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Suggested background reading on the complexities of the Jewish Community by Lana Joyce

Although I have largely been an observer of the ongoing debate regarding anti-Semitism in the Labour Party, it has become quite apparent to me that a lot of the debate seems to be based on the misguided view that the Jewish community is some sort of homogenous group of people in agreement on important issues of identity and faith. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. The Jewish diaspora includes many different races and takes in various, often conflicting, religious views, not to speak of political views. It has been that way since time immemorial. Throughout history, extending back to biblical times, the history of the Jewish nation, a term I use to describe all Jews whatever their religious observance, race or nationality, there has always been competing interests. Often quite dramatic differences, some leading to violent conflicts. The fanatical Jewish sect, the Sicarii, of Masada fame were considered terrorists by many of their Jewish contemporaries. There remain today Orthodox sects, Neturai Karta and Satmar Hasidism, for example, who oppose the State of Israel on religious grounds, and other sects that have a tenuous relationship with the State. The divisions in the Jewish world run deep and always have. Without some knowledge of this past it is hard for many to understand the anti-Semitism conflict in the Labour Party - why some Jews claim the Party is rife with anti-Semitism and others take a completely different position. I believe if you do want to understand you have to have at least a reasonable grasp of what has gone before so I am suggesting, for those who are interested, some basic reading. Two books by Karen Armstrong, an excellent religious historian who specialises in the Middle East, will give you a good grasp of Jewish History along with some Islamic and Christian history as well. The first is ‘The Battle for God’, an examination of the development of extremism in the three major religions – Judaism, Islam, and Christianity. The second is her ‘History of Jerusalem’ which takes in the history of Jerusalem from its founding to the present. For a modern post WW2 perspective, a reading of German Jewish Philosopher, Hannah Arendt’s (herself a refugee from Nazi Germany) account of the Jerusalem trial of Adolf Eichmann, ‘Eichmann in Jerusalem’, is essential reading. I found all three engrossing and incredibly informative.

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