On Sunday there was a rally in London demanding ‘zero tolerance’ of anti-Semitism. About 4,500 people gathered in front of the Royal Courts of Justice. Speakers who addressed the crowds included the Chief Rabbi, Maajid Nawaz and me.
Among the things I told the crowd was to expect more and to demand more of their ‘communal leadership’. Long-term readers will know that I’ve never had much time for communal leadership of any kind. I don’t like the groups who claim to speak on behalf of all Muslims – groups which disproportionately represent a politicised and fundamentalist hard-line interpretation of their faith. And I don’t like groups that have claimed to have speak for the ‘gay community’ (whatever that is), tending as they do to be leftists who believe anyone identifiably ‘conservative’ is their enemy. Jewish communal leadership is an equally mixed blessing.
Just last week there was an example of how such leadership can be counter-productive to the interests of the community it claims to represent. The Board of Deputies of British Jews (BoD) co-signed a letter with the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB). This letter – which has already attracted a good deal – made it to the front-page of the BBC’s website. It was also the most terrific shot in the communal foot of Britain’s Jewish communities. What the Board of Deputies apparently did not realise in signing a joint letter with the MCB is that it was not only harming the long-term situation of Jews in Britain but also devastatingly undermining moderate and progressive elements within the Muslim communities.
In endorsing the MCB as a legitimate partner, the BoD was doing something that successive British governments have resisted doing. Two of the most powerful objections to the MCB concern its attitudes towards Jews.