One of British Jewry’s most senior and respected figures has warned Jews in Israel and beyond not to lose empathy with the civilians killed while protesting near the Gaza border on Monday.
Sir Mick Davis, a former chair of the Jewish Leadership Council who also chaired then Prime Minister David Cameron’s Holocaust Memorial Commission, made the comments in an opinion piece published in Haaretz this week.
In it, he accused Israel and others of showing “sheer complacency” in letting the situation in Gaza get so desperate, asking: “What of empathy for the innocents among the dead? Has that become a taboo?”
Questioning whether live fire was the IDFs only option, he reminded readers about the video, posted online five weeks ago, showing “a young Israeli sniper, wearing the uniform of the IDF – a source of pride for Jews everywhere – celebrating as he shoots an unarmed protester”.
South Africa-born Davis, a former mining boss who is now the chief executive of the Conservative Party, has previously laid into governments led by Benjamin Netanyahu for having “no vision,” and last month said Netanyahu’s premiership had led to “strained Diaspora-Israel relations”.
Then, writing for Jewish News, he said young Jews find their support for Israel must be “the exception to their values, rather than the embodiment of them,” and this week he took up the theme.
“Has it become taboo among Israel’s friends to ask what this stagnant situation, and what the absence of even a language of peace, let alone a vision of it, is doing to our own morality and the moral wellbeing of our youth?”
Last month he wrote that Diaspora Jews were “seeing their pride in Israel dented by actions taken by the Israeli authorities that undermine their Jewish values”.
This week more than 750 British Jews signed an open letter criticising the Board of Deputies for its one-sided statement on the border killings, failing to criticise or even question Israel’s use of live fire on unarmed protesters.
“What will we become if we are constantly asking Israel’s advocates to adopt positions so far removed from the reality the world can see?” Davis asks.