Antony Lerman: the debate continues
ANTONY LERMAN was being disingenuous at best when he wrote: “Far from endorsing the destruction of Israel as a Jewish state, I’m for the reconstruction of Israel as a state in which Jewish values guide public behaviour and can be permanently sustained” (“Don’t slur me, Mr Leibler, engage with me”, JC, January 19).
This is because in March 2005 Mr Lerman told a meeting in Hampstead Town Hall the exact opposite: “My preferred option is for the eventual evolution of one Israel-Palestine state... a state of all its citizens, in which Palestinian and Jewish nationalisms are superseded by a civic patriotism... Israel’s law of return, which exclusively favours Jewish immigration, would be repealed and the issue of Palestinian refugees dealt with on the basis of a recognition of the right of return.”
Such a repeal of the Jewish right of return along with recognition of a Palestinian right of return will lead to the destruction of Israel as a Jewish state, an outcome Mr Lerman claims he doesn’t endorse. So which one is his real opinion about Israel? Gavin Gross firstname.lastname@example.org ANTONY LERMAN’S pose of being an honest critic of Israel is at best disingenuous, coming from someone who desires “the eventual evolution of one Israel-Palestine state”. In his address to the Jewish Forum for Justice and Human Rights, Mr Lerman shows extreme hostility to virtually all aspects of Israeli society and history (such as “on too many counts, Zionism has been a failure” and “Israel has precious little to show by way of carrying out the mission of the Jews”). Most members of the community will be dismayed that someone with such views should be in charge of a major Jewish organisation. It is not the fact that he objects to aspects of Israeli policy that is the problem, but that he desires a future in which Israel does not exist at all. Daniel Hochhauser London NW11 WHILE PURPORTING to write about the community’s leadership, Isi Leibler (January 12) cites as examples the comments of an unnamed “Jewish journalist” and the views of Antony Lerman, who, I suspect, would not categorise himself alongside those more usually cited as the leaders of UK Jewry. Indeed, whenever he criticises Israel, Mr Lerman is at pains to distance himself from their views.
Mr Leibler further argues that this same leadership is in denial about the extent of antisemitism in the UK. He thereby infers that he understands the issues better than the Community Security Trust. It likewise appears that he has a more in-depth understanding of the daily threats facing the Board of Deputies, the Union of Jewish Students and other organisations. Finally, Mr Leibler’s intelligence on such matters appears to be of such high calibre that he can ignore the efforts by British Jews to mount grassroots campaigns against academic boycotts against Israel — or an effective cross-communal effort to block a governmental policy initia- tive that would have imposed admissions quotas on Jewish schools.
The irony is that Mr Leibler suggests a “twin-track approach of tough lobbying alongside parallel silent diplomacy”. Had he read more carefully Henry Grunwald’s article in the Jerusalem Post (June 7, 2005) he might have noted that the Board president advocated precisely that position when he said: “Different situations require different responses and, frequently, both the noisy and the quiet approach go hand in hand.” Adam Dawson email@example.com THE DEBATE in the JC between two conservative Jewish leaders is instructive.
Isi Leibler argues for a rightwing “Israel right or wrong”, defend-theoccupation conservatism, while Antony Lerman responds with a leftwing case for a softly-softly conservative approach to antisemitism. Mr Leibler wants us to close our eyes to Israel’s human-rights abuses. Mr Lerman hasn’t yet noticed that the anti-Israel over-enthusiasm that is becoming normal in Britain comes laden with antisemitic undertones.
Britain’s Jews should be united against antisemitism and be loud and clear in favour of a Palestinian state. Enough of Mr Leibler’s flag-waving conservatism in the face of legitimate criticism of Israel, and enough of Mr Lerman’s “keep your head down and whisper in powerful ears” conservatism in the face of antisemitism. David Hirsh University of London, London SE14