Martin Bright

Julian Assange, you need to explain

By Martin Bright, March 3, 2011

It is impossible to read Ian Hislop's account of his conversation with Julian Assange without feeling very uncomfortable. On the face of it, this is a classic example of antisemitism. And although Mr Assange denies it, he does not explain why Mr Hislop would have chosen to put his reputation on the line in such a public manner.


Islamists get a key role in parliament

By Martin Bright and Simon Rocker, February 17, 2011

Jewish organisations and politicians have expressed outrage at the decision by the new All Party Parliamentary Group on Islamophobia to retain the controversial Islamist organisation iEngage as its secretariat.

Described by the CST as having "a troubling attitude to antisemitism", concerns about its Islamist politics had earlier led to the resignation of the group's Conservative chair Kris Hopkins MP, and one of its vice-chairs, Jewish Labour peer Greville Janner.


Islamophobia group keeps controversial anti-Zionist link

By Martin Bright, February 15, 2011

The new all party parliamentary group on Islamophobia has voted by a narrow margin to retain the controversial anti-Zionist iEngage organisation as its secretariat.

Concerns about the sectarian politics of iEngage (also known simply as Engage) led to the resignation of the group's Conservative Chair Kris Hopkins MP and one of its vice-chairs, veteran Jewish Labour peer Greville Janner.

The appointment is a direct challenge to Prime Minister David Cameron, who called for Islamist groups to be given a wide berth in a recent speech to a security conference in Munich.


Liam Fox calls for tougher action against Iran

By Martin Bright, February 10, 2011

Defence Secretary Liam Fox used his speech at the Herzliya conference to warn against complacency in the face of the growing nuclear threat from Iran and urged more robust action from the international community.

Speaking on Monday on a panel of defence ministers convened by European Friends of Israel, Dr Fox said: "When talking about timescales I do not think it is prudent to assume we are at the most optimistic end of the spectrum."


Warm reception for Cameron's separatism speech

By Martin Bright, February 10, 2011

Ephraim Halevy, former head of Mossad, tells a great story about his time as Israel's ambassador to the European Union in the late 1990s.

While wandering the Brussels corridors he discovered there was an official with responsibility for "special cultural affairs" who ran a mysterious outfit called the Cellule des Etudes ("The Study Cell").


Ed Miliband meets Jewish leadership

By Martin Bright, February 4, 2011

Labour leader Ed Miliband has agreed to visit a Jewish school in the next few weeks as part of an attempt to build trust with the community. Mr Miliband made the pledge at dinner with the trustees of the Jewish Leadership Council, organised to mend fences and clarify the Labour Party's position on Israel.

The dinner for Mr Miliband, hosted by Sir Trevor Chinn, took place on January 12 at Dukes Hotel in St James's in central London and was described as "a very useful constructive dinner" by one Labour source.


Islamophobia group loses main sponsors

By Martin Bright, February 4, 2011

Plans to establish an all-party parliamentary group on Islamophobia have been left in disarray after its chair and one of its vice-chairs resigned over an “orchestrated lobbying campaign” from an Islamist group that backs Hamas.

The JC revealed last month that iEngage, a Muslim organisation with a track record of anti-Zionism, had been given the job of acting as the group’s secretariat.


William Hague lays down the law to Avigdor Lieberman

By Martin Bright, January 27, 2011

Foreign Secretary William Hague outlined a hardening UK position on settlement building when he met his Israeli counterpart Avigdor Lieberman in London this week.

In talks which focused on the peace process, he stressed that the current impasse did not serve the interests of Israelis, Palestinians or the region.

A Foreign Office statement said: "The Foreign Secretary made clear again the government's view that the construction of settlements is illegal, an obstacle to peace, and should stop.


William Hague will not go to Lebanon

By Martin Bright, January 27, 2011

Foreign Secretary William Hague was forced to cancel a planned trip to Lebanon this week after officials decided that the country remained in too much of a state of "flux".

The country's new Hizbollah-backed Prime Minister, Najib Mikati, was still in the process of forming his government as Mr Hague left for a visit to the Middle East on Wednesday. Sunnis opposed to Hezbollah's links to Shia Iran took to the streets this week to demonstrate against Mr Mikati's appointment.


Palestine papers: The view from London

By Martin Bright, January 27, 2011

Whatever we may think of the new journalistic trend of scoop by information-dump, the leaking of hundreds of documents from negotiations between the Palestinian and Israeli negotiators is an extraordinary event. We are all better informed as a result.


