Facts and alternative realities

March 4, 2017
Sarah Benton
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London, January 8th, 2017: demonstrators fly Israeli flags outside Parliament in protest at the UN resolution. The small turn-out – estimate 300 – is maybe because ‘good Jews’ don’t wish to ‘flaunt their consciences’. See letters below. Photo from Jewish Chronicle, no photographer credit.

Three groups, JfJfP, IJV (Independent Jewish Voices) and JSG (Jewish Socialists’ Group) placed an advertisement in the Jewish Chronicle on 3rd February, containing a statement in support of UN Security Council Resolution 2334, criticising settlements amongst other points and passed on December 23, 2016. The statement, signed by 433 people, was followed by letters from Jewish Chronicle readers, not all opposed. JfJfP’s responses were not published, a matter we took up with the JC. Here we reproduce the statement and all the letters.
The statement:

Stand with the majority and end fifty years of occupation!

We are Jews in Britain who support UN Security Council Resolution 2334. This confirms that the establishment of settlements “has no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant violation under international law”. The resolution demands that “Israel immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory”.

As President Trump takes over at the White House, it becomes ever more important for Jews around the world to stand up publicly on the side of international law, common sense and justice and to welcome this UN Resolution. We know that the great majority of American Jews supported former President Obama. His refusal to veto Resolution 2334 ensured that it would pass, with the unanimous supporting vote of the other fourteen Security Council members, including Britain. And we know that the great majority of American Jews oppose Donald Trump for his racism, sexism, promotion of hatred towards Muslims, and association with white supremacists and blatant antisemites. They will also be alarmed that Trump has appointed David Friedman, a strong supporter of the settlement movement, as the next US ambassador to Israel.

Here in Britain we also know – from meticulous City University research, overseen by more than a dozen eminent Jewish academics – that the great majority of British Jews are opposed to the settlement project. When leaders of the Board of Deputies declared their opposition to Resolution 2334, they did not speak in our name.

Fifty years of Occupation represents a tragic failure: Israel’s denial of human and civil rights to millions of people; thousands of lives lost, most though not all Palestinian; many hundreds of thousands more, in both Palestinian and Israeli Jewish communities, traumatised by war, hatred and loss of hope.  We ask our fellow Jews in Britain to make our majority voice heard. We must welcome the opening of a door towards a better future for all Israelis and Palestinians by declaring:
No to continuing Occupation…….. No to settlements……… No to settlement expansion…….. No to buying settlement products……… Yes to a just peace.
Letters to the editor:


From Alex Blumenthal,
Deputy Chairman, Rep Council Birmingham and West Midland King’s Heath, Birmingham.

Jews for Justice for Palestinians, Independent Jewish Voices and the Jewish Socialists’ Group who placed an advertisement in last week’s JC in support of Resolution 2334 certainly don’t speak in my name and nor do I believe, as they claim, they speak in the name of the majority of British Jews. Nor do I believe that the great majority of American Jews supported former President Obama’s action in not vetoing Resolution 2334. The advert goes from one false assumption to another, one distortion to another and one falsehood to another.
Resolution 2334 calls for the removal of all Jews back to the 1949 ceasefire lines. So no Jews allowed to pray at the Kotel, no Jews allowed to live in the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem. No safe and secure borders.

It is Arab intransigence, terrorism and corruption that has prevented peace, not Israeli government policies.
I support, as do I believe the majority of British Jews, the Zionist Federation Pledge for Peace: Direct Negotiations, Dialogue not Boycotts, Support Coexistence.

• From Mr and Mrs Woolf, Beaconsfield, Bucks

How dare the Jews who placed the advert in last week’s JC – who would run to Israel if they were in danger – say that they represent the majority of us.
We have over 17 family members who have been in the Israeli Army to defend Israel’s right to exist.
Those who signed the ad are a speck in the ocean compared with the many here who have families in Israel, who have seen many incidents where their lives were put in danger by Palestinian hate in actions set out to maim and kill Israelis going about their daily lives.
The signatories should be ashamed of themselves.

•  From Valerie Cocks (Lady Cocks of Hartcliffe) and Marion Davis

We refute  the allegation that the great majority of Jews are opposed to the the settlement project in last week’s JC and signed by the usual suspects. Most British Jews are against rockets being fired into Israel and all the lies and false allegations being made against Israel all the time.

We are proud of Israel’s democracy – the only democracy in the entire region. We are against the Arab states that are all military dictatorships or feudal kingdoms and against their murders of Christians and Yazidis.

In 1979, Michael Cocks, Labour MP, married Valerie Davis, an aggressive Israeli Zionist, whose lead on the Middle East he often followed. She is a former director of Labour Friends of Israel.

• From Deborah Maccoby, JfJfP

As a signatory to the advertisement in support of Resolution 2334 (“Stand with the majority and end 50 years of occupation”, JC 03.02.17), I would like to ask your correspondents Alex Blumenthal, Mr and Mrs Woolf, Lady Cocks of Hartcliffe and Marion Davis (Letters 10.02.17):  if, as they claim, the majority of British Jews are opposed to Resolution 2334, why, according to your reporter, did only 300 turn up to the demonstration against it that was called by the Zionist Federation and other Jewish groups (“Protestors turn out to condemn UN Security Council on Israel”, JC 08.01.17)?
Yours faithfully…


Israel right or wrong?

