Monday 25 July 2011

Diaspora Jewish Leaders Have a Responsibility Towards Israel

I have been following with interest, the comments that have been made about Israel by UK Jewish leader Mick Davis. Davis is chairman of the United Jewish Israel Appeal (UJIA) in the UK, and one of the UK's pre-eminent Jewish leaders and businessmen. He has been an outspoken critic of Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, particularly with regard to the lack of progress in peace talks with the Palestinians. His latest barb, however, went further than simply criticising the prime minister. When addressing a group of people at the London Jewish Cultural Centre, Davis warned that Israel could become an apartheid state if a two-state solution with the Palestinians is not implemented.

Davis' language was clearly designed to be provocative and emotional when using the "a" word, something that we have seen Israel's enemies do a great deal of in recent times. By invoking the comparison with the South African apartheid regime, there is an attempt to relegate Israel to the gutters of politics and throw it into the category of the worst and most oppressive political regimes. Even Davis' attempt to clarify his point by saying that this apartheid state arises by virtue of the fact that the minority is being governed by the majority, does not serve to rescue him from his unforgiveable crime against the State of Israel and her citizens.

If anybody amongst the UK Jewish leadership should understand what apartheid really is, it should be Mick Davis. After all, he grew up in apartheid South Africa before moving onto the UK scene. I remember Mick Davis when he studied at Rhodes University in Grahamstown, where I grew up. He stood out then, not only because of his substantial physical frame, but also as a Jewish leader who identified closely with Judaism and Jewish causes. This was somewhat different from many of the Jewish students studying at the university at that time, who did not identify with their Jewish roots. It is interesting that Davis has chosen to invoke the apartheid theme to criticise the Israeli government's current direction, even though there is really no link at all between the Israeli situation and apartheid. The truth is that this comparison is highly inappropriate and does not fit Israel in any way, even if it was true that the majority was governing the minority (it is not true). I have not seen the Jordanian government accused of apartheid because the minority Hashemites rule over the majority. I have not seen the Syrian government accused of apartheid because the minority Hashemites are in power. The administration of George W. Bush was not accused of apartheid because it took power despite the fact that Al Gore scored half a million more votes across America than he did. Even if the minority does rule over the majority, this fact does not automatically turn the government into an apartheid administration.

Israel finds itself in times which are substantially different from the early years of her existence. Israel was founded in the aftermath of the Holocaust, and has provided a refuge for many a Jew who has had nowhere else in the world to go. Despite this fact, Israel relied heavily on help and assistance from Jews in the Diaspora for her survival. These days, the equilibrium has shifted to the point that Israel is no longer as reliant on the Jews in the Diaspora as she was in the earlier days. In fact, in the current times, the Jews in the Diaspora rely more on Israel in order to fight the scourge of anti-Semitism that is being experienced in so many different countries. Davis' derogatory statements about Israel must surely place further pressure and risk on the Jews in his UK constituency, and provide ammunition for the enemies of Israel and the Jewish people. This point was not lost on Mick Davis as he commented on the fact the British Jews feel that they cannot voice their criticisms of Israel for fear of their ideas being used by Israel's enemies. So why has he felt it appropriate to make these unwarranted and unjust accusations against Israel?

It is the right of every Jew, Israeli or not, to disagree with the policies and actions followed by the Israeli government. After all, this government is only a collection of imperfect human beings, who do get things wrong on a frequent basis. Criticisms voiced by Jews in the Diaspora do, however, need to be carefully considered. The way in which criticisms are expressed should equally be given thought. At risk here is not only the safety of the State of Israel, but also the safety and well-being of Jews around the world. Expressing justified criticism could do irreparable damage, so how much more criticism that has no basis or justification.

Mick Davis may feel that Israel risks becoming an apartheid state (even though there is no evidence at all to support this concern). Expressing this in a public forum, in his capacity as a senior Jewish leader in the UK, is regrettable and wrong. This serves to weaken Israel's international standing, and place unnecessary pressure on Jews around the world. The time has come for Jewish leaders in the Diaspora to accept that they have a responsibility towards the State of Israel as the real protector of Jews around the world. In spite of all the good and positive things that he has achieved for himself and the Jewish community, Mick Davis has not fulfilled his responsibility on this occasion.


Selwyn Mendlesohn said...

i have followed your blog on a regular basis, but are upset that you have ignored the tent protests and the issues that are dear to all of our hearts, 2 weeks have gone by and no comments, why why why ??? are you accepting the current unacceptable situation or are one of the akirov tower elites, let us know

Anthony Reich said...

Thanks for the comment Selwyn. I am sorry if I have disappointed you by not addressing this important issue - yet. Please watch this space.