Intolerance Inc.: the Board of Deputies of Jews, Tommy Robinson, and Margaret Hodge All Speak Truth to Power

Responding angrily to the Labour Party’s democratic endorsement of their latest guidelines on opposing anti-Semitism, the Board of Deputies of British Jews yesterday stated that “the Party leadership has placed Labour on the wrong side of the fight against antisemitism, intolerance and racism.” (July 17) And while I disagree with this statement, as I discussed in a previous post, it does seem that the Board of Deputies itself has a problem with intolerance and racism!

For example, last month the Jewish Chronicle (June 14) reported that they had “seen tweets shared by Roslyn Pine,” who had stood unsuccessfully to be vice-president of the Board in the elections held in May that described Muslims as “the vilest of animals”. When challenged by the Chronicle Pine was categorical: “I detest the creed of Islam and I’m entitled to say it.”

And while the Board of Deputies has been presented in the mainstream media as a leading voice of Jewish people in Britain, this is not correct. Here we might again defer to Pine’s views. When she was asked “How will you [as a potential Vice President of the Deputies] represent the diversity of opinion in our community with regards to Israel?” she was adamant:

“That is not required by the Board’s constitution, nor is it feasible. The Board should take no view as to this or that Israeli policy. The Board’s remit is to do whatever in its power to support Israel’s security, well being and standing.”

But lest one think that Pine’s personal views weres an anomaly within the leaders of the Board of Deputies, we might look to the nonsense promoted by Robert Festenstein, who also stood (and thankfully failed) in his bid to become a vice president of the Board.

Not only has Festenstein courted some controversy within the last year by agreeing to be interviewed by Britain’s leading Islamophobe, Tommy Robinson, who introduced Festernstein to his youtube followers as “our lawyer”. (The issue concerned a shopkeeper who was asked by the police to take down a “Don’t Fund Terrorism” sign on the front on his shop because a Muslim shop owner was offended.) But Festernstein is also a director of the right-wing Jewish Human Rights Watch, a group that deliberately conflates opposition to the crimes of the Israeli State with anti-Semitism.

In August 2015, such confusion led another director of Jewish Human Rights Watch, Jonathan Neumann, to accuse Leicester city’s Labour-run Council of being the modern-day equivalents to Hitler’s genocidal regime, all because they choose to boycott goods from illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank. In a youtube video made at the time Neumann explains, in direct reference to Leicester’s boycott: “When the Nazis first came to power in 1930s Germany, one of the very first things they implemented were boycotts of Jews.”

Jewish Human Rights Watch’s unfounded claim of discrimination were subsequently dismissed by the High Court in June 2016, but this group didn’t relent in their efforts to prove that Leicester’s Labour-run Council was promoting discrimination. And so earlier this month there as some good news for once when it was finally reported that “the Court of Appeal has emphatically thrown out” Jewish Human Right Watch’s appeal. (“Leicester City Council wins long-running legal struggle with Jewish group over Israeli goods boycott,” Leicester Mercury, July 4.)

Leicester City Mayor Sir Peter Soulsby responded to the brilliant news saying: “I strongly resent the implication it is not possible to criticise the Israeli government without being anti-Semitic.” He then added: “Today’s ruling amounts to an important victory against anti-Semitism and indeed all forms of discrimination.” Quite right!

But the enemies of Labour never give up, and yesterday, in response to the democratic decision of the Labour Party’s NEC to endorse their new guidelines on fighting anti-Semitism, it was reported that Margaret Hodge launched a personal attack on Corbyn when she openly called him “a fucking anti-Semite and a racist.” (“Jeremy Corbyn Told By Veteran Jewish MP ‘You’re A F***ing Anti-Semite And A Racist’,” Huffington Post, July 17.)

As you might expect, the Labour Party has now launched an investigation into this open intolerance on Hodge’s part; and as you might also expect, the immediate response of local Blairite MP, Liz Kendall, was to tweet:

@margarethodge fought off BNP in Barking, she’s fought tax dodgers, and she’s fought for women’s rights and equality… only “action” should be public praise” (2.15PM, July 18)

The first tweet in response to Kendall’s latest online nonsense was clear and to the point:

“Many MPs have done great work; this does not excuse bad behaviour. Disgraceful! We,as ordinary members would be immediately suspended of we behaved like this in a meeting. Are we of a lesser importance?”

Kendall Hodge tweet

Kendall unfortunately rarely responds to tweets on her own timeline, and today is will probably be no different. However, to be sure, it is unlikely that Blairite Hodge should really get any credit for fighting for equality, or for fighting off the BNP or tax dodgers.

I say this because on the issue of tax dodging one person quickly tweeted a link under Kendall’s comment to the following Financial Times article which was titled “Labour’s Margaret Hodge accused of hypocrisy over tax affair” (April 29, 2015). While on the issue of fighting the BNP, socialist folk-singer Billy Bragg provided another much needed corrective to Kendall by tweeting:

Margaret Hodge didn’t have an office in her Barking constituency until after the BNP won 12 council seats. Credit for defeating them belongs to the local community and to the anti-fascist activists and organisations who mobilised in the borough.”

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