JJP welcomes the important statement, issued last month (November), signed by the CEOs of the Movement for Reform Judaism (MRJ) and Liberal Judaism (LJ) and several thousand other British Jews, including dozens of UK rabbis.
It’s the first statement of its kind ever compiled, promoted and supported jointly by any UK Jewish denominations.
We quote extensively from it in the paragraphs below.
The statement outlines a series of “Jewish values and core principles in response to the conflict between Israel and Hamas”.
It states that “Palestinians have the right to life and dignity”, that “Israel must take care to protect innocent civilians” and that it can “never be acceptable to deny civilians their basic human needs”.
The statement also says that it can “never be acceptable to take hostages”.
It also states unequivocally that the laws of war “place clear limits on what harm can be done to civilians”.
Importantly, the statement then stresses that “it is precisely at times of unimaginable pain and suffering that we need these laws to ensure that our behaviour reflects our humanity”. It points out that the laws of war “apply to all, irrespective of the conduct of an enemy” and that “no exceptions to those rules can be derived from the level of suffering caused by that enemy”.
The statement is also a call for action – and tells British Jewry that “it is time – perhaps like no other time in a generation – to act and speak in accordance with these principles”.
It goes on to state that “We must challenge and draw attention to acts of extremism that threaten to set back even further the possibility of a peaceful resolution of this conflict, wherever they take place.”
It also states that “We must work to ensure that out of this current horror comes a commitment to a future in which Israelis and Palestinians can live in mutual peace and security.”
The statement contains a list of five core principles with which we are substantially in agreement. Although it does not make any direct criticism of the Israeli government or the IDF, many readers will recognise that the statement contains plenty of implicit rejections of key aspects of Israel’s onslaught against Gaza.
But sadly, it does not locate the ongoing conflict in its more complete historical context. The document (you can see it also has some other shortcomings, particularly its failure to suggest how progressive-minded UK Jews should, as suggested in principles 4 and 5, “act”, “speak” and “challenge” in accordance with the principles laid out in the document.
Perhaps this is to come, for the statement also says that “over the coming weeks” LJ and MRJ will produce “content and resources that expand upon the principles expressed” in their statement.
As a progressive-minded Jewish organisation, JJP and many of our 3000 signatories look forward to studying any such material over the coming weeks and months and to contribute to any ongoing discussion.
We believe that Jews around the world – including us in the UK – have an important contribution to make in influencing governments to develop more constructive and progressive policies regarding Israel/Palestine.
The MRJ/LJ-supported statement is an unprecedented and important step in that direction. That is why we are drawing your attention to it. If you would like to read the full document, here is the link again.