By Ivor BADDIEL, writer and comedian.
If there’s one thing we know about Jews, it’s that they love a committee.
And a sub-committee.
And a sub-committee-sub-committee.
But if I needed a reminder of this fact, I got one, and then some, last week at the European Parliament in Brussels, attending a symposium on anti-Semitism. (Actually, the symposium was called Is Europe Distancing Itself From Its Core Fundamental EU Values? Are Current EU Legal Tools And Mechanisms Enough To Act And React To Anti-Semitism And Hate Crime – but that’s far too long and uses up far too many of my precious words to mention here).
I’d been invited by the European Jewish Congress, with my brother David to present our film, The Y Word. The EJC put us up at a lovely hotel the night before the symposium (I think I’m in love with that word) and wined and dined us.
At a dinner the night before the symposium, we met the community affairs coordinator from an organisation called CEJI, whose tag line was: ‘A Jewish Contribution to an Inclusive Europe’, the ORT Belgium president, the Europe director of the AJC (Global Jewish Advocacy): Transatlantic Institute, someone from a pan-European inter-parliamentary organisation tackling anti- Semitism, another person from another organisation, someone else from…you get the picture.
It seems Europe is swarming with Jewish organisations, all doing great work, especially when it comes to attending dinner parties and symposia (the plural, I presume, of symposium). Seriously though, they are doing great work, but there does seem to be an awful lot of them.
I wonder why Jews are so keen to form committees and organisations; perhaps I’ll form a committee to look in to it, and a sub-committee to monitor the committee, of course.
Arriving at the European Parliament building, I was struck by how much it looked like a multiplex cinema. Security was surprisingly lax. We simply said that we were here for the, wait for it… symposium, and were ushered on. Admittedly, we then had to pass through a metal detector but, for all they knew, I could have been a far-right agitator intent on disrupting things.
We entered a room that was your classic UN semi-circular lecture theatre type thing. It was both magnificent and slightly hilarious to find ourselves there, especially as we were sitting right at the front, on a panel with the chairman, MEP Claude Moraes, and four other speakers. After some faffing, and a quick photo op, things got underway.
As others gave their speeches, I did my best to remain alert and interested –more than can be said for the Israeli ambassador, who dozed off within moments.
All was going well until about halfway through when, inexplicably, an Italian radio station came on over the tannoy. Moraes claimed that in 15 years as an MEP, he’d never known anything like it to happen, and, some even hinted that it was a far-right attempt to sabotage proceedings.
If it was, they failed, as we soldiered on throughout, despite numerous technicians frantically pressing buttons to try to resolve the problem. Things eventually returned to normal and we were introduced. I was up first and explained the background to The Y Word, finishing with: “So, here it is.” I turned around to the screen, fully expecting to see Ledley King opening the film, but alas, nothing.
Clearly, the lax security had let far too many gremlins in and, as yet more technicians appeared, David picked up with the remarks he was going to make after the film.
With the clock ticking, it seemed as if the attendees would be denied the main feature, but with five minutes to go they got it working. I’m pleased to say it was very well received. There was just time to be given yet more business cards by delegates from yet more European Jewish organisations, followed by a couple of quick goodbyes.
Then it was off to catch the Eurostar home, our heads full of symposium, organisations and thoughts as to whether we’ll be invited to show the film in New York at the World Jewish Congress. Just a thought.