One of the juicier political tales of recent years was the 2010 sibling struggle for leadership of the British Labour Party between brothers David and Ed Miliband, with the younger, more leftist brother Ed winning, and the elder brother going into a sort of exile in America.
Geoffrey Levy has written a fun article for the Daily Mail about the brothers' late father, the far left intellectual Ralph Miliband, and his relationship to his sons' sibling rivalry.
On a hot summer day, a young man made his way alone to Highgate Cemetery in North London to make a lifelong vow.
Solemnly, he stood at the grave of Karl Marx at a moment when, in his own words, 'the cemetery was utterly deserted . . . I remember standing in front of the grave, fist clenched, and swearing my own private oath that I would be faithful to the workers' cause'.
The year was 1940. The young man was Ralph Miliband, a Jewish immigrant who, with his father, had fled to London from Belgium just weeks earlier to escape the Nazi Holocaust.
Miliband, father of Ed and David Miliband, died in 1994, aged 70, soon after the publication of his last book, Socialism For A Sceptical Age. In it, the venerated Marxist philosopher and academic continued to espouse his lifelong 'socialist' cause.
One voice, however, vehemently informed him that he was still pursuing a lost cause. It was that of his elder son David. He did not mince his words.
Having read the manuscript before publication, David wrote to his father asking, 'whether you are restating a case that has been traduced in theory or practice, or whether you are advancing a new case. I think that the book reads like the former . . .'
The word 'traduced' - which means 'disgraced' or 'denigrated' - was surely rather harsh, considering his aged father had always included his two sons (even when they were small), in the trenchant political discussions with ever-present academics and Left-wing thinkers that took place round the basement dining table of the family home in Primrose Hill, North London.
Indeed, some family friends feel this episode, not long before their father died, could have been a contributory factor towards the younger - and considerably more Left-wing - son Ed unexpectedly deciding to fight his elder brother for the leadership of the Labour Party in 2010, and, of course, beating him.
In his explosive memoirs, serialised last week in the Mail, Gordon Brown's spin doctor Damian McBride argued that Ed Miliband was obsessed with maintaining his father's legacy. Winning the leadership was Ed's 'ultimate tribute' to his father - an attempt to 'achieve his father's vision and ensure David Miliband did not traduce it'. Again, that word 'traduce'.
Ed is now determined to bring about that vision. How proud Ralph would have been to hear him responding the other day to a man in the street who asked when he was 'going to bring back socialism' with the words: 'That's what we are doing, sir.'
Ed's victory over David, made possible only with the unions' block votes, was perfectly in step with his father's fervent and undimmed conviction that 'alliance with the trade unions is not only one of the party's great strengths; it is by far its greatest strength'.
Ralph's Marxism was uncompromising. ...
I have no idea if Levy's psychoanalyzing of the Miliband family makes sense, but it's certainly interesting. And it's hard to say that attention shouldn't be paid to the potential next prime minister.
But that's not good enough for Roger Cohen, op-ed columnist for the New York Times, who is now denouncing Levy in the NYT for "Jewish stereotyping" of Ralph Miliband.
By ROGER COHEN
... This is Ralph (born Adolphe) Miliband, the late father of David Miliband, Britain’s former foreign secretary, and of Ed Miliband, the leader of the Labour Party. He is also, for that voice of the British conservative heartland, The Daily Mail, “The Man Who Hated Britain.”
The headline stood atop a recent piece that portrayed Ralph Miliband as a disloyal socialist. He is accused of “availing himself” of a good British education while criticizing the nationalism he encountered on arrival. He helped his father in “rescuing furniture from bombed houses in the Blitz.” He stood reverently at the grave of Karl Marx in north London. He denounced the Falklands War, even while — The Mail insinuates — scheming to avoid death duties on the family house in fashionable Primrose Hill, and suffered from a “giant-sized social chip on his shoulder” that explained his criticism of British institutions.
Sound familiar? The rootless Jewish Bolshevik who profits from others’ losses, shows no loyalty to the society in which he prospers, and devises clever two-faced financial maneuvers that demonstrate his essential hypocrisy: All this could of course have been borrowed from the Nazi propaganda Ralph Miliband fled as a young man.
No matter, for The Daily Mail, that the young Jewish immigrant put his life on the line for Britain. Jews also served Germany with distinction as officers during World War I, but their military decorations, displayed with pride in their Berlin living rooms, did not prove they were loyal Germans (even if they loved nothing more than Germany) and could not save them....
... the evident Jewish stereotyping oozing from every insinuation in The Mail piece, which was written by a Jew, Geoffrey Levy, and defended most publicly by another Jew, The Mail’s deputy editor, Jon Steafel. For Levy and Steafel, in what the historian Lewis Namier characterized as the land of the “trembling Israelites,” Miliband was somehow not quite English enough. He was the Jewish communist outsider masquerading as an Englishman.
John Mann, a Labour member of Parliament and chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group Against Antisemitism, clarified the issue in a tweet. He called the attack on Ralph Miliband a “classical age-old anti-Semitic smear about disloyal Jews.”
Dressed up as a defense of British values — when in fact it was a demonstration of bigotry in a land of overriding tolerance — that is precisely what The Mail article was: a smear laden with stereotypes of the scheming Jew. The fact that it has scarcely been debated as such demonstrates the existence of a problem rather than its absence.
In his book “Anglomania,” Ian Buruma writes about his grandparents, German Jewish immigrants who became British, felt British, loved Britain — and yet. He writes: “Instead of using the word ‘Jew’ in public we would say ‘forty-five.’ The origin of this odd phrase is unknown. When Bernard was refused a senior position in a famous hospital in 1938, he wrote to Win: ‘It is the old, old story — (45).”’
This is indeed an old, old story. Keep quiet, use code, ignore the occasional comments about “pushiness” or “flashiness” or “stinginess” or “Jewish behavior” (whatever that might be) or a comment about a Jewish woman’s “great conk of a nose.” This, after all, is no more than genteel prejudice, harmless enough, unlike the Continental brand that Ralph Miliband fled.
In The Mail article, a letter of Miliband’s is quoted: “Respectability, good taste, don’t rock the boat, there will always be an England, foreigners, Jews, natives etc. are all right in their place and their place is outside.”
The worst of the piece is that it reflects the attitudes that could give Miliband these feelings at a time when Britain is a far more open society than the one he first encountered.
Fortunately, David Miliband, at least, has found asylum from London's looming anti-Semites. Cohen concludes on a defiant note:
David Miliband tweeted that his father loved Britain. He now lives in New York, city of full-throated Jewishness.
Well ... Okay!
Considering that Benjamin Disraeli was Queen Victoria's favorite prime minister in the 1870s, perhaps, though, Levy was objecting to Ralph Miliband's ideology rather than their mutual ethnicity? From Wikipedia:
"[Ralph] Miliband published his first book, Parliamentary Socialism, in 1961, which examined the role that the Labour Party played in British politics and society from a Marxist position, finding it wanting for a lack of radicalism. .... He began arguing that socialists in Britain had to start working towards building a viable alternative that would be genuinely revolutionary socialist in its positions."
Let's take a look at recent British political history. The two main candidates for leadership of the Labour Party were Jewish (brothers, to boot, and sons of a well-known Jewish radical). The Tory prime minister David Cameron is a little bit Jewish by ancestry, and the previous Tory leader, Michael Howard, was Jewish.
Perhaps anti-Semitism at the top of British life is not quite the burning problem that it appears to Mr. Cohen?