THE NSW Jewish Board of Deputies (JBOD) has taken the unusual step of distancing itself from comments by the principal of Moriah College over Israel’s planned annexation of parts of the West Bank.
In an opinion piece this week titled “The Myth of Israeli Annexation”, Rabbi Yehoshua Smukler said, “Israel is legitimately recognising its own sovereignty of its own land that it has ruled for nearly half a century. This can hardly be called ‘annexation’.”
Rabbi Smukler, whose son lives in the West Bank, said “‘annexing’ doesn’t mean that Israel will be deploying any more tanks or putting up Israeli flags where there haven’t been tanks or flags for many decades”.
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“What it does mean is that Israel feels confident enough to treat Area C, which is jointly occupied by Israelis and Arabs, like the rest of Israel, that it is able to protect its inhabitants, like it is able to protect the rest of its citizens, and govern society in those areas similar to the rest of the country.”
In stark contrast to Rabbi Smukler’s remarks, Jewish community leaders in Australia have remained tight-lipped ahead of Israel’s controversial, and long-awaited, announcement.
Contacted by The AJN, leaders of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, Zionist Federation of Australia and Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council all said it would be premature to comment before any plan is announced.
JBOD CEO Vic Alhadeff said: “As Moriah College is a constituent of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies, we wish to make it clear that the views expressed by Rabbi Smukler do not necessarily reflect those of the Board of Deputies or of the wider Jewish community.
“We believe it is premature to comment on the proposed extension of Israeli sovereignty, if it proceeds, given that the fundamentals of what is proposed have not been clarified.”
In a statement on the school’s blog on Friday afternoon, Rabbi Smukler acknowledged that the views expressed in his article “may not necessarily reflect those of the members of [Moriah’s] board of directors, the staff or pupils of the college, or of the wider Jewish community”.
“It is also important to note that some of the fundamentals of the proposed extension of Israeli sovereignty to the West Bank, if it proceeds, have yet to be announced,” he said.
Rabbi Smukler added that Moriah is “committed to educating and exposing our children to a range of views”.
“I present a point of view, knowing that there are many varying and legitimate viewpoints across our community,” he said.
“Over the coming weeks, if and when events unfold, we intend to teach and discuss various points of view on this matter.
“Let’s increase our engagement with and passion for Israel and encourage our voices to be heard about issues that matter.”
Earlier this week, Foreign Minister Marise Payne said she had spoken directly with her Israeli counterpart Gabi Ashkenazi to voice Australia’s concerns over the proposal, and urged all parties to “refrain from actions that diminish the prospects for a negotiated two-state solution”.
The Australian Labor Party has opposed the action.