Unanswered questions for Chief Rabbi Schudrich

Chief Rabbi Schudrich's appearance on the Today programme answers two of Left Foot Forward's questions but uncertainties remain.

Left Foot Forward yesterday asked Poland’s Chief Rabbi, Michael Schudrich, five questions. His appearance on the Today programme this morning appears to have answered two of those questions but uncertainties remain. In particular, was Schudrich leant on to clarify the remarks he originally made to the New Statesman?

On the Today programme this morning, Schudrich said:

“Mr Kaminski, as I said previously, as a teenager did join an organisation in Polish known as NOP whch is unfortunately openly anti-semitic and neo-nazi. He also quit that organisation as a teenager. Concerning Kaminski’s commments on Jedwabne, I completely disagree with his stance.

But that is also something that we have to take into consideration that since that time he has become a strong ally of the state of Israel and on other occasions has condemned anti-semitism.

So what we have here is a complicated person. And we need to be able – in order to understand him – to understand him in a fuller context not taking one thing he said but taking a look at what he has said over the past 20 years. Not ignoring the fact that he was a member of NOP as a teenager, which was a serious thing that he did and something that I would not defend and find problematic. On the other hand, I would not define him in his totality as what he did as a young man but rather look at what he has done over the last several years and here he has been a serious ally to the state of Israel.”

This statement answers two of the questions posed by Left Foot Forward:

  • How can a former member of “a group that is openly far right and neo-nazi” also be a “friend of Israel”?
  • Do you have a view on Michal Kaminski’s statement that: “If you are asking the Polish nation to apologise for the crime made in Jedwabne, you would require from the whole Jewish nation to apologise for what some Jewish communists did in eastern Poland.”

But three questions remain unanswered:

  1. Has any member of the British Conservative party been in contact to ask you to make this new statement?
  2. Has anyone who works for Policy Exchange been in contact to ask you to make this new statement?
  3. Has anyone from the Polish Law and Justice party been in contact to ask you to make this new statement?

The row over Michael Schudrich’s blew up after the Jewish Chronicle reported yesterday that Policy Exchange had this week received an email from the Chief Rabbi. Earlier this month Toby Helm reported an incident at Conservative party conference where Dean Godson, Research Director on Foreign Policy and Security at Policy Exchange, “launched a tirade” against Vivian Wineman, president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, and Labour peer Greville Janner, who had criticised the appearance of Michal Kaminski and Robert Zile of Latvia’s For Fatherland and Freedom party at Conservative party conference:

“Godson accused them of ‘a certain form of left McCarthyism’ and of deliberately invoking the memory of the Holocaust to harm the Tories.”

Dean Godson has been described by Spinwatch as “one of the best-connected neoconservatives in Britain.” Both he and Schudrich have been published by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.

The question remains. Did Policy Exchange, the Conservative party, or the Polish Law and Justice party lean on Michael Schudrich to clarify his original statement?

UPDATE

The Chief Rabbi and I had an exchange of emails over the weekend:

SCHUDRICH:

I hope that my interview on BBC has clarified your questions.
All the best,
Michael Schudrich

STRAW:

Thanks very much for replying – I appreciate it.
Your BBC interview certainly clarified questions 1 & 5 but I would be interested to know whether your email to Policy Exchange (quoted in the jewish chronicle) was spontaneous or a response to communications from the british conservative party, law & justice party or the Policy Exchange think tank.
Best wishes,
Will

SCHUDRICH:

Several people from different backgrounds have contacted me concerning the question of Mr. Kaminski.  I listened to them all and ( as always) made up my own mind.  No one tells a New Yorker what to say ( I am originally from NY).

17 Responses to “Unanswered questions for Chief Rabbi Schudrich”

  1. unseen

    “How can a former member of “a group that is openly far right and neo-nazi” also be a “friend of Israel”?”

    The Pope is a former member of a neo-Nazi group.

  2. Left Foot Forward

    Unanswered questions for Chief Rabbi Schudrich @iaindale @TimMontgomerie //bit.ly/2SiOEa

  3. Labour List

    RT @LeftFootFwd Unanswered questions for Chief Rabbi Schudrich //bit.ly/2SiOEa

  4. Mohammed Ahmed

    RT @LabourList RT @LeftFootFwd Unanswered questions for Chief Rabbi Schudrich //bit.ly/2SiOEa

  5. Guido Fawkes

    Lets get real, you have a loose cannon in James Macintyre who makes things up. He put words into the rabbi’s mouth, the rabbi has very clearly said he was misquoted and is very angry about the headlines that Macintyre fabricated. Back in the day when Kaminski was involved with NOP it was a patriotic anti-communist group. It was only in later times, when Kaminski was many years gone, that it got taken over by nutters. End of story.

