To the newly elected president of the Board of Deputies,
This past week we have witnessed unprecedented violence and racism in the holy city of Jerusalem, including at the holy Muslim site of Al-Aqsa. Elected Israeli officials - those in positions of leadership in the Knesset and in Jerusalem - have gone out of their way to stoke and inflame racial tension and hatred.
Just a few days ago, the deputy mayor of Jerusalem stood next to Member of Knesset Itamar Ben Gvir in the neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah, where settlers are using discriminatory laws to try and evict Palestinians from their homes, and shouted at a Palestinian that he wished he had been shot in the head.
Far right nationalists have marched through the city harassing Palestinians and chanting “death to the Arabs”. Israel’s security establishment have warned the Israeli government that the nationalist March of the Flags through the Old City on Jerusalem Day should be cancelled because it is likely to inflame tensions further, yet so far, the Israeli government has not heeded this advice.
Imagine if the tables were turned: if fundamentalist Palestinians in Jerusalem were trying to force Jews out of their homes and were harassing them in their neighbourhoods. Imagine the violation of the sanctity of Jewish religious spaces with violence, rubber bullets and stun grenades, whilst elected Palestinian officials stood on street corners in Jerusalem and told Jews they wish they had been shot in the head. Or if large angry mobs marched through the streets shouting “death to Israelis”. You would have no qualms about issuing a public statement of condemnation, which would be entirely justified.
But now, your silence is deafening.
If you never said anything about Israel, we would accept your silence. But you choose to constantly pass comment. You cannot blame others if they draw the conclusion that your failure to condemn this behaviour, means that you condone it.
We will not stand by whilst you claim to represent us yet have nothing to say about unchecked racism and incitement out of the mouths of Israeli officials. The Board of Deputies cannot credibly claim to be anti-racist as long as you refuse to condemn this racism on the streets of Jerusalem.
If you wish to maintain your credibility as a representative anti-racist Jewish organisation, the time to speak out is now.