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February 5, 2007
British Jews Repudiate Israel

Claiming that they cannot abide the occupation, Jewish academics in Britain have decided that they value the human rights of Palestinians above the right of Israel to exist. At least, that's the question as they see it:

A group of prominent British Jews will today declare independence from the country's Jewish establishment, arguing that it puts support for Israel above the human rights of Palestinians.

Independent Jewish Voices will publish an open letter on the Guardian's Comment is Free website calling for a freer debate about the Middle East within the Jewish community. Among the more than 130 signatories are Stephen Fry, Harold Pinter, Mike Leigh, Jenny Diski and Nicole Farhi, as well as leading academics such as Eric Hobsbawm and Susie Orbach.

"We come together in the belief that the broad spectrum of opinion among the Jewish population of this country is not reflected by those institutions which claim authority to represent the Jewish community as a whole," the letter says. Jewish leaders in Britain, it argues "put support for the policies of an occupying power above the human rights of an occupied people" in conflict with Jewish principles of justice and compassion.

The statement does not name the institutions it is criticising. But one signatory, Brian Klug, an Oxford philosopher, writing an accompanying article on Comment is Free, singles out the Board of Deputies of British Jews for calling itself "the voice of British Jewry" while devoting "much of the time and resources of its international division to the defence of Israel".

That's a false comparison, and these academics should know better. The reason Israel occupies that land is because the Arabs twice used it to attack Israel, and Jordan lost it the second time. The Israelis would love to have it off their hands, but the Palestinians refuse to negotiate with them for a state while recognizing Israel's right to exist. Instead, they have conducted over a decade of terrorist attacks on Israeli civilians inside and outside of the occupied territories, a rather good example of "human rights" violations.

It's not difficult to see where the sympathies of this group lies. One of the members proposed to the board of the Institute of Jewish Policy Research that they demand the creation of a single state, eliminating the right of Jews to return to the new non-Israel and rejecting the Jewish nature of the nation. This isn't just a declaration of specific criticisms against Israeli policy; it's a rejection of Israel's right to exist.

I would agree that some critics of Israeli policies get unfairly labeled as anti-Semites. However, those who want to destroy the state of Israel can't complain about earning that label, no matter their own religion or ethnicity.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at February 5, 2007 4:38 AM

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