ZF un­der fire for ‘plug­ging’ Boris event

The Jewish Chronicle - - NEWS - BY SI­MON ROCKER

THE HOTLY con­tested elec­tion for mayor of Lon­don this week sparked ac­cu­sa­tions of in­ap­pro­pri­ate at­tempts to can­vass Jewish votes.

The Jewish Labour Move­ment has com­plained to the Zion­ist Fed­er­a­tion for send­ing out an email cir­cu­lar which pub­li­cised Con­ser­va­tive chal­lenger Boris John­son’s visit to North­West Lon­don last Sun­day.

In an­other in­ci­dent on the same day, Nicky Gavron, the Labour deputy mayor, drew protests for plug­ging Ken Liv­ing­stone’s bid for re-elec­tion at a Holo­caust play in the West End.

JLM trea­surer Lawrie Nerva said: “We are con­cerned that the ZF should be seen to be sup­port­ing a par­tic­u­lar party. They’ve shown them­selves to be par­ti­san in giv­ing pub­lic­ity to one side.”

The email gave ad­vance no­tice of a Con­ser­va­tive Friends of Is­rael-or­gan­ised visit by Mr John­son to “the heart of Jewish North Lon­don”.

But Gavin Gross, the ZF’s di­rec­tor of pub­lic af­fairs, re­jected claims of po­lit­i­cal in­ter­ven­tion. “The ZF hasn’t sup­ported a can­di­date in the may­oral elec­tion and we won’t be en­dors­ing any can­di­date. Nowhere did our email say that the ZF sup­ports Boris John­son or en­cour­age peo­ple to vote for him.

“We merely gave peo­ple in­for­ma­tion about an event aimed at the Jewish com­mu­nity in North Lon­don, clearly la­belled as be­ing or­gan­ised by the Con­ser­va­tive Friends of Is­rael. As mem­bers of the ZF email list know, we reg­u­larly pub­li­cise events that we think might be in­ter­est­ing from other or­gan­i­sa­tions.”

Ms Gavron, who is con­test­ing the Barnet and Cam­den seat for Labour in the Lon­don As­sem­bly elec­tions, was speak­ing af­ter a per­for­mance of And Then They Came for Me, based on the ex­pe­ri­ences of Holo­caust sur­vivor Eva Schloss, at the Cri­te­rion Theatre.

She had been in­vited by its pro­ducer Nic Ca­reem to talk about her own mother’s story as a refugee from Nazi Ger­many.

But when she men­tioned vot­ing for Ken Liv­ing­stone, the au­di­ence re­acted neg­a­tively, ac­cord­ing to one of its Jewish mem­bers, Lance An­is­feld. “The au­di­ence found some­what dis­taste­ful her op­por­tunis­tic pub­lic plea to vote for Ken Liv­ing­stone in the forth­com­ing may­oral elec­tions, and ‘tut­ted’ her down,” he said. “There’s a time and place for cam­paign­ing and this was cer­tainly not it.”

Mr Ca­reem, who him­self is Mus­lim, also told the JC that he had found the elec­toral ref­er­ence “in­ap­pro­pri­ate”.

But Ms Gavron, who is Ken Liv­ing­stone’s deputy, said: “It was never my in­ten­tion to up­set any­one at what was an in­spir­ing event. I was asked to speak in a per­sonal ca­pac­ity be­cause Ken Liv­ing­stone was un­able to at­tend. I was asked to speak about my own ex­pe­ri­ences as the daugh­ter of a Holo­caust sur­vivor and about the BNP.

“My main pur­pose was to urge peo­ple to go and vote on May 1 be­cause a low turnout plays into the hands of the far-right Bri­tish Na­tional Party.”

She added: “Since I am Ken’s deputy and a Labour Party can­di­date, it would have been odd if I didn’t rec­om­mend vot­ing Labour. I un­der­stand that peo­ple can dis­agree with me on that point — but I am ab­so­lutely sure that ev­ery one who heard me did un­der­stand my key mes­sage: you’ve got to use all your votes to stop the BNP.”

Mean­while, the Mus­lim As­so­ci­a­tion of Bri­tain — which was in­volved in the visit of the con­tro­ver­sial cleric, Sheikh Yus­suf Al-Qaradawi, to the UK four years ago — has urged sup­port­ers to back Mr Liv­ing­stone’s cam­paign with Green can­di­date Sian Berry as sec­ond pref­er­ence.

Mak­ing sweet mu­sic: Ken Liv­ing­stone and his deputy, Nicky Gavron, at last au­tumn’s Sim­chah on the Square

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