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August 9, 2019 11:40 am

British Jews Dismayed by Opposition to Holocaust Memorial Near Parliament

avatar by David Gerstman

Wesminster Palace, home of the UK parliament. Photo: Reuters/Kieran Doherty.

The Board of Deputies, an organization representing the United Kingdom’s Jewish communal leaders, issued a statement on Thursday condemning the expected rejection by the local council of plans to build a Holocaust Memorial near Parliament.

“At a time when antisemitic incidents are at an all-time high, rejecting this vital memorial to Holocaust victims would send entirely the wrong signal to society,” Marie van der Zyl, president of the board said. “Secretary of State Robert Jenrick is right to warn Westminster Council against a calamitous decision that would bring deep international shame on them. We urge anyone thinking of objecting to this project of huge significance to our country, our community and the victims of the evil, Nazi genocide to think again.”

In a report released in February, the Community Security Trust found that in 2018, for the third straight year, the UK experienced a record number of anti-Semitic incidents.

The concern that the council would reject the plans for the memorial emerged after the council’s leader, Nickie Aiken, wrote a critical letter to Ed Balls and Lord Eric Pickles, who co-chair the organization behind the proposed memorial.

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Balls and Pickles had argued that the council was giving too much weight to the number of objections. Aiken, the Jewish News reported, pushed back with a letter countering, “It is difficult to see how your advisors were able to give you the impression that it was the number of objections was the primary concern, given the breadth of the other matters discussed.”

In the same letter, Aiken asserted that application for the memorial “was heading towards an unfavorable recommendation.”

Despite reported objections – including environmental and traffic concerns – to the memorial, the government remains strongly supportive of the project.

“The National Holocaust Memorial and Education Centre has the complete and unshakeable support of the Prime Minister and I,” Jenrick said this week “It is a project of exceptional national significance.”

The building of a permanent Holocaust memorial and education center was supported earlier this year by then-Prime Minister Theresa May and all four living former prime ministers.

In response to the news that the plans for the memorial were “heading towards” rejection, Pickles, on Twitter, asserted, “Victoria Tower Gardens is the best location for the Memorial. Its location will remind visitors that democracy is the final bastion against tyranny, and remind those who work in Parliament that government always has a choice: it can either protect or oppress its citizen.”

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