The Left and Israel: Ed Miliband just pressed reset

In an event organised last night by the Board of Deputies, Labour leader Ed Miliband was asked by a member of the audience whether he is a Zionist. He replied, “Yes, I consider myself a supporter of Israel.” Ed Miliband wants to make the progressive case for Israel in the spirit of the late David Cairns. The Left should welcome that.

Alan Johnson is the editor of Fathom: For a deeper understanding of Israel and the region

In an event organised last night by the Board of Deputies, Labour leader Ed Miliband was asked by a member of the audience whether he is a Zionist. He replied, “Yes, I consider myself a supporter of Israel.”

Miliband’s journey – into the community, into the faith, and into a closer if still critical relationship to Israel – reached a new way-station last night.

It was certainly a very personal speech. He explained that he felt “huge respect, admiration and indeed a debt…to Israel for the sanctuary it gave my grandmother – Israel gave her comfort.”

But it was also a speech that gave party members a model of how to talk about Israel and Palestine.

First, he was fiercely pro-two state solution, unwilling to see any contradiction in being a friend of Israel and a friend of Palestine. He spoke a language of mutual recognition, mutual compromise and peace.  That remains the beginning of all wisdom on the issue, as LFI rightly point out.

Second, he was scathing of the polarising and counter-productive boycott movement.

He knows that efforts to delegitimise Israel are an obstacle to peace-making and he believes that proposals to break links between UK trade unions and the Israeli Histadrut, for example  – a policy pushed by the PSC and whispered into the ears of some well-meaning trade union leaders by political advisors who are engaged in their own long march through the institutions of the British labour movement – should be rejected.

And he thinks we lefties should be “intolerant of those who questions Israel’s right to exist”.

Third, he adopted the stance of a critical friend. Former Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni once wrote that “Israel is a confident and strong democracy and [so] is able to withstand and contain criticism” when it is offered “from within the family… out of love”.

That’s what it got last night.

Miliband raised his concerns about aspects of Israeli government policy (in particular, settlements) in the name of Labour’s values, and not in the name of a dangerous campaign to delegitimize Israel. Instead Ed Miliband wants to make the progressive case for Israel in the spirit of the late David Cairns.

That case involves demanding that social justice is not elbowed aside by very real security concerns. It is positive and forward-looking and seeks to make solidarity with the democrats and peace-makers on both sides.

This broad position of progressive and critical friendship with Israel (can we start to call it ‘two-state Zionism’, please?) is in line with exciting work being done by Tal Becker and others at the Shalom Hartman institute to develop the idea of ‘aspirational Zionism’; it is in line with Tzipi Livni’s idea of a ‘new Jewish conversation’, and dare I suggest with my own idea of ‘aspirational advocacy’ set out in the Jewish Chronicle recently.

Writing in the left-wing Israeli newspaper Haaretz, Anshel Pfeffer points out that ‘despite the many faults of the Jewish state, going by the results Zionism is a success story… None of the other nations established over the last 70 years come even close.’

But for Pfeffer, the real meaning of Zionism today is ‘the ongoing challenge of building and maintaining a country and society that conforms to the highest global standards’ taken on by ‘Israelis engaged in the daily struggle of building their society and extricating it from racism, bigotry and hatred.’

Friends of Israel can help in that challenge. Labour’s Ed Miliband just did.

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69 Responses to “The Left and Israel: Ed Miliband just pressed reset”

  1. Mick

    Funny how Labour even needed to be ‘reset’ on Israel in the first place. As we discovered in the Galloway article and comments, antisemitism in the general Left (not just Labour) has been remarkably widespread:

    And even beyond the ‘normal’ PC in the Left, we even had that blood libel cartoon in the Sunday Times of all places.

    It will be interesting if next time people on the Leftward side complain of political attacks on ‘Muslims’over Iran or something, they could make an equal round of complaints against folks on their own side whacking ‘Jews’ and ‘Zionists’ over Israel.


  2. DaveCitizen

    Zionism – it’s an interesting concept that needs much wider public discussion in the UK.

  3. PrimaryKey

    I wouldn’t trust Milliband or labour on anything. He’s as much of a charlatan as bliar was. Trouble is Cameron isn’t much better and Clegg is even worse

  4. Gabriel Brahm

    Excellent news. And sign me up for “Two-State Zionism.”

