DOREEN WACHMANN COLUMN
Let's bear Israel in mind when casting our votes

LET me say right from the start, this column is not an endorsement of any political party or candidate in the General Election.

But should Israel be the main issue on which British Jews vote?

According to the amount of stick which bacon-eating Ed Miliband has received from the Jewish community after he criticised last year's Gaza operation and voted for a Palestinian state, it should.

Of course, we British Jews care a lot about Israel which has very few friends in the world. But should it be the only issue on which we vote?

I am not sure how ethical it is to live in one country which has been a wonderful haven of refuge to us Jews and vote only on the concerns of another country in which we do not live.

Of course, you could argue that semi-political organisations like trade and student unions in this country waste an enormous amount of time voting on anti-Israel motions which are entirely out of their real remit. But two wrongs do not make a right.

Historically, Jews in this country have supported the Labour Party because of its ideals of social justice which resonate with Torah values.

Conservatives are the moneyed party. As Jews have thrived in this country, many have become financially successful and therefore have adopted the Conservative ethos which tends to favour the haves over the have-nots.

So, it's not surprising that the Conservatives now have their share of Jewish supporters.

A similar shift from left to right among Jews is being witnessed in the USA whose voters were initially predominantly Democrat.

But the charedi population explosion has brought a shift to the right for several reasons.

Although most charedim will not call themselves Zionist, when push comes to shove they care deeply about Israel as most of them have relatives studying Torah there. So Israel is an issue for American voters and more justifiably so that in Britain.

So why am I claiming that it's OK to take into account policy on Israel when voting in a US election and not in a British one?

Because of the simple fact that American policy on Israel matters much more to the Jewish state than that of Britain, whose policies will be overridden by those of Europe anyway.

And also because the opposition Republican Party, backed by Christian evangelists who support Israel because they want us all to go there to bring the Second Coming of Jesus, have a very strong pro-Israel policy.

So voting on Israel in an American election can actually affect the Jewish state, whereas voting on Israel in a British election will have little effect except to make a single-issue protest vote.

Charedim also vote Republican because of the party's family values in such issues as gay marriage and abortion.

But in Britain the Conservatives have become just as liberal on these issues as their opposition.

So how as Jews should we vote in the next election? The simple answer is according to our conscience. I believe that we should vote on the merits and de-merits of our local candidates, rather than just for a party or its leader.

When push comes to shove, our democratic power lies in our relationship with our local MP, rather than in our ability to directly influence the party leader.

Surely, we need to reward individual MPs - of whatever party - who have supported Israel for decades as well as vote according to our conscience on all other issues affecting Britain.


School inspectors are such dunces

GOLDERS Green's Talmud Torah Tiferes Shlomo school was slammed as inadequate by Ofsted inspectors, partly because pupils are not taught about "cyber-bullying and the potential danger of the Internet".

Neither, say the inspectors, are they provided with drugs and sex and relationships education, nor are they able to discuss issues around homophobic bullying.

How stupid can Ofsted inspectors get?

The charedi pupils are probably taught about the dangers of the Internet to such an extent that they are not allowed to use it at all, or an extremely censored version in which such dangers would not occur.

Pupils are given sex and relationship education which comprises of strict instructions to stay away from the opposite sex until they are married.

It's the inspectors who need educating in the moral values of Judaism and the other major religions, not the pupils who need to adapt to Britain's amoral society.

Ofsted inspectors should stick to purely educational matters like a good command of the English language and other core subjects and leave moral matters to the schools.

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