Since the language of Shakespeare, Chaucer, and T.S. Eliot—each of whom had unpleasant things to say about the children of Israel—lacks a term capable of encompassing the current state of relations between Britain’s Jews and Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party, we turn instead to the beautiful Yiddish word broyges. Deriving from the Hebrew for “anger,” a broyges is a dispute or quarrel—with a strong undertone of grudge.
Depending on which side you’re on, the current broyges between Corbyn and the Jews reached its peak on August 23, when the Daily Mail unearthed a five-year-old video of Corbyn telling a pro-Palestinian group that “Zionists…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.” Or maybe it culminated with Jonathan Sacks, Britain’s former chief rabbi, calling Corbyn’s remarks “the most offensive statement made by a senior British politician since Enoch Powell’s 1968 ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech,” a blatant appeal to racism that cost Powell, a Tory MP, his seat in the shadow cabinet. Things were now so bad, Sacks added a few days later, that “the majority of our community are asking ‘is this country safe?’”
At a time when Prime Minister Theresa May’s grip on the Conservative Party is weakening by the day thanks to the Tories’ continuing civil war over Brexit, press coverage of Labour’s anti-Semitism crisis dominated the headlines. In the case of The Times and The Sun (both owned by Rupert Murdoch), the Evening Standard (edited by former Tory cabinet minister George Osborne), the reliably right-wing Daily Telegraph, and the reliably more right-wing Daily Mail, that’s hardly surprising. The profound bias of the press here acts to amplify any attack on Labour. But the left-leaning Guardian has been just as engaged, with some of its own columnists leading the attack, a fierce battle on its letters page, and the paper editorializing that “Corbyn bears some responsibility for losing the trust of the Jewish community”—a mild formulation that belies the deep divisions within The Guardian, whose former associate editor, Seamas Milne, is now Corbyn’s spokesman and chief strategist.