Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Where is Anglo Jewry during Israel's hour of need?

A few weeks ago, a letter appeared in The Times signed by 300 members of Anglo Jewry condemning Israel's actions in Gaza. The letter was signed by well-known figures in British society including playwright Harold Pinter, film director Mike Leigh, historian Prof Eric Hobsbawn, and actor Miriam Margoyles. The protest was led by a group called Jews for Justice for Palestinians (do you think the Palestinians have an equivalent group??!). If these people had any genuine concern for Israel, why didn't they publish their advertisement in an Israeli newspaper? Unfortunately, the signatories are more interested in demonstrating their anti-zionist credentials to the British public rather than engaging with their own community. Most of the signatories have little or no connection with Judaism or Israel except for the contempt they feel for it.

And the reason I bring this this all up, three weeks later, is that it all highlights a general malaise in Anglo Jewry. Even amongst Israel's supporters, who far outnumber the anti-zionists, there seems to be a fear of sticking our neck out. On Sunday, after several weeks of silence, a rally was finally organised by the Board of Deputies in support of Israel. And where do you think the rally was held? In Trafalgar Square? In Central London maybe? No, it was held on the grounds of a high school, out in the suburbs where no one could see or hear them! What is the point of having a rally if no one can hear you.

In the United States, whether they are religious or secular, orthodox or reform, Jews are feel proud of who they are and are unafraid of demonstrating their support for Israel. It's about time that Anglo Jewry displayed a little self-confidence. Their pathetic response to the current crisis in Lebanon reminds me of how prominent German Jews behaved in the 18th and 19th century. Their response to anti-semitism was contempt for their own religion and their solution was to baptise rather than fight their tormentors.