June 13, 2008

Board to the right, Tories to the left?

The Board of Deputies of British Jews apparently made a submission to whoever you have to make submissions to if you want to influence law making in the UK. The submission suggested that 56 days without charge or trial was appropriate. Now at a guess I would say that 56 days is actually longer than the average prison sentence meted out for the proven commission of an actual crime. This is for people, Muslims let's face it, who are have not been proven to commit any crime. This in spite of the fact that the police appear to have carte blanche to shoot any Muslim or anyone who looks like they might be a Muslim. In the end the government settled on 42 days detention without charge or trial, two weeks less than the Board of Deputies was seeking.

Richard Kuper, of Jews for Justice for Palestinians, wrote to the Jewish Chronicle to protest this and whilst his letter wasn't published they did a report on it.
Richard Kuper, newly elected chair of Jews for Justice for Palestinians, and two colleagues, Professor Irene Bruegel and Murray Glickman, have complained about a submission to the Home Office last August by the Board and the Community Security Trust on the Counter Terrorism Bill 2007.
And from the Board of Deputies?
“If we believe we can make a worthwhile contribution we will. Such consultations are open to anyone and it is then for Parliament to debate the issues. The Board is mandated by a large swathe of the community to address all sorts of matters. To ignore that and hold some kind of further public consultation on every issue is both unreasonable and unworkable”.
It's perfectly reasonable then for the Board to assume that the countries Jews are to the right of an extremely right wing measure.

But not all of the community are satisfied with this. For a start there's Richard Kuper and his crew. Then there are two letters in today's JC:
Board should stay quiet on detention law

What do the Board of Deputies think they are up to?

The police are divided, MI5 could not be more ambivalent without actually being opposed, current and former senior law officers have come out against, indeed, virtually the entire British legal establishment rejects extension of the maximum period for pre-charge detention to 42 days.

Even the government has been forced to acknowledge that there has never yet been a case where extension to 42 days was required. It isn’t essential today — but we might need it at some unspecified time in the future.

Yet the Board of Deputies is arguing for the government to take its deranged plans even further and legislate for a maximum of 56 days pre-charge detention (JC, June 6). What do the BoD know that all these experts and luminaries don’t? And what gives the Board, at one fell swoop, the right to trash decades, nay, centuries of Jewish tradition of independent, critical and rigorous Jewish thought and resistance to tyranny?

They make me ashamed.

Naomi Wayne, Belmont Hill, London SE13

Jon Benjamin thinks that “the Board [of Deputies] is mandated by a large swathe of the community to address all sorts of matters”, and therefore that there was no need to consult before making detailed recommendations on the Counter-Terrorism Bill. I find this rather alarming; does it mean that if the Edinburgh Liberal community affiliates to the Board, as we have considered doing, we have to sign up to the officers’ opinions on any “sort of matter” that they decide to comment on?

It’s not an inviting prospect.

Maurice Naftalin, chair@eljc.org
Meanwhile a leading Tory MP, David Davis, is resigning over the 42 days detention that the government settled on. He claims that it is on the civil liberties principle. Now it might surprise some people that a Tory is resigning over an issue that puts him to the left of Labour. Actually, that is partly simply a sign of the times, but also sometimes individual Tories are more principled than Labour. Whatever it is, this issue has put the Board of Deputies of British Jews to the right of both the British government and the right-wing opposition. Is that representative of British Jews? I don't know, I just hope not.

On the matter of the Tories' opposition stance on this, it could be that they opposed the government just to make the government look even sillier than it has been looking since the JNF's Gordon Brown took over. But apparently, the JNF's David Cameron is a little anxious about having Labour look tougher on law and order than he is.

Now, I think David Davis has made sympathetic noises towards the Palestinians. I'm not sure but I think I remember something about that. Looking at the Guardian today, searching "David Davis" in the Guardian, there are several articles suggesting that the Tories themselves might collude with Labour to undermine Davis. And certainly the Guardian seems to be more intent on ridiculing him than defending civil liberty. Now, I'm really not sure about where Davis stands on Palestine, but if he's an aspiring Jimmy Carter, we could well see the Tories pulling the rug from underneath him in preference to defeating the government.

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