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Jews speak out

by: Leslie Bunder - Last updated: 2007-02-05

Stephen Fry

Stephen Fry

A group of British Jews including fashion designer Nicole Farhi, actor/writer Stephen Fry and Rabbi David Goldberg have led their names to a new organisation set up to express an alternative viewpoint to a number of issues including Israeli policy and the role of the Board of Deputies.

In a statement, Independent Jewish Voices (IJV) says: "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."

The statement added: "We further believe that individuals and groups within all communities should feel free to express their views on any issue of public concern without incurring accusations of disloyalty."

The group which has over 100 signatories to its list is inviting other British Jews to join with a suggested donation of at least £30.

"The easy assumption that all Jews support Israel and its ill-treatment of Palestinians is an insidious form of racism," said lawyer Sir Geoffrey Bindman. "I for one (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. I gladly add my voice to those who oppose these policies, whatever their background or origin.” Sir Geoffrey Bindman.

Stephen Fry voiced his support by saying: "I am proud to lend my name to a free-thinking group like this."

Writing for The Guardian's Comment Is Free Blog, Dr Brian Klug announced the group and questioned the role of The Board of Deputies and for whom it is speaking as well as Chief Rabbi Sir Jonathan Sacks who spoke at a pro-Israel rally in the summer.

"Jews were deeply divided over Israel's campaigns in Gaza and Lebanon last year. Certainly, there were those who shared the sentiment of the chief rabbi, Sir Jonathan Sacks, who, addressing the rally, said: "Israel, you make us proud." Others felt roughly the opposite emotion."

Klug added: "The Board has no business taking a partisan position on the Middle East. Let groups such as the Zionist Federation or perhaps the Israeli embassy organise solidarity rallies. The role of the Board is to promote the welfare of British Jews in all their variety, not to defend Israel. Similarly, the Chief Rabbi is entitled, ex officio, to bring a religious perspective to political matters, but it is not his role to act as political spokesman for his flock."

Related link:

Independent Jewish Voices