JNEWS (www.jnews.org.uk) was launched by members of the British Jewish community on March 15th in London, to supply high quality news, comment and analysis on the Israel-Palestine conflict of the sort not often reflected in the Jewish and wider media.
A number of people – at the initiative of Richard Kuper of JfJfP conceived the idea of a centre that would supply such material to the media, entirely independent of any organisation, as broadly based as possible, and driven by the principle of universal human rights and social justice.
Baroness Helena Kennedy, QC, Brian Klug and Miri Weingarten were speakers at an evening chaired and intoduced by Antony Lerman. Brian Robinson, who attended the evening, reports:
“In reviewing the background to the creation of JNews, he [Antony Lerman] said that in the last few years, especially since the IDF attack on Gaza, although the weight of Jewish voices expressing disquiet about Israeli policy had increased, and despite evidence of growing unease within the middle ground of Jewish opinion, many people had nevertheless been hesitant about speaking openly of their concerns.
Many who had tried to mobilise that unease, to facilitate and amplify the open expression of critical constructive voices, and get those voices heard in the Jewish and wider public space, had found the lack of progress in those aims extremely frustrating.
The failure so far to get the message across a message whose chief emphasis was on human rights and social justice as fundamental principles was partly due to the increasingly bitter polarisation of opinion among Jews, and especially to a hardening of the view that Israel was being singled out for grossly unfair treatment. The difficulty of getting the former viewpoint across was also due to the success of groups who put out the contrasting narrative of the latter view……
…..Lerman stressed that the [JNEWS] approach was by no means a uniquely Jewish one, and so posed the question, Why is this a Jewish initiative?
Quite simply because Jews everywhere are uniquely affected by the conflict, both in terms of its impact on their Jewish identity, and in terms of how the fallout from the conflict affects their position in the wider society.
Brian Klug, Robinson writes, “emphasised that there is a long tradition, both secular and religious, of Jewish activism on behalf of justice and human rights, and concluded:
I’m reminded of the words of a certain wise Palestinian, Rabbi Shimon ben Gamliel, who died in the same year that the Temple was destroyed by the Romans nearly 2000 years ago and is quoted in the Talmud as saying, ‘The world endures by three things: truth, justice and peace’.
In a commentary written maybe a couple of hundred years later on this particular statement, Rav Muna says that these three are one. Why are they one? Peace depends on justice, and justice on truth: without truth, no justice, without justice, no peace. This, said Klug, for me captures the spirit, and the perspective, of JNews. So what does the ‘J’ in JNews stand for? It stands for two words, Jewish, and Justice, as if to say these two shall be one.”