It was an innocuously titled email: "interesting article" said the subject line.
When I opened it and read the article in the JC about UJIA chair Mick Davis's remarks regarding criticism of Israel, I had to rub my eyes, pinch myself and then reread it, slowly. The chairman of the Jewish Leadership Council saying some of the things I think myself? Broad agreement from the ZF, from United, Liberal and Reform synagogues? What the hell was happening?
It's this last question that I think we should try to focus upon. I'm not claiming that Harvey Rose, Mick Davis or Jonathan Sacks are about to appear on a JfJfP platform, let alone sign up to our statement. Further, there was criticism of Mr Davis from parties such as Joy Wolfe and Samuel Hayek of the JNF, not to mention Abe Foxman.
One of the reasons I signed up to JfJfP and became active within it was because the various Jewish organisations did not reflect my views on Israel. When we met with a group from the Board of Deputies, one of the first questions we wanted to ask was why they felt unable to voice any criticism of Israel in public. I think the proposed loyalty oath is repugnant. And while we have always acknowledged that JfJfP does not speak for the majority of Jews in the UK, we maintained that we represent a significant and growing body of opinion of Jews in this country.
Now Mick Davis has confirmed some of what we have been saying. More than that, significant figures in British Jewry have been strongly supportive, saying they would not disagree with his quoted comments and that he speaks for the mainstream.
If it goes on like this, JfJfP will need to wind itself up, having served its purpose! (I know some bloggers would like that to happen anyway, regardless of Mick Davis's comments.)
I'm going to make a plea here. I realise that this is a both significant and controversial. But rather than jumping up and down on personal bandwagons about the organisations, I hope we can actually discuss the issues at hand which are:
Is it right/constructive to criticise Israel in public?
Is the mainstream of British Jewry antagonistic or sympathetic to the current path of Israeli politics?
Is it right to worry that the effect of Israel's policies is to increase antisemitism, or is that worry itself giving in to racism?
There are other questions arising, but these I think are the crucial ones.