A controversial rabbi who last August urged Israel to “finish what they started” in its assault on Gaza has been appointed as patron by prominent ‘anti-extremism’ charity Faith Matters.
Yitzchak Schochet, of Mill Hill Synagogue, is known for his “right-wing image” and “outspokenness.” In 2010 he invited Polish politician Michal Kaminski to speak at his synagogue, a right-winger who had faced accusations of “blatant homophobia and supporting antisemitic causes in his past.” Schochet said Kaminski had “a colourful past”, but was “presently a strong supporter of Israel.”
In 2011, Schochet described Jewish students campaigning for the rights of both Israelis and Palestinians on British campuses as “bending over backwards to appease the oppressor.”
But it is his remarks on social media concerning Muslims and the Middle East that have raised eyebrows over his appointment by Faith Matters, an inter-faith organisation that runs the Tell MAMA hotline (the two have separate boards of patrons).
In May 2011, he told a Twitter user: “Hey. Happy Nakba Day! Hope you celebrate! I have a spare Israeli flag if you want to hang yourself on it.” The following month, following a report of 45 percent unemployment in Gaza, he commented: “if you include terrorism as work its 100% employed.”
On 1 August last year, with some 1,400 Palestinians already killed by Israeli forces in Gaza, he tweeted: “Time for Israel to finish what they started. You can’t negotiate with terrorists.”
Schochet has also claimed that George Galloway was elected to Parliament “by pandering to Muslims”, urging Londoners in 2012 to “beware of Red Ken” as “he’s looking to do same!” In October 2014, he described the shooting attack on the Canadian parliament by lone gunman Michael Zehaf-Bibeau as the “treacherous arm of radical #Islam.”
Responding to questions about these tweets, Faith Matters founder and director Fiyaz Mughal said that the charity would send the statements on to the rabbi and ask for his response. At the time of writing, there had been no update from the charity about any kind of reply from Schochet.
Mughal stated that Faith Matters has “a range of opinions on our patrons board” and that “some opinions may not reflect the Organisation’s view on matters.” He added: “we value the fact that patrons are willing to engage and promote the need to tackle intolerance, bigotry and hate so that effort is redoubled. This includes prejudiced wholesale hate against Muslims, Jews, Roma, LGBTQ and other communities. It also includes wholesale hate against Palestinians, Israelis and other groups of people. Where we see and hear it, we will challenge it.”
Asked about the rationale for choosing Rabbi Schochet as a patron, Mughal explained that Faith Matters wants “people who may sometimes disagree with us but who work with us to enter and engage with [different faith] communities that need to be connected with.”
In a subsequent email, Mughal stated that “if any individual associated with Faith Matters or its projects are found to promote any form of bigotry, they will no longer be associated with the organisation. It is as simple as that since there are no ifs and buts in defending this core value.”