Others, like the home secretary, have used the occasion to launch political attacks:
Wishing all Jews in UK & abroad a very happy #RoshHashanah. At a time when British Jews understandably (and sadly) feeling under threat from @jeremycorbyn, more important than ever for all decent people to stand together and celebrate our Jewish community. #ShanahTova
— Sajid Javid (@sajidjavid) September 7, 2018
One Twitter account pointed out the issue with Javid’s tweet:
The Home Secretary’s Tweet for Jewish New Year – Suggesting that those who support Corbyn are not 'decent'. He's used a Jewish festival in order to make a political point, which includes saying that Jews who support Corbyn are bad Jews
— Jewish Socialist (@JewishSocialist) September 7, 2018
Other Jewish people have taken offence at what Javid has done. Among them were the actor David Schneider and the author Michael Rosen:
Hey Sajid. Just to let you know that it’s not a traditional Rosh Hashanah gift to be used as a political football and by the way how you getting on with the Islamophobia and racism in your own party? https://t.co/SkBvomKf7c
— David Schneider (@davidschneider) September 7, 2018
I agree. After all, he's not only Sajid Javid, and not only a Tory politician. He's the Home Secretary for the whole country. Instead of behaving like that, he's in effect said, I am not passing on 'our' good wishes to you Corbyn-supporting Jews. He's used the festival. https://t.co/WTFF0D2rtx
— Michael Rosen (@MichaelRosenYes) September 7, 2018
Antisemitism is a problem in the UK. While it’s important to acknowledge and tackle antisemitism on the left; it’s equally important to point out it’s not specific to the left, and that the issue is being used opportunistically.
Much of the criticism of Labour came after the NEC changed the wording of some of the examples that accompany the IHRA definition of antisemitism. Although Labour has now adopted the examples in full, some people in Labour worried they could be used to stifle debate on Israel. Other’s disagreed.
Labour members were not alone in worrying about the suppression of debate. The use of this definition has been criticised by the person who devised it, Black and Minority Ethnic (BAME) groups, and several Jewish groups.
Notably, at the height of the criticism of Labour, the Conservative Party made no mention of IHRA in its rulebook. It didn’t even mention antisemitism, while Labour referenced it three times. As FactCheck wrote on 20 July:
it’s important to remember that the scandal surrounding Labour is about whether and how it defines antisemitism in its party rules. It is difficult for Theresa May to criticise the Labour [Party] on this front – as she did on Wednesday in parliament – when her own party has not specifically mentioned antisemitism in any of its official documents or rulebook.
The Conservatives’ code has since been amended.
There are several other reasons to doubt the Tories’ sincerity when it comes to anti-racism. The responses to Javid’s tweet highlighted several of them:
The Windrush scandal shone a light on the Conservative’s ‘hostile environment‘ against non-white Britons. As a result of that scandal, Amber Rudd was forced to resign as home secretary. Her replacement was none other than Sajid Javid. Since taking the job, he has drawn criticism for:
- Using his position to dismiss Muslim groups who are reporting “more than weekly occurrences of Islamophobia” in the Conservative Party.
- Voting to ensure that documents which show how much the government knew about the Windrush scandal remain secret.
- ‘Buying the silence‘ of victims of the Windrush scandal – namely by using non-disclosure agreements with compensation payments.
Baroness Warsi, the former co-chair of the party, claims that Tory Islamophobia is:
very widespread. It exists right from the grassroots, all the way up to the top.
I don’t think it’s something that Theresa [May] is a part of, but I do believe it is something the leadership feels can be easily ignored.
The Conservatives are ignoring racism in their own party while attempting to weaponise people’s fear of antisemitism. Thankfully, the response to Javid’s message shows that people aren’t falling for it.
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