I’M inviting you to consider, with me, an event as sordid and as grubby as any we’ve witnessed within British Jewry in recent times.
I refer to the recent six-year suspension from the Board of Deputies of Roslyn Pine, an elected representative of the Finchley United Synagogue.
Mrs Pine, once of Manchester, is known for not keeping to herself her forthright views on Islam.
She has in the past allegedly shared a tweet describing Muslims as “the vilest of animals”. Last month, the London Jewish press reported inter alia certain statements she had made relating both to adherents of Islam and more generally to Arabs.
A former deputy, Anthony Tricot, brought these statements to the attention of the Board and, as a result, a subset of the Board’s constitution committee, chaired by my old school chum Tony Leifer, deliberated upon them.
The subset concluded that Mrs Pine had brought the Board into disrepute. And on July 11, the Board’s chief executive, Gillian Merron, informed Mrs Pine that the Board’s executive committee had decided that she “be removed from the position of deputy and suspended from Board activities for a period of six years”.
What offences had Mrs Pine supposedly committed?
She denies sharing a tweet describing Muslims as “the vilest of animals”. But Tony, even if she had shared it, the sharing of a tweet is not necessarily an endorsement of the views expressed therein, is it?
Mrs Pine has certainly declared publicly: “I have an issue with Muslims and Arabs who want to kill us, want to destroy Israel. And that is an Islamic fundamental if you know anything about what the Koran is.”
Well, Tony old chum, so it is. But don’t take my word for it. Read the Koran and the Hadith [Sayings of the Prophet]. Acquaint yourself with numerous declarations made by contemporary Muslim religious leaders, calling for the destruction not merely of Israel but of the Jewish people.
The truth is, Tony, that whatever you and your committee may wish to the contrary, Islam was indeed founded, in part, on the basis of an explicit anti-Jewish discourse.
That’s a historical fact. Watch the three-part TV series The Life of Muhammad, made by Somali-born Muslim journalist Rageh Omaar. I appear in Part 2, making this very point.
Reading through press reports of Tony Leifer’s investigation, I was reminded of the case, almost exactly four years ago, of Antony Cohen, who then sat as a deputy for the Leeds Representative Council.
You may recall that during a debate on the situation in Gaza, Mr Cohen had declared: “I’m going to lay my cards on the table, I don’t care about any Palestinians, I only care about the Jewish people in this country and in Israel. We are facing a tremendous danger.”
Whereupon all hell broke loose.
A gaggle of deputies reported Mr Cohen for alleged racism, and for good measure they were supported by none other than the Board’s then-president,the lacklustre Vivian Wineman.
Not only did Wineman “utterly” condemn and deplore Mr Cohen’s remarks, he ruled that these remarks had “absolutely no place at the Board of Deputies”.
So the remarks were referred to the Board’s constitution committee. But before it could issue any ruling, Mr Cohen was prevailed upon to resign. And all because he had made his own personal views known in public.
In the case of Mrs Pine, what Tony Leifer’s panel decided — and what the Board’s executive committee endorsed — was that, in having exercised her right to freedom of expression, Mrs Pine had brought opprobrium upon the Board, “a body [the panel is rumoured to have alleged] which works hard towards interfaith peace and harmony”.
But, like Mr Cohen, all that Mrs Pine had done was to express her point of view.
I accept that this viewpoint is out of kilter with the interfaith-obsessed current leadership of the Board, headed by Marie van der Zyl, its first bagpipe-playing president.
But Mrs Pine doesn’t have to agree with that viewpoint, and she is under no obligation whatever to support it.
Marie van der Zyl, Gillian Merron and Tony Leifer may be congratulating themselves on having rid the Board of an outspoken deputy, whose appeals to truth they doubtless find uncomfortable and embarrassing.
The truth is that in punishing Mrs Pine for having told the truth, it is they who have brought disrepute upon the Board.
And that, mark my words, is how history will remember them.