PRESS RELEASE: 18 June 2018

‘The BOD doesn’t speak for us.’ An open letter to the Board of Deputies of British Jews from Jewish people

Today we have sent an Open Letter to the BOD, signed by 75 (currently 105) Jewish people in the UK, appalled that it supports the continuing Israeli massacre of Palestinian people.

The signatories include a number of prominent people: Prof Sir Geoffrey Bindman; Prof Moshe Machover; Michael Rosen; Alexei Sayle; Sir Stephen Sedley; Avi Shlaim FBA; Gillian Slovo; and Jamie Stern-Weiner.

Amongst the first to sign was Ronnie Kasrils, a leading anti-apartheid campaigner, who was in exile in Britain for some years, and later a minister in the Mandela government. He asked to be included because it was a “much needed statement”.  

The letter was initiated by three members of the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network UK. 

For more information, see Facebook here; email


We are appalled that the Board of Deputies (BoD) which claims to be “the voice of British Jews,” has once again attempted to justify the massacre of unarmed Palestinian people by the Israeli military.  You issued a throw-away tweet on 31 March and a full statement on 15 May, followed by a comment opposing the World Health Organisation fact-finding mission into the health needs of the occupied territories on 24 May.

As you know, on 30 March, when Israel began its latest attack, Palestinians were commemorating Land Day. [1] It was the launch of their Great March of Return demanding the right to go back to their homeland and an end to the blockade of Gaza. The March continued until 15 May, the seventieth anniversary of the Nakba, when three-quarters of a million Palestinians were ethnically cleansed from their land: hundreds of towns and villages were depopulated and destroyed to make way for the state of Israel.

Since 30 March, 123 Palestinians have been killed, including children, women and medics, and journalists wearing vests marked PRESS, many shot in the back, and 13,600 have been maimed or injured by live ammunition, tear gas and firebombs.  For six weeks the killings continued, day after day, and on 14 May, when the US moved its embassy to Jerusalem, despite “overwhelming global opposition”, another massacre: 60 people killed, and 2,771 maimed and wounded.  The Israeli use of illegal “dumdum” bullets which expand after entering the body was clearly intended to cause not only greater pain but permanent disabilities

Your statement justifying this massacre prompted over 500 Jewish Zionists to write to outgoing president Arkush and president-elect Marie van der Zyl [2] protesting that BoD had “deeply misrepresented” their views by relieving Israel of all responsibility for the deaths caused by their snipers. 

BoD is doing its best to hide that Jews are divided over Israel’s ongoing repression and slaughter of the Palestinian people, which many of us, like most people everywhere in the world, including a number of Zionists, are outraged by.  So much for BoD “speaking for all Jews”!  You are so determined to defend Israel that you have even accused Jewish organisations and individuals of “antisemitism” because they support Palestinian rights, and campaigned for their expulsion from the Labour Party.

This is not the first time the BoD has condoned murder, claiming to speak on behalf of Jewish people in the UK.  The BoD publicly supported pro-Israel rallies during the bombing of Gaza in 2008/9 and 2014 that killed thousands of Palestinian women, children and men.  It has consistently supported a regime that is widely considered guilty of war crimes and the racist crime of apartheid.  You are now saying that opposition to Israel’s actions is antisemitic, thus demanding that Israel should be the only government in the world exempt from criticism.

The BoD in recent years has been uncritical of Israel and pro-Tory, contrary to the great Jewish working-class tradition of struggling for social justice in every situation.   Arkush declared his political allegiance when (on 9 June 2017) he mourned the Tory prime minister’s failure to win an outright majority at the general election as a “loss” for the Jewish community, and described the Tory alliance with the extreme right-wing, homophobic, anti-abortion Democratic Unionist Party in the North of Ireland as “positive news” and the DUP as “exceptionally warm and friendly”.  The Tories that Arkush supports are aligned in Europe with right-wing political parties that honour Nazi collaborators and Islamophobes.  Arkush also celebrated the election of Trump undeterred by his racist, Islamophobic, and antisemitic campaign.

Your identification with the Israeli government could prove even more frightening. Governments and people around the world fear that the wrecking of the agreement with Iran by Netanyahu and Trump (the heads of two nuclear powers) may start yet another war, repeating the horrors of Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria.  You may find yourself not only supporting the destruction of Iran, but urging the risk of nuclear war.