    Macintyre has called a senior mainstream politician of the governing party of Poland a “neo-nazi”. That is a disgusting allegation made for the pettiest of partisan reasons. It is beyond hyperbole, it is an outright lie.

    Jewish politcal figures have told me personally that they have investigated the issue and are in no doubt that Kaminski is being smeared without foundation for partisan reasons.

    It is becoming a sick joke when major figures like the editor of Britain’s Jewish Chronicle, incidentally a former Fabian Society leader, and the spiritual leader of Poland’s Jewish community are ignored and a low rate, disgrace to the profession of journalism like Macintyre is taken seriously.

  6. James Smith

    >Unseen

    No, the Pope wasn’t a membert of a neo-Nazi group. He was a member of a Nazi group! (The Hitler Youth).

  7. Sunder Katwala

    * Guido “end of story” appears to have been misinformed. Kaminski has claimed he was in the NOP only between 1987 and 1989, under Communism, yet The Telegraph has reported that the party records show he was a member between 1989 and 1991, and so after Communism.

    * If Guido looked into it, he might also find out that he is wrong about who the Polish governing party is. Law and Justice do hold the Presidency, but they have been replaced in government by a much more sensible centre-right Civic Forum led coalition, which would be much more in line with modern centre-right Conservatives. after the 2007 elections, when the Law and Justice government fell apart.

    * It is clear that the Chief Rabbi stands by the comments made about the NOP and Jewadbne, but now also places emphasis on Kaminski’s record since 2001. None of that goes against the NS report.

    * I think it is ludicrious and offensive when, as well as the New Statesman, journalists such as Toby Helm, Jane Merrick, Martin Bright at the Jewish Chronicle are asking proper investigative questions, the declaration is made that these are partisan smears. I remember Martin Bright running a documentary and series of articles scrutinising the Labour candidate for London Mayor last year, so clearly this is nonsense.

    * I think it is quite legitimate to say that Kaminski’s views have changed – though it is also worrying that he continues to call for a general Jewish apology over Jewadbne. It is, however, very obvious that Kaminski’s own account of his own history has very often proved to be false about the absolutely central details – such as his claim this July to have always supported the Jewadne apology (even suggesting he may have attended it, but could not remember, in an interview with Toby Helm of The Observer) and his claim to have never called for a Jewish apology (which he then repeated).

    So if we are to get to the truth of this, it seems very clear that relying on Kaminski’s own account would be an error, and verifying claims against independent sources is essential.

  8. Dave Cole

    The situation with the NOP is rather more complicated than you claim, Guido. When it was set up in ’81, it claimed to be a revival of the National Radical Camp, ONR, which was openly and violently anti-Semitic. ONR split into two groups, one of which, ONR-Falanga (which advocated something similar to Franco in Spain) used the Chrobry sword as its emblem; the same logo is used by the NOP.

    NOP was anti-communist; so was General Franco. NOP considered itself patriotic or nationalist; so did Franco. Those two things don’t mean that the rest of a group’s policies aren’t repulsive.

    It is, of course, possible that the NOP started off as a bunch of anti-Semites, briefly weren’t while Kaminski happened to be a member, and then became ant-Semitic again. It’s also possible that it’s something being said for “the pettiest of partisan reasons”.

    Just to clarify, Guido – are you saying that the emails published on the NS website are a forgery?

  9. WP

    Out of interest, is your quote the entirety of what Kaminski said? It seems rather short. Yesterday, we had the full exchange verbatim.

    Of your questions that remain “unanswered,” it seems you largely accept the position put forward by the Rabbi in defence of Kaminski – i.e. the substance of the argument, that the Rabbi does not consider Kaminski be anti-semitic?

    Whether anybody asked the Rabbi to clarify his statement doesn’t appear to be terribly relevant. Its clear that despite the fact that the Rabbi disagrees with a number of the positions taken by Kaminski (and from this, you can fairly assume that he hasn’t been pressured into taking a particular line), he fundamentally disagrees with the assertion that he is anti-semitic.

    It seems that the likes of Milliband have become so entrenched in their position that nothing the Rabbi might say will cause them to change their position – partisan politics at its worst in my view.

  10. willstraw

    WP,

    The transcript is just the answer to the first question on Todat. Listen on the BBC website if you want the rest. We are under-resourced so have to make a decision about how much to transcribe – hope you understand.

