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The Jewish Chronicle - - Comment - Keren David

I’M not at all Jewish, in gen­eral. In fact I’d go so far as to say that I’ve never been Jewish at all. Now, be­fore my mother keels over, let me ex­plain that I’m not talk­ing about birth, re­li­gious prac­tice, cul­ture or all the many other ways in which I am as kosher as the av­er­age Jew, as­sum­ing such a thing ex­ists. I’m only non-jewish when it comes to mak­ing po­lit­i­cal choices. More than 30 years since I got the vote, my Jewish­ness has never af­fected how I use it.

Ev­ery­one I’ve ever con­sid­ered vot­ing for has been sen­si­bly rea­son­able on mat­ters to do with racism, sex­ism and even Zion­ism. I’m a Jewish woman, of the soft left per­sua­sion, and so is my MP, but even these sim­i­lar­i­ties did not (and prob­a­bly will never) per­suade me to vote for her.

Some Jews are not like me. There are some who put Is­rael at the cen­tre of their po­lit­i­cal life, and de­cide which party or can­di­date to vote for on the ba­sis of Mid­dle East pol­icy. “Is it good for the Jews?” is their con­stant test. I am sure there are also Jewish vot­ers who would vote for one of “un­z­erer” what­ever their po­lit­i­cal stance.

But that is not the case for me, and it’s why I re­sent the whole no­tion of a Jewish vote. If I wanted Is­rael to be cen­tral to my pol­i­tics, then I would make aliyah. I vote on the ba­sis of what is good for Bri­tain and I try to think be­yond my own nar­row in­ter­ests.

Ob­vi­ously, I couldn’t bring my­self to even con­sider back­ing the BNP but I would feel like that what­ever my eth­nic­ity or re­li­gion. My com­mit­ment to so­cial jus­tice and fair­ness, which makes me lean left­ward, is rooted in Ju­daism — but I know and re­spect Jews who ap­ply sim­i­lar val­ues to jus­tify back­ing the Tories.

We Brits are not like Amer­i­can Jews, who are more com­fort­able with no­tions of a Jewish vote and are wooed en masse by politi­cians of­fer­ing as­sur­ances on Is­rael. Only this week , Barack Obama went to the US Holo­caust Me­mo­rial Mu­seum in Washington to an­nounce new tech­no­log­i­cal sanc­tions against Iran and Syria, speak­ing to a crowd of in­flu­en­tial Jewish lead­ers.

In the UK, we are too small in num­bers to act as a bloc, and we wouldn’t lis­ten to our com­mu­nity lead­ers even if they dared to tell us how to vote.

How­ever — and I’m sure you saw that com­ing — this year my views have changed. For the first time, I in­tend to cast a 100 per cent Jewish vote.

Ken Liv­ing­stone is the ob­vi­ous rea­son for my change of heart, and how I re­sent the knuck­le­heads at the Labour Party who picked him as their can­di­date for London mayor. Ken’s dis­dain for Jewish sen­si­bil­i­ties has been ob­vi­ous for years, show­ing it­self in the ca­sual way in which he tosses in­sults and picks his friends. He has shown him­self to be, at best, stupid and rash. He is not some­one I would want run­ning my city. But the other choices on of­fer of­fend me as an in­tel­li­gent voter.

Do I want blun­der­ing Boris, whose main ap­peal seems to be his elu­sive blond charm? Or Brian Pad­dick, last seen munch­ing kan­ga­roo tes­ti­cles in the jun­gle My first pref­er­ence vote will be a protest against them all, and will go to in­de­pen­dent can­di­date Siob­han Benita. But my sec­ond pref­er­ence will be cast to keep Ken out, and the rea­son — oh hor­rors — is that Ken’s bad for the Jews.

I sus­pect that this will not be the last time that I iden­tify as a Jewish voter. The French pres­i­den­tial elec­tion has been marred by Ni­co­las Sarkozy’s at­tempt to woo right-wing vot­ers by call­ing for re­stric­tions on ha­lal and kosher meat, a sub­ject en­thu­si­as­ti­cally taken up by the French prime min­is­ter.

In­tol­er­ant sec­u­lar­ism is grow­ing fast in pop­u­lar­ity in con­ti­nen­tal Europe, and more slowly here. I sus­pect that both kashrut and cir­cum­ci­sion will be­come po­lit­i­cal is­sues in the UK, and Jewish vot­ers may be forced to con­sider if they are pre­pared to vote for some­one with no un­der­stand­ing or re­spect for their re­li­gious tra­di­tions.

When main­stream politi­cians shmooze blocs of vot­ers — whether “sec­u­lar” or “Mus­lim” — mi­nori­ties and in­di­vid­u­als get squeezed, in­sulted and ig­nored. Let’s hope for politi­cians who work to unite peo­ple, not set them against each other, so I can go back to be­ing not at all Jewish again. Keren David’s lat­est novel is ‘Lia’s Guide to Win­ning the Lot­tery’ (Frances Lin­coln)

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