A guest post by Marc Goldberg
I’m more than a little bewildered by the amount of controversy surrounding the attack by the Daily Mail on Ralph Miliband, the father of the current head of the Labour Party in the UK, Ed Miliband – the man who looks set to lead his party to victory over the Conservatives in the next general election. In an attack widely condemned in the UK, the newspaper launched a vigorous attack on the younger Miliband by going after his now deceased father. At one point, Geoffrey Levy, who penned the article, literally claimed that the veteran of the Royal Navy “hated Britain”, a ‘fact’ used in the title “The Man Who Hated Britain”.
The article generated widespread condemnation and some wonder whether there is more to it than a newspaper merely attacking a politician through his father. You see, Ralph Miliband was a Jew and as a point of fact he was an ardent Socialist. There are some who see the spectre of anti-Semitism rearing its ugly head. If you’re in any doubt as to why some people immediately thought anti-Semitism, simply Google the term “Jewish Socialist”, then “Jewish Communist”, then “Jewish Bolshevik” and you’ll get the idea pretty quickly. Alternatively you can just watch Schindler’s List and count the number of times the Nazis who are killing Jews make those kinds of comparisons;
“An educated Jew, like Karl Marx himself.”
When I read the original article I simply came away from it thinking that Ralph Miliband was a deluded individual blindly hanging on to a dead ideology. I didn’t see anything in it that was offensive to Jews in general, and in fact it wouldn’t even have occurred to me to connect it with anti-Semitism if I hadn’t started hearing it from various directions around me.
With that in mind I read an article in the New Statesman written by Daniel Trilling who said something that really resonated with me, he wrote that;
“The subtext, further reinforced by the way the paper worded its refusal to apologise for running the piece, is that there’s something foreign about Ed Miliband himself. Never openly said, of course, but a series of snide digs that say – watch it, Ed, you’ll never be fully British and don’t you forget it.”
The irony of the fact that Trilling is writing this is that it’s exactly what Ralph Miliband wrote about British society and one of the quotes that was used against him to argue that he was somehow unpatriotic. Miliband wrote:
“Foreigners, Jews, natives etc are all right in their place and their place is outside . . .”
This perfectly describes the feelings of the 21-year-old me as I left the UK for Israel. Perhaps as Levy suggests, this is the product of having “a giant sized social chip” on my shoulder but the fact that the words written by Ralph Miliband echoed my own thoughts decades later and that this quote was chosen by Levy in the first place as proof of Miliband’s alleged hatred of Britain combined with the fact that Trilling took this as the message inherent in the article is quite a coincidence.
What the Daily Mail has done is disturb a real fault line in the way that Jews in the UK perceive their own relationship with wider British society. This is a Jewish community that never had the same sense of pride at being a ‘British’ Jew or feeling of acceptance as our cousins in the United States at being American Jews.
The British Jewish community has always been of a “don’t rock the boat” mentality and everything will be fine, yet if even Ralph Miliband, the Marxist who left his Judaism way behind him and sired the head of the Labour Party could come under attack for not being British enough, then maybe the rest could too. A very worrying thought indeed.