Some 75 members of the Jewish community have sent an open letter to the Board of Deputies of British Jews condemning its support for Israel’s violence against Palestinian protesters on the Gaza border.
“We are appalled that the Board of Deputies (BoD) which claims to be ‘the voice of British Jews,’ has once again attempted to justify the massacre of unarmed Palestinian people by the Israeli military,” the statement read.
The letter was initiated by three members of the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network UK.
There are a number of prominent signatories including Oxford Professor Avi Shlaim, lawyer Professor Sir Geoffrey Bindman, novelist Michael Rosen and mathematician Professor Moshe Machover. Among the first to sign was Ronnie Kasrils, a leading anti-apartheid campaigner, who was in exile in Britain for some years, and later a minister in the Mandela government in South Africa. He asked to be included in what he described as a “much needed statement”.
Since the start of the Great March of Return at least 123 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces for participating in peaceful demonstrations against the 11-year siege of Gaza and calling for a right to return to their ancestral homelands. Over 13,600 have been injured, with thousands suffering from life-changing injuries caused by Israel’s use of illegal “dumdum” or “butterfly” bullets which expand after entering the body
The BoD issued a statement on 15 May alleging that Israel was defending its border from “mass invasion” and a week later opposed the World Health Organisation fact-finding mission into the health needs of the occupied territories, which were stretched to breaking point by recent violence.
“This is not the first time the BoD has condoned murder, claiming to speak on behalf of Jewish people in the UK. The BoD publicly supported pro-Israel rallies during the bombing of Gaza in 2008/9 and 2014 that killed thousands of Palestinian women, children and men. It has consistently supported a regime that is widely considered guilty of war crimes and the racist crime of apartheid,” the letter argued.
“BoD is doing its best to hide that Jews are divided over Israel’s ongoing repression and slaughter of the Palestinian people, which many of us, like most people everywhere in the world, including a number of Zionists, are outraged by.”
The statement slammed the BoD’s position that criticism of Israel, even by Jewish organisations, constituted anti-Semitism and its use of Jewish history to legitimise their fight against the Palestinians.
“As Jewish people we are distraught that the Nazi Holocaust has been, and continues to be, used to justify the brutal occupation of another people who played no part in our historic persecution, and to indulge in warmongering.”
The letter ended by endorsing the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign until “Israel respects international law and human rights”.