As Jewish people we are distraught that the Nazi holocaust has been, and continues to be, used to justify the brutal occupation of another people who played no part in our historic persecution, and to indulge in warmongering.

We reclaim our tradition of struggling for social justice for all by echoing the call by Jamal Juma, coordinator of the Palestinian Grassroots Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign and the Land Defence Coalition:

“It is time for the world to stop standing in implicit or explicit complicity with Israeli apartheid and to join us in nonviolent action by taking up the Palestinian call for boycotts, divestment and sanctions until Israel respects international law and human rights.” [3]


1. Land Day is the annual remembrance of the 1976 general strike protesting Israeli land theft from Palestinian citizens of Israel, when six unarmed Palestinians were killed, a hundred were wounded, and hundreds arrested.

2. We note that van der Zyl’s suitability to be president of BoD has been questioned by victims/survivors of child sexual abuse who accuse her of “abandoning” them in their efforts to eradicate this crime from Jewish institutions.

3. Quoted from The National (Scotland), Why the time is right for action to help Palestine, 23 April 2018

Initial signatories:

1.   Craig Berman

2.   Sarah Glynn

3.   Abe Hayeem

4.   Rosamine Hayeem

5.   Yael Kahn

6.   Michael Kalmanovitz

7.   Roisin Kalmanovitz

8.   Agnes Kory

9.   Selma James

10. Les Levidow

11. Moshe Machover

12. Helen Marks

13. Sam Weinstein

14. Karl Weiss

Signatories so far (21 Sept 2018):

15.     Susie Barry

16.     Graham Bash

17.     Mervyn E. Bennun

18.     Sir Geoffrey Bindman

19.     Pamela Blakelock

20.     Hagit Borer

21.     Haim Bresheeth

22.     Tony Booth

23.     David Cannon

24.     Michael Chambers

25.     Linda Clair

26.     James Cohen

27.     Jake Colman

28.     Ruth Conlock

29.     Ivor Dembina

30.     Greg Dropkin

31.     Judit Druks

32.     Thomas Eisner

33.     Bridget Dunne

34.     Mark Elf

35.     Liz Elkind

36.     Michael Ellman

37.     Pia Feig

38.     Tansy Feltis

39.     Deborah Fink

40.     Sylvia Finzi

41.     Carol Foster

42.     Kenny Fryde

43.     Claudio García Ehrenfeld (former UK resident)

44.     Dr Jay Ginn

45.     Dr David Goldberg

46.     Martin Golding

47.     Jen Green

48.     Tony Greenstein

49.     Malcolm Hecks

50.     Susan Himmelweit

51.     Hannah Hurst

52.     Nicholas Jacobs

53.     Riva Joffe

54.     Naomi Junnor

55.     Stephen Kapos

56.     Ronnie Kasrils (former UK resident)

57.     Jenny Kassman

58.     John Keidan

59.     Yosh Kosminsky

60.     Adam Kossoff

61.     Richard Kuper

62.     David Landau

63.     Bernice Laschinger

64.     Ruth Lass

65.     Lorry Leader

66.     Stephanie Lee

67.     Hilary Lester

68.     Leah Levane

69.     Rosalind Levy

70.     John Lipetz

71.     Jola Litwitz

72.     Renato Loeffler

73.     Prof. Yosefa Loshitzky

74.     Deborah Maccoby

75.     Ilana Machover

76.     James Mcleavy

77.     Ros Meadow

78.     Angie Mindel

79.     Prof David Mond

80.     Idit Nathan

81.     Diana Neslen

82.     Richard Pearl

83.     Stewart Permutt

84.     Miranda Pinch

85.     Judy Rabinowitz Price

86.     Jacqueline Rose

87.     Michael Rosen

88.     Leon Rosselson

89.     Sabby Sagall

90.     Prof Andrew Samuels

91.     Ian Saville

92.     Alexei Sayle

93.     Glyn Secker

94.     Emma Segar

95.     Sir Stephen Sedley

96.     Jenny Secretan

97.     Avi Shlaim, FBA

98.     Andy Simons

99.     Ray Sirotkin

100.    Gillian Slovo

101.    Annabelle Sreberny

102.    Jamie Stern-Weiner

103.    Ruth Tenne

104.    Jeremy Weinstein

105.    Prof. Nira Yuval-Davis





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