By COLlive reporter
Israel has once again come under attack in the UK, this time with a cartoon in the Sunday Times depicting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with a long nose leaning over a wall being built with the blood and bodies of Palestinians.
In another instance just a few days before, member of Parliament David Ward said it was a shame Jews didn’t learn lessons from the Holocaust in the way they treat Palestinians.
This prompted the BBC to make it a main feature on their Sunday Morning program. They called in Rabbi Yitzchak Schochet who admitted that up until an hour before Shabbos he wasn’t sure he could be bothered waking so early on Sunday morning and making the four hour round trip in a taxi.
“My every instinct said I should do it. Someone needs to step up to the plate but it would be an exhausting commitment,” Schochet, Rabbi of the well-known Mill Hill Synagogue and a regular commentator in the British media, told COLlive.com.
Following the show, which is broadcast live with several million viewers across the country, Rabbi Schochet said he was glad he did it. “I hadn’t realized I was going to be the lone voice against some pretty nasty rhetoric.”
Responding to the official question posed by the program, “Is Criticism of Israel Anti Semitic?” Rabbi Schochet replied: “It would be absurd to suggest that criticizing Israel is Anti Semitic. It would also be absurd to suggest that Anti Semites don’t use Israel as the whip with which to lash out against Israel. Somewhere in between the lines unquestionably get blurred.”
He cited former CNN reporter Helen Thomas and MP Ward as classic examples and argued that the Times cartoonist, who has since apologized, as did the paper’s editor, was “at best guilty of gross na?vet?.”
Opposing him was Tony Greenstein, a Jew who heads the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign. He argued that if Israel is behaving like Nazis then the comparison is legitimate. He also mumbled something about Rabbi Schochet belonging to the “racist Lubavitch movement.”
Rabbi Schochet said, “I’ve been up against him before. He gets hysterical. I just let him talk and discredit himself with his own ramblings.” Though at one point Schochet did accuse Greenstein of “treading on the graves of his ancestors.”
Another opponent was Reverend David Jennings who weighed in attacking Israeli policy. Rabbi Schochet asked him if he considered Holocaust depiction as Anti Semitic. When he replied, “it was unfortunate,” Rabbi Schochet challenged, “it is precisely your willingness to label it as ‘unfortunate’ but your unwillingness to condemn it as Anti Semitic that reflects the root of the problem.
“Let me give you a lesson in Anti Semitism,” Schochet told a Muslim audience member: “When something is universal and one person is singled out, that’s bigotry. Even if you believe that Israel is guilty of whatever violations, to single them out when there are far worse violations all over the Middle-East, is blatant prejudice against Israel which is unequivocally underpinned by Anti Semitic sentiment.”
One Schochet fan summed up the debate with a tweet: @RabbiYYS really made Tony Greenstein look irrelevant; was firm with a condescending vicar; and made the Muslim Council of Britain rep choose his words carefully.”
And another wrote: “Very proud and grateful to have you as representative of the Jewish community. The perfect educated voice of reason and calm.”
Rabbi Schochet further reflects on his experience and answers one outstanding question on his blog shul.co.uk