I commenced my employment with the JLC on 4th July 2016. I was determined to meet with the regions politicians in full knowledge that the vast majority will never have been contacted by a Jewish representative.
Upon assuming my role, I was keenly aware that I was working primarily in the Labour heartlands of Greater Manchester and Merseyside. By the end of the year, I will have engaged with at least 36 Labour MP’s. In addition, I have already met the Combined Authority Council Leaders along with representatives from several Borough Councils who almost exclusively belong to the Labour Party.
It is no secret that the Jewish community has had a difficult relationship with the Labour Party over the previous 12 months. My meetings have been extremely positive and the politicians have been receptive to the concerns facing the Jewish community. They have all given an unwavering commitment to fighting anti-Semitism in all of its guises. I am confident that relationships have been established that will be strengthened over time.
I have also been keen to speak to our many friends within the Labour Party. It is easy to forget with the seemingly constant stream of bad news that the Jewish community and Israel has many friends within the Party. The North West is home to some of the Jewish communities most vocal supporters in Parliament. It has been a privilege to meet with these people and thank them for their support. In one instance, I was told by a politician that they had been supportive for 25 years and this is the first time they had been thanked.
As a community I feel it is essential that we show our gratitude when politicians speak out on our behalf.
The major bone of contention in these meetings is the State of Israel. I have met politicians with wide ranging views from targeted boycotts to broad support. However, when pressed, it is universally agreed that the only solution to the crisis can be an Israeli and a Palestinian State living alongside each other in peace and security. Largely, politicians note this is a complicated international conflict and they are concerned that community cohesion could be damaged if regional tensions play out locally. There is a sense of relief in many areas that they now have a Jewish representative who will attend meetings and discuss our community’s sensitivities.
We must be careful not to shut down legitimate criticism of Israel. This will win us no friends with politicians who do have concerns about Israeli governmental policy. However, we must take a firm stand to ensure Israel is not singled out unjustly on the international stage. It is also imperative that criticism of Israel does not morph into anti-Semitism. I have gone to great pains to discuss acceptable language surrounding the conflict with politicians who previously never had the opportunity to understand the Jewish community’s point of view.