An open letter to the Board of Deputies of British Jews

The President
Marie Van De Zyl
The Board of Deputies of British Jews
15th August 2019

Dear Marie Van De Zyl,

We are writing to you on a matter of great concern and one which we believe should transcend political differences.

Successive venues in Brighton last week cancelled bookings for a meeting to be addressed by Chris Williamson MP.  The denial of facilities for speakers who query allegations of antisemitism in the Labour Party is nothing new. However the methods used in this case represent a critical threat to democracy.

Up until now venues have been closed down by disruptive civil action – telephoned bomb threats, threats of hostile reviews for potential hotel hosts on TripAdvisor, mass heckling at meetings, and more. However to the best of our knowledge, this is the first time that there have been direct threats of actual physical harm made in person to venue workers.

This is a watershed, all too reminiscent of the tactics used during the historical rise of far-right movements, who organised violence or the threat of violence on the streets. All Jewish organisations, whatever their political orientation, should make clear that they completely disassociate themselves from such action.

We therefore call on you as President of the Board of Deputies, which as an organization, argued and demonstrated against Chris Williamson’s meeting, to condemn in direct terms these threats of violence.


Yours sincerely,
Leah Levane and Jenny Manson

Leah Levane, JVL Co-Chair, Hastings Councillor
Jenny Manson, JVL Co-Chair

Comments (16)

  • Jan Brooker says:

    Good letter. The BoDy that pretends it represents all Jews. I read Greg Hadfield’s long post about the events around the Brighton meeting. Quite chilling in the implications of denying a voice to *the left* by threats of violence. I last remember such occurences during the 1970s, when the National Front invaded, and attempted to invade, several left-wing meetings ~ and culminated in firebombings [including the murder, in Birmingham, of a woman car-driver] of left-wing bookshops by NF supporters.

  • Riva says:

    Quite polite and restrained in the circs.

  • Gill McCall says:

    Good letter: We must speak out against intimidation and challenge those who preside over this sort of threatening behaviour, to desist.

  • Mary Davies says:

    Brilliant letter. It is important not to be bullied and threatened into submission. Great that the meeting went ahead!

  • Jonathan Coulter says:

    Violence against people and politicians in the UK has always been a latent possibility since the late 40s when Zionist elements sent letter-bombs to our political leaders including Winston Churchill, and there was a plot against the Foreign Sec Aneurin Bevan.

  • Sarah Perrigo says:

    Well done. I look forward to reading the reply!

  • John Spannyard Indaworks says:

    A necessary letter and reasonable request. It is indeed ironic that methods used in particular by the Sturmabteilung of Nazi Germany should be employed by those purporting to represent and protect the interests of the Jewish community – The Board of Deputies need to unequivocally denounce such behaviour.

  • Sheena says:

    Well done JVL. Totally sick of the complicity of people who should have spoken up and condemned this vile violent intimidation of our friend Chris but did not like the laughably conniving Lib Dems, the sly Caroline Lucas, the ridiculous Rachel Riley and Obnoxious Oberman, Horrid Hodge, Witch Hunter General Watson and of course the moronic British media who did not even bother to report anything about it or the appalling threat to our disappearing democracy but who spend all their time bashing Jeremy Corbyn for every little thing even for having an allotment. They have all shown their true colours and it’s very ugly indeed.

  • Lynda Harvey says:

    Agreed, threats of violence are anathema to a truly democratic society. They should be treated with the utmost contempt and routed out.

  • Margaret E Johnson says:

