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Limmud: How unions strike out at Israel

Limmud conference hears that London activists shape the Palestinian agenda

    On song: the final Performance at Warwick was led by session presenters Ej Cohen, Michelle Citrin , Naomi Less, Julie Silver, Josh Nelson and Shir Yaakov Feinstein from the duo Darshan
    On song: the final Performance at Warwick was led by session presenters Ej Cohen, Michelle Citrin , Naomi Less, Julie Silver, Josh Nelson and Shir Yaakov Feinstein from the duo Darshan

    The influence that activists in London have on the policies of Palestinians was highlighted during a session at Limmud 2009 on the delegitimisation of Israel.

    Calev Ben-Dor, an analyst at the Tel Aviv-based Reut Institute in Israel, told his audience that there were very few Palestinians in London and that “the London narrative was taking over the Palestinians”.

    Mr Ben-Dor gave as an example the support that two leading Palestinians had expressed for the Israeli trade union body Histadrut, as well as opposition to boycotts. Later, they withdrew these comments at the behest of activists in London.

    Mr Ben-Dor said that within days of the statements appearing on the TUFI website, union activists in Britain contacted the Palestinians and told them to retract what they had said.

    In the same session Jeremy Newmark, chief executive of the Jewish Leadership Council, said that the campaign to delegitimise Israel, both in Britain and across Europe “has started to impact on our normative life as British Jews and as a mutation of antisemitism in contemporary life”.

    He went on: “I am not suggesting all criticisms of Israel are antisemitic. But if you see how the narrative has played out in the last 12 months, it is quite chilling.”

    Mark Woolfson of the Union of Jewish Students spoke of the difficulties and successes students had had in fighting the spread of delegitimisation, while Einat Wilf, of the Jewish People Policy Planning Institute in Israel, told of her shock, while studying in Cambridge, that students at a debate on Israel thought it was not worth bothering to fight for because of the problems it caused.

    Limmud 2009 was proud to be all things to all people, from the youngest, an eight-week-old baby girl, to two 90-year-olds, a man and a woman.

    One session, attracted only one person; but another, drew between 400 and 450 people to one of Warwick University’s lecture theatres.

    At least half the 2,500 participants at Limmud enjoyed a gala concert, involving all the musical presenters,
    which closed the conference.
    Elliott Goldstein, chair for the last four years, who stepped down, paid tribute to the 700 volunteers who put the conference together.
    “Our volunteers are the essence of Limmud. They are responsible for creating the Jewish community that we want to be a part of, the Jewish community of our future,” he said.
    “They have created an organisation famed throughout the Jewish world for its quality, its innovation and its inclusiveness. Without our volunteer leadership there would be no events like the one we have all just enjoyed. This is our chance publicly to recognise their contribution.”
    Mr Goldstein noted that Limmud International had spread to 46 communities across five continents. He paid tribute to the work of international chair Andrew Gilbert, who has also stepped down to be succeeded by Dr Helena Miller.

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