Letter comes against not only Middle East backdrop but also one of dispute that is roiling British politics
The Muslim Association of Britain (MAB) challenged the Board of Deputies of British Jews on Saturday over its tweeted response to Israel's killing of at least 15 Palestinian protesters and wounding of hundreds in the Gaza Strip on Friday.
The board's tweet read: "Alarming developments at Gaza border as Hamas once again using its civilians - inc children - as pawns. We call for calm & a return to negotiating table, resulting in a secure, Jewish & democratic Israel alongside a viable & vibrant Palestinian state."
Alarming developments at Gaza border as Hamas once again using its civilians - inc children - as pawns. We call for calm & a return to negotiating table, resulting in a secure, Jewish & democratic Israel alongside a viable & vibrant Palestinian state. https://t.co/GKeuMTw5Pj
— Board of Deputies of British Jews (@BoardofDeputies) March 30, 2018
MAB president Dr Anas Altikriti responded in an open letter, saying in part: "No Israeli, soldier or civilian, was ever under threat, let alone harmed. Yet as all the live TV coverage, pictures and clips clearly demonstrate, the Israeli forces and its snipers saw fit to take pot shots into the civilian crowd who were marching peacefully."
Altikriti went on to say that the board's tweet portrayed the "victim as the aggressor," appeared to justify the "killing of unarmed civilians" and inaccurately claimed that Hamas had organised the event, rather than Palestinian people.
In reference to the "negotiating table" mentioned in the tweet, Altikriti outlined the "frustration of millions of Palestinians who for 50 years of unfulfilled UN resolutions condemning the Israeli occupation, the Separation Wall, the illegal settlements, the systematic expulsion of Palestinians, the illegal annexation of Jerusalem and much more, were met with a callous decision by the US president to decide on Jerusalem with one fell swoop, proving the futility, indeed wastefulness of those negotiations".
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He added that in fighting discrimination and prejudice, the Board of Deputies could not afford to be hypocritical or to play politics with "human values of justice and truth," and closed with a reference to Islamophobia and anti-Semitism:
"In the same way that I do not regard an attack on a Muslim state as having anything to do with Islamophobia, I fail to see how being critical of the practices and policies of Israel could be conflated with the evil of anti-Semitism," Alkitriti wrote, a statement that comes against not only a Middle East backdrop but also one of a dispute that is roiling UK politics.
On 25 March, the Board of Deputies of British Jews released a statement headed "Enough Is Enough" and accusing Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn of siding with anti-Semites against Jewish people in the UK and called for a demonstration that took place the following day outside parliament in London.
Corbyn had days earlier been forced to explain a comment he made on social media in 2012, which appeared under an image of an allegedly anti-Semitic mural in east London.
The mural depicted businessmen, some of whom the artist said were Jewish, counting money on a board game that is balanced on the backs of naked, hunched-over men.
Corbyn initially said he regretted not looking more closely at the image, which he called "deeply disturbing" and expressed "sincere regret," but on 25 March he was forced to go further and issue a broader statement condemning anti-Semitism and acknowledging its existence in the Labour Party.
The killing and wounding by Israeli forces of civilians demonstrating for Palestinian rights in Gaza is appalling.
The UK Government must make its voice heard on the urgency of a genuine settlement for peace and justice.
— Jeremy Corbyn (@jeremycorbyn) March 31, 2018
He said: "Labour is an anti-racist party and I utterly condemn anti-Semitism, which is why as leader of the Labour Party I want to be clear that I will not tolerate any form of anti-Semitism that exists in and around our movement.
"We must stamp this out from our party and movement. We recognise that anti-Semitism has occurred in pockets within the Labour Party, causing pain and hurt to our Jewish community in the Labour Party and the rest of the country. I am sincerely sorry for the pain which has been caused," he said.
Some Corbyn supporters told Middle East Eye that they disagreed with their party leader over his acknowledgement of anti-Semitism within the party, and said he was being attacked by right-wing Labour members and Jewish groups who opposed his support for Palestinian rights.
Avi Shlaim, a professor of international relations and member of Jewish Voice for Labour, which was founded in 2017 to support Palestinian rights, told MEE: "I don't agree with Jeremy Corbyn about pockets of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party. I think anti-Semitism is much less of a problem on the British left than the British right.
"I think the real issue in the Labour Party for Jeremy Corbyn is that right-wing Jews in the Labour Party and outside the party [object to the fact] that Jeremy Corbyn is a consistent supporter of Palestinian rights."