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I have deep feelings for Palestine and Israel – and had to march for both

I attended the pro-Palestine march and antisemitism rally on the same day to show solidarity with people who want to live in peace, writes the Reverend Richard Coles. The only solution to the current crisis is political – even if it is difficult not to see that as an impossible dream

Saturday 02 December 2023 07:00 GMT
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<p>I had a busy weekend, attending the Palestine rally in Trafalgar Square on Saturday and the antisemitism rally in Parliament Square on Sunday</p>

I had a busy weekend, attending the Palestine rally in Trafalgar Square on Saturday and the antisemitism rally in Parliament Square on Sunday

In the 1930s my forebears, CofE shoemakers in Kettering, went into business with a family of Jewish retailers in Leeds, the Ziffs. As Kristallnacht erupted, that business relationship became a friendship – a friendship so significant my grandfather attended their bar mitzvahs and gave the speech of honour at the wedding of young Mr Ziff, who wrote to me about it after I did a thing in Leeds. I remember they gave us magnificent presents for birthdays and confirmations. Arnold Ziff, philanthropist, former High Sheriff of West Yorkshire, came to pay his respects to my grandmother when she turned 100.

I lived in West Yorkshire about 20 years ago, near Dewsbury, where many families from Pakistan settled in another wave of immigration in the Sixties and Seventies. One was Sayeeda Warsi’s; another, settled in Glasgow, was Aasmah Mir’s. I have learned from them what Britain was like for Muslims in a time when assault was routine, an invaluable lesson (and also how to cook okra, invaluable too).

Friendship between people of different faiths and faith traditions means something to me. You don’t need a personal reason to be intolerant of antisemitism or Islamophobia, but it does feel personal to me, and that is why I had a busy weekend, attending the Palestine rally in Trafalgar Square on Saturday and the antisemitism rally in Parliament Square on Sunday.

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