Covering Jewish Life in Orange County
Musings on Brexit

What will Britain’s departure from the EU mean to Israel and worldwide Jewry?

Some conservative Israeli pundits think that Brexit, the British exit from the European Union (EU) is good for Israel because it makes the EU weaker. It seems to change the dynamics of power and open up the possibility of either the EU becoming a self-governing entity or dissolving itself altogether.

If Britain is the most pro-Israel country in Europe, does its exit from the EU make Europe more anti-Semitic? If the EU fragments eventually, is Israel better off in the long run? Worse yet, do the Jews of Europe, Israel, the US and elsewhere get blamed for Brexit if it brings economic uncertainty or worse to world markets?

According to Shmuel Rosner of the Jewish Journal, “Jews ought to be afraid of these tumultuous times, and on the other hand, European Jews also have reasons to dread the status quo of the EU. The mass immigration of Muslims has made life more complicated for EU Jewry (anti-Semitic incidents), and the universalistic ideals that the EU attempts to advance have also proved tricky for Jews to handle (restrictions on kosher slaughter and circumcision). The European status quo means that the trends threatening Jews’ ability to survive in Europe continue uninterrupted.”

David Patrikarakos, writing in Jewish Business News, said, “There are genuine arguments to be made against the EU. It is bloated and in part corrupt, and does infringe on national sovereignty to a degree, though not nearly as much as its critics claim. But it is also a stabilizing force that has kept Europe peaceful, and thus safe for the Jews, for almost half a century. A Europe with a weakened EU would undoubtedly start to fragment politically and socially. This fragmentation would, over time, empower various reactionary forms of nationalism across the continent…More immediately, Brexit would mean that the UK can no longer be an easy refuge for continental Jews whose lives are far more difficult. The UK has its problems, but it remains the best place in Europe to live as a Jew. In the last year alone, just under a thousand French Jews have arrived in London, fleeing anti-Semitism.”

Stephen Pollard, editor of The Jewish Chronicle newspaper, said the vote was “a wonderful day for Britain — and its Jews.” He believes that Britain can go its own way in fighting extremism and supporting Israel. Still, the vote affected the British stock market, and economic downturns have bred anti-Semitism in the past.

The most interesting – albeit strange – analogy cited was that of Bill Kristol, the prominent Jewish neoconservative. According to a story in JTA, Kristol said the “surprising outcome could reflect a tendency on the part of pollsters to undercount the right-wing vote — as they did when Britains’s Cameron and Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu won elections in 2015 — and that (Donald) Trump may be doing better than it seems.”

Only time will tell what Brexit means to Britain, Israel, the US and all around the world. Clearly, we are in for a lively ride this summer.