Gordon Brown in The Jewish Chronicle
Here follows four revealing articles from the leading Jewish paper in Britain - The Jewish Chronicle - on British Prime Minister Gordon Brown. Articles that reveal Brown´s affinity for Israel and his connections to the Jewish lobby.
- Gordon Brown is a Jew... kind of
- Brown takes on JNF role
- Brown as PM would be a friend of
- Brown is a philo-semite. Expect great
Heres a question to chew on this High Holy Day season: is Gordon Brown Jewish?
I dont mean it literally. Rest assured, if there was so much as a scintilla of Jewish ancestry in the Brown line, this very newspaper would have sniffed it out long ago. (Its one of the JCs enduring and endearing traditions to clutch even the unlikeliest folks to the collective Jewish bosom: over the years, Im sure I can recall several blonde movie stars, an archbishop and even a couple of minor royals claimed for the Jews on these pages.)
No, I have a rather less literal Jewish affiliation in mind. The thought was triggered by an article in a recent edition of Prospect magazine, analysing the new Prime Ministers intellectual interests. It quoted a Brown aide as follows: The emblematic intellectual for him is Jonathan Sacks. They are very close. Brown isnt an atheist-humanist: hes religious in a kind of Jewish way where the important thing is the community, the religion is a kind of assumed moral framework.
Now, bear in mind, this statement did not come from some Anglo-Jewish bigwig seeking to co-opt Brown. This is one of Browns own team speaking. Is he right?
The mention of the Chief Rabbi is not the key detail here: just because Brown admires him doesnt make the PM Jewish, even in the sense of the word the aide had in mind. After all, Sacks was close to Tony Blair too, their advisers trading ideas for speeches back in the opposition days of the 1990s. Still, the link with Brown does seem especially strong: the Chiefs daughter, Gila, even works for him, taking a big hand, for example, in ghostwriting his recent book on the heroes of Britains voluntary sector.
But Browns Jewish credentials go beyond the mere some of my best friends and advisers... category. His sympathy for Israel is deep-rooted and authentic. His father, the Rev John Brown, was a Church of Scotland minister in the era when such men were automatic believers in the Christian strain of Zionism. Brown has often recalled his fathers slide-shows of the holy land presented to the congregants of Kirkcaldy, each image offered as evidence of the Jewish return to Zion foretold in the Bible.
favourite Brown line, a crowd-pleaser to Jewish and Scottish audiences alike, is to insist that I knew the names of the Kings of Israel before I knew the Kings of England.
Whats more, Browns values do seem to converge with those of Jewish tradition. Now, its true that, strange as it may seem, this is a claim which all Britains leading politicians make these days. Blair used to say it, as did his self-styled heir, David Cameron, in an interview with the JC a few months back. Politicians didnt used to talk like this. I suspect credit for the shift, as for so much else, belongs to Margaret Thatcher, who loudly identified with the Jewish ethos. Since most of our frontline politicians apparently want to claim some connection to the Iron Lady Brown compared himself to her just last week then its natural they would claim to share her philo-semitism into the bargain.
But with Brown it rings truer than most. His emphasis on duty and hard work, on the obligations human beings have to one another and to make the world a better place, of course owe much to his Scots Presbyterianism, but there is a defiantly old-fashioned quality to them that would also chime perfectly with your average rabbinic sermon.
There are other points of connection, to be sure. Some will note that two of the eight exceptional people Brown profiled for his recent (and excellent) book Courage were men who took a stance against Nazi antisemitism, Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Raoul Wallenberg. Jokers might further suggest that Jews and Scots share a natural affinity, since both are how shall we put it? prudent when it comes to matters financial.
But the heart of the matter was contained in that quotation from Browns aide. Brown is not a man who bangs on about questions of theology; his own advisers are, according to Prospect, unsure if he is even a believer: he does not, as Alastair Campbell famously put it of Tony Blair, do God. Instead, the important thing is community.
This is how Judaism tends to operate too. Our rabbis dont talk much about the soul or salvation or the afterlife: they speak more about the here and now and our obligations to our fellow human beings. This humanistic emphasis, simultaneously rooted in religious tradition, is surely one of Judaisms defining qualities and it is now one we share with our Prime Minister. It should make, as the old movie put it, for a beautiful friendship.
"In a speech to Labour Friends of Israel in April, he [British Prime Minister Gordon Brown] recounted how his late father, a Church of Scotland minister, had taught him about 'the trials and tribulations of the Jewish people, about the enormous suffering and loss during the Holocaust, as well as the extraordinary struggle he described to me of people to create this magnificent homeland' "
JNF UK, one of Anglo-Jewrys leading charities, has secured Gordon Brown as its latest patron, the JC can reveal.
The Prime Minister accepted the role following an invitation from JNF UK president Gail Seal, who wrote conveying her good wishes the day after he took office.
In a letter to Mrs Seal, the PM responded that your congratulations and good wishes are very much appreciated and that he was delighted to accept your offer to become a patron of JNF UK.