Brits out in force at Herzliya Conference

By Martin Bright, January 20, 2011

The Herzliya Conference, Israel's annual summit on global strategy and the Middle East, will have a prominent British presence this year.

Defence Secretary Liam Fox will speak on the defence ministers' panel on the opening day of the conference, which begins on February 6. He will speak alongside Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak and his Czech opposite number Alexandr Vondra. With the possible exception of Michael Gove, Mr Fox is seen as Israel's most vocal champion in the coalition cabinet.


Shift in mood

By Martin Bright, January 20, 2011

Alistair Burt's strong criticisms of Israel this week mark an interesting shift in the mood music on the Middle East. Mr Burt is a trusted supporter of Israel, and his criticism of settlement building did not stray from established UK policy.

But it is no accident that the Foreign Office chose to publicise his comments. Still more significant is his decision to back the Arab community's concerns about the Knesset's commission of inquiry into the activities of human rights organisations.


Alistair Burt: Building 'not helpful'

By Martin Bright, January 20, 2011

Middle East minister Alistair Burt used a visit to Israel this week to condemn new settlement building in East Jerusalem. He said the construction of 1400 new apartments in Gilo would damage future prospects of peace.

"We have always been clear that settlements are illegal and an obstacle to peace. Pushing ahead with this plan would be a deeply unhelpful move and hinder efforts to resume talks between the two parties leading to a two-state solution to this conflict, with Jerusalem as the shared capital of the two states living side by side in peace and security."


Abrahams in bid to broker peace deal

By Martin Bright, January 14, 2011

The international defence and security thinktank, the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), has confirmed the appointment of the first Jewish vice-president in its 180-year history.

North East property tycoon David Abrahams has been given the post in an attempt to boost the institute's work in Israel and Palestine. His fellow vice-presidents include Sir Paul Lever, former UK ambassador to Germany, Sir David Omand, former Permanent Secretary at the Cabinet Office, and the Duke of Westminster.


Israel friends change tack and relaunch

By Martin Bright, January 13, 2011

Labour Friends of Israel is to re-invent itself as a membership organisation to argue actively for the two-state solution and develop the "progressive case" for Israel.

The new direction will be outlined at a seminar in March held jointly in Westminster with the New Labour magazine Progress to promote a fresh strategy for Israel's friends within the Labour Party and the trade union movement.

In recent years LFI has found itself increasingly forced into a fire-fighting role against a growing anti-Zionist sentiment in the Labour movement and the wider British left.


Wild views on sorting Jews

By Martin Bright, December 30, 2010

I recently came across a curious little volume of essays on "the Jewish Question" in a second-hand bookshop in London.

Gentile and Jew: A Symposium was published just before the end of the Second World War. It contains around 100 articles, all from non-Jews, collected by the book's editor Chaim Newman.


Britain leads in Israeli denial efforts

By Martin Bright, December 29, 2010

An Israeli academic who spent five years in London studying the "red-green alliance" between the hard left and international Islamist groups has produced a comprehensive survey of the anti-Israel movement in the UK.


Terror think tank in funding crisis

By Martin Bright, December 22, 2010

The anti-extremist think tank Quilliam has issued an emergency appeal for donations following the slashing of its Home Office grant.

The organisation was founded in 2008 by two former members of the radical Islamist group Hizb-ut-Tahrir, Maajid Nawaz and Ed Husain. It has forged a reputation as a high-profile counter-balance to established organisations such as the Muslim Council of Britain. Quilliam's original funding from the Middle East was withdrawn after the leadership criticised fatwas backing suicide bombings in Israel.


EDL has 'left BNP a mere sideshow'

By Martin Bright, December 16, 2010

The head of Britain's leading anti-fascist organisation has said the English Defence League has replaced the British National Party as the major force on the far right of British politics.

Nick Lowles of Searchlight said the BNP had become a "sideshow" since the crushing defeat of its leader Nick Griffin in Barking at this year's general election.


Anti-Islamophobia parliamentary group drop 'Islamist' secretariat

By Martin Bright, December 8, 2010

A new parliamentary group set up to tackle Islamophobia has been forced to end its partnership with a controversial Muslim organisation which has campaigned against “Zionist” teachings at Jewish schools. It has also defended radical Islamist preachers and targeted moderate Muslim groups which raised concerns about the rise of Islamist politics in Britain.