It is my great honour to have become the executive director of Meretz UK very recently. It is a post of great importance in Jewish life, and yet the Left of Jewish life here and in Israel has been much ignored in the last decade. There were frustrations about the peace process, even two outright war situations, that caused some to reach a state of apathy and disinterest. There were the boycotts and outbursts of some British politicians that pushed at times well meaning left wing supporters to the right, and then there were perhaps some mistakes and inactions of our own making.
I have been selected after careful deliberation in the hope that the hope for equality, civil rights, human rights and peace between Jews and Palestinian and Israel and its Arab neighbours have an address once again. If you support all the above, Meretz UK is the place to be, to support and help re-build.
There can be no doubt that there is much to do and so much need for us to exist. The debates between those who claim that in January 2009 the IDF did nothing wrong and those who claim that disturbing irregularities by the IDF occurred (to put it mildly) is still ongoing. Netanyahu and Lieberman are running Israel in a shocking coalition that left settlements in tact or in expansion, that left the rest of Israel in a dire state of pay cuts, diminished social welfare provisions and increased hatred of non Jewish migrants (legal and illegal) and a murderous attack on a Lesbian and Gay centre in Tel Aviv. What is more disturbing is that in deed the majority of Jewish Israelis voted for this political leadership.
Here in Britain Jews have seen an increase in anti-Jewish and anti-Israeli attacks, there is little plurality within the British Jewish hemisphere, and it seems almost impossible to be Zionist and not end up under the wings of some right wing unquestioning quango, in spite of the fact that much of Zionists history was governed by groups who were inspired by trying to create a better future in Palestine, from communal Kibbutzim pioneers, socialist ideologues who dreamed of being able to convince the Arab workers to unite with the Jewish workers, to outspoken advocates for human and civil rights.
The treatment of migration and immigrations and the rise of brown-shirts are themes that Jews in Britain are sensitive to. We have witnessed successes by the BNP (most shockingly in Manchester) and Europe-wide the sympathy for migrants has worsened, especially that of Africans in Southern Europe, but not exclusively. Only recently a BBC investigation confirmed that if you had a foreign name or accent some estate agents agreed not to refer foreigners to a racist landlord. My own Polish spelled name and German accent would certainly fail in some areas in Britain.
I hope that we can enlarge our movement in the UK. There are reasons here and abroad why we must not give in. The Jewish Left was once a very strong parameter of Jewish life in Britain, and anyone who makes claims otherwise is only ignorant of his or her own history. Israel likewise needs more supporters, who are willing to commit to the only political movement in the Knesset (currently three seats) that guarantees equality, civil rights, human rights peace as well as for the right of Jews to live in Israel. Most recently green and animal welfare issues were also put forward by Meretz there.
I think it is fair to say that we at Meretz UK are Jews and supporters with a moral conscience, without being in denial of Israel or consumed with what the right claims is self hatred. To the contrary. There is a proud Jewish tradition, far reaching too, of humanitarianism, of care for others, and fighting for equality and justice and peace.
This year we have seen the rise of Barack Obama to power. Nobody thought it could be possible, now let us work for a better future in Israel and here in Europe against the barrage of the right and far right.
In this spirit I will try and rebuild Meretz UK with all it needs. We will need some time, but also some new people to help.