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  • In support of Independent Jewish Voices

    by Sunny
    6th February, 2007 at 4:16 am    

    I find it all rather amusing. You publish a simple and universal document such as this (NGN) or this (IJV, yesterday) and declare that so-called “community leaders” are not as representative as they claim, and you’re faced with a hail of bullets.

    To no surprise at all, Independent Jewish Voices are being accused of the same that we were. Namely that:
    1) … we were all just middle-class liberals ‘out of touch’ with reality. As if plastered across the document is the statement that we represent everyone’s views or that we were ‘from the hood’.

    2) … we all self-loathing. That’s not even worth dignifying.

    3) … that these organisations are the best we have. Where does it say we want to replace them? Both the documents only say that they have their place and do not represent the voice of the people signing the document. I didn’t realise it was blasphemous to have such views.

    4) … it’s the usual suspects of dissidents. Well excuse us for getting organised and openly disagreeing with the establishment. If you don’t like it get organised and write your own manifesto. As NGN declared earlier and IJV have now, the only thing the signatories agree on is the signed document – not the years of previous cultural baggage. Engage with the manifestos, don’t complain about what clique you like or dislike.

    5) … that by publicly rebuking the ‘official representative’ of the community, we are putting everyone in danger. Melanie Phillips had the audacity to claim that last night on Newsnight and I’ve heard the same. This idea that ‘the community’ is under attack and therefore no one should break ranks only supports the powerful. In this case it supports the Israeli government’s actions without any dissent from the diaspora. In NGN’s case it allowed the Sikh Federation, Hindu Forum, Muslim Council of Britain to further own agendas at the detriment of ordinary families that had done nothing to elect them.

    In this respect people like Melanie Phillips are exactly like Salma Yaqoob – everyone is against them; they are the only victims; any atrocities committed on the opposite side are simply “in defence” or “reprisal attacks” because their tribe is under attack. I don’t want to be on either of their sides.

    I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again. The time for liberal-progressives to stand on the sidelines and watch these shrieking activists with their victim-mentality attitudes dominate the national conversation is over. We have to get organised and we have to make ourselves heard.

    The only way we can have a saner dialogue on difficult issues is by establishing a set of universal and equally applicable ideals and having some compassion and understanding for the other side. To that extent IJV have, so far, done nothing wrong in my opinion and I support them fully. We should all support them fully.

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    Filed in: Race politics,Religion

    42 Comments below   |  

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    1. Richard Silverstein — on 6th February, 2007 at 8:12 am  

      As an AMerican Jew, I just wanted to commend both you & IJV for trying to break the monopoly/hegemony of the Representative Bodies who claim to speak on behalf of All Jews or All Muslims. I should point out that I am not against having a representative body as long as it IS truly representative. Most of these bodies seem to be either self-selected or self-appointed. They represent the narrow interests of the powers that be.

      We here in the American Jewish community are fighting a mirror battle w. our leadership, which has engaged in a broad counterattack. As Jews who support peace bet. Israelis & Palestinians, we become anti-Zionists or better yet, the “New” anti-Semites (whatever the hell that means). Oppose the Occupation &-presto change-o-become an anti-Semite!

      The politics is perhaps too local to go into deeply here but anyone wishing to is welcome to read my posts linked above which lately have hit quite heavily on this subject fr. an Amer. Jewish pt of view.

    2. Chairwoman — on 6th February, 2007 at 10:18 am  

      Hello Richard - I am a Zionist. By that I mean I support the existence of the State of Israel, not the excesses of the governments of the State of Israel.

      And I will roundly chastise anyone who dares call me an antisemitic semitic!

    3. Arif — on 6th February, 2007 at 10:23 am  

      Agree with you, Sunny - that these arguments miss the point. But it is interesting that these arguments come out for both IJV and NGN - people are expressing some genuine sensitivities and it is worth sympathising with where they are coming from, if you really would like them to join you.

      It seems they fear that NGN/IJV will destroy something and you identify them:

      1. Our pre-existing community reps who have worked hard (and others who have worked hard to support them) to build up an infrastructure, credibility and members.

