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Response to criticism in "Jewish Telegraph" newspaper

8 September 2018

The printed Jewish Telegraph newspaper on 31 August 2018 carried a story by Adam Cailler with the title "Muslim Forum won’t back the rally against antisemitism." The identical story, but without the name of a writer, was also published on the Jewish Telegraph website in its section for Manchester, but is no longer available there.

We remind readers of our Declaration of Principles. Number 9 states:

“(9) We oppose:-

From inception we have stood against antisemitism.

Both the Jewish and the Muslim members of our Executive Committee speak out and take action regularly against antisemitism. In particular our Co-Chair Mohammed Amin, who is specifically mentioned in the Jewish Telegraph article, has written regularly about antisemitism on his personal website www.mohammedamin.com

Our statement of objects, set out in our Memorandum and on the home page of our website, is specifically focused on Greater Manchester and is reproduced below:

“3.        The objects for which the Forum is established are to develop the cultural and social ties between the Muslim and Jewish Communities of Greater Manchester; to educate members of the Muslim and Jewish Communities in relation to their shared values and common Abrahamic tradition, heritage, history and culture; and to promote better understanding within the wider community of the interests and values that are common to the Muslim and Jewish Communities.”

It was drafted in this form to ensure that any involvement in the Israel / Palestine dispute was excluded.

When we were approached by North West Friends of Israel about the use of our logo, we asked about the organisation of the event, and received the impression that the organisers were a number of domestically focused Jewish organisations, although NWFoI would be mentioned. As the Jewish Telegraph reports, eight organisations whose focus is Israel will have their logos associated with the event.

We invite any Jews who have difficulty understanding the Forum’s decision to reflect on what their reaction would be if there was a rally in Manchester opposing anti-Muslim bigotry, and alongside the logos of Manchester mosques and similar locally focused organisations there were also the logos of many other lawfully established organisations whose sole focus is Palestine, Palestinian rights, Palestinian return, and the replacement of Israel by a binational state. Would they feel happy if the Forum chose to have its logo alongside those organisations?

Accordingly, the Executive Committee concluded that it would impair the Forum’s ability to promote its purpose stated above for the Forum to be a participant alongside these organisations.

As the story is no longer on the Jewish Telegraph website, we have reproduced it lower down on this page. We consider that is fair dealing under UK copyright law, as explained on the UK Government’s website page “Exceptions to copyright” in order to ensure that readers of this response are able to fully understand the context, and as there are serious issues of importance to the community of Greater Manchester involved.

Letters to the Jewish Telegraph

In response to the 31 August article, David Berkely QC and Jonny Wineberg wrote letters to the Jewish Telegraph. These were published in the letters section of the Manchester edition on 7 September 2018. However they were not published on the letters section of the Jewish Telegraph website.

Both letters are reproduced below with the permission of the writers. They are reproduced as submitted to the newspaper. In both cases they were edited by the newspaper for "house style" and abridged. We have indicated the abridgements by using Roman italics for text that was not printed by the newspaper.

Letter from David Berkley QC

The Muslim Jewish Forum of Greater Manchester is an important organisation that deserves wide support from the Jewish Community.

The Forum performs an essential role in promoting good relations between two faith communities. The work of the Forum has been recognised and praised by, amongst others, the Chief Rabbi.

Its success has, in no small part been due to the long-standing trust between and sensitivity shown by its Jewish and Muslim Co-Chairs and Executive Committee.

Those officers of the MJF have demonstrated courage, balance and determination in order to face down bigotry and racism, even when coming from within their own constituency.

The Forum should be judged by its own statements and activities, which are there to be read on its web site.

Mohammed Amin, the Muslim Co-Chair, is a Cambridge-educated and highly articulate commentator, who recognises the legitimacy of the State of Israel and supports the Two States Solution.

There is nothing “cowardly” about the decision, which the Forum’s Executive Council took, only after due reflection and debate, not to become officially aligned with the other organisations who are associated with the Rally.

To be clear, many of our members, and several of the Executive Committee, will attend the Rally in a personal capacity. MJF is not an Israel advocacy group.

Whilst many of its members are Zionists; some are non-Zionist and we might even have members who are anti-Zionist, and, in that sense, we are not vastly different from the makeup of the diverse communities from which the Forum is drawn.

The one thing I can attest to is, that the MJF has encouraged a better understanding, within the Muslim community, of the Jewish attachment to Israel and the centrality of Zionism within the mainstream Jewish community.

