Debate over Rwanda asylum policy not ‘important to Jews’, insists new communal body

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Debate over Rwanda asylum policy not ‘important to Jews’, insists new communal body

Head of the National Jewish Assembly openly attacks Board of Deputies at a conference in Hungary, claiming debating issues such as Rwanda asylum policy divides the community.

Lee Harpin is the Jewish News's political editor

Gary Mond speaks to EJA conference in Budapest
Gary Mond speaks to EJA conference in Budapest

The leader of a new organisation set up to rival the Board of Deputies has suggested discussions over Priti Patel’s decision to send “immigrants to Rwanda” are not “important to the Jewish community”.

Gary Mond, founder of the National Jewish Assembly, used a speech at a conference in Budapest, Hungary, to mount an attack on the Board for allowing debate among Deputies over the Home Secretary’s asylum plan.

It following confirmation by the Board’s President Marie Van Der Zyl on Sunday, that after repeated requests from Deputies, she would be requesting a meeting with Patel to raise concerns from within the community about the government’s Rwanda policy.

A succession of Deputies, including the representatives of the Union of Jewish Students and Masorti Judaism had raised concerns about the Board’s “neutral” stance over Patel’s much criticised Rwanda plan.

Many in the community had also signed a letter sent to the Home Secretary by the Jewish Council For Racial Equality stating that the policy, which was scrapped in Israel, was against Jewish values.

But Mond, who quit the Board ahead of an investigation into allegations of Islamophobia, told the European Jewish Association’s conference, that his NJA body had been founded to focus on “three clear principles… to promote Jewish life, to support Israel and to fight antisemitism.”

Speaking on Monday he added:”I want to inform you that yesterday at a meeting of one of the premier Jewish organisations, much of the time was taken not in discussing these three issues, but in discussing the issue of whether the organisation should be putting pressure on our Home Secretary Priti Patel over the question of sending immigrants to Rwanda.”

He then suggested the Board’s stance on such issues was leading to disunity in UK Jewry.

Mond, who has held senior posts with the Conservative Friends of Israel group, added “unless we can unite on the issues that are important to the Jewish community we will not succeed” in achieving unity.

Attempting to explain how he came to decide what issues were “important” to take up on behalf of the UK Jewish community, Mond said that “if you know 90-95 per cent of your community support a certain line of action you must pursue it.”

He claimed, “if only 40 percent” supported an issue you do not pursue it. In another dig at the Board, Mond added:”That is what is wrong with certain organisations in the United Kingdom.”

Mond told delegates that his organisation, the NJA had itself been founded eight weeks ago around “three clear principals…to promote Jewish life, to support Israel and to fight antisemitism.”

He then insisted supporting Israel meant avoided debates around whether or not you supported a two-state solution with the Palestinians.

But Mond added:”I’m sorry to have to say, and this is the elephant in the room that lots of people don’t like talking about, but there is Islamist antisemitism emanating from the extreme aspects of fundamental Islam.”

Mond has resigned from the Board in January, claiming he has been “cancelled” after an investigation was launched into his posts about Islam.

Jewish News revealed he had liked two posts by Pamela Geller, the American anti-Islamic activist who was banned from entering the UK some years ago.

Mond also posted that civilisation was “at war” with Islam.

The EJA conference was attended by Zsolt Samjen, Deputy Prime Minister of Hungary.who claimed his country is “one of the safest” for Jews, despite widespread concern about rising racism under Viktor Orban’s government.

Last month Samjen had himself launched a scathing attack on nations in Europe who he claimed had “lost the battle against migrants” and “can decide whether they want to surrender to a Muslim conquest”.

The Orban government has regularly attempted to counter fears about antisemitism in Hungary, by tells the community it recognises the Muslim population’s antisemitic nature.

But far-right groups in Hungary had staged a series of attacks on Jews, including an arson attack in 2019 on a Jewish centre in Budapest.

But the EJA conference included a series of speeches and events that presented the country in good light under the Orban government.

Shomo Koves, the country’s Chief Rabbi, told the conference that a study, suggesting Italy and next Hungary, were the two best places in Europe for Jews to live in, showed how over “the past few years Hungarian Jews have felt the situation improve, and we are glad to see that the EJA study supports our feelings. ”

Rabbi Loves claimed: “Rigorous cooperation between the Jewish community and the Hungarian government in recent times has yielded immediate and direct improvements in security, including constitutional and legislative changes and a police focus on handling antisemitic incidents, among other measures.”

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