      2. Our solidarity to protect the vulnerable in the imagined community, and the will to use all means necessary to achieve this protection.

      Apart from that there is cynicism about the real motives of those promoting the network, so:

      3. Understandable reluctance to bolster the credibility of people who might end up acting like representatives while loudly denying they are doing anything of the kind.

      To some extent these fears can only be removed in practice by the behaviour of those people who are the public faces of the NGN and IJV. Showing respect for the opinions and hard work of others even when you do not share them. Keeping a focus on protecting the human rights and security of people who are vulnerable both inside the imagined community and outside it. Focusing on representing the principles advocated rather than a community.

      The reason for airing this dirty laundry has to be clear: it isn’t to undermine any communities but to strengthen us as a moral communities, as well as to make a bridge with other communities so that the threats to all of us are eventually removed non-violently.

      IJV definitely needs Muslim interlocutors in the same vein - and we/they are out there. Some as part of NGN. Many who aren’t because they use the same arguments used against IJV.

    4. . — on 6th February, 2007 at 5:31 pm  

      I was greatly amused by how Paxman introduced Philips as a “friend of Israel”. With friends like Philips, who needs enemies?

    5. Clairwil — on 6th February, 2007 at 7:21 pm  

      ‘This idea that ‘the community’ is under attack and therefore no one should break ranks only supports the powerful’

      Imagine the uproar in certain quarters if a Muslim said that that when asked why they don’t speak out more against terrorism commited in the name of Islam. Not sure Ms Phillips would be willing to accept that.

      ‘If you don’t like it get organised and write your own manifesto.’

      Indeed the more the merrier. Imagine if no-one could complain they weren’t represented!

    6. Leon — on 7th February, 2007 at 10:35 am  

      And the Board of Deputies reply:

      U.K. Board of Deputies rejects criticism from new Jewish group

      In response to an article in Haaretz on Tuesday about a new organization in Britain, Independent Jewish Voices, the Board of Deputies of British Jews rejected IJV’s criticism of the board.

      The left-leaning IJV accused the board of failing to reflect opinions that are critical of Israel and said the organization should not have held a solidarity rally in support of Israel during last summer’s war in Lebanon.

      “As an umbrella body that includes people with a wide range of views, the board tries to reflect this broad feeling of support for the people of Israel without passing comment on every Israeli government policy,” the Chief Executive of the Board of Deputies, Jon Benjamin, said.

      “If Brian Klug and the other signatories to IJV chose to engage with the institutions of the Jewish community, rather than shouting from the sidelines, they may find that most Jews disagree with much of what they say.” [Via Haaretz]

    7. Sunny — on 8th February, 2007 at 12:39 am  

      If Brian Klug and the other signatories to IJV chose to engage with the institutions of the Jewish community, rather than shouting from the sidelines, they may find that most Jews disagree with much of what they say

      Just because most Jews may choose to disagree with what IJV have to say, doesn’t make it any less of a right for the people behind IJV to get organised and make their point anyway. So I find this reasoning absurd. It’s rather like Iayat Bunglwala saying: “Don’t criticise the MCB, join us and make yourself heard!” And he says it with a straight face too. That’s what I think about Mr Jon Benjamin.

    8. bananabrain — on 8th February, 2007 at 9:33 am  

      if bungalow-wallah said that, then maybe i’d have a bit more time for him. if they’ve got a constituency, they are entitled to representation. but, as i’ve said, the bod is not a campaigning organisation. ijv are already saying what they have to say, very loudly and publicly. so what more do they want, if you can’t actually make the bod a campaigning organisation? the mcb certainly needs to be less of a politically campaigning organisation if it expects to maintain its influence.



    9. Leon — on 8th February, 2007 at 10:59 am  

      So I find this reasoning absurd.

      Yep, me too.

    10. Sunny — on 8th February, 2007 at 11:16 am  

      if bungalow-wallah said that, then maybe i’d have a bit more time for him. if they’ve got a constituency, they are entitled to representation. but, as i’ve said, the bod is not a campaigning organisation.

