A Jewish peer who opposes a new Holocaust memorial in a Royal Park next to Parliament has accused the president of the Board of Deputies of a “slur,” for branding critics of the plans as “anti-Jewish”.
Baroness Ruth Deech, one of eight Jewish peers who have argued that the £100 million should be spent on Holocaust education instead, hit out at the Board’s Marie van der Zyl this week in an increasingly tense war of words.
“It’s such a slur to accuse anyone who opposes that design and that location of being anti-Jewish and opposing remembrance of the Holocaust,” said Deech.
It comes just days after Westminster Council officers were revealed to be “heading towards” recommending that the planning application in the Grade-II listed park be rejected, after a Freedom of Information request revealed fraught correspondence.
The planned memorial, which will include an underground learning centre, is completely unnecessary, argues Deech and others, but former ministers Ed Balls and Lord (Eric) Pickles, who chair the memorial foundation, argue otherwise.
In a statement, the Board president called the memorial at Victoria Tower Gardens “vital” and said Westminster Council’s rejection of the planning application at a time of rising antisemitism “would send entirely the wrong signal to society,” but Deech gave the Board’s “ridiculous” position short shrift.
“Holocaust memorials, sadly, do not appear to do anything to hold back the spread of antisemitism,” she said. “I’m not saying we shouldn’t have another one, but you’ve got to stop and think what it’s supposed to achieve.
“We have five or six in this country already. Across Europe and indeed right around the world there are hundreds of Holocaust memorials and yet, especially in Europe, antisemitism is on the rise. If it’s turned down, put it somewhere else. No one is saying there shouldn’t be one.”
Balls and Pickles riled Westminster Council leader Nickie Aiken earlier this year by suggesting that her planning officers were being swayed by the number of comments opposing the memorial. Since then, the Government has paid a PR consultancy more than £100,000 to generate hundreds of positive comments.
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