British Chief Rabbi: Pro-Gazan Protest Often a Front for anti-Semitism

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British Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis addresses the Limmud Conference, U.K., Dec. 23, 2013.Credit: Limmud slideshow

Britain's Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mervis has warned in an op-ed in The Telegraph that anti-Israel sentiment sparked by the war in Gaza has flamed into anti-Semitism.

"There is no doubt that the Hamas-Israel conflict has served as a significant trigger point for the current spike in incidents. Impassioned criticism of Israel is not intrinsically anti-Semitic. In many cases, however, the current conflict has been used as a pseudo-legitimate medium for latent anti-Semitism to be expressed," Mervis wrote on Wednesday, in advance of a London rally against anti-Semitism to be held Sunday.

The op-ed continued: "[I]n expressing strong views about Israel some people do not realise the extent to which they draw upon myths, images, fears and expressions that have a long and and ugly history. Others knowingly and deliberately draw upon such rhetoric and upon the history of vile persecution. How can anyone attempt to justify disgraceful placards the like of which we have seen in pro-Gaza demonstrations in London proclaiming 'Hitler should have finished the job,' or 'Death to the Jews'?"

In recent weeks, Mervis has joined British Jewish groups in condemning a series of angry protests against supermarkets and shops that carry products made in the West Bank, demanding that they be removed. Critics said these demonstrations have caused many Jews, as well as store owners and employees, to feel fearful and intimidated.

A Sainsbury supermarket in London reacted to such a protest by clearing its shelves of kosher food, fearing the protesters were going to cause a ruckus in the store (which did not occur).

In response, the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Jewish Leadership Council issued a statement saying, The protesters behind this campaign have no interest in securing a just and lasting peace for Israelis and Palestinians and through such actions, risk importing the Middle East conflict to the U.K., dividing local communities, they said.

The statement added: The community calls on retailers not to discriminate against or boycott any goods, products or suppliers, which would give the message that violence and intimidation work – an especially troubling situation for Jewish people in the U.K.

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