      BB I don’t think you get it. the MCB is modelled on the JBD structure and style because they envy the Jewish community. It is a representative than a campaigning organisation, which is my problem. Rather like the JBD they are simply a mouthpiece and because Muslims are constantly in the press, they are useful to the lazy media.

      Bunglwala always says that by the way. Doesn’t make the MCB more representative though does it?

      the mcb certainly needs to be less of a politically campaigning organisation if it expects to maintain its influence.

      I see it the other way. These bodies should only be campaigning organisations on specific issues, rather than hanging around as mouthpieces while not really representing vast swathes of the population.

    11. bananabrain — on 8th February, 2007 at 11:42 am  

      i do get it sunny, i just disagree. the mcb may very well be based on the jbd, but they haven’t understood one really crucial aspect of its style, which is very much about quiet diplomacy, not at all about shouting loudly about political issues. if there is some legislation that affects the community, like something to do with kosher slaughter or divorce or circumcision, they are able to present a view to the government based upon wide community consultation. in the case of israel, they are entitled to be able to show solidarity (whatever that means) with the people of israel under attack, rather than expressing a view on the rightness or wrongness of israeli tactics - remember the lebanon war was a REACTION to the hizbullah kidnap of soldiers, it’s not like the israelis started it.

      campaigning for specific political goals is the job of bicom, or friends of likud-herut gb, or british friends of peace now, the united (ie chiefy) or reform synagogues - or the ijv. it’s quite a clear distinction as i see it. i don’t think the mcb abides by this, probably because in some ways they are competing with MPAC, MAB, et al. an umbrella body is either an umbrella or it isn’t. maybe the mcb is actually more like the united synagogue than the jbd in the final analysis, even if they base themselves on it. by the same token, the “lazy media” go and ask the “chief rabbi” for a quote because they think his position as a “community leader” represents the entire community, which it doesn’t. on reflection, i think this analogy is the best.



    12. Katy Newton — on 8th February, 2007 at 12:13 pm  

      I think it depends on which members of IJV you’re talking about. The whole point of it is that it’s a broad church. I can’t bear Miriam Margolys, or whatever her stupid name is, for example, because she has zero time for the Jewish community unless she’s ranting about how rotten Israel is. Ditto Harold Pinter, Mike Leigh and Ben Elton. All of these people actively disassociate themselves from their Jewish roots and the Jewish community unless they’re trading on their roots by being A Jew Slagging Off Israel In The Press. I’m not a fan of the phrase “self-hating Jew” but I see why people say it about them. Most Jewish people don’t have time for them and wouldn’t listen to what they had to say. Similarly, I tend to dismiss a lot of what Melanie Phillips says about Israel because she does exactly the same thing from the opposite end of the spectrum - I mean, I read her comments on IJV and what she said was so utterly over the top that I just started laughing. But I don’t think that most Jewish people would disagree with what people like Klug said. Even if they did, I think that they would sit down and think about first it in a way that they wouldn’t think about what Harold Pinter and the rest of the media whores had to say.

      (I don’t include Stephen Fry in the phrase “media whores”, by the way, I’ve always rather liked him, and his commitment to the Jewish community is not in question for me.)

    13. Katy Newton — on 8th February, 2007 at 12:15 pm  

      However, I will say this for Miriam Margoyleygoyley: she was jolly good in Wicked despite clearly not being able to sing.

      You should all go and see it. It’s brilliant.

    14. bananabrain — on 8th February, 2007 at 12:16 pm  

      i agree with katy, too.



    15. Sunny — on 8th February, 2007 at 12:26 pm  

      which is very much about quiet diplomacy, not at all about shouting loudly about political issues.

      you have to remember the MCB is much, much younger than the JBD and hasn’t had time to mature. This is changing, everyone knows this. That however doesn’t mean I think they are more needed than the JBD. I dislike ‘representative’ organisations on principle.

    16. bananabrain — on 8th February, 2007 at 1:20 pm  

      fair enough. if anything the jbd is a little too mature (ie, full of pompous middle-aged windbags driving jaguars) but we ourselves actually find a representative organisation to be quite helpful in certain respects - but then again, the jewish community’s really small and relatively homogenous and the muslim community isn’t.



