Row erupts after Board of Deputies invites Home Secretary Priti Patel for talk

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Row erupts after Board of Deputies invites Home Secretary Priti Patel for talk

One deputy criticised her prior comments about the 'North London metropolitan liberal elite' and policies for refugees, while others claimed it brought the Board 'into disrepute'

Jenni Frazer is a freelance journalist

Priti Patel speaking at Jewish News-BICOM's Israel Policy Conference
Priti Patel speaking at Jewish News-BICOM's Israel Policy Conference

A furious online row has broken out over the Board of Deputies’ announcement that it is holding a discussion with Home Secretary Priti Patel next week. She will be in conversation with the Board’s chief executive, the former Labour MP Gillian Merron. 

Critics and supporters — deputies and those who are not — have clashed on Twitter regarding the invitation to Ms Patel. One deputy, Tal Ofer, said that the invitation “brings the BoD into disrepute. Please cancel it!”

Another deputy, Amos Schonfield, asked the Board why she was being invited, citing her previous comments, referencing a “‘North London metropolitan liberal elite’”. He added, she “is overseeing a dangerous, racist, pro-trafficker refugee policy being given a phat kosher stamp by the Board of Deputies” 

He said that there were many ways in which the Board engaged with politicians, “most usually through private meetings. The publicity around this serves as a hechsher (stamp of approval) which is neither deserved nor earned”. 

Nadine Batchelor-Hunt complained: “A Black migrant drowned in the Channel last month on Priti Patel’s watch, and she still continues to pursue her xenophobic, anti-asylum seeker rhetoric and the Board has said nothing — so no, I won’t apologise for asking the Board to stop using Black Lives Matter to virtue signal”. 

Sociologist Keith Kahn-Harris, who is not a deputy, wrote: “As a Jewish communal body, it’’s the Board’s job to develop workable relations with whoever is in government. But that doesn’t mean public platforms, which implies a closer relationship. Selective racists like Patel thrive on the imprimatur from selected minorities”.

Barrister Simon Myerson, QC, wrote: “I’m not desperate to hear from someone who won’t defend refugees and will attack lawyers for preventing her illegal decisions being carried out. The position should never guarantee the respect. Adults earn respect”. Mr Myerson is not a deputy but is an activist for the Jewish community on social media.

He was challenged by Zionist activist Jonathan Hoffman, who said that Mr Myerson was “wrong” in his assertion that Ms Patel would not defend refugees. Mr Hoffman said: “She simply wants to apply the law to migrants. Surprised a QC has a problem with applying the law”. 

Later Mr Myerson wrote: “The effect of [Ms Patel’s] stance on refugees is racist without question. That troubles my Jewish worldview.”

Sussex Friends of Israel, who support the invitation to Ms Patel, insisted the discussion was important because she is “the Home Secretary, a huge supporter of Israel and a stalwart friend of the Jewish community”.

Board of Deputies President Marie van der Zyl said: The Home Secretary is responsible for the communitys security and leads on the Governments response to antisemitism — both online and offline — issues which Priti Patel has long taken very seriously. This is not least because she has herself faced racist and misogynistic abuse herself as a British Asian woman. This will also be an opportunity to discuss other matters of interest to the community within her brief, including refugees, immigration and cohesion. We encourage all to join the event and submit questions for what should be a very interesting conversation.

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