Pres­sure grows on Ler­man

JPR boss slated over Liv­ing­stone event

The Jewish Chronicle - - Front page - BY LEON SY­MONS

ANTONY LER­MAN, the ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the In­sti­tute for Jewish Pol­icy Re­search (JPR), was at the cen­tre of a firestorm of crit­i­cism this week over his views on Is­rael and his con­tro­ver­sial par­tic­i­pa­tion in the Mayor of Lon­don’s con­fer­ence last Shab­bat.

Two weeks ago, the Aus­tralian phi­lan­thropist and com­men­ta­tor Isi Leibler made a per­sonal at­tack on Mr Ler­man in the JC for his views on Is­rael — he has said he sup­ports a one-state so­lu­tion in which Is­rael and the Pales­tini­ans share ter­ri­tory in a fed­eral struc­ture. Mr Ler­man de­fended him­self in last week’s pa­per, but the com­plaints against him have grown louder.

To date, one JPR di­rec­tor, An­thony Spitz, has re­signed, cit­ing se­ri­ous dis­agree­ment with Mr Ler­man’s views on Is­rael. (Three other direc­tors re­signed in protest when Mr Ler­man was reap­pointed in De­cem­ber, 2005.)

On Sun­day, Board of Deputies’ pres­i­dent Henry Grun­wald launched a with­er­ing at­tack on Mr Ler­man for par­tic­i­pat­ing in the Clash of Civil­i­sa­tions con­fer­ence the pre­vi­ous day. And this week, Lord Kalms, hon­orary JPR vice-pres­i­dent, writ­ing ex­clu­sively in the JC, de­scribed his own po­si­tion in the or­gan­i­sa­tion as “un­ten­able” and one of “deep em­bar­rass­ment” in re­la­tion to Mr Ler­man’s views.

How­ever, an un­moved Mr Ler­man told the JC that he had “no com­ment to make”.

The char­ity’s direc­tors met on Tues­day evening, emerg­ing to give Mr Ler­man un­equiv­o­cal sup­port. Chair­man Peter Levy [who is also the JC chair­man] re­ported: “We dis­cussed Mr Grun­wald’s com­plaints, but I don’t want to say any­thing more about it. Mr Ler­man has the full con­fi­dence of the board.

“There was no crit­i­cism what­so­ever of Mr Ler­man at­tend­ing the con­fer­ence on Satur­day. He was one of sev­eral [Jewish] peo­ple there talk­ing about an­tisemitism.

“I am not con­cerned about the crit­i­cism at the Board. I am more con­cerned about the crit­i­cism voiced in an ar­ti­cle in the JC by Isi Leibler about some­thing Mr Ler­man said [about Is­rael] prior to com­ing into of­fice. Since he has been in of­fice, he has not ex­pressed any of his per­sonal views on Is­rael. He is fully aware that if he does ex­press his opin­ions, they will be as­so­ci­ated with the JPR.

“He has the com­plete con­fi­dence of the Board. He has not done any­thing wrong,” added Mr Levy.

At the Board ple­nary meet­ing in Lon­don, Mr Grun­wald told deputies: “I was sur­prised that the di­rec­tor of the JPR agreed to give a talk on an­tisemitism on Shab­bat. That is some­thing that should not have hap­pened.

“If the JPR wants to be con­sid­ered as part of the com­mu­nity, its di­rec­tor should not be speak­ing about that topic at that sem­i­nar on a Shab­bat.”

Asked if he had been ap­proached prior to the con­fer­ence not to take part, Mr Ler­man replied: “Ab­so­lutely not.”

Mr Ler­man was JPR’s found­ing di­rec­tor from 1991 to 1999. When he was reap­pointed at the end of 2005, three direc­tors re­signed be­cause of his views on an­tisemitism — that with more de­tailed anal­y­sis of data, it was not as bad as some claimed — and a speech ad­vo­cat­ing a one-state so­lu­tion to the Is­rael-Pales­tine con­flict.

Adrian Co­hen, one of those who re­signed and is now chair of the Lon­don Jewish Fo­rum, said: “In­creas­ingly, trades unions and other or­gan­i­sa­tions are struc­tur­ing their ac­tiv­i­ties to ac­com­mo­date Jewish cul­tural and re­li­gious sen­si­tiv­i­ties. JPR, by its ac­tions, is un­der­min­ing the com­mu­nity’s ef­forts to en­cour­age this trend.”

Clash of Civil­i­sa­tions, page 6; Lord Kalms, page 35; Let­ters, leader, page 36

JPR chief Antony Ler­man

An emo­tional Moshe Katzav has vowed to fight “with ev­ery last breath” charges in­clud­ing rape and sex­ual ha­rass­ment Full story, page 2

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