Don’t hitch your horse to a cart with a broken wheel.
One of the first rules of behaviour when contacted by a journalist or writer, or even if you are arrested by the police, is to ask yourself; ‘do I really need to say anything?’ and ‘will anything I say make things better or worse?’
Perhaps Rabbi Danny Rich, Chief Executive of the Liberal Judaism movement, should have considered that rule before opening his mouth and jumping into the Ralph Milliband controversy. By not doing that, he has dragged Liberal Judaism into a political row on the wrong side, and not for the first time I might add, as was shown by the debacle over signing Liberal Judaism up as partners to a community umbrella organisation that tolerates Islamists and Jihadis among its members.
The article in the Daily Mail by Geoffery Levy that criticised Ralph Milliband, in no way criticised his Judaism, nor the fact that his family were refugees from Nazism. It only criticised the failed ideology of Marxism that Ralph Milliband promoted until his dying day.
Rabbi Rich, according to a press release from Liberal Judaism, told the Jewish Chronicle newspaper that the Daily Mail was ‘playing with fire’ over the Ralph Milliband story and added: ““The danger is that the paper’s attack on Ralph Milliband gives legitimacy to those that seek to cast all refugees and immigrants as ‘outsiders’ and question their loyalty. This is a concern not only for Jews but all those that share our experience and with whom we must stand,”
The press release continued:
“Rabbi Rich was careful to distance himself from other commentators who accused the Mail of anti-semitism, instead expressing the concern that their position legitimised the idea of immigrants and refugees as “outsiders”, with suspect loyalties. In doing this, Rabbi Rich choose to emphasise Liberal Jewish values by universalising the message in line with the injunction “not to mistreat or oppress the stranger for we were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Exodus 22:21) “
Rabbi Rich did indeed distance himself from those who had, in a knee-jerk way, shouted ‘anti-Semitism’ when Mail article was published, but this ill-advised intervention appears to be more political than religious. A hero of the Left has been rightly trashed and Rabbi Rich wades in with happy clappy stuff about how we shouldn’t be suspicious of strangers, even though we have ample evidence that many of the strangers that the Left has imported are not exactly peaceful. It is natural and right that we are suspicious, not of those strangers who worship a different god, or who originally spoke a different language, but be rightfully suspicious of those who seek to impose their beliefs with violence, intimidation and corruption, as has been amply proved with the case of Islam.
You cannot and should not compare the Jewish experience, which has so often seen Jewish people as the victims of violence from the intolerant, with paths such as Islam and Communism, which have shown themselves throughout history as being the victimiser and not the victim, the oppressor not the oppressed. It is immoral, and is a considerable disrespect for those who were murdered purely for being Jewish, to draw equivalence between the Jewish experience of exile and oppression and the promoters of such ideologies that cause death and destruction wherever they are applied.
The Mail article does nothing like what Rabbi Rich accuses it of. It doesn’t call into question the loyalty of those thousands of Jews who came to Britain from a Hitler- dominated Europe many of whom fought against Nazism and have become respectable British citizens, but quite plainly only flings its bile at the small minority of leftist intellectuals and their attitudes.
Not all of those who worked for, or promoted socialism whilst ignoring its casualties, were of Jewish background, far from it; for every dodgy and damaging socialist Milliband or Hobsbawm that were of a Jewish background, there were, and are, many others, such as the historian EP Thompson, and the journalist Claud Cockburn, whose background was anything but ‘kosher’. The Stalin supporting (up until 1939 that is) Communist leader Harry Pollit, and the Cambridge spies for example, were also considerably lacking in Jewish credentials.
The far right neo-nazi meme of ‘Judaism equals Bolshevism’ is one that pops up from time to time, but, like Islamic anti-semitism, doesn’t need any outside stimulus from the Daily Mail to help it, because it exists already. You cannot police human thought to such an extent that you prevent that, it’s much better to shrug your shoulders and let such loons wibble. Yes, a concept such as the ‘Jewish Left’ does exist, but there also exists a Christian Left’ and a secular Left and a Left that aligns itself with Islam.
