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Board of Deputies approves controversial Muslim Council of Britain statement

    The controversial joint statement issued by the Board of Deputies and Muslim Council of Britain at the height of the Gaza conflict has received widespread support from members of the Jewish group.

    Deputies at Sunday’s Board plenary meeting in central London voted by 124 to 40 in favour of a motion backing the decision of the group’s leaders to work with the Muslim organisation.

    Board president Vivian Wineman told deputies that he had approved the statement at “an emergency time. We felt we had to do something”.

    He said a “large proportion” of antisemitic incidents in July and August had come from within the Muslim community and that it was important to recruit “allies” among British Muslims.

    Mr Wineman had been criticised at the time for failing to consult with deputies before issuing the statement, but he told the meeting the Board had liaised with other Jewish organisations and the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) before going ahead.

    “The reaction to the statement has been mixed. The DCLG was surprised by the ferocity of the reaction from both communities, and particularly the Jewish community,” Mr Wineman said.

    It had been expected that the meeting would see attempts to unseat Mr Wineman in the wake of criticism of his leadership during recent months, but such an attempt failed to materialise.

    Around two dozen deputies spoke during the hour-long debate ahead of the vote.

    Liberal Judaism deputy Stuart Macdonald said the statement had been “a victory, not a defeat. I don’t see what the big deal is. It’s insane to condemn the executive for this, they deserve our support”.

    Woodside Park Synagogue deputy Jonathan Hoffman listed eight points of objection to the statement and said the Board should not have worked with an organisation which promoted boycotts of Israel.

    Adam Dawson, a Mill Hill United Synagogue deputy, said: “The MCB are not necessarily our best friends or bedfellows. The Board did not necessarily go about this in the best way it could have done.”

    But he said the Board’s leaders were elected to act in “good times and bad. I want them to lead and take bold and courageous steps forward. We need to stick together and we need to speak with one voice. I hope the Muslim community shows its leaders more respect than some members of the Jewish community show to ours”.

    Former Board vice-president Paul Edlin said the statement had been a “huge triumph and a great achievement”.

    Mr Wineman responded to complaints that the Board had not done enough to lead the community by saying: “We are more visible than certain people from other sister organisations whose names elude me at the moment.”

    The joint statement, issued last month, saw Muslim and Jewish leaders unite to call for stronger collaboration between their communities in the wake of the Gaza conflict.

    The groups condemned civilian deaths as tragic and called for efforts to avoid them. They also condemned any expression of antisemitism, Islamophobia and racism generally, calling on both communities to “redouble efforts to work together and get to know one another”.

    There was an angry reaction from some Jewish supporters over a line in the statement referring to “the targeting of civilians” over concern that it might refer to action by Israeli forces.

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