An effort is underway to gather enough signatures for a no-confidence vote in Board of Deputies Vice-President Sheila Gewolb over her statement this summer expressing concern about Israel’s new Nation State Bill.
In a letter sent to deputies, Jacob Lyons, the deputy for Western Marble Arch Synagogue, said Gewolb’s statement on 19 July was “meddling in the democratic processes of a sovereign state” and so “categorically off-limits”.
Lyons, who was supported in his bid for a vote by Martin Rankoff, deputy for Redbridge Synagogue, issued a notice of motion to Board chief executive Gillian Merron earlier this month, calling on Gewolb to resign.
Lyons and Rankoff need 50 signatures to trigger a vote of no-confidence in Gewolb, who was elected in May. If sufficient signatures are obtained, the matter would go to a plenary debate, at which point a two thirds majority would be needed.
Gewolb issued the statement on behalf of the Board, expressing concern about the “regressive” Israeli law, which demoted Arabic as an official language, confirmed East Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and labelled Jewish settlement “a national value”.
Reaction was strong even among Israel’s supporters, who were quick to condemn the Bill for creating first- and second-class citizens. Mainstream Zionist groups in the US said it appeared to move away from the principles of Israel’s Declaration of Independence, which protects Israel’s non-Jewish minority.
But in the UK, a petition was instigated by pro-Israel activist Yochy David, who called for Gewolb’s resignation for criticising Israel “without having a mandate to do so”. It garnered 450 signatures in several days.
Now, Lyons has initiated formal proceedings, saying Gewolb’s statement “breaches the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism in applying double standards to Israel”.
Gewolb said that “whilst we celebrate Israel’s Jewish-ness, there is concern that some of the measures in this law are regressive steps,” but Lyons said this “fundamentally and immediately disqualifies her suitability for the office she holds”.
He said she had “singled out Israel for criticism” by “not referencing any number of similar examples, such as the UK’s declared Christian status where 25 percent of schools are designated Church of England”.
The Board declined to comment.