I won't protest alongside the Jewish hard left

Despite my fears over the Israeli government, I won’t endorse the views of such leftist groups

March 07, 2023 18:46

In my time as JC editor, one perennial story would drive readers — and me — puce with anger.

Find any large protest or march and, no matter what the topic, you could guarantee that there would be at least two groups attempting to purloin the demo as their own. First, the Trots. Whether it was the SWP or some other bunch of fringe nutters, there they would be with their banners. Whether it was a march over teachers’ pay or for more NHS spending, the Trots would be there.

And they would be joined by supposed Palestinian supporters. It wouldn’t matter how irrelevant the cause of the march was — I’ve a memory of seeing pics of keffiyahs on a protest to do with some sort of fishing waters dispute — Palestinian Solidarity Campaign types and even Hamas or Hezbollah supporters would be there with the Palestinian flag.

I write this in the past tense but it’s as prevalent today as ever, of course.

And they are toxic to whatever cause they latch onto. Many people wish to take to the streets for all sorts of reasons, but they would never be seen alongside Trots or the PSC, let alone supporters of terrorist groups.

Having spoken to organisers when the JC covered rallies during my editorship, I know how angry some can be when their cause is hijacked by these political leeches.

Which brings us to Sunday’s planned demonstration in London against the judicial reforms being pursued by the Israeli government. I share many people’s deep concern, not just at the reforms but at the presence in the coalition of people and parties who, in my view, have no place anywhere near power in Israel or anywhere else.

But I won’t be protesting on Sunday.

That’s not out of any misplaced idea that Jews should never criticise Israel in public: if not us, who?

No, the reason I won’t be anywhere near the protests is because they are a mirror image of the problem I have described above.

The demonstrations have been backed by the New Israel Fund (NIF) and Yachad, two left-wing campaign groups.

Both the NIF and Yachad are fully entitled to their views. It’s their right to seek to persuade as many people as possible to support them, to fundraise, to campaign and to prosper. We live in a democracy — a phrase which applies both to the UK and Israel, in which they are indeed able to operate.

But equally, the rest of us who don’t share their leftist politics are fully entitled to regard them as wrong. Indeed, often dangerously wrong. And to regard their involvement as toxifying the protest.

Yachad, for example, claims to be “the pro-Israel, pro-peace movement for British Jews.” It’s just that, from my perspective, the “pro-Israel” bit seems to have been dumped the moment it was written. Yachad does a lot of campaigning. None of it could be described as pro-Israel with a straight face.

Indeed, in an interview in 2021, Yachad’s director Hannah Weisfeld offered one of the most profoundly offensive comments about Israel I have ever heard from a Jew: “For me, the Jewish people cannot survive and thrive with a nation-state doing what it’s doing in the name of the Jewish people.

“For others, that’s the only way the Jewish people can survive. Where’s the common ground there? I think Israel is destroying — and I don’t say this with any glee — I think what Israel’s done to the Jewish community is to destroy it.”

It’s difficult to think of a more historically ignorant, more profoundly shocking and offensive argument.

Shocking, yes. But the only surprising aspect of her comment was that she was so open about her view of Israel.

Yachad’s modus operandi is to take impressionable British Jews and to expose them to leftwing Israeli NGOs both here and on tours of the West Bank. Yachad and NIF are why I will be going nowhere near Sunday’s demo.

When the Trots and PSC types turn up at demonstrations, they usually do so uninvited and embarrass the organisers.

But Yachad and the NIF are supporters of the rally. They are promoting it and attending it — and Weisfeld herself is due to deliver a speech to the crowd.

It clearly hasn’t occurred to anyone involved that it’s precisely because the NIF and its political allies are running the show on Sunday that many of us who love Israel but abhor its current government will have nothing to do with the demonstration.

March 07, 2023 18:46

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