British baroness says organized Jewry should avoid position on annexation

Baroness Altmann says that an official Jewish stance on annexation of parts of Judea and Samaria “offers succor to Israel’s enemies.”

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

A prominent Jewish member of the House of Lords on Tuesday publicly backed the head of organized British Jewry’s call to stay out of the annexation debate in Israel, saying that such talk simply “offers succor” to Israel’s enemies.

“There’s a big difference between expressing views as private individuals…and public statements by official bodies that represent the Jewish community,” said Baroness Ros Altmann, CBE, in a video of British Jewish communal leaders posted to YouTube.

“And that’s why I support the position taken – in the face of some fierce opposition – by Marie van der Zyl, who does not want the Board of Deputies to take any public views on the annexation issue.”

The Board of Deputies of British Jews is the main body that represents the community to the British government.

At a plenary meeting in May, Van der Zyl, , president of the Board of Deputies, rejected a demand by left-wing members to come out against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s promise to apply sovereignty to 30 percent of Judea and Samaria.

“There isn’t going to be a consensus that is going to be reached, and I am very concerned that the Jewish community stays together as a community at what is clearly a divisive time,” she said.

Altmann noted the “passionate exchanges of opinion” in the local Jewish press and social media on the issue, and agreed with van der Zyl that because it is so contentious, the Board should continue remaining silent on the matter.

First on her list of reasons was that “I don’t believe that the British Jewish community can claim to have a superior view of what Israel should be doing, to that of the Israeli government itself,” she said. “Yes, we will disagree on the personal level. But as friends of Israel, why offer succor to its enemies?”

She then echoed the Board president, saying that at a time when everyone is struggling with the consequences of the coronavirus pandemic, “surely that word ‘community’ is more important than ever. Let’s look for ways to minimize division rather than unnecessarily encouraging it.”

The Conservative peer’s third fear was that taking a public stance “could add to the already increasing level of anti-Semitism,” as Jew-haters would say it proved that Diaspora Jews could influence Israeli policy and therefore it is correct to blame them for what Israel does or doesn’t do.

The call to stay out of a hot issue of Israeli politics stands in marked contrast to the Board’s position last February, when it asked electioneering politicians to support a manifesto that included a commitment to the establishment of a Palestinian state in exchange for the British Jewish vote.