Meeting with Putin ‘is sign of growing trust’
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.