Board accused of ‘effectively branding the Jewish community racist’

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Board accused of ‘effectively branding the Jewish community racist’

Leading member of group backing Board of Deputies President Marie van der Zyl’s opponent in upcoming presidential election calls Board’s racial inclusivity report a ‘PR disaster’

Lee Harpin is the Jewish News's political editor

Anthony Bolchover
Anthony Bolchover

A member of the group aiming to topple Board of Deputies President Marie van der Zyl in a presidential election has denied the Jewish community “has issues with racial discrimination” and claimed a Board report published last week into inclusivity was a “PR disaster”.

Anthony Bolchover, a core member of the “BoD Caucus group” which aims to have Jonathan Neumann elected as president in next month’s poll, posted a stinging attack on the Board of Deputies’ Commission on Racial Inclusivity on the Jewish Britain Facebook site at the weekend.

The report, authored by Stephen Bush, included calls for an end to racial profiling outside synagogues, the word ‘shvartzer’ to be understood as a racist slur – and criticism of the role the Jewish Britain website played in circulating slurs.

Bolchover, a Union of Jewish Students deputy, responded to a post made on the Facebook site which criticised the Board president to go ahead with the report and claimed Jews “are being branded as racists because of the acts of a non-Jewish security guard.”

The deputy wrote in reply: “The commission is a PR disaster. There has not been any indication that the community has issues with racial discrimination… We do not win friends by embarrassing ourselves and apologising for our existence. The BoD has in effect branded the Jewish community as racist. I hope others at the BoD realise this and we cease becoming the minority dissenting voice.”

Then, in another post Bolchover made further claims about “homophobia” and “Jew hatred” in the Muslim community. He wrote: “Imagine the Muslim Council of Britain doing a commission… No chance would they ever air their dirty laundry publicly.”

Calling for other Deputies to come out in support “with us”, Bolchover then wrote: “If not they are either delusional or have been gaslit for so long that they now suffer from internalised antisemitism or a form of Stockholm syndrome.”

Emails leaked to Jewish News last week showed Bolchover, a fellow for CAMERA on Campus group that monitors media coverage of Israel, playing a leading role in the BoD Caucus group, for whom he has organised meetings.The Facebook site was identified as a source of “racist language” in the Bush’s report and an area for “anti-Muslim” and anti-Black Lives Matters sentiment.

Bolchover, who featured in Jewish News’ ‘25 Under 25’ countdown of young people on the rise in 2020, said: “I am not against racial inclusivity in the Jewish community. However the commission itself was a strategic own goal, and completely unnecessary. At a time when Islamist extremists are throwing old Jewish women off buildings and rounding up the last Jews of Yemen, is this really the main priority for our community? Many Mizrahi and Sephardi Jews I know of feel patronised by woke middle class and predominantly Ashkenazi lefties who think they are there to save them.”

Marie van der Zyl and Joanthan Neumann

Bolchover also told Jewish News he had agreed to with a “particularly strong” article written by Misha Mansoor on the Board Commision’s report which had suggested it had found most communal institutions guilty of racism without considering the evidence.

But responding to the claim at the official launch event at JW3 on Sunday, author Bush said: “I am afraid I do not think Misha can have read the report. She talks about me finding everyone guilty… this is a report to find best practice.”

In a statement responding to Bolchover’s comments, the Board said: “We are proud of the Commission for Racial Inclusivity in the Jewish community, which has received glowing coverage in the Jewish and wider media. Different faith communities, some of whom are doing similar work, have already come forward to ask whether we can share and learn from each other. However, despite the overwhelmingly positive reception, we acknowledge that the hard work starts here. We would urge people to read and internalise the report. Whilst it may make difficult reading in parts, if we implement the recommendations it will make our community more a welcoming and inclusive environment for Jews of minority backgrounds and, indeed, for everyone.”

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