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December 9, 2015 10:54 am

British Jews Under Pressure

avatar by Isi Leibler

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London protesters supporting an anti-Israel BDS campaign. Photo: BICOM / khaled via Flikr.

An anti-Israel protest in London. Photo: BICOM / khaled via Flikr.

Reviewing the status of Anglo-Jewry can lead to diametrically opposing conclusions. Residing in a northwest London Jewish suburb, one can easily be deluded that life for Jews in the U.K. is rosy. Jewish cultural and religious life is thriving, as exemplified by the mushrooming of synagogues and kosher facilities, not to mention the highly successful educational initiatives like Limmud. Indeed, insulated from the outside world and living and socializing primarily in a Jewish “ghetto,” it is not difficult to convince oneself that life in this Anglo-Jewish Diaspora is almost idyllic.

But this picture is delusional and a far cry from reality. The demographic projections reflect snowballing intermarriage offset by the high birthrate of the ultra-Orthodox  — which will make them the dominant element in the Jewish community within the not too distant future.

More importantly, even though British Jews have not yet suffered from the bloody jihadi violence and murders of their French counterparts, as European Jews they will ultimately face the same threat, and if they believe they are in a different category, they are in denial.

Although Muslim jihadi elements are currently less dominant in the U.K. than in France, they face very similar threats from ISIS followers and homegrown terrorists. Moreover, indigenous antisemitism in the form of feral anti-Israelism is as blatant in the U.K. as in France.

One need only peruse the vicious anti-Jewish talkbacks to appreciate the extent of the problem. The media, especially the BBC, effectively incites hatred against Israel by its biased and distorted reporting, which at best portrays Jewish victims of terror and the perpetrators with moral equivalence and frequently condemns Israelis for defending themselves.

The regular mass support for anti-Israel demonstrations headed by leftist and human rights groups — for whom Israel-baiting is considered axiomatic — confirm that hatred of Jews has become a central feature of the British political system. Some of the banners and placards at these demonstrations, such as “Jews to the gas,” resemble Nazi antisemitic campaigns.

The situation at universities is appalling, with BDS being promoted at all levels and pro-Israeli speakers denied the opportunity of expressing their views and frequently facing violence. This has led to the intimidation of Jewish students and the exclusion of lectures or activities relating to Israel.

This has led to the atrocious situation in which cowardly Jewish student leaders even justify their refusal to engage in pro-Israel advocacy so as to cater to “non-Zionist” members and avoid confrontation with anti-Israeli student unions.

The most shocking developments are at the parliamentary level, despite the presence of the pro-Israel Prime Minister David Cameron, who consistently displays friendship toward Israel. For over 20 years, until Ed Miliband headed the Labour Party, a tepid but overall bipartisan positive approach toward Israel prevailed. Labour leaders including Tony Blair proved to be among Israel’s staunchest supporters.

However, the tide has turned as Labour has now elected as its leader Jeremy Corbyn, who after a visit to the Middle East in 2015, characterized Israeli policies as “immoral” and “illegal” and related to the genocidal terror groups Hamas and Hezbollah as his “friends,” insisting they be recognized as key negotiating partners.

Corbyn was accused by the London Jewish Chronicle and others of links with – and even in one case funding of – Holocaust deniers, terrorists and outright anti-Semites. In July 2015, Corbyn described as “a very good friend” the fundamentalist Islamic preacher Ibrahim Hewitt, who believes apostates and adulterers should be killed and is considered by the U.S government as a promoter of Hamas funding.

The change in attitude by the Labour Party toward Jews was recently reflected by an outburst from the hostile Jewish Sir Gerald Kaufman, a veteran Labour MP who accused the Conservatives of being influenced by “Jewish money” and claimed that the stabbing attacks on Israeli civilians were fabricated by the Israelis in order to “execute Palestinians.” It took a week for Corbyn’s party to respond to protests and then it merely expressed concern over Kaufman’s obscene remarks but failed to condemn or censure him.

