Fisking David Rosenberg’s Open Letter to the new Labour Leader

Dear Sir Keir,

Congratulations on winning the Labour leadership contest. What a shame you weren’t the leader in 2016, instead of Corbyn  – who was almost invisible during the referendum campaign. Had we had a decent Leader of the Opposition who campaigned to remain with knowledge and enthusiasm, the result may well have been different.

One of your first acts as leader was to write – on the same day you were elected (4 April) – to Marie van der Zyl, the President of the Board of Deputies. And today you met her (by video) and other Community leaders.

A chap called David Rosenberg has written to you in the hope that you will also meet a group called Jewish Voice For Labour. I strongly suggest you ignore him. This would not be a good use of your time.  JVL was concocted by Corbyn’s inner circle to whitewash Labour antisemitism. They are a minuscule group of antisemitic extremists and Holocaust revisionists.

As for David Rosenberg, he is a serial liar who smeared me at a public meeting.

Rosenberg’s letter to you contains more lies.  He suggests that the Board of Deputies ‘has a severe democratic deficit’ because its members are ‘mostly elected through synagogues in uncontested elections. At least until recently, some of these synagogues were denying women members a vote for their representatives.

One, membership of the Board is open to any Jewish organisation – not just synagogues.

Two, it is simply not true that most Deputies are elected unopposed. And even if it was, so what? How democratic are some Labour seats in Parliament eg Knowsley (Labour majority 39,942)? A parrot wearing  a red rosette would win them.

Three, it is at least 30 years since female members of all synagogues were given the vote to vote for their Deputy. Women who were members in their own right (ie unmarried or widowed) have had the vote since 1955.

Rosenberg asserts that the Jewish Leadership Council is ‘entirely unelected’.  Not surprisingly he clearly doesn’t understand the nature of the JLC. Like the Conference of Presidents in the US, the JLC is a group of Jewish communal organisations who believe that they can enhance their effectiveness by coming together for some functions. Some of those organisations have elected leaders – like the Board of Deputies. Others – like Chai Cancer Care – are charities subject to Charity Commission regulation. The democratic template is just not appropriate for a charity. The same goes for a security organisation such as the CST.

Rosenberg tells you incorrectly that ‘the key decisions of the Board are made by paid officers’. A lie. The ‘paid officers’ of the Board are akin to civil servants. Decisions are made by elected Deputies. Similarly it is a lie that ‘the ultra-orthodox don’t recognise the authority of the Board’. The Board represents all Jews. The ultra-Orthodox synagogues have not joined the Board because the Reform and Liberal synagogues are members. It is a theological issue.

Rosenberg’s claim that ‘secular’ Jews are not represented by the Board is utter rubbish. The Board represents all Jews and not all Deputies practise the religion. And many organisations which are not synagogues are members of the Board.

Rosenberg claims that 50% of Jews are ‘secular’.  This figure is ‘fake news’ – pure fiction, plucked from the air. Just as As-A-Jew Robert Cohen plucks 25% out of the air for the same people.

The most recent estimate for synagogue membership is for 2016, from the Institute for Jewish Policy Research (JPR). An estimated 56.3% of all households across the UK with at least one Jew living within them held synagogue membership. ‘Households’ – not individuals. This means that at least 70% of individual Jews are affiliated to a synagogue.

In any case not being a member of a synagogue does NOT mean that a Jew shuns all religious practices, far from it. His/her children may attend a Jewish school, they may buy kosher food, they may wish that their baby boys are circumcised, they may be a victim of antisemitism. In all these cases and more, the Board of Deputies helps them and represents them to the government if necessary.

Rosenberg claims that ‘The BoD record in opposing antisemitism is a very chequered one, to put it charitably.’ More bullsh*t. For example Stephen Sizer’s departure from his Church of England post was entirely due to the resolute work of Jonathan Arkush, the immediate Past President of the Board.  (Of course Rosenberg doesn’t accept the definition of antisemitism!).

Jonathan Arkush did NOT ‘heap lavish praise “on behalf of Britain’s Jews” on Donald Trump, when he was elected US President.’ Here is the Board’s statement. It was common courtesy to recognise the democratic choice of the American electorate but you can see for yourself how the statement was hedged around with reservations about Trump’s conduct. Rosenberg is lying.

Rosenberg attacks the Jewish Labour Movement because to join JLM ‘you do have to sign up to an explicitly Zionist constitution.Zionism means self-determination of Jews within the land of Israel. To oppose that is antisemitic, see IHRA Definition. Hardly surprising that the *JEWISH* Labour Movement does not accept antisemites as members! Rosenberg claims that this ‘excludes a large proportion of Jewish Labour Party members’. Another lie. There is no reason to think that Jewish Labour Party members have different attitudes to Israel from Jews in general. The most recent JPR research (from 2010) found that 90% of UK Jews ‘see Israel as the ancestral homeland of the Jewish people’ and 72% regard themselves as Zionists.

Rosenberg claims there is a multitude of leftist Jews who cannot join JLM because they object to Israel’s policies or the Nation State Law. Another red herring. JLM does not require you to sign up to these policies.

Rosenberg claims (1) that he has attended many anti-racist and anti-fascist protests and (2) that he has never seen anyone from the Board, JLM or the CST at these protests.

Well the nastiest antisemitic demonstration is the Annual Al Quds Day March organised by Iran. I’ve protested against it for at least the past ten years. I’ve never seen Rosenberg or indeed any JVL members at the counter-demo (the ones I would recognise eg Secker, Idrissi, Cushman, Rosenhead, Manson, Levane, Bash). In fact Secker has been on the platform at such an event, on the wrong side!

Finally in support of his plea that you should meet JVL, Rosenberg says that JLM members only campaigned in a handful of constituencies in the 2019 election. Well there’s a reason for that Sir Keir. JLM quite correctly did not wish to endorse candidates who had failed to speak out about Corbyn’s failure to address Labour’s antisemitism problem.

Sir Keir, in the interest of making Labour electable again I am sure you will wish to ignore Rosenberg and JVL – just as you have purged the Shadow Cabinet of the worst Corbynites and are doing the same with the Staff.

Jonathan Hoffman