CAIRO – Sick and tired of blind support for Israel’s policy of aggressions by their representative body, more than 130 high-profile British Jews launched a new body on Monday, February 5, to make their voice heard.
"As a Jew, I feel a particular duty to oppose the injustice that is done to Palestinians," psychologist Susie Orbach, a founding member of the Independent Jewish Voices (IJV), told The Independent. "… The Israeli government does not speak for me."
The nascent Jewish body calls for a freer debate among the Jewish community about the Israeli policies in the Middle East.
It aims to counter-balance the pro-Israeli aggressive policies by such organizations as the Board of Deputies of British Jews.
"We come together in the belief that the broad spectrum of opinion among the Jewish population of this country is not reflected by those institutions which claim authority to represent the Jewish community as a whole," said the IJV’s founding letter.
The letter is signed by more than 130 high-profile Jewish dignitaries including Nobel Prize-winning playwright Harold Pinter, historian Eric Hobsbawm and human rights lawyer Geoffrey Bindman.
Prominent signatories also include film director Mike Leigh, fashion designer Nicole Farhi and actors Stephen Fry and Zoe Wanamaker.
The Board of Deputies of British Jews has long been seen as the established mouthpiece for the Jewish community in Britain.
But it has come under fierce criticism over its unwavering support for Israeli aggressions against Palestinian and Lebanese civilians.
More than 400 Palestinians were killed and hundreds wounded in Israel’s 5-month offensive in the Gaza Strip.
Israel also killed 1,200 Lebanese civilians, destroyed the country’s hard-won infrastructure and carpentered south Lebanon with one million cluster bombs.
At the height of the Israeli onslaughts, the Board of Deputies of British Jews organized a rally to support Tel Aviv.
IJV founders want to challenge support for Israel’s aggressive and inhumane practices against civilians in the region.
"The easy assumption that all Jews support Israel and its ill-treatment of Palestinians is an insidious form of racism," said Bindman.
"I, like many Jews in and outside Israel, am appalled and disgusted by the illegal occupation by Israel of Palestinian territory and its brutal treatment of Palestinians."
David Goldberg, the author and emeritus rabbi of the Liberal Jewish Synagogue, agreed.
"When Israel’s Jewish supporters abroad don’t speak out against disastrous policies, that neither guarantee safety for her citizens nor produce the right climate in which to try and reach a just peace with the Palestinians … then they are … acting against Israel’s own long-term interests," he said.
Supporters hope the IJV would give a platform for Jews of different political affiliations to express opinions without being accused of disloyalty or being dismissed as self-haters.
"It is important for non-Jews to know that there are Jews … who do not agree with the apparent consensus within the Jewish community that the only good Jew is one who supports Israel," said Professor Hobsbawm.