Their willingness to go public about their beliefs, and risk extreme shunning from within their own communities, is very courageous, and they should be encouraged to continue to stand their ground.
It keeps the international community's collective gaze focused upon the plight of these people, whose daily suffering is almost unimaginable to those who live comfortably in the West.
British Jewish group sparks outrage with Gaza blockade criticism
By Saul Sadka
Tags: Israel, British Jewry, Gaza
LONDON - A controversial coalition of prominent Jewish activists and academics has reignited controversy in the British Jewish community after taking out an paid advertisement in The Times this week calling for Israel to lift its economic blockade of the Gaza Strip and accusing the state of breaching international law.
"Independent Jewish Voices" was formed a year ago and counts Nobel laureate Harold Pinter and actor Stephen Fry among its prominent signatories.
Marxist historian Eric Hobsbawm is also a signatory though neither he nor Fry and Pinter - the groups most recognisable names - signed Wednesday's statement.
The group was formed to provide an alternative to the Board of Deputies of British Jews - a cross communal Jewish organisation dating back to 1760 - who the IJV felt were inauthentically presenting themselves as the exclusive voice of Judaism in Britain. IJV members say that the Board of Deputies refuses to allow criticism of Israel and this presents a unrepresentative picture of Jewish opinion in the U.K.
The statement which appeared on the inside pages of the paper was signed by 250 of the groups members. Entitled "End the siege of Gaza!", the statement condemned Israel's actions in blockading Gaza as a violation of international law, and also called for a halt to Palestinian rocket attacks.
"The collective punishment of the population of Gaza is illegal under international law. We condemn attacks on all civilians including the rocket attacks on the residents of Southern Israel," said the statement.
The statement also called for an end to the blockade and for "both sides to observe a ceasefire."
Feminist academic Jacqueline Rose who describes herself as a "critic of Zionism," is one of the groups principle advocates. She said that the motivation for the statement was in response to the current crisis in Gaza.
"IJV arose partly in response to our sense that bodies in the U.K. who claim to represent British Jewry make statements as though they were speaking for all British Jews. While many of us have a high profile - we are not claiming that we are excluded from the debate - we formed to make it clear that British Jews do not speak with one voice."
(This has also happened in Canada, where organizations like the Canadian Jewish Congress have had their popularly-selected Boards replaced with Zionist 'Emergency Cabinets", in order to deal with increasing condemnation of Israeli policies.)
The group has views on everything from the right of Norman Finkelstein to speak at the Oxford Union which they support, to the proposed academic and economic boycotts of Israel which members disagree on. Rose says that while the group disagrees over the boycott they "support it being discussed openly, something which regrettably may be illegal in the UK." She argues that "the battle against antisemitism is weakened by its association with criticism of Israel."
Rose says that the network took out the advertisement in The Times rather that what might be seen as its more obvious political home The Guardian to get its message beyond the left wing readership who would generally approve of the group's credo, to a more mainstream audience.
She argues that "Israel must negotiate with the elected Hamas government for there to be any kind of a solution to the rocket fire on the south."
The group caused a media storm following its launch, with a full page advertisement in The Times, a week long discussion on The Guardian's Website and extensive media coverage. However, the group does not take a firm position on the proposed academic and economic boycott of Israel, with some of its members supportive while other are in opposition.
One of its signatories, Tony Greenstein is a trade unionist who has publicly called for a boycott of Israeli goods and is also a member of "Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods."
A critic of the group, lawyer and academic Anthony Julius, disputed the claim that Israel was in breach of international law.
(However, as Israel's policies ARE a violation of International Law, it is apparent that he is speaking solely as a Zionist, and not as a lawyer.)
"It is by no means unarguable that Israel is right to treat Gaza as an enemy territory. It is hard to see on what basis Israel's actions can be seen as a violation and only one or two of the signatories could grapple with issues involved."
Julius argues that the group is "fraying at the edges and has lost some of its membership. It is unable to speak with a coherent voice on any issue, such as the academic boycott of Israel."
Orthodox Jews to Join Other Arab Organizations in Protest Against the AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) Annual Dinner, and Against the Recent Atrocities in GAZA
NEW YORK, Jan 31, 2008 /PRNewswire-USNewswire via COMTEX/ -- Place: Outside the Marriott Marquis Times Square, NYC
Date: Thursday, January 31, 2008
The following is a statement by Rabbi Yisroel Dovid Weiss, a spokesman for Neturei Karta International:
AIPAC: (An Institution Perpetuating Atrocities and Catastrophe)
Rabbi Yisroel Dovid Weiss, a spokesman for Neturei Karta International, Jews United Against Zionism, stated at a recent meeting: "Philanthropists, government representatives and well meaning people, should be apprised of the reality, that supporting Zionism and the State of 'Israel' does not help Jews or Judaism, but on the contrary only helps to perpetuate the tragic impasse and constant bloodshed in the Middle East, both of Arab and Jew.
"Not supporting the State of 'Israel' does not make one, in any way, less of a friend of the Jewish people and most certainly does not label one an anti-semite."
The Rabbi further stated: "The terrible oppression and deaths wrought on the Palestinian people in general and now particularly of those residing in Gaza is yet another example of the awful consequences of Zionism. We Jews true the Torah, issue a passionate condemnation of these latest Israeli atrocities. The deaths and suffering of these people, is only the most recent example of the sixty year toll of human suffering created by the Zionist enterprise in the Middle East.
"History clearly attests to the fact that the Jewish existence in all Muslim countries was mostly harmonious and only since the inception of Zionism has this relationship been destroyed. Remove the intimidation and hyperbole of AIPAC and its ilk, and any logical person will conclude that the difference of religion is not the cause of the deep seated rift between Jews and Arabs. The new ideology, the political movement of Zionism, which culminated in the form of the State of 'Israel,' is the real culprit. In fact, Zionism is the direct cause for the exacerbation of anti Semitism universally."
He further stated: "The Jewish principles of exile may be a shock and a complete surprise to the well-meaning friends and supporters of the Jewish people, but facts cannot be disputed. The Torah explicitly forbids us, the Jewish nation, from having our own State in this Heavenly decreed exile. We must patiently await the day when the Almighty Himself, without any human intervention, will bring the hearts of all mankind together to serve Him in peace and harmony.
"Furthermore, we are forbidden to oppress another people or steal their lands and homes etc. We are commended to be loyal, peaceful citizens in every country wherein we reside."
The Rabbi added that, "It is a great embarrassment to us that the Palestinians have suffered so much for so long at the hands of those who masquerade as representatives of the Jewish people. Zionism is a movement that disregards the Jewish faith and its teachings on every area of life, including its commandment that we seek peace and justice towards all people.
"Rabbis, Orthodox Jewish leaders and laymen, have been fighting Zionism continuously since its inception and up until the present day. True Torah Jews will never accept Zionism and the State of 'Israel.'
"May we merit to see, soon in our days, the peaceful and speedy dismantlement of the State of 'Israel,' and the fulfillment of Isaiah's prophesies. 'And they will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. No nation will lift its sword against any other, nor will they learn warfare anymore.'"
More information is available on the Neturei Karta International web site www.nkusa.org .
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