Anger at GLA’s Shabbat event
THE GREATER London Authority has upset communal leaders by arranging a conference of significant Jewish interest on a Shabbat.
The Zionist Federation has objected to the staging of the event — discussing the theory that the world is entering an era of conflict driven by a clash of civilisations — on Saturday January 20, thus excluding any observant Jewish participation.
Andrew Balcombe, the ZF chairman, pointed out that only last month, London Mayor Ken Livingstone had apologised to the community at the launch of the London Jewish Forum for causing offence in the past. He was sent a letter on Tuesday asking him to move the event to January 21.
The main conference speaker will be Daniel Pipes, the Jewish director of the Middle East Forum, an American think-tank advising US policymakers on the Middle East. He will debate the main conference issues with Mr Livingstone.
Mr Pipes told the JC that he was “in complete agreement that the conference, which holds great interest to London’s Jewish community, should be scheduled with its participation in mind”. He would be happy to change his arrangements in the event of rescheduling.
The ZF is also upset that the only British Jewish representative i s Anthony Lerman, executive director of the Institute for Jewish Policy Research. “Tony Lerman’s views on Israel are anathema to the vast major- ity of the UK Jewish community,” Mr Balcombe complained. “But no doubt [they] will fit in with the views of the other 19 conference participants. I am afraid the dice is loaded, and [I believe that] the mayor should have ensured that the conference would be more balanced.
“We regret very much that this conference is being held on a Shabbat and are dismayed at the list of speakers, which does not appear to include any mainstream UK Jewish leaders who would put forward Israel’s case.”
A GLA spokesman said the authority was “sensitive to the fact that Jews observing the Sabbath cannot attend events on Saturdays. But there is the practical issue of the convention that Sunday is considered a day of rest for the great majority of the UK population, which makes Saturdays the only practical non-working day to hold such an event. The conference agenda includes a number of speakers who are Jewish. In addition, we are trying to include as many Jewish participants as possible by holding sessions after the Sabbath has ended on Saturday evening, in which they will be able to take part.”
The conference is scheduled to end at five o’clock. Shabbat goes out on the day at 5.20pm. Mr Balcombe noted that it would be difficult for the GLA to organise additional sessions, as the ZF has invited Mr Pipes to an event it is holding that evening. Zubin Mehta blowing out the birthday candles, with Daniel Barenboim behind him, after conducting the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra’s 70th-anniversary concert in Tel Aviv.
NEXT WEEK IN THE JC: Zubin Mehta interviewed