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Failure to counter the commons vote
The recent disastrous vote in the House of Commons for the recognition of a ‘Palestine state’ points to the failure of the so-called major proactive Israel advocacy organisation in the UK. It also serves to highlight the respective political parties Friends of Israel inability to overcome the challenge on a political level and calls for a clean revamp to weed out organisational dead wood. BICOM, established in 2001 as a joint venture of the Board of Deputies and the UJIA to counter the pro-Arab propaganda in the media and foster pro-Israel activity within the wider community, has over 13 years not been able to adopt either an effective policy or strategy to counter the Arab stranglehold over the media with the resultant undertone of nascent anti-Semitism coming to the fore.
Rather than operating to convince the wider public that the Arab advocacy was nothing but falsehoods and distortions, the organisation was incapable of even reaching out to the media movers and shakers who influence public opinion. While information technology has vastly changed in the past 13 years, BICOM was unable to rise to the challenge. It is time for BICOM to be shut down and to let the grassroots activists in the community take the lead role again, just as they did prior to 2001. Grassroots activists were put down by the communal leaders and told to steer clear and keep out of pro-Israel advocacy, despite having honed their experience in the period from 1967 to 2001.
This is best exemplified by the fiasco during the recent Protective Edge Operation, when both the communal lay leaders and organisations failed to get their act together. BICOM has outlived its usefulness; what is needed is a proper media monitoring organisation with the ability to challenge the media rather than feed it with material that it casts aside as being irrelevant. Perhaps it is also time for the Israel Government press office to remove the press cards issued to overseas journalists who fail to be honest in the reports they file with their editors and be declared persona non grata and expelled. It is time we all woke up from our slumbers before the reimergence of the tragedy of 1930s.
Put domestic issues ahead of Israel
Mark Lewis (Jewish News, 23 October) must understand that not all of us are as willing as him to clamour to Israel’s defence when it unleashes sheer devastation upon the citizens of Gaza. On the contrary, I feel our communal representatives are too predisposed towards Israel. After experiencing the worst period of attacks against us on record, such a stance is actually harming our community. Israel should be able to look after itself. We have our own wars to fight. Our communal bodies should be occupied solely with issues concerning UK Jewry, the most pressing of which is to create and fund initiatives to reverse the high assimilation rate, something I think we can all agree upon.
Politicians preach to the converted
Dear Sir Andrew Dismore and Sarah Sackman’s letter in your edition of 23 October gave the impression in the opening line that Labour was against the motion on Palestine when in fact it was a Labour backbench motion supported by Ed Miliband and his front bench team I find it interesting that these letters only appear in the Jewish press and just appear to be targeted to our community. This is similar to Mr Dismore’s article in August in defence of the Gaza operation.
You found no condemnation of Labour’s position from the Labour candidates anywhere else. Also he never condemned publicly Ken Livingstone’s vile comments when campaigning for him. There are three constituencies in Barnet and I am surprised they could not get the third Labour candidate to sign Maureen Lipman’s comments. After five decades of supporting Labour, she now would support nearly anybody but them until they got a mensch as a leader is another chapter in how over the past 60 years Labour has been losing support from our community increasingly for a number of reasons.
Fortunately in our borough of Barnet, our three sitting members of Parliament have proven their worth in supporting our community – two of them on the council prior to them being elected as MPs, making our borough a shining beacon for community relations across the capital.
Masorti mazeltov on gay weddings
I was delighted to read that the Masorti Movement has now joined with the Liberal and Reform Movements in allowing their rabbis to conduct same-sex marriages in the UK. This is excellent news and a welcome addition. Hopefully now that three of the mainstream synagogue movements within the UK support same-sex marriage, LGBT Jews will no longer feel marginalised from Judaism.
We can only hope that the United movement will quickly follow Masorti’s example and ensure that equality for all Jews, regardless of who they love, will be a reality. In the week when the Jewish community mourned the loss of Rabbi Sheila Shulman, one of the first two out lesbian rabbis to be ordained, it was particularly poignant that another major strand in British Jewry showed how far the community has come in terms of inclusivity and celebration of diversity in the 25 years since Sheila’s ordination.
