New UK Jewish group formed; differs with Board of Deputies over Israel

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

A group of almost 150 prominent British Jews has launched a new organisation, Independent Jewish Voices, and criticized the British Jewish establishment for its uncritical views on Israel. An open letter titled "A Time to Speak Out: Independent Jewish Voices" was published in Monday's edition of the Times of London and reprinted on the Guardian's online site, stated that the group has "come together in the belief that the broad spectrum of opinion among the Jewish population of this country is not reflected by those institutions which claim authority to represent the Jewish community as a whole" and that the leaders of Britain's Jewish community, the Board of Deputies, has "consistently put support for the policies of an occupying power above the human rights of an occupied people," referring to Israel and the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza strip areas, which have been occupied and illegally settled by Israel since 1967.

The letter was signed by over 140 prominent writers, actors, academics and intellectuals including author and writer Stephen Fry, academic Brian Klug, historian Eric Hobsbawm and film director Mike Leigh.

Klug, in an article published in the Guardian announcing the launch of the group, argues for its necessity by asserting that the Board of Deputies actions in defence of Israel "suggests that British Jewry, speaking with one voice, stands solidly behind the Israeli government and its military operations," despite the fact that, according to Klug, "Jews were deeply divided over Israel's campaigns in Gaza and Lebanon last year."

The launching of the new group comes on the heels of a dispute within the American Jewish community after the American Jewish Congress published an essay titled "Progressive Jewish Thought and the New Anti-Semitism" in which criticism by liberal Jews of Israel was criticized as facilitating antisemitism.