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Britain’s Labor Leader Courts Jewish Vote for May Elections

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With general elections set for May 9, Labor Party leader Neil Kinnock is unabashedly courting the Jewish vote.

He promised this week that a Labor government would establish a policy of “friendship and support” of Israel, fight racism at home and abroad and support religious schools of all denominations in Britain on an equal basis.

But Kinnock pressed a wrong button when he said a Labor government would investigate the labeling of meat slaughtered by religious methods.

According to Isaac Rubin, chairman of the Shechitah Committee of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, the proposal “is a way of stopping shechitah (ritual slaughter) through the back door” and the board is “strongly opposed.”

Kinnock said that “many people with an interest in animal welfare are troubled by the issue of religious slaughter of animals. I think it would be wrong to impose a party line on what would be a matter of conscience,” he said.

But, he added, “as part of our overall program to provide consumers with full information about the food they buy, we will investigate means of ensuring that meat slaughtered by religious methods is properly labeled as such.”

Kinnock did not say how Labor’s Middle East policy differs from the Conservative government’s.

Labor has a clear commitment to Israel’s peace and security. But it supports a freeze on settlements in the administered territories, Kinnock explained. He said he is delighted Palestinian negotiators are participating in peace negotiations.

The Labor Party leader said there is a need to arrest the proliferation of arms in the Middle East. The Conservative government, he charged, is an “enthusiastic participant” in arms sales to the region.

ALARMED BY RISING ANTI-SEMITISM

Kinnock said Labor is alarmed by growing racism and anti-Semitism in Europe, which “condemns individuals to live in fear.”

He said the next Labor government would also examine, “as a matter of urgency,” the definition of discrimination in the law “to ensure that discrimination on grounds of race and religion is effectively countered.”

Kinnock promised that under a Labor government, the fight against racism would be a central feature of Britain’s presidency of the European Community. Britain will take over the rotating chairmanship of the E.C. Council of Ministers on July 1 for a six-month stint.

A Labor administration would press for a Europe-wide race discrimination act, he said.

Finally, the Labor leader promised that his government would review the 1988 Education Act which prescribes, among other things, that religious education in schools should be “in the main Christian.”

He said the review would be conducted in consultation with religious and communal organizations.

Furthermore, his party is committed to the system of religious schools which are partially aided by the government and for which parents then pay a reduced fee. Such schools should be open to all communities on an equal basis, Kinnock said.

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