Ed Miliband: my door is open

Ed Miliband has said his door is always open to the Jewish community and urged people not to see his critical comments about Gaza and the Turkish flotilla as hostile to Israel. The first Jewish leader of the Labour Party told the JC that he recognised he has some work to do to reassure some in the community: "There is a task for me to get to know the Jewish community better as the leader of the Labour Party... and there's a task for the community to get to know me."

Mr Miliband was confident that he would receive invitations from Jewish organisations as a result of his overtures and said he would endeavour to accept as many of them as possible.

He stood by his critical comments at Labour's conference about the Gaza blockade and the attack on the Turkish flotilla, but clarified his position on Hamas. "For the record, I absolutely condemn Hamas rocket attacks on civilians in Israel." It was, he said, important for friends of Israel to acknowledge that some of the actions of its government "haven't necessarily promoted Israel's long-term interests".

He also revealed that he spent time in Israel while he was growing up, visiting his maternal grandmother and other relatives and emphasised the importance to him of the Jewish values of justice and "making the world a better place" inherited from his parents.

Mr Miliband said he "hankered after" some of the solidarity his parents found in their friendship with other Jewish socialists: "people who had been on Jewish youth groups and probably had more fun than I did when I was growing up."

He was tight-lipped on the issue of universal jurisdiction, the legal principle that permits arrest warrants to be issued for Israeli politicians accused of war crimes. Did he accept that senior Israeli politicians need to come and go in freedom? "I don't think the current situation is a good one to be in. Clearly not."

Full interview here

Last updated: 9:51am, November 5 2010