Now, suddenly, faced with the increasingly likely prospect of a Semitically unfriendly Labour Party winning the next election, some English Jews are talking loudly about leaving the country of their own accord. Just what Jeremy Corbyn’s party will do to them if they stay they aren’t sure. Line them up and shoot them, ha, ha? Only a few weeks ago posters appeared on bus shelters in London saying ISRAEL IS A RACIST ENDEAVOR. They came down as soon as they went up, but who’s to say what will be posted next time, and how long it will stay posted? Though I’m not planning to go anywhere myself for the foreseeable future, I don't laugh when others express deep anxiety and even bring up Berlin in the 1920s. When do you know it’s time to leave? It’s a fair question. Some do laugh and point to the vastly different circumstances. But then, skeptical Berliners would doubtless have said the same had anyone brought up the pogroms in Kishinev or Kiev. It will always be more comfortable to believe that nothing’s going to happen. Mainly it doesn’t; the trouble is … and then suddenly it does. If we haven’t learned yet how quickly a friend can become an enemy, or an enemy become a worse one, we haven’t learned anything.
Read: Is It Time for the Jews to Leave Europe?
There is mounting concern, anyway, as evidenced by the spectacle of previously shtum-powder Jews taking to the streets, raising their voices, demonstrating outside Parliament, carrying banners that insist Enough Is Enough. It’s still kept within the bounds of Anglo-Jewish moderation. Much more of this and we might think about losing patience. But at least we’ve met Roth’s objections halfway. The conundrum, though, remains: Is talk of leaving based on a rational assessment of the dangers, or have we just traded understatement for hyperbole?
How we’ve reached this pass can be easily explained. In 2015 a self-marginalized, Sovietized Labour MP who had spent his entire career frequenting the purlieus of protest, opposing nuclear weapons, the West, NATO, America, and of course Israel, astonished everyone, not least himself, by becoming leader of the party with which, on most matters of foreign policy, he’d also been in disagreement for his entire career. The change in party rules governing membership and voting that made his election possible need not detain us. The important thing is that at a stroke the extreme margins of the party moved, in his wake, into the center.
Jeremy Corbyn was not a wholly unknown figure before this. His support for failed and failing revolutionary governments and movements around the world—failed only because the forces of capital had schemed to make them fail—and his appearances on Russian and Iranian TV, telling his hosts the things about the West they wanted to hear, had not gone unnoticed. But there was a plodding archaism about his ideology, suggestive of the crackling radio through which die-hard academic Marxists and Trotskyists of the 1930s took their cue from Moscow, that rendered it innocuous. Corbyn himself was no orator. His appeal—to those for whom he had appeal—was to speak as though from a position of justified weakness. Turn the sound down on his denunciations of oppression and he could have been propounding the virtues of veganism. Indeed, when interviewed in the run-up to his election, he seemed to prefer talking about the vegetables he grew on his allotment to expounding policy. Yes, he had been the chairman of Stop the War Coalition, a wrathful advocacy group that campaigned against whatever could be described as militarism or imperialism, and so had a lot to say about Israel, but it sometimes seemed that he was there in a grandfatherly capacity, to take the edge off its stridency.