Since the beginning of the second intifada in 2002, there has been significant Jewish opposition in the UK, Western Europe and the United States to Israel’s occupation and settlement of Palestinian land, and to the repressive measures Israel takes against Palestinian resistance. Jews for Justice for Palestinians, now with nearly 2,000 signatories, is by far the biggest Jewish peace group in the UK or Europe. JJP is a founder member of European Jews for a Just Peace, the federation of 13 peace groups in 10 European countries.
JJP’s core beliefs can be summarised as:
Palestinians have the right to their own state in the areas occupied by Israel in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, no less than Israel has the right to a secure existence within the 6 June 1967 borders. Israel must negotiate in good faith to withdraw to the 1967 borders, subject to an agreed, equitable land swap to accommodate the built-up areas in some of the settlements.
Violence against civilians is unacceptable, no matter who commits it.
Israel must acknowledge its responsibility for the 750,000 Palestinians who were driven out or fled in 1947/49, and who, with their children and grandchildren, make up today’s Palestinian refugees. Israel must negotiate a fair and practical resolution of the issue.
Our beliefs are based on the humanitarian values of Judaism, universal values of human rights and international law. As disquiet about Israel’s policies has grown, our beliefs have become common and are now shared by many in the community. All this was established by the meticulous City University survey “Attitudes of British Jews Towards Israel”, published in 2015.
The survey shows that Israel plays an important part in the identity of most Jews, but also that, far from there being widespread support for Israel’s policies among Jews, there is actually a wide diversity of attitudes, as one would expect to find in society generally. Depending on the question asked, responses varied from large majorities opposed to Israeli policies to significant minorities opposed.
Some examples will suffice to show the diversity:
|Expansion of settlements on the West Bank is a major obstacle to peace||75%|
|Israel’s standing in the world is being damaged by its approach to the peace process||73%|
|The Palestinians have a legitimate claim to a state||72%|
|We support a two-state solution in order to achieve peace||71%|
|We despair at every further expansion of settlements||68%|
|Israel should give up territory in exchange for guarantees of peace||62%|
|Israel is an occupying power in the West Bank||53%|
|We are concerned about Israel’s conduct or policies||52%|
|The Israeli government is constantly creating obstacles to avoid peace negotiations||47%|
|Israel does not have the right to retain control of the West Bank||38%|
|The British government should take tougher action to oppose West Bank settlements||32%|
|We support sanctions against Israel if we thought it would encourage Israel to engage in the peace process||24%|
|There is a credible partner for peace on the Palestinian side||24%|
Even in respect of the Gaza war in 2014, which created a strong defensive reaction from the big Jewish organisations, the respondents split about 50:50 between those who were wholly supportive of Israel’s actions, and those with reservations because the scale of the attacks was disproportionate, or because efforts should have been made to negotiate, or (only 5%) that Israel was not entitled to use armed force at all.
It is deeply disturbing that the major Jewish organisations such as the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Jewish Leadership Council continue supporting Israeli policies to the hilt, rather than reflecting the true diversity of opinion among Jews. That can only inhibit people from having confidence to debate the conflict fully, as they would debate any other conflict.
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* Arthur Goodman is the Parliamentary and Diplomatic Liaison Officer of Jews for Justice for Palestinians, and a member of the Liberal Democrats and the Liberal Democrat Friends of Palestine.