Saturday, 4 September 2010

Reply to Andrew Boff

I posted an article last night which criticised the Hackney Conservative Party for pandering to the needs of the Ultra Orthodox Jewish Community.

Andrew Boff, the Conservative Party's mayoral candidate in Hackney and a member of the London Assembly, replied in the comments section - I'm writing this reply to him as a post because it's easier and people are more likely to read it.

Andrew's first question:

In the article I wrote: "The ideologies of both parties (Lib Dems and Conservatives) can appear submissive to an Ultra Orthodox Jewish agenda."

Andrew Boff asked: "
Is that the agenda in the Protocol of the Elders of Zion or another one?

Blood and Property reply: Apparently the "Protocols of the Elders Zion" were a set of ideas stolen from French literature then falsely presented as a transcript of a secret meeting of Jewish elders. And this story ended up being believed by the likes of Henry Ford and Winston Churchill. (I hope that’s correct I got it from David Aaronovitch's Voodoo Histories).

How does this compare to the “Ultra Orthodox Jewish agenda” that I’m talking about? The agenda I’m talking about is not a secret so I don't think there is much to compare. There is one main issue on it - lobbying to change the borough’s planning rules to allow loft extensions to accommodate large families.

You can read about it here and it is discussed by prominent members of the Jewish community here. It is also reported in the Jewish Chronicle here (Which said: "Ita Symons, chief executive of Agudas Israel Housing Association, which works with the strictly Orthodox population in north London, said Haringey's move was "a real victory for the community. It sets an excellent precedent." She hoped Hackney Council would move similarly to ease the housing problems of local Jewish families.") and there is an interesting piece here, also in the Jewish Chronicle, about the tendency of the Ultra Orthodox Jewish Community to put its own interests above those of neighbouring communities.

I don’t think there’s any controversy in noting that this loft extension policy issue was the main policy objective of the Hackney Conservative group. And is it surprising when the Hackney Conservative group was composed of nine councillors, six them from the Ultra Orthodox Community?

I think Andrew is suggesting that my comments and criticisms are aimed at the Charedi community and might, therefore, be racist. But my criticisms are aimed at the Conservative Party. I think most normal people put their families, communities, religions and ideologies (if they have them), above political parties. So why would an individual temper his or her use of a political party if it is helping with these more important goals?

Andrew's second point:

I wrote: "Now the ideological inconsistencies look a bit raw as the community worst affected by the Con-Lib coalition's policies is the Ultra Orthodox Jewish one."

Andrew Boff asked: "
How so?"

Blood and Property: In Hackney, the coalition government’s decision to cap housing benefit has specifically hit the Ultra Orthodox Jewish community hardest (13% of Hackney benefit cut victims will be Ultra Orthodox Jewish). According to a council document, 213 of Hackney's 1,642 housing benefit claimants - whose rents will no longer be fully covered by benefits if government proposals go through - will be ultra orthodox Jewish (Charedi). The next largest group to be affected by the cuts is white British with 92 claims affected.

Generally the victims of cuts made by the coalition government are discussed in terms of their wealth, location, or age. Not this one, its impact is described in terms of ethnic/cultural identity.

The “ideological inconsistency” being that the Charedi vote was closely associated with the support the Conservative Party seemed to be giving in relation to its housing needs. The friendly support came at a local level and doesn't appear to have had much to do with the aims of the national party.

Some of the ideological inconsistencies are permanent fixtures for any political party dealing with religious communities. Should a member of the Conservative Party – or any party - promote a theocracy above a democracy?

In this old story (Democracy problem in Stamford Hill) the issue of democracy and the Charedi Community was discussed. I'm sure, but I think Andrew would see this kind of story as dangerous and potentially racist because it suggests that democracy is not top of the agenda for Ultra Orthodox Jewish politicians. But I spoke to Ultra Orthodox Jewish councillors from both parties and none of them contradicted the view that Ultra Orthodox politicians avoid standing against each other - which makes democracy a bit of a problem for their constituents - they rarely get a choice. Again, no big secret, just something to try and understand.

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