This Writer came in for some flack a couple of days ago after I characterised the Board of Deputies of British Jews as undemocratic and unrepresentative.
A person on Twitter claimed that the BoD, that has managed to get eight of the Labour leadership and deputy leadership candidates to sign up to its 10 pledges intended to seal its anti-Semitism witch-hunt into party policies (see my recent articles), is democratic because it has elections.
Well, I did a bit of research, going to Jewish sources.
According to Jewish Voice for Labour – which I certainly trust more than the Board of Deputies itself or that organisation’s Wikipedia page – this is the situation:
The Board’s claim to be democratic is, however, distinctly tenuous. There are no British Jewish elections, no direct way for all British Jews to directly elect the board’s 300 Deputies. To be involved in electing Deputies, one must be a member of one or more of approximately 138 synagogues, or be connected to one of 34 ‘communal organisations’ (such as the UJIA or Reform Judaism) that are affiliated with the Board, all of which elect one to five Deputies—anyone not involved with these institutions does not have a vote, despite the Board still claiming to speak on their behalf. Inevitably, some individuals may be represented multiple times, through being members of more than one organisation.
The biggest problem, however, is with the elections held by affiliate organisations to select their deputies—it is these that justify the Board’s claim to be a representative democracy. Transparency is a fundamental requirement of democracy—there needs to be openness as to who the electorate is and how many of them turn out in order for any election to be considered legitimate. Despite its own constitution obliging it to receive the data (Appendix A, Clause 3: “the election shall not be validated unless the form incorporates… the total number of members of the congregation… and the number who attended the election meeting”), the Board does not release a list of the membership size or the numbers voting in each affiliate organisation, and claims to have no idea what the numbers might be. The Board’s spokesman explained to me that, “While we do need to be more thorough in collecting statistics, these figures wouldn’t add anything—they don’t speak to the democratic legitimacy of the organisation or to anything else.” This seems extraordinarily complacent—can we imagine a British election in which the size of the electorate, the list of candidates standing, and the turnout remained secret? It would be regarded as an affront to democracy.
So there you have it.
There are indeed elections for the Board of Deputies…
But they are an “affront to democracy”.
And this is the organisation that dares to lecture Labour on its policies, practices and procedures?
The members of Labour cannot allow anyone who supports this group’s bigoted demands to have a senior role in the party.
I tweeted Jennie Formby, the party’s general secretary, to ask if there was a system by which the membership could hold a “no confidence” vote in the current election process.
But she hasn’t even had the courtesy to respond.
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