Although opinion polls show that under Corbyn’s leadership, Labour would be overwhelmingly defeated in an election, the fact that the alternative party to government could elect such a person should have sent chills throughout the Jewish community. That is particularly so because, in these volatile times, unexpected upheavals could bring about the downfall of the government and the opposition could assume control by default.

The Board of Deputies of British Jews, the representative body of Anglo-Jewry founded over 250 years ago, today finds itself in a difficult position. It is vastly underfunded and understaffed to cope adequately with the complex challenges facing the community.

In recent years, its leaders have been subject to major criticism and dubbed “trembling Israelites” for insisting that silent diplomacy or shtadlanut is more effective than public activity. It has been accused of pursuing a policy of not “rocking the boat,” opposing public demonstrations and generally seeking to retain a low profile.

The former president, Vivian Wineman, was head of the far-left New Israel Fund and linked the Board with a number of dubious projects. He was strongly supported by Yachad, a group with similar objectives to the US J Street and which demonizes the Israeli government and urges British tourists to Israel to join their Ramallah tours designed to promote the Palestinian cause. It recently commissioned an opinion poll based on biased sampling methods, which falsely stated that over 70% of British Jews believe Israel’s approach to peace is damaging. Needless to say, this group is embraced and hailed as courageous by the anti-Israel media and pro-Palestinian activists.

This year, the Board of Deputies elected Jonathan Arkush as its 47th president. Arkush is a lawyer, a traditional Jew and a passionate Zionist, two of whose children have made aliyah. He cannot be expected to revolutionize the Board overnight, but there is little doubt that he represents a new leadership style. Hopefully, he will generate support among grass-roots activists previously alienated by Jewish leaders who failed to speak out forcefully against the prevailing anti-Israel stream. Arkush has already vigorously condemned Yachad for calling on the British government to exert pressure on Israel over settlements.

The greatest obstacle facing the Board of Deputies is the so-called Jewish Leadership Council, which primarily comprises a group of wealthy Jews, many of whom bankroll and control charities.

The power of some of these tycoons provides them with ready access to politicians, but instead of using this to support the official umbrella body or engage directly with them, they have created an organization with absolutely no accountability to anyone. The Council frequently bypasses and undermines the Board of Deputies and takes initiatives that are not in sync with the official roof body.

To make matters worse, this body is headed by Mick Davis, the South African-born mining tycoon who has a long record of using public platforms to castigate Israeli governments. In 2010, he accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “for lacking the courage to take steps” to advance the peace process, blaming Israel for being the obstacle to peace and predicting “an apartheid state.” His arrogance was reflected in the statement that “the government of Israel has to recognize that their actions directly impact on me as a Jew living in London. … The impact on me is as significant as it is on Jews living in Israel. I trust them to recognize this.”

Last week, in his capacity as chairman of the Jewish Leadership Council, Davis called for the cessation of settlement activity, demanded “voluntary resettlement” of those resident over the Green Line, and stated that “Israel has simply not done enough” for peace and that “the consequences of that failure are enormous and growing.”

Needless to say, the role of the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the standing of Israel are deeply compromised when wealthy Jewish “supporters” of Israel exploit communal platforms in order to promote such negative views.

Anglo-Jewry faces enormous challenges and is only marginally less vulnerable than most European communities. Official leaders must wrest control from the unaccountable tycoons seeking to displace them.

But if they view themselves dispassionately, Anglo-Jews who place a premium on a meaningful Jewish life should recognize that their status is unfortunately only likely to deteriorate. They should at least encourage their children to make aliyah.

This article was originally published by The Jerusalem Post and Israel Hayom.

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  • barney Wainer

    There is talk about invoking the san Remo decision in order to legitimately (re)claim the West Bank but your post today does not take into account the 1947 UNSCOP partition which the Arabs rejected and Israel led by Ben Gurion accepted. Does this not negate previous treaties/agreements?

  • British Jewry has generally been spineless vis-a-vis Israel. What Davis and others don’t realise is that without Israel there entire being would be threatened. While it is one thing to attack the Israeli Govt. it is another to say that your being is threatened by Israeli actions. The British in any event have always, like most countries, done what serves their own interests and have mainly favoured the Arab world as opposed to Israel. Cameron however seems to be even handed but labour are a disgrace. Unless British Jewry stands up and is counted they will destroy themselves.

