30th November 2019
Chief Rabbi – perpetrates mendacious fiction
The chief rabbi inadvertently coined the phrase which sums up the past week in the UK General Election with his use of the term “mendacious fiction” in an article in The Times (25/11/19). In his article chief rabbi Ephraim Mirvis stated,
“The claims by leadership figures in the Labour Party that it is ‘doing everything’ it reasonably can to tackle the scourge of anti-Jewish racism and that it has ‘investigated every single case’ are a mendacious fiction.”
Mirvis also claimed that “a new poison – sanctioned from the very top has taken root” in the Labour Party. The Orthodox chief rabbi, the spiritual leader of the United Synagogue which represents around 50% of Jews living in the UK, nevertheless claimed maximum airtime with his claims as the BBC and right wing media gave virtually uncritical coverage to his remarks.
The rabbi was careful not to mention Jeremy Corbyn by name but still managed to make a series of statements which would otherwise land most people in a court of law for slander, stating,
“How complicit in prejudice would a leader of Her Majesty’s opposition have to be in order to be considered unfit for high office?”
He then went on to add,
“Would associations with those who have openly incited hatred against Jews be enough? Would support for a racist mural, depicting powerful hook-nosed Jews supposedly getting rich at the expense of the weak and downtrodden be enough? Would describing as “friends” those who endorse and even perpetrate the murder of Jews be enough? It seems not.”
Mirvis does concede that it was “not my place to tell any person how they should vote” but went on to urge the public to “vote with their conscience.”
Hopefully the public will take his advice to heart and vote for a Party with a Leader whose commitment to tackling racism, prejudice and injustice has been demonstrated time and time again in a political career spanning over forty years. They could even vote for a political party whose Leader has stated clearly and unequivocally,
“There is no place whatsoever for anti-Semitism in any shape or form or in any place whatsoever in modern Britain and under a Labour government it will not be tolerated in any form whatsoever.”
Alternatively, they could buy in to the mendacious fiction pedalled by the chief rabbi, who represents a conservative section of the Jewish community but by no means the Jewish community as a whole. The Jewish Socialists’ Group for example are quite unequivocal in their opinion that,
“We can see no evidence that a victorious Labour government would persecute, disadvantage, hurt, oppress or delegitimise Jewish citizens. On the contrary, the party’s commitment to equality and to challenging discrimination are key to its values and manifesto commitments.”
The chief rabbi’s article had clearly been ‘in the can’ for some time, so it can be no coincidence that The Times chose the date of Labour’s launch of its Race and Faith Manifesto to publish the chief rabbi’s mendacious fictions, in order to undermine the Party’s commitment to justice and equality for those of every race and faith in the UK. No prizes for guessing how much media time and column inches Labour’s commitments received, compared to the comments of the chief rabbi.
The media had clearly targeted this week as key in their anti-Corbyn calendar with the BBC having scheduled a 1-1 interview with Andrew Neil for the 26th November. It was entirely predictable, given the dynamic of the news cycle, that Neil would launch immediately into the anti-Semitism question. His attack line was to press Corbyn for an apology to those who claimed to have been victims of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party.
Corbyn pointed out that allegations of anti-Semitism came from small minority, that disciplinary procedures were in place, with cases being tackled, and that he abhorred anti-Semitism or racism in any form, both in the Labour Party and in society. The failure to give an actual apology was a tactical error but Corbyn also cut a defensive figure on an issue on which Labour in general, and he personally, should occupy the moral high ground.
There is no doubt that Neil’s interviewing style is both obnoxious and hectoring, not letting the actual truth get in the way of a good headline, but that was hardly an unknown. Corbyn should have been prepared to hit back and hit back hard. His body language signalled retreat and Neil continued to attack. On the subject of Brexit, the economy, defence of the NHS and pensions, the pattern was set and the interview ended in disaster.
Neil in effect utilised a series of mendacious fictions, that Labour is weak on tackling anti-Semitism, that Labour is weak on the economy, that Labour does not have a clear position on Brexit, to challenge Corbyn at every turn and shout down any response.
Once again the news cycle did not pick up on Corbyn’s commitment to oppose racism, to gain justice for the WASPI women, robbed of their pensions, to tackle injustice and poverty, or to be the only party offering a second referendum on Brexit.
With a NATO summit taking place in the UK next week there will be plenty of scope for the usual mendacious fictions about Britain being disarmed and unsafe under a Labour government to come to the fore. Corbyn is not only a lifelong anti-racist but a lifelong peace campaigner and the media will no doubt look to turn this against him as the campaign enters its final ten days.
Trash can US President, Donald Trump, will be taking tea with the Queen at the taxpayers’ expense. He has made no secret of his support for a Johnson rather a Corbyn government and will no doubt reiterate his position when he visits next week. That at least could be an advantage for Labour, given how toxic a figure Trump is for most in the UK.
This week has been a setback for Labour but it is by no means a defeat. There is no doubt that the political establishment is still sufficiently worried by the prospect of a Corbyn government that they will throw everything into the final stages of the campaign. Mendacious fictions will come pouring forth. Labour will not only need to stand firm but do its utmost to go on the offensive. With the right wing press and ‘impartial’ BBC set against them, it will be a tough task.
Social media will be vital, word of mouth will be vital, unity around Labour’s manifesto will be essential, if real change is to stand a chance and Boris Johnson is to be packing his bags on 13th December.