    The question we asked was how Schudrich could square his comments to the New Statesman with those to Policy Exchange. He was essentially saying today that yes Kaminski had been in an “anti-semitic and neo-Nazi” group but that was roughly 20 years ago and Kaminski is no longer an anti-Semite. We accept that this is a reasonable position.

    Miliband’s remarks have always centred on Kaminski’s “anti-semitic, neo Nazi past”. These comments are entirely consistent with what Schudrich said today.

    It’s important to know why Schudrich has chosen to wait until now to clarify the remarks he made to the New Statesman in July. If it is due to pressure from Conservative party politicians or associates it would, presumably, reflect their attempts to deflect attention away from the other serious allegations made against Kaminski and other members of the ECR which this website and others have highlighted.

    The important point is that the Tories actively split from the EPP, actively
    sought out new partners, and actively appointed Kaminski as chair of their group.

    Will

  11. WP

    No problem re: transcript, just an observation.

    Fair, Miliband remarks may have always centred on Kaminski’s “anti-semitic, neo Nazi past”. However, clearly it is wrong to brand Kaminski as an anti-semite (which is the effect of Miliband’s intervention, irrespective of the fact he has only referred to his past). Given that this clearly reflects on the Tories, I would think it understandable that they would want to do whatever they can to refute the allegations.

    Finally, I’m not so sure you’ve hit upon the most important point. On a day when we have found out that Britain is the major global economy still in recession, many in the press still seem to be focussing on this comparatively minor issue – an attempt to deflect attention?

  12. WP

    One further observation. On the basis of the following comment on Nick Robinson’s blog, it would seem your remaining concerns are not the same as DM’s?

    “Labour MP Denis MacShane has indeed claimed that this morning’s interview changes nothing and that the chief rabbi “does not clear Kaminski”, adding: “until Mr Kaminski expresses full and unreserved regret over what he said and did in relation to the Jedwabne massacres I will continue to criticise the Tory alliance with him.”

  13. Liberal Conspiracy » Conservative Party in deep trouble over Europe

    […] if you want to get to the nitty gritty, LFF has a good question on this morning’s events: Did Policy Exchange, the Conservative party, or the Polish Law and […]

  14. Fayyaz Muneer

    So you guys are happy to quote the good Rabbi if he makes the Tories look bad, but as soon as you realise Miliband et al. have been misquoting him, he has suddenly been leant on by people?
    Intellectual integrity fail.

  15. willstraw

    WP – thanks for the comments. I have a number of concerns and see this issue as a bit of a sideshow (but an important one). The deeper point, made by the Economist and Toby Helm today, is that the Tories, by aligning with the ECR, have diminished their own influence in Europe and Britain’s if they won the election.

    The economy is another important issue but I think it’s fair to say that it was yesterday’s news and covered widely in this morning’s papers. Schudrich/Kaminski is today’s news.

    Fayyaz – I don’t accept that Miliband has misquoted Schudrich. They are, in fact, consistent:

    David Miliband, 1 October: “a man denounced by the Chief Rabbi of Poland for an anti semitic, neo Nazi past”

    Chief Rabbi Schudrich, 30 October: “as a teenager [Kaminski] did join an organisation in Polish known as NOP which is unfortunately openly anti-semitic and neo-nazi. He also quit that organisation as a teenager.”

    The questions to Schudrich are important because, as I said before, if the Tories did lean on Schudrich it would reflect a desire to deflect attention away from the wider problems with the ECR that I mention above.

  16. Billy the Kid

    Will. If you are hoping for a future in politics you need to distance yourself from this topic and do it quickly.

    Fact is that Banana Boy Milliband is part of a government on (mercifully) borrowed time.

    The Millibands, both of them, have the intellect of school children.

    The fact they hold high office in the UK and in David Millibands case he lies and insults this guy in a desperate attempt to smear the tories is a disgrace.

    The British government should be above this – I know to look at a defence secretary as bad as Ainsworth is terrible enough – but for the UK to have these thickets as ministers looks really bad on the world stage.

    Back off from it Will is my advise.

    I understand you need to show loyalty to your dad – that’s ok – but anything else think hard before supporting the unsupportable.

  17. Aaron Nigelfeld

    I think it is ludicrious and offensive when, as well as the New Statesman, journalists such as Toby Helm, Jane Merrick, Martin Bright at the Jewish Chronicle are asking proper investigative questions, the declaration is made that these are partisan smears. I remember Martin Bright running a documentary and series of articles scrutinising the Labour candidate for London Mayor last year, so clearly this is nonsense.

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