News from November 25 to December 1

Israeli election update and antisemitism in the United Kingdom

Hey everyone. It was somewhat of a slow week following last week’s craziness, so this will be a shorter one. As always, feel free to reach out with comments, questions, or concerns at newsofthejews@gmail.com.

Israeli election update:

Does Israel have a government yet? Nope. 

What’s new? Reports falsely suggested Avigdor Lieberman and his Yisrael Beiteinu party would support both Blue and White’s Benny Gantz and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in their efforts to assemble a coalition. As you may recall, Gantz and Netanyahu failed to form a government when they each had the proverbial “mandate” to do so. Since Gantz’s mandate expired, Israel has been in a 21-day period where any Member of Knesset (MK) can earn a new mandate to form a government if they get 61 signatures from MKs. If Liberman actually had been willing to sign for both Gantz and Netanyahu, it would have been a mad dash to see which faction–Blue and White’s center-left bloc and Likud’s right-wing bloc–could turn in their list first. The move would have marked a significant departure from Liberman’s prior insistence that Blue and White and Likud form a unity coalition since he would be enabling both parties to form a government without each other. 

So what happened? The reports ended up being incorrect. The parties took the reports so seriously that the right-wing bloc had already started compiling their signatures. Even if Likud managed to assemble the required 61 signatures, Netanyahu still might not have been allowed to form a government. Last week, Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit declined to rule about whether or not an indicted Prime Minister can assemble a new government on the basis that it was only theoretical. Well, it was nearly very real! 

What else? The 21-day free-for-all period ends on December 11. If the stalemate continues, Israel will head to a third election in March. That being said, there are reports that talks for a unity coalition are making some progress. Netanyahu is reportedly willing to only serve as Prime Minister for a few months as long as he can serve first. Gantz is said to be seriously considering the offer. Such an agreement would be unpopular for many members of Blue and White, so the party might have to break up into its constituent parties to make it work (Blue and White is made up of three constituent parties. I wrote about them in a past newsletter). Keep an eye out for news about the internal politics of Blue and White. 

Further reading: https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-three-scenarios-for-netanyahu-s-chaotic-climax-the-good-the-bad-and-the-horrendous-1.8202627 (Haaretz)

UK Chief Rabbi denounces Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party for antisemitism:

Background: On December 12, the United Kingdom will have a parliamentary election that will determine its next Prime Minister. The leading candidates are Boris Johnson, a Conservative party MP and current Prime Minister, and Jeremy Corbyn, a Labour party MP and current leader of the opposition. Corbyn has been accused of antisemitism for years. Here are some of the things he has done or said that have raised concerns (in no particular order):

  1. Laid a wreath at a gravesite where terrorists linked to the assassinations of Israeli Olympians at the 1972 Olympics were buried

  2. Described Hamas and Hezbollah as his friends, then later refused to denounce the terrorist groups

  3. Supported a graffiti artist who complained about his antisemitic art being scrubbed off a wall

  4. Wrote a foreword in an antisemitic book he described as “brilliant” that claimed international capitalism is controlled “by men of a single and peculiar race, who have behind them many centuries of financial experience”

  5. Opposed the Labour party adopting the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) definition of antisemitism

There are countless other examples, and I encourage you to take a look at the Committee For Accuracy In Middle East Reporting And Analysis’ (CAMERA) timeline of Jeremy Corbyn’s antisemitism to get a better understanding of the scope of the issue. Polling indicates that 47% of British Jews would “seriously consider” emigrating if Corbyn becomes Prime Minister and a staggering 87% of British Jews believe Corbyn is antisemitic. Aside from his specific actions and statements, many have accused him of failing to take action against antisemitism in his party. The National Review explained it best:

“Data obtained by the Times show that party leader Jeremy Corbyn’s office had received 863 complaints relating to [antisemitism] as of March 8, 2019, but only intervened in 101 of those cases. In total, 454 of the cases remain unresolved, including 249 cases in which no action has been taken. And in those cases that were resolved, 191 members faced no sanction, 145 received a warning the Times characterized as a ‘slap on the wrist,’ and just 29 members were expelled.”

Okay, so what happened? The chief rabbi of the United Kingdom, Ephraim Mirvis, wrote an op-ed where he described Corbyn as “unfit for office” and blasted him for allowing the “poison” of antisemitism to fester in the Labour party. That’s a huge statement from a religious leader just weeks before an election. Yet, he wasn’t the only religious figure to speak out. The archbishop of Canterbury said Mirvis’ article “ought to alert us to the deep sense of insecurity and fear felt by many British Jews. The Hindu Council of Britain and the Muslim Council of Britain also backed up Rabbi Mirvis. 

How did Corbyn respond? He did an interview a day after Mirvis’ article was published with BBC’s Andrew Neil and repeatedly refused to apologize to the Jewish community for antisemitism claims. 

A personal note: I have always found that people are quicker to criticize claims of antisemitism than they are to empathize with them. That is very much the case in Britain. When 87% of Jews believe someone is antisemitic, they should not be a mainstream political figure. I’m thankful for allies in other minority communities and otherwise (Tom Holland signed a letter denouncing Corbyn!) who bravely defend Jews from bigotry. We must always do the same for them. That includes denouncing Johnson and his Conservative party for Islamophobia. Some believe that criticizing Corbyn means supporting Johnson. It does not. We can and we must call out bigotry wherever it exists. 

Further reading:https://www.bbc.com/news/election-2019-50564965 (BBC)

Honorable Mentions:

A Lebanese-Swiss businessman purchased items at auction belonging to Hitler and other Nazis so that they couldn’t be used for neo-Nazi propaganda

The IDF is conducting a feasibility study on building an artificial island off the coast of Gaza to ease the economic and humanitarian situation in Gaza 

Amazon took down Christmas ornaments depicting Auschwitz from its website

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