The Spitting Imagery of a Mystical Jewish Tory

As a Jewish voter in Mrs Thatcher’s constituency, I found it difficult to recognise myself in Hugo Young’s highly monolithic caricature of British Jews (May 27).

He informs me that the leaderene is “an honorary Jew” and that Judaism is an integral basis for Thatcherite philosophy. Our apolitical chief rabbi is elevated to the status of a prime ministerial spiritual Svengali amid a Jewish reworking of the Protestant work ethic. I, as a British Jew, rnechanically participate in a mystical “Jewish vote.”

Jewish ideals, he says, teach me to be “ambitious” (but not pushy), to be flowing over with “purposefulness” (but not arrogant single-mindedness) and to be an aspirant to “material success” (but not worshippers of the golden calf of international capitalism). All this is spitting imagery which belongs more to folklore than to reality.

Essentially, I resent being turned into an historical stereotype. Nearly 70 years ago, reactionary writers equated Bolshevism with Judaism because a few assimilated Jews occupied important positions in the upper eschelons of Lenin’s party. The vast majority of nationally conscious Jews tended towards democratic socialist and revolutionary parties in Russia.

The preponderence of a number of Jews in the Government does not mean that Mrs Thatcher is supported by British Jews. Indeed, many Jews would argue that Thatcherism and all that it stands for is completely contrary to Jewish thought. It is easy, however, to be selective from the vast range of Jewish sources, as Hugo Young has done, to legitimise his analysis.

The recent council results In Finchley effectively make the constituency a marginal seat for Mrs Thatcher. If a high percentage of the constituency is Jewish, the swing to Labour can only be explained by many Jewish — and non-Jewish voters — rejecting the Prime Minister.

A debate entitled “the place of the Jew is on the left” in a Finchley synagogue resulted in an easy victory for Ian Mikado over his Conservative opponent, Ivan Lawrence, before an audience of hundreds.

Jewish public relations pundits would undoubtedly fuel Hugo Young’s projection of British Jews. ‘Yet Jewish organisations do not always represent Jewish thinking in its totality.

The pro-Reagan Israel lobby in the United States did not stop nearly 70 per cent of US Jews, who are overwhelmingly Zionist, from voting for Walter Mondale in. 1984, a percentage only exceeded by American blacks.

The chief rabbi’s attitudes on inner-city problems were opposed by many sections of the Jewish community and the Board of Deputies of British Jews did not endorse his views.

In the eighties, there has been a blossoming of independent organisations which have found no place within the structure of the community. Whether it is the study of Jewish history, religious education, peace activities, feminist collectives, Jewish theatre and music, the common thread has been a wonderful sense of creativity.

None of the thousands of people involved in these activities would subscribe to the picture painted by Hugo Young. Only flag-waving  Jewish Britons who feel the need to become stereotypical members of the Conservative Party, could so identify themselves.

Guardian 1988

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