Diane Abbott MP
With thanks: Rona
This blog has been closely following the trials and tribulations of the tiny Jewish community still in Yemen. Over the last year, scores have left. But concern about their persecution now comes from an unlikely quarter. On 22 February three Westminster MPs, Diane Abbott, Lynne Jones and Peter Bottomley filed an Early Day Motion (EDM) in the UK House of Commons, urging the resettlement of persecuted Yemeni Jews in the UK:
That this House is concerned that the small number of remaining Jews living in Yemen are facing ongoing religious persecution and systematic mistreatment which represents a critical threat to the health, safety and security of their community; notes that the United States administration has facilitated the resettlement of Yemeni Jews in the US for those with ties to that country; and urges the Government to follow this example and consider providing specific measures for those members of the group with ties to the UK who urgently need protection on humanitarian grounds.
These three MPs are not noted for being friends of the Jewish people. Peter Bottomley is a member of the Council of Arab-British Understanding and the Britain-Palestine All-Parliamentary Committee. Lynne Jones visited Syria last year and met Khaled Mashaal of Hamas. Diane Abbott has not been shy to speak up for Palestinians.
So why have these MPs experienced a sudden urge to show sympathy with Yemeni Jews? Notably absent from the EDM is any mention of Israel, which has taken in up to a hundred Jewish refugees from Yemen in the last year, some reuniting with relatives they had not seen for over 50 years. The EDM carries an implicit anti-Zionist message. It only considers as possible havens the US, where some 60 Jews have arrived in the Satmar enclave of Monsey in New York, and the UK, where the existing Yemenite community of Stamford Hill in London were preparing to receive their fleeing kin.
Clearly Diane Abbott, whose constituency encompasses the large Orthodox community of Stamford Hill, has come under pressure from Yemeni Jews already here to let more of their relatives join them.
Colour me cynical, but with a general election only weeks away, could this EDM also be a play for the Jewish vote?