What Rabbi Rich has done is quite shameful to be honest. He has used the long Jewish historic experience of migration and settlement, of refuge and expulsion and of acceptance and exclusion to try to make this into a religious issue rather than a political one. Rabbi Rich presides over a movement where a considerable number of its Rabbis are from the Left, even though that is not always the case that such views are shared by individual members in the different congregations. Someone should remind Rabbi Rich that the Jewish commandments come from God, and not from Karl Marx.
Of course Jews and Christians for that matter, must follow the commandments set out in the Torah/Old Testament such as ‘do not oppress the stranger’, but that doesn’t mean that those strangers who like the followers of Islam carry big sticks nor those ungrateful individuals like Ralph Milliband who desired the destruction of the political system of the country that took him in, should be either indulged, pandered to or promoted. Not ‘oppressing the stranger’ should not mean that the political views of said strangers are not examined and condemned where necessary.
Seeking the peace of the city or the nation in which you live, or to which you are exiled to, is also a powerful commandment in the Torah, as is showing respect for the monarch of the land in which you live. Ralph Milliband by advocating Socialism, an ideology that killed millions, showed disrespect for this country, its head of state and its political system. Ralph Milliband showed that he did not follow the commandment to seek the city’s peace, nor did he show respect for the Crown by this path either. It ill behoves a Rabbi to appear to stand up for someone who so blatantly broke these commandments of peace and loyalty.
Ed Milliband has cynically used the story of his father’s flight from Nazism and the image of Ralph Milliband as a loving father as an electoral tool and because of that there is nothing at all wrong with examining, as Geoffery Levy did, both the politics of Mr Milliband senior and what sort of influence it may have had on Ed Milliband’s political and moral views.
By intervening in this issue when he should have remained silent, Rabbi Rich has done more to feed the flames than was necessary. Rabbi Rich and the Left Wing Rabbinate of Liberal Judaism have let their hatred of the Daily Mail get the better of them and they have got involved in a party political issue that they shouldn’t have become involved in.
It is perfectly legitimate to criticise those who follow or promote authoritarian ideologies like Communism or Fascism or Islamism no matter what their background. In sticking the boot into the horrific views of Ralph Milliband and asking what influence such views have on his son, the Daily Mail has done a public service in getting the public to look more closely at what Ed Milliband is selling to the British people. Rabbi Rich on the other hand has done yet another dis-service to Liberal Judaism by cementing in people’s minds the false idea that the Liberal Judaism organisation and its members, are nothing more than a left-wing monothought clique.
Rabbi Rich has hitched the Liberal Judaism horse to Ed Milliband’s wonky wagon and by doing this he has alienated the greater number of Liberal Jews who are not committed Leftists and done damage to the public image of Liberal Judaism.
Rabbi Rich may speak for the influential coterie of Left Wing rabbis, but he doesn’t speak for those Liberal Jews who disagree with the idea of using the Liberal Judaism organisation as a mouth-piece for socialist political currents that are completely opposed to freedom of religion, freedom of thought and freedom of speech.
The Israelites did not escape from oppression in ancient Egypt to the freedom of the Promised Land, only to find themselves, in recent years, represented by those who see such freedoms as an inconvenient barrier on the route to a socialist utopia.
Rabbi Rich has damaged the image of Liberal Judaism in the eyes of many, Jew and non-Jew alike, by seeming to see an attack on the foul and authoritarian views of Ralph Milliband as an attack on Biblical values. The Biblical book of Deuteronomy says: ‘Justice, Justice is all that you should pursue’, and a spirit of justice demands that an oppressive ideology such as Communism and the individuals who promoted it, should be exposed and criticised. Backing those who wish that Ed Milliband’s dirty little Communist secret had not been exposed to the world is not in any way, shape or form, any form of justice worth the meaning of the word.
Press release from Liberal Judaism about Rabbi Danny Rich’s comments on the Milliband case.
For the academically-minded here is a lecture from Gresham College, London by Professor Nicholas Deakin on the motivations for people joining the Communist Party in the 20th Century.
The original Daily Mail article that has caused the Milliband furore
Source for the Deuteronomy ‘Justice, justice’ quote