A proudly loyal Jew, he was on the Council of the Anglo-Jewish Association and from 1947-51 he’d edited its fiercely anti-Zionist periodical, The Jewish Monthly. He also contributed articles on Anglo- and Commonwealth Jewish history to a number of journals. In the British Museum (now the British Library) I’d read some of his old anti-Zionist editorials, which were based, among other considerations, on the fear, common among right-wingers at the time he wrote them, that Israel would be a puppet of the Soviet Union, abetting that country's rivalry to British interests in the Middle East. However, in 1973, at the time of the Yom Kippur War, when the Heath government despicably refused to supply spare parts for British-made Israeli tanks, Soref had joined most other Jewish Conservative MPs as well as a few non-Jewish ones in crossing the floor to vote with the Opposition over the issue.
I was interested to learn, during our conversation at the Reform Club, that he’d visited Israel not long after Independence was declared, along with another Jewish future Conservative MP (whose subsequent marriage to a Christian provoked a pointed article from Soref – who never married at all – on intermarriage, headed, if I recall correctly, "Bad Jews and Mad Jews"). And it was clear that his anti-Zionism had been laid to rest by events. Perceiving Israel’s interests to have dovetailed with Britain’s, he was agreeably pro-Israel, and when I asked him what he thought of the wisdom of this or that Israeli policy he refused to be drawn, declaring emphatically: "It’s all very well for me, sitting in the comfort of this club, to presume to tell the Israeli government what to do!" (Quite so. Got that, Mick Davis?)
Soref headed a firm of Africa merchants founded by his Romanian-born father and uncle; he greatly feared the spread of communism in Africa and was an unswerving apologist for white rule there. This made him anathema in most Jewish circles – and in leftwing ones generally. In 1974 he had to scale a six-foot wall to escape a mob of howling students yelling “Death to Soref!” when he arrived to speak as scheduled at the Oxford Union. And he was apparently the intended target of IRA gunmen who, lying in wait outside his London home, killed a man who looked similar to him.
Soref remains a controversial figure; Jews on the political right would probably not wish to be thought to resemble him, while those on the political left continue to demonise him. For example, in a recent biographical dictionary of Jewish MPs in Britain, of which the Labour life peer Lord Janner of Braunstone is a co-author, his entry contains a scathing value judgment unworthy of such a work, as well as politically-loaded factual inaccuracies.
To quote the JC:
‘In June, Mohammed Asif, chief executive of Engage, wrote to Education Secretary Michael Gove to express his opposition to Zionism being taught in Jewish schools. "Zionism is not part of the Jewish faith," he wrote. "It is a political ideology which has its roots in the works of Theodor Herzl and subsequent ideologues that have advanced the idea of a national struggle to establish a homeland for the Jews in the modern era."
The Engage website described Sunday Telegraph reporter Andrew Gilligan as “deranged” after he raised questions about whether the organisation was independent enough to perform the functions of secretariat to the all-party group. In recent years the group has defended the right of radical Muslim preachers to come to Britain and express their views and opposed the ban on extremist group Hizb-ut-Tahrir from university campuses.
Engage has also challenged those who condemned the Muslim Council of Britain’s Daud Abdullah for signing the Istanbul Declaration, which urged attacks on the British navy.
One comment on the Engage post announcing the establishment of the Islamophobia group said: “Jews and Christian scholars, the so called Western Orientals have always tried to mispresent Islam in their writings. They have always tried to spread baseless lies against Islam in a very authentic and scholarly style, hiding their deep rooted hatred against Islam.”’
Some Jews, fed up with the current situation, and heeding an English Defence League (EDL) call to help "lead the counter-Jihad fight in England", have joined the so-called Jewish Division of the EDL, an organisation widely seen as composed at its core of football hooligans and National Front types.
'An exasperated friend tells me his father, a fearsome Jewish anti-Fascist in his day, now spouts near-the-knuckle canards about "illegal immigrants" and "asylum seekers". This phenomenon is known as "pulling up the ladder" – as each wave of migrants grows to feel at home "aboard" their new country they identify evermore with the host community, sharing in its resentment towards newcomers and not recognising any empathetic connection with their own historical experience", the Daily Telegraph blogger Julian Kossoff has observed blogs.telegraph.co.uk/.../the-english-defence-league-the-jewish-division-and- the-useful-idiots/:
'But when I heard that there were Jews actively supporting the English Defence League (EDL), I thought: "pull the other one". The EDL claims to stand up for Englishness against Islamic extremism, but in truth it is largely a hodgepodge of football hooligans, lumpen boot-boys and cast-offs from seedy neo-Nazi outfits, such as Combat 18.
