UK Jewish leader calls for solidarity with Muslims in fight against jihadism

By
March 23, 2017 11:54

Jewish groups respond to Wednesday's deadly incident in which three people were killed by an attacker in the English city.




Attack in London

An air ambulance lands in Parliament Square during an incident on Westminster Bridge in London, Britain March 22, 2017.. (photo credit:REUTERS)

The head of the Board of Deputies of British Jews called for unity in the aftermath of Wednesday’s terrorist attack in London, in which two civilians, a police officer, and the terrorist were killed outside the houses of Parliament. Some 40 people were wounded.

Board of Deputies president Jonathan Arkush appealed for solidarity among all of Britain’s communities, urging them on Thursday to stand together in the fight against extremism.

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“At this time, we know that many of our Muslim neighbors and friends who detest Islamist ideology will be feeling anxious,” Arkush said. “Our message is clear: Our society must stand united at this time and not be turned against one another by extremists of any kind who wish to divide us. There can be no excuse for hatred. We stand firmly with Muslims who overwhelmingly reject the jihadists.
Footage of people wounded on Westminister bridge in London amid attack near British parliament (credit: DAVID SCULLION / RADOSLAW SIKORSKI / REUTERS)

“Together, we can and must build a winning coalition to fight and defeat extremism and stand up for our liberal, democratic and inclusive society,” he continued. “We will redouble our efforts toward this aim over the coming weeks and months and I shall continue the visits I have been making to Muslim communities up and down this country to build bridges and promote our shared British values.”

Some 40 people were reported wounded in the attack, some seriously.

The attacker was shot and killed by police after crashing into a crowd of pedestrians on Westminster Bridge and then exiting the vehicle brandishing a knife. He stabbed a police officer to death inside the gates of Parliament.

The Board of Deputies extended its thoughts and prayers to the victims and their families and paid tribute to PC Keith Palmer, the police officer who was murdered in the attack.

Arkush described Palmer as “a hero who made the ultimate sacrifice defending our democracy.”

Leaders of the city’s Jewish community instructed its members to be cautious in the coming days, in the aftermath of the attack. The Community Security Trust, the United Kingdom’s main watchdog group on antisemitism, called on the Jewish community to be “calm and vigilant” and to cooperate with security measures.

The CST said there was not believed to be any immediate threat to the community.

Additional police patrols were visible in London neighborhoods with large Jewish populations, such as Stamford Hill. UK Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis said in a statement that the “attack, which targeted the very heart of our democracy in Westminster, will serve only to unite us against the scourge of violence and terrorism.

“The prayers of the Jewish community are with the families of the victims and with our security services, who so often selflessly place themselves in harm’s way for our protection.”

The European Jewish Congress also issued a strong condemnation of the attack.

“This strike at the heart of democracy, on the anniversary of the Brussels attacks which claimed the lives of 32 people, once again demonstrates that radical extremists continue to have the ability and motivation to commit mass murder in Europe,” EJC president Dr. Moshe Kantor said in a statement.

Noting that the Westminster attack occurred on the same date as the deadly Brussels attacks last year, Kantor said: “This murderous ideology targets all of Europeans and all of Europe must stand together to fight this scourge.

He called for greater intelligence- sharing among European law enforcement and intelligence agencies and stronger policing laws “to act against those in Europe, and across the world, who provide the means, motivation and ideology to enable these attacks.

“The European Jewish Congress and the Jewish communities of Europe extend our deepest condolences to the British government and people and pray for the welfare of those injured,” the statement read. “We call for a robust and collective response which clearly identifies the culprits and the ideology which underpin these acts.”

Israel’s National Infrastructure, Energy and Water Minister Yuval Steinitz echoed this, warning that the world’s powers would need to do more than eliminate ISIS to stop such events from occurring.

“There were similar attacks in the United States, in Europe, in London before ISIS,” he told The Jerusalem Post. “Unfortunately, it will take a very long time before Islamist terrorism and Islamist zealots will be defeated.

"We will have to combat terrorism. Unfortunately, it’s not going to end once ISIS is defeated.”

The World Jewish Congress slammed the attacks as “a callous and calculated strike against democracy and liberty which won’t succeed.”

WJC president Ronald S. Lauder described the timing of the attack on the first anniversary of the Brussels attack as “beyond coincidence.”

“Terrorists around Europe and the world are trying to challenge our democracy and liberty. They will not succeed,” he said in a statement.

“Such acts are barbaric crimes, they are crimes against humanity.”

From Brussels, Belgian Federation of Jewish Organizations (CCOJ B) president Yohan Benizri told the Post that “as a community deeply affected by terrorism, we stand ready to help in any way we can, sharing our security and safety expertise and our experience of resilience. Let us live and show that no one can dictate our way of life! We will fight terrorism together, the way it is fought all across the world, with resilience, intelligence and strength.”

His French counterpart, Francis Kalifat, president of the Representative Council of Jewish Institutions, tweeted: “Solidarity with the Britons. We are all united against terrorism.”

Charlotte Knobloch, the president of Munich’s Jewish Community, said, “Islamist hate preachers call unbowed for attacks in Europe, mobilize terrorists and agitate against our idea of a free life. They appeal to fanatics who use every murderous method to kill as many victims as possible at symbolic locations. This excessive contempt for human dignity and barbarity contradicts all values of our democracy and Western civilization.”

The director of the European Jewish Association and Rabbinical Center of Europe, Rabbi Menachem Margolin, described the attack as an “unfortunate reminder” of the need to increase security throughout the continent.

Accusing populist, extreme-right parties of capitalizing on terrorist attacks of this kind in order to gain power, he called on all European governments to speak out against such rhetoric, which he said “poses a great deal of danger to European society.”

Benjamin Weinthal, Sharon Udasin, Reuters and JTA contributed to this report.

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