Israel/Palestine,  UK Politics,  Uncategorized

Is Limmud too Lefty?

I wasn’t present at Limmud, the annual Jewish community learning experience, but comments about it have been popping up on my Facebook feed since.

David Collier, the man to whom the Jewish community and those who are against bigotry have to thank for recording Kaufman’s latest diatribe, wrote a passionate blog post about what he sees as the embrace of anti Zionism by people who claim to be and perhaps think they are Zionists. It’s an excellent piece and I recommend reading it. I gotta confess, he hit me perhaps too close to home when he said the following about Kaufman’s generation (ignoring the word socialist):

Zionism to these people was to be a flawless, socialist, Eden, that would shine its humanity into the dark recesses of its barbaric neighbourhood. With an imaginary land of impossible being in his head, Israel could never live up to such standards.

It was my army service where I learned Israel was a real country, every bit as flawed as the real people who live in it. That disillusionment left me broken or at least wounded when it came to Israel. I would add that while I think Collier is right about the crash some in the community have had regarding their Zionism I would add that there are plenty of people on the other end of the spectrum for whom Israel actually is a flawless Eden, a Jewish utopia in the making. For them any criticism of Israel at all is the greatest of sins, any frank discussion of military service is the greatest of betrayals and any acceptance of money that hasn’t come from Zionist Jews the mark of a traitor. For these people (as with all ideologically committed people) the ends will always justify the means, killing, occupation etc isn’t even a forgivable necessity it becomes in itself a holy act. Much of Collier’s piece is a history lesson but his points reflect a strongly made argument against Limmud giving pride of place to groups that are hardly representative of Israel. Having said that I can’t find anything on Limmud’s website that suggests it is Zionist or wishes to put out a Zionist narrative. Rather they seem to wish to put every narrative on display. This they appear to have done.

Another critic was Ruthie Blum who claimed that she was brought to Limmud to: “serve as the only voice not singing in the predominantly left-wing choir.” Interestingly she adds that:

Aware that my ability to persuade those with an opposing worldview has always been nil, my words — whether expressed verbally or in print — are aimed at people who need no convincing but feel lonely in their convictions. It is an unpleasant sensation with which I am utterly familiar.

Unlike Collier’s I found her criticisms to be unfair and lacking in calibre. She takes her own little anecdotal experience and the question of one person in particular as an opportunity to cast aspersions on the whole of British Jewry. If you can be bothered to read it it’s here.

In making an assessment of just how Zionist the British Jewish community is it might be worth noting that in 2014 the JNF alone raised almost £14 million for projects in Israel continuing a trend upwards from a low of £9 million in 2011. In 2014 over 570 British Jews made aliyah punching well above their weight when compared with Blum’s native North America.

I don’t have the figures for 2015 yet but I’m proud to add to the UK number my own brother. Unlike the thousands making aliyah from France right now he’s one British Jew who is moving to Israel not fleeing there.

Is Limmud too lefty? Well that I suppose that depends where on the political spectrum you’re sitting.