Reader’s letters: 23/10/2014

Reader’s letters: 23/10/2014

Stephen is the Jewish News' Foreign Editor

Our weekly Readers’ Letters page, now published online and in print.

Wish you all well over the fast!
Wish you all well over the fast!


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  • Time to unite for a solidarity campaign

Dear Sir,

It’s time to decide where we as a community are going. We were let down badly in 5774 by the Board of Deputies, which failed to represent us when we needed it most. Public calls by the community including senior ex-officios of the board demanding resignations fell on deaf ears.

The president has demonstrated an ostrich-like hope that all the commotion would disappear. What of the real effect of the pitiful lack of leadership? Trips to Birmingham to applaud the locals, and tell them next war we’ll try harder: an ill-thought concession that another war is inevitable, with no apology for letting us down last time.

The real effect has been on life in the grassroots. Facebook has spawned more than 100 grassroots groups, each manned by unelected and well-meaning individuals who believe sincerely they are the answer to the problems the community faces. It is time people remembered that it is ‘united we stand’. The board, for which Vivian Wineman must take responsibility, has created this problem of disunity.

It is time for change. All the organisations can come together. While there is petty bickering and vying for position, we are not effective. To be effective, it’s time for a complete rethink. The local Friends of Israel, Israel Advocacy and Stand With Us groups can be united by a single body, albeit one with local/regional branches, and the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism unified through the BoD and CST. We have too many organisations.

We were caught wrong-footed in the war. Ironically we were accused of Hasbara for our tweets and Facebook messages defending Israel and the Jewish community, whereas we were just many disparate and desperate individuals. We must act now to centralise these operations and unite all the advocacy groups. What damages the community further are the self-appointed, albeit well-meaning, groups and individuals passing themselves off as representative of all of us.

It is time to consolidate. In this way, we can recognise and build on the foundations of what we have in common in terms of our Jewish identity, what we have in common regardless of affiliation, regardless of the roles we choose to take up in life, and notwithstanding the differing social or economic forces we are subject to.

Why is it not clear to some that it is our identity as Jews that is under threat, an identity which is entirely fixed and unchanging? As such, it is time to organise, orchestrate, encompass and consolidate so that we can become our own ‘solidarity campaign’.

Mark Lewis

By email

  • Let’s have orthodox class seats on el al

Dear Sir,

The letter from Martin Stern entitled “El Al can do more for the Orthodox (Jewish News, 8 October) and the article to which he referred by Stephen Oryszczuk “Women bullied during El Al flight “ (Jewish News, 2 October), reminded me of this all-too-familiar situation which has been experienced by many who fly to Israel on this airline.

I vividly recall occasions when Orthodox men caused a commotion which led to heated exchanges between the crew and consternation on the part of the rest of the happily seated passengers. I consider that people who have booked and paid for their seats have a right to occupy those seats during a flight. Likewise, Orthodox men (and women) have the right to observe Jewish law as they see fit.

All passengers must recognise, however, that an aeroplane is a mode of transport that carries lots of people in a relatively confined space and it must be well nigh impossible for any airline to accommodate everyone’s personal preferences. Dealing with this requires tolerance to be shown by all on board. Israel’s national airline operates in a secular environment and in my experience members of the crew have always endeavoured to accommodate passengers’ wishes, including those of a religious nature, as best they can.

I suggest this conundrum can be solved partly by El Al introducing on some, if not all, flights specific blocks of seats that can be allocated for the benefit of more Orthodox people. This arrangement is really no different from having seats for travellers in a first or business class section of the aircraft. Taking this a step further, El Al can, if at all practical and commercially viable, operate flights for their more observant customers and, in addition, cater for davening at appropriate times.

Ten or more men praying together on a flight represents a safety issue since in many instances access to toilet facilities is blocked or restricted and members of the crew cannot go about their work as they should be able to.

Only a small minority of Orthodox people act in an unseemly manner and would seek such facilities, but this minority can be catered for. I recognise the drawbacks in pandering to any particular group of passengers as it begs the question of where does it all end.

All passengers, including those who are strictly Orthodox, have to accept certain limitations to their demeanour with air travel. I cannot agree with Mr Stern that El Al is intolerant of Orthodox people, but I have personally seen examples where Orthodox people were intolerant of some fellow passengers.

In any situation, acting in an aggressive manner is unacceptable and let’s hope that we all enjoy our future flying experiences. It certainly provides food for thought – strictly kosher, of course.

J D Milaric

By email

  • Reflections on mps’ vote on Palestine

Dear Sir,

Like many Labour MPs, including from the front bench, we believe the backbench debate and vote on the recognition of a Palestinian state was a premature gesture, which will not help bring about progress towards the two-state solution which we all want to see.

