Board packs a (puny) punch

The Jewish Chronicle - - Comment&analysis - GE­OF­FREY AL­DER­MAN

THERE’S NOTH­ING like a good row to clear the air — and I wel­come the rev­e­la­tions of re­cent dis­cord be­tween the Board of Deputies and other com­mu­nal in­ter­ests. To re­cap for those of you who have not had the time to keep abreast of th­ese rau­cous goings-on: first, we have a deep, pub­lic rift be­tween the Deputies and the Jewish Lead­er­ship Coun­cil. Os­ten­si­bly, this is over a let­ter that the Board’s pres­i­dent Vi­vian Wine­man despatched to Tory leader David Cameron seek­ing “as­sur­ances” about the cre­den­tials of the Con­ser­va­tive party’s new right-wing Pol­ish and Lat­vian friends in the EU. The chair of the JLC’s ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee is Mick Davis, cur­rently also chair of the UJIA.

Mr Davis heads an in­ter­na­tional con­glom­er­ate pro­duc­ing a range of pre­cious met­als and min­er­als (in­clud­ing fer­rochrome and cok­ing coal) so he has ev­ery right to have a high opin­ion of him­self. Mr Wine­man is a suc­cess­ful so­lic­i­tor but, quite apart from not be­ing the head of an in­ter­na­tional con­glom­er­ate pro­duc­ing a range of pre­cious met­als and min­er­als (in­clud­ing fer­rochrome and cok­ing coal), he is not a QC (un­like his pre­de­ces­sor, Henry Grun­wald). What is more, Mr Wine­man came into of­fice just five months ago and promised to bring the JLC “un­der the aegis” of the Board.

Now the idea that a lawyer who is not even a QC could bring un­der his “aegis” the head of an in­ter­na­tional con­glom­er­ate pro­duc­ing a range of pre­cious met­als and min­er­als al­ways struck me as delu­sional. I con­fess that I did not think it would take a mere five months to prove just how delu­sional such an idea re­ally was. But when I read the en­ter­tain­ing press state­ment put out last week by Messrs Davis and Wine­man, de­signed to “re­fute” the sug­ges­tion that there had been “any rift” be­tween them, I knew just how right I had been.

Let us put this de­li­cious pub­lic row to one side, for a mo­ment, and turn to an­other, in­volv­ing the Board and the Zion­ist Fed­er­a­tion or, rather, one of the Board’s vi­cepres­i­dents, Jerry Lewis, and the ZF’s vice-chair, Jonathan Hoff­man.

Reg­u­lar read­ers of this col­umn will know that I have not in the past had a high opin­ion of the ZF, but I do have to say that un­der its new man­age­ment (An­drew Bal­combe as chair and Jonathan Hoff­man as his deputy) it has taken a re­fresh­ingly proac­tive stance in de­fend­ing the Jewish state. True, it has not won ev­ery bat­tle. But it is surely bet­ter to fight a bat­tle and lose than not to fight at all.

Some days ago, Mr Hoff­man launched, on the Down­ing Street web­site, a pe­ti­tion call­ing upon the Bri­tish gov­ern­ment to use its in­flu­ence to en­sure the re­jec­tion of the Gold­stone re­port (al­leg­ing that Is­rael was guilty of war crimes in Gaza) when a vote is taken on it at the UN Hu­man Rights Coun­cil next March. Within a few days, the pe­ti­tion at­tracted more than 2,500 sig­na­tures. But not those of the pres­i­dent of the Board, or any of the Board’s vice-pres­i­dents.

Why not? Mr Lewis did not beat about the bush. “Given his po­si­tion,” he thun­dered, “Mr Hoff­man should be far more cog­nisant of the ne­ces­sity to act with com­mon sense and not to act uni­lat­er­ally in a way which dam­ages both Is­rael’s case and be­yond.”

Where, I won­dered, had I pre­vi­ously read if not th­ese ex­act words then words un­can­nily sim­i­lar to them? Well, it was in the JC of Fe­bru­ary 5 1943. The then pres­i­dent of the Deputies, Selig Brodet­sky, ex­plained in a let­ter pub­lished by the JC why the Board had sab­o­taged an ini­tia­tive by Rabbi Dr Solomon Schon­feld to get the House of Com­mons to sup­port the res­cue of Jewish vic­tims of Nazi per­se­cu­tion.

“The in­ter­ven­tion of an unau­tho­rised in­di­vid­ual,” wrote Pro­fes­sor Brodet­sky, “how­ever well in­ten­tioned… nat­u­rally brings con­fu­sion and may have dam­ag­ing ef­fects.” But Brodet­sky’s action did not in­hibit Dr Schon­feld, and I’ve lit­tle doubt that Mr Hoff­man will give Mr Lewis’s in­ter­ven­tion the con­tempt it de­serves.

The Board is learn­ing — again — that it does not rep­re­sent Bri­tish Jews and has lit­tle in­flu­ence on those who do.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.