  5. Joe Cottrell-Boyce

    This article is based on the false premise that Miliband or his New Labour (so called) ‘lefties’ have ever had any relationship difficulties with Israel. Labour Friends of Israel outnumber Conservative Friends of Israel. This is not a step change, this is business as usual.

    New Labour has for a long time been hopelessly biased towards Israel and blind to its abuse of the Palestinian people.

  6. Mick

    There’s a UKIP Friends Of Israel too, with even a BNP one supposedly in the works. It’s the overall picture which carries more weight.

    New Labour had some sense. I’d too be ‘hopelessly biased’ towards a state which took back the desert scrub which was its ancient homeland before jihad took it away, and restored it to a paradise. A restored nation faced by constant hostility from a place now with a terrorist Hezbollah government continuing to fire constant rockets into it. And a nation which, when retaliating occasionally, receives nothing but leftist hate and froth.

    Leftists wail about an ‘apartheid wall’, but it’s there as much to protect the Israelis as segregate the Islamic hordes who have been taught to hate Jews anyway.

  7. Mick

    Erm, that should be Hamas government, though Hezbollah have close ties in this terrorist union.

    A union backed to the hilt by hypocritical leftists. Israel can’t fight back but it’s well worth ignoring Islamist human rights crimes:

  8. Joe Cottrell-Boyce

    Wow; ‘desert scrub’. And I asume South Africa and America were empty before the white man arrived too?

    As for ‘occasional retaliations’; A total of 28 Israeli civilians have been killed by Hamas rockets in the last 11 years; in the same time period 4,760 Gazan’ civilians have been killed by the IDF and thousands more have died as a result of the siege.

  9. Jack Meoff

    You are 100% correct. Excellent comment!

  10. Jack Meoff

    Again, another excellent comment. I agree with you 100%; I couldn’t have said it better. Thanks!

  11. Newsbot9

    What absolute nonsense. Hezbollah and it’s backers – Syria and Iran – are not allied with Hamas, who has backed the Arab Spring.

    You’re a revisionist, when it’s the right were far more support “anyone anti-Israel”, although there are a few vocal nuts on the left.

  12. Newsbot9

    Yes, that’s what happens when terrorist use civilians as a shield.

  13. Mick

    Ah, so the next insult logged against the Jews is that they’re nasty colonial white men. Leftists could at least use more imagination, especially as Israel is a bona-fide country again, established by international agreement.

    And according to the Left, 28 Jews don’t really count, they’re not very many. And leftists have also been known to bellyache that although nearly 5,000 Islamofascist rockets hit Israel since 9/11, they really weren’t very powerful. ‘Just roll with it man, Muslims have got rights to their own land they nicked.’

    Muslims now want rockets loaded with nukes as well as phosphorus. And Iran’s now on the way. And what’s more, the offensive hits Europe too:

  14. Mick

    Yes Newsbot mate, of COURSE I believe you when you say they have no common cause:

    “Throughout the speeches and workshops at the conference, Hamas and Hezbollah leaders repeatedly praised one another and called for the unification of resistance forces against the United States and Israel, common “enemies of the resistance.”

    And leftists always hail the Arab Spring, as if Muslims could be trusted to have one. In places like Egypt or Libya, old dictators were deposed in favour of even crazier ones.

    But never mind. Muslims know best.

    ….And that’s the second time you called me that name. ‘Revisionist’ has absolutely no insult value at all. And anyone in the Right wing slamming Jews or Zionists have been roundly roasted by Leftnuts, only for them to find the Reds have now taken over the duties.

  15. Newsbot9

    Welcome to 2013.

    And yes, thanks for the bigotry against Unapproved religions there. Keep calling democracy crazy. And of course you’re for roasting Jews.

  16. Mick

    I love this Newsbot guy – his mind’s as whirly as a walnut whip and as sharp as a beach ball – which is why he turns around and blames me the exact opposite of what I’d just said!

  17. Newsbot9

    Ah, another American troll he’s whipped up? Well I never.

  18. Newsbot9

    Yes, you keep on describing your issues for the world.

    Your “love” is creepy.

  19. Mick

    Thank you very much Jack. And it’s very interesting to see left wingers get so defensive when some of the opposite side to the coin is shown them.

