Khan: a friend and boy­cotter

The Jewish Chronicle - - NEWS - Ge­of­frey Al­der­man

SEA­SONED AD­DICTS OF this col­umn will, I hope, agree that I’ve never used it to ad­vo­cate vot­ing for a par­tic­u­lar po­lit­i­cal party or a po­lit­i­cal per­son. I my­self have never be­longed to any po­lit­i­cal party, and I re­gard my­self as a de­tached aca­demic ob­server, grown ever more cyn­i­cal as one birth­day has fol­lowed another. But I have, on oc­ca­sion, used this col­umn to warn against sup­port­ing a par­tic­u­lar party or per­son. I in­tend to do so again to­day.

Next May, Lon­don­ers will go to the polls to elect a mayor in suc­ces­sion to Boris John­son. All the ma­jor par­ties have now cho­sen their can­di­dates, but for my present pur­poses the can­di­date who re­quires very care­ful con­sid­er­a­tion is Sadiq Khan, cur­rently Labour MP for Toot­ing and a for­mer min­is­ter un­der Gor­don Brown.

Khan, born and bred in Lon­don, is the son of a Lon­don bus-driver (there’s ab­so­lutely no harm in that; I’m the son of a Lon­don ware­house op­er­a­tive). In 2009, hav­ing been ap­pointed Min­is­ter of State for Trans­port, he be­came the first Mus­lim ever to at­tend a meet­ing of the Cab­i­net. At 44 years of age, Khan is po­lit­i­cally am­bi­tious, as he has ev­ery right to be. Last month, he won a decisive vic­tory in the con­test to be­come Labour’s Lon­don may­oral can­di­date. On the face of it, Khan’s philosemitic cre­den­tials look im­pres­sive. Last May, he penned a news­pa­per ar­ti­cle pro­claim­ing his am­bi­tion “to be a Mus­lim mayor that stands up for Jewish rights. Be­cause I know what it’s like to be a mem­ber of a mi­nor­ity group in Lon­don… I know what it’s like to be dis­crim­i­nated against. That’s why I’ll never stop fight­ing racism in all its forms, in­clud­ing an­ti­semitism.”

All well and good (you might say). But there was more to come. In­ter­viewed by the JC af­ter his may­oral nom­i­na­tion vic­tory, Khan demon­strated that he was well aware of Lon­don Jewry’s an­tipa­thy to his Labour pre­de­ces­sor as may­oral can­di­date, Ken Liv­ing­stone. Vow­ing to re­pair Labour’s re­la­tion­ship with Lon­don Jewry, “be­lieve me” (he told the JC), “I won’t be another Ken Liv­ing­stone. What’s im­por­tant to me is that we have zero tol­er­ance of an­ti­semitism. I will en­sure there are suf­fi­cient po­lice re­sources and the re­sources of City Hall to ad­dress this is­sue.” It’s true that Khan nom­i­nated Jeremy Cor­byn as Labour leader. Shrewdly, how­ever, he ac­tu­ally voted for Andy Burn­ham. He’s been as­sid­u­ous in vis­it­ing Jewish lo­ca­tions and meet­ing and try­ing to make friends with Jews. And he has pledged, if elected mayor, not to dis­cuss for­eign pol­icy is­sues and to work closely with Jewish char­i­ties.

But there is another side to this equa­tion. In Jan­uary 2009, Kahn was listed as a speaker at an event in Toot­ing (hosted by Wandsworth Stop The War Coali­tion, of which Jeremy Cor­byn was a co-founder) that had as its pur­pose the de­nun­ci­a­tion of Is­raeli pol­icy to­wards Gaza. The fol­low­ing month, ac­cord­ing to a lo­cal Toot­ing news­pa­per, Khan was a speaker at another demon­stra­tion, a march and rally called in sup­port of Pales­tinian suf­fer­ing in Gaza.

What Khan him­self said I do not know. But a spokesman for Wandsworth STWC, in­ter­viewed by the same lo­cal news­pa­per about the same event, an­nounced that the ob­jects of the cam­paign were “to lift the eco­nomic block­ade by Is­rael, open check points to al­low aid, and re­voke ex­port arms li­censes to Is­rael. We’re also boy­cotting Is­raeli goods.” I should add that, at the rally, speak­ers are re­ported to have in­cluded that well-known friend of the Jews the Rev­erend Stephen Sizer.

I will agree at once that one swal­low does not a sum­mer make. But we are talk­ing about sev­eral swal­lows, aren’t we? Of course it’s en­tirely pos­si­ble for Khan to an­nounce that now that he is a may­oral can­di­date he has re­solved to turn over a new leaf. My ad­vice to him is to con­sider do­ing just that. As he does so he should re­flect on the fact that at the 2012 may­oral con­test one polling or­gan­i­sa­tion quizzed a sam­ple of Lon­don vot­ers gen­er­ally over a wide range of is­sues, in­clud­ing “the poor re­la­tion­ship be­tween Ken Liv­ing­stone and the Jewish com­mu­nity.” Of those re­spon­dents who de­clared them­selves first­pref­er­ence Boris John­son sup­port­ers some 40 per cent specif­i­cally iden­ti­fied Liv­ing­stone‘s at­ti­tude to Jews as ei­ther a “very im­por­tant” or a “quite im­por­tant” fac­tor in pro­pel­ling them to vote for his Con­ser­va­tive op­po­nent.

Worth think­ing about, Mr Khan, isn’t it?

Sadiq Khan’s philosemitic cre­den­tials do look im­pres­sive

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