What do UK Jews Believe about Israel?
The launch of Independent Jewish Voices (IJV) caused huge controversy in the Jewish community. The Jewish Chronicle devoted 5 pages (including the front page lead and main leader) to the launch of IJV in its 9th February edition.
There was much hostility. Melanie Phillips describes IJV as “Jews for Genocide“. Rabbi Sidney Brichto said IJV must be condemned (Jewish Chronicle, 9/2/07) and others called for IJV to be ostracised. Let us step back a moment. What did IJV do to cause this reaction? You would think we must have launched vicious attacks on community leaders and called for Hamas to take over Israel.
In reality IJV said that “Palestinians and Israelis alike have the right to peaceful and secure lives” and human rights are universal and should be respected by both sides. (See the Declaration page for the full statement.) We have also said that institutions like the Board of Deputies do not reflect the “broad spectrum of opinion among the Jewish population of this country”. What is it in these statements that causes such outrage?
IJV is not claiming to be more representative than the Board of Deputies or to replace it in any way. That would be ridiculous. But we are suggesting that our viewpoint is that of a sizeable part of the Jewish community in the UK. There is evidence for this. It comes, for instance, from an opinion poll carried out by the United Jewish Israel Appeal in 2004, the results of which were published in the Jewish Chronicle on 18th June 2004 under the heading “Minority Support for Sharon among British Jews”
It revealed a community closely tied to Israel (78% “care deeply” about Israel against 5% who don’t) but highly critical of the Israeli government, while disturbed by what they see as biased media coverage. It indicates that the viewpoint of Independent Jewish Voices is that of at least a significant minority, and possibly a majority, of Jews in the UK.
Do you support Israeli hawks or doves?
30% support doves
8% support hawks
25% support ‘neither’, 38% ’not sure’
View on policies of Sharon government
50% weren’t sure
Almost half described themselves as Zionist
Over one quarter did not
I am often very critical of Israeli government policies
Not sure: 41%
The survey was based on in-depth interviews with families and 4,200 questionnaires distributed to parents of Jewish day-school and cheder pupils.
There are many in the community who believe it is fine to criticise Israel “within the family” and it is perhaps the act of IJV in going public, with views that are widespread in the Jewish community, that has caused the outrage.
In contrast we believe it is an important and necessary contribution to a healthy debate about the future of the Middle East.