  20. Jack Meoff

    Well well well! It appears that I am communicating with an epsilon semi-moron. (Read “Brave New World” by Aldous Huxley if you don’t understand the context.)

  21. Jack Meoff

    Mick, “Newsbot9” was just appointed the position of Vice-President of the M orons Division of the Knucklehead Society! He is also currently the “Planned Parenthood Poster Child”!

  22. Jack Meoff

    Don’t you just love it when the leftists whine about Israeli force being “disproportionate”? I wonder if they would have said the same thing when Great Britain completely destroyed Dresden in World War II?

  23. Jack Meoff

    The Ultra-left is no better than the Ultra-right. Nazis and Communists were both mass-murderers.

  24. Mick

    They do you know. And when the Queen Mother unveiled a statue to Arthur Harris in 1994, the sombre ceremony was spoiled by howling leftists at the back.

    The Queen Mother was visibly upset at the behaviour. But don’t you dare be caught disrespecting one of their own. (Or anyone else’s, like real war criminal Muhammad or even Bin Laden. Yeah, the one Obama gave a ‘respectful’ burial at sea to.)

  25. Newsbot9

    Yes, keep communicating with yourself.

  26. Jack Meoff

    More leftist drivel slobbering out of your mouth.

  27. Newsbot9

    Keep on trolling away, you’re the one frothing and slobbering here.

  28. Newsbot9

    Ah yes, eugenics, another one of your banner policies, troll.

  29. Jack Meoff

    That’s right – Disagree with a leftist and watch the loon lose it’s civility. More name-calling trash from you, eh?

  30. Mick

    Yes. But it seems to me right here that ultra-left ‘outlooks’ are more likely to dribble into the mainstream. As even a glimpse at some of the oafish comments at previous posts show.

    As you may guess, I threw a point or two into them.

  31. Newsbot9

    Yes, you have indeed lost your civility. Or rather, you shot it. Keep palming your frothing off onto me, disgusting habit. American troll, check what this site is sometime.

  32. Jack Meoff

    You are the one who brought up Eugenics. I just assumed that you were born that way without outside help.

  33. Newsbot9

    Yes, I’m sure your false flag ops were in case. And indeed, your allied war criminals died, ohnoes!

  34. Newsbot9

    Keep whining that it wasn’t British cities being destroyed.

  35. Jack Meoff

    I know, and again, I agree with you. (By the way, did you notice that all of my comments were rated negative? It’s those fine upstanding tolerant leftists at their best!)

  36. Newsbot9

    Keep pushing your views onto others again. You collectivism and anti-Semitism is notable. And of course your Islamists are offensive. Keep talking them up!

  37. Jack Meoff

    Another moronic comment from you. Sigh……..

  38. Newsbot9

    And you support your ultra-right, while I’m no communist. So…

  39. Jack Meoff

    I haven’t noticed a bit of anti-Semitism coming from Mick. You lie like a Persian rug!

  40. Newsbot9

    How dare people defend themselves against your offensive, and your coin cosh.

  41. Newsbot9

    How dare people use a rep system to complain about right wing trolls and shills. Probably sock puppets.

  42. Jack Meoff

    Twist the comment again, you wonderful, civil, and tolerant leftist.

  43. Newsbot9

    Yes, you’re trying to stab away as usual.

    Keep ignoring the rightward shift in British politics, and that your far right is the one doing the leaking. Of other people’s blood. Thanks for highlighting your oafish comments!

  44. Newsbot9

    Why are you trying to get close enough to shiv me?

  45. Jack Meoff

    Who’s complaining about that? I am VERY saddened that London was bombed, and I believe that Great Britain was very correct in bombing the crap out of Dresden. You are the one who is the lunatic.

  46. Newsbot9

    Ah yes, bigotry from you as well. And yes, you’re deliberately blind to your American troll buddies hatred. Of course you want to stuff my body into the rug when you’re done.

  47. Mick

    Don’t feed him. He only thinks he’s halfway normal as a result.

    Oh Newsbot, Calm down dear. Just as David Cameron says.

  48. Newsbot9

    That’s right, you try and back away now you’ve made a mistake and revealed your Social Darwinism to the world.

  49. Newsbot9

    You seem to be confusing my comments with yours.

  50. Jack Meoff

    And where in any post of mine have you seen my support of the Ultra-right? Again, you lie like a Persian rug!

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