Antony Ler­man: the de­bate con­tin­ues

The Jewish Chronicle - - COMMENT & ANALYSIS -

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 gav­in­gross@ya­hoo.com 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 adaw­son@9gough­square.co.uk 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

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