Thursday, 27 December 2007

How Jews Cause Antisemitism

In my Jewish Chronicle column of 07 December 2007 I posed the question whether Jews cause, to any degree, the prejudice from which they suffer. My column focussed on the anonymous donations made to the Labour party by a Jewish property magnate. A number of correspondents have asked me for other specific examples. Well, here is one, ongoing, that does I think get to the heart of the matter.

In May 2005 the governors of the Beis Soroh Schneirer school for Jewish primary-age girls applied to the London Borough of Barnet for planning permission to convert for their purposes a disused warehouse on an industrial estate in West Hendon. The planning committee, for very cogent reasons, unanimously refused the application. But what the governors had not told the committee was that they intended to move the school into the warehouse whatever the outcome of the application. And on the very next morning after planning permission had been refused builders started converting the warehouse.

Not to put too fine a point on it, the governors had stuck two fingers up at the elected local authority. In mid-September 2005 the school opened for business. Barnet Council issued an enforcement notice, but by this time some 200 girls were already being educated in the converted warehouse. What was the government inspector (who heard the planning appeal) to do but to acquiesce in a fait accompli? He did, it is true, ask the school to make a contribution of £20,000 towards the cost of implementing various traffic management measures. In a typical display of chutzpah the governors pleaded that on the grounds of poverty they could only afford £5,000. More than a little odd – you might think - because the school been able to retain, at the appeal hearing, the services of one of the country’s foremost barristers specialising in town-planning cases.The school’s supporters have alleged that opposition to the school is being fuelled by local Muslims. This is nonsense. The chair of the West Hendon Community Forum happens to have been PA to the late Earl Mountbatten. The Community Forum’s objections have been endorsed by none other than the local MP, Andrew Dismore – and by me (I live less than two miles from the industrial estate in question).

In his ruling the government inspector agreed that the warehouse can continue to be used as a school until 31 December 2008, but ruled that it must meanwhile be genuinely advertised for sale as a building designated for industrial use. Of course, no such advertisement has yet been published. Nor, to the best of my knowledge, has the promised £5,000 contribution towards traffic-management been forthcoming.

The school’s governors and supporters are no doubt feeling very pleased with themselves. But in my view what has really been achieved is the creation of anti-Jewish prejudice where none existed before.

1 comment:

Babak said...

Thank you for this article, I found it very interesting and insightful. It is wrong to blame a group of people for actions of some individuals, but the actions taken by individuals do end up tainting the group.
An example is that of the medias labeling Muslims as 'terrorists' because of individuals, or a small group.