Shocked by What he Saw on the West Bank
|Laurence Brass (left) next to war criminal Blair, Rabbi Sacks and Israel's far right ambassador Ron Prossor|
The Board of Deputies also has an appalling record when it comes to Israel. It sees, hears and speaks no evil. It defends Israel right or wrong and attacks all critics as ‘anti-Semites’. It is therefore doubly surprising that a senior officer of the Board, Laurence Brass, has spoken out against human rights abuses on the West Bank and settler attacks and now resigned. According to reports in Ha’aretz he received a standing ovation.
Naturally he has been criticised by people like Gerald Steinberg of the McCarthyist organisation NGO Monitor, which is dedicated to supporting all attacks on Palestinian civilians. Steinberg, a fascist Professor, would have made an excellent PR advisor to a certain Adolf Hitler. Eric Moonman, who was a failed right-wing Labour MP, was another to criticise Brass for having the temerity to object to settler attacks on Palestinians.
Laurence Brass is an asylum judge and certainly no anti-Zionist. He is a supporter of Yachad, which is the equivalent of J-Street in the US, which describes itself as pro-Israel and pro-Peace, i.e. a 2 State organisation which sees Israel as losing the propaganda war. Nonetheless Brass’s resignation is a significant step, not least in his criticism of the Board of Deputies’s silencing of all criticism of Israel.
The Board of Deputies today opposes what it terms 'anti-Semitism' i.e. criticism of Israel, and loses no opportunity to identify British Jews with Israeli attacks on Palestinians, which is the main motor for anti-Semitic attacks such as we have seen in France and Denmark.
|The Board of Deputies Attitude to Israeli Attacks on Palestinians|
Laurence Brass says he had been 'bursting to criticize the Israeli administration' for six years and took the board to task for preventing honorary officers from expressing personal opinions.
|BOD Does Its Best to Associate British Jews with Israeli Crimes|
Laurence Brass, an asylum judge, had been tipped to run for board president in the May election after being twice elected as treasurer. But he told a plenary meeting of the executive on Sunday that “I decided that to be true to my principles and beliefs was more important than seeking office.”
Brass said he had been “bursting to criticize the Israeli administration” for six years and took the board to task for preventing honorary officers from expressing personal opinions.
“There have been countless occasions over the last six years when I’ve been bursting to criticize the Israeli administration, but I’ve restrained myself.
“I want to be released from the chains of office to contribute to the wider debate on the Middle East, as well as on the critical political issues that I consider to be important here at home.”
Saying that he had encountered “very harsh and often quite abusive personal criticism” when speaking out, Brass called for his replacement to be free to speak out.
Brass received a standing ovation after his speech, the Chronicle reported, but board president Vivian Wineman cautioned other executive members to maintain their silence.
“People aren’t interested in our private opinions; they’re interested in what the Board thinks and what the Jewish community thinks,” Wineman said. “When we express ourselves, we always have to bear that in mind.”
26 June 2014
By Simon Rocker, May 2, 2014
Board of Deputies treasurer Laurence Brass has said he was horrified at what he witnessed during a visit to a West Bank village, describing it as an “eye-opener”.
His experience, as one of around a dozen Anglo-Jewish participants taken to the Palestinian village of Susiya, was shocking, he said.
“The village spokesman told us that he was very worried at the prospect of local Palestinian children being attacked by settlers on their way to school.
"Just 48 hours after we left, a six-year-old girl from the neighbouring village of Atuwani was admitted to hospital with head wounds after being stoned on her way to school, just as we had been warned might occur.
“I was shocked that this type of behaviour goes unchecked by the IDF.”
Mr Brass added that the abiding memory of his visit would be “the sight of an old rusty car being
dumped down the village well, thus preventing the locals from having fresh water."
“I had also not known previously that, on the majority of the road signs in the area, the Arabic words have been deliberately obliterated. I had also not previously appreciated the ever increasing number of settler outposts which have sprung up all over Area C, which, although illegal, no one appears willing to prevent.”
“Area C” represents West Bank zones under the control of Israel.
Mr Brass said: “The miserable existence of the Palestinian villagers we met will stay with me for a long time. It was difficult to reconcile that we were celebrating the festival of freedom, while these villagers were surviving in such squalid surroundings. I returned very depressed.”
Yachad, which campaigns for a two-state solution, ran 17 trips to East Jerusalem or the West Bank in 2013, for over 400 members of Zionist youth movements.
|Published February 22, 2015
Leader in top communal organization announces he is leaving post to speak out freely against Israeli policies — and gets standing ovation from membership.
