Why my JPR po­si­tion is un­ten­able

The head of the In­sti­tute for Jewish Pol­icy Re­search has dan­ger­ous views, ar­gues Lord Kalms

The Jewish Chronicle - - Comment & Analysis -

Antony Ler­man’s ar­ti­cle in last week’s JC added disin­gen­u­ous­ness to his dan­ger­ous ar­gu­ment.

In his speech in March 2005 in Hamp­stead Town Hall, Ler­man clearly and specif­i­cally called for the dis­mem­ber­ing of the State of Is­rael. He calls for “one Is­rael/Pales­tine state in a fed­eral or con­fed­eral struc­ture” in which na­tion­al­ism, Jewish and Pales­tinian, is su­per­seded by a civic pa­tri­o­tism.

Is­rael’s law of re­turn is to be aban­doned and Pales­tinian refugees dealt with on the ba­sis of a recog­ni­tion of their right of re­turn. That is the core of his propo­si­tion. There is a lot more of sim­i­lar ilk. Is it sur­pris­ing that Isi Leibler de­scribes it as ob­scene?

Ler­man is con­temp­tu­ous of Isi Leibler. How about Alan Der­showitz, one of our out­stand­ing Jewish thinkers; is he to be dis­missed in the same fash­ion for crit­i­cis­ing sim­i­lar views and call­ing them crack­pot?

Of course, Antony Ler­man is en­ti­tled to his views. In­deed, most Jews in the di­as­pora have dif­fer­ent ideas as to some as­pects of how Is­rael should be man­aged. For­tu­nately, the ma­jor­ity do not ar­gue for dis­em­bow­elling the state, merely im­prov­ing its weak­nesses. But Ler­man has ad­di­tional re­spon­si­bil­i­ties, which to some might cir­cum­scribe his right to ex­press such an ex­treme sce­nario. He is, af­ter all, the ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the In­sti­tute for Jewish Pol­icy Re­search (JPR). A well-re­spected think­tank with a long tra­di­tion of analysing an­tisemitism and of sup­port­ing the State of Is­rael.

The JPR is funded by do­na­tions from the com­mu­nity on the rea­son­able as­sump­tion that it stands firmly be­hind the vast ma­jor­ity of the di­as­pora’s de­sire for a strong and per­ma­nent State of Is­rael.

Ler­man’s views are in to­tal con­tra­dic­tion of that con­cept.

The dan­ger of a man like Ler­man be­ing in charge is that he is seen by oth­ers to be an author­ity on Is­rael. In­deed, re­cently, in an ar­ti­cle in The Econ­o­mist dated Jan­uary 13 and en­ti­tled “Sec­ond Thoughts About the Promised Land”, there was ob­vi­ously a ma­jor in­put both quoted and im­plied from Ler­man (read Alex Brum­mer, JC, Jan­uary 19). As a con­se­quence, the ar­ti­cle sub­stan­tially mis­rep­re­sented the views of the di­as­pora and the con­clu­sions were less favourable than if they had been given a more bal­anced opin­ion. Ler­man is thus in a pow­er­ful po­si­tion to re­flect an opin­ion on the fu­ture of Is­rael which is nei­ther shared by nor makes sense to the vast ma­jor­ity of the Jewish com­mu­nity world­wide.

When the pre­vi­ous ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor, Barry Kos­min, left the JPR and Antony Ler­man was ap­pointed, I ad­mit I was un­aware of his dan­ger­ous and un­ac­cept­able views, con­trary to my con­cept of the role of the di­as­pora — to sup­port the State of Is­rael, warts and all.

That il­lu­sion is no longer. Ler­man has stated un­equiv­o­cally where he stands and, in my view, his ideas are nei­ther tol­er­a­ble nor in­deed in­tel­li­gent in his present role.

My per­sonal po­si­tion is one of deep em­bar­rass­ment. I am hon­orary vice-pres­i­dent of the JPR. A role I ac­cepted prior to Mr Ler­man join­ing the or­gan­i­sa­tion. That role in the cir­cum­stances is un­ten­able.

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