British PM contender Dominic Raab has Jewish father who fled the Nazis

“That little boy grew up knowing that his grandmother, his grandfather... had been systematically murdered for no other reason than that they were Jews," Raab said of his father's family.

By
May 28, 2019 12:02
British PM contender Dominic Raab has Jewish father who fled the Nazis

Dominic Raab walks up Downing Street, London, Britain, November 13, 2018.. (photo credit: PETER NICHOLLS/REUTERS)

 
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Former British minister for exiting the EU, Dominic Raab, whose Jewish father fled Nazi Germany, is one of at least eight candidates to announce their candidacy to replace outgoing Prime Minister Theresa May in the upcoming Conservative Party elections.

“Today, I’m declaring my intention to run in the Conservative leadership contest,” he tweeted Sunday morning. “I’ve set out in the Mail on Sunday my plan for change, and a fairer Britain.”

Raab pledged last year to fight antisemitism in memory of his father, and took a stand against antisemitism in Britain’s Labour Party in a speech he delivered at a Conservative Party conference.

“You would be surprised how many British people take this personally,” Raab said. “They know things you chose to forget.”

Then he launched into his personal story. “Eighty years ago in 1938, Nazi Germany invaded Czechoslovakia. The lucky few fled, some of them to Britain. One Jewish family arrived in England with a little boy called Peter. He was six years old and he spoke no English.

“That little boy grew up knowing that his grandmother, his grandfather, most of his relatives, the loved ones left behind, had been systematically murdered for no other reason than that they were Jews,” Raab said.

“That little boy learned English. He got into a grammar school. He grasped the opportunities and embraced the tolerance that our great country has to offer. He became food manager at Marks & Spencer. He married a clothes buyer, Church of England girl from Bromley. But he never forgot what happened to his family,” Raab said.

“That little boy was my father. I will honor his memory by fighting the scourge of antisemitism and racism until my last breath.”

According to his web page, Raab has strong ties to the Middle East and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in particular. He “studied and worked in Israel and the West Bank,” Raab’s web page states.

In 1998, he “spent a summer at Bir Zeit University (near Ramallah), and worked for one of the principal Palestinian negotiators of the Oslo peace accords, assessing World Bank projects on the West Bank.”

Raab quit as May’s Brexit minister last year in protest over her draft exit agreement, saying it did not match the promises the Conservative Party made in the 2017 election. Raab served only five months as head of the Brexit department.

Raab told the BBC on Sunday that he plans to seek a “fairer deal” with Brussels regarding Brexit, including renegotiating the customs and border plans relating to Northern Ireland. He also said he would not delay Brexit beyond October 31, and was prepared to leave without a deal.

Raab said he expected that if Britain left without a deal, it would likely get to keep around £25 billion of its £39 billion exit payment, and the government could use that money to support businesses through Brexit.

Environment Minister Michael Gove, one of the highest-profile Brexit campaigners during the 2016 referendum, has had to rebuild his cabinet career after falling early to May in the contest to replace David Cameron, who resigned the day after losing the referendum.

“I will be putting my name forward to be prime minister,” he tweeted on Sunday. “I believe that I am ready to unite the Conservative and Unionist Party, ready to deliver Brexit, and ready to lead this great country.”

A long standing friend of Israel and British Jewry, Gove has stated that he wants to relocate the British Embassy to Jerusalem. In an opinion piece he wrote for The Times in November 2017 on the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, he spoke of that relocation.


“We should show we’re not going to be intimidated by those who want to treat Israel as a second-class state,” Gove wrote. “We’re not going to indulge the antisemitic impulse to apply the double standard. Israel is the only state where we don’t locate our embassy in the nation’s capital, and the only ally the Foreign Office has refused to let the Queen visit. So let’s celebrate the centenary of the Balfour Declaration by moving our embassy to Jerusalem next year, and inviting Her Majesty to open it. What are we afraid of?”

Of the British Labour Party, Gove has said, “Much of the criticism of Israel, a criticism which can now be heard from the very top of the parliamentary Labour party, is not about a criticism of some aspect of Israeli governmental policy. It is a refutation of the historic claim of the Jewish people to their homeland. It is an attack on the right of the State of Israel to exist.”

Seen as one of the most effective members of cabinet in bringing forward new policies, the high-energy environment minister has become a surprise ally to May and has backed her Brexit strategy.

He teamed up with Johnson during the 2016 Brexit campaign only to scupper Johnson’s subsequent leadership bid by withdrawing his support at the last moment to run himself.

Gove said on Sunday he believed he could unite the party and deliver Brexit, but did not set out what his plans were.

Former leader of the House of Commons, Andrea Leadsom, tweeted her candidacy on Sunday.

“I believe I can offer the decisive and compassionate leadership our country needs,” she wrote. “I would be proud to lead our great Party and to serve as your prime minister.”

A pro-Brexit campaigner, Leadsom made it to the last two in the 2016 contest to replace Cameron. She withdrew after a backlash to an interview in which she said being a mother gave her more of a stake in the future of the country than May.

Leadsom quit as leader of the House of Commons earlier this month, saying she did not believe the government’s approach would deliver on the Brexit referendum result. She told the Sunday Times that she would put significant effort into encouraging the EU to come up with a “deal that we can all live with,” but also said Britain had to leave by the end of October, with or without a deal.

Leadsom has spoken out sharply on the issue of antisemitism. In an opinion piece she penned in The Jewish Chronicle last year, she wrote, “The voices of British Jews must not be drowned out by those that seek to silence them.”

May announced on Friday she was quitting over her failure to deliver Brexit, raising the prospect of a new leader who could seek a more divisive split with the EU and lead to confrontation with the bloc or a possible parliamentary election.

British health minister Matt Hancock, former foreign minister Boris Johnson, current foreign minister Jeremy Hunt, International Development Secretary Rory Stewart and former work and pensions minister Esther McVey had already announced they would run.

About a dozen contenders in total are thought to be considering a tilt at the leadership, with newspapers reporting that Environment Minister Michael Gove was expected to announce his candidacy on Sunday.

May failed three times to get a divorce deal she agreed with the EU through Parliament because of deep, long-term divisions in the Conservative Party over Europe. It meant the original Brexit date of March 29 has been extended until October 31 to see if any compromise could be reached.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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