Martin Bright

Searchlight takes on the Islamic extremists

By Martin Bright, November 18, 2010

The anti-fascist publication Searchlight, which was behind the "Hope Not Hate" campaign to stop the British National Party in east London, is to expand its operations to oppose the Islamophobic English Defence League and Islamic extremism itself.

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Support may come as surprise

By Martin Bright, November 11, 2010

When I mentioned to a Jewish journalist friend that I was off to the Liberal Democrat Friends of Israel lunch, he said he didn't know there were any. Other people in the political world joked it would be an intimate occasion, such is the general consensus about Lib Dem hostility to Israel.

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Mazaltov. But now time for Project Ed

By Martin Bright, November 11, 2010

Congratulations are due to Ed Miliband and his partner Justine Thornton on the birth of their second son. But as the Labour leader prepares for two weeks of paternity leave, Project Ed has begun in earnest.

Since he expressed his opposition to Israel's blockade of Gaza and the boarding of the Turkish flotilla during his leadership acceptance speech, Labour Friends of Israel have been working hard to mend fences.

In his interview with the JC last week, Mr Miliband made it clear that he condemns Hamas rocket attacks on civilian targets. This is a start.

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Nick Clegg: we got it wrong on Israel

By Martin Bright, November 11, 2010

Deputy prime Minister Nick Clegg attempted to open a new chapter in the relationship between the Liberal Democrats and British Jews this week when he emphasised his party’s support for Israel and reiterated the coalition’s pledge to change the law on universal jurisdiction.

He told a lunch held by Liberal Democrat Friends of Israel that he was aware of past tensions, and was engaged in “an operation to clarify misunderstandings”.

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Analysis: Islamist threats: this time, the real thing

By Martin Bright, November 4, 2010

It should be the conspiracy theorist's dream scenario. Just as the coalition is being held to its promises to dismantle the Labour government's security state, a parcel bomb is found on board a cargo plane at a British airport. There was a time, before the attacks of July 7 2005, when some of us still gave credence to the idea that the British state was overhyping the terror threat in order to scare us into accepting infringements of civil liberties. How interesting that no one is suggesting that the Yemeni parcel bombs are anything other than very real.

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Gove wins plaudits for defence of Israel

By Martin Bright, November 4, 2010

Education Secretary Michael Gove told British supporters of Israel this week that human rights activists and politicians were wrong to use the word "disproportionate" when talking about Israel's military response to threats to its security.

His comments will raise eyebrows among his colleagues, not least Foreign Secretary William Hague, who described Israel's assault on Lebanon in 2006 in precisely those terms.

Advocacy organisations in Britain, including Conservative Friends of Israel, have subsequently worked hard to persuade Tory politicians not to use such incendiary language.

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Ed Miliband: my door is open

By Martin Bright, November 4, 2010

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."

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Ed Miliband: Hamas, Ken Livingstone and Jewish values

By Martin Bright, November 4, 2010

Ed Miliband’s Jewish intellectual heritage could not be more impeccable. His father, Ralph Miliband remains a colossus of the British left, who lies buried in Highgate cemetery within sight of Karl Marx himself.

His mother Marion Kozak, is a feminist thinker and human rights activist of considerable renown. Both parents were Polish Jews who came to Britain as refugees from fascism.

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How political Islam got the public vote

By Martin Bright, October 28, 2010

Political Islam or Islamism, as it is sometimes known, has finally entered the mainstream of British politics. The election of Lutfur Rahman as Mayor of Tower Hamlets, the new government's decision to send a minister to attend Islam Channel's Global Peace and Unity conference, and the news that Tony Blair's sister-in-law has converted to Islam, demonstrate that a radical strain of totalitarian Islam has become acceptable to a significant proportion of the political classes.

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Analysis: Just how Jewish is the Big Society?

By Martin Bright, October 22, 2010

The full consequences of the Comprehensive Spending Review will take some time to digest. But one implication of the cuts is that the concept of the Big Society will immediately move from the realm of think-tank utopianism into the hard reality of delivery on the ground.

Whether the so-called "third sector" will have the capacity to cope with the fall-out from 500,000 job losses predicted by the government is yet to be seen.

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How Labour feared a BNP Barking win

By Martin Bright, October 21, 2010

A new film to be screened next month will reveal the extent of Labour Party fears that the British National Party would seize the seat from the long-serving MP Margaret Hodge at this year's general election.

