This week Bradford West MP Naz Shah and former Labour Mayor of London Ken Livingstone were suspended from the party after being accused of making anti-Semitic remarks. As the political fallout continues we ask a panel of writers, including former Foreign Secretary Malcolm Rifkind and Prospect Editor-at-Large David Goodhart, what exactly is anti-Semitism? Can it be distinguished from anti-Zionism? And at what point does legitimate criticism of the Israeli government turn into unfair singling out of the country—and of Jewish people generally?
Inadequacy and immaturity
Malcolm Rifkind, former Foreign Secretary
In the early 1970s I was on the short list to be the Conservative candidate for the Scottish Borders seat then held by the Liberal David Steel. At a drinks meeting with some of the local party worthies in Melrose, an elderly lady asked me if I was Jewish. When I confirmed that I was her only remark was to say “I don’t think there are many synagogues in the Borders.”
When I became Foreign Secretary in 1995 my Jewish background was of little or no interest to the British public and media, though of great interest to the Israeli Press. Anti-Semitism of the kind that flourished in Britain and most of Europe before the Second World War is not significant in Britain today. The Jewish community lives and breathes by British values and is well integrated.