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27/06/2017
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May Addresses Jewish Community

henry@alondon.net (02/06/2017)

May laid out her mission regarding the British Jewish community and Israel while taking shots at Jeremy Corbyn. Meanwhile, Polls suggest May should be worried.

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Prime Minister Theresa May and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at Downing Street in February (source: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire)

Prime Minister Theresa May addressed Jewish voters ahead of “the most important election” of her lifetime via an article published in the Jewish News.

Following the platitudes common in addresses from leaders of Western democracies (the UK is a county where anyone can achieve their goals, the Conservatives have Jewish candidates at every level of the party, etc.), May acknowledged the “very real concerns” the Jewish community has this election, particularly as it follows Labor’s extended anti-Semitism scandal that lasted for most of 2016.

“We will always take a zero-tolerance approach to such hatred,” writes May, “in contrast to what we have regrettably seen from Jeremy Corbyn.”

Corbyn, May’s primary rival and leader of the Labour party, has been criticized repeatedly by members of parliament both inside and outside his party for failing to adequately respond to accusations of anti-Semitism.



Despite having recently gainged support from America’s most notorious left-wing Jewish political outsider Bernie Sanders, Corbyn has failed to rally the liberal Jewish community in the UK. Reasons vary, but one that stands out is Corbyn’s tone-deafness when it comes to understanding the relationship between British Jews and Israel, and why having once called Hamas his “friends” would matter to the Jewish community.

As former advisor Harry Fletcher told the Sunday Times: “What angered me most was their inability to understand why they’re perceived as anti-Semitic.” Fletcher added that every attempt to improve relationships with Jewish groups, “did well for a day or two, and then something or somebody would sabotage it.”

May continues by stressing her government’s adoption of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s working definition of anti-Semitism last year, something that Corbyn-leaning University and CollegeUnion has decided to have a debate over.

May’s adoption of the definition was pitched as an aid to the fight against anti-Semitic crimes that saw an uptick in 2016.

“We will also stand firm against terrorism, whether it occurs in Manchester or Tel Aviv,” May continues, “in our manifesto for this election, we have pledged to establish a Commission for Countering Extremism to root out extremism and anti-Semitism in society.”

May also stressed her support for Israel: “We have continued to stand up for Israel. We have refused to support one-sided and unfair criticism of Israel internationally, whether at the Paris Peace Conference in January or in voting at the UN Human Rights Council, UNESCO, and even the WHO this spring.”



While all of this refers to real actions by May’s government, one action that should be not be forgotten is the UK’s support of (and hand at drafting) UN Resolution 2334, which was enacted in December and declared Israeli settlements in the West Bank to be illegal and counter to peace talks according to international law.

“Equally, I have reiterated to Prime Minister Netanyahu, most recently in February, our firm commitment to a two-state solution, based on direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, as the best way to bring about stability and peace in the region.”

While this might have rubbed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu the wrong way back in February, he seemed to skip past these two contentions he has with the international community to focus on the Iranian nuclear program (side note: May responded by expressing her faith in the 2015 Iran deal lead by former US President Obama).

Despite these challenges, May’s next paragraph points to what might bring the two leaders closer together: trade.

“The UK is Israel’s second-largest trading partner and the country’s number one destination for investment in Europe, with more than 300 Israeli companies operating here”, writes May, adding that she has already “taken firm action to stop counter-productive and damaging municipal boycotts against Israel and will legislate on this.”

She does not detail what that legislation might look like.

May also supports the right of Jews to practice shechita, has continued to fund the Jewish Community Security Grant, opened seven new Jewish schools, and promises to protect Jewish venues.

May concludes her manifesto by stating her consistency regarding these issues and by suggesting that to vote for any other party is to push Corbyn closer to Downing street: “That is the stark reality of the choice we face and the choice we must focus on over the next week.”


While a historically low 13% of Jewish voters in the UK intend to vote for Labour this election (according to a poll conducted by the Jewish Chronicle and Survation), a YouGov poll found that Labour has closed the gap to only 3 points among all voters.

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