Meet­ing with Putin ‘is sign of grow­ing trust’

The Jewish Chronicle - - NEWS - BY CHAR­LOTTE OLIVER

BOARD OF Deputies Pres­i­dent Jonathan Arkush met Rus­sian leader Vladimir Putin this week as part of a Euro­pean Jewish Congress del­e­ga­tion in Moscow.

In talks de­scribed by Mr Arkush as “strik­ingly friendly”, the del­e­ga­tion dis­cussed an­tisemitism in western Europe, ex­trem­ism and ter­ror­ism with Mr Putin, at the Krem­lin on Tues­day.

Mr Arkush said: “For Euro­pean Jewish lead­ers to have an in-depth con­ver­sa­tion last­ing well over an hour with Pres­i­dent Putin was sig­nif­i­cant.”

He added that he had asked the Rus­sian leader about his coun­try’s “ob­ses­sive hos­til­ity” to Is­rael at the United Na­tions and about the threat posed by Rus­sian weaponry fall­ing into the hands of Hizbol­lah ter­ror­ists in Syria. Vladimir Putin

“Pres­i­dent Putin lis­tened re­spect­fully and with care. He an­swered us di­rectly and at times ro­bustly,” Mr Arkush said.

“As some­one with a back­ground of ac­tivism in the cam­paign for Soviet Jewry I see the en­counter as a clear sign of warm­ing re­la­tions and trust be­tween Rus­sia and the Jewish peo­ple and Is­rael. I do not be­lieve it will be the last such meet­ing.”

When told by EJC pres­i­dent Moshe Kan­tor that the num­ber of Jews flee­ing Europe was on the rise, Mr Putin said: “Let them come here. They em­i­grated from here un­der the Soviet Union, but now they can come back.” Mr Arkush had an­nounced that he would be part of the EJC del­e­ga­tion at the Board’s monthly ple­nary meet­ing last Sun­day.

At that meet­ing, he paid trib­ute to Lord Janner, a for­mer Board pres­i­dent, who died last month. He said the Labour peer “was in­stru­men­tal in do­ing so much for our com­mu­nity and was re­ally quite e x c e p - tional.

“I there­fore thought it was ab­so­lutely ap­pro­pri­ate that I should at­tend his fu­neral and that I should ex­press con­do­lences to his fam­ily on be­half of the Board.”

In ref­er­ence to al­le­ga­tions of his­toric sex abuse made against the peer, he said: “If they turned out to be true, I would feel deep sad­ness.”

Lord Janner’s fam­ily have strongly de­nied the al­le­ga­tions.

Other is­sues raised dur­ing Sun­day’s meet­ing were the Bri­tish me­dia’s cov­er­age of Is­rael.

Mr Arkush said he would be rais­ing the topic in an up­com­ing meet­ing with Cul­ture Sec­re­tary John Whit­ting­dale — as well as plans for next week’s Holo­caust Me­mo­rial Day.

Pro­ceed­ings closed with a stand­ing ova­tion for Mithal al-Alusi, an Iraqi MP and leader of the coun­try’s demo­cratic Ummah party, who had come to meet deputies and lead a work­shop fol­low­ing the gen­eral meet­ing.

Mr al-Alusi was praised by the Board’s se­nior vice-pres­i­dent Richard Ver­ber who de­scribed how, more than 10 years ago, Mr al-Alusi’s sons were mur­dered by ter­ror­ists as a reprisal for his pub­lic en­dorse­ment of Is­rael.


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