Retired British Col. Richard Kemp mixed history (the War of Jenkins’ Ear, the Congreve rockets’ red glare at Fort McHenry and the origins of Britain’s Jewish Brigade) and humor (an offer of a pack of matches in case anyone wants to repeat his regiment’s 1814 burning of the White House) with present praise (the Israel Defense Forces’ unmatched morality) and opprobrium (the U.N. Human Rights Council’s outrageous anti-Israel allegations) during his passionate keynote address to the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces gala Monday night, May 2.
We just hope that amid the laughs and cheers for Kemp’s dry British wit, defense of Israel’s efforts to avoid civilian casualties, admiration for the Judaism permeating the IDF and Israeli society as a whole, and condemnation of slanders comparing Israel to apartheid South Africa and Nazi Germany (“These are not just wide of the mark; they are the diametric opposite of the truth”), the crowd didn’t miss his warning about the ugly turn of events in his native England.
In case you haven’t been paying attention, the bubbling cauldron of anti-Semitism long simmering in the British Labor Party has finally boiled over. Among the incidents:
- A new member of Parliament, Naz Shah, was defended, then suspended by Labor leadership over social media posts in recent years, including suggesting that the solution for the Middle East is the transportation of all Israelis to the United States.
- Former London Mayor Ken Livingstone was suspended after claiming that Hitler was a Zionist.
- Three local Labor elected officials were suspended by the party over anti-Israel and anti-Semitic social media posts.
Those examples in one of the two leading British political parties follow the recent exposure of anti-Semitism in college organizations that produce future Labor leaders.
The newly elected president of Britain’s National Union of Students, BDS activist Malia Bouattia, has destroyed any praise for her achievement as the first black woman and first Muslim to lead the organization by defending Palestinian violence against Israelis — she won’t call it terrorism — and refusing to criticize Islamic State.
At Oxford University, a co-chairman of the Labor Club, Alex Chalmers, who is not Jewish, resigned in February over the group’s endorsement of Israeli Apartheid Week and made allegations of anti-Jewish attitudes, rhetoric and actions within the club and the university’s political left in general. The resulting investigation found that members of the Labor Club celebrated rocket attacks on Israel, disparaged Holocaust remembrance as a moneymaker, and mocked Jewish mourning after the killings at a kosher supermarket in Paris in January 2015.
The fear, of course, is that these incidents are just the tip of an ugly iceberg. It’s no coincidence that one of the FIDF gala’s speakers, English lone soldier Emma Browne, cited rising anti-Semitism in her decision in 2014 to enlist in the IDF instead of the British army. She has family history in both militaries, but in only one could she be proudly Jewish without fear of smear or hatred.
As Kemp said, overt anti-Semitism is frowned upon in polite Western society, but anti-Zionism is embraced and running rampant, often as a thin veil. “Anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism,” he said, “are one and the same thing.”
That’s not always the case, but the distinction between the two is disappearing in Britain, further isolating Israel and, as in other parts of Europe, undermining a deep-rooted Jewish community.