For many years I have felt that the only way to end the occupation is through outside pressure because Israel is just scorched earth politically, and will never do it on its own. On that basis, the announcement last week by a prominent figure in the British Jewish establishment, and the reaction to it by his colleagues, was a more hopeful sign than anything that’s happened in the current Israeli campaign or is about to happen on Election Day on March 17.
What happened was that Laurence Brass, treasurer of the leading British Jewish organization, the Board of Deputies, told a meeting of the board’s plenary that he was quitting the leadership ranks after the board’s May election, The Jewish Chronicle reported. The reason, he told the plenary, was:
I felt constrained not to have been able to speak out on subjects that are close to my heart, such as the treatment of the Palestinians in the Occupied Territories and the discrimination still being suffered by Arab citizens of Israel.
What’s even more encouraging is that Brass, according to The Jewish Chronicle, “received a standing ovation after his speech.”
Is something happening in the British Jewish establishment? It sure seems that way. It sounds like there’s a potential revolt against Israeli policies simmering in the ranks of the most pro-Israel – or supposedly most pro-Israel – citizens in all of Great Britain.
When I look at how far the international movement against the occupation has to go before it will be strong enough to force Israel’s hand, I tend to despair. But then I see how mortally frightened the Israeli and pro-Israeli establishment is of this movement, and I say – maybe something is brewing here.
The attempt to muzzle Brass when he first began speaking out, following his visit to the West Bank last spring, was remarkable for the fear it revealed on the part of Israel’s mouthpieces. A lone individual, the treasurer of the British Board of Deputies, starts criticizing the occupation – and NGO Monitor’s hit man-in-chief Gerald Steinberg, as well as Netanyahu’s former head of hasbara and current head of the blue-chip Institute for Zionist Strategies, Yoaz Hendel, pile on him.
|A Ta’ayush activist argues with an Israeli soldier in the South Hebron hills, August 11, 2012. (Photo: Anne Paq/Activestills.org)|
The miserable existence of the Palestinian villagers we met will stay with me for a long time.
Shock and dismay beset the communal leadership. Former Board of Deputies vice president Eric Moonman said Brass should apologize for his remarks or resign as treasurer.
But then a line-up of elder statesmen of Israel’s peace movement – ex-Meretz leader Yossi Sarid, ex-New Israel Fund president Naomi Chazan, ex-attorney general Michael Ben-Yair, and ex-ambassadors to South Africa Alon Liel and Ilan Baruch – wrote a letter in support of Brass. Lauding his “willingness to see the grim reality on the ground in the West Bank,” they added, “What a shame that there are not more leaders of the Anglo-Jewish community willing to tackle these troubling issues.”
More shock and dismay. Steinberg, who said Liel, Chazan and the Israeli combat veterans of Breaking the Silence “are not the people to provide ethical grades to diaspora Jewish leaders,” accused Brass of taking a “radical position based on what he is told and sees through the lens of a very narrow Israeli constituency.”
Hendel, however, went further, joining Moonman in saying such talk as Brass’ cannot be tolerated from British Jewish leaders:
If someone comes to Israel and hears the point of view of only one side, and is not aware of the efforts made by the state of Israel and the IDF on behalf of Palestinian citizens in the area, or of the challenges, obstacles and limitations we face but encounters only a point of view that is used to delegitimize Israel, he should ask himself about his continued service as a leader of the Jewish community.
My favorite line of attack here is that Brass expressed his opinions after hearing “only one side.” As a 40-year veteran of the British Board of Deputies, Brass has been swimming his entire adult life in “only one side,” the official Israeli side, he can recite this side backwards and forwards, and for once he dares to hear the real other side, the side Steinberg, Hendel, the British Board of Deputies and pro-Israel forces everywhere have always muzzled, and suddenly he’s being “one-sided.”
Brass, a judge, has been elected twice as Board of Deputies treasurer and was considered a contender for the presidency before he went rogue. He told The Jewish Chronicle:
There have been countless times over the last six years when I’ve been bursting to criticize the Israeli administration, but I’ve restrained myself. I want to be released from the chains of office to contribute to the wider debate on the Middle East …
How many Board of Deputies members who gave Brass that standing ovation were thinking the same thing? Here’s what I’m thinking: It’s premature for despair. And thank you, Judge Brass; you’ve struck a nerve.