    17. Chairwoman — on 8th February, 2007 at 1:44 pm  

      And reading the Daily Telegraph! BTW I loved my Jaguar when I had it. Don’t knock it.

    18. Chairwoman — on 8th February, 2007 at 1:45 pm  

      Despite the fact that the damn thing was always in the garage.

    19. linda grant — on 8th February, 2007 at 2:07 pm  

      As I pointed to the delightful Sunny when we met, in the flesh, so to speak, last night, there are similarities and differences between the NGN initiative and the IJV. Both share impatience with the representative bodies - the MCB and the BoD. In the case of the NGN, it is trying to develop a secular progressive Asian voice. But the Jewish community is decades ahead in this respect - there’s no shortage of secular progressive voices with access to the media in the UK, in fact one would argue that they have the monopoly of the media. In addition, the Jewish community lacks the truly crazy radical extremist fringe that is so often given a presence in the media here. (Unless you count Melanie Phillips . . .).

    20. Dr.Chris Burns-Cox — on 8th February, 2007 at 2:26 pm  

      Congratulations to those who have signed up to IJV. I am a non-jew and an atheist. I have been greatly saddened and surprised by medical colleagues who are jewish and completely pro-zionist. I cannot see how you can be a doctor with the principles inherent and still back the Zionist government in its actions. I hope IJV will grow and doctors will sign up.

    21. bananabrain — on 8th February, 2007 at 2:48 pm  

      what’s wrong with saying “the israeli government”?

      unfortunately, there are a lot of doctors needed to clear up after suicide bombings, rocket attacks, shootings and knifings. and, strange as this may appear to you, some jewish doctors actually feel that being jewish involves having respect for human life. moreover, it is a bit impractical defending your borders and citizens using the medical profession, although i am sure it would be preferable in the long run.

      what do you have to say about the israeli magen david adom being systematically excluded from the red cross/crescent for thirty years, then? are you “saddened and surprised”? i seem to remember a lot of the medical colleagues of the ICRC helping nazis to escape to south america.



    22. Katy Newton — on 8th February, 2007 at 3:18 pm  

      I don’t think Dr Chris Burns-Cox is a real doctor, myself.

      I do think he’d probably be better placed turning his attention to the doctors who assist the US Government (or perhaps he thinks of it as the Zionist Occupied Government?) in carrying out capital punishment.

    23. Leon — on 8th February, 2007 at 3:35 pm  

      There is a real Dr Chris Burns-Cox and it appears his bias is clear (not that he was trying to hide it in any way):

      Whether this is actually him or not I can’t tell, I’d hope it is though, would be very interesting to hear his views on PP posts (broadening out the commenters a bit). Hope he sticks around…

      (Google his name for more)

    24. Chairwoman — on 8th February, 2007 at 3:42 pm  

      Yeah, Googled him. Great. The other side of Melanie Philips coin.

    25. Leon — on 8th February, 2007 at 3:44 pm  

      Perhaps but at least that guy is out there active where as she is just all mouth (as far as I can tell).

    26. Chairwoman — on 8th February, 2007 at 3:47 pm  

      I got the impression that he was a bit of a tourist and the rest of the time is a consultant in Bristol.

    27. Leon — on 8th February, 2007 at 3:51 pm  

      What do you mean by tourist?

    28. Chairwoman — on 8th February, 2007 at 4:09 pm  

      That he visits hotspots in which he is interested, has deep and meaningful conversations with team he has decided to support, and then fires off angry letters about the opposition.

      I wish he’d chosen Arsenal.

    29. Leon — on 8th February, 2007 at 4:38 pm  

      Not sure I see it that cynically. Nothing wrong with bringing to light injustices while trying to hold down a job if you ask me. Compared to MP he strikes me as quite sane. But then I guess most would!

    30. Chairwoman — on 8th February, 2007 at 4:57 pm  

      Like MP his tone is inflamatory.

      I just wish these enthusiasts would realise the effect their words have on people like me.

