In an op-ed at The Times (“Moving British embassy in Israel to Jerusalem would be a disaster”, Oct. 13) the Labour Peer not only criticised the prime minister, but lectured British Jews on what he sees as the potential consequences of taking the ‘incorrect’ position on the issue:
I would also suggest this proposal is something British Jews would be unwise to support. The heads of the youth movements have strongly denounced the move. They are the future leadership of the Jewish community and should be listened to carefully. It could be highly detrimental for intercommunal and interfaith relations here at home.
His ‘suggestion’ is likely a response to the president of the Board of Deputies, Marie van der Zyl, who publicly expressed support earlier in the month for moving the embassy to Jerusalem – a position subsequently supported by more than 500 leading members of the Jewish community. This list includes prominent figures on the left and right of the political spectrum.
But, quite tellingly, Levy grossly misleads in his claim that “the heads of the youth movements have strongly denounced the move”.
In fact, what he’s almost certainly referring to is a petition signed by over 100 British Jews associated – or previously associated with – Jewish youth organisations. This is a drop in the bucket when considering the total number of British Jews who are affiliated with such organisations. And, as far as we can tell, not one of the many Jewish youth organisations has taken an official position on the issue.
The most concerning sentence in the paragraph is Levy’s warning that Jewish support for the embassy move “could be highly detrimental for intercommunal and interfaith relations here at home”.
Though he doesn’t elaborate on the way in which the ‘wrong’ position taken by Jews would harm intercommunal and interfaith relations, it seems Levy is suggesting that other faith communities may take out their anger over such an embassy move on British Jews, and that Jews should therefore calibrate their position not on their personal assessment of its merits, but based on fear of this potential backlash.
It should be clear, however, that responsibility for any such embassy move would rest on the shoulders of the prime minister and relevant government ministers, not on the Jewish community.
If, as Levy speculates, there is increased hostility towards British Jews as a result of such a policy change, that would represent a reflection of the bigotry and illiberalism of the faith community in question, not on the Jews exercising their democratic rights to take positions they deem to be consistent with their values.