Jewish donors said abandoning UK’s ‘pro-Palestine’ Miliband

British Labour opposition leader, who is Jewish, regarded as ‘toxic’ by erstwhile backers, newspaper claims

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with British Labour Party leader Ed Miliband, at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on April 10, 2014. (Photo credit: Haim Zach / GPO/FLASH90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with British Labour Party leader Ed Miliband, at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on April 10, 2014. (Photo credit: Haim Zach / GPO/FLASH90)

British Labour Party leader Ed Miliband is losing the support of Jewish donors because of his and his party’s pro-Palestine stance, a British newspaper reported.

The Independent on Sunday’s top story was headlined, “Jewish donors drop ‘toxic’ Miliband,” and it reported that Jewish backers of the British opposition leader, who is Jewish, were being deterred by his positions on the Israeli-Palestinian issue. “Miliband has been warned that Jewish backers are deserting the party in droves over what community leaders perceive to be a new, aggressive pro-Palestine policy at the expense of Israeli interests,” the report claimed.

The report said fundraising dinners have been canceled by traditional supporters who complain that Labour under Miliband has abandoned a “balanced” position on the conflict, and instead has become overly supportive of the Palestinians, without the matter being debated properly within the party.

“A senior Labour MP warned that Mr Miliband now had a ‘huge if not insurmountable challenge,’ to maintain support from parts of the Jewish community that had both backed and helped fund Tony Blair and Gordon Brown’s election campaigns,” according to the report.

It added that a former donor, asked by the party to arrange a fundraising dinner for Jewish Labour supporters, had found no takers. “Miliband won’t get that [money], I can tell you that now,” he was quoted saying. “I was going to do a couple of dinners and invite prominent members of the community, who are quite wealthy, to raise funds. They just wouldn’t touch it. It was too toxic for them to even consider. There is a lot of reluctance to support Miliband financially, unfortunately.”

Last month, the House of Commons voted by 274-12 to back a symbolic motion urging the Conservative-led government of David Cameron to recognize Palestine. The motion was introduced by a backbench Labour Party MP, in an ostensible effort to break the “impasse” in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Miliband voted for the motion and he initially also instructed his party colleagues to do so.

Sunday’s Independent report came after the Telegraph newspaper last week said Labour’s support within the UK Jewish community “is now on the brink of collapse.”

The Telegraph noted: “Miliband has been consistently warned about the deterioration of Labour’s support within the Jewish community. In July [at the height of the Israel-Hamas war] the Jewish Chronicle produced a pointed editorial in which it stated “In recent months, Ed Miliband has made a concerted effort to embrace the Jewish community. He has visited Israel. He has spoken of rediscovering his Jewish roots. And he ended his speech to the Labour Friends of Israel with the declaration that he would enter Downing Street proud to be a ‘friend of Israel, a Jew and … part of the community’. But, with Israel now in need of support from its friends, he has shown that words are cheap”. It went on to contrast Miliband’s stance on Protective Edge with David Cameron, who it said had been ‘clear, principled and firm in his support for Israel’s right to defend itself’.”

Miliband is in the midst of a crisis over his leadership of the party, with an increasingly vocal campaign against him from within Labour, amid fears that he is too unpopular to lead Labour to victory in general elections next year.

Miliband last week decried the rise of anti-Semitism in Great Britain and called for “a zero-tolerance approach to anti-Semitism in the UK.”

Miliband, the son of Holocaust refugees, in a Facebook post Tuesday cited figures from the Jewish Community Security Trust that indicate a sharp rise in anti-Semitic incidents. He praised Britain’s tradition of tolerance but warned that “the recent spate of incidents should serve as a wake-up call for anyone who thought the scourge of anti-Semitism had been defeated and that the idea of Jewish families fearful of living here in Britain was unthinkable.”

Miliband cited in particular the experiences of Labour lawmakers Louise Ellman and Luciana Berger, who were recently targeted by anti-Semitic tweets, and he pointed to this past summer’s Gaza conflict as an inflection point that triggered a spike in anti-Semitic incidents. During the conflict itself, Miliband castigated Israel.

He concluded his post by declaring, “A zero-tolerance approach to anti-Semitism and prejudice in all its forms here in Britain will go hand-in-hand with the pursuit of peace in the Middle East as a key focus of the next Labour government’s foreign policy.”

British actress Maureen Lipman during a 2014 interview (screen capture: YouTube/Red Carpet News TV)
British actress Maureen Lipman during a 2014 interview (screen capture: YouTube/Red Carpet News TV)

Last month, a leading English Jewish actress dropped her support for Miliband’s party over its policies on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and said it needed to be “once more led by mensches.”

Maureen Lipman, known for her roles in “The Pianist” and “Educating Rita” and for a series of comedic parts on British TV, castigated the opposition party and its leadership in a piece published by Standpoint, a British magazine covering politics and culture.

A self-described five-decade Labour voter and socialist, Lipman said she could not continue to support the party after Miliband voted to urge the British government to recognize Palestine in a House of Commons ballot last month.

“I’m an actress, Ed, and I am often commended for my timing,” wrote the 68-year-old actress, a recipient of the Commander of the British Empire (CBE) honor. “Frankly, my dear, yours sucks.”

She added: “Just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse. Just when the anti-Semitism in France, Denmark, Norway, Hungary is mounting savagely, just when our cemeteries and synagogues and shops are once again under threat. Just when the virulence against a country defending itself, against 4,000 rockets and 32 tunnels inside its borders, as it has every right to do under the Geneva Convention, had been swept aside by the real pestilence of IS, in steps Mr Miliband to demand that the government recognise the state of Palestine alongside the state of Israel.”

In July, on a visit to the US during the Israel-Hamas war, Miliband said: “We oppose the Israeli incursion into Gaza… I don’t think it will help win Israel friends. I don’t think this will make the situation better. I fear it will make it worse.”

Miliband, who met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel earlier this year, suggested that while diminishing Israel’s position in the eyes of the world, the conflict would also boost Hamas recruitment efforts. He also blamed the increasing violence on the lack of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

“What this horrendous, terrible last few weeks has shown is the vacuum of not having a process is incredibly dangerous,” he said. “That vacuum means any restraint breaks down. And so you’ve got to restart a process.”

Such a peace process would be badly impacted by continued settlement construction, he also warned. “I am concerned that the more settlements there are, the more the growth of settlements can become a problem in relation to the peace process, he said.

Days earlier Miliband justified Israel’s right to self-defense but decried the Palestinian deaths. “I defend Israel’s right to defend itself against rocket attacks,” he said. “But I cannot explain, justify or defend the horrifying deaths of hundreds of Palestinians, including children and innocent civilians.”

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