Writing in this week’s Jewish Chronicle, Jonathan Freedland defends Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg against Martin Bright’s recent attack on him over his failure to boycott representatives of the East London Mosque:
Wittenberg is not the only rabbi to have had dealings with the ELM. Just weeks ago, four rabbis – including the Orthodox Dayan Binstock – spoke at the mosque’s community centre. Yet the JC has not denounced Binstock as a “useful idiot”, nor has it railed against the Orthodox Fieldgate Street Great Synagogue, whose president tells me they have a “wonderful relationship” with the nextdoor ELM. In fact, I’ve separately learned the shul was delighted to accept a £5,000 contribution from the mosque towards a new roof – made with no publicity – and was touched when the mosque halted building work to ensure they could daven undisturbed on Yom Kippur. Are the Fieldgate Street congregants “useful idiots” too?
Freedland points out that, according to Bright’s reasoning:
The safest response would be to circle the wagons and meet no-one outside. That way we could be sure there were no unsavoury characters lurking in the shadows. We would talk only to ourselves.
Nonsense, comes the reply: there are plenty of Muslim moderates we could meet. Trouble is, most are rapidly deemed beyond the pale by our community’s self-appointed gatekeepers. Mohammad Aziz of the ELM, for one, has impressed Jewish groups with his openness and … attended Limmud. But he has been monstered by the anti-Islamist Harry’s Place blog as a dangerous radical. Are there more than a handful of Muslim leaders the watchdogs would deem acceptable?