Open letter to the new Board president
Dear Jonathan Arkush,
Congratulations on your recent election victory. At last, you have realised your dream to head the long-established Board of Deputies of British Jews and be the voice of British Jewry. Yes, the Board is elected and the Jewish Leadership Council is appointed and you, as president, are now the spokesperson for British Jewry. But are you really? Without doubt, both the Board and the JLC do sterling work. However, there is a degree of duplication and there would be savings in money and manpower if the two bodies worked towards becoming one.
The major stumbling block reverts to the issue of “democratic representation”. It is a fantasy to believe the Board actually represents the UK Jewish community. There are some 200,000 Jews of voting age in the UK, yet probably fewer than 10 percent voted for their representative on the Board. The truth is that even if the Board is more democratic than the JLC, it really does not have a right to claim that it represents British Jewry and can justly claim to be its voice.
President Jonathan, you have two options.
Either accept the situation or exercise your legal prowess, acknowledge the reality and start reforming the structure of the Board so that it may become the authentic voice of British Jewry. That will make the Board fit for purpose.
The contents will match the label and your tenure in office will make you worthy of being acknowledged as a true leader.
Jeffrey had a right to die as he wished
The recent death of Jeffrey Spector at Dignitas must be understood in context and away from the often spectacular but misleading headlines. Assisted suicide remains a criminal offence, punishable by a maximum sentence of 14 years, although since the DPP issued guidelines on compassionately motivated assisted suicide in 2011, a prosecution is far less likely.
Mr Spector travelled to Switzerland to receive an assisted death for fear that the condition from which he suffered would suddenly render him paralysed and unable, given the current law, to end his life at a time and manner of his choosing. In taking such a decision to end his life, he did so with capacity and careful consideration but because of the current law in England and Wales did so at an earlier time than he would otherwise choose and at a time when he was still able to travel.
The Assisted Dying Bill, which will hopefully go before the House of Lords once more, has significant popular support; indeed, a recent poll shows that 82 percent of the population support assisted dying. If passed, the bill would allow a competent adult who suffers from a terminal condition from which he or she is likely to die within six months assistance with dying. However, the bill states that the final act of taking lethal medication must be the patient’s. This means those who are totally paralysed fall foul of the bill, which is why Tony Nicklinson had no alternative but to refuse food and drink and starve himself to death.
Opponents point to the fear of the slippery slope of euthanasia if the Assisted Dying Bill were to be passed, but there is little evidence of this from Oregon in the US, on whose laws the provisions of the Assisted Dying Bill are based. Moreover, it is argued that if assisted dying was legalised, what may be an option for some will become an obligation for many vulnerable individuals.
This is why the bill must ensure there are adequate safeguards to protect against potential abuse. It is true that assisted dying will benefit only the vociferous few who have actively campaigned since the early part of the decade and the first high-profile case of Diane Pretty. But this is not a justifiable reason to reject their legal plea to die with dignity and at a time and place of their choosing.
There can and should be legislation to permit those who wish to end their lives the right to do so at home and with dignity, without fear of members of their families being prosecuted.
Claudia Carr Senior lecturer, Medical Law and Ethics University of Hertfordshire
There can be no dignity in suicide
Dear Sir Your article describing Jeffrey Spector’s suicide as “dying withy dignity” would better been summed up as “dying with shame”. The whole concept of committing suicide to avoid pain or illness is based on the mistaken belief that one can only live in perfect health, whereas we know of thousands of people living happy and fulfilling lives with debilitating illnesses. It depends on what one values in life and, more importantly, what one sees as the purpose of life. One has to question how bad an illness has to be for people to think suicide is acceptable. What if someone has bad migraines and wants to commit suicide to avoid the pain? Should we stop him, or has he a “right to die”? In one aspect Jeffrey’s case was even worse; he didn’t even have the condition he feared, but wanted to die before it happened. How will Mr Spector’s family feel if a cure is found for his illness in 12 months’ time? Anne Cohen Golders Green
Mr reisel should check the facts Dear Sir I entirely sympathise with Richard Millet [Jewish News, 21 May] in his objections to Dan Reisel’s “wrong and highly offensive” opinion piece [14 May] in which he put forward Yachad’s opposition to the Israeli government funding “illegal” settlements. Unfortunately, this has become mainstream in the “progressive” media but ignores the fact that the 1920 San Remo conference set up the Mandate for Palestine specifically to promote “close settlement by Jews on the land, including State lands and waste lands not required for public purposes” [Article 6]. Though Article 25 allowed the exclusion of that part east of the river Jordan, it applied to all of the so-called West Bank. These terms of the mandate were accepted by the League of Nations and its legal successor, the United Nations, so Israel is perfectly entitled to allow Jewish settlement throughout the territories that came under its control in 1967. Of course, this would not apply to privately owned Arab land but the Israeli Supreme Court is only too happy to uphold the claims of individuals in challenging any encroachment. In consequence, there are no illegal settlements to which Yachad can legitimately object and its claims to the contrary are based on an uncritical acceptance of tendentious Palestinian propaganda.
Martin D. Stern
Bibi’s cabinet and a return to talks
Dear Sir Jenni Frazer writes [Jewish News, 21 May] about “every lunatic appointment made by Bibi…” (referring to the compilation of his Cabinet). This is another attempt by the loony left to refuse to recognise the democratic process when they don’t like the results. Each of the ministers concerned was duly elected by his or her respective party’s internal primary election and each has the right to serve as a cabinet minister. Ms Frazer then says Netanyahu must accept Palestinian terms to return to the negotiating table “for what comes after Abbas could be much worse”.
If it will be worse (which, by the way, is what I suspect), why cede more land when the radical jihadi movement is on the march to re-establish the caliphate? Is Ms Frazer and others like her aware that every single piece of land Israel has given away for peace has been acquired by radical Islam with force? Remember Sinai, Lebanon, Gaza and many parts of the Palestinian Authority? With due respect to Ms Frazer, she continues to criticise and condemn Israel’s democratically elected government, but offers no solution to the hatred and radicalisation of the Palestinian Authority which, according to its official Facebook page, states: “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.”