British rabbi hits out at Israeli 'xenophobia' after BNP's backing

A senior United Synagogue rabbi will use his sermon tomorrow to condemn comments made by Israel’s Interior Minister, which were cited approvingly by the BNP.

Rabbi Yitzchak Schochet, of Mill Hill Synagogue, who is chair of the Rabbinical Council of the US, hits out at the “extreme xenophobic” remarks made by Eli Yishai, who said that foreign workers would bring diseases to Israel and threaten Israel’s Jewish identity.

According to a text of his Shabbat address, he also fears that the incident shows that Israelis “don’t care” about the possible consequences of what they say for diaspora Jews.

Rabbi Schochet makes clear that generally diaspora Jews should not be seen criticising Israel and “when a member of my family misbehaves, I’m not going to criticise him publicly”.

He goes on:“But there are red lines — and when they’re crossed then I have to distance myself from those remarks, from those actions — to make the point to everyone else that what they have said or done is not a reflection on the rest of the family, lest we all become guilty by association. ”

The rabbi complains: “When an interior minister verbalises extreme xenophobic sentiments, that then feed the BNP in this country to substantiate their abhorrent racist arguments, then that in itself demonstrates ever so forcefully how what happens there has direct bearing here.

“Are they truly oblivious in Israel that what they say and do has consequences for the Jew walking the streets of London or New York? I think so. I think they don’t care. That goes against the grain of a basic fundamental Jewish principle of all Jews being responsible for one another.”

He continues: “As much as we have to appreciate that our identity as a nation is bound as one with the land, they have to understand that their identity as a medinah [state] is bound as one with the people.

“And when things emanate from there that are in direct contrast to basic Jewish values, then we have to stand up and be counted. And when diaspora Jewry stays quiet, then there is something fundamentally wrong with our whole approach and attitude. Then indeed we share in the guilt and the shame.”

Reacting to Mr Yishai’s remarks on the deportation of illegal migrants, the BNP had said that Israel’s demand to remain a Jewish state matched its own for Britain to be an “ethnically majority” British state. Mr Yishai’s spokesman last week denounced the BNP as “a factory for anti-Israeli and anti-Jewish hatred”.

    Last updated: 5:29pm, November 12 2009