Leaders split over David Cameron's Euro allies

By Martin Bright and Simon Rocker, October 9, 2009
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The controversial Polish MEP at the heart of the row over David Cameron’s new alliance in Europe has launched a fierce rebuttal of claims that he is an antisemite with a neo-Nazi past.

Speaking to the JC at the Conservative Party conference, the leader of the European Conservatives and Reformists Group, Michal Kaminski, said: “Being an antisemite is something which is contradictory to all my beliefs, starting with my religious beliefs as a Christian and ending with my political conservative views.”

He emphasised his support for Israel, which he visited recently as a guest of the Conservative Friends of Israel. But his comments elsewhere in the interview are likely to further ignite the row.

Mr Kaminski stood by his decision to oppose a national apology for the massacre of Jews by Polish inhabitants of the town of Jedwabne in north-east Poland in July 1941. He added: “I think that it’s unfair comparing it with a Nazi crime and putting it on the same level as the Nazi policy.”

He courted further controversy by drawing a parallel between the Polish atrocity and alleged Jewish collaboration with the Soviet occupation: “If you are asking the Polish nation to apologise for the crime… in Jedwabne, you would require the whole Jewish nation to apologise for what some Jewish Communists did in eastern Poland.”

The increasingly toxic issue of the Conservative Party’s alliance with Mr Kaminski and his colleague Roberts Zile of the Latvian Fatherland and Freedom Party has already caused a split in the Jewish communal leadership.

The JC understands that the decision by Vivian Wineman, president of the Board of Deputies, to send a letter to David Cameron seeking reassurances about the Tories’ new allies, has caused a rift with the Jewish Leadership Council. One JLC member described colleagues as “livid” at the timing of the letter. Another said he was “incandescent”.

A senior Jewish Conservative said: “The Board has done itself a lot of damage. It is acting naively, it has been manipulated by left-wing interests into a completely inappropriate position. The irony is that the new Tory European group will be the most pro-Israel lobby group.”

But Paul Edlin, joint vice-president of the Board and chair of its international division, said he stood “four-square” behind Mr Wineman’s actions.

“I don’t think we have created any problems because it is reasonable for Cameron to be questioned about this kind of alliance with an organisation that may have extreme right-wing tendencies.

“The Board is the only democratically elected body representing British Jewry. The president discussed it with me, he acted and acted well.”

On Wednesday, Mr Wineman met Shadow Minister for Europe Mark Francois. The Tories agreed to hand over a dossier containing the research carried out into the background of their allies in the European Parliament.

Analysis by Political Editor Martin Bright
Analysis by Editor Stephen Pollard

Last updated: 10:01am, October 9 2009