  • There is only one safe place in the world for Jews (and increasingly so, for Christians, and for non-terrorist Arabs) and that is Israel. (I am not an Israeli, I don’t live in Israel and, as far as I know, I have no Jewish blood.)

    • Lia, despite Governments’ ambivalence and hostility, more and more ordinary people are coming round to your view.We just do not shout as loudly or “benefit” from the organisational expertise of the Pro-Palestinian groups. But we exist.

    and its violations
    As stated above, the 1920 San Remo Conference decided to place Palestine under British Mandatory rule making Britain responsible for giving effect to the 1917 Balfour declaration that had been adopted by the other Allied Powers and ratified under International treaty as International law.. The resulting “Mandate for Palestine,” was an historical League of Nations document that laid down the Jewish legal right to settle anywhere in Palestine and the San Remo Resolution which was confirmed by the Treaty of Sevres and Lausanne, together with Article 22 of the Covenant of the League of Nations became the basic documents on which the Mandate for Palestine was established. The Mandate’s declaration of July 24, 1922 states unambiguously that Britain became responsible for putting the Balfour Declaration, in favor of the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, into effect and it confirmed that recognition had thereby been given to the historical connection of the Jewish people with Palestine and to the grounds for reconstituting their national home in that country. It is highly relevant that at that time the West Bank and parts of what today is Jordan were included as a Jewish Homeland. However, on September 16, 1922, the British in violation of the Treaty divided the Mandate territory of Palestine, west of the Jordan became Transjordan, east of the Jordan River was for the Jewish State, in accordance with the McMahon Correspondence of 1915 which was not approved by the British Parliament. Transjordan became exempt from the Mandate provisions concerning the Jewish National Home, effectively removing about 78% of the original territory of the area in which a Jewish National home was to be established in terms of the Balfour Declaration and the San Remo resolution as well as the British Mandate.
    This action violated not only Article 5 of the Mandate which required the Mandatory to be responsible for seeing that no Palestine territory shall be ceded or leased to, or in any way placed under the control of the Government of any foreign Power but also article 20 of the Covenant of the League of Nations in which the Members of the League solemnly undertook that they would not enter into any engagements inconsistent with the terms thereof.
    Article 6 of the Mandate stated that the Administration of Palestine, while ensuring that the rights and position of other sections of the population are not prejudiced, shall facilitate Jewish immigration under suitable conditions and shall encourage, in co-operation with the Jewish agency referred to in Article 4, close settlement by Jews on the land, including State lands and waste lands not required for public purposes. Political rights were exclusively granted only to the Jewish people.
    Nevertheless in blatant violation of article 6, in a 1939 White Paper Britain changed its position so as to limit Jewish immigration from Europe, a move that was blatant violation by Zionists as betrayal of the terms of the mandate, especially in light of the increasing persecution of Jews in Europe. This caused the death of millions of Jews trying to escape Nazi extermination. In response, Zionists organized Aliyah Bet, a program of illegal immigration into Palestine.
    The frequently voiced complaint that the state being offered to the Palestinians comprises only 22 percent of Palestine is obviously invalid. The truth is exactly the reverse. From the above history and international treaties, it is obvious that the territory on both sides of the Jordan was legally designated for the Jewish homeland by the 1920 San Remo Conference, mandated to Britain as trustee, endorsed by the League of Nations in 1922, affirmed in the Anglo-American Convention on Palestine in 1925 and confirmed in 1945 by article 80 of the UN. Yet, approximately 80% of this territory was excised from the territory in May 1923 when, in violation of the mandate and the San Remo resolution, Britain gave autonomy to Transjordan (now known as Jordan) under as-Sharif Abdullah bin al-Husayn. Further-more, as the San Remo resolution has never been abrogated, it was and continues to be legally binding between the several parties who signed it. It is therefore obvious that the legitimacy of Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and a Jewish state in Palestine all derive from the same international agreement at San Remo.
    In essence, when Israel entered the West Bank and Jerusalem in 1967 it did not occupy territory to which any other party had title. While Jerusalem and the West Bank, (Judea and Samaria), were illegally occupied by Jordan in 1948 they remained in effect part of the Jewish National Home that had been created at 1920 San Remo and in the 1967 6-Day War Israel, in effect, recovered and liberated territory that legally belonged to Israel. To quote Judge Schwebel, a former President of the ICJ (International Court of Justice), “As between Israel, acting defensively in 1948 and 1967, on the one hand, and her Arab neighbors, acting aggressively, in 1948 and 1967, on the other, Israel has the better absolute title in the territory of what was Palestine, including the whole of Jerusalem.
    YJ Draiman

