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British plan protest, counter-protest for Liberman visit

Foreign minister will address the JNF; mixed feelings among UK Jews regarding his visit

Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman (photo credit: Flash90)
Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman (photo credit: Flash90)

Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman’s visit to London this week has set passions aflame among local Jews and non-Jews alike, with demonstrations planned both for and against him.

The visit by Liberman, a controversial figure from the right-wing Yisrael Beytenu party, has British Jews split over his appearance at the invitation of the Jewish National Fund, TotallyJewish.com reported

This week it was reported that anti-Israel groups would stage a protest outside Liberman’s speaking engagement Tuesday night at the Pillar Hotel in the predominantly Jewish Hendon neighborhood.

The British Israel Coalition, a two-year-old pro-Israel advocacy group, has responded by calling for an “emergency” counter-protest “in support of Israel” at the same venue.

According to Haaretz, some 300 people signed an online petition criticizing Liberman as the “leader of a far-right party, who alongside instigating anti-democratic legislation in the Knesset has also advocated for the transfer of many of Israel’s Arab citizens to the West Bank.”

A number of “high-profile Jewish leaders” — mainly rabbinical figures from non-Orthodox movements — have also come out against the foreign minister’s visit, the paper writes. The paper names Rabbi Aaron Goldstein, co-chair of the Rabbinic Conference of Liberal Judaism, and Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner, who belongs to the Movement for Reform Judaism.

Janner Klausner said she was “dismayed” about Liberman’s invitation to speak to the UK Jewish community, calling him a politician “with fundamentalist right-wing views from outside the consensus of mainstream Israeli society.”

“His past statements, especially regarding Israeli Arabs place, him outside the mainstream Israeli consensus which recognises that Arab citizens of Israel are fully part of Israeli society with the same rights of free speech as Israeli Jews,” Janner-Klausner said in a statement. The Liberal Judaism movement released a similar statement.

Liberman’s spokesman, Tzachi Moshe, told The Times of Israel that he saw “no need to deal with marginal elements of the delusional left whose only goal is to smear the State of Israel.”

A Yisrael Beytenu official in Jerusalem claimed that anti-Liberman protesters belonged to a marginal camp not representative of British Jewry. “They have 300 signatures, out of a community of 300,000 — that clearly shows that these initiatives are more about the organizations themselves than about Avigdor Liberman.”

The foreign minister is always welcomed with open arms by senior leaders of the British Jewish community as well as senior government figures, the official added.

During his current UK trip, Liberman is scheduled to meet with Foreign Secretary William Hague, Shadow Foreign Secretary Alexander Douglas, Education Secretary Michael Gove and National Security Adviser Sir Kim Daroch.

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