Peggy Sherwood President,
Jewish Gay and Lesbian Group
I’m writing to share my magnanimous support of the Masorti Movement’s recent decision to recognise marriage equality. I grew up within the Conservative Movement in the United States. Although I’ve affiliated with the Liberal and Reform Movements since I moved to this country more than 20 years ago, it was the Conservative US sister movement to Masorti that formed my identity. It was within this movement that I was educated and batmitzvahed and that I learned what it was to be a Jew.
Growing up in my synagogue in the 1970s and 80s, though, was not always easy, as I knew that I was different from the other girls I went to Hebrew school with. Nowhere in my Jewish education was I shown that anything different from the norm of heterosexual union in my future was acceptable. There were no other possibilities or role models I could look to when recognising that some of my feelings weren’t quite the same as those of other girls around me. When I fully came to terms with my sexuality at the age of 21, I decided to take a hiatus from Judaism. I realised that there was no place for me within the Jewish community as I knew it and that it was better for me to independently navigate my way in the world.
I eventually found my way back to the Jewish community through a group called Hineinu, which was formed in the late 1980s in London. Here, young Jewish lesbians, gay men and bisexuals came together in a weekly meeting where we would socialise and share our “coming out” stories and what it was like for us in our respective communities. I found love and friendship among my peers and a common history that we all more or less shared – one of pain, shame and isolation in our families and communities of origin. Our Judaism was so vital to our identities but was in that same world that we were all taught that our feelings were invisible and that there was no acceptable future for those of us who were attracted to and loved others of the same gender. I congratulate the Masorti movement for its brave decision to accept marriage equality.
Young people growing up in that movement will learn there are other possibilities for their futures if they are not heterosexual. That they can have happy, fulfilling lives with a spouse, regardless of their gender. That they will not have to abandon their values, faith or community because they will still be respected, wanted and embraced, regardless of their love or attractions. By accepting marriage equality, the Masorti movement is making a commitment to its community and to its children – that it will accept and respect all its congregants, its future congregants and spouses of congregants based on who they are, not who they love.
They will recognise and celebrate marital unions of all Jews in their community, not just the formerly privileged heterosexual majority. It is my hope that no Jewish child will ever again have to choose whether or not to pursue their sexuality or their Judaism. No Jew should ever need to make that choice again.
Vague posturing of the labour leader
Last week’s Facebook post by Ed Miliband echoed our call for zero tolerance of anti-Semitism. Astonishingly though, the Labour leader linked progress in fighting anti-Semitism in Britain with progress in Israeli-Palestinian relations. We also do not understand what motivated Mr Miliband to wait until now, three months after anti-Semitism spiked, to make his statement. Calling for zero tolerance without offering specifics, months too late, while making a pointless link to British policy on Israel (a topic on which Labour MPs regularly make extremely inflammatory comments with impunity) is vague posturing at a time when we need urgent action and real leadership on anti-Semitism.
Gideon Falter Chairman,
Campaign Against Antisemitism
So can you hear the deafening silence?
Once again, Israel is castigated for building homes. Be it in Jerusalem or existing settlements, it brings the UN, USA and the world together in condemnation. Will it be noted that an Arab city to house 40,000 is to constructed in the north of Israel? Will the venerable UN now agree Israel is not an apartheid state but a democracy – the only one in the entire region? If it does not, the silence will be deafening.
Ward is in the right party to avoid censor
The Liberal Democrats did everything to avoid doing anything about Cyril Smith and Lord Rennard, so I think we might assume MP David Ward is in the right party to avoid any blame for his comments on Israel.
Aaron D Highside
Join me for sunday’s remembrance parade
I’ve attended the annual AJEX Remembrance Parade for many years, which takes place once more this Sunday. Sadly, there has been a depletion in numbers over the years as we former military personnel get older and physically less fitter. There are many families who fought and served this small island of ours during the last world war. Hopefully the children and grandchildren of soldiers know about their relatives who served. I hope they will make the effort to remember loved ones by supporting the few of us left this Sunday.
It’s far too early to judge shabbat UK
The only criterion by which to judge the success of the Chief Rabbi’s recent Shabbat UK weekend is whether there is an increase in attendance for subsequent Shabbats.
Following Shabbat UK, I pray someone with the same clout as the Chief Rabbi will inspire more people with a few hours to spare each week to carry out some voluntary work for all backgrounds and faiths. There is nothing more rewarding. Stephen Phillips By email