OPINION: Let’s shape the future by recognising our true allies

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OPINION: Let’s shape the future by recognising our true allies

Rather than seek common ground in interfaith, our focus should be on building bridges with those who have provided steadfast support since 7/10 , writes the chair of the National Jewish Assembly

London, UK. 14th Jan, 2024. Stand with Israel Rally Trafalgar Square, marking 100 days since the attacks of October 7th.
London, UK. 14th Jan, 2024. Stand with Israel Rally Trafalgar Square, marking 100 days since the attacks of October 7th.

Keith Black and Claudia Mendoza, together with the rest of the team at the Jewish Leadership Council (“the JLC”), need to be congratulated on putting together the “Forge the Future” initiative (“A post-7/10 blueprint for British Jewish life”, Jewish News 28 March, page 10). The resulting document, as the Jewish News says, is indeed “densely worded”, but well worth reading in full because it underlines not just the seriousness of the situation facing the British Jewish community today, but also the magnitude, in terms of a wide variety of actions that need to be taken through the medium of nine “projects”, of what has to be done.

It is very much to the JLC’s credit that they are involving many disparate groups within the Jewish community and reaching out way beyond its core membership. I attended the brainstorming event in early February –  my first JLC meeting – and noticed others there from prominent Jewish groups who said the same. The objective of bringing Jewish leaders together is, after all, what is expected of the UK’s top Jewish leadership group.

Reaching unity in our community on many issues is regrettably impossible. However, there is still a lot of common ground on important matters, where working together is sensible, achievable and can bring dividends. For example, at the February JLC meeting I was placed in a small group with senior representatives from Yachad and the New Israel Fund. We could not agree on anything with regard to Israel, but when the conversation turned to domestic matters such as campus antisemitism, we were largely united in our views.

Gary Mond

The work needing to be done is, as the document demonstrates, huge. I doubt whether, even given funding, it can all be implemented, and I think that focus should be centred on those areas where community agreement is maximum and progress is achievable. In my opinion, top of that list is media antisemitism.

The Jewish News article mentions UK Lawyers for Israel (“UKLFI”) and Campaign Against Antisemitism (“CAA”) with regard to leading the way in terms of taking legal action against Jew-haters. Indeed, both groups have been outstanding in their work, which has been in all our interests, not just on the legal action front but also in fighting anti-Israel media bias.

All of us would dearly love to see them continue and go from strength to strength, which of course means more funding for them. The JLC should support this – however, the topic of media bias against Israel is so huge that there is room for other groups, ideally either led or supported by the JLC, to join in the fight against media antisemitism, working alongside UKLFI and CAA.

Even more important, as Keith Black says, is the importance of identifying allies. Keith is absolutely correct in saying that a silent majority of the British population “will have no truck with antisemitism”.

However, I disagree with his choice of where to find partners. Keith suggests the interfaith movement, trade unions, arts and culture and the NHS. These are sub-optimal, especially the interfaith movement which, according to many familiar with it, is widely believed to have let us down badly since 7 October.

We should instead approach those most likely to support us in our plight. These will be those who believe that Israel has the fundamental right to exist as a Jewish state. The failure in interfaith relations since 7 October was caused by too many in the Jewish community seeking to work with those who do not hold such a belief about Israel.

The interfaith movement is widely believed to have let us down badly since 7 October.

So who are the potential partners? First, major groups within the Christian community. Since 7 October the amazing support, in terms of rallies and other activities, given by groups such as Christian Action Against Antisemitism has been heart-warming. It would be very beneficial if we could work closely with them to help their support for the Jewish community in this country gain traction within their faith.

Second, the voluntary sides of the major political parties (not just the professional politicians). This is probably easiest within the centre right political parties such as the Conservative Party and Reform UK, who if opinion polls are to be believed account for 35% to 40% between them and where philosemitism is reasonably strong.

I suspect that this is more challenging within the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats, but still vital to try. The route here should be getting Jewish guest speakers to talk about antisemitism to local and regional groups – and lots of them. If this is done in a serious manner, there will be much to be gained in terms of swaying public opinion.

In conclusion, a hearty Mazal Tov to those behind this “Forge the Future” initiative. I and many others want to see it succeed and will do what we can to help.

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