      Far from rallying me to their cause(s), they are so condemnatory and offensive and unable to see that the other side has a point of view, that I start to think ‘What’s the point, why not wholeheartedly support the Government of Israel and their errors, for nobody apart from the Jews gives a damn what happens to us’.

    31. Chairwoman — on 8th February, 2007 at 5:16 pm  

      Actually I don’t know how much more of these offensive and intemporate harrangues I’m prepared to take.

      At all times I have said people should sit down and negotiate. I have explained over and over again that negotiation does not mean that one side gives in entirely to the others demands, but all this has fallen on deaf ears. There’s always someone here who says that Israel must do EVERYTHING that the Palestinians want, and more than that, no doubt.

      I have tried not to be abusive in return. But really, this is now going too far. This Doctor person has deeply offended me. I am not a person who believes in the divinity of the medical profession, or that their opinions on anything other than medicine are worth more than anybody elses.

      Does this person realise that Jewish Israeli doctors treat Palestinians in Israeli hospitals all the time? And not just victims of war, all complaints.

      Does he or she know that Mogon Dovid Adom are still not allowed to display the star on their vehicles outside Israel in case Muslims are offended?

      Does he or she know that the laws that Israel uses to do all those things that he and his associates loathe (destruction of house for example) are those that were inherited from British rule?

      Does he or she know that Israelis also live in fear?

      And does he or she care, or doesn’t it matter because they’re only Jews?

      And finally, does he or she know that you don’t have to have a religion to be an antisemite? Because his or her comments on Jewish doctors who have the nerve to disagree with him are antisemitic, regardless of what he or she, or anyone else, says.

      This is an extremely angry Chairwoman about to spend half an hour in a darkened room!!

    32. Katy Newton — on 8th February, 2007 at 5:22 pm  

      Yeah, I have to agree that people who say “Zionist” when they mean Israel really get up my nose too. And it continues to frustrate me that people demand not only that you condemn Israel but that you rant about it with them and do it in their language and on your terms.

      “Yes, you say you disapprove of what Israel is doing, but are you OUTRAGED by it? Are you DISGUSTED by it? Do you think we should BOYCOTT them? Don’t you think they’re as bad as NAZI GERMANY? Yes, you say that Israel treats Palestinians badly, but I want you to say that it’s GENOCIDE. I want to hear ETHNIC CLEANSING. And if you won’t say GENOCIDE and ETHNIC CLEANSING and NAZI GERMANY then you’re clearly SUPPORTING EVERYTHING ISRAEL DOES!”

    33. Katy Newton — on 8th February, 2007 at 5:23 pm  

      that should read “on THEIR terms”. Sorry.

    34. bananabrain — on 8th February, 2007 at 5:55 pm  

      bastard ZIONIST MURDERERS.

      oh no! this technique works! now i have to CONDEMN things - you forgot to mention the APARTHEID WALL!! you know, the one that seems to stop suicide bombings.

      oops. i have revealed my true colours. hehehe.



    35. Anas — on 8th February, 2007 at 6:23 pm  

      “Yes, you say you disapprove of what Israel is doing, but are you OUTRAGED by it? Are you DISGUSTED by it? Do you think we should BOYCOTT them? Don’t you think they’re as bad as NAZI GERMANY? Yes, you say that Israel treats Palestinians badly, but I want you to say that it’s GENOCIDE. I want to hear ETHNIC CLEANSING. And if you won’t say GENOCIDE and ETHNIC CLEANSING and NAZI GERMANY then you’re clearly SUPPORTING EVERYTHING ISRAEL DOES!”

      Hey no fair Katy, you stole my next blog entry.

    36. Katy — on 8th February, 2007 at 6:38 pm  


    37. Katy — on 8th February, 2007 at 6:40 pm  

      Damn stupid emoticons not obeying the laws of HMTL. Anyway, Anas, it’s yours if you want it but make sure you link to me ;)

    38. Sunny — on 8th February, 2007 at 8:38 pm  

      Awwww.. a bit of collaboration between people, that’s what I like to see :D

    39. brachyury — on 9th February, 2007 at 9:32 am  

      There is clear difference between the NGN and the IJV. The NGN are a welcome forum for previously marginalised voices. The IJV are lots of already well publicised individuals playing the victim card.
      There is nothing really wrong with their manifesto. Yet as the week has gone on and more and more IJV articles have appeared the supposed instances of actual censorship have got thinner and thinner. What they are really complaining about is that the majority of Jews don’t agree with them and say so- sometimes rudely.

