Board of Deputies President Marie van der Zyl has released the following message following the terrorist attacks on Israelis which took place on Saturday.
“As you will now no doubt all be aware, Hamas terrorists infiltrated Israel on Saturday. They murdered hundreds of Israelis and took scores of hostages into Gaza. Thousands of rockets have also been fired at Israel. The scenes we have seen – the wholesale slaughter of civilians, the seizing of hostages, including women, children and the elderly, by murderous Hamas terrorists, fills us with a horror which cannot be easily expressed. The attack on Israel – 50 years to the day since the surprise attack of the Yom Kippur War – feels like an attack on us all. Then as now, the terrorists took advantage of a Jewish Holy Day to launch their attack. Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah are traditionally a time of great joy for the Jewish people; this year, it has become a period of deep tragedy and mourning.
I want to inform you of the different actions that the Board has been taking in light of this terrible situation:
- While the Board did not put out a public statement on Yom Tov, our Chief Executive, who is currently in Israel and keeps one-day Yom Tov, made a statement last night. This evening, however, the Board has put out a joint statement with the Jewish Leadership Council, which can be read here:
Joint statement on the horrifying and ongoing attacks in Israel
- When the nature of what was happening became apparent, the Board immediately organised a group of key communal leaders to come together to work in a joined-up manner. Likewise, the Board organised a similar group for key professional staff from Jewish organisations to ensure that efforts were joint-up and there was no duplication.
- Alongside other Jewish communal organisations, we have been in direct contact with senior UK politicians regarding the situation. We thank the Prime Minister, Leader of the Opposition and all others who have shown unequivocal support for the people of Israel as they respond to this unprecedented attack. In 2021, when Israel last responded to thousands of rockets from Hamas in Gaza, antisemitic attacks in this country reached unprecedented heights. We therefore also thank those politicians, including the Home Secretary and the Mayor of London, who have made it clear in the last 24 hours that the security of the Jewish community in this country is a major priority for them. We urge anyone who either experiences or sees an antisemitic incident taking place to report it to the police on 999 and CST on 0800 032 3263.
- I have also been in touch with the BBC over its refusal to accurately describe Hamas as what they are – terrorists. The British Government has fully proscribed Hamas as a terrorist organisation. I also note that other TV channels, including both Channel 4 and GB News, have given airtime to either spokespeople or supporters of Hamas, and wholeheartedly condemn such grotesquely misplaced attempts to provide “balanced” coverage of this slaughter. Following my intervention, the BBC have confirmed that one particular contributor, who yesterday compared Gaza to the Warsaw Ghetto (and also has a history of online antisemitic statements), will no longer be used by the corporation. The BBC has also confirmed, following my complaint, that it will include more references to the fact that Hamas has been proscribed as a terrorist organisation by the British Government, but that it will not, under its current editorial guidelines, specifically refer to Hamas as terrorists. I have therefore written directly to the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Lucy Frazer, to urgently request that the BBC’s editorial guidelines be reviewed to ensure that organisations proscribed as terror organisations by the British Government are specifically referred to as terrorists by our national broadcaster. I have also written to the Shadow DCMS Secretary asking for Labour to support such a move.
- Together with the JLC, we have arranged for a vigil to take place tomorrow afternoon (Monday 9th October) at 5pm outside Downing Street. We would urge all members of the community who are able to be present to meet us there for an event which will demonstrate our grief, but also our unity. Please do share the attached poster with your friends and communities.
- We have also jointly arranged a rally with the JLC to take place in Manchester on Wednesday 11th October at 5pm in St Peter’s Square.
- Many members of the British public have shared their deep disgust at the actions of Hamas, but some have come out with equivocal statements, while others have been deeply sinister. Expressly supporting Hamas, a proscribed terrorist organisation, is a crime; if you see any examples of such, please do report these to us. Similarly, if you see any politician explicitly expressing support for the attacks, referring to Israel as Nazis or anything of this sort, please do flag this with us, as we can take this up directly with the political party in question. At least one local councillor has already been suspended as a result of a report we made today.
- We know that many British Jews, as well as others, may want to know what they can do to help in this time of crisis. Two charities in particular which we would urge people to donate to are Magen David Adom, which is Israel’s ambulance service, and the UJIA – United Jewish Israel Appeal, a UK-based charity which works closely with partners in Israel.
We stand with Israel as it seeks to restore security, reunite families and come to terms with what is undoubtedly its darkest day in recent history.
Please do forward this e-mail to your friends, family and constituents to spread awareness.
We will provide further updates this week.