A sec­ond ‘Jewish scan­dal’

Com­mu­nal fig­ures caught in po­lit­i­cal cash row which ‘could stoke race hate’

The Jewish Chronicle - - Front Page - BY BERNARD JOSEPHS

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”.

PHOTO: JOHN RIFKIN

David Abra­hams, Labour’s un­de­clared donor ( right), with its ex-gen­eral sec­re­tary, Peter Watt, at a Jewish Mu­seum din­ner

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