“As individual Jews come under increasing pressure to unite behind their ‘leaders’, Brian Klug puts the case for disunity.
On Sunday 29th June 2008, Trafalgar Square was filled with thousands of people who had ‘come out’ as supporters of Israel. Henry Grunwald, President of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, under whose auspices (along with the Jewish Leadership Council) the event was held, told the crowd: ‘We are proud to be British, we are proud to be Jewish and we are all proud to support Israel’. Union Jacks were dotted like sails in a sea of blue-and-white Israeli flags. It was hailed as ‘the first ever UK “Salute to Israel” parade’. But Nelson on his column, unless he turned a blind eye, would have had a sense of déjà vu.
The scene was a reprise of the Israel Solidarity Rally held in the same place six years earlier when tens of thousands of British Jews assembled with placards proclaiming ‘Yes to peace, No to terror’ and ‘Israel, we are with you’; slogans that begged certain questions. Who exactly were ‘we’ (or indeed ‘you’)? Why say ‘No’ to terror but not to occupation, closures, collective punishment and demolition of homes? These questions went unasked: the mood in the square and across a broad section of the British Jewish population was not exactly reflective. Theirs not to reason why, theirs but to rally round.
It was shortly after Operation Defensive Shield, when Israeli troops had entered the West Bank in force. Television viewers and newspaper readers were assailed with scenes of devastation in Jenin, Ramallah and elsewhere. But seen through the eyes of Ariel Sharon, it might have been the other way round: Palestinians laying waste to Tel Aviv or Ashdod – or the Warsaw ghetto. ‘This is a battle for survival of the Jewish people, for survival of the state of Israel’, declared Israel’s Prime Minister at the time.
As the collective clamour leading up to the rally grew louder, someone close to me wrote in a private email: ‘I would go so far to say – speaking entirely for myself – that it is getting hard to hold on to any Jewish identity at all when it bears no relation whatsoever to the mindless nationalism one is forced to listen to from Jews round the world every day.’ Though speaking for herself, her words spoke for many others who felt (as another friend put it) ‘the untenable position of being Jewish today’…”
–Brian Klug, Oct 18, 2008, Z Net
Also from Z Net:
Robert Fisk on the American Election