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Jewish Chronicle editor: ‘The Corbyn years have finally closed’

David Rose joined JI’s podcast to discuss antisemitism in the United Kingdom

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David Rose

On this week’s episode of Jewish Insider’s podcast, British journalist David Rose, the politics and investigations editor at the Jewish Chronicle in London, joins co-hosts Rich Goldberg and Jarrod Bernstein for a conversation on the U.K.’s legislative fight over BDS and the IRGC, antisemitism in England, the Labour party and Israel’s relationship with the U.K.

Below are excerpts from the conversation. This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

On how the British government should treat the IRGC: “I have absolutely no doubt that the legal tool that the government needs, and this is very much the view of Tom Tugendhat, security minister, and Suella Braverman, the Home secretary, is that what we should do is prescribe the IRGC [Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps] in its entirety as a terrorist organization. It’s a bit stronger than merely designating it, as in the U.S., as a state sponsor of terrorism. It means that we’re actually saying, ‘This is a terrorist organization,’ which of course it clearly is. Now, if that were to be enacted, that would give tremendously powerful tools to law enforcement to go after both the organizations that are Iranian-sponsored and people who support them. If you designate an entity as a terrorist organization under our Terrorism Act passed in 2000, it means that to espouse, share, disseminate its ideology, is in and of itself a criminal offense. I mean, we have sanctions against these named universities, we have sanctions also against Iran covering a whole host of both military and dual-use technologies, but it’s quite difficult to get a prosecution under that set of laws. Prescription of the IRGC as a terrorist organization means that anybody doing business with any entity that had a connection with the IRGC would also be committing a criminal offense. So it would stop the academic collaborations in their tracks.”

On Jeremy Corbyn and the British Labour party: “I think it’s fair to say that a very large proportion of people in the Jewish community who would normally have voted Labour did not do so in 2017 or 2019, because they could not countenance a government led by [Jeremy] Corbyn [the former Labour party leader accused of mishandling antisemitism allegations and creating a culture that tolerated antisemitism]. And indeed, you know, personally, I felt as a Jew a visceral fear of what they might do if they ever came to power. First of all, a lot of the people who were responsible for the driving of Labour down that terribly dangerous road have simply left the party. Labour party membership has shrunk by over a fifth, maybe a quarter by now, and the people who have left are the poisonous, antisemitic hard left. They’ve gone back to the extreme left-wing groups where they first came from. I mean, they came to take over the Labour Party, because the former leader, Ed Miliband, the one before Corbyn, who, by the way, is Jewish, introduced this crazy rule where you could join the party and vote for the next leader if you paid a three-pound subscription, you know, $5, less than $5. When Corbyn stood, nobody imagined he could win, and then of course he did…But I do think the Corbyn years have finally closed. I mean, let’s not forget the symbolic nature that, not only did [current Labor leader]Keir Starmer withdraw Corbyn’s whip, that is to say he was not allowed to vote as a Labour MP anymore, because he wouldn’t acknowledge the extent of the party’s previous antisemitism — he wouldn’t recognize the report that was done by the Equality and Human Rights Commission in Britain, which found that Labour had become institutionally antisemitic — but Starmer has also made sure that Corbyn cannot stand again as a Labour candidate in his constituency where he’s been an MP for, since the ’80s. So, you know, he means it.”

On the Israel-U.K. relationship: “In some ways, it’s never been closer. Negotiations for a very wide-ranging free-trade deal between Britain and Israel are at an advanced stage — most people expect there will be a deal within a few weeks. So that’s very positive. There’s also a very close security relationship. I think the importance of Israel’s security and intelligence agencies, especially given the emerging threat from Iran, is widely appreciated and, again, it’s an extremely close relationship. Politically, there’s no doubt that people both in the current government and in the Labour party have difficulties with aspects of [Israeli Prime Minister] Benjamin Netanyahu’s current policy and the composition of his coalition with the far-right leaders [Itamar] Ben-Gvir and [Bezalel] Smotrich. I mean, obviously, Israeli politics themselves are so tangled now and it can be argued that Benjamin Netanyahu himself is unprecedentedly weak, a slave to events over which he seems to have little control. But, you know, slowly but surely, I think the political chaos in Israel is starting to affect the relationship. And of course, you know, things like the boycotts by military reservists and so on, they make quite a big impact in the United Kingdom. So, you know, at one level, it’s a very good relationship, but I think it’s a relationship which could come under a lot of pressure in the near-to-medium term.”

On the state of antisemitism in the U.K. today: “I think the removal of Corbyn from the Labour leadership was a very important step in making people feel safer, because it meant that expressions of antisemitism couched as anti-Zionism were no longer acceptable and mainstream. But that said, I think there are serious issues. Now, the main organization that tries to protect the Jewish community is the Community Security Trust, and the CST is an extremely impressive organization. It has an amazing investigative arm, I often work with them. It also has an extraordinary security arm, which has networks of CCTV cameras, it has control rooms, it has motion sensors, infrared stuff, and you know, if something is detected near a potential Jewish target, a school or a synagogue, whatever, you know, these guys are on it. They tell the police, often there are arrests, and so on. But that said, I mean, there is nevertheless a depressing, generally rising curve of antisemitic incidents, and it’s detectable with expressions from the extreme-right online, which has been surging tremendously. It is regrettably, increasingly prevalent in some of Britain’s Muslim communities where anti-Zionism that goes far beyond mere political opposition to the State of Israel is openly and nakedly expressed.”

Bonus lightning round: Favorite Yiddish word or phrase?Putz. Just because it’s a phrase often used by William Styron in his great novel Sophie’s Choice. It’s one of my favorite books ever, one of the most brilliant novels of the 20th century.” Favorite Jewish food? “I’m not sure it’s strictly a Jewish food, but I had, in Hameches Square in Jerusalem a few months ago, the best beef carpaccio I have ever tasted in my life.” Favorite kosher spot in London? “Well, there aren’t very many. I mean, [during] my childhood, we used to go to this restaurant in Golders Green in the heart of the Jewish community, it had another branch in the East End, called Bloom’s.” Favorite U.K. prime minister who is not Winston Churchill? “I’m gonna say Gordon Brown.”

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