The Board of Deputies has faced an angry backlash over its signing of a historic joint document with the Muslim Council of Britain.
The two organisations yesterday released their first statement together on the Middle East and the impact of the crisis here, with both condemning anti-Semitism and Islamophobia and stressing the need to “export peace” rather than “import conflict”. The time had come for a “redoubling” of efforts to “get to know each one another”, it added.
But critics took to social media to condemn both the united front with an organisation with whom the Board once severed relations over its boycott of Holocaust Memorial day and in particularly over the inclusion of a line on the conflict itself.
In what will have been seen by some as thinly-veiled condemnation of Hams tactics by the MCB, the statement said: “The death of every civilian is a tragedy, and every effort should be taken to minimise such losses. The targeting of civilians is completely unacceptable and against our religious traditions.” But the MCB insisted it took the line to refer to both sides in the conflict.
Leading the criticism of the Board, author and Times columnist Melanie Phillips said the Board had shown itself to be “not fit for purpose”.
She said: “There is no way the MCB would ever suggest that Israel behaves honourably while Hamas does not. It should therefore have been blindingly obvious that the MCB would do what it has immediately done – claim that the Board had agreed with it that both Israel and Hamas had targeted civilians. The Board has thus now enabled the MCB to claim that the UK’s Jewish community leadership has condemned Israel for targeting civilians.”
She also condemned the Board for condemning Islamophobia alongside anti-Semitism, referring to “the false equivalence between anti-Semitism and Islamophobia, which equates a metaphysical global derangement – the cause of centuries of pogroms and genocide against the Jews – with a spurious thought-crime invented to silence legitimate criticism of Islam”.
But the Board hit back, with a spokesman saying: “She’s entitled to her opinion but she’s wrong. Racism is racism, whether its against Jews or Muslims and we have a religious and moral imperative to condemn it.”
Referring to the previous HMD boycott and a series of comments and actions by former MCB leaders, Phillips said: “It is beyond astounding that the Board of Deputies should have had anything to do with the MCB at all. Its action has also dealt a blow to all who are struggling to deal with Islamic extremism in the UK.” She added: ” Britain’s Jewish community is leaderless at a time when strong, brave and wise leadership has never been more urgently and desperately needed.”
The Board spokesman said: “It gets you nowhere if you only make peace with your friends. What is the alternative strategy being suggested? Shouting louder at people who are not listening? We believe that you cannot show leadership by retreating into a bunker. The Board of Deputies fights the cause of the4 community by engaging with challenges, not by running away.”
It added: “The statement shows Muslim leaders going further than before in clearly condemning anti-Semitism.”