Hundreds of British Jews have signed an angry open letter criticising the Board of Deputies’ leadership for its one-sided reaction to the violence in Gaza, with Liberal Judaism even questioning the Board’s credibility.
Within six hours of it being posted online, more than 530 had signed the letter from British Jewish group Yachad, saying the Board had “deeply misrepresented” their views on the killing of scores of protesters.
In her first official statement since being elected the next Board president, Marie van der Zyl – together with outgoing president Jonathan Arkush – chastised Hamas for “repeated violent attempts at mass invasion” but did not call for Israeli restraint or acknowledge that the IDF may have acted disproportionately.
While acknowledging that “Israel’s borders must be defended,” the signatories said the Board’s statement “fails to place any responsibility”.
Signatories including Labour’s National Executive Committee member Rhea Wolfson and Jewish Labour Movement vice-chair Sarah Sackman said: “The Jewish community has a wide variety of perspectives and opinions when it comes to Israel, and it is incumbent upon the Board to represent that.”
The letter then called on the Board “to immediately reassess the procedures used to issue this ill-conceived and un-nuanced statement and to put in place a plan that will ensure that future statements will truly represent the community”.
Likewise, Liberal Judaism said “we deeply regret that Israel has not shown the necessary restraint” and that “the Board’s credibility as the voice of British Jewry depends wholly on its willingness to listen to, hear from and reflect the values of all sections of the community”.
A Board of Deputies spokesperson responded to the letter, saying: “We treasure the diversity of views in our community and are mindful of it. We made our statement based on the facts we were hearing. While every death is a tragedy, we hope that the public admissions today from Hamas and Islamic Jihad that nearly every single one of those killed at the border has been from one of their movements will give critics of Israel, and indeed critics of the Board of Deputies, pause for thought. These revelations demonstrate the challenge that Israel faces in defending its civilian towns and communities close to the Gaza/Israel border, and why Israel needs to be given support and some benefit of the doubt at this time.”
Jewish groups including Jewdas joined a Downing Street rally against Israel’s actions on Tuesday night, while on Wednesday night others held a ‘Kaddish for Gaza’ in Parliament Square.