Martin Bright

Why Nick Clegg is in the wrong job

By Martin Bright, September 17, 2013

It has always been something of a mystery why Nick Clegg didn’t demand a serious job for himself in government, settling instead for a seat around the Cabinet table and the meaningless title of Deputy Prime Minister. A Coalition deal that looked canny for the Lib Dem leader at the outset now looks like electoral poison.

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Why Ed Miliband needs Habonim Dror

By Martin Bright, September 12, 2013

As we enter the party conference season, thoughts inevitably turn to political leadership. These are not good times for the men who head up our major parties.

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Why the Syria vote was all about Iraq

By Martin Bright, September 3, 2013

The events of the past week should leave no one in any doubt that the Iraq War is the defining event for the present political generation.

Neither 9/11 and the rise of Islamic extremism, nor even the economic crisis, which both have had more direct and visible consequences on the streets of Britain, have scratched scars as deep as the decision to go to war in 2003.

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The tiny village fanning the flames of Sephardi culture

By Martin Bright, September 1, 2013

Tensions over Gibraltar and the ongoing economic crisis mean these are strange times to be visiting Spain as a British tourist. Neither issue has been mentioned to us since we arrived here last week, but then the Spanish have a reputation for keeping silent about inconvenient aspects of their history.

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Why Finchley is a litmus test for Labour’s election hopes

By Martin Bright, August 23, 2013

One of the first things to strike the outsider who comes into contact with Britain’s Jewish communities is the way the ultra-local is often combined with the uber-global.

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The irrational hatred behind brutal acid attack

By Martin Bright, August 16, 2013

The coverage of the acid attack in Zanzibar has been hard to fathom at times.

Reporters have struggled to find a rational explanation for the atrocity in which the attackers planned to disfigure two young women at the very beginning of their adult lives.

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I’m a huge fan. I even got to the end of his novel, and it’s officially unreadable

By Martin Bright, August 8, 2013

Bob Dylan provided the soundtrack to my adolescence.

Dylan, Leonard Cohen and Lou Reed — the great triumvirate of misery brought angst-ridden enlightenment to that bedroom in a cul-de-sac on a new-build housing estate in a West Country dormitory town.

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Truth about the British at Auschwitz

By Martin Bright, July 31, 2013

Regular readers of this newspaper will remember the series of articles we ran last year about E715, the British prisoner of war camp at Auschwitz.

A handful of memoirs of the POWs at Auschwitz have been published, including Denis Avey’s controversial bestseller, The Man Who Broke Into Auschwitz. But the full story of the 20,000 soldiers interned in the camp has never been told.

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Nuance: still small voice of journalism

By Martin Bright, July 25, 2013

When I first started work in the Observer newsroom in 1996, I remember expressing my view in an editorial meeting that a certain story demanded a degree of nuance. I don’t remember the story but I do remember the reaction of a senior colleague, an experienced foreign reporter. “Nuance”, he spat at me. “There are the good guys and the bad guys. We are against the bad guys.

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When interfaith friends fall out

By Martin Bright, July 19, 2013

I am not a religious person, although I have come close to some sort of reverie at times when in the presence of the culture of the great faiths.

I am easily seduced by a well-proportioned cathedral, mosque or synagogue. In Jerusalem, the Western Wall, the Dome of the Rock and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre all do it for me. But I am not a person of faith. I just can’t fake it.

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Qatada wins if we drop the Human Rights Act

By Martin Bright, July 11, 2013

It is nearly 14 years since I first met Omar Mahmood Abu Omar, the man known to the world as Abu Qatada.

He was sitting on the carpeted floor of a book-lined room in north-west London, every bit the picture of a man of Islamic learning. I remember him as a jolly, avuncular figure, gently spoken and charismatic.

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Battle for the Jewish community in Syria is lost

By Martin Bright, June 28, 2013

It is now over a decade since I met Mouffak in the Aleppo souk. This young Syrian was a trader in objets d’art and he had a unique sales pitch: “If you come and see my shop, I’ll show you my synagogue”.

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Pet Shop Boys Israel tonic

By Martin Bright, June 21, 2013

Those of us who have struggled over the years to argue against a cultural boycott of Israel have been put to shame this week by a 1980s pop-synth duo better known for their commentary on nightlife and consumer culture than their analysis of global geopolitics.

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

By Martin Bright, March 7, 2013

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.

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John Kerry's visit teaches Hague about patronising platitudes

By Martin Bright, February 28, 2013

The new US Secretary of State, John Kerry, honoured the UK with a visit at the start of his first diplomatic tour in the post and dished out a lesson in how it feels to be a small nation patronised by a superpower. There was ample briefing in advance that the focus of his discussions with the UK government would be Syria and the stalled Middle East peace process.

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Ward affair erodes support for LibDems after Tonge

By Martin Bright, February 21, 2013

The David Ward affair continues to rumble on, driving a further wedge between the Liberal Democrats and the UK Jewish population. The party has acted to give the Bradford East MP what Nick Clegg has described as a "yellow card". But it is unclear what purpose this was intended to serve.

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Telling the truth about dialogue

By Martin Bright, February 14, 2013

Last week, I chaired a debate on the vexed question of interfaith dialogue. Our brave co-hosts were the Jewish educational charity Spiro Ark and Harif, which promotes the history of the Jews of North Africa and the Middle East.

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How the ‘pariah state’ conquered the hi-tech world

By Martin Bright, February 7, 2013

This week, an American friend visited who had been in Israel for the elections. A veteran peace activist and trade unionist, she was here to talk to fellow liberal supporters of Israel about the boycott movement and how to fight it. Like others working in this troubled arena, my friend knows that Britain stands at the epicentre of an international campaign of delegitimisation.

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The week extremism became mainstream

By Martin Bright, January 31, 2013

In January 2013, a watershed was reached in the history of anti-Zionism. Holocaust Memorial Day (HMD), a time for reflection and collective grief for the suffering of the victims of genocide, was overshadowed by two men.

First, LibDem MP David Ward drew a parallel between the death camps and the “atrocities” against the Palestinian people by “the Jews”.

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UK may now have to reset its relationship with Israel

By Martin Bright, January 24, 2013

The much-predicted hysterical lurch to the right turned out to be a sober march to the centre ground.

Israeli elections often produce surprises, but the results this week will have led to an unprecedented collective sigh of relief in Whitehall.

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