TWO VOICES: Should Jewish issues inform our vote in the general election?

TWO VOICES: Should Jewish issues inform our vote in the general election?

Two Voices
Two Voices

Two VoicesThis week’s Two Voices asks whether Jewish issues should inform our voting preferences for a general election?

Sarita Robinson says…22 2 voices-Sarita Robinson

IT IS interesting to ask how far our Judaism should take us in deciding how we vote. Ultimately, the only way we can vote at this general election or any other is with our conscience.

Does this party have values and beliefs which are aligned with ours? Yes that includes allowing free speech we might find challenging to our values but with a strong process for dealing with the outspoken few.

When I was an elected councillor someone shouted at me because of something Baroness Tonge said – he could not comprehend how I could be a member of the same party (and don’t get me started on David Ward).

But is it fair to tarnish a whole political party with the opinions of a minority? We believe in communal responsibility but is this taking it too far?

Questions around Israel and the Middle East are of course a key concern for many. Individual politicians’ views may vary but all three main parties all have Friends of Israel and Friends of Palestine groups.

They take MPs and councillors for tours to Israel in the hope that afterwards they will have a greater understanding and support their cause.

Ultimately it is the same for Jews as it is for anyone else.

We vote based on our beliefs on a whole range of issues. Taxes, the NHS, transport, education are as important to us as everyone else; we are not a single-issue community.

• Sarita Robinson is Reform Judaism’s northern communities partner

22 2 voices-Kay BlagonKay Bagon says…

While the policies of each party on issues such as the economy, the NHS, education and the EU are important – the key issue is their stance towards Israel.

Last summer, public opinion was polarised by the Gaza conflict with an increase in anti-Semitism and a greater marginalisation of the Jewish community.

Jews began seriously to question where their loyalties lay. In my opinion the situation was exacerbated by MPs like Liberal Democrat David Ward, who tweeted that were he Palestinian he would probably fire rockets at Israel, and more recently stated: “Je suis Palestinian.”

Ed Miliband also roundly criticised Israel’s operation in Gaza, calling it “unacceptable and unjustified” and later supported recognition of Palestine.

This led Maureen Lipman to state that she could not support a party which was so forthright in its criticism of Israel.

By contrast, David Cameron has continuously reasserted his support for Israel and spoken out against boycotts or attempts at delegitimisation. He also vehemently criticised Labour’s stance on Palestinian statehood.

We have a flourishing integrated Jewish community here in Britain with a growing number of schools, community centres and synagogues.

In my opinion, it is important to elect a government that will strive to preserve this.

• Kay Bagon is a member of Edgware and District Reform Synagogue

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