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UK mosque cancels event with pro-Israel group 

London Central Mosque in London, UK, 22 January 2020 [James Stringer/Flickr]
London Central Mosque in London, UK, 22 January 2020 [James Stringer/Flickr]

The UK’s most high-profile pro-Israel group, spearheading the campaign to conflate anti-Semitism with criticism of Israel, has been forced to cancel an event with London Central Mosque following a letter of protest highlighting its anti-Palestinian views.

British Muslims expressed shock over the event organised by pro-Israel Board of Deputies of British Jews (BoD), highlighting the plight of Uyghur Muslims in China, which was scheduled to take place at Regent’s Park Mosque later this month. But the Board, a proudly Zionist organisation, tweeted last week that the meeting would now take place on the same date at the House of Commons. There was no mention of London Central Mosque in the tweet or an explanation for why the venue had been changed.

The Board’s history of backing Israel even during its bloodiest massacre of Palestinians led many to question its motives. During the Great March of Return protests the BoD was condemned by prominent British Jews for what looked to be an endorsement of Israeli aggression towards peaceful protestors. Over 250 Palestinians were killed and a further 20,000 were injured.

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The BoD issued a statement alleging that Israel was defending itself from “mass invasion” and a week later opposed the World Health Organisation fact-finding mission into the mental health needs of the occupied territories, which were stretched to breaking point by recent violence.

Their remark, which appeared to blame the victims for death, destruction and injury suffered at the hands of Israel, was met with strong condemnation.

“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,” a statement by members of the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network UK said.

“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.

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BoD’s inconsistency over human rights and its selective outrage leads many to question its motives. These concerns were raised in a letter of complaint to the Central Mosque over its decision to partner with such an anti-Palestinian organisation.

The letter, which was addressed to mosque Director Ahmad Dubayan, said: “The Board, and not the British Jewish community, actively support the Israeli government – an Israeli government that is involved in human rights abuses, colonisation, apartheid policies and disregard for UN Resolutions.”

Highlighting BoD’s support for Israel’s annexation, the letter cited the Board’s December 2018 tweet backing US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. The UN has denounced the move in a vote over the status of Jerusalem with 128 states backing the motion that the decision to recognise the holy city as Israel’s capital was “null and void”.

A picture taken on October 18, 2018 shows the US Consulate in Jerusalem on October 2018 [THOMAS COEX/AFP/Getty Images)

A picture taken on October 18, 2018 shows the US Consulate in Jerusalem on October 2018 [THOMAS COEX/AFP/Getty Images)

“Great to see recognition of the simple truth of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital gaining pace,” the Board said in a tweet, adding “time for @foreignoffice to follow suit!” in reference to the British government.

The letter also highlighted BoD’s attempt to supress pro-Palestinian activism. “The Board’s activities have included supporting the censuring of events in the United Kingdom that highlight Israeli abuses. Furthermore, the Board has on 19 December 2019, welcomed calls to make unlawful the Palestinian civil rights movement of BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions),” said the letter.

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The suppression of alternative Jewish voices was cited in challenging BoD’s claim to be working towards community cohesion. “It is important to remember that the Board’s views are not representative of all British Jews and in March 2018, more than 500 Jews added their names to a petition telling the Board that they ‘deeply misrepresented’ them over the reaction to Palestinian deaths and their one-sided reaction to the violence in Gaza” the letter added.

BoD’s divisive campaign to suppress Jewish voices critical of Israel has been empowered by Labour’s defeat in the last UK general election. Amongst its ten demands to Labour leadership contenders is that dissenting voices from the Jewish community failing to toe the line of BoD’s pro-Israel stance must be side-lined.

Jewish voices within Labour have been outraged by the demand. “It represent a wholly unprecedented abrogation of the democratic prerogatives of an independent political party by a lobby group that sees its interests as ineluctably tied to those of a foreign state,” said Jewish Voice for Labour (JVL).

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“BoD’s underlying agenda” according to JVL is “that only Jews wedded to Zionist ideology will be considered legitimate from now on. Any Jews failing to dance to the BoD’s tune will be placed firmly beyond the pale.”

Questioning BoD’s motives, the letter of complaint highlighted the Board’s reputation for being selectively outraged over gross human rights violations: “it is the connection of the Board supporting Israel, who are renowned for human rights abuses against the Palestinians, and them being part of your event to overcome human rights abuses against the Uyghurs, that is difficult to reconcile. In order to seek freedom and justice for the Uyghur, no event/organisation/individual should partner with any organisation that is seen as publicly expressing and supporting human rights abuses in other parts of the world.”

The letter concluded with an appeal to Regent’s Park Mosque requesting it to reconsider its decision to host this event with the Board until such time that the Board distances itself from the Israeli occupation of Palestine and its apartheid policies.”

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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