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The Labour leader is facing a huge backlash from fellow politicians and the Jewish community over perceived failures to root out antisemitism in his party. Jonathan Farrell explains why he believes Christians should not be neutral in the current climate
Before delivering the parable of the good Samaritan, Jesus declares the two greatest commandments: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength and with all your mind” and “your neighbour as yourself”. Immediately, the questioner “wanting to justify himself” asks the question” Who is my neighbour”?
What could be a more pertinent question in a world rife with division and - as recent news reports have made clear - rising antisemitism within ‘pockets’ of the Labour Party.
Not only have MPs Naz Shah and Ken Livingstone have been suspended over antisemitism allegations, but Jeremy Corbyn himself has repeatedly found himself in trouble: He's praised the allegedly antisemitic cleric Raed Salah, infamously called Hamas (a group sworn to the destruction of the world's only Jewish state) his "friends" and has been a member of at least one Facebook group where antisemitic conspiracy theories and material relating to Holocaust denial are frequently posted. This is all before the latest controversy over his apparent backing of an antisemitic painting.
The uproar from the Jewish community in the past 24 hours, however, has not been sparked simply by yet another anti-Semitic incident surrounding Corbyn’s leadership and supporters. Rather, the rallying cry of the Jewish community, and which gathered over one thousand people to Parliament Square yesterday was an opposition to the hollow words that have escaped Corbyn’s lips the past three years, namely, that he opposes "all forms of racism, including antisemitism".
Corbyn is being called out for his hypocritical insincerity and failure to direct effective change within the Labour Party. It suggests not only a lack of political will but a deeply skewed moral compass which fails to see racism when it’s victims are the Jews.
Corbyn has failed. He has been blind to the antisemitism that overflows from the many (rather large) ‘pockets’ of the Labour Party. The Labour leader is a failed advocate for justice. And our entire country suffers as a result.
His insistence that he holds a universal concern for every prejudice is parroted by his close allies but the evidence points to a man living a contradictory example to the one he wants us to see and believe.
At worst, he is a hypocrite so overcome by a moral blind spot to antisemitism that he - and other self-proclaimed anti-racists - is incapable of seeing the racism before his eyes. A worrying trait for any Prime Minister in waiting.
What is needed – and indeed, what the leaders of Britain’s Jewish community are crying out for, are advocates.
A dirty word to some, advocacy is different from encouragement in that it is something you do in relation with another, for another. The very relation of advocacy is one mediated by an act of service, on behalf of the one against whom an injustice has been committed.
But advocates are also defenders.
And now more than ever there is a need to defend the Jewish people against antisemitism and more importantly the indifference of our political leaders. They are crying out for citizens who love justice and mercy enough to recognise that the real need is to do more than simply respond to the Labour Party’s antisemitism with hollow words and empty condolences.
And the Bible equips us to do just that.
The Bible demands our response to be that of living radical, counter-cultural examples. We must be seeking to turn an abstract ideal of Christian justice into a practical, lived reality of advocacy that would allow the possibility for a transformation in our society, in Christ's name, against antisemitism.
But why now and for the Jewish community specifically? Every one of us knows someone who is a victim of injustice, who has suffered wrong. Could it be that the Jewish community are over-reacting and there is wrong on both sides? No. Such an argument is wholly out of step with the approach that Christ demonstrates in the parable of the good Samaritan, where true justice to the ‘other’ is most profoundly detailed.
Does Christ detail the faults and failures of the man who, in going down from Jerusalem to Jericho was beaten and left for dead by thieves? (v30) Did Christ qualify the moral failings of the priest and the Levite who did nothing (v31-32)? No. Does he seek to justify the attack by appealing to the victims political views or status? No.
So why should we seek to justify our indifference when the man 'going down from Jerusalem to Jericho’ today are our Jewish neighbours?
Christ praises that man who demonstrated mercy to the victim, bandaging his wounds, taking him to shelter and then going beyond and even paying any fees needed to care for the victim properly.
In other words, Christ praises the man who abandoned neutrality in the face of injustice and became a courageous advocate for the life of another.
Christ praises the man who abandoned neutrality in the face of injustice and became a courageous advocate for the life of another.
This parable illustrates Corbyn’s true failing. For too long, he has turned a blind eye to antisemitism and carried on walking while the injured lies on the ground, waiting for a courageous, counter cultural advocate.
It is my plea that we, as Christians, refuse to follow in Corbyn’s footsteps who has for years, like the priest, stood face to face with injustice yet “passed by on the other side” (v31).
Many more of us must be committed to showing true Christian mercy, abandoning neutrality and demonstrating grace driven Christian advocacy for the Jewish community in their fight against antisemitism - showing mercy, serving justice.
As Christ said of the Samaritan, we must “go and do likewise” - but for and with the Jewish community today.
Jonathan Farrell is the StandWithUs UK Communities Director and oversees outreach to Christian and Jewish communities. He founded the Exeter University Friends of Israel society in 2014 and launched the first ever ‘Israel Peace Week’ campaign which was awarded the CST Campaign of the Year Award by the UK Union of Jewish Students. He speaks regularly in synagogues and churches, promoting Christian-Jewish partnerships.
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