UK Labour, the Church, and cancerous anti-Semitism

Great Britain is in a mind-boggling mess over anti-Semitism. This, of course, is related to bigotry against Israel. Can the dilemmas be resolved, or will the cancer continue to metastasize?

The terrible reality of UK anti-Semitism
Michael Curtis
On 12 April 2016 12:28

At last voices of sanity, whether genuinely sincere or uttered for political reasons are being heard in Britain. They may not be voices of turtledoves, but they address in sharp tones the problem of antisemitism in the British Labour Party.

The virus in Britain, the cancer of antisemitism, not only exists in the Labour Party but is metastasizing.

Once again the Party leader, Jeremy Corbyn, and members of the British Labour Party have been reluctant to deal with the problem. The leader, himself not antsemitic, and who has called antisemitism absolutely abhorrent, was asked by the Prime Minister David Cameron to expel a troublesome individual, Gerry Downing, from the Party but Corbyn refused to respond.

Downing had been expelled from the Party in August 2015 for remarks he made on social media, but had appealed and was reinstated. One of his bizarre remarks was that the 9/11 terrorists “must never be condemned”.

Among the other intellectual contributions of Downing, a member of the “Socialist Fight ” group, was that, “the ambition to overthrow capitalism is a very legitimate political ambition.” He left unstated the means by which this will be done.

The latest problem for the Party concerns a young 20 year old Muslim student at Warwick University named Aysegul Gurbuz who is the youngest Labour Party councilor in Luton, a town about 30 miles from London. She has been suspended from the Party for a number of anti-Semitic tweets posted on her profile for three years.

She had tweeted that: “The Jews are so powerful on the U.S. it’s disgusting.” Another on October 27, 2011, was that Adolf Hitler was, “the greatest man in history.” A third tweet hoped that Israel would be wiped out by an Iranian nuclear bomb.

At first, Gurbuz claimed she had not written the offensive tweets but that her sister had posted them on their joint account.

The real problem with this case, and the other incidents of Labour Party members, is that the leadership of the Party has not initiated inquiries or actions against the blatant antsemites, but has acted only when their hand had ben forced by complaints of other people, within and outside the Party. If Corbyn does not take effective action it will demonstrate that Labour is not ready to govern.

Two British public figures have addressed the anti-Semitic issue. One is Sadiq Khan, a Muslim of Pakistani origin, Member of Parliament for Tooting, London since 2005, the Labour candidate for Mayor of London in the 2016 election. He admitted he wore a “badge of shame” because of the antisemitism in his party. He criticized Corbyn  for not taking a tougher stand on the issue.

Khan declared that more of the offenders should have been expelled. The members of the National Executive of the Party should be trained in what antisemitism is. It may well be that these utterances of Khan were as much politically motived -- aimed at London’s Jewish population -- as genuine. Then again, that may be unfair.

Yet, he is conscious that his Conservative Party rival, Zac Goldsmith, privileged and wealthy MP for Richmond, London since 2010, is half-Jewish.

The former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Carey, was blunt about the problem. Antisemitism persists in “dark corners” of Britain, including the Labour Party and major universities. It has now reached the highest level for thirty years. Antisemitic language and attitudes should not be tolerated.

He did not say that Labour was “riddled” with antisemitism, but asserted there are real problems. Corbyn was unfit to govern unless he eliminated antisemitism from the Party.

Carey asked a question which UN organizations and BDS bigots always avoid asking or trying to answer. Where do we find equivalent international action, as is customary against Israel, against Saudi Arabia or Sudan which are hostile to Christians or ban worship by them, or against the human rights abuses in Iran?

Carey blamed the savage ideology of ISIS, al-Qaeda, and Al Shabaab, shaped by mistaken and warped theologies, for the hatred against Jews and Christians.

The present Archbishop of Canterbury since 2013, Justin Welby, has also touched on the issue. In 2015 he admitted he had failed to stand up and protest against antisemitism. He said there was a need to do so, and was embarrassed by the failings of the Anglican Church in tackling it.

At present, he is unlikely to pursue the issue since he is involved in the unfortunate dilemma of suddenly discovering he is -- to appropriate the old, and unpleasant lexicon -- "illegitimate". His real father was not Gavin Welby, the husband of his mother, but a well known personality, Anthony Montague Brown.

It is quite a tale.

Brown was a handsome, brave fighter pilot who attacked Japanese communications lines in World War II, who became the private secretary of Winston Churchill from 1952-65, and was the person who signed the political death warrant of Churchill.

In private life he was a womanizer with many conquests, who had a brief affair with Jane Portal, the Archbishop’s mother, and the niece of Chief of Air Staff Charles Portal, who conceived his child while married to Welby from whom she was divorced after a brief marriage.

There are a number of interesting aspects to this story, but one has not been discussed. The supposed father Welby was a bootlegger and successful whisky salesman, who became an alcoholic and had led a colorful life.

Among his friends was Jack Kennedy to whom he introduced a 21 year old Swedish woman who became his mistress a few weeks before J.F. K’s marriage to Jacqueline. Welby himself had a romance with and for a time was engaged to the actress Vanessa Redgrave.

But Welby was not always Welby. His real name was Bernard Weiler, who came from a family of German Jewish immigrants. It is not clear if, and probably is most unlikely, that the Archbishop knew of the parentage of his supposed father. Now the Archbishop has to consider his identity, which he says he can find, “in Jesus Christ, not in genetics and my identity in him never changes.”

An enticing thought occurs. If the Archbishop had known or thought he was half-Jewish would he have spoken out and acted more strongly to counter antisemitism?

Michael Curtis, author of "Jews, Antisemitism, and the Middle East", is Distinguished Professor Emeritus in political science at Rutgers University. Curtis is the author of 30 books, and in 2014 was awarded the French Legion d'Honneur

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