Andrea Zanardo
The Zionist Rabbi your friends warned you about

A telling location

Did you hear of the demonstrations against the Foreign policy of the English Government in front of an Anglican church? No, neither did I. And what about the protest against the Iranian Government near a mosque precisely when parents pick up their children after religious school? No, that also I haven’t heard about. But, lucky I am, last Sunday I had the honour to witness an anti-Israel demonstration less than a mile not from one, not from two, but from three synagogues.

There were all the required paraphernalia. Even one of those black-dressed peyot-furnished anti-Zionist speakers from that haredi group whose opposition to Israel is rooted in a muddy story of abuses. A multitude of Palestinian flags, alongside tens of keys, to symbolize the so-called “right-of-return” that is to expel Israelis from their homes, regardless of which side of the Green Line they live. They also read poems by the Soviet laureated Mahmoud Darwish: not a big deal, this last one, his writings are included in the Israeli curriculum since 2008. A fact I doubt that the protesters were aware of, the reason for the event was to portray Israel as a racist hell. Those are the people that in 2019 claimed on social media it was time “to march on a synagogue” in our town.

Thankfully there were enough police to prevent the enactment of such a purpose.

And yet, a fact remains. The choice of a square, close to three synagogues, for an anti-Israel demonstration is very telling The word that better describes the choice of the location is: provocation. Similar demonstrations in Italy were held nearby to synagogues in the 80s. During one of these demonstrations, in 1982, someone left an empty white coffin on the stairs of the Great Synagogue in Rome. After a few weeks, the synagogue was packed with children on Shemini Atzeret. Palestinian terrorists opened fire: a toddler was killed, and forty Jews were seriously wounded. The empty coffin was now full.

This is how these folk want to advance the Palestinian cause: by intimidating Jews in the Diaspora (often with the threat of violence) to decrease the support for Israel.

The message is always the same, “Give up on Zionism, and you’ll be safe. More, we will consider you Jews our most precious allies in the fight against racism, against oppression, against patriarchate, against NATO, against the Blairites… we have plenty of battles you can join. You Jews will be warmly welcome… if only you polish yourself from this Zionism stuff.   But if you do not, we cannot control the rage of our comrades. So, distance yourself from Israel every time and every way you can., it will make you safer. And if you really want to be completely safe, call yourself an anti-Zionist Jew, and then you will have nothing to fear from us, from the Far Left. We will protect you against the Fascists like in Cable Street.”

I have heard this message from the Far Left since I have been in this Country and possibly before. And I have seen the Jewish community answer in different ways.The grassroots groups, “Friends of Israel”, were founded all across the UK in the 2010s  to actively confront that kind of antisemites.

But there are also Jews who believe that anti-Zionists should be “part of the Jewish conversation”. Because, you know, those who criticize Israel are never invited to any conversation, except for the BBC, the Guardian, The Independent, Sky TV, Channel Four, Al Jazeera, LBC …

Jews who welcome these protests, waving the Palestinian flag and are ashamed of the Israeli flag. Jews who fall for the blackmail and “tune down” their connection to Israel, because they believe that they will be safe by showing a conciliatory attitude, except that a few yards from the synagogue, they stop to be safe. Jews who believe that the boycotters of Israel are reasonable people and are doing their part to improve the world and that authentic Jewish life should be a never-ending begging for forgiveness from the Palestinians, so they take every chance to publicly distantiate themselves from Israel and smear the Jewish State’s citizens.

In short, in the British Jewish community, there is a minority – unfortunately very vocal- who believe that the protesters who gather a few distances from three synagogues to spill hate when parents pick up the children have some good reasons, perhaps poorly formulated, maybe with some tone that is wrongly perceived as antisemitic …. but at the end of the day, the only thing they want is justice and equality between the Mediterranean and the Jordan river.

Except that, everybody knows that no rosy coexistence has ever happened, let alone it can happen where the ruling Party aims to establish a State whose “principal source of legislation will be the principles of Islamic Sharia“. This is Article 4 of the Palestinian constitution, that of the moderate Abu Mazen and of the much-hosted doctor Husayn Zomlot, the Head of the Palestinian mission in the UK, happily hosted indeed by Jewish organisations at webinars where no one ever dares to ask about the Palestinian constitution.

Apologies if this dark-skinned, heavily accented Italian Jew dares to talk about his own experience, of the familiarity with accounts of pogroms and expulsions from places such as Lybia and Iran. Many of my Jewish friends’ parents witnessed these tragedies in the 50s and the 60s. Hiding in the car’s trunk on the way to the airport, taking the last plane, and escaping or bribing some officials for us are not just stories. They were real episodes of the real life of the parents of many of my friends. Often talking about the reason why they were alive.

You can tell the Guardian’s readers that that military who tormented the Jews on their way out from the Country where they had lived for centuries as dhimmi, second-class citizens, was -who knows- a Socialist. That his Soviet-allied Government was “on the right side of history”. You can tell this nonsense at the next Corbynites meeting, which no doubt will be attended by very few Jewish refugees from Muslim Countries. But you cannot tell it to the Jewish refugees, nor to their families.

Let me state it clearly. I firmly believe in freedom of speech. Israeli haters and boycotters have all the right to organize their commemoration of whatever event they fantasize about. But they chose to meet next to three synagogues with the purpose to ingenerate fear in the Jewish community.

This is what they mean by “coexistence” and it’s time we stop believing their lies.

About the Author
Italian by birth, Israeli by choice, Rabbi of the largest synagogue in Sussex (UK). Uncompromising Zionist.
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