....While many in the Jewish community have understandable concerns about the rise of Islamic fundamentalism – so often streaked through with virulent anti-Semitism – it is important to remember that the EDL are not our friends. They are part of the problem, not the solution.'
"The EDL's supposed 'support' for Israel is empty and duplicitous. It is built on a foundation of Islamophobia and hatred which we reject entirely. Sadly, we know only too well what hatred for hatred's sake can cause. The overwhelming majority will not be drawn in by this transparent attempt to manipulate a tense political conflict."Certainly, the fact that, following the poppy-burning ceremony on Armistice Day (11 November) by a group of Islamist extremists linked to firebrand extremist Anjem Choudary, the mosque in Portsmouth, which was in no way associated with the poppy-burners, was surrounded by EDL members and daubed with graffiti, lends credence to the view that the EDL consists largely of racist thugs.
"It is surely high time for Diaspora leaders to stop living in denial and get their act together. Instead of competing with each other in oozing political correctness, they should display some backbone and call a spade a spade," Isi Leibler has observed – and, boy, Anglo-Jewry desperately needs a leader of his vision and calibre! What a sorry lot most of them are!
'We are currently witnessing the greatest revival of global anti-Semitism since the Middle Ages. This permeates all classes of society, and, ranging from academics to illiterates and European leaders who retain office despite making unabashed neo-Nazi remarks about Jews to mobs at anti-Israeli demonstrations carrying placards "gas the Jews".
It encompasses the entire political spectrum, but is spearheaded by liberals and Muslims. Muslim radicals relate to Israel in a manner reminiscent of the Church’s medieval attitude toward the Jews. They promote popular TV programs depicting the blood of Muslim children being used for baking matzot, and have revived The Protocols of the Elders of Zion as a best-seller. They certainly compare favorably with the worst Nazi Jew baiting, with imams quoting genocidal religious texts to the faithful, inciting them to murder Jews, "the descendants of apes and pigs".
It is macabre to observe the alliance between liberals and jihadists who represent the antithesis of everything the Left purports to represent. The extremist Islamists are the most reactionary elements in the world. They reject fundamental human rights, proscribe freedom of expression and religion, promote the degradation of women and, to this day, implement barbaric laws including stoning of adulterers and homosexuals and the amputation of limbs for petty crimes. More than 50 Muslim countries deny Judaism or Christianity equal standing with Islam....
Alas, Jews who exaggerate the presence of Islamophobia become leading proponents of the campaign to sanitize and understate Islamic extremism. This is especially bizarre, given that Jews, especially in Europe, but also increasingly in the US, are facing far greater threats of violence than Muslims. It is also synagogues, rather than mosques, which are continuously being desecrated and vandalized, in many cases by Islamists.
In that context, the relative tranquility which Muslims experience in Western societies is a great tribute to tolerance – a tolerance unlikely to have been extended to Jews in similar circumstances. Imagine the response if Israel had a track record like some of the Arab states, or if Jews in Western countries were blowing up their neighbors.
While genuine interfaith relations are to be commended, many Jews persist in engaging in "dialogue" with Muslim organizations that refuse to dissociate themselves from hard-line Islamic attitudes. Some of the leading Saudi groups promoting international interfaith conferences are directly engaged in the promotion of anti-Semitism, yet Jews participating in these bogus meetings naively babble on about love and coexistence and ignore realities. By doing so, Jews undermine the few moderate Muslims courageous enough to speak up.
All religions incorporate texts and concepts which encourage violence and aggression, but it is the interpretation by religious leaders that determines actual behavior. Judaism, Christianity and Buddhism today are overwhelmingly supportive of peace, and seek coexistence while condemning extremists.
In contrast, only a few Islamic moderates have the courage to criticize extremism within their own circles. Those brave enough to do so are marginalized, condemned by their kinsmen, and their lives are frequently endangered. The overwhelming majority remains silent or defends the Islamic excesses of Islamic regimes.... There is indeed a desperate need to encourage moderate Muslims. But appeasing the extremists and groveling to Muslim bullies merely emboldens them. There is not a single instance in history in which appeasing religious fanatics of any faith has brought about progress. If we allow ourselves to be intimidated or fail to confront Islamist jihadists, they will succeed in destroying the very tenets of our civilization.
This is an area in which Jews, who have the most to lose, must surely stand up and be counted."