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October 30, 2014 1:05 pm

British Jewish Opposition Leader Driving UK Jews Away Over Israel, Angers Iconic Actress

avatar by Ben Cohen

Ed Miliband, Jewish leader of Britain's opposition Labour Party, has been criticized by UK Jews over his stance on Israel. Photo: Wikimedia

Ed Miliband, the Jewish leader of Britain’s opposition Labour Party, is under heavy criticism from members of the UK Jewish community for his party’s growing hostility to Israel.

Among Miliband’s critics is the famed Jewish actress Maureen Lipman, who is a household name in Britain, and the advocacy group Sussex Friends of Israel (SFI,) which has garnered a national reputation for its energetic counter-demonstrations against Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaigners picketing the store owned by the Israeli company SodaStream in the English seaside town of Brighton.

In an article for Standpoint magazine, Lipman, who had a starring role in Roman Polanski’s 2002 film about the Holocaust, The Pianist, excoriated Miliband for his support for British recognition of a Palestinian state independently of any negotiations with Israel.

“If you recognise a state you can officially arm that state,” Lipman wrote. “Already billions of pounds have been allotted to rebuild Gaza. Ha! Rebuild the tunnels and reequip the arsenal. Oh, how the propaganda has worked on these clever, concerned people again and again and again. If Hamas and Fatah cared one iota for the Palestinians, might they not have built schools and hospitals and streets for their people the first time the billions poured in and were converted into weaponry and hotel suites in Paris and citizens were used as human shields?”

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Lipman stated that she will vote for “almost any other party” until Labour is “once more led by mensches” – the Yiddish word for a person of integrity. She also poked fun at Miliband for “being all over the papers, knocking back a bacon sandwich” a few days after the two of them met at a London gathering, during which Miliband suggested that he attend a shabbat dinner at Lipman’s house.

In a separate development, Sussex Friends of Israel has protested Miliband’s forthcoming appearance at a November 26 fundraising dinner for Labour Friends of Palestine and the Middle East (LFPME,) a pro-Arab group within the party that describes itself as “a proactive voluntary group in an environment long occupied and dominated by the pro-Israeli lobby.”

In a letter to the Labour leader – the son of the late Jewish Marxist academic Ralph Miliband, who came to the UK as a teenager fleeing the Nazi occupation of Belgium – Simon Cobbs of SFI pointed to a statement in an LFPME pamphlet that undermined Israel’s very right to exist. “The one state proposal is not so much unfeasible as implausible. It is a solution maybe to a different problem, but not to this one, or at least not now,” the pamphlet stated.

“My question is this,” Cobbs wrote to Miliband. “If not now, then when? Perhaps later? Maybe as soon as you are elected Prime Minister? Is it Labour Party policy now to accept a two state solution today – and to advocate for the destruction of the State of Israel at some point in the future?”

Fiona Sharpe, a member of the SFI Executive, told The Algemeiner that the letter to Miliband had been sent this morning and shared “multiple times” on Twitter and other social media networks. Sharpe expressed disappointment that no-one from the Labour Party had been in touch with SFI “just to confirm that our concerns are being addressed.”

Sharpe added that the lack of response so far, “can only lead us to believe that either Ed Miliband does indeed support the views of the LFPME, or that he is simply unaware of, and unconcerned by, their position documents. Either way, that makes me very worried about voting for him or his party at the 2015 election.”

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