Why my JPR position is untenable
The head of the Institute for Jewish Policy Research has dangerous views, argues Lord Kalms
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for “one Israel/Palestine state in a federal or confederal structure” in which nationalism, Jewish and Palestinian, is superseded by a civic patriotism.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.