Board president and Robert Halfon ‘deeply regret’ public spat
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Board president and Robert Halfon ‘deeply regret’ public spat

Senior Tory MP and Marie van der Zyl issue joint statement following row, in which the Board was accused of being a 'political broadcasting service' for Labour

Rob Halfon and Marie van der Zyl
Rob Halfon and Marie van der Zyl

The Board of Deputies president and a senior conservative MP have issued a public statement to end an unseemly public spat.

Robert Halfon and communal leader Marie van der Zyl held a phone conversation following a heated public disagreement, after the MP branded the organisation a “political broadcasting service” for the Labour Party.

In statement released by van der Zyl and the Harlow MP, they said: “We deeply regret this weekend’s exchange. Going forward, we will endeavour to share any concerns in private first. We discussed our shared agenda around issues like antisemitism, Israel and Jewish schools – issues on which we recognise each other’s valuable work – and will be focusing our future conversations on these matters for the good of the community.”

This comes after the former deputy chair of the Conservative Party accused the Board of having failed to wish Prime Minister Boris Johnson well as he recovers from Covid-19. In a devastating attack, the MP for Harlow told the Jewish Chronicle he believed the Board requires “radical reform” and does not represent Tory MPs who work “day and night for the Jewish community”.

Marie van der Zyl

Van der Zyl hit back with a long statement on Facebook, questioning Halfon’s “courage and integrity”.

She wrote: “Robert Halfon’s central contention is very strange. After four and a half years of Jeremy Corbyn and Labour antisemitism, the community’s interest is not in ignoring Labour and letting our enemies fill the void, but rather challenging the new leadership to reverse the hostility of the previous regime, and that is exactly what we are doing.

“That the JC was prepared to take Mr Halfon’s version of events at face value is bizarre given that they themselves have reported facts which point to the opposite of what he says. For example, for me the saddest part about this article is the disingenuous suggestion that the Board failed to ask after the welfare of the Prime Minister who is now thankfully out of hospital and will be returning to work tomorrow. The JC knows that on 5 and 6 April the Board issued statements wishing the Prime Minister well. These were both reported in the Jewish press. The JC themselves wrote a story about the Board’s second statement after the PM was moved to ICU.”

She questioned his “courage and integrity” after the MP didn’t respond to the Board’s attempts to contact him.

Robert Halfon MP has been approached for comment.

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