Friday, 4 January 2013

To Grow or not to Grow?

Firstly, apologies for the silence on the blog front.  No excuses, just very busy.  And rather than make a new year's resolution I may not keep, I'll just commit to trying to do better about updating you all here on what's going on at the Board of Deputies.

There's been lots of heated email traffic over the holidays between Deputies about a proposed partnership between the Board and Oxfam UK that was first announced in the Jewish Chronicle last November.  Grow Tatzmiach is the Board of Deputies’ proposed new food justice campaign. Jewish volunteers, Deputies and non-Deputies, interested in alleviating food poverty and social justice issues, can learn from experts and mentors, including some from one of the largest and most influential NGOs - Oxfam GB - together with various Rabbis and Jewish charities.  The goal is that members of our community can raise their game and improve their campaigning skills on important matters.

In a letter from the BOD President today to all Deputies, Vivan Wineman comments that Oxfam's project "to end world hunger is of huge significance and is comparable to the programme regarding millennium debt more than a decade ago. Involving the community in this would be feather in the cap of the Board and of the community and a great Kiddush Hashem – sanctification of the Divine Name."

He goes on to say "Ordinarily there would be no question as to the value of such a programme, but because some of the training is coming from Oxfam GB, objections have been raised on the grounds that they are hostile to Israel, and that any engagement with them should be limited to holding them to account for their views on Israel... 

There are some NGOs that are implacably opposed to Israel per se, but there are others that raise objections to certain Israeli policies, seeing it as speaking out for the people they seek to help.  Oxfam GB falls into the latter camp, and in our discussions with them we have stressed the need to clarify their position, so their views cannot be misrepresented by Israel’s enemies.  Consequently and possibly in response to our urging, Oxfam GB have now stated categorically that they support a two state solution, will not work with organisations advocating violence and do not support boycotts of Israeli goods, including settlement goods."

The JC has reported on this further in today's issue.  You can read Laura Mark's opinion on Why 'we' are doing it and Jonathan Hoffman's view on Why we Shouldn't.  

We'll be debating this at the Board of Deputies Plenary on 20th January.  Jerry and I are your representatives on the Board, so please do share your views with us so that we can feed these in to the discussions.

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