Reform launches review of its Israel policy

By Simon Rocker, July 1, 2010

The Reform movement has set up a working party to review its policy on Israel.

It would help give a "distinctive voice" on Israel in "challenging, difficult and possibly epoch-making times," movement head Rabbi Tony Bayfield told its annual meeting at the Sternberg Centre in London on Sunday.

The working party will be chaired by Reform vice-chair Jenny Pizer, who said Reform engagement with Israel was "greater than ever".

Rabbi Bayfeld also reported having received "more positive feedback" than he could remember to an editorial critical of the Israel government in the latest issue of the Progressive magazine, Manna.

In it, he wrote that the alliance of religious fundamentalism and right-wing nationalism in Israel had led to "the virtual eclipse of the two-state solution and the dwindling of Israel's allies".

He argued: "It is beyond reasonable dispute that there are tens of thousands of us in Britain who love Israel with all our hearts and all our souls and all our might… But we do not love the present Israeli government, its complicity in the Charedi-isation of Israel and its resistance to the two-state solution.

"For many years it has been the conventional wisdom that British Jews should not criticise the government of Israel publicly because such criticism will be used by our enemies. Antisemitism is on the increase in Europe and there are significant numbers whose anti-Israel statements and actions are simply a cover for antisemitism. But the present government of Israel is supplying all the ammunition that our enemies need. We are moving faster and faster, seemingly inexorably towards a tragedy of immense proportions."

Calling on Israel to stop building settlements, he said it should use its friends and allies to "negotiate and guarantee a just settlement with the Palestinians."

Welcoming the article, Sheffield delegate John Speyer thought many in his community would have been "very happy" to see it published.

Brian Humphreys from Finchley Reform said: "Even the Board of Deputies, which has been known as very hostile to anybody who has voiced criticism of Israel, has now accepted that there is more than one view."

Last updated: 12:55pm, July 1 2010