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U.K.'s Jewish chief attacks Israel

By Hasan Suroor

LONDON AUG. 28. In a move that has surprised and pleased his liberal critics but infuriated conservative opinion, the spiritual leader of Britain's Jewish community, Jonathan Sacks, has departed from his consistent support for Israel to launch a public attack on its Palestinian policy saying it is "incompatible'' with the deepest ideals of Judaism and is "corrupting'' the Israeli culture.

The Chief Rabbi's remarks, in an interview to The Guardian on Tuesday, evoked an angry reaction from orthodox Jews who said his denunciation of the Zionist state had made him "irrelevant'' in the world Jewish community. Reports from Israel spoke of "widespread anger'' over his comments and a senior leader accused him of endorsing the Palestinian agenda of "destroying the state of Israel''.

``We who are living here day in and day out, our perspective is the one that really counts,'' Rabbi Sholom Gold told the BBC from Jerusalem. He insisted that the Israeli policy of "defending'' itself was entirely "compatible with Jewish belief''.

A spokesman for Britain's Zionist Federation called Dr Sacks' remarks "misguided'' and rejected his suggestion that there was nothing wrong in sitting down with Palestinian extremists to find a peaceful solution. "That doesn't stand up to reality. If Stalin or Hitler are in the pulpit, it's no good saying to the audience let's have a discussion about it afterwards,'' said another Jewish leader.

The Board of Deputies of British Jews, the most representative body of UK's nearly 280,000 Jews, was quick to distance itself from Dr. Sacks' remarks saying they did not reflect the opinion of every section of the community. However, it said the Jewish community shared "everyone's concerns for a just and peaceful outcome in the Middle East''.

Liberal Jews who in the past have been extremely critical of Dr. Sacks' "diplomatic'' support for Israel welcomed what they regarded as his "belated'' criticism. They were also surprised by his "conversion'' considering that he shared a platform with the former Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, during a pro-Israel rally here recently at which the Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat, was compared to Hitler. His pro-Israeli approach has been contrasted with that of his predecessor, Immanuel Jakobovits, who once denounced Israel for "lording it over'' the Palestinians.

Dr. Sacks, in his controversial interview which has earned him a new image, said he had been "profoundly shocked'' by reports of smiling Israeli soldiers posing for a photograph with the corpse of a murdered Palestinian.

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