Rabbi defends speaking alongside anti-Zionist

Rabbi Rich: "I should be congratulated"

Rabbi Rich: "I should be congratulated"

Liberal Judaism chief executive Rabbi Danny Rich has defended his decision to speak alongside The Promise director Peter Kosminsky and a leading anti-Israel activist at a church-run school workshop.

Rabbi Rich said it was vital for the Jewish community to engage with churches which wanted to discuss Israel rather than leave the way open to anti-Zionist Jews.

He said attending the sixth-form study day in Dorset with Mr Kosminsky and Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods founding member Deborah Fink was a matter for "congratulation not condemnation".

"I should be congratulated for being prepared to be the Daniel in the lions' den where others refuse to go." Rabbi Rich said he had given pupils a "pro-Israel, pro-Palestinian, pro-peace, pro-human rights" point of view during discussions about the three Abrahamic faiths.

300 students, from schools including Sherborne, also "heard the Palestinian Christian perspective" and "questioned human rights monitors working on a World Council of Churches project in Israeli-occupied Palestine", according to the Diocese of Salisbury, which helped organise the event.

Mr Kosminsky was invited to speak about The Promise – his four-part series on British Mandate Palestine which caused controversy when broadcast by Channel 4 last year.

He showed clips including one of the lead character, Erin, being threatened by truncheon-wielding IDF soldiers. Mr Kosminsky hoped pupils would be "galvanised" by what they had seen during the day.

The event was partly organised by members of the Palestinian Christian movement Friends of Sabeel and members of Jews for Justice for Palestinians. It was chaired by the Bishop of Sherborne, Graham Kings.

Rabbi Rich later gave a reading at an Advent carol service at Sherborne Abbey, at which Ms Fink sang. She regularly protests at anti-Israel demonstrations and last September was forcibly removed from the Royal Albert Hall after leading a protest against the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra. Ms Fink helped unfurl a "Free Palestine" banner and sang about "Israeli apartheid".

Rabbi Rich said: "I do not agree with Deborah Fink on many things. My view is that Israel has a right to exist and does many things right and I'm prepared to go and argue that in hostile conditions.

"At Liberal Judaism we have a policy we call 'considered engagement'. If we receive an invitation, we consider it our duty to speak in areas where lots of people refuse. We will go into places where our views are in the minority.The Jewish community is making a big mistake. Most church meetings on Palestine have no pro-Israel voice because the Jewish community refuses to go."

    Last updated: 12:45pm, January 5 2012