• Stanley Bloom, London NW3
The recently-passed “annexation by appropriation” law by the Israeli government, seeking retrospectively to legalise illegal settlement in the Occupation Territories, is illegal under the Geneva Convention, most likely illegal under Israeli law and carries the distinct odour of apartheid. It is easy for those who claim to care about Israel to stir themselves into a frenzy in attacking criticism of Israel, however justified that criticism may be, as witnessed by the recent fervour over UNSC 2334, but what takes real courage is to be prepared publicly to disagree with Israeli Government actions that are contrary to our Jewish values and manifestly self-destructive, as with this law, a courage which we have not seen from our communal leadership since the passing of Lord Jakobovits, a courage which marks out the true friend.

• From Maureen Shapiro, Essex 1G4

Surely those individuals who wish to see Resolution 2334 implemented would also agree that this works both ways. Namely that the Jordanians – later named Palestinians – who drove out the Jews from their homes in Judea and Samaria, now called the West Bank, would also have to go back to pre-1949 times, that is Jordan.

• From Barry Hyman, Bushey Heath, Herts

Like the writers of last week’s letters, I too found JfJfP, IJF [IJV] and the Jewish Socialists’ full-page ad protesting against Israel’s settlement policy to be disgraceful. The usual suspects are there, rarely if ever having a good word to say in support of Israel but cannot resist flaunting their consciences to show how democratic and “caring” good Jews can be.

Many of us, however, find the Netanyahu government’s behaviour pretty repellent too, which prevents us from offering unqualified support to all of Israel’s policies, any more than one is obliged to approve all of our own government’s policies. Put aside the dubiety of the settlement programme, your report on the harassment of the Women of the Wall (“The Women’s Prayer Space deal dead in the water”) is a scandalous, shameful capitulation by the government to ultra-Orthodox bigotry against women.

If we dislike Mr Trump’s misogyny, how much more should we detest and oppose it in our own faith.

From John Speyer, Jews for Justice for Palestinians

In the responses to our advert (3rd Feb) supporting UN Resolution 2334, we find the standard defences. It’s all the Arabs’ fault, criticism is treachery, Israel is a democracy so all is well, we who signed the advert are a tiny minority with no connection to Israel.  Such reflexes may convince those whose sense of loyalty makes them desperate to protect Israel, however disturbing its actions, from any criticism.  But they cannot survive contact with the facts on the ground, for those willing to see for themselves.

As some respondents did recognise, Israel’s increasingly extremist government has parted company with decency and human rights. The settlements are illegal. Violence creates victims on both sides but the vast majority of deaths are Palestinians (who are from Palestine, not Jordan). As for what British Jews think, impeccable research finds strong attachment to Israel and concern for its security alongside equally strong support for the two state solution and opposition to settlements. 68% felt “despair every time Israel approves further expansion of settlements”. And most thought the ‘hawks’ were the majority, but in fact the ‘doves’ were.

JfJfP’s signatories also have family in Israel, in settlements, in the army.  What holds back proper discussion of these painful problems is the refusal of too many ‘hawks’, and communal leaders, to accept that the ‘doves’ are the majority, peace requires justice, and those who speak up for the Palestinians are not distinguished by being bad Jews but by having the courage to tell it like it is.
Complaint to the JC:
• From John Speyer, Jews for Justice for Palestinians

On 3rd Feb a full page advert was published in the JC about UN Resolution 2334.  One of the sponsoring organisations was Jews for Justice for Palestinians.  On 10th and 17th Feb various letters were published from readers reacting to this advert.  On 21st Feb I emailed a letter responding to these letters on behalf of JfJfP, for publication.  On 24th Feb this letter did not appear in the JC.

Given that JfJfP was a sponsor of the advert, and given the interest in it from your readers and the range of views they expressed, surely our response to this should have been published?  As the originators of content in your newspaper, we should have a right of reply when this content stimulates reactions.  This is clearly a matter of public interest and yet discussion has not been allowed to take place.  A wide range of views on these issues exists in the community, as evidenced clearly in research to which my letter referred.  It does not “serve the community” when editorial decisions only allow part of this range to be aired in your pages.

We think that publication on 3rd March would be appropriate and a reasonable resolution of this matter.  Or will you only accept content from us when we pay for it?

Thank you for giving this matter your attention.
• Stephen Pollard, Editor of the Jewish Chronicle, replies:
Dear Mr Speyer,
Thank you for writing.
I am afraid that buying an ad in no way gives you the right to later to demand space in any editorial section of the paper.
We published a number of letters making varying points following the JfJfP ad.
Please feel free to submit letters which will continue to be considered for publication.
• From John Speyer, Jews for Justice for Palestinians
Dear Mr Pollard,

Thank you for your very prompt reply and I’m sorry that I’ve taken so long to respond.

Of course I’m aware that buying an advert doesn’t entitle us to editorial space.  As I said in my previous email, it was not the original advert which made a response from JfJfP on your letters page appropriate, but the readers’ letters which you published about it, especially since most of them were critical of it.  In fact history suggests the opposite problem to the one you claim, namely that the JC has declined to publish so many letters from JfJfP that we might be forgiven for wondering if buying advertising space is the only way to get our views published, even though research has shown these to be a good deal more widespread than some would wish to believe.

We will certainly take your advice and continue to submit letters for publication.  We would be very delighted to be proved wrong and to see one of them published some day!

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