Top Reform rabbi: Israeli envoy’s views could create ‘tragedy’ for diaspora ties

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Top Reform rabbi: Israeli envoy’s views could create ‘tragedy’ for diaspora ties

Former senior rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner called on Tzipi Hotovely to 'be ambassadorial' amid controversy over her remarks about Palestinians

Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner and Tzipi Hotovely
Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner and Tzipi Hotovely

One of Britain’s most prominent rabbis has urged Israel’s new ambassador to the UK to “be ambassadorial”, warning that the envoy’s views about Palestinians could precipitate “a tragedy” for Diaspora relations.

Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner, the long-serving senior rabbi to Reform Judaism until she stepped down to create a consultancy business in October, took issue with remarks from Tzipi Hotovely, a former Settlement Affairs minister from Likud.

Anti-occupation group Na’amod is urging representative bodies such as the Board of Deputies to refuse Hotovely a platform, citing her video last week in which she called the displacement of 700,000 Palestinians in 1948 “a strong and popular Arab lie… they made up a story that is called the Nakba”.

In a tweet on Thursday, Janner-Klausner said: “These views negate those of the majority of British Jews, who believe in an independent Israeli state alongside an independent Palestinian state. We cannot condone this.”

Speaking to Jewish News, Janner-Klausner said Hotovely “has clear, well-known opinions that stand in stark contrast to those of the vast majority of British Jewry, in terms of her attitude to Palestinians, to two states, and to non-Orthodox Judaism”.

These views negate those of the majority of British Jews, who believe in an independent Israeli state alongside an independent Palestinian state. We cannot condone this

She said: “My assumption was that when she became ambassador, she would become ambassadorial. You put your own views to the side and say, ‘I’m here to represent the State of Israel.’ It is already clear that she does not do that job. She is therefore mismatched to the role of ambassador to Britain.

“If she had come here and been ambassadorial, that would have been absolutely fine. But she has not. For instance, she produced this video that talks about ‘Arab lies’… She has placed herself quite firmly outside of the consensus.”

Asked if she thought Hotovely might be unaware of the majority view within British Jewry, Janner-Klausner is unimpressed.

“She knows what the consensus is. She did her homework before she came here. I do not know what she is thinking, or what is going on in her mind. I just know that you can only measure someone on their behaviour and statements.”

Asked about whether British Jewish organisations should boycott Hotovely if she continues, Janner-Klausner is circumspect. “I would ask her just to be the ambassador. Don’t incite hatred, please represent Israel with dignity and care.”

Janner-Klausner says she had never known an Israeli ambassador like Hotevely. “We have been extremely lucky with our ambassadors,” she says. “They have come from all different types of politics.

“But they have all – very deliberately, very carefully, very wisely – placed their personal politics to one side and represented Israel to the Court of St James. All I am asking is that she do the job of an ambassador with dignity.”

Janner-Klausner has led the call for a more nuanced approach to Israel education in the UK vis-a-vis the Palestinians, pointing to how young British Jews are increasingly becoming disenfranchised by what they see as Israel’s unfair and illegal occupation. How might Hotovely’s view impact this already fragile state of affairs?

“Off-the-scale,” she says, alarmed. “It is a terrible thing for young people’s relationship to the State of Israel, because if [Hotovely] is seen as the representative here, then it represents an Israel that young people will reject, and that would be a tragedy both for British Jewry and for Zionism.”


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