I must apologise in advance for another Pinter blog but I really can't be blamed if the Great Man makes it a point of popping up in the paper every other week or indeed every single week. The man is undoubtedly a bow of many strings meeting anyone who matters and sounding off on all and sundry and surely I cannot be faulted for trying to play every note.
This time it's a meeting with Ken, or actually two. The first time was when Ken appeared as guest of honour at a dinner for the Side-by-Side children's charity. According to Geoffrey Alderman the invitation was at the instigation of Pinter who is a trustee of the charity. Our own Yaakov Shi’e Rosner also wrote a letter to the Chronicle denouncing Pinter for orchestrating the invitation.
It should be said that Pinter and Side-by-Side are not natural bed fellows. For several years prior to 2003 Side-by-Side had its premises on the grounds in Egerton Road now occupied by Yesodey Hatorah school and adjunct seminary. Side-by-Side had to be evicted by Hackney before handing the site to the school and the case ended up in the High Court where Side-by-Side lost. At that time Side-by-Side was still run by the redoubtable Mrs Rumpler, a truly inspiring woman who singlehandedly set up the school in the face of much communal derision if not outright opposition.
The charity later hit financial difficulties and was taken over by Yossel Margulies. At which point enter our good friend. Nothing to raise an eyebrow as he and Margulies happen to be first cousins and the intermingling of familial and organisational appointments is a particular feature of that clan’s DNA. The only surprise is that while Pinter pops up on this and that board of trustees ‘his own’ organisations are ring-fenced from communal bigwigs other than for ceremonious rollouts on official visits for the cameras.
As we well know, where there's Pinter there's brass which this time came in the shape of a visit from Ken providing yet another photo-op. Not content with the Side-by-Side event the 'rabbi' went one further meeting Ken with a group of Jewish labour councillors. We know only of a single name that attended and, yes, you've guessed it. We also know that the attendees were not the 'usual suspects' which would make Pinter an unusual suspect. Difficult to argue with that one.
Ken's embrace of extremists is no secret and despite Pinter's pleadings he gave no ground at the meeting. Lest Ken is dismissed as just an anti-Zionist but with nothing against Jews per se here is the full transcript of his verbal abuse when comparing a Jewish journalist to a concentration camp guard. It now turns out that at the meeting Ken also suggested that he did not expect Jews to vote for him because votes for the left usually come from the poor and Jews are rich. By contrast at a speech last Friday at the Finsbury Park Mosque Ken said he wished London to be a "beacon that demonstrates the word of the prophet, peace be upon him.” He also pledged to his audience to “make your life easier, financially.” Milking the rich Jews might be a good place to start.
Wonderful bedfellow Pinter has found himself but then what don't some people do in the name of askonus. It is said that Pinter left Hackney politics at the instigation of his father who was concerned at his cosiness with the system and one wonders what his pa would have made of this.
Ken may have a fetish for beards though it could quite simply be that while embracing extremists like Qaradawi it is convenient to have cover provided by a capacious hat. One can't be accused of having an issue with Jews while simultaneously cavorting with Judaism's smiling spokesman. Let us however disabuse Ken of any notion that Pinter can deliver votes in addition to his head gear and beard. Besides the fact that this community is overwhelmingly Tory and that Boris is a firm favourite round here, Ken is detested for many more reasons than his perceived anti-semitism and actual anti-zionism. Ken's cockiness doesn't go down well in a community where parking tickets are one of the hottest topics of conversation and bus lanes something even Pinter campaigned against.
Pinter too is one of the last people capable of bringing votes for anyone other than for his preferred choice of parent governor. He is rarely seen in the flesh round here and virtually never heard other than in the safety of his own school telling parents about the generation gap that apparently exists outside the chareidi community. He may yet turn up on a soap box outside Sainsbury's alongside loonies yelling for the day of judgement but don't hold your breath.
If there is little in it for Ken the question must be asked what's in it for Pinter. He has taken a flutter on the outcome of the mayoral elections and pawned us in the process but whom exactly is he representing and for what purpose? Besides 'his' collection of schools and trusteeships he is also one of three ne'emanim (treasurers) of the UOHC. So was he representing the UOHC at the meeting? If not, would they care to disassociate themselves because he was definitely not representing the bulk of the UOHC's members who would have nothing to do with Ken even if he turned up in a streimel waving a blue and white flag.
Perhaps Pinter is hoping for an honour should Ken win. He may even have been offered a role in a future Ken administration. If the black community can have Lee Jasper why shouldn't we have our own version in the shape of a 'rabbi' and all the other titles he has amassed?
If that is indeed the case let Ken win and let the fun begin.