March 02, 2005

The word of the beloved leader

Henry Grunwald, acting in his capacity as, he says, "the elected leader of the British Jewish community" writes in today's Guardian, that "We all deserve an apology". I know I didn't vote for Henry Grunwald or anyone else on the Board of Deputies so I asked my mother if she voted for him. She's a member of the United Synagogue. That's the orthodox congregation headed by Chief Rabbi Jonothan Sacks. She told me that she hadn't been aware of any elections but as she never pays a sub to the Board perhaps they wouldn't invite her to vote. Now I haven't been a synagogue member since a Lubavitch rabbi applauded the Shatila and Sabra massacres during Rosh Hashana, 1982. So people like me who are non-synagogue members cannot vote for the Board. People like my mother, who are members of a synagogue but don't pay the Board, it seems, can't vote either. Ok, that seems fair. But what isn't fair is the Guardian allowing Henry Grunwald to pose as "the elected leader of the British Jewish community". The now? That's just not fair but it gets worse. He writes as if he has his finger on the pulse of the whole community.

I should have issued a health warning up front. This is yet another post on the Ken Livingstone saga. I know I promised not to but I did keep my fingers crossed and it was Grunwald and the Guardian who reopened the thing.

Anyway, having misrepresented himself as "the elected leader of the British Jewish community" he goes on to misrepresent what Ken Livingstone said to sometime reporter, Oliver Finegold.
It is worth remembering exactly what happened. After a reporter clearly identified himself as Jewish, the mayor responded with a remark deliberately calibrated to cause maximum pain and offence.
Now that isn't quite true. Ken started off by asking said reporter if he was a Nazi war criminal. Then the reporter responded by saying that he was Jewish and that, therefore, he was offended by what Ken had said. Ken continued in the same vain. Now that is not the same as what the beloved, indeed elected, leader said. Anyone who has heard the tape will know that Ken was not in calibration mode at the time; inebriation? possibly but calibration? definitely not.

After a brief tribute to Ken's sincerity, Grunwald returns to his misrepresentation of what happened between Ken and Finegold, tacked on to the end of a list of Ken's wrongdoings regarding the holocaust:
He has used them as reference points not just for Daily Mail group journalists, but also for international capitalism, Britain's record in Ireland and, in 1987, Camden council's housing policy for homosexuals. On this occasion he went one step further. By employing Holocaust imagery to address an insult to somebody who identified himself as a Jew, the mayor overstepped the bounds of acceptable behaviour for an elected official. That is the core of our complaint.
He then goes on to complain that Ken has not taken Board of Deputies subsidiary the Community Security Trust's statistics on anti-semitism seriously enough, before committing the mother of all the chutzpahs thus:
There is deep anger in the Jewish community, not just at the remarks themselves, but at the manner in which the mayor has dragged us through this controversy, continually ascribing our legitimate concerns to media campaigns and attempts to secure political gain.
Actually it was the Board, the Holocaust Education Trust and a ragbag of zionists who turned this into a media campaign. Ken kept quiet pretty much, except for his weekly statements. And it was the same ragbag of zionists who dragged us through this controversy.
They have made the Jewish community feel tense, isolated, humiliated and a target for insults.
Not true! It was the Board who caused the toe-curling embarrassment for our community. It was the Board who ended up humiliated. As for tension, I must confess to feeling some tension when I thought Ken might actually apologise to such a sorry band of opportunists. But. I'm sorry, we're not finished yet. If Henry Grunwald's self-importance hasn't become apparent yet then cop this:
Sixty years after the liberation of Auschwitz, what is it we are being asked to move on from [by Blair among others] - an offensive remark by a leading public figure, or our apparently futile attempts to preserve the memory of the Holocaust and the safety of future generations of Jews and all mankind?

Here's hoping that the Board of Deputies has made yet another bad miscalculation.


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