  • Operation Embarrass? You bet: Britain’s secret war on the Jews

    British spies staged covert operations to sabotage Holocaust survivors’ attempts to reach Palestine between 1946 and early 1948.
    Among the tactics used by the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) in Operation Embarrass were the bombing of five ships used by potential immigrants, intimidation and the creation of a fake Palestinian defence group.
    The British government gave the go-ahead to the campaign to slow illegal immigration into Palestine, provided there was “no risk of casualties being incurred” and no link could be traced back to the government.
    The revelations come in the first authorised history of the SIS, MI6: The History of the Secret Intelligence Service 1909-1949, by Professor Keith Jeffery. The book was published on Tuesday.
    Prof Jeffery said: “Operation Embarrass was one of the most amazing stories I found. I just stumbled on it. It was like a spy novel. These are astonishing operational stories. Uncovering them made the hairs stand up on the back of my neck.”
    I just stumbled on it – it was like a spy novel
    Before searching the archives, he had to agree to keep certain stories secret for national security reasons, but Operation Embarrass is revealed in full.
    Prof Jeffery said: “It’s quite explosive and you can see why the anxiety levels might go up, not just in the agency but in Whitehall as well. A lot of stuff in the archives was destroyed, so finding this tale was a reassurance. If it had been me, I would have shredded stuff like this.
    “There is the possibility it could make things difficult for the Foreign Office. But I dug my heels in, and said it was very important this was revealed.
    “It says a lot about the organisation of the SIS at that time, about the government’s Palestine policy and about relations between the agency and the government.”
    In late 1946, the government asked the SIS to develop “proposals for action to deter ships’ masters and crews from engaging in illegal Jewish immigration and traffic”. Around £130,000 was spent on the operation.
    A SIS report stated: “Action of the nature contemplated is, in fact, a form of intimidation, and intimidation is only likely to be effective if some members of the group of people to be intimidated actually suffer unpleasant consequences.”
    Options put forward for the campaign included the use of sabotage devices, tampering with a ship’s fresh water supplies and crew’s food, or setting fire to ships in port.
    SIS chief Sir Stewart Menzies suggested blaming the action on a specially-created Arab organisation. The agents were instructed to devise failsafe reasons for their presence abroad and were told that if rumbled, “they were under no circumstances to admit their connection with the government”.
    Prof Jeffery said: “The book really does show the James Bond side of it. Embarrass is closer to the perception of the spy image than other stories in the book.”
    In summer 1947 and early 1948, the plot led to attacks on five ships in Italian ports. One ship was a a “total loss” and two others were damaged.
    The British set up a notional organisation – Defenders of Arab Palestine – which claimed responsibility for the work against Jewish immigration.
    Operation Embarrass ended in April, before the UK pullout from Palestine the following month. But Prof Jeffery concludes that the campaign had little or no effect. One SIS officer wrote that the failure to carry out a planned operation to disable the President Warfield ship in the summer of 1947 had been the biggest missed opportunity.
    Instead, the renamed Exodus set sail with 4,500 Jewish refugees, leading to one of the most infamous episodes in the battle to create Israel. British forces seized the Exodus off the coast of Palestine. Three people died and the immigrants aboard were forcibly returned
    to Europe.
    “The cost,” said one SIS officer, “both direct and indirect to the government, must have been enormous. All of this could have been spared if the Foreign Office had permitted the SIS to take the appropriate action against the President Warfield.”
    Prof Jeffery said: “After the disaster with the Exodus, the SIS guys pretty much said ‘we told you so’. They could have blown its rudder off and averted the crisis.
    “This was a fantastic job for me. I was like a child in a sweetshop. But I also feel this is part of the accountability process. British taxpayers funded these operations. You might say after 60 years what difference does it make, but you can tell it does. People will look at this and put the record straight..”