    Dear JVL and supporters I am right behind you with this letter to the Jewish Board of Deputies. Silence on these matters allows such things to grow and it seems to me that previous lack of action in the form of a complaint to the police and enquiries into the origin of threats has emboldened the perpetrators. We have to acknowledge the possibility that these actions do not emanate from anyone connected with Judaism in any way of course, but may be some individuals or organisation which seeks to discredit all Jews and is truly antisemitic. Therefore it is essential that all threats are properly reported and investigated and that all organisations which may be suspected of supporting such threats and antisocial activity denounce its employment in the pursuance of its aims. The Labour Party has repeatedly denounced racism and in particular antisemitism of any kind. It is now time for other organisations to stand against violence and threats of violence. It is particularly poignant that your letter to JBD was sent on the anniversary of Peterloo, a peaceful but powerful meeting that became a bloodbath. Threats of violence are often used by powers that themselves feel afraid of losing their position in society or indeed wish to gain a position of authority over others. Our civilization is at a crossroads the path chosen by those in positions of influence will affect society as a whole throughout the world. Organisations representing the people need to come together in conference and discuss their differences in a civilized manner. The ideal would be for the conference to end with a joint declaration of Live and let live, non violence and intimidation so strong that it would declare those found to be practicing violence in pursuit of their aims to be “Persona Non Grata in their organisations and banned from membership.

  • Jenny Secretan says:

    Excellent letter! I will be very interested to read BDBJ’s reply at earliest opportunity!

  • John says:

    As well as writing to the BoDs, can I suggest that JVL also writes to Giles York QPM, Chief Constable for Sussex, with a request for information on their investigation into the two individuals who were captured on CCTV when making threats against staff at the venues involved?
    These thugs must be made to learn the lesson that criminal behaviour will not be tolerated and that there is always a price to pay for it.

  • Ali says:

    Denying an MP, expressing his/her views is unheard of in the history pariamentory democracy. You must push for answer fro Jewish Board of deputies. Apparently the JLC and Sussex Jewish Representatives opposed the meeting too.

  • Good letter but of course the Board of Deputies won’t respond. In reality it endorses any and all methods to close down free speech on Israel and Palestine and to attack those they deem ‘antisemites’

  • Dr Rodney Watts says:

    Please allow a Jewish “laughably conniving Lib Dem” (Sheena comment) to join in commending JVL for most of its statements. I am sure that I would be joined by the vast majority of Lib Dems in approving your letter to the BoD. What has happened to Chris Williamson, both with regard to the LP & the disgraceful treatment in Brighton is reprehensible. It brings to mind the murder of my grandmother there.
    In a similar situation in our Party, because of a scurrilous complaint by the CAA (again!) David Ward was forbidden to stand for re-election in Bradford East and expelled. I did write to Tim Farron at the time and applauded the Bradford Party for standing by him. All this because David had strongly spoken against the Israeli Government and its treatment of Palestinians. Happily, much to the chagrin of a certain Amanda Bowman, he is one of our members again. Amanda Bowman made comments to us in the same vein as for Chris Williamson. I have to agree with Tony Greenstein’s comment. ( I remember signing Tony’s petition to the Charity Commissioners concerning CAA -nothing done as yet)
    Your superb submission to the EHRC was again necessary because of the CAA and actually benefits all of us interested in politics with integrity It so happens I had already made a submission a year ago countering the accusations, and as someone who had been active in the 1960’s against racism both in Birmingham and nationally. I stated that CAA have used the IHRA ‘definition’ of antsemitism, deliberately conflated it with antizionism, and thus trivialized true antisemitism, whilst bringing the Labour Party & Jeremy Corbyn into disrepute. (I am happy to provide full submission).
    Just as the Labour Party has adopted the seriously flawed IHRA definition so has the Lib Dem Party. Hopefully this will change. I also hope that not only will the EHRC exonerate the LP but will cast a spotlight on the CAA & others using false accusations of antisemitism for dishonest political gain, whilst the Palestinians suffer so unjustly at the hands of the settler-colonialists.
    Sadly, at 78 and being full time carer for my sick wife, I am limited as an activist. However I do wish JVL all success.

  • philiph35 says:

    A poster above writes: “It is indeed ironic that methods used in particular by the Sturmabteilung of Nazi Germany should be employed by those purporting to represent and protect the interests of the Jewish community”.

    Am I right to be discouraged by this statement? I know it’s not per se anti-semitic to equate Nazism and Zionism but does the point have to be made so endlessly and so pointlessly? I don’t even know what the writer believes the methods used in particular by the SA are. I think of them as involved in street brawls with Communists in the period before Hitler became Chancellor which does not seem particularly relevant to the depredations of the Board.

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