It appears that Beth Hamidrash Hagadol Synagogue (BHHS) has wisely decided to retract its offer to allow MP Naz Shah to address the Leeds Jewish community on its premises. It is quite plausible that the talk will, afterall, proceed as planned in the BHHS and that the ambiguity surrounding the new venue is merely a ploy to avert criticism. Time will tell.
Nevertheless, the organizers of the event - the Leeds Jewish Representative Council (LJRC) - remain determined that Shah be granted the opportunity to repair the irreparable on Jewish turf, wherever it may be. According to a number of reliable sources the new venue slated to host the event is the Sinai synagogue in Leeds.
With the BHHS apparently having backed down on the issue thereby implicitly offering a mea culpa (perhaps to the credit of its congregants and the community who expressed their disapproval), the objective has only been half completed.
Naz Shah’s right to address any community on any premises is unquestionable. So too is it the right of any organization to host her. The issue at hand however, is one of right and wrong, of taking a stand or not. Should Shah be given a second or a third chance given that she posted two comments calling for the deportation of some 6 million Jews from Israel and stated that Hitler’s actions were legal?
Writing from here in Israel, some people in the Leeds community posit that the views expounded by the author in a previous article on the matter are divisive and that they only constitute interference in the affairs of a community so many thousands of miles away. This point is an important one and it must be addressed.
Approximately half of the Jewish population reside overseas with around 269,000 in the UK alone. All Jews there exercise their right to freedom of speech and they hold a healthy variety of opinions which span across the political spectrum. Indeed, particularly when it comes to matters relating to Israel - a land thousands of miles away - British Jewry expresses its opinions on the most delicate of subjects which have a direct and immediate impact on her people.
No British Jew ever shied away from opining on the merits or demerits of one Israeli leader or another. No good British Jew concealed his or her views vis-a-vis land disputes, the appropriate way of handling terror and other subjects intimately affecting Israeli citizens.
While the vast majority of these people have never served in the IDF and will ultimately not have to live with, or mop up, the fallout of their gambling of Israel’s security from afar, they have no compunction in expressing their support for - or opposition to - Israel. Furthermore, they pay little attention to the divisive consequences in Israel which force her to constantly attempt to reconcile national security with foreign Jewish support. The negative or positive consequences of any policy affect, first and foremost, the Israelis - not the British Jewish community. Yet the latter reserves the right to pass comment on a country thousands of miles away.
Thus when Naz Shah called for the deportation of Israel’s Jews to the US, she was referring to me, to my siblings, to my kind Israeli friends, to my hard-working colleagues, to the new-born babies, to the elderly, to the children I see playing in the street who qualify for Shah’s deportation program solely because they are Jewish. Importantly, Shah’s comments constituted an assault on the diaspora’s right of return to Israel. She has advocated for the Jewish people, in a land thousands of miles away, to be deported to a land many more thousands of miles away.
Therefore, when any Jewish community, organization or individual gives such a woman - who countenanced the legitimacy of Hitler’s actions - the chance to jump into bed with them and offer a perfunctory apology, they must be told forthrightly by the local and international Jewish community as a whole that they are taking a stand and that they utterly reject this farce.
Taking action should not be avoided. A simple phone call to the event’s coordinators and the venue at which it is said to be taking place can be the difference between cosying up to an anti-Semite and keeping her at bay. The community must not allow itself to be misled by a small number of leaders who must be informed of its unwillingness to talk to anti-Semites.
Shah is merely employing an adroit political strategy to salvage her political career and she is exploiting the goodwill of the Jewish community to that end. Members of that community must not be deceived by this or become collaborators in this political slime.
Contrary to what some people may believe, entering a synagogue or addressing a Jewish community hardly makes Shah an intrepid individual. Indeed, it is doubtful that any credible security risk is posed against her by the Jewish community. She would be far more deserving of credit if she entered Islamic houses of worship in her own Bradford West constituency and told her listeners that she not only believes in Israel’s right to exist but that Jewish sovereignty over that land is non-negotiable. But of course, we know she would never do that for we know that she does not believe this.
With that in mind, British Jewry has an obligation to immediately register its objections to hosting Naz Shah at any Jewish forum whatsoever. It is in their hands to put a stop to this.
The LJRC can be reached on (0113) 2697520 or via email at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org