by Amit Roy.
LORD JONATHAN SACKS, chief rabbi from 1991 to 2013, is an eminent scholar – which makes it difficult to understand why he saw fit to compare Jeremy Corbyn’s comments on the alleged lack of humour among some British Zionists with Enoch Powell’s 1968
‘Rivers of Blood’ speech.
It is worth comparing and contrasting the two speeches.
In remarks made at the Palestinian Return Centre in London in 2013, Corbyn said of a group of British Zionists”: “They clearly have two problems. One is they don’t want to study history and, secondly, having lived in this country for a very long time, probably all their
lives, they don’t understand English irony either.”
The Labour leader’s comments made no impact at the time but were dug up recently, provoking Sacks to tell the New Statesman: “The recently disclosed remarks by Jeremy Corbyn are the most offensive statement made by a senior British politician since Enoch Powell’s 1968 ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech. It was divisive, hateful and like Powell’s speech, it undermines the existence of an entire group of British citizens by depicting them as essentially alien.”
To this day, Powell has remained a mascot of the far right. His speech made an immediate impact and blighted the lives of Asian and black immigrants down the generations.
I went to school with Jewish pupils and can understand why Indians and Jews in this country have so much in common.
But what Powell demanded was the deportation of non-white immigrants, using such inflammatory language that Edward Heath had to sack him from the shadow cabinet.
Dockers and butchers in Smithfield Market in London marched in support of Powell.
In his speech, Powell quoted one of his constituents as telling him: “In this country in 15 or 20 years’ time the black man will have the whip hand over the white man.”
He also told the story of a woman pensioner in Wolverhampton who was harassed by “two Negroes” and had “excreta pushed through her letter box. When she goes to the shops, she is followed by children, charming, wide-grinning piccaninnies. They cannot speak English, but one word they know. ‘Racialist,’ they chant.”
There is ongoing debate about whether these two people really existed? Did children really use the word “racialist”, not even “racist”?
Powell wanted to reduce or control the immigrant population by “promoting the maximum outflow”.
Admitting migrants’ dependants “is like watching a nation busily engaged in heaping up its own funeral pyre”, he said.
Sacks may have reason for attacking Corbyn, though the latter made it clear that he had used the term Zionists “in the accurate political sense and not as a euphemism for Jewish people…. I am now more careful with how I might use the term ‘Zionist’ because a once
self-identifying political term has been increasingly hijacked by anti-Semites as code for Jews”
It would be good to hear from the former chief rabbi as to whether he really thinks the Corbyn-Powell comparison – which has surprised a lot of people and is considered
hurtful by some in the Asian community – is valid in this instance.
Diplomatic musings by India’s Washington envoy
BACK in 2016, hardly had the Indian Journalists’ Association (IJA) held a welcome dinner for Navtej Sarna as the new Indian high commissioner in London than we had to bid him farewell seven months later when he was sent to Washington as Indian ambassador. It is reassuring to note that President Donald Trump does not keep him so busy that he cannot find time to write the odd book review for the Financial Times.
I hope the books read as well as his recent review of The British in India: Three Centuries of Ambition and Experience, by David Gilmour (Allen Lane; £30) and Viceroys: The Creation of the British by Christopher Lee (Constable, £30).
One reason why the Raj never figures in history lessons in schools in the UK is because the period is hotly contested between those who insist that British rule in India, with occasional hiccoughs, was mainly beneficial to Indians and others who maintain that a once rich country was pillaged and looted by greedy white foreigners.
Whatever the reasons for so many Brits going out to India, it is worth remembering “a thousand cemeteries strewn over India mark those who never returned”. In the same way, the 2.5-million Indian origin people now in the UK and their children and children’s children will be cremated or buried in this green and pleasant land.
Sarna finds that “Gilmour’s narrative, however charming, cannot airbrush the ugly realities of colonial rule: the duplicity, greed and smug self-justification that fuelled British political and racial domination of India or indeed the economic looting of a once wealthy civilisation…. Tens of millions were dying in famines even as viceroys organised glittering imperial durbars.”
He goes on: “Lee’s Viceroys provides the political backdrop to this conflict and to India’s evolving freedom struggle. The historian also chooses the individual lens: the 20 men who represented the monarch in India as viceroys, from Lord Canning (1856-62) to Mountbatten, who rolled up the union flag in 1947 before turning his broad back on a
bleeding and partitioned subcontinent.”
Sarna expresses irritation with Lee’s frequent “repetitions and errors of fact or interpretation”: “This laxity, and some unnecessarily oblique writing, makes Viceroys at best an imperfect companion to David Gilmour’s magisterial work.”
All said and done, Rahul Gandhi was right when he said during his visit that despite some current differences over visas and other issues between India and the UK, “we are tied together by time, by history and you can’t just bypass that”.
IS DAVID BECKHAM becoming Indian?
Among the community, it is still customary to show respect to older men by addressing them as “uncle” rather than call them by their first names. But among the English this is generally not the case.
Yet, Beckham, 43, referred to Sir Elton John last week as “uncle.”
Beckham and his wife Victoria were sharing a holiday with Sir Elton, 71, and his husband, David Furnish. The former footballer shared a picture with his 50 million Instagram followers, showing him relaxing on a boat next to Sir Elton (pictured above).
He captioned the image: “Uncle Elton…. We have known each other now for 25 years…Fun
times with each other.”
Sir Elton has been knighted, which Beckham famously hasn’t.
Some in the media suggested that Beckham’s knighthood may have been blocked because
he had used film investment schemes to reduce his tax liability. These plans, while not
illegal, are considered unacceptable tax dodges by the authorities.