Jewish leaders hit back at MP

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The Independent Online
JEWISH leaders hit back at Gerald Kaufman yesterday after the Labour MP called them "pompous" and "ridiculous".

Eldred Tabachnik, president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, defended the institution after the veteran MP, himself a Jew, said it was made up of "yes men to Israeli regimes" who were unrepresentative of the nation's Jews.

Mr Tabachnik called the MP's comments "absurd" and said that they were the "reaction of a very foolish and embittered man".

Mr Kaufman's attack on the official representative of British Jewry, published in this week's New Statesman, followed the board's cancellation of a fund-raising dinner at which Robin Cook, the Foreign Secretary, was to be the guest of honour.

But Mr Tabachnik yesterday defended this action which he said came in the wake of the "enormous anger" in the Jewish community at Mr Cook's recent trip to the Middle East.

Mr Tabachnik said that Mr Cook had met with the Board.

He said: "The truth is that we saw Robin Cook last week. He explained to us what had gone wrong in his Israeli trip.

"He apologised where he felt that he had acted incorrectly and he has offered to speak to the Board at the earliest opportunity and explain to them what happened.

In this week's Jewish Chronicle the Foreign Secretary repudiates charges of anti- Semitism. Speaking of his controversial trip to a disputed settlement in East Jerusalem, he says: "When I visited Har Homa, some of the extremist protesters said I was an anti-Semite. That hurt. Ever since I have been old enough to hold political opinion, I have been a friend of Israel and an enemy of racism and prejudice."

Mr Tabachnik said yesterday: "The Board represents the Jewish community. It has done so for over 200 years and it does the best that it can on public and political issues."

But a question mark remains however over whether the board, made up of delegates from synagogues and community organisations, does offer an effective voice.

Antony Lerman, director of the think-tank, the Institute for Jewish Policy Research, said: "Mr Kaufman probably has his own axe to grind but there is a feeling among sectors of the Jewish community that the board hasn't been as effective as it could have been."