Voices founder quits ‘out of touch’ group

The Jewish Chronicle - - News - BY SI­MON ROCKER

ONE OF Bri­tain’s lead­ing Pro­gres­sive rab­bis has quit the steer­ing com­mit­tee of In­de­pen­dent Jewish Voices, the con­tro­ver­sial group formed ear­lier this year to chal­lenge main­stream Jewish or­gan­i­sa­tions over Is­rael.

Rabbi Dr David Gold­berg, emer­i­tus rabbi of Lon­don’s Lib­eral Jewish Syn­a­gogue, was a mem­ber of the group which launched IJV in Fe­bru­ary.

But he said this week: “I’ve be­come dis­ap­pointed at the lack of di­rec­tion. It had a won­der­ful start due to the pub­lic­ity value of the em­i­nent names who were per­suaded or who were will­ing to sign a state­ment on hu­man rights, Is­rael and the Oc­cu­pied Ter­ri­to­ries.

“Since then, the en­thu­si­asm en­gen­dered by that has been dis­si­pated.”

He went on: “When it comes to an ur­gent and top­i­cal is­sue which re­quires an un­equiv­o­cal re­sponse, such as the aca­demic boy­cott [of Is­rael], the tired old mantra is re­peated that it is not an or­gan­i­sa­tion with a pro­gramme but a col­lec­tion of in­di­vid­u­als. I find that un­sat­is­fac­tory.”

More than 500 peo­ple, in­clud­ing ac­tors Stephen Fry, Zoe Wana­maker and de­signer Ni­cole Farhi, signed the group’s launch dec­la­ra­tion.

Rab­biGold­ber­gal­so­said:“I’ve­be­come aware­howlit­tlein­touch­with­theAn­gloJewish com­mu­nity so many of its [IJV’s] peo­ple are, when they make t h e g o o d o l d Board of Deputies the axis of evil.”

He was also c o n c e r n e d a t in­creas­ing will­ing­ness in some cir­cles to coun­te­nance the idea of a bi­na­tional state rather than a two-state so­lu­tion to the Is­raeli-Pales­tinian con­flict.

“I think a big worry for Is­rael is the way a bi­na­tional state is be­ing floated. For all of us who be­lieve in the right of the Jews to have a state, no mat­ter how crit­i­cal we are of the Is­raeli gov­ern­ment, this is the thin end of the wedge. More and more aca­demics are tak­ing it up in their ivory tow­ers.”

Ac­cord­ing to IJV’s web­site, the group “takes no po­si­tion on the boy­cott, and we know that our sig­na­to­ries in­clude those who sup­port it and those who op­pose it”.

But it is stag­ing a pub­lic meet­ing in Lon­don next week to dis­cuss whether boy­cotting Is­rael would help to “end the Oc­cu­pa­tion” or prove coun­ter­pro­duc­tive.

Among listed speak­ers are the Is­raeli anti-Zion­ist his­to­rian Ilan Pappe, au­thor of The Eth­nic Cleans­ing of Pales­tine and now a pro­fes­sor of his­tory at Ex­eter Univer­sity, and City Univer­sity’s Adah Kay, from Ra­mal­lah on the West Bank.

Dr Kay was among sig­na­to­ries to a let­ter from the “Pales­tinian arts com­mu­nity” to the ex-Pink Floyd mu­si­cian Roger Wa­ters last year, urg­ing him not to pe­form in Is­rael un­til it ends “its il­le­gal oc­cu­pa­tion of Pales­tinian ter­ri­tory”.

PHOTO: JOHN RIFKIN

Rabbi David Gold­berg

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