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Board meets Baroness Symons

Last updated: 2004-09-07

Board leaders met Baroness Symons, Minister of State at the Foreign Office, to discuss the Middle East and international antisemitism. 

The Board delegation comprised President Henry Grunwald, Vice Presidents Jerry Lewis and Flo Kaufmann and Director General Neville Nagler. 

Henry Grunwald told Baroness Symons that the Jewish community was highly critical of the British Government's support for a recent United Nations resolution acknowledging the Advisory Opinion issued by the International Court of Justice on Israel's security barrier.  The barrier, which had led to a 90% reduction in terrorist attacks, was clearly saving the lives of both Israelis and Arabs and reducing tensions which terrorism inflamed. 

It was not in Britain's interest to align itself with those states which automatically condemn Israel for any action it takes to protect its citizens. The Board asked for an assurance that the government would refrain from supporting any future resolutions of this kind in UN bodies.  Baroness Symons explained that the government recognised Israel's right to defend itself and its right to build a barrier on Israeli territory, but considered that the construction of this barrier on occupied territory was illegal. The UK had decided to support the resolution after ensuring that it referred to Israel's legitimate security concerns and to the need for both Israel and the Palestinian Authority to respect international law.  The British government would examine carefully the language of any future UN resolution before deciding how it would vote.

The Board also urged the government to support and sponsor a proposed UN resolution on antisemitism: this resulted from the OSCE conference held in Berlin in April.  Baroness Symons said that the government would be discussing this shortly with its EU partners.  The Board emphasised its condemnation of all forms of racism, whilst insisting that antisemitism had many unique characteristics. The OSCE had recognised this in calling for a detailed programme of action.  The Board hoped that the British government would support a proposal, which already had the backing of several governments, for the OSCE to appoint a Special Representative on antisemitism. The Board urged the government to take all necessary steps to implement the declaration which it had signed in Berlin.

Following the meeting, Henry Grunwald commented:  "We welcomed Baroness Symons' willingness to listen to our concerns and appreciate her promise to relay them to the Foreign Secretary.  We attach great importance to the government living up to its proclaimed commitments to support the legitimate needs of Israel to protect its citizens and stem the growth of antisemitism in all parts of the world.  We also raised with Baroness Symons our worries, which we know the government shares, about Iran's developing nuclear technology and support for terrorism and Syria's recent interference in the political arrangements in Lebanon."