Jeremy Corbyn and the 'Minister for Jews'


Jeremy Corbyn’s election as Labour leader has come amid divisions in his camp, with senior aides arguing over the apparent intention to appoint a “Minister for Jews”.

A series of leaks from those close to Mr Corbyn revealed a plan intended to pacify the Jewish community following concerns about his links to antisemites and Holocaust deniers.

The idea was discussed last week within his team as an attempt to repair the fractured relationship, although no such appointment has been made.

The JC first revealed the plan on its website at the weekend after a leak from a senior Corbyn source.

Then on Monday, after a separate leak, the Sun reported that “Jeremy Corbyn is to appoint a special Minister for Jews” and quoted a “source close to Mr Corbyn” as saying “Jeremy is not antisemitic in any way but he knows his former associations have been problematic”.

Today, the JC can reveal that the idea was also floated by a senior Corbyn adviser to Martin Bright, this paper’s former political editor. Mr Bright responded that it “sounded like something from Nazi Germany”.

On each occasion, the sources referred specifically to a “Minister for Jews”, although it is thought this may have been shorthand for a wider role that reached beyond the Jewish community but that was intended to appeal specifically to the Jewish community.

It is unclear whether the plan was discussed in sufficient detail to have identified how the role would fit in to Mr Corbyn’s front-bench team or who would fill it, although the position could have come under the brief of new Shadow Communities Secretary Jon Trickett or Shadow Equalities Minister Kate Green, and would have included efforts to work with all religious minorities.

When speaking to the JC, the source admitted that the community had a poor perception of Mr Corbyn and suggested that the new post would be a signal that he intended to have a friendly approach to British Jews.

Prior to Mr Corbyn’s shadow cabinet appointments on Sunday, the JC understands that a number of Jewish MPs indicated that they would decline if asked to serve.

Ivan Lewis offered to remain in his role as Shadow Northern Ireland Secretary due to the ongoing crisis at Stormont but was sacked. During the leadership campaign, he had criticised some of Mr Corbyn’s supporters who had engaged in antisemitic rhetoric.

Luciana Berger agreed to be Shadow Mental Health Minister and is now the only Jewish member of the shadow cabinet. She issued a statement on Wednesday explaining her appointment had come following a “full and frank discussion” with the new leader.

“Reaching this decision was not easy,” Ms Berger said. “I cannot honestly say I agree with everything the new leader has said over the years. I felt he was willing to listen and engage.”

As a former Labour Friends of Israel director, Ms Berger is also one of the few remaining supporters of the country in the shadow cabinet — along with Tom Watson, the new deputy leader.

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