Pressure grows on Lerman
JPR boss slated over Livingstone event
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
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