Home Secretary uses CST speech to criticise the Board

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Home Secretary uses CST speech to criticise the Board

Suella Braverman says 'communal organisations must transcend lines of political difference if they are to legitimately remain representative of their diverse communities'

Lee Harpin is the Jewish News's political editor

Suella Braverman addresses the CST dinner
Suella Braverman addresses the CST dinner

Suella Braverman has used her speech at the Community Security Trust’s annual dinner to launch a thinly veiled attack on the Board of Deputies, after they had earlier this month questioned legal aspects of her illegal migration bill.

In a highly-politicised remarks the home secretary said it was valid for communal organisations to speak out on issues like “opposition to antisemitism”  which she said was  “genuinely in the interests of, and unifying, for the community.”

But she claimed that on “immigration policy” the “difference of opinion within the community” is “along conventional left or right lines” .

Braverman added “communal organisations must transcend lines of political difference if they are to legitimately remain representative of their diverse communities.”

In an apparent further dig at the Board she then claimed “presenting contested political positions as the sentiment of an entire community is a recipe for communal division.”

Praising CST as an organisation “which can transcend lines of political difference” she said this was “more essential than ever for maintaining community cohesion.”

On March 8th the Board had raised “significant concerns” that the illegal migration bill  could “breach both the Refugee Convention and the Human Rights Act.”

The statement echoed fears raised by many lawyers, and by politicians from across all parties.

The Board’s statement had noted how; “Today’s British Jewish community is descended from refugees and/or migrants.”

Jewish News understands that the Board wrote to the Home Secretary in last December and in February requesting a meeting to discuss issues of concern for the community.

But the Home Secretary failed to respond, until the same day as the CST dinner.

But in comments made to the Jewish Chronicle on Wednesday ahead of the CST dinner she said:”The Board chose not to engage with the Home Office before publishing the statement. Had they done so, we would have set out why their assertions on international law are misinformed.”

It is the first time the Board has come under attack from senior political figures in this country since Jeremy Corbyn leadership of the Labour Party, when it regularly faced taunts it was a pro-Tory organisation.

Elsewhere in her speech Braverman claimed the government was tackling antisemitism online through the Online Safety Bill.

She added the “Jewish community has a friend in this government.”

The home secretary then attacked “elements of the left” adding it was a “national shame the hard left had captured one of our main political parties and made it unsafe for Jews.”

She also praised the “leadership of those on the left” like “Lord Ian Austin”  who “spoke out at the time when it was harder to do so.”

Braverman’s speech to a packed audience at a central London hotel on Wednesday night had begun in a less overtly political manner, with repeated references to her familiarity with Jewish life through her husband, Rael who she said was a “proud Jew and a Zionist.”

She drew laughs from the audience as she commended her mother-law’s chicken soap and kneidlach as “the best in the world.”

Braverman said she had “grown to love the Jewish sense of humour” and how her husband “from time to time calls me a mashugana.”

On a more serious note she confirmed government funding for the CST through the Jewish Security Protective Grant would rise by £1 million to £15 million this year.

Braverman then spoke of the Jewish Community Police Crime and Security Task Force, which she would also chair to discuss with “partners” concerns around policing, terrorist threats and hate crime.

She claimed it would “enhance accountability” and CST would be “an integral part of it.”

But one crime expert at the event expressed concerns over the establishment of the body by the home secretary, and argued much of its work was already done by CST.

She added:”Policing is independent, but as home secretary I have a role in setting priorities.”

Braverman suggested one area of counter terroism policing she wished to look into was whether arrests could be made for the carrying political flags, such as those of Hezbollah, rather than officers just “encouraging” protestors not to display them.

“I also want to explore more explicit guidance for police to act where anti-Israel chants or placards become antisemitic,” she said. This included the chant “From the river to the sea.”

Met Police commissioner Sir Mark Rowley was among the guests to attend the CST dinner.

The home secretary condemned the “grotesque” photoshopped images of her recent visit to Rwanda that circulated online.

She said they “diminish the horror and tragedy of the Holocaust.”

At the end of her speech, Braverman was praised by some, but not all who attended the CST dinner.

One communal figure said it was “too overtly political”.

The Conservative peer Lord Leigh wrote:”She was spot on and the speech was very well received in the room.”

Others to attend the dinner included Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, Keir Starmer,  Jonathan Goldstein, Laura Marks, Danny Stone MBE, Dame Margaret Hodge, Lord Pickles, Wes Streeting, and Dame Louise Ellman.

Board officials including vice president Amanda Bowman were present at the CST dinner.

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