Tory invitations to right-wing European parliamentarians spark row in UK Jewry

Tory invitations to righ

Feuds have broken out among UK Jewish community leaders following the Board of Deputies of British Jews attack on the Conservative Party for inviting two European Parliament members accused of far-Right connections to their party conference last week. Board of Deputies president Vivian Wineman sent a letter to Conservative Party leader David Cameron last week expressing concern over the invitation of MEPs Michal Kaminski, the Polish leader of the European Conservatives and Reformists, and Roberts Zile, chairman of the Latvian Fatherland and Freedom Party. Wineman, who is also chairman of the Jewish Leadership Council, accused Kaminski and Zile of having far-Right associations. This was denied by the Conservatives who accused the Board of Deputies of having a Labor Party bias. Last month at Labor's party conference, Foreign Minister David Miliband accused Kaminski of having an "anti-Semitic past." He also said Zile's party has ties with the Latvian Legion of the Waffen-SS. "We are concerned that the politically-motivated allegations made by Labor and their allies have been noted by the Board of Deputies," a Conservative Party spokesman said. "All these allegations have repeatedly been shown to be false. We will talk to the board about the lack of evidence behind them and their partisan nature. "People should take account of the fact that the Polish chief rabbi has said that his remarks have been misrepresented, that the Latvian foreign minister has called David Miliband about his remarks and that the Latvian ambassador in London has spoken to the Foreign Office about the matter," the spokesman added. At the conference, Kaminski attended an event hosted by the Conservative Friends of Israel, also attended by Jewish Leadership Council chairman Mick Davies and Israel's Ambassador Ron Prosor. According to the Jewish Chronicle weekly, a number of members of the Jewish Leadership Council were "enraged" with the board's decision. One member said Wineman's position as Jewish Leadership Council chairman was now "untenable," adding that the council was made up of people "not afraid to take tough decisions." The Jewish Leadership Council chairman said that he had put the board in the center of a party political row damaging links between the Jewish community and Conservative Party. "The community is divided on political lines about Kaminski and Wineman has put the board on one side of that line," an anonymous community leader told the Jewish Chronicle. Another said Wineman had "any number of superb advisers, all of whom are far more experienced and knowledgeable about such things; he didn't speak to a single one." A member of the Board of Deputies also condemned the move. Andrew Gilbert also accused other community organizations of failing to do their homework. "Nobody in the Jewish or political community did enough research either to say that Kaminski or Zile have suspect views," Gilbert said. "It seems the Jewish community is being drawn into a party political dispute when it should be working quietly and discreetly on the basis of extensive research. Although the Board of Deputies might have some responsibility, there are a number of other well-resourced organizations which have failed to do their job." According to the Jewish Chronicle, the Conservative Friends of Israel last month advised Wineman to not raise the issue. "I met the board president privately before Rosh Hashana, when the issue of sending a letter was raised, and I strongly recommended that was not a sensible way to go about it," said Stuart Pollak, CFI's chief executive. The Board of Deputies has also come to blows with the Zionist Federation of the UK after its vice president, Jerry Lewis, attacked Zionist Federation co-chairman Jonathan Hoffman after he said the Board of Deputies received complaints over his tactics defending Israel in public. In recent months, Hoffman has been accused by rights group Amnesty International and the anti-Israel War on Want of disrupting their meetings. Hoffman said he attends the meetings to challenge and probe their rhetoric and "Israel-based anti-Semitism." "Given his position, Mr. Hoffman should be far more cognizant of the necessity to act with commonsense and not to act unilaterally in a way which damages both Israel's case and beyond," Lewis said. "I'm painfully aware his tactics have been the cause of many complaints to the board and his behavior has been less than helpful." Hoffman said Lewis's comments represented "the sourest of sour grapes" and questioned why the Board of Deputies has been silent on the Goldstone Report. "In 2008 he announced his intention to stand as ZF chairman but then withdrew, he stood as vice chairman and I beat him. He has done nothing but badmouth the ZF ever since," Hoffman said. "Why has he not signed my petition to Gordon Brown about the Goldstone Report, signed by 2,500 in a week? Why has the board, which constitutionally is obliged to advance Israel's standing, been silent on the report unlike the ZF?" Last month Amnesty hosted an event with the director of the Israeli Committee against House Demolitions. On October 28, the rights organization has an event titled "Discriminatory and Unsustainable: Water and politics in Israel and Occupied Palestinian Territories" with the author of a book called "Israeli Apartheid: A Beginner's Guide." In November it has an event on "Palestine in Pieces: Graphic Perspectives on the Israeli Occupation." War on Want has a history of anti-Israel activity and has been warned by the Charity Commission for England and Wales about its political campaign against Israel. The commission is currently investigating alleged factual inaccuracies in WoW's material that claims Palestinian suffering is "an acknowledged product of Israeli occupation."