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August 31, 2011 8:40 am

Why Anglo-Jewry Doesn’t Need Yachad

avatar by Sam Westrop

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Yachad, a group also known as the ‘British J-Street’, is working hard to assert itself. In response to criticism from a number of quarters, various op-eds, blog posts, student ambassadors, inter alia, are popping up all over the place to make the case for Yachad. In fact, at times Yachad appears to be solely designed to advocate for Yachad. Do they help challenge the ever-present hypocrisy of the hysterical hatred of Israel? No.

Talk of ‘critical friendship’ with Israel and ‘love involves challenges too’ is the general thrust. These meaningless soundbites are given bureaucratic license with statements such as: ‘Yachad is working to empower and change Israel by working within the established legal framework and we must always be careful not to silence this crucial voice.’

Daniel Reisel, chair of the Board for Yachad, recently wrote, “Through Yachad’s programme of activities, we will make it clear to our own community, to Israel and the wider world, that a large number of British Jews support Israel in taking steps towards peace.” How wonderful that Yachad exists to illustrate this truism. Have we, as British Jews, failed thus far to impart that we support peace? Or is it perhaps that Yachad is a politically-skewed organisation which subsists on the ideals of peace in order to validate its perverse political designs?

Of course, Yachad also claims that it speaks for the ‘silent majority’ of British Jews. It’s a very useful claim, because if it actually be the case – as most people suspect – that Yachad is not the spokesperson for such a demographic, then this silent majority is hardly going to speak up in protest of such misrepresentation.

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Similarly, they boast of a few names they’ve picked up, still somewhat known in Israel (mostly among Ha’aretz journalists), that support Yachad’s mission. Conversely, I wonder how many well-known Israeli figures we could find who oppose Yachad ideals and tactics? – I would suggest a very large, and non-silent majority.

Yachad has told us it wants to “make clear to Israel” that peace can be achieved with their helpful guidance. Yachad is forcing their credulous idealism upon a small, besieged Israel – a country that has to ignore European naivety for the rather more pressing matter of reality. At what point was it decided that Israel is in any way accountable to the demands of the pedagogues at Yachad?

And yet even if we forced everyone to believe that Yachad was somehow in a position to understand the complexities of Israel’s security and the questions of Middle Eastern politics, it remains indisputably true that the desires of Anglo-Jewry are inapposite to the State of Israel, which, as any rational person understands, must at all times protect its own citizens before it can serve the sentiments of others.

But this is the point: playing Devil’s advocate, if one were to accept the premise that Yachad is pro-Israel, that they have not voiced support for calls to boycott Israeli settlements, and additionally, we pretend they did not endorse apologists for Hamas or invite viciously anti-Israel journalists on speaking tours, and finally if we also pretend that Israel is in some way accountable to these British Jews’ didactic idealism; then, after all this, it remains an indubitable fact that Yachad’s prerogative is still to contribute to the delegitimisation of Israel, while obversely ensuring the legitimisation of anti-Zionist ideologues and their stratagems.

Yachad reacted to being described by the British Israel Coalition (BIC) as “extremists” by in turn stating BIC’s comments were “false, unhelpful and counter-productive”. Let’s rationally examine these three words.

Yachad erroneously claims it carries the support of the majority of British Jewry and that their endorsement of various viciously anti-Zionist figures still allows them to carry the label ‘pro-Israel.’ Sounds a bit false to me.

Yachad has thus far done nothing to demonstrate any sort of commitment to fighting the delegitimisation of Israel – a lethal disease that originates in Britain. It has failed to do anything to combat the terrifying anti-Semitism and Islamist extremism that grows unchallenged on our University campuses and in the houses of human rights groups. In what way is Yachad helping to combat the visceral rhetoric of those who would see the state of Israel destroyed? Seems unhelpful.

Yachad legitimises Israel’s enemies. The most important focus for Jews outside Israel is fighting the demonisation of Israel and the consequent anti-Semitism that follows. Yachad is not only refusing to do anything about this problem, but their focus on criticism of Israel give credence to the claims of extremistgroups. Extremely counter-productive.

Fighting extremism doesn’t have to be so complicated. The most crucial lesson the British have learnt in the last ten years is that fighting extremists with ‘moderates’ simply leads to more extremism. This was never more apparent than in the recent review of the UK Government’s counter-terror strategy (PREVENT), which discovered that the engagement and funding of moderate groups provided powerful legitimacy to the violent, extremist ones. There is no difference with the case of Yachad – it is legitimising the complaints of the pro-Hamas, pro-Hezbollah organisations that seek to extirpate Israel, and the vile hate-preachers who are engaged in the organisation of new anti-Semitism.

Yachad, by adding your ‘moderate’ voice to the cacophony of hysteria, to what extent are you actually helping? What benefits Israel more – your prescription of morality? Or is it the British Israel Coalition’s rally on Sunday, which brought Jewish, Muslim, Christian and Hindu supporters of Israel together to voice their support for the only liberal democracy in the Middle East. I suspect the latter.

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