The Battle for Barking, a feature-length documentary for More4, shows that Labour strategists believed white working-class voters were deeply sympathetic to the BNP's anti-immigration message, and in parts of her constituency 70 per cent of voters were considering voting for the far-right party.

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Picking apart Miliband's shadow appointments

By Martin Bright, October 14, 2010

It's tempting to play "spot the Zionist", "spot the Islamist appeaser" or even "spot the closet antisemite", whenever a new list of political appointments is released. The list of Shadow Ministers published this week is an open invitation to do just this. There is no doubt thata Labour front bench with John Denham as Home Secretary and Sadiq Khan as Foreign Secretary would be

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Analysis: Tories mend fences as Labour digs holes

By Martin Bright, October 7, 2010

Change is always unsettling and this season of political conferences has ushered in all the uncertainty that inevitably follows a general election. Fringe meetings at the Conservative Party conference were infused with an atmosphere of near- panic as desperate lobbyists scrambled for the ear of ministers, while trying to second-guess the coalition plans in advance of the comprehensive spending review.

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Interview: Michael Gove

By Martin Bright, September 28, 2010

On Israel security:
Its position will be strengthened by doing properly by its neighbours

On faith schools:
They equip people brilliantly for multi-cultural 21st century Britain

On air travel:
I'll follow Tony Blair's example and have a couple of pints first

There was one matter I had been wanting to clear up with Michael Gove for some time. I had heard that the Conservative Party's most consistent and passionate defender of Israel had never travelled to the country itself.

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Analysis: Does Ed Miliband have any foreign policy?

By Martin Bright, September 28, 2010

So we have Britain's first Jewish leader of the Labour Party, and yet Ed Miliband's position on a key series of issues for the Jewish community remains something of a mystery. On Israel, the wider Middle East, radical Islam, the security of the Jewish community in Britain, his views are at best opaque, if not quite a closed book.

I spoke to two former Labour foreign ministers at party conference this week and they both said they had no idea what Ed Miliband thought about foreign affairs, and had never heard him talk about Israel or the peace process.

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Analysis: What the Big Society may mean for Israel

By Martin Bright, September 21, 2010

I have been observing the "Big Society" at close quarters this summer, establishing a small charity helping the long-term unemployed find work in the creative industries. I also spent a week visiting artists and writers in Jerusalem, where I was struck by the gulf in liberal intellectual opinion between Israel and Britain.

But the most memorable conversation I had recently was with a prominent member of the UK Jewish establishment who told me of his serious concerns about the future.

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Interview: Lord Carlile

By Martin Bright, September 17, 2010

Before this year's election, Lord Carlile probably had more recent experience of dealing with the business end of government than any other Liberal Democrat in the House of Lords.

As the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation for the past nine years, Alex Carlile QC monitored the Labour government's fight against Islamic extremism at close quarters.

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Jenny Tonge lost us two seats, says Lib Dem peer

By Martin Bright, September 17, 2010

A leading Liberal Democrat believes Baroness Tonge's views on Israel may have helped to lose the party two seats at the general election.

Lord Carlile says that reaction to his fellow Lib Dem peer may have cost vital votes in the north London seats of Hampstead and Kilburn, and Islington South and Finsbury.

"My belief is that remarks taken as antisemitic had a significant effect on the results in those two very marginal north London seats," he said in an interview with the JC this week.

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Yad Vashem's big British error

By Martin Bright, September 2, 2010

I recently lost my rag at Yad Vashem.  I didn't shout and stamp my feet. I'm not that crass. Being British, I just quietly fumed and grumbled to a friend who was with me. But I was properly angry, not just on my own behalf but that of my whole country.  Why? Because my guide, a senior curator at the museum, had chosen to lump Britain in as part of her sweeping picture of European capitulation in the face of the Wehrmacht.

"Look how they all surrendered," she said, pointing with a series of thrusts of her finger at the map of Europe with a look of  disgust.

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Initiatives like these are arguments against boycotts

By Martin Bright, August 19, 2010

The other week I spent the evening in a beautiful garden in east Jerusalem listening to sublime music that brought together the best of the traditions of western, Arabic and Jewish music, ancient and modern.

It was a unique event, bringing together two of the most prominent musicians in the region, one Jewish, one Palestinian. Also performing for a small audience of friends and invited outsiders was a group of rappers from the Shuafat refugee camp. Everyone agreed that it was an astonishing moment.

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