Pick­les is ex­actly to our taste

The Jewish Chronicle - - NEWS -

WITH THE po­lit­i­cal for­tunes of a num­ber of Jewish MPs wan­ing last Au­gust, I asked in this col­umn which politi­cians would speak for our com­mu­nity.

Six months on I think I have an an­swer. Could a Chris­tian for­mer coun­cil leader from west York­shire be our hero?

Step for­ward Sir Eric Pick­les, Bri­tain’s spe­cial en­voy for post-Holo­caust is­sues.

It has been a busy few days for Sir Eric. On a trip to Is­rael last week in his role as Con­ser­va­tive Friends of Is­rael chair­man he was pho­tographed plant­ing a tree at the JNF’s Lord Sacks For­est near Jerusalem to mark his 2015 knight­hood. He punned that it was “won­der­ful to put down roots in this won­der­ful coun­try”.

By Sun­day, he was ad­dress­ing a Board of Deputies meet­ing in Lon­don. With­out notes, the MP spoke for 15 min­utes and was gen­uinely charm­ing and funny. Set­tle­ments, the Bal­four Dec­la­ra­tion an­niver­sary, Sir Eric Pick­les plants a tree at the JNF Lord Sacks for­est near Jerusalem

the Home Af­fairs com­mit­tee re­port on an­tisemitism and ris­ing Jew-ha­tred in Bri­tain all got a men­tion be­fore Sir Eric moved on to dis­cussing his im­pres­sive work on post-Shoah is­sues.

So gush­ing was praise for the speech, deputies were prac­ti­cally rush­ing to the podium to em­brace the Con­ser­va­tive politi­cian when he con­cluded.

There are some rough edges to iron out. His mis­pro­nun­ci­a­tion of the word “kip­pah” as “kup­per” trig­gered an im­age of Charedi men don­ning a Tommy Cooper fez in­stead of a streimel.

Cyn­ics may be­lieve he is do­ing all this for po­lit­i­cal cap­i­tal and jun­kets to Is­rael. But con­sider this: Sir Eric is a 64-year-old for­mer cab­i­net min­is­ter who rep­re­sents the Es­sex con­stituency of Brent­wood and On­gar which, I be­lieve, has few Jewish vot­ers. His po­lit­i­cal CV is likely to land him a peer­age one day. He has been vis­it­ing Is­rael for more than 35 years and dis­cussed peace prospects with Yitzhak Rabin be­fore his as­sas­si­na­tion.

It is easy to take such sup­port for granted. But can we af­ford to, when we have a gov­ern­ment that has flipflopped on Is­rael and an of­fi­cial op­po­si­tion whose stance on an­tisemitism and the Jewish state is in­de­fen­si­ble?

I would sug­gest Sir Eric does not need us quite as much as we need him.

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