Memories of a Jewish Childhood
One of my favourite childhood memories is of my father and his two
brothers, uncle Jack and uncle Arnold, at family gatherings. Forgive the
sexism of this - my mother and aunts were not involved . The brothers were
products of their time. They would always sit at a table and argue about
the politics of the day - Suez, Hungary, Kruschev, Eden, Gaitskell. They were
carrying on a wonderful Jewish tradition, expressed in the lovely
saying - three Jews, four opinions. I listened and I learned.
Recently, I rediscovered my cousin Leslie, uncle Jack's son, in
Ramsgate - and what do we do? This time with our partners we sit down
at a table and discuss the politics of the day - antisemitism, Corbyn,
Israel, Palestine. Now I'm a sort of unrepentant Marxist and I regard
Leslie (he can speak for himself) as a sort of liberal socialist. So
there is plenty of scope for disagreement. I argue that Israel is a racist colonial-
settler state, and that it is unacceptable that I as a Jew have a
greater right to live in Israel/ Palestine than an evicted, dispossessed, ethnically cleansed
Palestinian. There is disagreement inevitably, but perhaps more
agreement than either of us would care to admit.
Now under the examples of the IHRA definition, this debate would not be
allowed as it outlaws putting the view that the state of Israel is a
This would be such a loss. It would be a loss for the participants in
the debate. I'm sure both me and Leslie have learned a lot from our
dialogue, and gained much self-clarification. So too would anyone else
listening in – just as I did that lifetime ago.
The result? For sure I would be expelled from the Labour Party, after 50 years continued membership.
But that's not the worst of it - after all that's one of the aims of the
exercise. As the joint statement of the three Jewish newspapers
attacking Jeremy Corbyn makes clear, if the IHRA definition was passed
in full, hundreds if not thousands of Labour Party members would be
No, the worst of it is that people like my liberal socialist cousin
Leslie would find themselves on the wrong side of the definition and
face the chop as well.
And a beautiful Jewish tradition would be lost.