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PM appoints Ian Austin as UK Trade Envoy to Israel

Prime Minister Theresa May yesterday appointed former Labour MP Ian Austin as UK Trade Envoy to Israel.

Austin left the Labour Party earlier this year in response to what he described as a “culture of extremism, antisemitism and intolerance” under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn. He represents his constituency, Dudley North, as an independent in the House of Commons. Austin is the son of a Holocaust survivor and has worked for many years to strengthen Britain-Israel relations.

UK Trade envoys are a network of parliamentarians, drawn from across the political spectrum, appointed by the Prime Minister to engage with emerging markets where substantial trade and investment opportunities have been identified by the UK government. They build on the UK’s existing relations with these markets to increase bilateral trade to generate long term benefits for the UK. There are 26 trade envoys covering 56 markets.

Former Israeli Labour Party leader and current head of the Jewish Agency Isaac Herzog has called for an independent investigation of antisemitism within the UK Labour Party. In a letter addressed to Corbyn, he wrote: “It is legitimate to criticise any government. I have done so myself as Leader of the Opposition, from within the Knesset – as vibrant and as vivid a democratic parliament as you may find in any liberal democracy. But it is racist to attribute to a whole ethnic or religious group negative characteristics which are supposedly innate. It is antisemitic to demonise Israel and Israelis in general as inherently evil … and it is antisemitic to delegitimise the Jewish people’s right to a sovereign state of its own – and to apply this denial exclusively to Jews and to no other people.”

He said the BBC Panorama documentary last Wednesday on antisemitism in the Labour Party has “exposed the moral chasm into which Labour has fallen”. He called on Corbyn to establish an external and independent inquiry to examine the extent of antisemitsm and to make recommendation to “allow British Jews to feel safe and wanted once again within Labour, as they have in the past”.

Herzog added: “What needs to be done, and urgently, is to determinedly prevent all antisemitic, antisemitic-compatible and antisemitic-enabling expressions within the party lines. Whether their background is malevolence or ignorance, no tolerance must be shown to any display, nuanced as it may be, of xenophobia, racism and antisemitism. Firm action must be taken before it’s too late!”