Hastings & St. Leonards on-line community newspaper

l-r Katy Colley, Leah Levane and Felicity Laurence

Non-Zionist Jews speak about ‘Israel, Palestine and me’

The Hastings & Rye Palestine Solidarity Campaign invite you to an upcoming meeting on Saturday 7 October to hear the personal stories of non-Zionist Jews and their journeys towards an active commitment to solidarity with the Palestinian people. Katy Colley writes.

The Board of Deputies would like the country to believe that all British Jews hold Israel dear to their hearts, that it represents an integral part of their identity. This is far from the reality. The link between British Jewry and the State of Israel has never been more tenuous with increasing numbers declaring themselves non-Zionists or anti-Zionists.

To them, Israel does not represent a crucial part of their identity.

And yet, a high proportion of British organisations, academic institutions and government bodies have recently been forced to adopt the IHRA definition of antisemitism, which refers to Israel in 7 out of the 11 stated examples of antisemitism.

This wrongly conflates criticism of Israel with anti-Jewish racism, say critics.

And according to a major international report published by the European Legal Support Centre and British Society for Middle Eastern Studies, this definition has led to numerous baseless accusations without protecting Jewish people.

It has also chilled free speech on Israel.

The relationship between Jewish people in this country, Israel and Palestine, can be varied, nuanced and complex. Through listening to each others’ stories we can broaden our understanding and break down dogma and prejudice.

In this meeting, people of differing Jewish and Israeli heritage will discuss their journeys towards – what has become for each of them – an active, ‘on the ground’ commitment to solidarity with Palestinian people.

Speakers include:
* Dr Felicity Laurence – retired lecturer in Music Education, author and former Chair of Hastings Community of Sanctuary. Felicity’s grandfather was a rabbi from the Old City of Jerusalem. She was brought up in New Zealand before moving to the UK.

* Leah Levane – Co-Chair of Jewish Voice for Labour councillor in Hastings, an anti-austerity activist and community worker.


* Yair Katz – a music therapist and musician, Yair was born and brought up in Israel and lived in New Zealand for 14 years before moving to St Leonards five years ago.

I’ll be chairing the meeting. I was brought up in a liberal Jewish and broadly pro-Zionist household in north London and I to have my own journey to share.

There is an old Jewish joke that if you get two Jews in a room, there will usually be three opinions. We want to dispel the notion there is singular, homogenous opinion of Jewish people towards Israel.

It is very frustrating when we see talking heads in the media claiming to speak on our behalf, when there is a huge breadth of opinion on this subject. Personally, I am sick of being used as a shield to protect Israel from criticism. This, I believe, can only increase ignorance and stir up sectarian tensions.

We say more speech, not less, is the answer! Please join us for what I’m sure will be a fantastic and enlightening event.

The meeting is free and open to all. Teas and coffees served afterwards.

  • Israel, Palestine and Me is at The White Rock Hotel on Saturday 7 October at 3.30pm. Facebook event page:

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Posted 09:00 Thursday, Sep 28, 2023 In: Campaigns

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