‘Yad Vashem made me weep’

The Jewish Chronicle - - NEWS - NOGA TARNOPOL­SKY

LON­DON MAYOR Boris John­son ex­plained dur­ing his trip how he was “hit very hard” by his visit to Yad Vashem on Tues­day, dur­ing which he ap­peared vis­i­bly dis­tressed at sev­eral points.

The mayor, who fo­cused many of his ques­tions dur­ing the tour on the abil­ity of Holo­caust de­niers to pa­per over the ev­i­dence on dis­play in the mu­seum, said: “It is an in­cred­i­bly emo­tional ex­pe­ri­ence… There are many mo­ments in the tour when quite nat­u­rally you find your­self start­ing to weep; it’s a very, very pow­er­ful thing. But it is also a very pow­er­ful his­tor­i­cal re­source with the names of the vic­tims and all the ev­i­dence… Never un­der­es­ti­mate the abil­ity of peo­ple to forget or dis­tort the record for po­lit­i­cal ends.”

Mr John­son signed Yad Vashem’s guest book with a note say­ing that “one must never forget the truth of what hap­pened”. While ex­it­ing the mu­seum, he added, as an aside, that the light of Jerusalem served as re­demp­tion.

Back at the King David Ho­tel, over a cup of cof­fee, he said: “If you look at the sweep of the years that it cov­ers, from the beginnings of Zion­ism to the end of 19th cen­tury to the great post­war strug­gle, not least with Bri­tain, it makes an unan­swer­able case for a Jewish home­land.”

Mr John­son de­nied any do­mes­tic po­lit­i­cal mo­tives be­hind his trip, which was billed as a trade mis­sion that aimed to find ways to ex­pand the £5 bil­lion in an­nual trade be­tween Is­rael and the UK.

“David Cameron is do­ing a ter­rific job and there’s a queue of sev­eral peo­ple be­yond him. The rea­son for com­ing here is tech­nol­ogy and links be­tween the great start-up na­tions.

“We think that Is­rael will think about Bri­tain as the scale-up na­tion, with lots of mar­kets, fi­nanciers, peo­ple who understand com­mer­cial things in the big mar­ket. Lon­don really is good at that sort of thing.”

Lord Po­lak, who led Con­ser­va­tive Friends of Is­rael from 1989 to 2015, took a longer view. “Boris is here right now as the Mayor of the City of Lon­don, in the po­lit­i­cal cab­i­net, one of the key peo­ple in Con­ser­va­tive Party [is vi­tal]. He is be­ing up­dated about what is go­ing on here, hav­ing a look around Is­rael at the time of the rise of Daesh. It is so im­por­tant that he main­tains ties to

At Yad Vashem [Is­raeli] min­is­ters, th­ese re­la­tion­ships are vi­tal go­ing for­ward. He’s a player and he’ll be around for a long time.”

Mr John­son said he was in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem “look­ing for Is­raeli in­vest­ment”. This, he said, was it­self “a trib­ute to Is­rael”, adding that the Jewish state was the sec­ond largest for­eign state rep­re­sented on the LSE. “It also shows their wis­dom — it’s the place to raise fi­nance,” he said.

Also on Tues­day, Mr John­son took part in a cook­ing ses­sion with top Is­raeli chef As­saf Granit, the owner of Lon­don’s Palo­mar restau­rant, which Mr John­son said he was em­bar­rassed not yet to have vis­ited. “Lon­don­ers are, on the whole, in­cred­i­bly wel­com­ing of tal­ented peo­ple from abroad,” he said, re­fer­ring to Palo­mar’s nu­mer­ous prizes and lauda­tory re­views.

Re­fer­ring to his planned meet­ing with the Pales­tinian prime min­is­ter, Rami Ham­dal­lah, he said: “The re­al­ity is that we do need a twostate so­lu­tion. I want to re-em­pha­sise the point I made about the two halves of that dec­la­ra­tion. Win­ston Churchill came here in 1922 and had to con­sider how to give ef­fect to that dec­la­ra­tion.”

Asked whether he be­lieves the Is­raeli gov­ern­ment shares his view about the two-state so­lu­tion, Mr John­son said: “I hope they do.”

PHOTO: GETTY IM­AGES

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