Whatever the range of views on Israel and Palestine, the Forum’s position on anti-Semitism is beyond reproach.

It is both ill-judged, untimely and irresponsible, for your newspaper unfairly to call out the one organisation that has shown itself to be adept at combating anti-Semitism at a grassroots level. I would encourage your readers to join the Forum by applying on line at www.muslimjewish.org.uk

David Berkley QC
Past President of the Zionist Central Council; Executive Council Member of the Muslim Jewish Forum.

Letter from Jonny Wineberg

Last week’s Jewish Telegraph ran a piece where an organisation from our community accused the Muslim Jewish Forum of “a cowardly act”. This was a result of them choosing not to have their logo on the upcoming rally against antisemitism due to the large number of national Israel-focused organisations involved.

Whatever one feels about that decision, there is a legitimate argument made by the Forum, just as one would expect the same regarding a rally against Islamophobia where a large number of pro-Palestinian organisations were involved.

Yes, they could support both but the reality of then becoming embroiled in the Israeli-Palestinian debate, and the harm this would do their work, is easily understood

The Forum is made up of many brave people who have stepped out of their comfort zone to engage with others who have different backgrounds.

Whilst our two communities have much in common, there are differences and misconceptions that have the potential to cause conflict. Coming together helps improve understanding and respect between people and is of great value at a time when misunderstanding and discord are real threats to community cohesion.

This empathy that the Forum seeks to engender is a key Jewish value that requires us to place ourselves in the interior world of others.

This is more easily done when those others are from our own community but the challenge is to do this when people come from a different background, faith or culture.

We are warned not to be dismissive and cause hurt by careless attitudes or, worse, fear and hatred. We are expected to be sensitive and to treat people with dignity, love and respect.

Leaking an email in order to undermine an organisation who have worked alongside the Jewish community to challenge attacks on our cemeteries and threats to shechita and brit milah does not fit with our values.

The Forum holds dozens of events to foster understanding and respect between our communities and has built bridges that have been vital in improving cohesion in the region.

To call them ‘cowardly’ because they have made a decision different to what you may want does not show empathy. We are better than that.

Jonny Wineberg
Past Co-Chair, Muslim Jewish Forum of Greater Manchester

Reproduced from the Jewish Telegraph website accessed on 31 August 2018

MUSLIM FORUM WON’T BACK THE RALLY AGAINST ANTISEMITISM

THE Muslim Jewish Forum has refused to support a rally against antisemitism — because pro-Israel organisations are involved.

An email leaked to the Jewish Telegraph shows co-chairman Mohammed Amin making the claim, relating to North West Friends of Israel — organisers of the September 16 event in Manchester.

He wrote: “Given the number of Israel related organisations whose logos will be on your banner, we concluded that involvement would not be in the best interests of the forum.

“Had it been a number of locally focused organisations plus just NWFoI, it is possible that the executive might have taken a different view.

“The MJF executive discussed the issue, and decided against being formally associated with the event or having our logo used in event publicity.”

Co-chairman Heather Fletcher clarified to the Jewish Telegraph that many of the Muslim Jewish Forum executive will attend in a personal capacity.

But she added: “We are an apolitical organisation, so it is therefore not appropriate for our forum logo to be used in advertisements for this rally.”

However, NWFoI hit back, calling it “cowardly”.

A spokesman told the JT: “Of the 31 organisations supporting the rally, only eight are pro-Israel.

“It is not unusual for pro-Israel organisations to have an interest in matters of Jewish concern.

“Israel is part of our culture and antisemitism a part of our history.

“It was also made absolutely clear that the rally was specifically about antisemitism.

“If the MJF will not stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the Jewish community against antisemitism, especially nowadays when it is at its worst for a long time, then it is not fit for purpose.”

He added: “The Jewish community is made up largely of Zionist Jews who suffer from antisemitism, too.

“This is a cowardly act by the MFJ that says to the Jewish community, ‘We will stand with you against antisemitism as long as it is only alongside Jews we agree with’.”

The rally — at Cathedral Gardens on Corporation Street — will see Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis and MPs Ivan Lewis, James Frith, Chris Green and Kate Green, and Dames Louise Ellman and Margaret Hodge speaking, as well as Jewish Leadership Council chairman Jonathan Goldstein and Board of Deputies president Marie van der Zyl.

 

 

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Established to develop the cultural and social ties between the Muslim and Jewish Communities of Greater Manchester

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