The way to achieve this is through bilateral negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, not unilateral action. We are now more than 20 years from the Oslo Accords. That was the result of bilateral, long-term engagement and is the closest Israel and the Palestinians have come to peace in a generation.

That is the way peace will be achieved in contrast to pointless gestures by our Parliament. We would have argued against this policy and would have voted against this motion if we had been MPs, irrespective of whether it was a whipped vote or not.

The time to recognise a state of Palestine – which we both want to see – is when a settlement has been reached or is very close, and when it can constructively contribute to the peace process involving both parties and when a viable Palestine can be created that will live in peace and security with its neighbour Israel.

Sarah Sackman and Andrew Dismore

Labour Parliamentary Candidates for Finchley and Golders Green, and Hendon

Dear Sir,

Now almost 300 MPs have brought shame on Parliament by voting to support Hamas, a terrorist organisation whose declared aim is the destruction of Israel, perhaps they will show consistency by offering support to other delightful democratic regimes.

Syria would love the MPs’ endorsement for barrel-bombing its dissident citizens; the Saudis would be thrilled to have their approval for public beheadings and their appalling religious police; and surely Mr Putin would be delighted to hear of their agreement that his invasion of Crimea and eastern Ukraine is OK with them.

Barry Hyman

Bushey Heath

Dear Sir Was I comfortable with the Westminster vote? No. Do I think some good can come of it and of similar votes in other countries? Yes. The time has come for Israel to decide what it wants – that is, what the majority of the eligible electorate wants.

The truth of the matter is that rank and file Israelis have their work cut out making a living, raising their children and maintaining family life.

They leave the question of foreign relations and security very much to the government and unquestionably do their duty when called upon to serve. These rank and file Israelis just want to live in peace and have no desire for conquest or subjugation of their neighbours.

The problem is that average Israelis, much to their chagrin, are becoming more and more aware that life cannot continue as usual because those in the other camp are getting bolder every day in their anti-Israel offensive.

Now territory and boundaries are being replaced as an issue by challenging the very legitimacy of the Jewish state of Israel and pointing to Britain to rectify the ‘crime’ of the Balfour Declaration.

Washington’s new policy of accommodation and appeasement has proven to be a green light for unleashing the anti-Zionist and ant-Jewish genie across Europe. The time has come for Israelis to take the blinkers off and realise the seriousness of the situation and decide themselves what they want and not just leave the responsibility to the Knesset, Cabinet and prime minister alone.

There are many issues at stake, there are no easy solutions. Israelis and world Jewry together have to make a real-time risk assessment and create a strategic plan to address all these issues and make our position known in clearly-defined terms as a people united to preserve the integrity and rights of the state of Israel.

Geoffrey Rogg

Dear Sir,

The vote in Parliament for the establishment of a Palestinian state must not be taken lightly. The act of bringing such an issue to the floor of parliament when the former prime minster Tony Blair is a key negotiator violates the United Kingdom’s neutrality in the issue, and Blair should be removed immediately from this position, as well as the UK.

The UK has never been neutral when it comes to the issues of Palestine and Israel. The actual act by parliament recognising the Palestinian state in reality or theory constitutes the gravest single act of anti-Semitism by a government in Europe since Hitler. It is time for us as Jews in the UK to stop hiding the fact that we are Jews. It is time for us to stand tall and proud and certainly not to cower.

We must say we are a part of society, and make the point that we matter. What is the future for Jews in the UK in light of such a governmental anti-Semitic act?

How strangely the world turns – just two weeks before the British debate, Angela Merkel of Germany says that each government in the EU must do more to fight anti-Semitism, whereupon the UK does the opposite. What about my children and grandchildren? Should I advise them as Jews to move away from the UK?

How do we think they will fare in a future Islamic state of the UK?

Harold Darefsky

By email

  • Labour and lib dems have lost our trust

Dear Sir

Sir Menzies Campbell claims ISIS and all other Middle East conflicts are the fault of Israel. Is the man sane? As the weak-kneed Mr Clegg allows these anti-Israel members to speak for his party, it becomes more apparent neither the Labour Party, ruled by the unions, nor the Lib Dems can be trusted as far as Israel, or indeed the Jewish population in the UK, are concerned. We haven’t reached the level of hate we see in France and other European countries, but we are certainly catching them up. Sidney Sands N12 illusory power of the ‘jewish lobby’

Dear Sir,

I write regarding Conservative MP Andrew Bridgen defending his remarks about a “Jewish lobby” made during the House of Commons debate on Palestinian statehood. As an American Jew, I would like to say that much of the so-called power of the Jewish lobby is illusory. There is also a large Christian lobby for Israel. And not all the Israel lobby is Jewish.

Susan Stein

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