Our unrepresentative security

In the JC of March 11, there was an article by Dr Gilbert Kahn, who teaches political science at Kean University, in the United States. Professor Kahn had attended the annual fund-raising dinner of the Community Security Trust, and the purpose of his column was to lament the fact that British Jews felt obliged to pay - via the CST - for the physical protection that the British state should surely provide out of general taxation.

I want to ask some rather different questions.

What right does a completely private body that happens to call itself the CST have to involve itself in the safety and well-being of British Jews?

What right does it have to represent itself as being a representative body? On its website, the CST boasts that it "represents the Jewish community on a wide range of Police, governmental and policy-making bodies dealing with security and antisemitism."

What right does it have to make such a claim? The website further explains that "the Police and government praise CST as a model of how a minority community should protect itself."

That may be so but I want to ask whether we - you and I - should not have a quiet word in the ear of government and point out that the CST represents no one but itself and is mandated to espouse the views of none other than its own trustees.

Since what I am going to say is likely to raise more than a heckle here and a heckle there, I want to make it clear that I personally believe that the CST probably does valuable work in two related fields: providing security and security advice; and collecting and publishing security-related data.

I am aware that it operates in a third and inevitably murky dimension, namely that of a watching brief with regard to extremist organisations, possibly including the infiltration of such bodies.

Last year, in a volume of essays I edited by young historians of British Jewry (New Directions in Anglo-Jewish History) I was delighted to include a chapter written by Daniel Tilles on the anti-fascist campaign of the Board of Deputies, between 1936 and 1940.

Mr Tilles had been permitted access to hitherto closed files that revealed how the Board had operated a crude network of informers at that time.

The Board's defence director, Mike Whine, was candid enough to confess to me that the Board had decided to open these historic files partly to send a very contemporary message: that British Jewry was not averse to such intelligence-gathering, and that groups currently touting an anti-Jewish agenda would do well to understand this fact.

Mr Whine, as well as being the current defence director of the Deputies is also an employee of the CST, in charge of government and international affairs. The CST also elects two deputies of its own. I see nothing problematic in these arrangements, but we must fully understand the corollary, namely that the CST itself has no "representative" basis whatsoever.

The CST grew out of the Community Security Organisation, which became independent of the Deputies in the 1980s.

It enjoys charitable status, so you can discover a certain amount of information about its structure and financing via the website of the Charity Commission.

In 2009 (the latest year for which accounts are available), it attracted more than £5 million in donations and boasted reserves of £3 million. It had 64 employees, one of whom received an annual emolument of between £150,000 and £160,000. Its total 2009 wage bill exceeded £2 million.

These are not small amounts; they contrast starkly with the services provided to the CST practically for nothing by the scores of volunteers who, under the badge of the CST, provide security for communal events up and down the land.

Who makes policy at the CST? The short answer is: its trustees, who appoint themselves. Under a dispensation granted by the Charity Commission, the names of the trustees are hidden from public view.

According to the Commission's website there is only one trustee - Support Trustee Limited. But if you go to the Companies House website you can, for a small fee, download the names and contact addresses (and indeed dates of birth) of the directors of STL.

Perhaps these individuals could explain to us how, given the constitution and structure of the CST, it can honestly claim to "represent" the Anglo-Jewish community in any meaningful sense.

Last updated: 9:33am, April 18 2011