By Joe Millis, who is the author of Jerusalem: An Illustrated History of the Holy City
I supported Yachad’s bid to join the Board of Deputies. Not just because I support the group, but also because I think that the Board has to be as representative as possible. Otherwise, we might as well shut the shop and hand over the keys to the Jewish Leadership Council.
To that end, and this might surprise you, if British Herut or the Chareidim were to join, I’d say bruchim ha’baim (welcome).
In both cases, I’d endeavour to be seconder of the motion.
What I don’t get is that those who big up Israel as a beacon of democracy with a lively debating culture in a sea of autocracy, are precisely those who want to stifle debate here.
What’s worrying is that they seem to think that their way, and only their way, is the only way to support Israel.
What they seem to want is some sort of Pyongyang-esque unity/comformity, and woe betide anyone who disagrees.
Anyone else gets abuse, including homophobic abuse shouted in their faces, or when racist, anti-Muslim abuse is yelled within two metres of them, they ignore it.
Some of them are even happy to stand with the EDL, or support Ukip, which is now in bed with a party whose leader is a Holocaust-denier. O tempora! O mores (Alas the times! Alas the manners)!
And yet… And yet… say something about Israel that is not to their liking, and you are automatically branded a traitor or the spawn of Satan.
Someone even gave the emailing list of Board members to people abroad – probably a breach of the Data Protection Act – to lobby against Yachad joining. But obviously they won’t come forward to admit it.
As they say when we criticise this or that aspect of Israeli policy: “If you want to criticise, come and live here and take part in the democratic process.” Perhaps the irony is lost on them. And who said satire was dead?
Worse, you might get an abusive letter in the post. I know I have. How to make friends and influence people it is not.
Contrast that with the excellent work our students do in fighting BDS and other anti-Israel moves. Quietly and calmly they went about the task; no fuss, no hysterics – and, more often then not, they have won the debate. Yes, debate. Not shouting, not ranting, but debating sensibly. Would that we “grown ups” acted in the same manner.
Many myths have been put out by Yachad’s detractors in this, at times, very ugly debate.
Among them that Yachad arranges tours that focus solely on the plight of Palestinians.
Just this week Yachad took a group to meet the mayor of the West Bank settlement of Efrat – check the Yachad Facebook page for pics. Yachad also works with the Yesha council (official body of the settler movement). Ask the students how they found their meeting with them six weeks ago on their trip.
Here’s another: Because the Yachad director sometimes reads +972 online magazine she and Yachad think that Israel is an apartheid state. On that basis no one should ever read anything Justice Minister Tzipi Livni says. She recently said ‘This is apartheid’ about the decision to segregate buses in the West Bank.
And former Prime Minister Ehud Barak said much the same thing regarding holding on to the occupied territories. I suppose the anti-Yachad people think that the most decorated soldier in Israel’s history is a self-hating, anti-Zionist Jew.
In Judaism, we have a concept called Chesed – usually translated as loving kindness – and I fear that that is one commodity that is severely lacking when it comes to debates in the community about Israel.
I am reminded of WB Yeats’ poem, The Second Coming:
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.