Yachad is the UK equivalent of J Street. It claims that it works “to build active support for a two-state solution in the British Jewish community.” 

Yachad is financed by the Grabiner Trust and by donations. It is a registered charity, meaning that it doesn’t pay tax on most of its income and can claim back tax paid by its donors.

Because it is a charity and charities are limited by law in the extent of political campaigning they can undertake, the trustees of Yachad are careful on its website to portray the charity as an enabler (eg through education and trips) rather than a campaigner. However this is a smokescreen. Yachad is deeply involved in the politics of the Middle East. Even though it has set up a separate company, Yachad Ltd, to channel its ‘political’ activities through, it is hard to see how any of its activities can be classified as ‘charitable’. After all, the ‘education’ and trips that it organises are all for a political purpose – namely, to pressurise the democratically elected government of Israel into actions which it does not wish to take.

Most recently Yachad wrote to the UK’s Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, urging the UK to vote in favour of UN Security Council Resolution 2334. This Resolution is deeply biased against Israel, blaming the lack of peace almost exclusively on the expansion of settlements in Judea and Samaria, with hardly a mention of Palestinian terror and rejectionism. It states that everything beyond the 1949 ceasefire lines is “occupied Palestinian territory”, thereby denying the Jewish claim to the Old City of Jerusalem and thus to Temple Mount, the holiest place in Judaism. It encourages Palestinian hardliners to wrongly believe they can achieve a State through the UN – and not through direct negotiations with Israel.

It was proposed by New Zealand, Venezuela, Senegal and Malaysia. New Zealand has a Foreign Minister who describes Hamas not as a genocidal terrorist group, but as a group which has merely “stopped short of formally accepting the Quartet Principles”. Venezuela is a collapsed socialist dictatorship, notorious for neglecting human rights.  It has no diplomatic relations with Israel. The population of Senegal has the highest level of antisemitism of any country in sub-Saharan Africa. Malaysia is a Muslim nation which has no diplomatic ties with Israel and has refused to host the FIFA Congress this year because it means hosting an Israeli delegation. These are the nations with whom Yachad is shamefully allying, by supporting Resolution 2334.

Lobbying Against Israel

But this is far from the first time that Yachad (which absurdly makes the Orwellian claim to be ‘pro-Israel, pro-Peace’) has lobbied the UK government to act against the government of Israel. In January 2014 it urged its supporters to write to the Prime Minister ahead of his visit to Israel. It wanted the Prime Minister to urge his Israeli opposite number to agree to a divided Jerusalem plus withdrawal by Israel to pre-1967 borders (with agreed landswaps).  These borders are the ceasefire lines established in 1949, when Israel fought off the Arab attempt to exterminate it at its rebirth. These ceasefire lines have been called the “Auschwitz borders” (by Abba Eban, one of Israel’s most respected statesmen) because they leave Israel militarily indefensible against its enemies.

Behind Yachad’s attempt to subvert the elected government of Israel are a myriad of initiatives. In Israel Yachad arranges trips into Judea and Samaria with a group called ‘Breaking the Silence’, which does nothing but denigrate and badmouth the IDF, without ever mentioning the terrorists that threaten Israel every day. One participant on a Yachad trip described how the leader of the trip launched into ‘a litany of accusations against Israel’. He realised that Yachad’s slogan ‘Pro Israel Pro Peace “is pure propaganda, as seen in Orwell’s 1984.”

In 2012 Yachad supported the UN upgrade to Palestinian status which was opposed by Israel and every other western country. Every truly pro-Israel organisation believed that direct negotiations are the only way forward. But not Yachad.

Indeed Yachad supports the immediate creation of a Palestinian State. Imagine the threat to Israel, if Yachad had its way, and Palestine was a country, no doubt governed by Hamas, with weapons still more threatening than the missiles based in Gaza, which even now can reach Haifa.

Supporting Palestinian ‘Resistance’

Yachad has never condemned the practice of boycotting Israeli goods and makes no effort to explain how Hamas targets Israeli civilians. Yachad portrays the Security Fence only as something which harms the Palestinians. It is silent when it comes to the number of Israeli lives the Fence has saved. It is raising money for an anti-Israel charity, the Holy Land Trust, which supports a boycott of Israeli goods and the Kairos Palestine document which denies the Jewish historical connection to Israel, blames Israel solely for the continuation of the conflict and characterises terrorist acts of “armed resistance” as “Palestinian legal resistance.”

Yachad director and founder Hannah Weisfeld

Yachad director and founder Hannah Weisfeld argues against Israeli policy in 2014 on BBC during Operation Protective Edge. (YouTube/Screenshot)

Worst of all, Yachad is poisoning young Jewish minds to abhor Israel government policies and to only see one side of the conflict. In the recent elections for the leadership of the Union of Jewish Students, one candidate stood who had been a member of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, who supported a boycott of Israeli goods and who produced and acted in the viciously antisemitic play Seven Jewish Children, exacerbating the antisemitic abuse directed at another Jewish student at York University who had protested by leafletting outside the theatre. Incredibly his candidacy was welcomed by Laura Janner-Klausner, senior rabbi to Reform Judaism. This is the kind of thing to which Yachad’s activities are giving free rein.

Of course Yachad has the right of free speech. But it should enunciate that speech from the fringe of Anglo-Jewry, like other groups such as Jews For Jeremy (the far left group that supports Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn). Shamefully though – with the honourable exception of the Zionist Federation, which turned Yachad down for membership – Yachad has been embraced into the heart of the Anglo-Jewish establishment.  The excuse has been the need for a ‘Big Tent’. It is claimed that if Yachad was not there, young  Jews would be drawn to groups such as Jews for Justice for Palestinians which are even more hostile to Israel. This claim is easily rebutted. In the US, J-Street was rejected for membership of the US Conference of Presidents. But there is no evidence that it has strengthened J-Street and other US groups which are even more antipathetic to Israel – in fact the opposite.

In 2014 Yachad was elected as a member of the UK Board of Deputies, the democratic organisation which represents the UK Jewish community. The vote was 135-61, thus achieving the necessary two-thirds majority. I was one of the 61 and I spoke against the admission. Jonathan Arkush – the current President of the Board – also opposed. Prior to the vote, Yachad had been recommended for membership by the Board’s Constitution Committee. This influenced many Deputies who voted in favour. However the Chair of the Constitution Committee is firmly on the left.  With a different Chair the decision might well have gone the other way.

The Board of Deputies has a Constitutional obligation to “take such appropriate action as lies within its power to advance Israel’s security, welfare and standing.” Yachad clearly violates that obligation.

Petition to Disempower Yachad

Supporting Resolution 2334 showed that Yachad has crossed every red line. As the following petition requests, it is surely time for the Board to admit that it made a mistake in admitting Yachad – and for that mistake to be corrected.

https://www.change.org/p/jonathan-arkush-remove-yachad-from-the-board-of-deputies-of-british-jews

Article by Jonathan Hoffman

Jonathan Hoffman is a UK-based blogger. His is also published on Jewish News/Times of Israel and has also written for CiFWatch (now UK Media Watch), Harry's Place and Z-Word. He was formerly Vice Chair of the Zionist Federation and an elected member of the Defence Division of the Board of Deputies of British Jews. By profession he is an economist.