Saturday 6 May 2017

Lord Finkelstein (Conservative) says: "Jews! Don't vote Labour." My thoughts.

[I posted this on Facebook this morning]

Meanwhile over on twitter Danny Finkelstein has confirmed in writing to me several times that he really does mean to say, 'Jews! Don't vote Labour!' This is Lord Finkelstein (Conservative).

Urging people to vote for a political party is clearly not a crime (!). Urging your friends to do the same, likewise: not a crime. In recent years, there's been a view around that calling on co-religionists to vote or not vote in certain ways is regarded as 'communitarian' and 'divisive' and 'unhelpful' as applied for example to Northern Ireland, George Galloway and Luftur Rahman.

There is an added complication here. I'll try not to be tedious. Because the word 'Jew' applies or can apply to people who are 'ex-Jews' in religious terms this goes beyond a group of people who attend synagogues. As has been pointed out by many people in many different ways, put together, this really isn't a homogenous group which can easily be called 'the Jews'. Frequently, to do so, is an attempt to suggest more than it's homogenous: it's to suggest that 'the Jews' are acting together to achieve an aim which is beneficial to 'the Jews' as a whole. When such a claim or suggestion is made, people (me included) tend to point the finger and say that this is 'antisemitic'.

All this is made problematic by the fact that the state of Israel is rather inclined to talk of 'the Jews' or at least 'Jews' in summoning us to be part of the Israeli project either by emigrating or offering unstinting support. This leaves open the suggestion that Israel and supporters can lump all Jews together into one category but if anyone else does, the alarm bell goes.

What does this have to do with Danny Finkelstein? On this occasion, with no immediate and overt reference to Israel to me on twitter, Danny is doing the 'lumping' thing: he is gathering together the category 'Jew' (not quite the same as 'the Jews', but very nearly) and saying, you must act together in a particular way: don't vote Labour. Now, if I were to call that 'antisemitic', some would say 'impossible', 'overreaction', 'typical leftist absurdity'. Indeed, I'm not going to say it. Instead, I'm going to call it inconsistent and opportunist. If someone of Finkelstein's standing in public life, belonging to another community, were to make such a statement, I'm pretty sure they'd get a ticking off from a good view 'opinion-formers' in the newspapers and on TV and radio. 'What? Lady X has said to her fellow religionists, "Don't vote for Party A!"? How outrageous. This is divisive and segregationist and manipulative and shows us what's wrong with multiculturalism...' etc etc...

[In posting comments on this thread, please do not use the term 'the Jews', or tell me or anyone else that 'Jews' act as one, think as one, behave as one, or indeed - like Finkelstein - suggest that 'the Jews' or 'Jews' should think, act or behave as one! Please do not tell me that Israel runs the world, or even US foreign policy. Please do not be randomly abusive about Finkelstein. It will not help us to have a serious discussion. ]