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Increasingly Diverse Jewish Voices Are Being Heard Worldwide

Allan C. Brownfeld, Editor
Special Interest Report
March-April 2007

Both in the U.S. and around the world, increasingly diverse Jewish voices are being heard, challenging  
the positions often taken by established Jewish organizations.  
In the United Kingdom, a new organization has been created to provide an alternative voice to the  
official representative of Anglo-Jewry on issues related to Israel. Independent Jewish Voices (IJV),  
launched with advertisements in the Times, Guardian and Jewish Chronicle newspapers — and a week  
of op-ed articles on the Guardian’s blog site, “Comment Is Free” — is a grouping of academics, media  
personalities and peace activists opposing what they insist is British Jewry’s unquestioning support for  
More than 100 signatories, including celebrities like playwright and 2006 Nobel literature laureate  
Harold Pinter, film director Mike Leigh and fashion designer Nicole Farhi, say in the ads that they have  
come together “in the belief that the broad spectrum of opinion among the Jewish population is not  
reflected by those institutions which claim authority to represent the Jewish community as a whole.”  
One of the founding members of IJV, Oxford University philosophy professor Brian Klug, pointed to  
statements made by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert during last year’s Lebanon war, when he  
reportedly told an American audience: “I believe that this is a war that is being waged by all Jews.”  
Statements such as this, said Dr. Klug, create a dangerous “fallacy since it tars all Jews with the same  
brush. Yet this misconception is reinforced here by those who, claiming to speak for British Jews  
collectively or allowing that impression to go unchallenged, only ever reflect one position on the Middle  
On the IJV website, signatory Professor Susie Orbach, a prominent psychotherapist, said: “As a Jew, I  
feel a particular duty to oppose the injustice that is done to Palestinians. Despite what it might say, the  
Israeli government does not speak for me.” Progressive Rabbi David Goldberg claimed that when Jews  
did not speak out against “disastrous” Israeli policies, “they are betraying millennial Jewish values and  
acting against Israel’s own long-term interests.” Lady Ellen Dahrendorf, a former chair of the New Israel  
Fund, added: “I’ve long been appalled by the humiliating, brutal and brutalizing occupation of the West  
Bank. In our current atmosphere of growing ‘tribalism’ and the politics of identity, it is more crucial  
than ever that friends of Israel voice their concerns.”  
The chief executive of the Board of Deputies, the representative body of Anglo-Jewry, Jon Benjamin,  
observed that “for a group that has been stifled, they seem to have attracted plenty of coverage to their  
complaint that the community does not express their views.” Others pointed out that the community  
boasts a wide variety of groups representing different perspectives on issues relating to human rights  
and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including Jews for Justice for Palestinians, the Jewish Forum for  
Justice and Human Rights and the British Friends of Peace Now.  
The IJV controversy, reports The Jerusalem Report (March 5, 2007), “follows another heated dispute in  
the Jewish community over the appointment of academic Anthony Lerman as director of the Institute for  
Jewish Public Policy Research (IJPPR), which conducts research into policy strategies for Jewish  
communities in Europe. In a public meeting before his appointment, Lerman had expressed support for  
the creation of a secular, binational state as a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and has also  
repeatedly cast doubt on the accuracy of statistics reflecting the rising rate of anti-Semitism in the  
A declaration criticizing Israeli territorial policies is also stirring controversy in the German Jewish  
community. At issue is a declaration published in January in one of the country’s most widely read  
Jewish newspapers, Die Judische Zeitung (The Jewish Newspaper). The statement titled “Berlin  
Declaration Shalom 5767” — a reference to the current year in the Jewish calendar — and organized by  
a member of the presiding committee of the Central Council of German Jews, Rolf Verleger, professor  
of neuro-psychology at the University of Lubeck, called on Germany’s government to do more to press  
Israel to make concessions, and asserted that the “root of the problem is the continuing Israeli  
occupation of Palestinian territory since 1967.” A related advertisement was placed in two of Germany’s  
major daily newspapers, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung and the Suddeutsche Zeiting.  
In addition, Die Judische Zeitung published an opinion essay by Kurt Goldstein, a Holocaust survivor  
and honorary chairman of the International Auschwitz Committee, rebutting criticism of the declaration.  
“It was said that a Declaration like ‘Shalom 5767’ is grist to the mill of anti-semites in the entire world,”  
he wrote. “However, the reality is that there is nothing more that helps the anti-semites than what  
Israel did in the War in Lebanon.”  
Fueling the controversy, the trustees of Die Judische Zeitung issued their own statement criticizing the  
publication’s publishing decisions, asking, “Does this newspaper want to go about as the mouthpiece  
for anti-Israel propaganda?”  
In Australia, the Sydney Morning Herald reported that a new Australian group, Independent Australian  
Jewish Voices, has launched an online campaign with one organizer saying that Australian Jews were  
“basically brainwashed” into uncritical support of Israel.

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