By Melanie Phillips, Israel Hayom—
A row over anti-Semitism that has erupted in Britain illuminates the problem that bedevils so many in the West over their understanding of what Judaism actually is.
The controversy started with a tweet by the Labour Party’s deputy leader, Angela Rayner, congratulating the new head of the Scottish Labour Party, Anas Sarwar, on his appointment. Rayner described Sarwar, who is of Pakistani descent, as “the first-ever ethnic minority leader of a political party anywhere in the UK.”
Sarwar is certainly the first Muslim or Asian leader of a political party. But there have been four Jewish party leaders in the United Kingdom – from Conservative Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli in the 19th century to Labour Party leader Ed Miliband in the last decade.
So Rayner appeared to have forgotten about the Jews. Or possibly she didn’t actually regard them as an ethnic minority. For it then turned out that a number of people have a problem with designating the Jews in this way.
This erupted on the BBC’s daily show, “Politics Live,” which chose to respond to protests from British Jews over Rayner’s remark by hosting a discussion with a title card: “Should Jews count as an ethnic minority?”
To many Jews, even to ask this question was demonstrably absurd. How could they not be counted as such? And why were non-Jews suddenly presuming to tell Jews what they were or were not?
Yet not only was there a nine-minute discussion about this on the show involving four non-Jews and one Jew, but this quickly piled much more offence on top of Rayner’s original tweet.
Asked whether the first ethnic minority leader was Sarwar or Benjamin Disraeli, Labour peer Lord Wood demurred on the basis that Disraeli had converted to Christianity. This elicited a protest from the one Jew on the panel, the chief executive of Pink News Benjamin Cohen, who observed that while someone can reject the Jewish faith he cannot alter his ethnic identity as a Jew.
Things then took a turn for the worse. The show’s anchor, Jo Coburn, who is herself a Jew, suggested: “Many Jews have succeeded in reaching high political office, and therefore don’t need to be seen as a group needing recognition in the same way as others.”
But people don’t stop being members of a minority group, or become immune from discrimination or prejudice, just because they have achieved political or social success. As Cohen riposted, the suggestion was absurd. Continue Reading…