DAME MARGARET HAS SOME EXPLAINING TO DO
THE abysmal showing of the Labour Party in the recent European Parliament elections is the cumulative outcome of many factors.
Prominent among them are said to be the prevalence of anti-Jewish prejudice in the party and the party’s seeming inability to confront the difficulty head-on.
Of course Labour has a problem with antisemitism. But so do the Tories. So does virtually every mainstream political party in this country.
In Labour’s case, however, antisemitism (too often not even disguised as anti-Zionism) has led to the exodus from the party of some of its members, and dire public warnings from others, among the most prominent of whom is Dame Margaret Hodge, Labour MP for Barking and former leader of Islington council.
On April 17, in a short but forceful speech in the House of Commons, Dame Margaret gave public expression to her concerns.
Born in 1944 as Margaret Oppenheimer to Jewish parents then living as refugees in Egypt, she spoke movingly of members of her family who had been murdered by the Nazis, and she recalled how, on a visit to Auschwitz, she gazed upon a mound of suitcases, one of which she recognised as it bore the initials of her uncle.
Powerful stuff! And, politically, more compelling still for what Hodge had to say specifically — and not for the first time — about the Labour Party of which she has been for more than 50 years a member and remains so to this day.
Ever since Jeremy Corbyn’s election as party leader, Hodge has, in fact, spent a great deal of time attacking her own party for not doing enough to stamp out antisemitism in its ranks, and she has made no secret of her personal disdain for Corbyn, whom (in a celebrated incident in the Commons on July 17 last year) she reportedly accused of being “an antisemitic racist”.
Dame Margaret is unquestionably Jewish. Yet, according to her own testimony (offered in the April, 2019, debate): “My upbringing has been entirely secular.
“I have never practised Jewish religious traditions. Neither of my two husbands were Jews. I am a consistent critic of the governments of Israel.”
Nonetheless, she added, “my Jewish heritage is central to my being”.
In an article in the online Spectator on May 8, I drew attention to the fact that as Labour leader of Islington council from 1982 to 1992, Hodge appears to have played a part — though exactly what part remains unclear — in the council’s decision to approve a planning application that would have led to the destruction of the original 1843 cemetery of the West London Synagogue and the sale of the land to developers.
I was part of the ultimately successful campaign to have the decision reversed. So was Jeremy Corbyn.
Was Mrs Hodge personally in favour of the proposal? We simply do not know.
Hodge has claimed — in The Observer on July 21, 2103 — that she feels “passionately Jewish”.
In October, 1986, members of Islington council — not all of whom were Jewish, by the way— were moved to protest against the scheduling of a race relations committee meeting on Yom Kippur.
Council leader Hodge apparently saw nothing untoward in attending the meeting.
Three years later, the media reported that members of Hackney’s Jewish communities were holding “top-level meetings with Islington council” in an attempt to buy an Islington-owned property in Stamford Hill, which the communities wanted to turn into a nursery and old people’s home.
According to press reports, “Islington leader, Margaret Hodge . . . informed groups that Islington intended to use the building for people in bed-and-breakfast accommodation”.
Hodge denied that the move was in any way discriminatory. But her apparent lack of empathy with the educational and social needs of practising Orthodox Jews surely needs some explaining.
If Hodge wishes to pursue a totally secular lifestyle, that is no business of mine or yours, but she certainly has some explaining to do!
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June 18, 2019
Here's Geoffrey Alderman in The Jewish Telegraph taking a bit of a swipe at Margaret Hodge. Because of The Jewish Telegraph's habit of pasting the latest article over the previous one I save Alderman's pieces to the Wayback Machine and copy and paste them here: