By Jenni Frazer
November 6, 2009
Well, boker tov al Yisrael, as they say in the vernacular. The Jewish community has finally woken up and has confronted the government for its weaselly behaviour over the UN and the Goldstone Report.
Two weeks ago in Geneva Her Majesty's representative sat kicking his undoubtedly well-shod heels as he waited... and waited... and waited for instructions from the British government as to what he should do in the vote regarding the Goldstone Report.
Let us be kind and call this the cock-up result rather than conspiracy: the instructions never came, the British never voted at all.
In the intervening days between the Geneva UN meeting and this week's debate in the General Assembly in New York, diaspora communities all over the world have been putting pressure on their governments to repudiate the Goldstone Report, which attacked Israel for human rights abuses during the Gaza operation in January. (There was criticism of the Palestinians, too, but scarcely of the same scale.)
After a lot of internal discussion — and, I daresay, some private pressure from Israel — the two leading Anglo-Jewish bodies, the Jewish Leadership Council and the Board of Deputies — issued a ringing challenge to Foreign Secretary David Miliband in advance of the New York vote. Nothing less, they declared, than a "no" vote to Goldstone would be acceptable.
And guess what? The pusillanimous Brits did not vote no. They abstained, instead — Britain's default position in the United Nations, where there might almost be a plaque to British abstentions.
This left Anglo-Jewry somewhat up a tree. Having rounded on the government before the vote, the Jewish community was more or less obliged to attack it after the abstention.
Some say that the JLC and the Board calculated that they had nothing to lose by having a go at this government, figuring that it does not have long to live. That may be so, although I have seen and read nothing to suggest that a government led by David Cameron would have voted any differently, no matter what oily assurances come out of Conservative Central Office to that effect this week.
No, the fact is that the JLC and Board's challenge is unprecedented. I cannot remember such an open difference of opinion with the government of the day. It is about time that British Jews came out of the shadows. Kol Hakavod.