The Board of Deputies has responded to criticism from two of its constituency groups regarding its statement on Monday’s border clashes on the Gaza border, saying it hoped that new information would give its critics “pause for thought”.
Liberal Judaism and Yachad, both of which have delegates as a part of the communal organisation, had spoken out against the Board’s original statement on Monday’s events, when 62 Palestinians were killed and more than 2,000 were wounded.
The Board had said that “responsibility for the violence lies with Hamas”, which it described as “cynical in the use of its population – including children – to join known terrorists in violent attempts to break through the border and kill Israeli citizens”.
It also said it was “profoundly anguished at the violent scenes and loss of life” at the border.
However, the Board did not suggest at any point that the IDF or the Israeli government had any responsibility for the casualties.
Yachad, a left-wing Israel advocacy group, described the statement as “ill-conceived and un-nuanced”, while Liberal Judaism called it “unilateral and ill-judged”.
Around 500 people put their names to a Yachad letter criticising the Board’s comments.
However, on Wednesday a Hamas representative told an Arab news site that 50 of the 62 dead Palestinians were members of the terror group, while the Islamic Jihad group claimed three more of the dead.
In a statement this evening, a Board spokesperson said: “We treasure the diversity of views in our community and are mindful of it.
“We made our statement based on the facts we were hearing. While every death is a tragedy, we hope that the public admissions today from Hamas and Islamic Jihad that nearly every single one of those killed at the border has been from one of their movements will give critics of Israel, and indeed critics of the Board of Deputies, pause for thought.
“These revelations demonstrate the challenge that Israel faces in defending its civilian towns and communities close to the Gaza/Israel border, and why Israel needs to be given support and some benefit of the doubt at this time.”
Liberal Judaism had described the Board’s original statement as having been made “without any attempt at consultation or balance.
“Speaking on behalf of the whole community, what the Board should have said is that, as Jews, we respect all human life.
“We recognise that Hamas is cynically encouraging violence to create ‘martyrs for the Palestinian cause’. We deeply regret the loss of life and, together with many British and Israeli Jews, we deeply regret that Israel has not demonstrated the necessary restraint to thwart Hamas in this objective.
“The Board’s credibility as the voice of British Jewry depends wholly on its willingness to listen to, hear from and reflect the values of all sections of the community,” the Liberal Judaism spokesperson continued.
“We hope the President-elect [Marie van der Zyl] will as a matter of urgency reaffirm that this is indeed her intention, and we hope that yesterday’s statement will prove the exception and not the rule.”
Yachad’s open letter had pointed out that the Board’s original statement “fails to place any responsibility on Israel for how it polices its borders and deals with the worsening humanitarian crisis in Gaza, or acknowledge the highly irresponsible role that the United States has played in fanning the flames of an already tense and volatile time, by opening an embassy in Jerusalem”.
It called on the Board of Deputies to “put in place a plan that will ensure that future statements will truly represent the community”.