Corbyn, Uriel Da Costa and the Meaning of ‘Real Apology’

 

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By Gilad Atzmon

 Once every day, a Labour official offers a grovelling apology to the Jewish community, but for some peculiar reason its leaders seem unforgiving.  They don’t take Corbyn‘s expressions of remorse seriously. Today’s attempt to appease his party’s detractors was made by Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell on Andrew Marr’s show, it was: “we’ve done everything, I think, we can possibly do. We’ve apologised to the Jewish community.”

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“We’ve done everything, I think, we can possibly do. We’ve apologised to the Jewish community” asks Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell about anti-Semitism in the Labour Partyhttp://bbc.in/2RxpsQ2 

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So far, nothing seems to have worked. If the Labour party is to be forgiven by the ‘Jewish community,’ it must perform an authentic act of total humiliation and the sooner it occurs, the better, as electionday is just a few days away.

 Therefore,  I suggest that Corbyn, his shadow chancellor and any other person who contemplates becoming involved in British politics learn some basic Jewish history and in particular. the horrendous and tragic story  of Jewish philosopher Uriel Da Costa .

 Uriel Da Costa, (born in 1585-1590), was a Jewish rationalist who became a symbol among Jews and others of one martyred by the intolerance of rabbinical zeal.

 Da Costa was the scion of an aristocratic family of Marranos (Spanish and Portuguese Jews forcibly converted to Roman Catholicism). Initially, he studied canon law and became the treasurer of a collegiate church. Da Costa questioned the salvation depicted by the Roman Catholic church. In his search for authentic meaning and spirit, he turned to the Old Testament. He then converted to Judaism and convinced his close family to adopt his new/old religion. At the age of 22, Da Costa fled with his family from Porto, Portugal to Amsterdam.

 Da Costa soon found that the form of Judaism that prevailed in Amsterdam had little to do with the Bible or with rational or analytical thinking and had much to do with an elaborate structure based on rabbinic legislation (Talmud). Being philosophically inclined, he formulated 11 theses (1616) attacking Rabbinic Judaism as non-biblical, for which he was excommunicated by the Rabbinical institutions.

Uriel Da Costa

Uriel Da Costa

 Da Costa next composed a larger work condemning rabbinic Judaism and denying the immortality of the soul (1623–24). In a path that may remind some of life in contemporary Orwellian Britain, the Amsterdam magistracy arrested Da Costa, fined him and deprived him of his books.

 In 1640, after years of ostracism which he could hardly bear,  Da Costa made a public recantation. In response, the community’s leaders choreographed an exceptionally cruel and humiliating rite. As described by the Israeli Museum of the Jewish People:

“In a ceremony in the Great Synagogue of Amsterdam, da Costa was first forced to confess his sins, then endure 39 lashes, and finally to lie on the (synagogue) threshold and let the entire crowd step over his body.”

 Da Costa never recovered from the barbarian ritual. A few months later he shot himself in the head in the middle of the street.

If Corbyn, his shadow cabinet or anyone else within the Labour party is interested in forgiveness, the road is open for them to undergo Urial Da Costa’s experience.

However, some major categorical differences between Da Costa and Labour politicians must be examined before such a development matures into a televised spectacle. While Da Costa was an exquisite free thinker who served as an inspiration to the great Baruch Spinoza (who was subjected to similar Rabbinical malevolence just a few years later), Labour’s leadership isn’t exactly an intellectual collective. Their contribution to authentic thinking and freedom of thought is currently in the red.  Unlike the sensitive Da Costa who couldn’t bear the humiliation and ended his life under tragic circumstances, Corbyn and the Labour elite are more than likely to survive such a humiliating scenario, they may even enjoy it. Like most British politicians, they long ago lost contact with the  concepts of dignity and pride.

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