A spokesman for Mr Brown told the JC: The Prime Minister supports a number of charities and has agreed to become a patron of the Jewish National Fund UK in order to encourage their work to promote charitable projects for everyone who lives in Israel.
Mrs Seal said she was very proud that Gordon Brown has agreed to become patron of JNF UK. This will enhance what is already a close relationship with the UK Jewish community, and help us progress in our tremendously successful campaign to bring new communities to the Negev.
The PM joins other JNF UK patrons including Tony Blair, the Conservative leader, David Cameron, as well as Chief Rabbi Sir Jonathan Sacks, who is said to be a close friend of Mr Brown.
JNF UK raises £15 million a year, intended to promote exclusively charitable projects in Israel. Its fundraising events range from London-Israel plane rallies to the Green Sunday telethon.
The charity has faced its share of controversy. Currently, it risks being dragged into a storm surrounding a proposed Israeli law which would restrict the sale of JNF-owned land to non-Jews. The bill passed its preliminary reading in the Knesset last week.
In October 2005, Keren Kayemeth LYisrael-JNF parted ways from JNF UK in an acrimonious split which led to a High Court battle. The two sides have since been conducting a process of mediation to prevent a return to court.
In March, the Charity Commission dismissed allegations of irregularities at JNF UKs head office after a former patron, David Lewis, pressed it to investigate a 100-page dossier of concerns.
Founded in 1901, the JNF (known as KKL in Israel) was the tool for buying up land in pre-state Israel. Current projects focus on developing the Galil and Negev regions.
Mr Brown has long been known for his support of Israel.
In a speech to Labour Friends of Israel in April, he recounted how his late father, a Church of Scotland minister, had taught him about the trials and tribulations of the Jewish people, about the enormous suffering and loss during the Holocaust, as well as the extraordinary struggle he described to me of people to create this magnificent homeland.
Gordon Brown with kippa on his head in celebration with chanting Jews
Brown as PM would be a friend of Israel
By Daniella Peled
The Jewish Chronicle, 15/09/2006
"At Labour Friends of Israel, Jon Mendelsohn said the Chancellor [Gordon Brown] 'has a very developed sense of the politics of the region and is exceptionally fair and supportive. If he is our next Labour leader, Israel will have a very strong, supportive and practical friend in the UK.'
Lord Janner said that he had known Mr Browns father, who was 'very pro-Israel and pro-Jewish. I believe Gordon to be the same.' "
What would a Gordon Brown premiership mean for Britains Jews?
Should Gordon Brown replace Tony Blair as Prime Minister, British Jewry will have another sympathetic ear, according to wideranging inquiries by the JC.
The latest example of the Chancellors communal co-operation is a contribution to a social-action booklet being distributed to United synagogues for Rosh Hashanah.
In the publication, based on the book by Chief Rabbi Sir Jonathan Sacks, To Heal a Fractured World, Mr Brown wrote: I have been impressed by the sheer scale, breadth and strength of initiatives in our Jewish communities.
The Chief Rabbi and Mr Brown are friends and Sir Jonathan is expected to contribute to a forthcoming collection of the Chancellors speeches. Mr Brown has long cultivated ties to the community, often referring to the influence of his late father, a Church of Scotland minister, who visited Israel regularly.
Next week, the Chancellor will be honoured by the Holocaust Educational Trust in recognition of his commitment to Holocaust education, having last year announced a £1.5 million grant to enable the HET to take two students from every UK secondary school to the site of the Auschwitz death camp.
He is also close to major Labour donor Sir Ronald Cohen, whose Portland Trust promotes peace in the Middle East through economic development, a belief Mr Brown clearly shares.
The Chancellors high-profile 2005 visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories during which he convened the first meeting for five years between the Israeli and Palestinian finance ministers focused on how prosperity could help peace efforts.
Sir Ronalds former chief-of-staff Jonathan Kestenbaum highlighted Mr Browns collaborative approach between government, businesses and NGOs, which he considered particularly effective in the fractured Middle East.
What characterises the Brown approach in general is that it is very solution-orientated and functional. What you can anticipate in the Middle East in general, and in Israel in particular, is that he will look for a practical solution in the realm of economics.
At Labour Friends of Israel, Jon Mendelsohn said the Chancellor has a very developed sense of the politics of the region and is exceptionally fair and supportive. If he is our next Labour leader, Israel will have a very strong, supportive and practical friend in the UK.
Lord Janner said that he had known Mr Browns father, who was very pro-Israel and pro-Jewish. I believe Gordon to be the same. That does not make the pro-Israel approach of the present Prime Minister any less, but I dont think our community or Israel needs to worry.
Liverpool Riverside MP Louise Ellman said that he has been very strong against terror. He enacted legislation freezing the assets of terrorists and I think he would be even tougher on terror than he has been up to now.
The one cautionary note was sounded by Zionist Federation president Eric Moonman, who opined that Mr Browns relationship with Israel will be more critical because, perhaps, his head rules his heart more than Tony Blair.
