The JC

Letters to the editor, 26th April 2024

Board of Deputies, Met Police and the BBC

April 26, 2024 14:48

In support of the Board of Deputies' call for better policing in London, let me draw on two experiences of policing in Manchester, by comparison.

Over 20 years ago, as a journalist in Manchester, I asked to interview a head of al Muhajirun, a salafist organisation, since proscribed, on his visit to Manchester. When his people aggressively pushed me against a wall, Manchester police, of whose presence we were all unaware, pounced on us and asked me if I was ok. The al Muhajirun people fled.

I was grateful for the police intervention and regretted my naïveté in seeking an interview with these dangerous militants. Fellow journalist Daniel Perl had previously been beheaded in Pakistan by another salafist group. The police saved me that day, perhaps from murder.

Recently, at a pro-Palestinian demonstration before Hamas' assault on Israel, again in Manchester, I witnessed young women, clearly not Jews, speaking politely, not provocatively, being hounded for expressing views in defence of Israelis. The women, clearly shaken, ran away.

All Brits, both Gentile and Jew, need better protection from violent extremists. The police should be given better training to protect all minorities, so that we can all go about our business unhindered.

Andrew M Rosemarine

Salford, Manchester

Yet again the leaders of our august communal organisations, the Board of Deputies and the Jewish Leadership Council, are quick to jump aboard Gideon Falter’s bandwagon.

They rush to demand meetings with the police and the mayor to protest his treatment when threatened with arrest for merely walking the streets of London in the vicinity of a Palestinian march, whilst wearing a kippa.

Yet they will not invite him or his remarkable young organisation, the Campaign Against Anti Semitism, to attend or to be represented at these meetings.

And they will continue to whisper against him behind the scenes to rich potential donors and others, as a hothead and maverick. Meantime he continues to knock spots off their establishment complacency time and again.

Jonathan Goldberg KC

London N6

My grandparents would say “Hob Saychel”, which meant use your common sense - something which, I fear, Gideon Falter failed to do. I too have been to synagogue when marches were being held nearby but I did not feel it necessary to inspect them, walk across their path, or give them chance to interrupt my path.

I did not agree with their message, but found it quite simple to avoid them. After all, had I been on a pro-Jewish march (and I would not, because I believe them unnecessary) I might well have been incensed by someone nearby in a keffiyeh and agal, but I would not expect the police to vanquish them.

The police’s job is to maintain the peace. There were more marchers than the solitary kipah wearer, so it was reasonable that the police should intervene.

Barrington Black

London NW3

In a 1980 episode of the BBC comedy Not The Nine O’clock News, Griff Rhys Jones played the bigoted and racist police constable Savage, who is reprimanded by his sergeant, Rowan Atkinson, for repeatedly arresting a man on ludicrous and trumped up charges including “loitering with intent to use a pedestrian crossing”. Who could have imagined that, 44 years later, this satirical sketch would become standard police operating guidelines.

David Miller

Chigwell, Essex

What a wonderful tribute to her late friends Karen Skinazi penned last week in her emotional cancer chronicle (My reminder that life is not a rehearsal, 19 April).

Thank you for sharing your journey and that of Kate and Hilda. I - and I’m sure all readers - wish you much health to appreciate every minute you have.

Mandy Rose

Whitefield, Manchester

The last six months have been some of the most difficult for British Jews in decades. After the murderous onslaught by Hamas on October 7, we have found ourselves hit by a deluge of Jew hate. We have endured a wave of harassment, threats, and glorification of terrorism.

Throughout this time, the Board of Deputies of British Jews, together with other organisations, have worked ceaselessly to protect the community, coordinate with the government, and support Israel while maintaining connections to other groups in the wider society.

Rabbi Lord Sacks z”l said "Jews cannot fight antisemitism alone. The victim cannot cure the crime. It would be the greatest mistake for Jews to believe that they can fight it alone." Engaging with all parts of British society is the only way to prevent today’s flood from becoming tomorrow’s tsunami. I have done this for decades, not out of “credulousness” or “naïveté”, as Stephen Pollard puts it in his piece, Beware the perils of naive interfaith (, 4 April), but because an individual’s faith should not be a determining factor when the goal is the good of society.

The most important protection for our faith communities is building an environment where all faiths are part of a thriving, pluralistic society. A country that embraces all identities prevents extremists from defining our relationships.

I grew up in a Muslim Arab country where we experienced and celebrated each other’s festivals and traditions; you could say that is part of my DNA, not naïveté or credulousness. For that reason, it was my pleasure to attend the launch of the Ramadan lights in Oxford Street in March. The Ramadan illuminations, funded by the generosity of the Aziz Foundation, were a moment of unity in a challenging time. We know that there are people who want neither the marking of Ramadan nor the coming together of all faiths to turn on the lights.

One way of keeping us apart is through guilt by association.

The Jewish Chronicle sought to link Board representatives to a project funded by the Aziz Foundation and linked to an organisation that the current government does not engage with (Charity bankrolling London Ramadan lights funded extremism-linked group, 5 April). This is tenuous in the extreme. The Aziz Foundation is a family, charitable foundation established by Asif Aziz to nurture confident leaders from a Muslim background. Asif insisted on inviting leaders of different faiths to allow the young Muslims in attendance the opportunity to engage with them. We should not be searching for a more sinister reason. That is the twisted logic deployed by extremists such as Five Pillars to vilify those who engage with the Board. Extremists want Muslims to boycott the Board because we also advocate for Israel. We should refrain from doing the same.

Believing we can cut ourselves off from other communities because they do not think like we do is the ultimate form of naïveté. Working with others despite differences to build a tolerant Britain is true realism.

Edwin Shuker,

Vice President, Board of Deputies

April 26, 2024 14:48

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