Jonathan Arkush criticises Ruth Davidson's West Bank statement

The Board of Deputies president said the Scottish Conservative leader used "inaccurate" language, but she is a friend of Jews


Jonathan Arkush, the president of the Board of Deputies, has said he sympathises with those who disapproved of Ruth Davidson’s criticism of settlement building in the West Bank at the Board’s annual dinner.

Guest speaker Ms Davidson, the leader of the Scottish Conservatives, said building illegal settlements was “unacceptable”, calling herself a “critical friend of Israel” at the event last week.

She said: "If you’re going to be a friend in the international community, you also have to be a critical friend. And I think an honest friend is worth much more than a sycophant."

Ros Pine, the deputy from North Salford Synagogue, said at the Board’s September meeting on Sunday that it was “bad form to tell Jews where they can and cannot live”, saying it was a “racist thing to say”.

Mr Arkush sympathised with Ms Pine, saying: “Anyone who knows me will know that I would take issue quite strongly with (Ms Davidson’s) language.

“Just because someone says that, I don’t think it would be right to conclude that she’s not a true friend. She’s a true friend who’s never been to Israel, who said to me at the dinner that she intended to make up for that very, very quickly.

“I hope, and I’m confident, that over time she will perhaps see that that language is not the most accurate language to use.”

The Board has decided that its next regional council meeting, in April, will take place in Gibraltar, which the president called “a wonderful prospect”.

Also debated at the meeting was the appearance of Shakeel Begg — an alleged “extremist” Muslim cleric — at an interfaith event at Catford and Bromley Shul in July where he gave a talk.

Mr Begg, the head of Lewisham Islamic Centre, has been accused of encouraging jihad against Jews.

Vice president Marie van der Zyl said she believed the synagogue was aware of Mr Begg’s attendance in advance and had defended his presence there.

A motion to set limited terms for deputies was resoundingly defeated by deputies. According to one deputy  it would have been like “latkes voting for Chanukah” had the proposal been passed.

Ella Rose, director of the Jewish Labour Movement, representing Bushey United Synagogue, said limited terms would encourage younger people to put themselves forward for election as deputies.

But Denise Lester, from South Hampstead Synagogue, argued that forcing deputies out after a specified number of year would crowd out a “wealth of talent”.

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