    40. Chairwoman — on 9th February, 2007 at 10:05 am  

      Just one more thought on Dr Chris Hyphenated. He or She has not, to the best of my knowledge, commented on any other issue that has excersised us over the past few months, only this one.

      May I commend him or her to Anas’s well written and extensively researched blog. There he or she will find someone who shares at least some of his or her opinions, and who will support him or her in his or her aims.

    41. Mark Israel — on 9th February, 2007 at 3:52 pm  

      Being a Jew is unique as we should not exist, all Jews alive today are survivors, survivors of countless Genocides and asymilation caused by Anti Semitism.

      The Jewish nation have never held a collective view of life, we are a Nation of self oppinionists and Mavens.

      We are guilty of many traits, The most harnmfull and the biggest cause of Anti Semitism is the self hating Jew, the Jew who changes his or her family name and comes up with some lame excuse, or the Jew who goes out of their way to appease enemies of his people over his own peoples rights.

      I dont see the point in bending over back wards to aqppease my enemy and those who proclaim that becuase they are in the arts carry more weight of human understanding and compassion than “the other Jews” who are blind supporters of Israel.

      Talk about ” heads up tuchoses” or what!

      If you ” Stars ” of Screen, theatre and the Arts are so concerned about people why not be proud and blow the ” Shofar” for your people or the possative facts of what Israel has done since we re-claimed our freedom.

      I would like to know why Jews in the ” spot light” do not feel able to openly support their nation and address issues like the rights of the Jews expelled from Islamic nations or support the Israeli soldiers who like it or not are defending the Jewish home land for you in the diaspora incase like our ancestors you had to flee.

      If you are so indipendant as you say then act indipendant not as a group this is contradictory, you should talk about unpopular subjcts and issues that the ” other ” Jews are scared to talk about as they may upset the ” Goyim”.

      Dont appologise for being associated with Israel, dont distance yourself from those who are fighting to survive. You are all Yids so you might as well be proud yids!

      Be strong, show that you are Jews not by being against a goverment policy but by promoting Israel the Jews and your identity.

      Dont be scared to think that the only way to be openly Jewish is that you have to knock Israel.

      I am not scared to offend people by being a Jew, to me being a Jew is a good thing, a treasure, a gift.

      We are a wonderfull nation of givers not takers, talk the truth of Palestine not just what people want to hear! especially from a bunch of yids.

      If people dont like it I can argue my point openly in any way I feel is correct.

      but I will never go against my people especialy in their hour of need and whilst so many wish to destroy my home land and the rest of us including you!

      To all Jewish celebraties and Artists Wear a ” Star of David” next time you are on TV being interviewed or a Hebrew T shirt, lets see how brave you realy are or are you the sterio type yid you too belive to be deep down- Nebbish!

    42. penelope — on 9th February, 2007 at 10:54 pm,20867,21194124-7583,00.html
      I hope this link works- it is an article re Israel by Irshad Manji, which I think is sensible.

      Now - my impressions re the discussions i hear on this blog, and keep in mind I am a liberal and barely observant ny jew, are this:it is fine for jews to speak for or against Israel as individuals, and it can reflect any specific aspect - we don’t need blanket statements from anyone because then we get rhetoric.
      I also understand that muslims speak their opinions. However, jews do not have to speak re Israel one way or the other in order to satisfy the whims of others in the country. They live in england and their behavior in England is what is pertinent. Are democratic principles of justice being served and are the individuals, both jewish and moslem, supportive of this justice? Are all voices heard, and then is the democratic process respected? If the police investigate and make an arrest based upon evidence do all respect this?U talk to death many issues re the middle east when u are threatened from within.

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