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Thought for the Week: No to Collective Guilt!

Throughout the history of religion, one of the most dreadful features has been the attribution of collective guilt. For two millennia, the Church demonised all Jews for the death of Jesus, even though that death was ordained by the Romans; and subsidiary group libels followed in the train of this demonisation, such as false allegations that Jews murdered Christian children to obtain blood for making unleavened bread for the Passover. Then too many people demonised all Muslims for the dreadful events of what we call “9/11”, when Bin Laden and his fellow-terrorists alone were responsible for the deaths of 5,000 Americans in the twin towers and elsewhere. The generality of Muslims were no more responsible for this atrocity than for the barbarity of Hamas’ appalling actions in Israel on 7 October 2023. And now there is another false allegation of collective guilt. All Jews are being blamed for the actions of the Israeli Government in Gaza. This is a religious article, not a political one, so it is not the place for me to share my views on the composition of the present Government of Israel, its actions or some of the statements made by some of its Ministers (and those views are in any event markedly unsuitable for family reading). But it is the place to draw a distinction between a State and its Government. That distinction is evidenced in the United Kingdom by the official title of the post presently occupied by Sir Keir Starmer. He is the Leader of His Majesty’s Loyal Opposition. I have italicised the word “Loyal”, because it exemplifies this distinction. Almost all Jews (myself included) feel a strong affinity with the State of Israel, not least through history, family and friends, and will continue to do so. Individual Jews will from time to time have different views on the actions of different Israeli Governments; but, as a community, we have neither influence over those decisions nor responsibility for them. It is accordingly both illogical and wrong that the actions of both Hamas and the present Government of Israel have given rise to Islamophobia on the one hand and anti-semitism on the other. The only saving grace is that local interfaith relations have sufficiently strong roots to resist both these forms of hatred. Philip Goldenberg Member of the Jewish Faith

Date: Monday 12th February 2024

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