One of the British Jewish community’s only organisations devoted to promoting civic equality in Israel is to be wound down.
The UK Task Force was set up in 2010 to focus on issues relating to Arab citizens of Israel. Based in London start-up centre J-Hub, it was described as a “broad-based coalition of 39 communal organisations.”
This week, as Jewish groups around the world reacted in disgust to a proposed Israeli law to downgrade the status of Arabic as an official Israeli language, supporters said the organisation had met its aims and that its educational work would now be taken over by a member of staff at UJIA.
“The winding down of the UK Task Force as a stand-alone organisation marks the successful accomplishment of its goals,” said UJIA chief executive Michael Wegier. “There is barely a major communal organisation that has not been exposed to the issues through one of the Task Force’s study trips to Israel or events in the UK.”
Members of the Task Force, which is apolitical and non-partisan, united in support for Israel’s Declaration of Independence, including the article promising social and political equality for all its inhabitants – Jews and Arabs alike.
The organisation this week said it had had a “significant impact” on the Jewish community’s awareness and understanding of the issues facing Israel’s Arab citizens, and that the decision to wind down was “a reflection of the success”.
About 1,200 Jewish youngsters on Israel study trips in the last two years have been exposed to Task Force itineraries, said co-chair Trevor Pears.
“A tremendous amount of work has been done and I believe that this issue is now firmly established within our communal leadership, organisations and especially our young people,” he said. “I am confident that these collective efforts will continue to have a positive impact in improving the situation for Arab citizens in Israel.”
UK Task Force director Toni Rickenback said: “While many of the indices of inequality show that the situation is improving there is still a long way to go.
“For example, employment rates of Arab women increased from 17 to 26 percent between 2003 and 2013, but their participation rate is still 2.5 times less than that of Arab men and Jewish women.”