UK MP: Encourage non-Jews to get involved in our issues

Luciana Berger, one of the youngest participants in the ICJP, says she’s "keenly aware" of her responsibilities as a Jew.

By
June 28, 2011 23:48
3 minute read.
LUCIANA BERGER is shown at the ICJP conference

Luciana Berger 311. (photo credit: marc israel sellem)

One of the youngest faces at this week’s International Conference of Jewish Parliamentarians in Jerusalem was Luciana Berger, 30, a member of the UK parliament.

An active supporter of Israel who has visited the country over 20 times, Berger said she is “keenly aware” of her responsibilities as a Jewish lawmaker, and was excited to visit as an elected official.

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Berger’s background as a leader of the UK’s National Union of Students gave her a unique perspective on one of the conference’s hot topics: boycotts and delegitimization.

“BDS has been raised in parliament,” Berger told The Jerusalem Post. “It’s a topic the new government is particularly aware of.” The Labor MP called for UK campuses to follow the lead of Manchester University, which has guidelines for speakers that students are permitted to invite.

“There’s a big push around the UK for other universities to adopt these guidelines, because they can help stop speakers that break boundaries.”

Berger, who has been a Member of Parliament since 2010, said that she hopes to find ways to cooperate with lawmakers from other countries on these issues, adding that she gained a new perspective on being a Jewish parliamentarian in the UK.

“As Jewish parliamentarians or elected officials, we are in the minority, but in the UK, I don’t feel isolated as some of the others said,” Berger explained, adding that, while Jews are half of a percent of the UK’s population, they make up 4 percent of parliament.

“I’ve never felt victimized, but I could understand why other people do, and I think it’s helpful for them to see our strength,” she added.

Berger told the Post that she thinks Jewish lawmakers “should be encouraging non- Jewish parliamentarians to get involved in our issues.

“It’s [too] predictable when someone Jewish gets up and talks on behalf of Israel,” Berger explained, mentioning recently deceased MP David Cairns, a former Catholic priest who chaired the Labor Friends of Israel.

“It’s people like David Cairns that were incredibly helpful and did a great service for the Jewish people of the UK, supporting the right of Israel to exist and promoting the peace process.”

Berger, who serves as Shadow Minister for Climate Change, explained that she hopes to be able to meet her Israeli counterparts on her next trip here.

“I’m particularly interested in what Israel is doing on the electric car front, because we’re behind here in the UK.

It’s vitally important that we do what we can to de-carbonize our countries and our communities, and electric vehicles are key.”

As one of the youngest conference delegates, Berger said she feels “responsible to learn from people and their experience.”

What I don’t have in experience and age, I make up for in energy and enthusiasm,” she said.

Berger has seen her share of tabloid headlines after being romantically linked to Tony Blair’s son and fellow Labor MP Chuck Umunna, who was nicknamed “Britain’s Obama” by the British press. She was also dubbed “most fanciable MP” in a Valentine’s Day poll by The Mirror.

“I think it’s important to do as much as possible to engage young people in politics, but not through celebrity,” Berger told the Post when asked about the title, citing “massive distrust” and a feeling of disenfranchisement in UK politics.

“It distracts from what we’re trying to do. I don’t think any MP wanted to be referred to in the poll. We’re not in showbiz.”


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