NJA Op-Ed: Community leaders should not speak publicly about internal Israeli issues

The following op-ed was written by NJA Chairman Gary Mond and published in the Jewish News on March 14, 2023.

OPINION: Community leaders should not speak publicly about internal Israeli issues

Why? Because it furthers the cause of antisemites who accuse British Jews of being more loyal to Israel, writes Gary Mond, chairman of the National Jewish Assembly

Coming from a respected Jewish community leader, Keith Black’s heartfelt article needs to be taken seriously, especially so because, unlike so many other contributions from our community on the issue of Israel’s judicial reform, Keith’s piece is relatively balanced and shows little if any political bias.

I have however three main points of contention.

First, Keith claims that Israel’s democracy is in peril. Well, democracy is defined as a system of government by the whole population through elected representatives.

In Israel, that democracy has been functioning in overdrive in recent years, culminating in an election last November that has at last produced a majority coalition. Most important, as far as I am aware, there is nothing in the judicial reform proposals that would lead to a cancellation of elections in the future.

Therefore, if the issue of judicial changes is as important to the vast majority of ordinary Israelis as is claimed, what is to stop opposition parties from uniting (or at least working together to ensure that they maximise their collective number of Knesset seats, unlike in last November’s election) and advocating the reversal of some or all of these reforms, assuming that they are passed? The answer, I suspect, is fear that they will lose.

Second, for us in the UK, as Keith highlights listing the pros and the cons, the big issue is whether we should make our voices heard – as communal organisations – in this debate. I have argued in the past that it is not the place of diaspora Jewish groups to speak out on behalf of the Jewish community, for many of the reasons Keith gives.

He has however omitted what is probably the most important argument for not doing so, namely that it is going to further the cause of those anti-Semites who accuse Jews in the UK of being more loyal to Israel than they are to this country.

It is absolutely right that we should protest as loudly as we can about antisemitism, wherever it comes from. It is also right that we demonstrate and lobby on other issues that directly influence Jewish people and our way of life, protecting Jewish traditions, culture and education.

Additionally, we should – and do – promote our advocacy for Israel, seeking to persuade the decision-makers in our country to support optimal relations in all spheres with the Jewish state. All of these work to our advantage as a successful and vibrant community in the UK, since all these objectives are compatible with what is in the best interests of everyone, Jewish or not.

The issue of Israel’s judicial system is on another plane entirely. It is internal to Israel and a matter for Israel’s residents. When those who are not our community’s friends get to hear that British Jews are demonstrating in large numbers (together admittedly with some Israeli Jews), as they have just done in Parliament Square, they will ask why and draw the conclusion that our community cares more about what is happening in Israel than they do about events here.

Third, Keith makes reference to safeguarding Israel as a liberal democracy. This might very well be the most desirable form of government, yet what if an elected Israeli government, acting with a clear electoral mandate, took steps that at least partially compromised this principle? For example, a different definition of human rights set against the context of Jews in Israel being attacked and murdered by Arab terrorists?

The introduction, and then use, of the death penalty? Or, from a left wing perspective, a socialist Israeli government choosing to undermine or even eliminate the fundamental market economy aspect of a liberal democracy? Any of this begs a huge question for diaspora Jewry.

Do we love Israel because we are Jews, because Israel is naturally in all of our hearts, regardless of what system of government it has, even if it is one which to some or even many of us might be odious? Or do we walk away from Israel totally if we do not approve of its government and its actions? I am sure that, on this, we will be very divided, which is yet another reason why I do not approve of our Jewish community leaders speaking out about internal Israeli issues.

The article was originally published here: https://www.jewishnews.co.uk/opinion-community-leaders-should-not-speak-publicly-about-internal-israeli-issues/

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