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Tuesday, 27 August, 2002, 09:15 GMT 10:15 UK
Rabbi warns of Israel's 'tragic path'
Professor Jonathan Sacks
Dr Sacks: "Conflict is against ideals of Judaism"
Britain's chief rabbi has taken the unprecedented step of warning that Israel's stance towards Palestinians is incompatible with Judaism.

Professor Jonathan Sacks described the current situation in the Middle East as "nothing less than tragic."


There are things that happen on a daily basis which make me very uncomfortable as a Jew

Dr Jonathan Sacks

"It is forcing Israel into postures that are incompatible in the long run with our deepest ideals," he told the Guardian newspaper.

His comments are expected to spark fury in Jewish and Israeli communities as they mark a sharp departure from his usual public support of Israel and its moves towards peace.

Dr Sacks said he was "profoundly shocked" at reports of smiling Israeli servicemen posing for photographs with the corpse of a Palestinian.

He told the paper: "There are things that happen on a daily basis which make me very uncomfortable as a Jew.

"There is no question that this kind of prolonged conflict, together with the absence of hope, generates hatreds and insensitivities that in the long run are corrupting to a culture."

The rabbi admitted he was convinced 35 years ago that Israel had to give back all the newly-gained land for the sake of peace.

He restated his support for the Jewish state, its moves towards peace and the Palestinians' failure to take the same "leap" towards compromise.

Dr Sacks, who has been head of the Jewish community in the UK and the Commonwealth for 11 years, has previously steered clear of commenting on the moral status of Israel's occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.

His predecessor, Immanuel Jakobovits condemned Israel for "lording it over" the Palestinians.

Iraq attack support

In the Guardian interview, timed to coincide with the publication of his new book, The Dignity of Difference, Dr Sacks says he would not rule out a meeting with Sheikh Abu Hamza, the fundamentalist Muslim cleric who leads the Finsbury Park Mosque in north London.

Dr Sacks also told the paper he would support military action in Iraq on three conditions.

These would be if there was a clear objective and endgame, a broad coalition of support and strict safeguards against civilian casualties.

The 54-year-old also revealed that he met one of Iran's highest-ranking clerics, Ayatollah Abdullah Javadi-Amoli, for secret talks during a UN conference of religious leaders in New York two years ago.

The chief rabbi's new book calls on orthodox faiths to realise that difference is an "essential" part of creation itself.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Jewish settler Shaul Goldstein
"It is very sad to hear this from the chief rabbi"
Leader of Muslim Parliament Dr Ghayasauddin Siddiqui
"He highlights the long term effects of occupation"

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See also:

26 Aug 02 | Middle East
20 Jun 02 | Middle East
27 Aug 02 | Politics
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