Debate: Should the Board of Deputies condemn Israeli annexation plans?

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Debate: Should the Board of Deputies condemn Israeli annexation plans?

Two deputies set out their arguments as to whether the body should weigh in on Israel's plans to annex parts of the West Bank

Benjamin Netanyahu during a press conference announcing the planned annexation, in September 2019
Benjamin Netanyahu during a press conference announcing the planned annexation, in September 2019

As dozens of representatives of synagogues and youth groups across the UK signed a letter urging the Board of Deputies to vocally oppose Israeli plans to annex parts of the West Bank, we spoke to two deputies on either side of the debate.



Board cannot justify silence

Tal Ofer, deputy for Chigwell and Hainault Synagogue

The Board’s president repeatedly tells us that the overwhelming majority of our community favours a two-state solution and a negotiated settlement, and that the Board will reflect that consensus, so it cannot now justify it silence on annexation, because such a step is the exact opposite of a negotiated settlement.

As retired Israeli generals and former security chiefs argue, annexing parts of the West Bank will be a major blow to the possibility of a negotiated peace agreement. It would destroy Israel’s moral authority, and it could lead to diplomatic isolation and sanctions, which would have a disastrous impact on the State of Israel. There will also be consequences for our British Jewish community, as large numbers could begin to disengage from Israel, which would be hugely detrimental to communal life.

Tal Ofer

The Board’s mission includes the need to “protect, support and defend the interests, religious rights and customs of the Jewish community” and to “advance Israel’s security, welfare and standing”. It regularly emphasises that it is the main representative of the community to the world. If it is to uphold its mission and represent the community as a whole, then it is incumbent on the Board to speak out against annexation plans. Remaining silent is not a viable option.



No representation without taxation

Brian Gedalla, Deputy for Finchley Synagogue

Listening to the arguments about whether the Board should or should not publicly comment on the policies of the Israeli government took me right back to my O-Level History lessons a lifetime ago.

I recalled that during the American War of Independence, one of the slogans of the Colonists was: “No taxation without representation.”

Brian Gedalla

The reverse applies just as equally. The idea that diaspora Jews, whose principal commitment to the State of Israel is their summer holiday there, should have the right to tell the Government of Israel, and by inference the Israeli electorate, what they should be doing, is offensive. No representation without taxation.

And of course, I don’t mean that those citizens of Israel who for whatever reason are not taxpayers shouldn’t have a say.

But (and I quote my daughter in this, who is a Citizen of Israel, having made Aliyah, married and settled in the country) – if diaspora Jews want a say in the policies of the country, let them make aliyah, live in Israel, pay their taxes in Israel and vote in Israeli elections. That is the correct way to behave.

Otherwise, frankly, for those of us who choose to live in chutz l’aretz with all the comforts that our lifestyle brings, it is none of our business. No representation without taxation.

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