Big Tent 'ban' not a ban, but a balance

A prominent spokesman for Jewish settlers in the West Bank has complained of being excluded from Sunday's Big Tent for Israel conference in Manchester.

Yisrael Medad is a former emissary to the UK for the right-wing Betar youth movement, who now lives in the settlement of Shiloh.

On his blog My Right Word, Mr Medad questioned the apparent lack of any settler representative at the advocacy event. He also referred readers to other bloggers who had been critical of the Jewish Leadership Council and the chairman of its executive, Mick Davis, over Israel.

Mr Medad's name was then suggested as a possible speaker, to organisers finalising the programme.

But Mr Medad said: "I was informed that my participation was rejected and it was intimated to me that I had insulted the UK Jewish leadership."

The decision prompted a letter of protest from the chairman of Likud-Herut UK, Zalman Unsdorfer, to Board of Deputies president Vivian Wineman, who co-chaired the committee responsible for vetting Big Tent speakers.

But Mr Wineman insisted: "There was no exclusion of pro-settler voices. Mr Unsdorfer and Mr [Eric] Graus [president of Likud-Herut] have been invited to speak, and they will be welcome if they come."

Mr Medad had been ruled out, he said, because he lacked the immediate local experience of the delegitimisation of Israel in the UK.

Another absentee is strictly Orthodox media commentator Jonathan Rosenblum, originally approached to speak by conference convenor Rabbi Jonathan Guttentag.

In a letter in the Jewish Tribune, Mr Rosenblum claimed that in order to avoid a row, he had been "one of the sacrifices". Sources close to the organisers said that Reform representatives would have demanded the participation of a Progressive rabbi in order to balance Mr Rosenblum's appearance.

New guest speakers named this week were Shadow International Aid Secretary Ivan Lewis and the treasurer of Manchester's Muslim Jewish Forum Mohammed Amin.

Last updated: 12:57pm, November 24 2011