Davis row 'sideshow' says Sacks

The Chief Rabbi, Lord Sacks, has said that controversy over UJIA leader Mick Davis's criticisms of Israel is "the wrong debate" which distracts from the real issue.

Lord Sacks had previously made only a brief statement, saying there was "much to be gained" from honest debate over Israel as long as it came with unshakeable commitment.

But he has now changed tack in an essay on last week's Torah portion, published on the United Synagogue website.

He wrote: "There has been massive debate in Anglo-Jewry in the past few weeks as to whether we should take a unified stance in our support of Israel or whether we should openly air our differences. It's been a noisy debate, a shrill debate, but it's the wrong debate, and it is deflecting us from the real issue, which is hardly discussed at all."

Comparing the Middle East conflict with the "sibling rivalry" between Joseph and his brothers, the Chief Rabbi said that Israel's opponents - Hamas, Hizbollah and Iran- refused to recognise its existence as a matter of religious principle.

"While we as Jews argue among ourselves as to this policy or that, as if this were remotely relevant to the issue of peace," he said, "we fail to focus on the real issue, which is, so long as Joseph's brothers do not recognise his right to be, there can be no peace, merely a series of staging posts on the way to a war that will not end until there is no Jewish state at all."

    Last updated: 12:31pm, December 10 2010