BORN LONDON,MAY 25,1925.DIED LONDON,NOVEMBER 5,2007,AGED 82.
ALIFELONG LABOUR ZIONIST, Hayim Pinner spent his later career dealing with right-wing governments in Britain and Israel. As secretary general of the Board of Deputies from 1977 to 1991, he served under Board presidents Lord (Sammy) Fisher, MP Greville Janner and Dr Lionel Kopelowitz. An administratorcum-diplomat, he arranged and took part in delegations, meeting every government minister and department that impinged on Jewish interests.
He dealt with issues such as the antishechitah campaign, intervened on behalf of Jews persecuted in Argentina and the Soviet Union and monitored the shift in media perception of Israel’s standing in the Middle East.
He conducted a long-running battle with The Guardian newspaper, originally one of Israel’s strongest supporters, as it turned hostile in the wake of Israel’s unexpected territorial gains in the 1967 Six-Day War.
Pinner objected to the one-sidedness of The Guardian and the BBC’s presentation of Israel’s dilemma of ruling over an Arab population in its biblical heartland.
In 1980 he noted that media attacks on Israel and Zionism, coupled with efforts to legitimise the Palestine Liberation Organisation, were leading to a community sense of unease unprecedented since the 1930s. The new anti-Zionism of the New Left shocked traditional Jewish socialists.
Things only got worse after Israel’s incursion into Lebanon in 1981. Pinner led delegations to brief Israel’s prime minister, Menachem Begin, and to Paris and Tunisia to show solidarity after attacks on Jews there.
He registered the Board’s concern at Britain’s recognition of the PLO and its new London office, pointing out the PLO’s terrorist involvement. He tackled anti-Israel bias in reports of the British Refugee Council and Oxfam, accusing them of using “tendentious” material and straying into politics.
While he may have had less effect on charities’ behaviour, he did stop Madame Tussaud’s new waxwork statue of Yasser Arafat in 1990 being labelled the “President of the State of Palestine”.
He was also concerned with Jewish student safety and security in an increasingly hostile campus environment. He complained about debates on Israel whose speakers comprised solely Arabs and Israeli self-critics.
Such themes developed his concerns in his previous job as executive director of B’nai B’rith for 20 years from 1957. Here his administrative skills underpinned the charitable and social organisation’s dynamic growth, adding some 20 lodges.
An only child, Hayim Pinner followed his father, Simon, into Poalé Zion, the Labour Zionist movement, becoming secretary of its youth wing in 1949. He edited its journal, The Jewish Vanguard, from 1950-74 and was national chairman from 1967-70, then political secretary. He was vice-president of the Zionist Federation after serving as its treasurer from 1971-75.
Through his friendship with Labour figures, he secured the then prime minister, Harold Wilson, as guest of honour at the Vanguard’s 20th anniversary in 1969.
A pupil at Davenant Foundation School, he attended the East End’s noted Yeshivah Etz Chaim after school hours, making him fluent in Yiddish and Hebrew. He qualified in teaching but never practised. From 1944-48 he served in the Royal Army Ordnance Corps, clearing up ammunition.
His industry, efficiency, knowledge and kindliness were utilised in retirement by the Sternberg Foundation. He took part in meetings of the International Council of Christians and Jews and helped Sir Sigmund Sternberg in discussions with church leaders to defuse the long-running dispute over the Carmelite convent in Auschwitz.
In 1993 he received Spain’s order of civil merit for helping the foundation arrange Sepharad, the 1992 commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the expulsion of Jews from Spain. He was appointed OBE in 1989. He later suffered from Parkinson’s disease.
Divorced in 1980, he is survived by a son, Simon; daughter, Rachelle; and nine grandchildren.
Hyam Pinner: Labour Zionist and senior communal civil servant