Progressive and Masorti religious leaders in the UK have issued a statement in support of a two-state solution as the only long-term end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that “will not involve untold bloodshed”.
Affirming Israel’s right to defend itself as well as expressing anguish over the “catastrophic loss of life of innocent Palestinian civilians” in Gaza, it also sets out five core Jewish values which include the pursuit of peace and respect for law, including for the laws of war.
The statement has been signed by the chief executives of the UK’s two Progressive movements, Rabbi Josh Levy and Rabbi Charley Baginsky: Rabbis Jonathan Wittenberg and Jeremy Gordon of Masorti; and the director of Hias + Jcore, Rabbi David Mason, who is Orthodox.
Other signatories include the heads of the New Israel Fund, the Jewish Labour Movement, the anti-occupation lobby group Yachad, Liberal Democrat peer Lord Monroe Palmer and former Board of Deputies president Vivian Wineman.
“We refuse to give up on the vision of Israel and a Palestinian state one day existing side-by-side,” they declare.
Mourning “the biggest loss of Jewish life since the Holocaust”, the statement calls for the release of the hostages taken by the Hamas terrorists on October 7. It also voices concern over the “unprecedented antisemitism” faced by the community.
Of the importance of the laws of war, it says these “recognise that there are circumstances in which military action is legal and necessary for self-defence. However, they also place clear limits on what harm can be done to civilians.
“It is precisely at times of unimaginable pain and suffering that we need these laws to ensure that our behaviour reflects our humanity.”
It goes on: “It is no contradiction for Jews to uphold these laws in defence of ourselves and for the protection of others.”
It also calls for support for those working to “ensure a safe future for both peoples”, for extremism to be challenged and to enter into dialogue “wherever possible”.
The current moment “requires those of us in the UK not to speak in simple slogans, but to admit complexity,” the statement says.
Rabbis Baginsky and Levy commented: “Too much of the dialogue has been binary, simple and based on slogans. It is important that this is redressed and a religious voice introduced, coming out of a place of Jewish values and ideals.”
The full declaration is at jewishvalues.org.uk