Anger over ‘geno­cide’ com­ment

The Jewish Chronicle - - NEWS - BY LEE HARPIN

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

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