For Jeremy Corbyn: A true sense of British irony

There are sound reasons for granting Jeremy Corbyn the British Zionist of the Year award.

Daniel Pinner

OpEds Jeremy Corbyn
Jeremy Corbyn

The first Jews first arrived in England in 1070, invited by King William I (known variously as William the Conqueror and William the Bastard, depending on who was talking), who had conquered England in 1066.

The first generations enjoyed a golden age, as relations between the Jews and the Church were cordial and mutually respectful, and the Jewish community of England enjoyed security and wealth.

But this golden age came to a sad end under the reign of King Richard I (1189-1199). Attacks on Jews began on the very day of his coronation (3rd September 1189, exactly 829 years ago this past Monday), and rapidly intensified and spread throughout the kingdom.

For the next century, kings and bishops sometimes deliberately provoked attacks on Jews, sometimes (usually unsuccessfully) attempted to protect the Jews from Christian mobs.

And on 18th of July (9th of Av) 1290, King Edward I decreed that all the Jews in his kingdom be expelled.

Thus 220 years of Jewish history in England came to an ignominious end.

With no country of their own to flee to, the majority of Jews found refuge in the Netherlands, others in France and Scotland, some in the Kingdom of Poland in which Jews had full protection.

And then in 1656, Lord Protector Oliver Cromwell readmitted the Jews. There had been a few changes in England in those intervening three-and-two-thirds centuries. Notably that King Henry VIII had severed ties with the Catholic Church in 1532, bringing the Reformation into England, and his daughter Queen Elizabeth had brought about a veritable golden age of enlightenment as the Renaissance swept over the land.

So in 1656, with a spirit of enlightened tolerance, the country was ready to accept Jews as fellow-citizens.

From then on, Jews in Britain enjoyed a degree of freedom, tolerance, cordiality, and equality rarely found anywhere else in the world.

The list of Jews who made Britain great is legion:

  • The Rothschild dynasty, placing their financial acumen at the disposal of Britain, made the country prosperous and powerful. And in the process, they donated generously to Jewish causes, particularly to Zionism, contributing to the Jewish renaissance in Israel.

  • Moshe (Moses) Montefiore, a religious Jew, financier, banker, and philanthropist, was elected Sheriff of London in 1837 (in which ceremony he walked beside the carriage, declining to ride in it because it was a Shabbat), and was later knighted by Queen Victoria.

Montefiore also donated very generously to the burgeoning Jewish community in Israel (then under Turkish Ottoman occupation). Indeed, five entire neighbourhoods in Jerusalem are named for him: Mazkeret Moshe, Zichron Moshe, Ohel Moshe, Kiryat Moshe, and Yemin Moshe. The famous windmill which he financed, to advance Jewish agriculture, stands to this day in Yemin Moshe, facing the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem.

  • Benjamin Disraeli, one of the most flamboyant and memorable prime ministers in British history, was born Jewish. His parents converted to Christianity when he was a young boy, but he never relinquished his Jewish heritage and Jewish identity. Like Montefiore, Disraeli had a warm personal friendship with Queen Victoria.

Indeed, it was due to the close relationship between the Jewish Prime Minister Disraeli and the Jewish banker Lionel Rothschild that Britain was able to purchase £4 million of shares in the Suez Canal Company in 1875, providing the kingdom both with a handsome income from the Canal and with a secure crucial link to the Empire.

  • It was the anglicised Jewish chemist Chaim Weitzmann (later Israel’s first President) who invented a method of synthesising dynamite during the First World War, enabling Britain to manufacture this weapon more cheaply and in greater quantities than any other country.

So when Britain confronted and defeated the Turkish Ottoman Empire, and in the process conquered Israel (then Palestine), it was not entirely surprising that British Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour was sufficiently well-disposed to Jews and Zionism to issue the Balfour Declaration in November 1917.

Many Britons, most of them Jewish, a fair amount non-Jewish, have contributed to Zionism over the last century-and-a-half:

The Rothschilds, Moshe Montefiore, Chaim Weitzmann, Arthur Balfour, Colonel Orde Wingate (a devout Christian who saw religious significance in the Jewish return to Zion, who trained the Haganah and thereby created the core of the Israeli Army), and countless others have helped and encourage Jews to make Aliyah.

Yet few, if any, have done as much for the Zionist cause as Jeremy Corbyn has done in the last several years.

Corbyn has done more than anyone else alive to convince Jews in Britain that they should actually make Aliyah.

Few, if any, have done as much for the Zionist cause as Jeremy Corbyn has done in the last several years.
Or, at the very least, to make sure that their passports are up-to-date and begin checking the pound-to-shekel exchange rate, and calculating what size house they can buy in which city in Israel in exchange for the house which they might sell in Golders Green, Hendon, Edgware, Radlett, Prestwich, or Salford.

Oswald Moseley, who founded the British Union of Fascists in the 1930’s, also tried. More recently, George Galloway tried. But neither of these men ever achieved the same level of mass popularity or political power that Corbyn has achieved.

Jeremy Corbyn, by poisoning the atmosphere and forcing the Jews of Britain to question if they really have any future within those shores, has done more for Zionism than any British politician since Balfour.

In 1290, Israel was under foreign occupation: the Mongols, the Crusaders, and the Mameluk Sultans of Egypt were locked in a vicious conflict for control over the country. (The Crusaders would capitulate the following year, the Mongols would seize control in 1299, and would then in turn be driven out by the Ottoman Empire in 1517). So in 1290, the Jews expelled from England had no choice but to throw themselves on the mercies of the Netherlands, France, Scotland, and Poland.

It’s very different today. Scotland is part of the United Kingdom, no longer a separate kingdom from England, so it’s no longer a place of refuge for Jews fleeing England.

And thanks to Brexit, in another two or three years British citizens will no longer have automatic right of residence in Holland, France, or Poland.

If Corbyn and his poison have even a fraction of the influence that he clearly hopes for, then the overwhelming majority of Jews of Britain will have only one place to go.


The only Jewish homeland on the face of the earth.

If and when a third-of-a-million Jews make Aliyah from Britain, then we can build dozens of new towns throughout Judea and Samaria (what Corbyn and his allies call “the West Bank”), and populate them all with newly-arrived Jews. Maybe even retake Gaza and rebuild the Jewish towns destroyed there 13 years ago.

And so, I hereby propose that we honour Jeremy Corbyn with the British Zionist of the Year Award.

No, no – what am I saying? British Zionist of the Century Award!

Jeremy Corbyn: The man who indeed did more for Aliyah than any British politician since Balfour.

How’s that for a fine sense of history, and a true sense of British irony?!