I’ve collected together the responses mailed to SJJP during the first couple of days after the letter appeared. The mixture ranges, as you would expect, from “shame on you” to “good on you”. There were replies in the Herald in the several days following (here are the letter pages for 18th August and 21st August – I think there were others, but unfortunately the Herald doesn’t index more than two days back).
Our letter appeared in full in the Herald today, with no fewer than 20 signatures! It was interesting to see how easy it was to get people’s responses and signatures, compared to previous times. Obviously that’s partly because the Lebanon war has been (and will continue to be) such a sharp crisis, but I think this might be the start of a lasting increase in people’s willingness to speak out for justice in the Middle East.
A number of factors combine to silence Jews in Britain who want to say “not in my name”, including (at least) a sense of loyalty, discomfort with the idea of being identified, a feeling of powerlessness, and fear of the reaction from within our own community. These form a powerful combination, but we’ve seen over the past week that if we can overcome our isolation we can get a lot of strength from one another. It would be nice to think that this is the beginning of a sustained campaign.
We only started organising for the demonstration a few days beforehand, so it was very gratifying to have a good turnout, a speaker (Barrie Levine, who gave an excellent speech), a banner, placards and leaflets. People joined the SJJP group from Edinburgh, Glasgow, Dundee, and the far North. One supporter, in her eighties, made a 17-hour round trip to join us! She said, like many other people there, that sometimes you just have to act, and this war in Lebanon is such a time.
There was a lot of enthusiasm among the people behind our banner. Protesting against the Lebanon war has given us focus and energy, which have been hard to sustain in the last year in the face of the Gaza withdrawal and the remorseless grinding down of the OPT. No matter what the short-term results of the negotiations over the ceasefire resolution, there’s going to be a need for sustained campaigning for a long time to come. The response to today’s demonstration is a hopeful sign that we can do that.