January 14, 2009

A statement from Jewdas: another Jewish community is possible

Remember the hoax email that portrayed the war-mongering Board of Deputies of British Jews as a bunch of loveable peaceniks? Remember how the police got involved with at least one arrest for inciting racial hatred because accusing Jewish "leaders" of peaceful intentions in hateful? Well I assume the charges have been dropped and the police and the Board of Deputies have been left looking utterly ridiculous because Jewdas have sent out a confession of their responsibility for the most successful hoax since the BBC's radio documentary about an Italian spaghetti plantation.

Here's their statement:
Well yes, it was us. We sent the Board of Deputies Hoax email. Not some 'Islamist cell' 'or Hamas supporters' as many of you imagined. Just a group of nice yiddisher boys and girls, of the sort that you might run into in your local kosher delicatessen. We weren't doing it to be malicious, we weren't trying to 'upset' anyone, we weren't even trying to stop people going to the rally. We just thought we'd give people something to talk about over Kiddush, instead of discussing the poor quality of the gefilte fish. Moreover, we wanted, in this action, to show another possible reality, to suggest that 'another jewish community is possible'

Those who believed it, even for a moment, were being given a gift, a vision of the Jewish leadership who stood up for peace and justice, rather than standing for mindless ethnic solidarity. These people should not be considered gullible, rather they showed the imagination to see an inspiring, alternative vision. We offered a Midrash on Anglo-Jewish life, a dvar aher (another path), an aggadah for the Talmud of the present.

In this 'temporary imaginary zone' the Jewish Establishment opened up, listening to the voices it usually shuts out, thought outside the box, and took a brave decision on principle rather in accordance with political expediency. And many Jews agreed with this bold (imaginary) decision, as you can see in some of the responses received at the bottom of this email. Further, we have reports of a person believing the email for a whole shabbat, and describing that day as 'the best day of her life'. A shabbat in accord with the best of Judaism then, in sad contrast to the shabbat on which this war was launched.

So back to the rather less inspiring reality. The demo was described as a 'peace rally'. Now we at Jewdas recognise good satire when we see it, and this is particularly hilarious. But come on guys - Peace Rally? Sadly it was anything but. The slogan was End Hamas Terror; Peace for the People of Israel and Gaza. So no mention of the Israeli army then. Its not like they've been involved have they? They've just been sitting around, playing Kalooki. A rally that puts all the blame on one side (and arguably on the weaker one at that) and fails to call for a ceasefire, can hardly be described as being for peace. The fact that an Israeli embassy spokesperson could sum up the rally, on the Jewish Chronicle's website as "They understand we had no chance but to go forward with a military operation" tells you all you need to know. We will not allow the notion of 'peace' to be bastardised, to become 'peace on our terms'. Let us repeat the proposal in our email, this time under our own name:

We call for an immediate ceasefire, immediate negotiations between Israel and Hamas, and for lifting the economic blockade of Gaza, in order to allow the Gazan and Israeli people to live together in peace. There is no military solution, only a political one.

The proposal put out in our email was eminently reasonable, it was not a demonisation of Israel, rather a call for an immediate ceasefire and for negotiations, trying to end the cycle of violence. This is what calling for peace actually entails and we stand by the proposals outlined within it.

And as we looked through the responses from those who believed they really had received a message from the BOD, some expressing vile anti-Islamic abuse and condemning supposed 'appeasement', it was proved that brave leadership from a diasporic Jewish body to oppose these views is a necessity. We understand those who responded from within Israel, we feel your fear deeply, but until a two-way peace process on fair terms is initiated, you'll never be free from fear. But an urgent corrective is needed for those based in Britain saying such things as "this plays directly to the hands of the Islamo-fascists", "I will bless those that bless you and curse those that curse you. They don't want to be at peace with you" and "By cancelling tomorrow’s event you are telling the world that we are no match for the Palestinians. Your statement regarding the Jewish community not wanting to be seen as a participant in the conflict is a brazen untruth. WE ARE participants in the conflict".

Where is the representative body who will tell these people that it's not about being a match for 'them' or being a one-sided 'participant', that there is no 'them and us', that the fate of Israeli-Palestinian populations are bound together - indeed, just as Jewish-Muslim populations in the UK are? This is a voice that is urgently required.

The Jewish establishment has been trying to create the illusion of unified solidarity behind Israel. But they are losing. A growing number of Jews are not happy to be the PR foot soldiers of the Israeli embassy, and they do not want to be represented as such. As much as anything else, this action is a call for new, or radically reformed Jewish communal organisations, ones that promote peace and justice over solidarity, and pluralism and democracy over hierarchy and backroom politics. There's a great desire within the British Jewish community to express and support alternative views; our message was sent, not via some undercover email stealing operation, but by using our own mailing list. We call on all those members of the Jewish community opposed to the carnage in Gaza to have no fear and to stand against self-appointed leaders and to call for peace and dialogue NOW - not just in Gaza, but within the Jewish community.

We'll leave it to a prominent member UK Jewish playwright to sum it up in his response to the original email.

"You have made a wise decision to cancel the demonstration, and your reasoning is clear and admirable."

If only such an admirable communal leadership existed beyond a hoax.

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