Michal Kaminski: the debate rages
The controversy surrounding the Conservative Party's European pact with the rightwing Polish party of Michal Kaminski has been the talk of the Conservative Party Conference this week.
The Jewish Chronicle's editor Stephen Pollard has defended Kaminski against allegations of antisemitism, whereas the Board of Deputies wrote to David Cameron expressing their concerns over Kaminski, and seeking clarification.
Here is a selection of the opinions on the web this week, surrounding the issue, from across the political spectrum.
Mr Kaminski is a mainstream centre-right politician who would, were he British, fit naturally into the Atlanticist, free-market wing of the Conservative Party. As the first MEP from Eastern Europe to lead a group in the European Parliament, he is, in many ways, a beacon of the New Europe; a man who was brought up under communism but who hero-worships Baroness Thatcher and Ronald Reagan and is a living representation of the freedom which the collapse of communism has brought.
As Editor of the Jewish Chronicle, and founding chairman of the European Institute for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism, I am more alive than most to the dangers of the newly resurgent antisemitism. But there is simply no evidence that Mr Kaminski is an antisemite, only a series of politically motivated assertions. It is not Kaminski who is odious; it is those using antisemitism as a tool for their own political ends who deserve contempt.
I have no axe to grind on Mr Kaminski's behalf. But I do have an axe to grind against false labels of antisemitism. Far from being an antisemite, Mr Kaminski is about as pro-Israel an MEP as exists.
Stephen Pollard, thejc.com
I do not believe that Kaminski is a dedicated antisemite, any more than I believe Ken Livingstone is – despite the grave upset the former mayor of London caused with his offensive remarks to a Jewish journalist or his outspoken attacks on Israel. But if politicians of the left are to face examination of their statements on Jewish questions, then politicians of the right also have to face scrutiny.
Stephen Pollard, the editor of the Jewish Chronicle, takes a different line. In a harsh personal attack on the foreign secretary, David Miliband, Pollard accuses him of being "disgraceful" and "shameful" because at the Labour party conference he mentioned the background of the Conservatives' new ECR partners from Latvia and Poland.
I have spoken to many Poles – journalists, ambassadors and politicians – about Michal Kaminski. He is described as someone who shoots his mouth off without thinking. He not a roaring antisemite, but his intervention over Jedwabne troubled many. Pollard proclaims Kaminski a hero of the anticommunist struggle. But every young Pole in that era was anticommunist
Dennis McShane, guardian.co.uk
This is about more than party point-scoring. It is, in fact, a matter of the deepest principle. For there was a time when no self-respecting British politician would have gone anywhere near such people.
The Tory defence has been weak. They have cited the embrace extended to Kaminski by first, the editor of the Jewish Chronicle, and second, the Conservative Friends of Israel, which astonishingly welcomed Kaminski yesterday. What Tories do not point out is that the former is now a fierce anti-Brown partisan while the latter is, as the name suggests, wholly aligned with the Conservatives.
Jonathan Freedland, guardian.co.uk
The editor of the Jewish Chronicle, himself a former Labour special adviser, has described the charges of anti-Semitism levelled against the ECR leader, the pro-Israel Polish MEP Michał Kamiński, as “contemptible“. Yet we again read that “leading Jewish figures” have attacked the Tories for inviting Michał to their conference. And who are these “leading Jewish figures”? A Labour peer and, er, a Labour MP.
Indeed, if you read the Guardian report far enough, you will reach the following rather telling sentence: “The Board of Deputies of British Jews said they had looked into Kaminski’s background and found nothing objectionable.” Then again, we musn’t let a detail like that spoil a good headline, eh?
And to think that Lefties call us the nasty party!
Daniel Hannan, The Daily Telegraph
The extraordinary presence in Manchester of the Polish MEP and new Conservative ally Michal Kaminski - whose anti-Semitic outbursts in the past have been well documented, despite Tory press officers' attempts to persuade senior Jewish figures to retract their criticisms - demonstrates how isolated this supposed government-in-waiting has become in, and on, Europe. "We are not the ones making a noise," said one of the few pro-European MPs at the conference. "That comes from the other side of the party."
James Macintyre, New Statesman
It's transparent that the Tories, who are in many respects a more serious party and a more civilised force under David Cameron's leadership, have allied with this fringe and extremist Polish party purely because of its opposition to the Lisbon treaty. I would describe that as contemptible opportunism except that it's too generous a judgement. The Tories are themselves extremists on the European issue, and this is where they've ended up. Stephen's determination to be fair-minded has been lavished on a thoroughly undeserving cause.
Oliver Kamm, Times Online
READ STEPHEN POLLARD'S RESPONSE
Labour was slow off the mark, reluctant even. The stories' origins have nothing to do with Labour party propaganda. They are based on history and facts – and the Tories dare not, or are simply too complacent to, face them.
They peddled the line about it all being a Labour smear again today in response to the news that Vivian Wineman, the president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, had written to David Cameron raising his concerns.
Are these people part of a Labour conspiracy? No, they are not. They have genuine concerns about matters very dear to their hearts. Yet the Tories do not bother to address them.
Toby Helm, guardian.co.uk
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