Hundreds of people have signed a petition calling for the Board of Deputies’ senior vice-president to resign and for the organisation to “never criticise Israel” before it is agreed by a majority at the next plenary session.
It comes after Sheila Gewolb issued a statement expressing “concern” about Israel’s latest Basic Law – known as the ‘Jewish Nation State Bill’ – which demotes Arabic as an official language, confirms East Jerusalem as part of Israel’s capital and says “Jewish settlement” is “a national value” to be promoted by the state.
Hundreds of British Jews, as well as centrist Israeli politicians, have been among the Bill’s critics, arguing that it creates first- and second-class citizens and goes against the Declaration of Independence, which protects Israel’s non-Jewish minority.
The Board joined several other Jewish organisations in calling the Bill “regressive” and vowed to write to the Israeli ambassador with its concerns, but petitioners say it should have got approval at a plenary session, of which there are nine per year.
The petition, which by Tuesday morning had 450 signatures, was started by Yochy Davis, a pro-Israel activist who was barred from entering a private University of Warwick campus event with fellow activist Mandy Blumenthal earlier this year.
Despite being elected by the Jewish community in May, Davis accuses Gewolb of criticising Israel “without having a mandate to do so” and demands that the statement be retracted.
Decrying a lack of “discussion, consultation or explanation,” Davis said the Board statement “damages the Jewish community both internally and apropos its relation with Israel” and argues that Gewolb should resign.
The petitioners further demand that the Board “never issue statements criticising Israeli government policy without discussion by the Board at a plenary session, and in accordance with a two thirds majority of those voting on a specific resolution”.