Gordon Brown in quotes
It has fallen to our generation to address terrorism, and we will do so together. So I know what you mean by the phrase peace with security, a basic right of the Israeli people
I was brought up impressed by the sufferings and courage of the Jewish people, aware of the great achievements in creating the State of Israel, most of all impressed by the determination that, from whatever source, discrimination in all its forms must be fought
The Chief Rabbi... has done more than anyone in Britain today to focus our attention on the needs and challenges of community in the global world
Former London Ambassador Dr Zvi Shtauber believes that a Brown premiership would not be markedly different in terms of Middle East policy.
But Dr Shtauber, head of the Jaffee Centre for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University, suggested that maybe Mr Brown might be more open to the left within Labour, which might be a problem.
He had always found that Mr Brown understood Israels position and was a man of initiative, who had ideas to move issues forward.
Ex-Israeli Foreign Minister Sylvan Shalom also saw Mr Brown as a friend of Israel who appreciated the global implications of the conflict, and not just the narrow Israeli-Palestinian struggle.
Mr Brown visited Israel in 1995 to deliver the Balfour dinner lecture, and again last year, when he met all of Israels leading politicians.
Ivan Lewis MP may be biased, but as an insider he says the Brown premiership will be good for the Jewish community
Labour Party members and the worlds media will descend on my home city of Manchester this weekend to witness a historic coronation. Every section of society will begin to ask some key questions: Who is Gordon Brown? What does he stand for? Like all citizens, British Jews will be concerned about mainstream issues such as the economy, taxation, public services and the environment. Equally, Middle East policy, antisemitism and the threat of fundamentalist terrorism will be at the forefront of many peoples minds.
Having worked for him as a Treasury minister, I can confirm he is a remarkable man. He was the co-producer and many would say the main philosophical architect of New Labour and its unique contention that, in the modern world, economic dynamism and social justice are inextricably linked, not competing options. The Blair-Brown splits were overplayed, but Gordon has never cared much for the status and trappings of power and his impatience is fuelled by a burning desire to progress great causes like the elimination of child and pensioner poverty at home and making poverty history in Africa.
In Tony Blair, the community couldnt have had a better friend in the good and bad times. But Gordon Browns friendship was developed not in the context of a political project but in the DNA of his upbringing. His father was a Church of Scotland minister who studied Hebrew and developed a profound affection and respect for Israel through regular visits.
His empathy with the Jewish cause encouraged Gordon, as a young 12-year-old, to write an article in the parish magazine entitled Persecution, later described by Browns biographer, Paul Routledge, as a paean of praise for the Jewish people. Our future Prime Minister highlighted the positive contribution of so many Jews throughout the world and described persecution as the pernicious eclipse under which the Jewish people have always existed.
Forty-three years later, in his recent speech to the Board of Deputies, Brown said: I commit that never again will the Jewish community have to fight antisemitism alone, the Jewish community do not cause antisemitism and it must not fall on them to have to defeat it. Even the cynics have to acknowledge that this is an authentic commitment.
In government, his empathy has been matched by action condemning without qualification terrorist acts against Israel and boycotts of Israel. The Chancellors grant to the Holocaust Educational Trust (HET), which will fund at least two sixth-formers from every school in the country to visit Auschwitz, is unprecedented.
In the run-up to the leadership campaign, Mr Brown has addressed meetings and events organised by HET, Labour Friends of Israel and the Board of Deputies. In a period of rising antisemitism and extreme hostility towards Israel, some political leaders may have distanced themselves from a community which feels insecure. He demonstrated an integrity and empathy in contrast to the shallow opportunism of Messrs Hague and Cameron.
So what of the future? Our new Prime Minister believes that a two-state solution is both just and inevitable. However, there will be no grand plans which promise hope and deliver little change. He has made it clear that improved living conditions and jobs are key to marginalising the extremists. Economic development is the roadmap to a peace which is sustainable and real.
The USA, irrespective of its political leadership, will continue to be a key ally but like any successful relationship, reciprocity will be expected and asserted. Iraq will not be deserted for short-term political gain but nor will our troops be asked to make sacrifices for no purpose.
At home, Prime Minister Brown will not compromise on his belief that the states first responsibility is the security of its citizens. He understands that you cannot fight Islamic fundamentalist terrorism according to the rules of cricket or elevate individual rights above national security.
Equally, he will focus on building a new consensus around common British values, which seeks to marginalise the extremists and support leaders who are willing to say difficult things to their own communities. Mr Brown has made it clear that he regards faith schools and charities as a major part of the solution, not the problem.
The Chief Rabbi has acknowledged Gordon Brown as a leader of great moral purpose. He becomes our Prime Minister as Britain and the world face great challenges. He will undoubtedly be a strong leader, combining intellect, integrity and substance.
More than that, over time I predict many of you will decide he is someone you would like to have around your Friday night dinner table.
Ivan Lewis is MP for Bury South