Israel is a red line for those of us who've gone Green

April 26, 2015 17:49

Unintentionally, I found religion and politics at the same time. It was August 2012 and I joined the Green Party. The following month our family joined Kingston Liberal Synagogue so our sons could attend cheder to prepare for their barmitzvahs.

I became political because I object to the way the coalition government has burdened the vulnerable in bailing out banks that got us into this financial mess in the first place.

I belatedly realised that unless the politics changes, no amount of campaigning by pressure groups or signing of petitions will bring an end to austerity.

Previously, I've voted Lib Dem to 'keep the Tories out' rather than support my more natural home, Labour. That party's capacity to win in Richmond Park, which has been represented by Zac Goldsmith, is minimal.

In addition, I was unhappy about Labour's poor environmental record and so I gravitated towards the Greens.

Immediately, I felt at home.

Sustaining our planet is at the heart of the party's policies, equality for all is essential and animal rights are prioritised while peaceful means of resolution, co-operation and respect are paramount. We seek an end to exploitation of the planet's resources, humankind and animals, recognising our interdependency for continued existence.

These are principles that many Liberal Jews will recognise.

Becoming a Green Party member felt natural, whereas I was a bit of a fish out of water going to shul, unaware of many of the services and traditions. However, members of the synagogue were incredibly welcoming.

As time went on I began to see beyond the Hebrew and understand the amidah, shema and kaddish, while discovering that our rabbi could take a Torah portion and reference 11th-century rabbis, 18th-century philosophers, 1960s folk singers and her children, all in one 20-minute exposition to make it relevant and meaningful.

The fact that our rabbi is a 30-something mother of three with a nose ring and a penchant for vertiginous high heels makes her all the more impressive, yet approachable.

Through her services and my own reading I learnt that, like the Green Party, Liberal Judaism espouses equality for all and has, for example, championed same-sex marriage since 2012, saying: "Liberal Judaism delights in celebrating the love of two persons, regardless of gender."

On the environment, Liberal Judaism interprets the Torah to say humans are entitled "to work the earth and extract its wealth providing they also guard and conserve it" and lists 25 actions Liberal Jews should consider to protect the earth, including "walking or cycling in preference to using a car" and "insulating houses to reduce heat loss" - both key Green Party policies.

Sadly though, many Liberal Jews find it hard to vote Green because of our policies on Israel-Palestine.

This is something I also have difficulty reconciling myself to, partly as it seems that declaring yourself pro-Palestinian in the Greens is as essential as being pro-women's right to choose, anti-Trident and a vegetarian.

I do not side with Palestine, nor do I agree with our policy on ending the EU-Israel trade agreement, instigating a cultural and academic of boycott of Israel and supporting BDS.

I do not agree with our policy because it won't work. Using boycotts and sanctions to discriminate against Jews has been going on for at least 1,000 years.

Israelis regard cultural and trade embargoes as simply more of the same.

The existential struggle they have been coping with since their nation state came into being can be seen as a continuation of the antisemitism that has hounded them for centuries.

I was asked at a Palestine Solidarity Campaign hustings recently whether I thought the settlements were the biggest block to achieving peace.

The answer is clearly "no", but it's only since then that I have comprehended what is: the lack of trust that Israelis and Jews have with the rest of the world.

The Green Party needs to look to its egalitarian founding principles and find a better way to work for peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

Understanding is the first step.

Read more Election 2015 news here

April 26, 2015 17:49

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