Some on the Jewish right don’t want to admit their closeness and acceptance of Bezalel Smotrich MK and his far-right views and politics.
They (Likud, some Jewish Republicans, some Jewish Conservatives and even some Orthodox rabbis) want to feel they can mix, co-exist, and in Likud’s case even be in political alliance with Smotrich.
Whilst they can’t be seen to endorse, schmooze or be mates with islamaphobes, homophobes, sexists or religious bigots, they feel empowered to attack those who shine a light on Smotrich, those who choose not to meet him, those that shun him or worst of all, those who loudly tweet about him in politically nuanced street Hebrew!
The moment I saw the tweet I was surprised yet delighted that the Board had said something so timely, so direct and so blunt.
I enjoyed seeing the responses in which Smotrich and his bedfellows were upset, wrong footed, stunned, hurt and totally unable to comprehend that anyone would speak the truth to them. I was proud, when I saw the Hebrew-speaking Michael Wegier, Chief Executive of the Board of Deputies, on a circuit of Israeli press and TV interviews.
I was delighted and relieved when I saw not just left-wing Israelis, but also Yaakov Katz, the editor in chief of the Jerusalem Post, endorse Michael Wegier’s words but emphasizing that they are as a wakeup call to Israelis.
And yet the right-wing machine could be heard grumbling.
They could not let those cheeky Brits from the Board of Deputies make and be so widely supported in making such comments. They would need to come back fighting. Their MO? Attack the Board, attack British Jewry, attack Michael Wegier.
We need to stand together against the friends of Smotrich and their right wing bedfellows, assuring them that such racist views are out of kilter with the Jewish values that I hope we share.
Let those who want to attack the Board of Deputies remember, Smotrich is not Farage and UKIP, but more akin to an MP, elected for the BNP (British National Party) or an equivalent overtly racist party. Whilst Farage and UKIP may have influenced the Conservative Party, the Conservatives would never consider any alliance with them. It is disgraceful that Likud and Mizrachi and other parties would not only be in a potential coalition with Smotrich, but even allow him to have a ministry, and influence their policies and mandate. For those who think it unacceptable to criticise a Knesset member, they need to consider how such a person with such views became a Knesset member in the first place, and are they going to do anything about people with such views representing them in the highest echelons of power.
What should the Board of Deputies have done? Had they said they disagreed with him but stayed silent; or said that he had a right to his views; or that they discretely made their views known, this would not have been a story. Smotrich could continue to travel the globe and grow in credibility, impervious to any criticism. It is important that worldwide and in Israel he and his politics are shunned and defeated by Jewish communal organisations, particularly those who represent the breadth of the community.
And finally, should the Board of Deputies have been more polite?. In a world of soundbites, the Board had a day of being in the news and a voice in Israel. So many complain the Board is too civil, too quiet and ask whether they stand up to Jeremy Corbyn, to antisemitism and to Racism. Let them do it loudly and proudly, and if they have to be blunt to be heard. Be blunt, very blunt!