BoD's leaders have misjudged the mood

THE Board of Deputies has come under a lot of stick for failing to show leadership during the recent Gaza conflict and also for issuing an unprecedented joint statement on Gaza with the Muslim Council of Britain.

Two weeks ago, I wrote that I felt there was an "unfair backlash against leaders".

Acknowledging that the nature of leadership had changed dramatically in the Facebook and Twitter world, I felt that we should not throw the baby away with the bathwater and must continue to use the vital behind-the-scenes channels that our communal organisations have built up with the British powers-that-be.

But as for the joint statement with the MCB, I am not at all sure that it was a wise move in the present political and communal climate. I can well understand the desire for community cohesion in this country and the need not to "import conflict" into this country, which the statement seeks to address. But I am afraid that the joint statement only serves to close the stable door after the horse has bolted.

For over a decade, I have noticed that local interfaith organisations have often provided a front for interfaith leaders, both Muslim and Christians, to spout their anti-Israel rhetoric, secure in the knowledge that they are friends of the Jewish community, who will not dare to criticise them.

The conflicts of the Middle East have already spilled over on to British shores, not only with the recent disproportionate anti-Israel protests which have disrupted our streets and shops but even, more worryingly, by the number of British Muslims who have swanned off to support Middle East revolutionaries, causing a major terror alert to the whole of British society.

It was in this spirit that, just two days before the controversial BoD-MCB statement, a Times leader dubbed the MCB a "counsel of immoderation".

The leader writer wrote: "Far from representing a moderate stance with the Muslim community, the MCB has extended affiliation to some highly dubious groups.

"The previous Labour government broke relations with the MCB in 2009 for the good reason that one of the group's senior members was a supporter of Hamas. The MCB may wish to be consulted by government but it has no right to expect it."

What then drove the BoD, just two days later, to give the iffy MCB a hechsher through the joint statement?

The strength of the BoD is that it is regarded as a credible and even exemplary representative body for government consultation. The joint statement with an iffy organisation is not going to help maintain that image.

And worse still, the current BoD leaders have seriously misjudged the current mood of British Jewry. Yes, Anglo-Jewry does have a sizeable leftist peace camp who are always banging on about some idealised and unrealistic dream of peace in our time and on our streets.

But that section of the community is no longer flavour of the month. Just as the Gaza conflict hardened public opinion in Israel to become more hawkish so that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's ratings plummeted when he achieved a ceasefire, so grassroots Jewish opinion has swung to the right in this country, furious about the unprecedented antisemitism which followed in the wake of the Gaza conflict.

As I have said before, I do not think that this wonderful new grassroots pro-Israel mood which has gripped our community should mean that existing organisations should fall by the wayside. Groups like the BoD and the Jewish Leadership Council do wonderful work behind the scenes which should not be jeopardised by current anti-establishment anger.

Let us hope that during the coming year all sections of Jewish leadership, established and grassroots, should learn to work harmoniously together.

Pray, let's see end to Isis terror

MY column immediately after Rosh Hashana last year was headed Next 'Assad' could be worse for Israel.

During Rosh Hashana 2013, the G20 meeting of developing nations took place in St Petersburg.

One did not need to be a prophet to predict, as I did, that Vladimir Putin, noticing the weakness of Britain and the USA in being unable to persuade their electorates to take action against Syria for its use of chemical weapons, would step into the power vacuum.

It has certainly happened. After placing himself in a powerful position as peacemaker between the West, Syria and Iran, Putin has seized the advantage by gradually taking over the Ukraine while the West helplessly tries to impose sanctions.

But in last year's column, while I could see the debilitating effect of western weakness, I was also not sure that bombing Assad's army was the answer.

"The Syrian opposition are no tsaddikim," I wrote. "Should Assad be overthrown, his successors might turn out to be worse rather than better for Israel."

Now it's not just Israel but the whole world which is threatened by Islamic terrorism in the form of Isis and its associates all over the world who threaten freedom of religion as never before. We certainly have much to pray for during the coming High Holy Days at this time of increasing world tension.


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