January 6: UK Jewry and Israel

Letters (photo credit: REUTERS)
(photo credit: REUTERS)
UK Jewry and Israel
In “Defending Israel to Diaspora Jews” (Right from Wrong, January 4), Ruthie Blum identifies the symptoms, but not the cause, of what ails parts of the British Jewish community.
Invited to speak at the premier Jewish leadership training program in the UK a couple of years ago, another presenter and I were shocked that the word “Israel” had not been mentioned even once during the day. The reply was: “We never discuss Israel. It’s too divisive.”
Neither the UK’s self-appointed Jewish Leadership Council, which sponsors the above-mentioned program, nor the enthusiastic Limmud attendees represent the whole range of UK Jewish communal attitudes. But that very same Jewish leadership fails our community when it panders to anti-Israel sentiment rather than providing our youth with a strong Jewish and Zionist education and example.
It’s not all bad news, though.
The growth of energetic and proudly Jewish (and Zionist) grassroots organizations over the past two years has begun to transform UK Jewish life.
Their skill with IT and social media has meant that they have outperformed the establishment organizations without having to rely on funding from what is often called “checkbook leadership.”
The British Jewish Limmud conference, as Ruthie Blum points out, is not exactly a non-prejudiced educational project.
The most recent conference invited, among others, Tuvia Tenebom, author of Catch the Jew! He arrived from the US, where he was on a lecture tour.
The Jewish Chronicle reports that just prior to his appearance, he was told that he wasn’t welcome.
It seems one would learn from “Defending Israel to Diaspora Jews” that there are very serious problems with this conference.
Tel Aviv
The writer is founder and owner of Gefen Publishing House, which brought out Catch the Jew!
With regard to “British Jewish students rally against silencing Israel” (No Holds Barred, December 8), I am a proud Zionist and see myself as a critical, but fundamentally sympathetic, friend of Israel. I have also been a Bnei Akiva leader for seven years.
I was at Shmuley Boteach’s talk before J-Soc at University College London. He turned up at our weekly lunch without prior consultation with the J-Soc president or any other leaders.
He literally just turned up and starting speaking, his speech being a 20 minute rant about how terrible Europe’s perspectives on Israel are.
The J-Soc president mentioned that this sort of talk was not appropriate, as J-Soc is not a place where Israel (and here he meant Israeli politics, rather than all things to do with Israel) is discussed, and that such discussions are better situated in the Israel Society. Boteach then rather sarcastically and cruelly lambasted this position, petulantly griping about free speech.
What Boteach does not grasp is that there is a prevailing consensus among British Jewish students (even Zionist students) that using J-Socs as a platform for Israel advocacy – and especially Israel advocacy of the sort that Boteach performs – is wrong.
J-Soc is a place for all Jewish students, not exclusively Zionists.
A J-Soc that officially advocates for Israel is liable to be protested against and even banned by the student union.
We are fortunate to have a diverse, active and well-run Israel Society that exudes nuance.
Having a dedicated space for constructive, Zionist discussion about Israel’s future enhances the conversation.
Boteach was very nasty to the J-Soc president, who works tirelessly to make Jewish life at King’s as wonderful as it is. He ended his blog entry on the matter with the quote: “It’s time to stand up to the bullies.” I agree. Let’s stand up to Boteach.
Calling it terror
Why did your early stories about last Friday’s attack in Tel Aviv refer to the terrorist as a gunman? Why not a terrorist, as he primarily was? Isn’t the use of a gun, knife or car secondary to the act that is perpetrated? Why are you loathe call him by that term?
Neve Daniel
Too little, too late
This past Shabbat, on my 90th birthday, as we read in the Torah of the enslavement of the Jewish people in Egypt, I found myself reading your article “Orthodox rabbi: Only 1 million Jews killed in Holocaust” (December 31).
I thank you for the article, but my response as a survivor who was in too many camps to count – Póskov, Auschwitz, Mauthausen and Bergen Belsen, to name a few – could be nothing but anger.
How dare this man cast doubt on whether my parents were Jewish? Assimilation was less than 1 percent in Poland, and the Holocaust there took 3 million lives.
Rabbi Mizrahi, I have since heard, has apologized, but it is a little too late. In my opinion, his original statements were academically irresponsible for a lecturer; they really made me wonder where he goes for his statistics.
Shouldn’t he himself have questioned the accuracy of his statement before making it? Can any trust ever again be placed in future statements he makes? MOSHE BARTH Jerusalem This kind of material is just what the Holocaust deniers are looking for. I’m sorry you chose to publish it.
Petah Tikva
Out of the bag
With regard to your December 22 editorial “Im Tirtzu,” the facts presented by the organization are based on reality. They are based on specific detailed reports that are documented by organizations such as NGO Monitor, which follows the trail of money from western European governments, with the majority of it flowing through large Christian and Catholic charities. This information is available to everyone.
The cat is out of the bag, and the consequences of being agents of foreign countries should be discussed as part of our civil discourse instead of being swept under the carpet for ideological reasons.
Worse yet, it has been clearly documented that these NGOs, which like to assure themselves that they are human rights groups, are essentially shills for foreign governments. How is that? They also avoid all violence, violations and incitement by Palestinians, especially at the leadership level. Bassam Eid left B’Tselem because it would not investigate abuses by the Palestinian Authority.
The reason given was simply that its supporters wanted to focus solely on the sins of Israel.
This, by definition, distorts and decontextualizes any information emanating from these NGOs.
Rosh Pina
What he left out
The Jerusalem Post could not have come up with a better contributor than University of Baltimore law professor Kenneth Lasson (“Pollard’s punitive parole,” Comment & Features, December 21). His informative op-ed tracing the 30 years of unjust imprisonment of Jonathan Pollard and the ridiculous and punitive conditions placed on him by the parole board is brilliantly presented.
One of the things Prof. Lasson points out is that in 1992, a writ of habeas corpus was filed in the three-judge federal District Court of Washington. The only judge to grant Pollard relief was Stephen Williams. Prof. Lasson benevolently fails to mention that the majority decision denying the writ was by the two Jewish judges, Laurence Silberman and Ruth Bader Ginsberg, who now sits on the Supreme Court.
I guess Justice Williams was not concerned with being accused of dual loyalty.”
Zichron Ya’acov