Lieberman´s invitation from Jewish National Fund splits U.K. Jews (HAŽARETZ NEWS) By Anshel Pfeffer 05/22/12)
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LONDON - Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman´s visit to London this
week is causing a furor within the local Jewish community. While one
of the main pro-Israel organizations in Britain, the local branch of
the Jewish National Fund (JNF), will be hosting an open event for
community members with Lieberman today, a number of Jewish groups
have come out against his invitation.
The protest was launched by members of the Zionist-leftist youth
movement Habonim Dror, who published an online petition questioning
the JNF´s "involvement in activities which jeopardize the possibility
of peace and Israel´s ability to maintain a strong democracy,"
specifically evictions of Palestinian families in East Jerusalem and
the demolition of buildings at the unrecognized Bedouin village of al-
Araqib in the Negev.
In addition to these questions part of an ongoing campaign by Jewish
leftist organizations against some of the activities funded by the
venerable Zionist organization the petitioners also criticized the
invitation of Lieberman, a "leader of a far-right party, who
alongside instigating anti-democratic legislation in the Knesset has
also advocated for the transfer of many of Israel´s Arab citizens to
the West Bank."
Some 300 people have already signed the petition online and a number
of high-profile Jewish leaders have also joined the protest,
including Rabbi Aaron Goldstein, co-chair of the Rabbinic Conference
of Liberal Judaism, who said in a statement that while his movement
supports "the presence of Israeli politicians in the UK, educating
the Jewish community and raising awareness among the wider British
public to Israel´s achievements, concerns and needs, we cannot
support the invitation given to Avigdor Lieberman by the JNF. The
presence of someone who expresses fundamentalist right-wing views, in
particular relating to Israeli Arabs who make up 20 percent of
Israel´s population, will damage Israel advocacy in the UK and
further disillusion those who once held the JNF in high esteem.
Avigdor Lieberman does not represent the views of the majority of
Israelis, nor that of most British Jews. If it is the strategy of JNF
to align themselves with his opinions ... then it is difficult to
provide the advocacy that Israel sorely needs in the Diaspora."
Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner of the Movement for Reform Judaism said
that she was "surprised and dismayed to see that Lieberman has been
invited to address the Jewish community in London. Israel advocacy is
most effective when its case is made rationally and compassionately."
She said that for the JNF "to invite someone with fundamentalist
right-wing views from outside the consensus of mainstream Israeli
society suggests it is concerned with something other than effective
Samuel Hayek, chairman of JNF UK, responded angrily, describing the
petition by Habonim Dror members as "libelous comments." According to
Hayek, "JNF UK is not involved in any of the disputes with sections
of Israel´s Bedouin citizens."
He asked whether "those who have signed this petition have spoken to
the Bedouin farmers whose livelihoods are under threat from the
squatters at Al-Araqib. Or have they spoken to the Bedouin
inhabitants of Arad, who benefit from the JNF UK-funded medical
center? Habonim Dror and [pro-Israel peace group] Yachad seem to be
more than happy to side blindly with the squatters and repeat the
lies propagated by those who work to delegitimize Israel. It´s a pity
for these organizations that truth and fashionable causes appear to
be mutually exclusive."
Regarding Lieberman´s invitation, Hayek said that "Avigdor Lieberman
is a democratically-elected politician and the foreign minister of
Israel. We are proud to have him speak exclusively at a JNF UK event,
following his meeting with Foreign Secretary William Hague. Our event
offers a fascinating opportunity for people to listen and debate the
issues that concern our community."
Lieberman´s office said in response: "There is no need to respond to
marginal elements of the delusional left whose only purpose is to
defame the state of Israel." (© Copyright 2012 Ha´aretz 05/22/12)
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