It’s been an eventful week for Jewish communities across the Diaspora and Israel. The Board of Deputies, a Jewish umbrella group, has taken the British Labour Party’s recent devastating loss in national elections as a cue to try and mend an unprecedented rift between the party and mainstream UK Jewry due to allegations of systemic anti-Semitism under party head Jeremy Corbyn.
Meanwhile, in Israel, an investigation by the International Criminal Court (ICC) continues to look into claims of war crimes in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as critics accuse the court of anti-Israel bias.
In the United States, violent attacks against Jews, particularly in the vicinity of New York City, have reached crisis levels — but one African-American pastor has reached out to Jews in his area, inviting them to an interfaith prayer service on the eve of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.
People of the Pod sits down with Europe editor of Moment Magazine Liam Hoare, who has been monitoring the division between Labour and UK Jewry since 2015, along with Times of Israel diplomatic correspondent Raphael Ahren, and pastor and LA’s Faithful Central Bible Church, Bishop Ken Ulmer.
Speaking with co-host Seffi Kogen, Hoare says that the Board of Deputies has presented the Labour Party with a list of commitments that it says will help expunge anti-Semitic viewpoints from the party’s rank and file. Hoare points out that even now, in the aftermath of a massive loss for Labour in which allegations of anti-Semitism may have played a role, it seems that some party members have not changed their ways.
“I think what we’ve seen since the election is people on the far left, at Labour constituency meetings and online, asserting that British Jewish institutions such as the Board of Deputies – or indeed the chief rabbi – were in fact conservatives, and were intervening in the election,” says Hoare.
It is exactly this type of anti-Semitic conspiracy theory that the Board of Deputies would like to see purged from the party under the next Labour leader, Hoare says, “and that is one reason why they’ve come forward with these… pledges in recent days.”
Next, co-host Manya Brachear Pashman speaks to Times of Israel correspondent Ahren to get the latest on an ICC probe that sees both Israel and Hamas under investigation — including allegations that Israel is committing a war crime through its continued building in the West Bank.
Last month, says Ahren, the ICC gave the go-ahead to take the investigation to the next level. He goes on to explain that the process is temporarily on hold as the ICC determines that it indeed has jurisdiction in the case before it launches the costly investigation. If it decides to proceed, Ahren says, it would have major implications on the ground.
“It’s quite dramatic because that’s a criminal process. That means that the ICC could theoretically start issuing arrest warrants against suspects without them even knowing about it,” Ahren says. “Many Israelis would think twice before traveling to countries that are members of the ICC.”
On the other side of the coin, Ahren says, “Hamas absurdly takes pride in committing war crimes, and the ICC prosecutor actually mentioned that in her 112-page declaration that she issued on December 20. While Israel does have some kind of mechanism to investigate its own wrongdoing, Hamas doesn’t – and therefore it’s going to be much easier to make a case that Hamas committed war crimes.”
Finally, Ulmer tells Pashman how Israeli military techniques to preemptively deal with post-traumatic stress disorder have inspired his Ulmer Institute, a program that has helped over 1,000 high school students in Los Angeles cope with the stress of street violence in their neighborhoods.
Turning to the growing number of anti-Semitic attacks perpetrated by African-American people on the East Coast, Ulmer — who has visited Israel numerous times, including with dozens of his congregants, and shares close ties with Jewish community leaders — says that he had trouble believing the reports he heard coming from New York.
“We never heard that before,” he says. “My fear is that those statistics have been muffled. And in my community we don’t hear that. And I understand how delicate it is… I think someone — and maybe rightly so — might feel that it would fuel more and more distention between the two groups.”
In addition to People of the Pod, which is produced together with the American Jewish Committee and looks at current events through a Jewish lens, The Times of Israel has released another podcast this week.
Dr. Scott Stripling, an outspoken archaeologist from the Lone Star State, describes evidence he found in the ancient city of Shiloh which he says supports biblical descriptions of the priestly city, in conversation with The Times of Israel’s Jewish world and archaeology editor Amanda Borschel-Dan.
“This was Israel’s first capital,” Stripling says. “And so we’re very interested in seeing the transition from say the Amorite/Canaanite culture into the Israelite culture. Is it measurable scientifically in some way?”