Last month’s UK election left the Brits saying “cheerio” to Ed Miliband. And while the majority of British Jewry heaved a sigh of relief at the defeat of the Jewish candidate, the dramatic result of the election should serve as a lesson for Jewish communities outside the British Isles.
Miliband’s fall from grace – after the polls erroneously predicted his victory –and his subsequent resignation as party leader stunned the electorate but pleased many in the Jewish community who saw him as a dangerous turncoat on different levels.
Shortly before the May 22 election, some 69 percent of British Jews said they were voting for the Conservative Party, with just 22 percent planning to cast a ballot for Miliband. A campaign in the Jewish community even called on its members not only to refrain from voting Labor but also to stop making donations to the party, primarily because of Miliband.
Jews rightly opposed the socialist Miliband, who is notorious for his anti-Israel sentiments. Miliband’s Polish-born parents were Holocaust survivors who thrived in the milieu of English Marxist academia. His mother, protected by Catholic nuns in Poland during the war, became a human rights activist and longtime supporter of left wing pro-Palestinian organizations, including Jews for Justice for Palestinians and Independent Jewish Voices.
Miliband’s condemnation of Israel during last summer’s Operation Protective Edge as “wrong and unjustified” garnered much publicity, as did his attack on British Prime Minister David Cameron for “silence on the killing of hundreds of innocent Palestinian civilians.” Two months later, Miliband strongly backed a motion in Parliament to recognize Palestine as an independent state, much to the consternation of British Jews.
Even Miliband’s gaffes during the recent campaign turned out to be unintentional affronts to Jewish sensibilities. He was roundly caricatured for his sloppy performance while eating a ham sandwich, something of a campaign ritual. Though negative scrutiny focused on his table manners, the irony of the Jewish candidate’s choice of cuisine certainly didn’t escape notice.
Miliband’s problems with his own people go deeper. In England he is famous both for his ideology and for his political backstabbing of his older brother David. In 2010, Ed shocked the British establishment by challenging the better known and politically established David for the Labor leadership role.
Securing the backing of unions, Ed won by a slim margin against David, who had been poised to become the leader of Britain’s Labor Party, with a chance to become prime minister. The ensuing enmity between the two brothers reached Cain and Abel-like proportions (about the only hint of biblical significance shared by the brothers, both self-described atheists married to non-Jews). Indeed, David left England, devastated by his loss, and the rift has never mended.
The question of trust continues to hover over Ed. And indeed itshould dominate his relationship with the Jewish community. If he can betray his own brother for political ambitions, certainly he can betray his Jewish family at large.
Though unadulterated ambition may have been a prime motivating force behind Ed’s denouncement of Israel and embrace of the Palestinians, no one denies his belief in what he says. He is, unfortunately, one of a growing number of Jews abandoning their sense of loyalty to their fellow Jews in the name of ideology. And as Israel’s battles have expanded beyond Israeli soil to include the arenas of the UN, the EU, the ICC, college campuses and even FIFA (the international soccer federation), the consequences of such allegiances become frightening.
Kudos, then, to the Britain’s Jewish community for opposing Miliband. As a result of increased anti-Semitic attacks against European Jewry, British Jews seem to be more sensitive to threats against their well-being than are their American Jewish counterparts, especially when political threats emanate from perfidious members of the tribe. Britain’s electoral result points to a prescience on the part of British Jews regarding the necessity of self-preservation and especially the defense of Israel. This is a lesson American Jewry would do well to learn.
Too many in the Jewish community on this side of the Atlantic are increasingly downgrading their support for Israel; expressing pro-Israel sentiments in the progressive/leftist social and political environment that is home to most Jews is hardly a recipe for success and acceptance.
Anger at Prime Minister Netanyahu for speaking out in Washington against the administration’s position on Iran and resentment against Israel’s new right of center and religious coalition have fueled the growing divide between Israel and American Jews, particularly younger American Jews.
Jews whose fealty is to a leftist agenda see issues like the Iran nuclear deal and Palestinian statehood – which should be viewed as obvious dangers to Israel – in a positive light. And like Miliband, who tried to court the Jewish vote in the weeks before the election with disingenuous declarations of support for Israel “as a friend, as a Jew,” American Jewish liberals are trying similar tactics in order to promote their agenda.
Jews such as David Axelrod, Martin Indyk, Jeffrey Goldberg, and Jack Lew defend Obama’s Iran deal and oppose Israel’s stance toward the Palestinians. They happily tout Obama as “the first Jewish president,” a man who is “the closest thing to a Jew that ever sat in this office,” and one who “has Israel’s back.”
Obama himself donned a yarmulke and spoke at a Conservative congregation in Washington several weeks back in an attempt to hit the “reset button” on his relationship with American Jews. He basked in applause as he spoke of a Palestinian homeland and equated Jewish values with the 1960s civil rights movement.
But no number of yarmulkes on Obama’s head can negate the fact that Israel’s survival would be threatened by a nuclear Iran deal that even French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius has called a “fool’s game.”
Yet, like Miliband, American Jews are turning on their own in defense of leftist dreams and dreamers. Alas, blood is not thicker than political considerations when it comes to the U.S.-Israel relationship.
Which is why serious soul searching on the part of American Jews is crucial before irreversible damage is done to Israel. They can start by studying the behavior of Jewish voters in Britain and the rise and fall of Ed Miliband.