Farewell from a front-row seat at impressive displays of solidarity

Martin Bright, right, with Ambassador Taub at Auschwitz (Photo: Lauren Geisler)

Martin Bright, right, with Ambassador Taub at Auschwitz (Photo: Lauren Geisler)

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.

    Last updated: 11:45am, March 7 2013