WHEN Lord John Mann announced he would not stand at the next election, opting instead to accept then PM Theresa May’s invitation to become the British government’s first antisemitism czar, it was a landmark development.
Speaking to The AJN from London, the Labour MP, who was made a peer by May, will be a special guest at JNF Australia’s Virtual Gala online event on September 1.
Mann emphasised how significant it is that this new government role is not held by a Jewish appointee. “I’m quite separate from the Jewish community, although over the years I’ve got to learn and understand more. I don’t care how you define yourself [Jewishly] … whether you’re Liberal, Orthodox, Reform … I have the advantage that I’m as capable of standing on the toes of the Chief Rabbi … as I am of a teenager asking me a question.
“I don’t need to worry about that, I’m outside the Jewish community,” reflected Mann, adding that as an MP he had met only a handful of Jewish people. “I have no Jewish constituency of any kind. But that’s an advantage in reading what the mood of the population is … what is dangerous and what isn’t dangerous.”
At the elections, “the two biggest cheerleaders for the antisemites, [commentator and former Labour and Respect Party MP] George Galloway and [former Labour MP] Chris Williamson, both lost their deposit [with] less than 50 per cent of the vote. And that is incredibly encouraging for the British Jewish community. It is the real story of the election for those two to be humiliated”.
A trenchant critic of former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s handling of widespread antisemitism within the party, Mann sees an improvement under successor Sir Keir Starmer.
“The British people are gullible and sometimes they’ll say things that actually they should be pulled up on. But in their hearts, in their souls, in their beliefs, they are … pro-Israel, and they are hostile to the Jewish community being targeted,” he said.
Mann set out four goals – Jewish communal security, combating online hatred, encouraging organisations to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s working definition of antisemitism – which includes fighting anti-Israel BDS – and upgrading education.
Famous for a verbal brawl with Ken Livingstone before a news crew, in which he called the former London mayor a “Nazi apologist” for saying Adolf Hitler had supported Jewish emigration to Palestine, he simply reflected, “I told him what I thought.”
JNF’s Virtual Gala will feature Lord Mann, US entertainer Jason Alexander and Israeli mentalist Lior Suchard. To register, visit jnf.org.au or call 1300 563 563.