Board President demands unity after Gaza kaddish row

Marie van der Zyl said some of the attacks on those who took part in the 'Kaddish for Gaza' were "hateful and abusive"


Marie van der Zyl, the new President of the Board of Deputies, has issued an impassioned plea for unity within the community in the aftermath of the 'Kaddish for Gaza' row.

Speaking at the Board's monthly meeting on Sunday, Ms van der Zyl said: "As a community we cannot afford to be divided in these times.

'We will be much better if we are together, we will be stronger - we need to maintain unity.

"We can have disagreements, but we have to do it in a space where we can maintain respect and relations with each other."

Several Deputies had earlier raised concerns about the bitter row that erupted after more than 50 left-wing activists turned up on the evening of May 16 outside Parliament to say Kaddish for Palestinians killed in the recent Gaza border protests.

Some of the activists were subsequently labelled 'kapos' by angry community representatives, including Rabbi Yitzchak Schochet, who described the kaddish protest as "kapoism."

But Ms van der Zyl said: "I was appalled by the ill-conceived 'Kaddish for Gaza' protest but the tone and terror of some of the comments aimed at the protestors has bordered on hateful and abusive."

During Sunday's meeting the new Board president also expressed concern about Labour's appointment of Gordon Nardell QC as in-house counsel for antisemitism disciplinary cases.

She mentioned Mr Nardell's social media link to Tony Greenstein, expelled by Labour for antisemitism, and his long-term membership of the anti-Zionist Labour Representation Committee.

Concern was also raised about the Labour leadership’s attempt to bypass the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of antisemitism.

She also said the recent resignation of Ken Livingstone from the party "has all the signs of being orchestrated with the Leader's (Jeremy Corbyn) office."

To applause, Dame Louise Ellman, the Labour MP who was honoured in the recent Birthday Honours List, urged Deputies to recognise the large support there was from colleagues within her party for the fight against antisemitism.

Dame Louise was given a standing ovation by Deputies after she was asked to stand up by the Board President alongside Sir Ben Helfgott who was also honoured in the Queen's list.

In a further important development, Sheila Gewolb, who chairs the Board's International Division, announced that Iceland had abandoned a proposed bill banning circumcision.

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