Voting for the new Board of Deputies President
Four candidates are standing for election as the new president of the board of Deputies, in succession to Johnny Arkush. As Muswell Hill’s Deputy, Stephen Games has asked the four of them to respond to four questions, to help our members get a better idea of where they stand on some key issues. These questions, and the responses, are below – if you have a strong feeling about this issue, please email Stephen () to discuss whom he should vote for at the election on Sunday.
- What proportion of the Board’s time and money should be spent defending Israel?
- Should the Board press for greater social justice among the more insular chasidic sects?
- Do you think the Board’s antisemitism campaigning has occasionally overlapped into party politics?
- Would you fund scholarly research to challenge the ideologies used by academics and the left to injure Israel and, by extension, Jews?
RESPONSES FROM CANDIDATES (IN ALPHABETICAL ORDER)
- I love Israel, the land, the people, the culture. Speaking out against anti-Israel and anti-Zionist rhetoric is a fundamental part of the Board’s work. However, my main concern is how decisions taken by the Israeli government can affect Jews in the UK. We are the Board of Deputies of British Jews–we must not forget that.
- The Board works to protect and defend all Jews, from the Chasidic to Progressives. We engage with government to help protect our religious practices, such as brit milah and shechita, and we are consulted on matters of Jewish schools policies. If elected president, I will be unswerving in my efforts to achieve greater social justice for all. We have to increase our engagement with the charedim; this is already happening, and we hope to progress this line of our work.
- We have to vigorously and tenaciously attack anti-semitism wherever we find it, especially at the moment where it is endemic in the Labour leadership and some members. Conspiracy theories which argue that we have a political agenda is untrue. We just want to protect and defend our community.
- There are two aspects to your question:
- a) The Board already commissions the Jewish Policy Research (JPR) Institute to conduct research about the Jewish community. This area of work falls under my division, Community and Education. There has been an attitudinal study into how the wider community feel about Jews.
- b) I would be vigilant in my determination to challenge all anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli narratives, from any source. I would engage with university leaders to prevent racist speakers being invited to address students, and I would be vociferous in condemnation of leftish accusations of capitalisation and stereotyping of Jews.
- As much as is required.
- I think that the Board’s mandate is primarily the interest of the Jewish community. I also do not think Israel needs the Board’s defence. Of course things like BDS which might seem like defending Israel is really defending ourselves.
- I hope to open lines of communications with the Chasidic sects. I have long and solid contacts with many due to business relationships built over decades. They realise they need the Board and I believe they should assist with funding our activities in return for the Board standing side by side with them. I think building a working relationship is a priority; then one can demand more openness and more compliance.
- I do not think any officer of the Board has played party politics in this latest row. Perhaps some of the media had other agendas but I will be amazed if any from the Board has done so.
- My life story is the best rebuttal to such narratives. The Jews who used to live in Arab countries 1,200 years before Islam and another 1,400 years after are testimony that we are the indigenous people of the Middle East and more Jews were ethnically cleansed from their countries than Palestinians in 1948-1951.
Marie van der Zyl
- The constitution at 3(d) provides the Board of Deputies will take such appropriate action to advance Israel’s security, welfare and standing. I am a proud Zionist and have been going to Israel since 1969. Israel, as I explained in my Manifesto (see http://www.marievanderzyl.co.uk), is central to my identity and should be celebrated e.g. Israel 70. The role of BOD is to promote an understanding of the centrality of Israel in the identity of the overwhelming majority of British Jews. The role is also to promote a sympathetic understanding of the acute and challenging predicaments it faces particularly in the area of security. Israel’s legitimacy comes under attack under the guise of BDS and awful events on campus e.g. the so-called Israel Apartheid week. The BOD’s role here is to defend both Israel and other Jews who are impacted. I have, for example, spent a huge amount of my time over the last 3 years also working with UJS and Vice Chancellors on campus. It is very important to defend Israel and anti Israel discourse which is often antisemitism in disguise. I never shirk from defending Israel: in 2014 I went on the UJIA mission to show support and attend the counter-rallies against Al Quds Day. Tony Greenstein has put me on his vile Zionist Blog. A few weeks ago I went to see Akiva Tor at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and United Hatzolah who do amazing work saving lives. Time and money needs to be evaluated according to budget but would be high priority. For me Israel has been a significant amount of my time.
- These sects need to be understood better and in 10 years JPR research demonstrates they will become a much larger part of the Jewish Community. There are many areas e.g. education which will need to be faced as the government is intent upon through the national curriculum to teach children British values.These can come into conflict with their values and way of life. I have also realised there is such little understanding of e.g. antisemitism as the sects are in a complete bubble. In my coroners work I have got to know and built a working relationship with many individuals so that difficult discussions can be had, as a completely insular existence is not realistic.
- No. Antisemitism is not being used as a weapon and the fact is that Labour unfortunately is a political party that is infested with institutionalised Antisemitism that must be challenged. I did have a case of a conservative Mayor who made antisemitic Facebook comments. He was disciplined after my complaint and expelled from the party. This cannot be published but demonstrates it is not about party politics.
- The constitution again at 3f provides to initiate, undertake and coordinate research in matters affecting the Jewish community. So the answer is affirmative; The Henry Jackson Society is a useful think tank in this respect.