Kamin­ski af­fair

The Jewish Chronicle - - Comment&analysis -

AJewish com­mu­nity which is, by in­cli­na­tion, one that prefers to work be­hind the scenes can scarcely have thought it pos­si­ble that it would find it­self in the eye of a po­lit­i­cal storm this week. And yet that is what has hap­pened as a re­sult of the ap­pear­ance of two Euro­pean politi­cians, Michal Kamin­ski of Poland and Roberts Zile of Latvia, at the Con­ser­va­tive Party con­fer­ence in Manch­ester. Mr Kamin­ski has, as our re­mark­able in­ter­view with him makes clear, a — to say the least — coloured past for Jews to come to terms with. He was, just over 20 years ago, a mem­ber of the Na­tional Re­vival of Poland move­ment, which is now vir­u­lently an­ti­semitic (al­though Mr Kamin­ski main­tains it was not when he was a mem­ber). And he has made wor­ry­ing, though dis­puted, ref­er­ences to Pol­ish Jews’ com­plic­ity with Com­mu­nists. Mr Zile, if any­thing, has an even more con­tro­ver­sial track record: his Lat­vian For Fa­ther­land and Free­dom Party is said to par­tic­i­pate in an­nual cel­e­bra­tions of the Waf­fen SS. And yet Mr Kamin­ski is a fre­quent flag­wa­ver for Is­rael in the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment, has been em­braced by Is­raeli politi­cians, and made a highly pub­lic ap­pear­ance at the Con­ser­va­tive Friends of Is­rael lunch in Manch­ester. Seek­ing to land a blow on the seem­ingly Te­flon ex­te­rior of David Cameron, the For­eign Sec­re­tary, David Miliband, made po­lit­i­cal cap­i­tal out of the con­tro­versy. What, he de­manded, were the Tories do­ing in as­so­ci­at­ing with peo­ple with an­ti­semitic and neo-Nazi links? It is not un­rea­son­able of the pres­i­dent of the Board of Deputies to ask Mr Cameron for as­sur­ances about the sta­tus of his po­lit­i­cal al­lies in the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment. But the tim­ing of his let­ter was naive. To write in the mid­dle of the Con­ser­va­tive con­fer­ence in­vited a row. The Jewish Lead­er­ship Coun­cil are said to worry that Mr Wine­man has put in peril any chance of a de­cent re­la­tion­ship with a fu­ture Con­ser­va­tive gov­ern­ment by ques­tion­ing Mr Cameron’s po­lit­i­cal judg­ment. But what this mess re­ally shows is that the Board should have got their act to­gether long ago by looking into ex­actly what Mr Kamin­ski and Mr Zile did do and say, and then ask­ing the Con­ser­va­tives for their com­ments. That they left it un­til this week even to ask is lam­en­ta­ble and counter-pro­duc­tive.

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