Community leaders have faced accusations of being too reactive and failing to show leadership during the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, writes Marc Shoffman.
A meeting to discuss ways the British Jewish community could put forward Israel’s case descended into shouting at times as Board President Vivian Wineman tried to control an edgy crowd of around 1,000 people at JFS in London.
A panel of Jewish leaders including Bicom’s Dermot Kehoe, Gillian Merron of the BoD, Simon Johnson of the Jewish Leadership Council, David Delew of the CST and Michael Wegier of UJIA, outlined how the community could promote Israel’s case to the media and politicians.
* MORE: Channel 4 Gaza coverage to be investigated – click here
Ideas included writing to politicians especially in the run up to the General Election, as well as reporting anti-Semitism and reaching out to colleagues in the workplace or at universities to put forward Israel’s case.
But a question and answer session at the end of their talks put the leaders on the spot, querying how active they had been in supporting Israel during the conflict.
Audience member Mandy Blumenthal, who joined the delegation of protesters who went to Bradford last weekend to flout Respect MP George Galloway’s ban on Zionists, claimed she had phoned the BoD and been told by the switchboard that they were unhappy with people calling with issues and that they should just write letters.
Ms Merron said she would be happy to discuss any issues people have.
Another audience member asked why the BoD only arranged occasional rallies only when there was conflict, while Palestinian campaigners were “out on the streets” on a weekly basis.
However, the panel was backed by the audience when it mentioned more protests against the Tricycle Theatre to highlight its boycott of the UK Jewish Film Festival and Stephen Margolis, chairman of the UKJFF addressed the crowd to reveal a new location had been found for the UKJFF.
Mr Weiger tackled questions about working with other communal groups such as Yachad, saying no pro-Israel group should be “demonised“, and also agreed with calls for the need to recognise that Israelis and Palestinians want to live in peace.
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