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14 October 2009

Political neutrality and the Jewish Chronicle

Is the voice of Anglo-Jewry cosying up to the Tories?

By Julian Kossoff

Guest post from Julian Kossoff

The Kaminski affair was the freaky sideshow of the Tory party conference in Manchester. David Cameron and his handlers toiled hard to kill allegations that the Polish MEP Michal Kaminski, Cameron’s new best friend in Europe, had an unsavoury anti-Semitic and homophobic track record, dismissing this as a Guardian/Labour stitch-up.

But by the middle of the week they were upended when the Board of Deputies of British Jews (the representative body of Britain’s 300,000 Jews) asked “discreet” questions about Kaminski, the man now entrusted with leadership of the European Conservatives and Reformists Group.

What is Anglo-Jewry to make of this row?

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Well, naturally, they would turn to the Jewish Chronicle — the leading Jewish voice in the UK — to find out more.

However, the JC has now become part of the story, in the shape of its respected editor, Stephen Pollard.

Pollard has made the unprecedented decision to use the considerable authority of his position to back Kaminski, despite compelling evidence that the MEP is, at least, a former fellow-traveller of Polish anti-Semitism.

The move is raising great concern that Mr Pollard has broken the JC’s historic covenant with its readers to remain non-partisan, undermining its credibility as a “broad synagogue” inclusive of the differing opinions in a diverse community.

Pollard’s gift of a “kosher” seal of approval for Kaminski has been a godsend for the Conservatives, but has left others wondering why the JC editor has cheerled so hard for an obscure professional politician from Poland. The question is whether, in doing so, he has betrayed the memory of the Polish Jews massacred at Jedwabne in 1941.

Indeed, Pollard repeatedly rubbished claims that Kaminski had drawn (anti-Semitic) parallels between that blood-curdling pogrom, committed during the Nazi occupation, and so-called Jewish collaboration with the Soviets, only for Kaminski to repeat these thoughts in an exclusive JC interview on Friday.

The following day, again in the JC, it was reported that Kaminski had also recanted previous denials that he had worn a Polish fascist symbol.

But this did not stop Pollard lambasting the Board of Deputies for its “catastrophic lack of judgement” (the words “pot” and “kettle” spring to mind) for requesting information on Kaminksi in the middle of the Tory conference. He denounced them as tools of New Labour — yet what does such a vociferous and misjudged defence of a European anti-federalist make him?

Pollard has been left balancing on the pinhead argument that Kaminski is pro-Israel. However, many on the European right admire Israel as a bulwark against Islamic militancy, and not because of any feelings of fondness towards Jews in their own backyard.

As Pollard’s strained self-justification built to a crescendo, members of his own editorial team have looked on aghast.

With a general election imminent, it is vital that the JC re-establish its all-important role as the independent voice of Anglo-Jewry.

Julian Kossoff was a senior reporter at the Jewish Chronicle from 1988-95

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