Ed Miliband has condemned Israel's actions in Gaza. Photo: Getty
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Ed Miliband: "We oppose the Israeli incursion into Gaza"

The Labour leader says his party opposes Israel's ground invasion of Gaza.

We've all seen pictures of Ed Miliband perching timorously at the top table with Barack Obama, but something more significant has come out of his trip to Washington. The Huffington Post is reporting that he has come out on behalf of his party against Israel's ground invasion of Gaza.

"We oppose the Israeli incursion into Gaza," he said.

The situation in Gaza was one of the subjects he discussed during his brief meeting with the US President and National Security adviser Susan Rice at the White House yesterday.

He added: "I don't think it will help win Israel friends... I don't think this will make the situation better. I fear it will make it worse."

Miliband had already expressed concern over the weekend about Israel's actions, condemning the "horrifying deaths of hundreds of Palestinians" although adding, "I defend Israel's right to defend itself against rocket attacks." He opposed the "further escalation of violence", but his comments in Washington are the first time he has outright opposed Israel's methods.

Firming up his stance on this is a significant move, because he has hitherto been quite ambivelant and unclear about his attitude towards Israel, and even when referring to his own Jewish heritage.

For example, last year he caused much confusion by reportedly declaring himself a "Zionist" before his office hastily said his comments were "misinterpreted" and tried to distance Miliband from the story, insisting he hadn't called himself a Zionist. This led to Telegraph blogger Dan Hodges writing a piece with the headline, "Ed Miliband's Zionism lasted less than 24 hours. But he's made it clear he is a friend of Israel, and that's enough", and, as reported in the Jewish Chronicle at the time, Miliband's office did assert that the Labour leader had "made absolutely clear that he is a strong supporter of Israel".

Also, earlier this year, he visited Israel and met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a trip during which he made the widely-reported comment: "I hope that I’ll be the first Jewish prime minister". This showed a disregard for history (Benjamin Disraeli came from a Jewish background, although converted to Christianity before becoming PM), and also jarred slightly with his public assertions that he is an atheist.

He addressed this ambivalence himself in a piece in the New Statesman a couple of years ago: "I am not religious. But I am Jewish. My relationship with my Jewishness is complex. But whose isn’t?"

Miliband's latest comments about Israel ring with a conviction that has evaded him so far on the subject, and are also a rather brave move considering his own personal attempts to define his Jewish identity and relationship with Israel.

Anoosh Chakelian is deputy web editor at the New Statesman.

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New Digital Editor: Serena Kutchinsky

The New Statesman appoints Serena Kutchinsky as Digital Editor.

Serena Kutchinsky is to join the New Statesman as digital editor in September. She will lead the expansion of the New Statesman across a variety of digital platforms.

Serena has over a decade of experience working in digital media and is currently the digital editor of Newsweek Europe. Since she joined the title, traffic to the website has increased by almost 250 per cent. Previously, Serena was the digital editor of Prospect magazine and also the assistant digital editor of the Sunday Times - part of the team which launched the Sunday Times website and tablet editions.

Jason Cowley, New Statesman editor, said: “Serena joins us at a great time for the New Statesman, and, building on the excellent work of recent years, she has just the skills and experience we need to help lead the next stage of our expansion as a print-digital hybrid.”

Serena Kutchinsky said: “I am delighted to be joining the New Statesman team and to have the opportunity to drive forward its digital strategy. The website is already established as the home of free-thinking journalism online in the UK and I look forward to leading our expansion and growing the global readership of this historic title.

In June, the New Statesman website recorded record traffic figures when more than four million unique users read more than 27 million pages. The circulation of the weekly magazine is growing steadily and now stands at 33,400, the highest it has been since the early 1980s.