrong that Rabbi Romain has used his position to make a political point; it is wrong that his point appears not to be based on facts and the genuine interests of his congregation but political animus seeking a means to its end.  But he does not deserve to be shouted down, threatened or abused for that.

First, because it would be utterly wrong to do that.  Second, because it would be utterly wrong to do that.  Third, (and a distant third) because it would play into the hands of the sort of people who don't have the interests of Labour or of British Jews in their hearts.

I wonder if any journalists will interview members of his congregation to find out what they think of the Rabbi's letter?  Find out what actual Jews think, rather than just disseminating the utterances of their leaders.

Of course, that would require a bit of journalism, something of a dead art in 2019.

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