In Britain, Racism

Image via Flickr – Chatham House / YouTube – OxfordUnion

Recent accusations of antisemitism in the Labour party by the Chief Rabbi’s have attracted media attention in the run up to the election but there are glaring omissions in the account given by much of the MSM.

By Emily Apple

Published on the Canary, Nov 26, 2019

Antisemitism in the Labour Party is dominating the headlines again after the Chief Rabbi decided to intervene in the election. Ephraim Mirvis described the antisemitism ‘crisis’ in the Times:

A new poison – sanctioned from the top – has taken root in the Labour Party.

Mirvis further claimed that:

It is not my place to tell any person how they should vote. I regret being in this situation at all. I simply pose the question: What will the result of this election say about the moral compass of our country?

But the subtext is clear – don’t vote Labour. Unsurprisingly, the establishment press has lapped up his comments. But the coverage is missing one crucial and short sentence; a sentence which allows readers to put his comments into context: that Mirvis described Johnson as a “longstanding friend”.

Congratulations on your new job

When Johnson was elected as PM, Mirvis wrote:

I am delighted to congratulate Boris Johnson, a longstanding friend and champion of the Jewish community, on becoming the next leader of the Conservative Party and our next Prime Minister.

Now this could be read as describing Johnson as a friend ‘to the Jewish community’ or as a personal friend. Either way, Mirvis certainly seems keen to cultivate a cosy relationship. He continues:

As he accepts upon himself the mantle of responsibility to lead our nation, may he be blessed with the wisdom to successfully navigate the political uncertainties we face and bring healing and prosperity to our great country.

But, whether it’s the Guardian or the Mail, you’d be hard-pressed to find any reference to this ‘longstanding friendship’ anywhere in the media coverage. This is important. Not because it’s down to any of us to make assumptions about Mirvis’s intentions in writing his piece. But because it gives essential and crucial context to his comments.

Meanwhile, ‘leading’ journalists such as Laura Kuenssberg and Robert Peston, uncritically parroted his remarks on Twitter without any counterbalance given from Jewish people who disagree with Mirvis – something which at least some of the press did manage.


This fact also gives context to some of the elements of Mirvis’s article that just can’t be taken seriously. For example, he asks:

How complicit in prejudice would a leader of Her Majesty’s opposition have to be to be considered unfit for office?

A question he should really be asking of his “longstanding friend” Johnson rather than Corbyn, an MP who’s spent his life fighting racism and prejudice. Seriously, we have a PM who’s refused to apologise for describing Muslim women as ‘letterboxes’ – a comment that was demonstrably linked to a rise in hate crime – and Mirvis is attacking an anti-fascist for “prejudice”. At best it’s twisted. At worst, it’s dark and manipulative.

And as Jewish writer Michael Rosen pointed out, Johnson supported a far-right leader who is actually antisemitic.

Now ‘whataboutery’ is not a good look. All racism and prejudice need tackling whether it’s antisemitism or Islamophobia. But when you have a Conservative Party that’s embroiled in numerous and far-reaching accusations of Islamophobia that aren’t being taken seriously and don’t dominate the headlines in the same way, serious questions need to be asked. And that’s also ignoring the issue of antisemitism in the Conservative Party, which seems to barely warrant a mention.

Mirvis doesn’t speak for all Jewish people

One thing is clear. Mirvis doesn’t speak for all Jewish people – myself included. A point many Jewish people made on Twitter:

Fear and anxiety

Mirvis wrote that:

the overwhelming majority of British Jews are gripped by anxiety.

As a British Jew, I do feel anxiety. But as I’ve written before, this fear isn’t caused by Corbyn but the climate that’s been manufactured around the antisemitism crisis – something this Twitter user also pointed out:

And as another Jewish person wrote before the Chief Rabbi made his comments:

Despite the doomsday picture being painted for British Jews, I’m not fearful of Corbyn or the possibility of him reaching 10 Downing Street. Nor do I believe that the Labour Party is “poisoned” or “rampant” with antisemitism. But what has left me horrified over the last four years has been the reckless and irresponsible way in which antisemitism has been used to vilify Corbyn and make the entire Labour Party appear toxic.

This is exactly how I feel. And now it’s more important than ever that Jewish people who support Corbyn speak out and provide an alternative to the narrative the establishment press is desperate to perpetuate. It’s utterly clear the mainstream media isn’t going to provide the full picture when it universally misses out such a crucial fact from all its coverage. So it’s down to all of us to shout about it and spread this message far and wide.


Original title: There’s one crucial sentence missing from the mainstream media’s coverage of the Chief Rabbi’s comments


EDITOR’S NOTE: We remind our readers that publication of articles on our site does not mean that we agree with what is written. Our policy is to publish anything which we consider of interest, so as to assist our readers in forming their opinions. Sometimes we even publish articles with which we totally disagree, since we believe it is important for our readers to be informed on as wide a spectrum of views as possible.

Recent Posts
Contact Us

We're not around right now. But you can send us an email and we'll get back to you, asap.

Start typing and press Enter to search

Translate »