'Anti-Israel' Gaza flotilla forum cancelled

An interfaith forum debating the Gaza flotilla incident has been cancelled after Jewish communities expressed concerns that the event was “totally inappropriate” and would be a vehicle for anti-Israel sentiment.

The Building the Bridge (BtB) initiative in Bristol had been due to assess the flotilla’s impact on religious groups in the city on Monday evening.

But it was cancelled after Jewish community leaders questioned the role of an interfaith organisation in debating the flotilla fallout.

Representatives of the Bristol and West Progressive Jewish Congregation and the Orthodox Bristol Hebrew Congregation met organisers of the event last Friday.

Michael Romain, chairman of the Progressive community, said: “We made our feelings clear. As a result of the meeting the organisers decided to cancel the forum. We are now calling a meeting of both Jewish congregations to discuss any communal anxieties about what is happening in the Middle East, with a view to having dialogue with the Muslim community.”

Ian Quaife, Bristol City Council’s community cohesion manager, said the BtB event would have been postponed due to the unavailability of Liberal Democrat MP Andrew Stunell, Parliamentary Under Secretary at the Department for Communities, who had been due to speak at the forum.

But Mr Quaife added: “We had discussions with the Jewish community. They are going to go back and discuss it between the two synagogues. We will invite a Foreign Office official to discuss foreign policy instead, but that will be separate to our discussions with Bristol Jews.”

Mr Quaife said relations between the Jewish community and others in the city are good, but admitted “emotion is running high” over the Gaza issue.

Mr Romain is due to meet council leader Barbara Janke this week to discuss the authority’s condemnation of Israel’s part in the flotilla incident and its call for sanctions against Israel.

Last updated: 1:41pm, July 29 2010