Shimon Peres’s blessed memory will, I hope, inspire a genuine search for peace in the Middle East, something which he strove for all his political life. But, his gentle, compromising nature has long been an inspiration to me and will continue to be so.
I have always yearned for civility in differences, whether political or otherwise. I long admired Shimon Peres for achieving political solutions through tough but civil discourse.
In our community, we are capable of the same tough but civil discourse, and the summer months have required us to strive to show it. We can have our arguments and differences with those whom we disagree, but we should always do so in a manner that brings credit on our community.
That was why I was proud to have played a role in the North West Friends of Israel event in Manchester when I interviewed Shami Chakrabarti before an audience of 500 people. We have had differences of opinion as a community with the Labour Party over the Chakrabarti report. There were many areas of controversy. These included the report itself, the terms of reference, the decision to award a peerage, the launch event and the decision to join the Labour party on being appointed to lead the Inquiry. I was able to put these questions in a fair and respectful way, and Baroness Chakrabarti answered them fully. The entire evening was conducted in an atmosphere of respect. There was no booing, heckling, cheering nor any disrespect shown. I was proud of my Manchester colleagues. They showed the best of our community- that we can debate our differences with respect and tolerance.
This approach is what we are trying to engender in the Labour Party. If there are differences of opinion over Israel and Israeli policy, let them be debated fairly. There is no need for antisemitism, intimidation and bullying to take place on the scale of recent months in which many Jewish members of the party have been made to feel uncomfortable, or in the cases of Ruth Smeeth and Louise Ellman, have resulted in intimidation and threats. We have offered our full support to these two wonderful friends of the community. The party has done precious little over the summer to address this problem. At the Labour Party Conference, Jeremy Corbyn’s words at the LFI Reception and in his main Conference address, were belatedly encouraging signs of progress. But real progress will be judged by action and deeds, rather than words, and we will continue to scrutinise carefully the Party’s actions and how Jewish members feel. The co-operation between communal organisations on this issue has been satisfying.
Shimon Peres’ legacy should be heeded by those who seek a Palestinian State. If one yearns for a two state solution with lasting peace for both peoples, then we should strive together to achieve it. But you will not achieve it by demonising and deligitimising Israel or Jews.
And, in this respect, the fact that PSC are turning to sport once again to try and penalise Israel into some solution is depressing indeed. The latest campaign is once again to try and have Israel kicked out of FIFA, in this case because of the presence of five amateur and youth teams over the Green Line playing in Israeli leagues. The finest sports law minds are working to thwart this campaign, and to persuade FIFA that it is not the job of football’s governing body to draw the borders of a Palestinian state. That can be achieved only by an agreement reached by both peoples through direct negotiations.
The search for peace and co-existence is one that we strive for and I draw inspiration from the legacy of Shimon Peres in the work that we do.