Time to vote
by: Rabbi Jeremy Rosen - Last updated: 2005-04-15
Rabbi Jeremy Rosen
This Shabbat is a virgin! You see, last Shabbat, HaChodesh, announced the New Month of Nissan. Nissan is the beginning of the Jewish calendrical year.
What we call Rosh Hashana is referred to in the Torah simply as a Day of Remembrance in the Seventh Month. Next Shabbat is the Shabbat before Pesach, Shabbat HaGadol, is the Big One. So this one has nothing special associated with it. Some mystics referred to it as a free Shabbat, but the expression penuya also means up for grabs, unattached, a virgin! Waiting for the big event to happen.
So I am going to take advantage of its title, to wander, like a virgin, into British politics. I hope my non-British readers will forgive me.
How should Jews vote in the upcoming elections? We must vote of course. Not to vote is to give a bigger vote to someone else.
On one level it seems obvious to me that where the major parties are, by and large, all concerned with the same goals--economic stability, social obligation and a tolerant open society--the choice is relatively limited. We are not going to vote for racist or undemocratic parties. But which of the three main parties should we choose?
If one of them had a religious agenda, then I would certainly vote against it. The last thing I want to see are religious parties. Yes, individuals should vote according to their religious value system, but I dont want to see religious bigotry given a political platform. Northern Ireland (and Israel) are good examples of what can go wrong. I have no shred of confidence in clerics to want to see them run anything, not even a country fete!
It makes sense to vote for the party that will ensure economic stability and progress, because that way we can have the means to pursue our own agendas and, indeed, help others as well. If government makes the wrong decisions, and we get poorer, we will have poorer schools, hospitals, synagogues, communities and charities.
If one believes that Britain will fail economically if it remains part of the European Union, then one will vote for a party that favours pulling out. If one thinks that Britains economic success has been helped by being part of the EU then that will inform choice the other way. I favour the EU for ideological rather than economic grounds (in which I am no expert) because I think being a Little Englander is narrow-minded, jingoistic, unhealthy and backward. Being part of a wider economic, social and cultural union is healthy.
I also believe in political change. Being in charge for too short a period encourages short-termism and bad decision-making, but being in power for too long is equally unhealthy. Parties that stay in power too long tend to get complacent, arrogant and corrupt. Power corrupts.
I have never yet voted Conservative. But for the first time I see a Conservative party that is attractive, with some talented politicians who have an aura of sincerity ( and some are Jews to boot) .Thankfully most of the old-style Hooray-Henry, upper-class twit, hypocritical Tories, have been eliminated.
I dont take the Lib Dems too seriously. Their leader is a gadfly, eager to please where he can, never taking an unpopular stand and an opportunist (though in politics this may be an advantage). Their MPs are a scatter-brained random collection of nonentities who I would not want to see running the country.
As for Labour, they have failed to radically overhaul education, health, or social welfare and have made an awful mess of immigration. Slowly, corruption seems to be seeping through, and under them Britain has fallen to eleventh place in the world corruption league. Yet Gordon Brown has been a singularly successful Chancellor. One would have to be pretty certain of a better candidate to want to replace him.
The Labour leadership have been pretty fair to Jews and to Israel. By and large, they say the right things. But the party as a whole seems to be lurching back to its left-wing lunacy of the mad-cap days of Tony Benn. This means a resurgence of left-wing animus towards Jews and Israel at the grass roots level, as illustrated by the unappetizing Ken Livingstone (accusing a Jewish journalist who disagreed with him of being a Nazi and unapologetic for cozying up to a homophobic Muslim cleric who advocates homicide bombing civilians ) and Lord Ahmed who also refuses to back track for inviting a crude, medieval anti-Semite to spout his sick distortions at a reception in the House of Lords.
I suspect that within the Labour party there is a very strong current of opinion that is saying, We lost the Muslim vote through Iraq, so lets curry favour by turning a blind eye to the loonies who bash the yids. The desire to gain the Muslim vote is understandable. There are millions more of them than Jews and their presence is concentrated in inner city constituencies, which are traditionally Labour strongholds.
So, in one way, I want to punish a party that has a Ken Livingstone in it (though I guess I ought to give them credit for booting out George Galloway, a nasty piece of work if ever there was one).
Yet I believe the invasion of Iraq was a justified to get rid of Saddam Hussein and his murderous genocidal thugs and will, indeed, bring about a better and a fairer world in the Middle East for Muslim and Jew alike. The grounds for invading were badly and incorrectly presented largely due to the pathetic need of doctrinaire lefties to get the approval of the a-Moral DisUnited Nations. Given the incomprehensible need to pay lip service to a corrupt organization that prefers to keep bloody murderous dictators in power I can understand why the case for war was clothed in Politically Correct arguments.
I would not want to punish a party leadership that took the courageous and correct decision to go to war. Were it not for that, I would have absolutely no hesitation in voting Tory for the first time ever.
Is that justification enough? Dear readers, I know full well that some of you are to my right and some to my left. Theres still time before May 5th to help me change my mind!
PS. My audio lecture on
The Law of The Land is The Law, Dina De Malchuta, is now on my site