Feigned outrage? Board of Deputies member who quit over its opposition to migration bill expressed his ‘UNWAVERING SUPPORT’ just months ago

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Feigned outrage? Board of Deputies member who quit over its opposition to migration bill expressed his ‘UNWAVERING SUPPORT’ just months ago

Khaled Hassan told the Jewish Chronicle he resigned after accusing Marie Van der Zyl of "political grandstanding". But Jewish News can reveal Hassan penned a glowing letter in March fully backing her stance and even condemned those "silencing" the Board on the issue.

Lee Harpin is the Jewish News's political editor

Khaled Hassan and Marie van der Zyl.
Khaled Hassan and Marie van der Zyl.

An elected member of the Board of Deputies, who resigned from the organisation last week citing president Marie van der Zyl publicly voicing concerns over the government’s illegal immigration bill, wrote a glowing letter of approval expressing his “unwavering support” for her position on the same issue just four months ago.

Khaled Hassan, the former deputy for Darlington Reform Hebrew Congregation, told this week’s Jewish Chronicle he resigned from the Board after accusing Van der Zyl of “political grandstanding” by expressing opposition to government legislation, which he claimed had led to a breakdown of relations between the communal organisation and the home office.

But Jewish News can reveal that Hussan, an Egyptian-born former YouTube moderator, wrote a letter to the Board and its president on 10 March this year backing her stance on the bill, and condemning those, such as the Conservative peer Lord Polak who he said were leading a “shocking” attempt to “silence”  the communal body from voicing criticism of home secretary Suella Braverman’s illegal migration bill.

In his letter, Hassan wrote:”I am writing to you to express my unwavering support for the decision to issue a statement condemning the government’s illegal immigration bill.

“Many members of our community, and friends of mine, fled persecution in the Arab world and sought refuge here in the UK. … Many arrived here with nothing more than a suitcase.

Jewish News can reveal that Hussan wrote a letter to the Board on 10 March backing its stance on the bill and condemning those, such as the Conservative peer Lord Polak who he said were leading a “shocking” attempt to “silence”  the communal body from voicing criticism of Suella Braverman’s illegal migration bill.

“Alas they would have fallen under the government’s current, and misleading definition of what constitutes ‘illegal migration.'”.

Hassan’s letter noted that there were “similar protests” against the arrival of Jewish refugees to this country last century and therefore:”We are thus a community that knows very well what it means to have to leave your home, only to find all doors shut.”

He also criticised the peer Lord Polak after he penned an op-ed in the Jewish Chronicle attacking the Board for issuing a statement in March expresssing concerns about the migration bill.

Hassan, an elected deputy since January 2022, wrote in his letter earlier this year to the Board: “If Lord Polak thinks we’re left-leaning, for not supporting a far-right policy, so be it.”

Yet speaking to the Jewish Chronicle this week, Hassan appeared to have totally changed his position, claiming the Board had no authority to take positions on issues that were considered to be divisive.

He claimed that by raising “significant concerns” about the legality of Braverman’s bill, the Board’s relationship with the government was now “completely broken.”

This claim ignored the fact that the Board has continued to engage in meetings with senior government officials since it issued its statement raising concerns that the bill breached both the Refugee Convention and the Human Rights Act, a position supported by numerous legal experts.

Meetings with foreign secretary James Cleverly and another with the chairman of the Conservative Party Greg Hands are a matter of public record, along with a meeting with the faiths minister.

Communities Secretary Michael Gove has also repeatedly praised the Board in the House of Commons, after it backed his controversial anti-BDS legislation.

Jewish convert Hassan further claimed that Van der Zyl and the Board have damaged relations with the Israeli government by being outspoken and “basically boycotting” it.

He cited a statement put out by the Board condemning the far-right minister Bezalel Smotrich ahead of a visit to the UK, which Hussan claimed led to prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu snubbing the Board when he visited this country earlier this year.

But experts on the Israeli PM’s confirm that he has never met with communal organisations in this country for many years, and not as a result of anything connected to the Board.

Meanwhile, the Board president has continued to meet with senior Israeli leaders, including president Isaac Hertzog, on at least three occasions in recent months.

A motion condemning far-right Israeli ministers Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben-Gvir was also overwhelmingly backed by deputies after it was voted on in March.

Hassan also spoke of a scenario in which “the government wanted to push through their immigration scheme to Rwanda”  adding “You cannot have elected representatives of Jewish communities and completely dismiss our views.”

He continued: “I am not against the statement on Rwanda, it’s just a matter of principle.”

But the Board confirmed to Jewish News it had never actually made a statement relating to Rwanda.

The Jewish Chronicle also suggested in its report this week that the Board had been excluded from the first meeting of the home secretary’s Jewish community crime, policing and security task force last month as a result of its stance on the migration bill.

But in reality, apart from the Community Security Trust, which actually tackles security matters, no other communal organisations were involved with the meeting, with senior police and Home Office officials.

Earlier this year Hassan had submitted his own motion suggesting any statements put out by the Board on matters that were of “international or national importance” should be voted on by the membership.

But, following the correct procedure, the Board’s democratically elected executive committee rejected the motion as  “unworkable.”

Board sources also raised concerns about Hussan’s attendance record at meetings since becoming a deputy.

It followed a visit by the Board’s president to a camp for migrants in Dunkirk, northern France, where Van der Zyl, and the Board’s former communities manager, Lauren Keiles met with humanitarian charities on a fact-finding mission to help understand the growing “small boats” asylum crisis.

Jewish News joined the Board on the visit to the camp in April, where Van der Zyl joined aid workers at a food distribution session for migrants at the squalid Grande-Synthe refugee camp.

Van der Zyl recalled how one of the central themes of Judaism,  ahead of the on-coming Pesach festival, was a requirement to “care for the stranger”.

Following Hassan’s decision to resign as a deputy last week after his motion was rejected, a spokesperson for the Board said:”Mr Hassan’s proposal was presented to the Board’s democratically elected Executive Committee. However, after careful analysis the motion was deemed unworkable in practice. As a result a decision was made not to bring the motion to the July plenary meeting.”

Hassan told Jewish News:”I was proud of my support for the Board’s statement on the government’s immigration scheme, as shown in the email dated 10 th of March, 2023, which the Board shared with
Jewish News and the Jewish Chronicle.

“Nevertheless, having spoken to many members of our community, I realised that the statement should have been discussed with the deputies, and only issued if it secures the backing of a majority. Instead, deputies continue to learn about major Board announcements and developments from the press.

“We were not consulted or even informed when the Board issued that statement, or when the President
visited refugee camps in France, and we continue to be marginalised on the most pressing
and controversial issues.

“Therefore, I submitted a notice of motion on the 21 st of April to commit the Board to holding a vote amongst the deputies prior to unilaterally issuing statements, particularly on matters of national, political significance.”

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