UK Jewish leaders denounce 'irresponsible' calls for ceasefire

Israel continues ground operation against Hamas despite increasing diplomatic pressure to halt


Artillery shells are fired from an undisclosed position toward the Gaza Strip by the Israeli army on October 29, 2023. Israel pounded Hamas-ruled Gaza with more air and ground attacks on October 29 in an escalating military campaign as the UN warned civil order was "starting to break down" in the besieged Palestinian territory. (Photo by Gil COHEN-MAGEN / AFP) (Photo by GIL COHEN-MAGEN/AFP via Getty Images)

UK Jewish leaders have condemned as “irresponsible” calls from politicians for Israel to agree to a ceasefire in the war with Hamas as the country comes under increasing pressure internationally to halt its military action against the terrorist group.

In recent days the Mayors of London and Manchester, Sadiq Khan and Andy Burnham, have added their voices to those within the Labour Party demanding a ceasefire.

But in a joint statement released shortly before Shabbat, the Board of Deputies and the Leadership Council hit back at the interventions.

“Many of these calls are motivated by humanitarian concerns and we are deeply sympathetic to those Palestinian civilians caught in this conflict,” the statement said. “These calls also show a worrying lack of understanding and are irresponsible coming from those in elected office here in the UK."

The Board and JLC added, “You cannot both believe that Israel has the right to defend itself against atrocities like this and also call for a ceasefire while Hamas says it will do the exact same thing again, and continues to hold over 200 hostages.”

Thanking the government for its support and efforts to stop the conflict spreading, the organisations said: “Politicians who do not have a direct role in these diplomatic efforts should focus on threats to community cohesion here in the UK.”

On Friday Israel expanded its operations against Hamas in Gaza, moving ground troops into the north of the territory and again urging civilians to move south.

But the move was criticised by UN secretary general Antonio Guterres who said: “I regret that instead of a critically needed humanitarian pause, supported by the international community, Israel has intensified its military operations.”

It follows the UN’s General Assembly’s call for a ceasefire and release of “illegally” held captives on Friday in a non-binding resolution backed by 120 countries and opposed by 14. The UK abstained. A Canadian-led amendment to explicitly condemn Hamas for the October 7 massacre of Israelis failed to get sufficient support.

The UK government has backed a humanitarian pause to allow more aid to go into Gaza for civilians but has stood by Israel’s right to protect its people.

Michelle Donelan, Secretary of State for Science, Innovation and Technology, appearing on BBC One's Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg, programme, said: “What we are seeing is Israel is trying to defend itself.”

Pressed over whether Israel should halt its ground incursion to spare civilians, she said: “We know [Hamas} use local people as human shields. It is very difficult to target Hamas without hurting innocent people.”

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