Wake up and smell the coffee


By Jenni Frazer
November 6, 2009
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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.

COMMENTS

iainlrabbak

Fri, 11/06/2009 - 15:22

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If anything, it's boker tov, Yisrael and this is almost as bad as Isi Leibler's scree at the Jerusalem Post. Let's not forget that we are British Jews, not propagandists for Israel.


Jenni Frazer

Fri, 11/06/2009 - 15:27

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As usual, you have missed the point. In comparing what I have written to Isi Leibler - I assume you mean "screed" - you appear to misunderstand the core of what I am saying. I am trying to point out that it is unprecedented for British Jews to raise their heads above the parapet, and that for once, having taken a position, they are following through. This implies no "propagandising" for Israel, though I don't accept that this is always a bad thing.


iainlrabbak

Fri, 11/06/2009 - 15:42

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Sorry about the typo. Is it unprecedented for British Jews to raise their heads above the parapet? Surely you jest. Have there not been pro-Israel demos over the past few years? Have there not been orchestrated writing campaigns against perceived bias at the BBC? Is the Lordly Sacks not on radio and in the papers at least once a week saying his bit for Jews and Israel?
You say that you cannot remember open differences of opinion with the government of the day. Remember Mellor and Waldegrave and the Board's response (there was no JLC then)?


Jenni Frazer

Fri, 11/06/2009 - 15:49

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This is the organised community attacking the Foreign Secretary, not feral gangs of mad letter writers. Pro-Israel demos are not, of themselves, attacks on the government.


iainlrabbak

Fri, 11/06/2009 - 16:10

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But you agree that it isn't unprecedented for British Jews to raise their heads above the parapet (which is what you were trying to point out)? And I don't think that a fair proportion of your readership will be too pleased to be described as "feral gangs". Also, I think the Board wrote a nasty letter to R Cook and had words with St Tony when they were ForSec and PM over the criticism of Har Homa etc.


Jonathan Hoffman

Sun, 11/08/2009 - 11:19

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Jenni - of course you are right. Here is the ZF's statement as well:

ZF condemns UK government for failing to oppose Goldstone Report:

On Tuesday the US House of Representatives approved by a majority of 344 to 36 a motion calling on the President and the Secretary of State to “oppose unequivocally any endorsement or further consideration of the “Report of the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict” [the Goldstone Report] in multilateral fora”. On Thursday the UK government failed to join the 18 States who opposed the Goldstone Report in the UN General Assembly (Australia, Canada, Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Israel, Italy, Marshall Islands, Micronesia (Federated States of), Nauru, Netherlands, Palau, Panama, Poland, Slovakia, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Ukraine, United States). The ZF applauds these 18 States but deplores the action of the UK government in failing to oppose the Goldstone Report and believes David Miliband is being duplicitous after his statement that the government believed that the Goldstone Report should not be endorsed.

The ZF calls on its members to write to their MPs to protest at this unprincipled action by the UK government.


Jonathan Hoffman

Sun, 11/08/2009 - 11:23

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Here are quotes on Goldstone from the Conservatives:

In this month’s FCO questions, this is what Conservative MPs said:

“Unlike the Egyptians, who turned up to vote in the UN Human Rights Council meeting last week on the Goldstone report on the recent conflict in Gaza, is it not deeply disappointing to find that our own representatives stayed away? This seems to have put us in the same voting camp as Angola, Kyrgyzstan and Madagascar, three of the world’s worst dictatorships. What message was the Foreign Office trying to send to the community by staying away from that important vote last week?’

- Malcolm Moss MP

‘Given that the motion was so clearly unbalanced, therefore, does the Secretary of State agree that the Government should have voted against it, as the United States did, rather than not even registering a formal abstention but simply not voting at all? We interrupt meetings here all the time to vote. Why could they not have done that?’

- Shadow Minister for Europe, Mark Francois MP, 20 October 2009

‘The Foreign Secretary implied that our grand abstention was part of a cunning plan involving President Sarkozy. What was the plan?’

- Desmond Swayne MP, 20 October 2009

‘The British Government [should] vote to reject the resolution.”

- William Hague 16 October 2009


Jonathan Hoffman

Sun, 11/08/2009 - 11:47

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"I have seen and read nothing to suggest that a government led by David Cameron would have voted any differently"

See quotes above. I accept that Oppositions promise everything to everyone, but I do think the Conservatives would have opposed Goldstone.

Hansard 20 October:

Mr. Mark Francois (Rayleigh) (Con): When the UN Human Rights Council voted to endorse the Goldstone report on the conflict in Gaza, the text of the motion made no reference at all to Hamas, despite the fact that it was heavily criticised in the report itself. Given that the motion was so clearly unbalanced, therefore, does the Secretary of State agree that the Government should have voted against it, as the United States did, rather than not even registering a formal abstention but simply not voting at all? We interrupt meetings here all the time to vote. Why could they not have done that?


dov

Mon, 11/09/2009 - 18:12

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Its welcoming to see the British Jewish community finally finding their voice where Israel is concerned.

Lets be clear here, the Goldstone report had absolutely nothing to do with events in Gaza and everything to do with the flexing of muscles by the overtly powerful OIC - as admitted by Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, its secretary-general, in a recent interview on Al Jazeera (http://english.aljazeera.net/focus/2009/10/20091021112649368100.html).

British Jews have traditionally been slow at taking up public support for Israel, even when demonstrations are called they usually are done so far to late to be effective. Earlier this year it was not the established community that called a counter demonstration at the Israeli embassy against those waving Hamas flags, but an individual using the facebook site.

Whilst certain members of the community might find it inconvenient to open their mouths in support of Israel, might I remind you that Hamas, Hezbollah and their string pullers in Tehran really don't differentiate between Jews and Israelis - as proven by the constitution of Hamas.

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