A group of prominent British Jews will today declare independence from the country’s Jewish establishment, arguing that it puts support for
Independent Jewish Voices will publish an open letter on the Guardian’s Comment is Free website calling for a freer debate about the
“We come together in the belief that 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,” the letter says. Jewish leaders in
The statement does not name the institutions it is criticising. But one signatory, Brian Klug, an Oxford philosopher, writing an accompanying article on Comment is Free, singles out the Board of Deputies of British Jews for calling itself “the voice of British Jewry” while devoting “much of the time and resources of its international division to the defence of Israel”.
Mr Klug also criticises
“Others felt roughly the opposite emotion,” Mr Klug writes.
The emergence of the group, which calls itself a “network of individuals” and can be found at www.ijv.org.uk comes at a time of ferment over attitudes towards Israel, stoked by the war in Lebanon and the bloodshed in the occupied territories. The question of whether radical opposition to Israeli policies necessarily amounts to anti-Semitism is central to the debate.
The row was brought to a head in recent weeks by the resignation of board members of the Institute of Jewish Policy Research (IJPR) after it emerged that its director, Antony Lerman, had voiced support for the merging of Israel with the Palestinian territories into a single bi-national federation and a repeal of the “law of return” giving the right of anyone of Jewish descent to Israeli citizenship.
Stanley Kalms, the former head of the Dixons Group, stepped down as the IJPR’s honorary vice president, saying Mr Lerman’s views made his position “untenable”. Writing in the Jewish Chronicle, Lord Kalms called his views “dangerous and unacceptable” and “contrary to my concept of the role of the diaspora – to support the State of Israel, warts and all”.
The row has brought furious exchanges to the Jewish Chronicle’s letter pages. “Some of our biggest mailbags lately have been prompted by prominent Jewish public figures voicing dissenting views of Israel, which typically provokes angry rebukes from other members of the community,” David Rowan, the editor, said.
A parallel struggle is under way in the
Prof Judt told the New York Times: “The link between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism is newly created.” He feared the two would become so conflated that references to anti-Semitism and the Holocaust would be seen as “just a political defence of Israeli policy”.