A second ‘Jewish scandal’
Communal figures caught in political cash row which ‘could stoke race hate’
FEARS WERE growing this week of an antisemitic backlash following the latest Labour Party cash scandal involving two prominent Jewish activists.
Communal leaders expressed concern that the situation may mirror the cash-for-peerages affair, in which, after a long criminal investigation, Labour fundraiser Lord Levy faced no charges.
The two main figures in this week’s controversy are Jon Mendelsohn, the Prime Minister’s election campaign fundraiser, and property magnate David Abrahams, who is accused of breaking the law by using third parties to disguise donations of £600,000 to Labour.
Mr Mendelsohn, an ex-chairman of Labour Friends of Israel, wrote to Mr Abrahams, a member of the Jewish Labour Movement, last Thursday thanking him for his “help and support over many years” and offering to tell him of Labour’s future plans. MPs questioned whether he knew about Mr Abrahams’ methods, which break the law on political donations.
But the furore had a “whiff of antisemitism about it”, Labour MP Andrew Dismore told the JC. “People are looking for links to Jewish interests and evidence of a Jewish conspiracy. The press are turning every stone to find one.”
The Hendon MP said he did not believe the case would have received such intensive coverage “if it did not involve Jews. The undercurrent of antisemitism is worrying.” Jewish Leadership Coun- cil member Brian Kerner said: “I am sure the whole affair will have an effect on the community.” Describing Mr Abrahams as a “good guy”, he warned: “It has an added effect of antisemitism — it won’t do us any good.”
Paul Usiskin, Labour supporter and co-chair of Peace Now UK, said: “It doesn’t do the reputation of people communally linked to Israel any good to find themselves willingly or unwillingly at the centre of matters to do with politics and money.
“I hope that, in contrast to previous issues of this kind, people do not link historical relations between Jews and financial affairs.”
Board of Deputies chief executive Jon Benjamin said: “There is wide concern in this story and clearly there is a potential for it to turn against us. We have been there before.”
MP Louise Ellman, chair of the Jewish Labour Movement, said the affair was “not a religious issue” but said she would like to see the investigation go ahead “as swiftly as possible”.
Mill Hill Rabbi Yitzchak Schochet, who earlier claimed that his congregant, Lord Levy, was “hung out to dry” by the media, said he would hesitate to draw a parallel between the two events, not least because “Lord Levy had done nothing wrong, while in this case something wrong had been done by all accounts, and admitted by everyone including the Prime Minister”.
David Abrahams, Labour’s undeclared donor ( right), with its ex-general secretary, Peter Watt, at a Jewish Museum dinner