Since the start of Operation Protective Edge, the Jewish Leadership Council (JLC), along with its member organisations, has been working tirelessly both in the public arena and privately to protect both Israel and the UK Jewish community from some of the unfortunate backlash.
On the 2nd July we helped organise an extremely moving vigil for Naftali Frankel, Gilad Shaar and Eyal Yifrach, the three Israeli teenagers who were cruelly abducted and later killed in Israel. At the vigil, Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, Israeli Ambassador Daniel Taub, Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner and Union of Jewish Students (UJS) Campaign Director Maggie Suissa spoke, with Chief Rabbi Mirvis explaining ‘Our challenge is to transform hatred into love and to show that only unity and harmony among different people can take us forward in a meaningful and constructive way.’
On the 3rd August, JLC Chair Mick Davis wrote an emotive piece in the Sunday Times explaining why others should follow him in supporting what Israel is doing due to three fundamental rights: The right for Israel to exist, the right of Israeli citizens to security and the essential duty of its democratically elected government to ensure that security. These three rights would not look out of place in any western democracy. The full article can be seen here. Mick then wrote a second article which was published in Ha’Aretz titled ‘Cry Our Beloved Countries’.
As more issues arose, the JLC alongside the Board of Deputies of British Jews (BoD), released various statements on a range of issues.
The first of these statements was released following comments from the Deputy Prime Minister, Rt. Hon. Nick Clegg MP. On the 4th August the JLC responded by questioning his comments, stating the necessity of politicians to recognise Hamas for what it truly is. To read the full statement, please click here.
Following on from this the JLC released a statement in response to comments made by the Leader of the Opposition, Ed Miliband, and the Shadow Foreign Secretary, Douglas Alexander. Whilst we fully share his deep concern for the loss of human life we were disappointed in his comments calling for a ceasefire after Hamas had brazenly broken six in recent weeks. The full statement can be seen here.
The following day, a joint statement with the BoD was released regarding the boycott of the UK Jewish Film Festival by the Tricycle Theatre. This was released on the 5th August, but our CEO, Simon Johnson and the JLC Public Affairs team had been working on this issue for two weeks prior. Simon was regularly speaking to the media and appeared on BBC Newsnight on 6th August to debate the decision alongside Philippe Sands QC, a member of the board of the Tricycle theatre. To see the video of this debate and other media stories please go to http://www.thejlc.org/jlc-in-the-media/. The action taken by the theatre proved that the boycott movement directly affects Jewish life and is not just a political move but one that also has anti-Semitic undertones. The statement can be read here.
After much hard work between several parties, we received the positive news that the Tricycle Theatre had reversed its decision regarding their planned boycott of the UK Jewish Film Festival. This was not only thanks to the organisations involved in disputing this decision, but the wider community who rallied behind the festival and ensured their feelings were seen and heard through a strong social media campaign and peaceful protest outside the theatre. This unfortunate episode is proof that when the community works together, much can be achieved. The joint statement from the UK Jewish Film Festival and Tricycle Theatre, along with comment from the JLC and the BoD can be found here.
Following on from this there was disappointment when on the weekend of the 16th August a group of demonstrators aggressively protested and invaded major retail stores with the aim of boycotting Israeli products. This resulted in the Holborn branch of Sainsburys removing all their kosher products from the shelves, once again crossing the line of boycotting Israeli goods by affecting the everyday rights of people simply looking to buy kosher food. Not only did this affect the Jewish community, but also the workers of these stores who had to deal with what must have been a frightening experience that no one should have to go through when going to their work place. A statement heavily criticising the protests was issued jointly with the BoD and can be read here.
To then hear about the involvement of Shabana Mahmood, a Labour frontbencher, in inciting the above behaviour was extremely disturbing. A person who has such a high position in parliament cannot be seen encouraging such anti-social behaviour and Simon Johnson rightly stated ‘It is completely inappropriate for a Member of Parliament to promote public disorder that forced a supermarket to close. We believe that she has been made aware of her party’s opposition to boycotts and has back-pedalled, but an apology is yet to be heard’. The full story, with further quotes from Vivian Wineman, President of the BoD, can be read here.
Community Town Hall Meeting
In response to the rising anti-Semitism and growing concern in our community about the situation both in the UK and Israel, a community town hall Q&A took place. Chaired by BoD President Vivian Wineman the panel included Dermot Kehoe, CEO of The Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre (BICOM), Gillian Merron, CEO of BoD, David Delew, CEO of The Community Security Trust (CST), Michael Wegier, CEO of United Jewish Israel Appeal (UJIA) and JLC CEO Simon Johnson. Two rooms were filled with an estimated 1000 attendees who heard from each CEO about what their organisation had specifically been doing. The floor was then opened to the public to voice their questions and comments regarding current issues and to provide them with reassurance going forward.
Recent weeks have been very hard on everybody involved but it has strengthened our belief that the community is in a position to deal with the hate that has been on show and no matter what is around the corner, we will fight it in the appropriate means, whether this be in the public eye or behind the scenes.