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Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Independent Jewish Voices - an addition to the anti-Israel lobby?

Yet another group of anti-Israel Jews has been formed.
It is not clear if this group is anti-Zionist, just critical of the occupation, or a catch-all of the discontented.
According to the Independent:
Supporters hope to create an opportunity for Jews of different political affiliations to express opinions "without being accused of disloyalty or being dismissed as self-hating", said a spokeswoman. "The idea is to create a platform for critical debate about the situation in the Middle East that until now has not existed."
Fair enough, but debate must certainly include a range of opinions. Can Zionists join this group and get a fair hearing?
Ami Isseroff

British Jews break away from 'pro-Israeli' Board of Deputies
By Martin Hodgson
Published: 05 February 2007
A new organisation to represent British Jews is to be launched today in response to a perceived pro-Israeli bias in existing Jewish bodies in the UK.
The founders of Independent Jewish Voices, IJV, which will include such luminaries as the Nobel Prize-winning playwright Harold Pinter and the historian Eric Hobsbawm, say that the group is being established as a counter-balance to the uncritical support for Israeli policies offered by established bodies such as the Board of Deputies of British Jews.
More than 100 high-profile British Jews have already signed the group's founding declaration: "Those who claim to speak on behalf of Jews in Britain and other countries consistently put support for the policies of an occupying power above the human rights of the occupied people."
Other signatories include the film director Mike Leigh, human rights lawyer Geoffrey Bindman, fashion designer Nicole Farhi and the actors Stephen Fry and Zoe Wanamaker. The initiative was born out of frustration with the assumption by non-Jews that Jewish opinion in the UK is monolithic in its support for Israel's policies.
Professor Hobsbawm told The Independent: "It is important for non-Jews to know that there are Jews ... who do not agree with the apparent consensus within the Jewish community that the only good Jew is one who supports Israel."
Supporters hope to create an opportunity for Jews of different political affiliations to express opinions "without being accused of disloyalty or being dismissed as self-hating", said a spokeswoman. "The idea is to create a platform for critical debate about the situation in the Middle East that until now has not existed."
IJV is not positioning itself as a replacement for the Board of Deputies of British Jews, but its charter includes an implicit rebuke for the Board. "The broad spectrum of opinion among the Jewish population of this country is not reflected by those institutions which claim authority to represent the Jewish community as a whole," it says.
Founded in 1760, the Board of Deputies has long been seen as the established mouthpiece for British Jews. But its unstinting support for Israel has drawn censure from critics of the country's tactics in the occupied territories. The psychologist Susie Orbach, who has also signed the IJV declaration, said: "As a Jew, I feel a particular duty to oppose the injustice that is done to Palestinians ... The Israeli government does not speak for me."
Mr Bindman said: "The easy assumption that all Jews support Israel and its ill-treatment of Palestinians is an insidious form of racism. I, like many Jews in and outside Israel, am appalled and disgusted by the illegal occupation by Israel of Palestinian territory and its brutal treatment of Palestinians."
At the height of the bombardments of Lebanon and Gaza last year, the Board of Deputies organised a rally to support Israel.
David Goldberg, the author and emeritus rabbi of the Liberal Jewish Synagogue, said: "When Israel's Jewish supporters abroad don't speak out against disastrous policies, that neither guarantee safety for her citizens nor produce the right climate in which to try and reach a just peace with the Palestinians ... then they are ... acting against Israel's own long-term interests."
The anti-Israel lobby
By Jonathan Spyer

This week saw the launching of the Independent Jewish Voices initiative by a group of prominent left-of-center Jews in the U.K. The initiative intends, according to its founding statement, to "promote the expression of alternative Jewish voices." Its sponsors believe that "individuals and groups within all communities should feel free to express their views on any issue of public concern without incurring accusations of disloyalty." The signatories wish to contend that voices critical of Israel are receiving insufficient attention in British discussions of the Middle East. The claim is a strange one.
Do opponents of Israeli government policy in the U.K., Jewish or non-Jewish, truly feel that their arguments are not being heard? Is it really their contention that the British Jewish leadership is setting up "unwritten laws," which establish the boundaries of what may or may not be discussed? If the Board of Deputies of British Jews, the main U.K. Jewish communal body, is indeed attempting to create unwritten laws and to foster anxiety to silence opponents of Israeli policy, it is doing a remarkably poor job. The public debate on Israel in the U.K. affords willing space to the most extreme of anti-Israel positions.
If we take, as an example, contributors to the Guardian, which published the IJV's founding statement, Jews who have successfully found the courage to resist the Board of Deputies and its anxiety-inducing unwritten laws include Daphna Baram, who wrote in a recent op-ed that Israel is an "apartheid state"; Jacqueline Rose, whose book, as her Guardian interviewer reminded us, "draws tentative analogies between Israel's treatment of Palestinians and Nazi Germany's treatment of Jews," and Ilan Pappe, the Israeli academic who recently wrote in support of a boycott of Israeli academia.

