OPINION: This is not an act of solidarity, it’s an insult
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OPINION: This is not an act of solidarity, it’s an insult

Lionel Salama says the communal initiative to show support for Israel should have been done on the streets, not with fatuous selfies on a Sunday morning in front gardens

Demonstrators walk through Kensington as they make their way to the Israeli embassy in London, during a march in solidarity with the people of Palestine amid the ongoing conflict with Israel. Picture date: Saturday May 15, 2021.
Demonstrators walk through Kensington as they make their way to the Israeli embassy in London, during a march in solidarity with the people of Palestine amid the ongoing conflict with Israel. Picture date: Saturday May 15, 2021.

Yesterday, an estimated 100,000 people attended a rally against Israel and how is it suggested that the Jewish community shows its solidarity with Israel today? A virtual event in our gardens, with us all taking selfies holding a card saying, ‘No to Rockets, Yes to Peace’.

Board of Deputies President Marie van der Zyl says she wants us ‘to send a strong message of support to Israelis who are being subjected to Hamas’.

This is not an act of solidarity, it’s an insult.

All this week, those of us with families and friends in Israel have been using social media channels to check that everyone is safe. So the idea of fatuous selfies on a Sunday morning is beyond a joke. No, our leaders should have followed other Jewish communities such as Rome, who were already out on the streets earlier this week in public acts of solidarity. What does this say to the young in our community? That we keep our heads down when Israel is in danger?

Ms van der Zyl continues, ‘we also want to declare our support for peace between Israelis and Palestinians’. Obviously the right message, but again, the wrong medium. Social media is the new battleground but slogans like ‘No to Rockets, Yes to Peace’ aren’t going to achieve cut through. It needs a far more comprehensive communications campaign, which really should have begun years ago. In the midst of a conflict, it stands no chance of gaining traction.

This all smacks of a sense of resignation, that the battle to have the full narrative heard is lost. As if somehow, speaking out publicly in support of Israel in this country is no longer appropriate – except perhaps when we’re qvelling over the success of a vaccination programme.

For sure, we need to be critical of Israel. We’ve known the problems inside and beyond its borders for a long time. Indeed, if we gave our teenagers a more balanced education on Israel, they might cope better on campus. But right now, in a week that has seen our families and friends running day and night for their lives, we should have been out on the streets of London showing them our support. Not taking photos from the shelter of our back gardens.

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