  • The San Remo Resolution on Palestine combined the Balfour Declaration with Article 22 of the League Covenant. This meant that the general provisions of Article 22 applied to the Jewish people exclusively, who would set up their home and state in Palestine. There was no intention to apply Article 22 to the Arabs of the country, as was mistakenly concluded by the Palestine Royal Commission which relied on that article of the Covenant as the legal basis to justify the partition of Palestine, apart from the other reasons it gave. The proof of the applicability of Article 22 to the Jewish people, including not only those in Palestine at the time, but those who were expected to arrive in large numbers in the future, is found in the Smuts Resolution, which became Article 22 of the Covenant. It specifically names Palestine as one of the countries to which this article would apply. There was no doubt that when Palestine was named in the context of Article 22, it was linked exclusively to the Jewish National Home, as set down in the Balfour Declaration, a fact everyone was aware of at the time, including the representatives of the Arab national movement, as evidenced by the agreement between Emir Feisal and Dr. Chaim Weizmann dated January 3, 1919 as well as an important letter sent by the Emir to future US Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter dated March 3, 1919. In that letter, Feisal characterized as “moderate and proper” the Zionist proposals presented by Nahum Sokolow and Weizmann to the Council of Ten at the Paris Peace Conference on February 27, 1919, which called for the development of Palestine into a Jewish commonwealth with extensive boundaries. The argument later made by Arab leaders that the Balfour Declaration and the Mandate for Palestine were incompatible with Article 22 of the Covenant is totally undermined by the fact that the Smuts Resolution – the precursor of Article 22 – specifically included Palestine within its legal framework.

    The San Remo Resolution on Palestine became Article 95 of the Treaty of Sevres which was intended to end the war with Turkey, but though this treaty was never ratified by the Turkish National Government of Kemal Ataturk, the Resolution retained its validity as an independent act of international law when it was inserted into the Preamble of the Mandate for Palestine and confirmed by 52 states. The San Remo Resolution is the base document upon which the Mandate was constructed and to which it had to conform. It is therefore the pre-eminent foundation document of the State of Israel and the crowning achievement of pre-state Zionism. It has been accurately described as the Magna Carta of the Jewish people. It is the best proof that the whole country of Palestine and the Land of Israel belong exclusively to the Jewish people under international law.

    The Mandate for Palestine implemented both the Balfour Declaration and Article 22 of the League Covenant, i.e. the San Remo Resolution. All four of these acts were building blocks in the legal structure that was created for the purpose of bringing about the establishment of an independent Jewish state. The Balfour Declaration in essence stated the principle or object of a Jewish state. The San Remo Resolution gave it the stamp of international law. The Mandate furnished all the details and means for the realization of the Jewish state. As noted, Britain’s chief obligation as Mandatory, Trustee and Tutor was the creation of the appropriate political, administrative and economic conditions to secure the Jewish state. All 28 articles of the Mandate were directed to this objective, including those articles that did not specifically mention the Jewish National Home. The Mandate created a right of return for the Jewish people to Palestine and the right to establish settlements on the land throughout the country in order to create the envisaged Jewish state.

    • Jen Chantrill

      Mr Draiman. Two questions: If the “Preamble of the Mandate for Palestine and confirmed by 52 states”. How then was Britain able to change the terms of the Mandate ALONE without approval from he other 52 states ?

      Second question; you mention San Remo as the base for a Jewish “State”. Obviously that is controversial. How did you arrive at the conclusion that National Home, definitively meant “State”.

  • Elliott Vizel

    Re: Mick Davis – I guess Israel-bashing must be good for Jews trying to do business in the UK and the EU. Apparent;y, his monotheism is that of the almighty Euro/Pound/Dollar/Buck/Yen….