The JC letters page, 25th May 2018

Dora Hirsh, Steven Blumgart, Michael White, Doron Zieve, David Wainwright, Daniel J. Levy, Steven Sands, Bernard Wasserstein and Dr Stanley Jacobs share their views with JC readers

May 25, 2017 15:25

Kaddish as protest

I found it profoundly disturbing to hear of the Kaddish being recited at Parliament square by young Jewish activists protesting against Israel’s actions on the Gaza border.

I said Kaddish over my grandmother’s body when she died. I said it at Majdanek concentration camp by a pile of human bones and ashes. I said it by a gas chamber in Auschwitz, where some of my own relatives were murdered. I’ve said it with my friends and family in genuine prayer.

I’ve never done it as a performance, in front of a camera, as a form of protest, as a stand against other parts of the Jewish community.

When I want to do those things, I discuss and I argue and I write. And I protest, but I do not mobilise sacred Jewish prayer or Jewish religious symbols. I do not put on a kippah or a tallit to make myself untouchable.

Mobilising prayer for political motives shuts down any chance of meaningful, nuanced discussion. It prevents engagement or argument with the protesters — the people who tried looked stupid because, after all, these young people  were “only praying”.

Anyone can tell me that they believe in the sanctity of all life, even those of terrorists. They can tell me that it causes them grief that civilians and children died at the border as well as Hamas people. They can tell me that Netanyahu does not do the right things to achieve peace. Those are legitimate positions, and those are good places from which we can have a discussion. And when they hear the Kaddish in shul, they may hold in their hearts any person they wish.

But when they used the Kaddish to make a political point “as Jews”, I found it deeply hurtful. I do not think it was honest or authentic. I think it was a performance. And a bad one.

Dora Hirsh

London N3

Remarkably, one spokesperson at the London rally on May 16, when a few dozen young people in London recited Kaddish for those killed in the violent riots in Gaza, organised by Hamas — whose stated goal was to breach the border fence, cross into Israel and murder as many Jews as possible — said: “when Palestinians stand resolute on the Gazan border demanding their freedom and their right to return, they are not committing acts of terrorism, they are performing a mitzvah. “

It later became known that the vast majority of those killed were Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorists as made clear by officials from those organisations. How can Jews use the holy Kaddish prayer to mourn dead Hamas operatives? It is despicable.

And these were not just any young people. They included members of the current leadership of certain Zionist youth movements. How can the community continue to invest heavily in such organisations whose leadership can participate in such a  ceremony?

One of the attendees is due to lead an Israel tour for one of these youth movements. How can someone who says Kaddish for terrorists be expected to inspire and excite our young people about the state of Israel, an oasis of civilisation in the midst of a desert of savagery? That is the lesson we need to teach our youth.

Steven Blumgart

Chair, Mizrachi UK

In 2012, Ahamad Bahr, Deputy Speaker of the Palestinian Parliament in Gaza announced, according to a MEMRI translation: “ A woman may set out on Jihad without her husband’s permission and a servant without his master’s permission. Why? In order to annihilate those Jews. Oh Allah, destroy the Jews and their supporters. Oh Allah, destroy the Americans and their supporters. Oh Allah, count them one by one, and kill them all, without leaving a single one”.

Those deluded useful idiots say Kaddish in Westminster for an enemy whose sworn mission is to kill all Jews, including them.

In the eyes of our enemies, no matter our shade or hue, a Jew is a Jew is a Jew.

Michael White

London N3

As an Israeli living in Netanya some 48 miles from the Gaza strip,  it is reassuring  that young British Jews are saying Kaddish for the 60 Palestinians who died, at least 53 of whom were claimed by Hamas and Islamic Jihad as their own.

Had they succeeded in entering Israel and carrying out their intention, no doubt these Jews would have said Kaddish in Parliament Square for us, too.

Doron Zieve

Netanya, Israel

Gaza strategy

As a Jew and the son of someone who arrived in the UK on the Kindertransport, I am deeply ashamed of the Board of Deputies’ statement about what is happening on the border with Gaza. The BoD is supposed to represent British Jews, not the Israeli government, but its statement could have been written by its ambassador.

The conditions of the Palestinians living in Gaza is reminiscent of the Jews in the Warsaw ghetto. Would the BoD suggest that they should have meekly accepted their fate, and that in standing up to their oppressors they were responsible for their own destruction? If not, why expect the Palestinians to be any different?

This is not to excuse Hamas, and their stated opposition to the very existence of Israel. But, until both sides in this terrible conflict try to see the world through the eyes of their opponents, we cannot move towards a peaceful solution, which in the long run can be the only guarantor of Israel’s survival. As the stronger party, only Israel can break the deadlock.

The Board’s unconditional support for the Israeli government, when the rest of the world can see the injustice it is causing, is setting back the fight against antisemitism.

As the body claiming to speak on behalf of the Jewish community in the UK, its antipathy  towards the plight of the Palestinians serves only to feed the antisemitism that is growing here and across Europe.

We cannot care only for ourselves. Why should we expect other peoples to stand with us if we appear to care so little for others?

David Wainwright

London N16

A key tenet of counterinsurgency doctrine is that “people are the prize”. Given that Israel is effectively conducting a counterinsurgency operation along its border with the Gaza Strip, I cannot help but notice that this approach appears to have been rejected in favour of short-term tactical fixes.

Long-term strategic solutions seem to be lacking, and politicians speaking for narrow interest groups bear responsibility for this deadlock.

Daniel J. Levy

St Antony’s College, Oxford

Independence deaths

With reference to the article, Israel Tour Sparks Pride (JC, May 18), Esther Cailingold was not, as stated, the only British woman killed in the War of Independence.

My cousin Sylvia Beyrack was also killed in the battle for Jerusalem on June 4 1948, having previously joined the Haganah. She is buried on Mount Herzl.

This was reported in the Jewish Chronicle at the time:

“Two London born Jewesses have been killed in the front line fighting with the Army of Israel during the battle of Jerusalem, says Reuters Jerusalem correspondent.

“They are 23-year-old EstherCailingold, daughter of a London publisher of Jewish books, who became a Sten gunner with Haganah, and Sylvia Beyrack, ex-secretary of the Zionist Youth Movement in London.

Steven Sands

Chigwell, Essex

Scottish names

In her review (Books, May 18) of Two Hundred Years of Scottish Jewry, Jenni Frazer queries my statement that “where Jews in Scotland changed their surnames, they seem, in general, to have anglicised rather than scotticised them.”

She cites, as an example to the contrary, someone she knew who adopted the name Osborne, which she suggests is “fairly Scottish.” Osborne is, in fact, an English name, common, particularly in the south-east, since medieval times. More plausibly, she also cites her own surname. But that is of French origin and is almost as frequently found in England (2014 incidence: one in 15,939) as in Scotland (one in 13,022). There are, admittedly, two clans Fraser (note the difference in spelling).  But then there is a Waterstein peninsula on the Isle of Skye; I would not claim, on that account, that my name is Scottish.

Bernard Wasserstein


Eat and Think

Sad to read that Gefiltefest is being pulled from JW3.  Some problems it faced — too much talking and too little food — reminded me of my Glaswegian dad’s oft repeated aphorism at meal times.  “Don’t let the talkin’ hold up the eatin’.”

Dr Stanley Jacobs,

London SW18

May 25, 2017 15:25

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