These opinions fit comfortably into parts of the British debate, in which denial of the right of Israel to exist and allegations of conspiracy theory are accepted within the parameters of polite discussion. British-born Jew Tony Judt, for example, was able to promote his thesis advocating the dismantling of the Jewish state in the London Review of Books.
If one expands the search for a moment to include non-Jewish opponents of Israel, it may be recalled that Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer found a home at the same title for their claim that the Jewish lobby controls U.S. foreign policy. The supposedly objective BBC Middle East editor, Jeremy Bowen, considers Israel exclusively to blame for Palestinian internecine violence, according to a recent leaked memo. This is not to mention those open supporters of Palestinian suicide bombings who are regular fixtures in the British Middle East debate - such as Dr. Azzam Tamimi.
The U.K. has seen a number of public initiatives toward the delegitimization of the Jewish state in recent years. These have included the attempted lecturers' boycott in 2005, a subsequent attempt at a similar boycott by architects and the demonstrations during last summer's war in Lebanon, featuring support for a Shi'ite Islamist organization with the slogan "We are all Hezbollah now." A number of Jewish organizations openly hostile to Israeli government policy already exist - such as Jews for Justice for the Palestinians, and the Jewish Forum for Justice and Human Rights. Such is the climate of debate in the U.K. on Israel.
In the midst of all this, the initiators of Independent Jewish Voices believe that "an oppressive and unhealthy atmosphere" has emerged, as a result of the Board of Deputies stifling anti-Israel opinions.
The Board of Deputies represents mainstream Anglo-Jewish opinion regarding Israel. Britain's Jews, like Jewish communities throughout the world, are strongly pro-Israel. The large attendance at pro-Israel rallies held on two occasions in the last years is testament to this fact.
It is generally held in mainstream Jewish opinion that the Jewish state is currently passing through a moment of some danger. An aggressive, Islamist regime in Tehran is spreading Holocaust denial and openly calling for the destruction of Israel. This regime is currently seeking a nuclear capacity. It is also sponsoring proxy organizations such as Hezbollah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad, which are engaged in murderous violence against Israelis.
A climate of opinion has emerged, in which a shocking increase in anti-Semitic violence in the U.K. in the last year receives less than the attention it deserves, because the perpetrators are mainly emerging from within Britain's Muslim communities.
In such a situation, unsurprisingly, individuals such as the Independent Jewish Voices initiators, who ignore these realities or who are in some cases sympathetic to the perpetrators, may find themselves treated in mainstream Jewish circles with less than the exquisite courtesy, which is undoubtedly their due.
But as we have seen, mainstream outlets in the U.K. welcoming the contributions of Jews (and non-Jews) hostile to Israel are proliferating. There are broad swathes of contemporary British opinion in which a breezy dismissal of all Israeli and Jewish concerns is very much the bon ton. There have, indeed, rarely been better days to be a Jewish opponent of Israel in Britain.
Dr. Jonathan Spyer is a senior research fellow at the Global Research in International Affairs Center at the Interdisciplinary Center, Herzliya.

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors. Originally posted at Please do link to these articles, quote from them and forward them by email to friends with this notice. Other uses require written permission of the author.


  • Israel has enough enemies, we don't need those within like the milksop ango-jews coming out of the woodwork whinging about Israel.
    I had an informal wager that Harold Pinter never did National Service and I won! What I find so foul, mean-minded and avaricious is the fact that he allowed his father to pay the fine, something which must have pleased his puny miserly spirit. If he was a true "conchie" why couldn't he do hospital work, go down the mines, or other acceptable national service. Oh no, too much like real work, and for an armchair socialist it would have been demeaning to his superior person.
    I find it horrible that he lives in a country and grabs whatever is going and contributes nothing. If he really wants an honour he could always buy one and join the league of cads. However, looking at recent photos, it doesn't look like he has long on this earth, so maybe it's not worth while paying out of his own pocket.

    By Blogger anne wotana, At February 9, 2007 12:23:00 PM GMT+00:00  

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