Anger over ‘genocide’ comment
BOARD OF Deputies President Marie van der Zyl sparked controversy on Sunday when she told a conference of London councillors discussing rising antisemitism in the UK that “we have seen the warning signs of genocide before”.
Speaking during a panel event at the Seminar for Councillors event, organised by the Board and the Jewish Leadership Council, Mrs van der Zyl was responding to a question from a member of the audience about the response from the community to allegations of Jew-hate within Labour.
Echoing the words of JLC chair Jonathan Goldstein, Adrian Cohen, chair of the London Jewish Forum, suggested “this was not a fight we chose”.
Mrs van der Zyl then intervened to make her remark about genocide.
A spokesperson for the Board of Deputies clarified Mrs van der Zyl’s remarks on Monday, saying: “The president was saying that genocide does not begin overnight, but with hate speech and then violent acts.
“That is why we must take a robust stance against all kinds of antisemitism, anti-Muslim hatred or prejudice of any kind, whether in person or online.
“This is borne out by the horrifying events in Pittsburgh, when online, ranting was followed by the worst antisemitic attack in US history.”
Also sitting on the same panel, which was chaired by the Board’s director of communications, Phil Rosenberg, were JLC director of policy and public affairs Claudia Mendoza and Lee Scott, the former Ilford North MP.
One councillor contacted the JC on Monday to suggest they were “surprised by the severity” of Mrs van der Zyl’s remarks.
Mr Scott later told the audience: “Together, across all communities, we can come together. We will not be scapegoats. We will strengthen each other.”
In a separate panel discussion, Edwin Shuker, one of the Board’s vice-presidents, received criticism over his claim that Arab Jews and Muslims had lived in harmony and the “first time that harmony was disturbed was in the 1940s.”
On Twitter, Tzipporah Feiga wrote: “I really hope this is a misquote or at least taken wildly out of context because otherwise it’s demonstrably untrue and kind of disturbing. To pretend there was no anti-Jewish persecution in the Muslim world is wrong and unhelpful.”
Also speaking at the event was Holocaust survivor Dr Martin Stern, who gave a powerful testimony of his time at both Westerbork and Theresienstadt concentration camps.
There is an unfamiliar byline in this week’s JC: Jeremy Corbyn. The Labour Leader is clearly sincere in his regard for Max Levitas, who died last week. As the saying goes, some of his best friends are Jews. But it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that, for Mr Corbyn, there are good and bad Jews, and while the former Communist councillor Max Levitas was a Good Jew, those in his own party who refuse to keep quiet about antisemitism are Bad Jews. When the Labour leadership was informed of a threat of a violent assault against Luciana Berger, it did nothing. It did not even tell her there had been a threat. Mr Corbyn has said not a word to her since the police announced their investigation. Silence, as always, speaks volumes.
Under fire: Marie van der Zyl