A lesson in solidarity, from the Jewish community in Britain

8 March 2013

This week I wrote my last Bright on Politics column for the Jewish Chronicle. Here it is in full:

This is my last Bright on Politics column.

After three-and-a-half years at the JC, I will leave with a lump in my throat, so please forgive me if this piece is a little sentimental or, dare I say it, schmaltzy.

When I started work at the paper, some of my former colleagues warned me I was consigning myself to a backwater. Nothing could be further from the truth.


Even before I joined the paper I had always felt it to be a unique publication: an ultra-local community newspaper with global ambitions. From my very first days in the job, I found myself slammed into the middle of an international news story with serious implications for UK politics.

Conservative Friends of Israel had invited Michal Kaminski, the ultra-nationalist Polish politician to their annual lunch at party conference. David Cameron was already under fire for his alliance with a rag-tag grouping of hard-right parties in Europe, and the invitation caused serious divisions within the community.

Mr Kaminski was an avowed friend of Israel, but allegations of his past associations with Polish nationalism of a particularly unsavoury variety had led to serious questions about Mr Cameron’s judgment. After interviewing Mr Kaminski, I took the view that CFI and the Conservative Party had made a serious error. This put me in direct opposition to my own editor, as our two opinion pieces published at the time made clear.

This, to me, was the JC at its best — a passionate argument about an issue that really mattered, thrashed out in the pages of a paper that really cared.

Since then, it has been my privilege to be at the heart of the debate on universal jurisdiction, to have covered a general election for the JC, and to have tangled with those who would boycott and vilify Israel or appease extremist Islam — often the same people.

It has been a privilege to be the first non-Jewish political editor of this newspaper. My proudest moment came during the March of the Living when I stood with Daniel Taub, Israel’s ambassador to the UK, on the site of the British prisoner-of-war camp at Auschwitz. Together, we paid tribute to the British soldiers who had borne witness to the Shoah.

I have learnt much over the past few years. I have begun to understand the umbilical relationship between many British Jews and Israel, and their visceral reaction when it is attacked. I have grown to appreciate the many subtle and ingenious ways that antisemitism can express itself.

But, above all, I have been impressed and humbled by the community’s hard-won capacity for solidarity. I take this with me as a gift, and it is something you must never lose.

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  • ProffessorPlum

    “I have learnt much over the past few years. ……. and their visceral reaction when it is attacked. I have grown to appreciate the many subtle and ingenious ways that antisemitism can express itself.”

    Are you trying to say that resistance to Israel’s brutal policy of ethnic cleansing is anti-semitism?

    Do you mean to say that those British officers that led the Arab armies in an attemptstop Nakbar were anti-semetic?

    Do you even know what a semite is?

    • zakisbak

      brutal policy of ethnic cleansing –
      Apart from the 1.5 million Arabs in Israel,the 1.5 million in Gaza,and the 2 million in the WB of course.Not very successful “ethnic cleansing ” is it?(Unlike the almost entirely Jew free Arab and Muslim countries.)

      Do you even know what a semite is? –
      But anti-semite means anti-Jewish.

    • stephen rothbart

      Sure I know. Everything you have written above shows that it is someone like you.

  • Teddy Bear

    Aptly named :-)

  • zanzamander

    Nice picture of Her Majesty and the Ambassador of Israel, but the Queen still finds it beneath her to set her royal toe on the soil of the only Jewish State in the world. Yet, she (and members of her extended family) has no compunctions in visiting the surrounding Arab countries and accepting their gifts despite the appalling human (and animal) rights violations in there them countries. Please can anyone tell me why our Queen has not visited Israel yet?

    • gregusmeus

      The FCO determines with whom the Royal Family has to go and shake hands. Do you need any more of an answer?

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