The simmering tensions associated with the “restrained” Anglo Jewish leadership
approach to Israel advocacy exploded at the most recent plenum meeting of the
Board of Deputies of British Jews.
Senior vice-president Jonathan Arkush
launched a bitter attack on the Jewish Leadership Council (JLC), a group
primarily comprised of wealthy British Jews and their acolytes who, although
unaccountable, are allegedly determining communal policy.
applause from the plenum, Arkush accused the JLC of being “unelected,
unaccountable and therefore unacceptable” as spokesmen for Anglo
However, he was immediately castigated by the president and
members of the executive for “an intemperate outburst” and making “unhelpful and
incorrect” comments. There were also calls for his resignation.
head, Mick Davis, blatantly threatened to terminate ongoing financial support to
the Board if it could make such “unwarranted and egregious
Davis, who also heads the United Jewish Israel Appeal, had
previously created a storm by urging British Jews to criticize the Jewish
state’s handling of the peace process. Employing the terminology of our enemies,
he warned that Israel was in danger of becoming an “apartheid” state.
remarks unprecedented for any Diaspora Jewish leader, Davis stated: “I think the
government of Israel has to recognize that their actions directly impact on me
as a Jew living in London, UK. When they do good things, it is good for me when
they do bad things, it’s bad for me. And the impact on me is as significant as
it is on Jews living in Israel. I want them to recognize that.”
Deputies leaders are themselves frequently criticized for their muted approach.
The preceding president boasted that the Board operates on the basis of
“whispering” rather than “shouting” and sought to avoid confrontations by
concentrating on silent diplomacy.
Current president Vivian Wineman is an
urbane, committed and cultured Jew and unquestionably well intentioned. But some
critics feel his behavior is more befitting of an academic than a street-smart
In a recent interview with The Jerusalem Post, he
adamantly denied that he and his colleagues were “trembling Israelites.” He
previously conceded that the Board has “good access” but “no influence” over
government and mentioned that he had recently met Prime Minister David Cameron
(as part of a JLC delegation) and found him receptive.
However, in the
same breath he observed that “the important people are the civil servants who
brief ministers.” He failed to note that UK Foreign Ministry officials are
inclined to be even more hostile to Israel than elected ministers.
the unaccountable JLC clearly remains in the driver’s seat.
confirmed only a few days later, when Arkush released a letter abjectly
apologizing for his critical remarks and praising the JLC, describing his
comments as inappropriate and expressing regret for having introduced
divisiveness at the Board plenum.
It was a humiliating retreat by a man
previously admired for his independence who had apparently capitulated under
brutal pressure from his colleagues and a group of unaccountable individuals
whose control of the purse strings enables them to impose their will on the
It is relevant to note also that JLC head Davis had previously
muzzled feisty Zionist Federation vicechairman Jonathan Hoffman by threatening
to initiate costly legal action after he made similar critical
These leadership struggles are taking place at a time of great
turmoil for the declining Anglo Jewish community. Whereas there are signs of
cultural revival and increased ethnic solidarity, the overall situation of
British Jewry is profoundly depressing.
Robert Wistrich, the expert on
global anti-Semitism, refers to the “evil wind blowing through England’s green
and pleasant land” in which anti-Israeli rhetoric has infiltrated all levels of
the British intelligentsia to the extent that “it may be time to
Yet in this context, Anglo Jewish leadership remains in denial.
In his Jerusalem Post interview, Wineman conceded that “there is an awful lot of
anti-Israeli feeling which sometimes morphs into anti-Semitism.” Yet, when Robin
Shepherd, a leading non-Jewish academic and friend of Israel, remarked that the
dramatic upsurge of anti-Israeli feeling and boycotts suggested “that the
darkness is closing in... for the Jews of Britain,” Wineman castigated him for
being “misguided and alarmist.”
THE TRUTH is that the current
Conservative government is at the forefront of the European anti- Israel pack.
In classical “Perfidious Albion” style, Prime Minister Cameron describes himself
as a Zionist but then refers to Gaza as “an open-air prison camp” and condemns
Israel for its “attack” on the Mavi Marmara flotilla.
Last year, in order
to appease anti-Israel and Arab groups, he even terminated a century-long
tradition of British PMs acting as patrons to the Jewish National Fund – an act
which the editor of the Jewish Chronicle described as “equivalent to sticking
two fingers up to the Jewish community in Britain.”
Campaigns to promote
BDS (boycot, divest, sanction) and calls from unions to boycott Israel have
reached feverish heights. The viciously anti-Israel Ken Livingstone is again
campaigning for election as Mayor of London, which has emerged as the
European hub of Israeli delegitimization.
There are constant
demonstrations by the far left supporting Hamas and Hezbollah. The Anglican
Church and other Protestant denominations are fiercely anti-Israel. Jewish
academics and activists who loathe Israel spearhead efforts to demonize and
delegitimize the Jewish state and frequently receive more favorable media
coverage than official Jewish spokesmen.
The visceral anti-Israel
hostility radiating from the media, especially the BBC, has intensified hatred
of Jews and Israel to the extent that many perceive the Jewish community as a
pariah group. Yet Jewish leaders underrate the impact of this vitriol and invest
more efforts against marginal fascists than the far more dangerous anti-Israel
Left and the radical Muslims who they persistently seek to appease in futile
efforts to prove their bona fides.
They also understate the critical role
of Muslim anti-Semitism and jihadism and continuously issue statements warning
of the dangers of Islamophobia, which is puny compared to the violence and
threats leveled against Jews.
The situation at the universities is
absolutely horrendous and increasingly violent. Every day preachers of hate
assail Israel and the Jewish people. Some Jewish students, seeking to avoid
social isolation, have distanced themselves from Israel and joined the
A number of Union of Jewish Students leaders, funded
and encouraged by the Jewish establishment, sought unsuccessfully to appease
Muslim and anti-Israel activists by condemning students who mounted counter
They also sought to persuade Jewish Societies to cancel public
addresses by Kasim Hafeez, a brilliant former Muslim extremist turned pro-Israel
advocate, on the spurious grounds that his presence would make things worse for
Jews during Israel Apartheid Week. To placate Moslems, they distributed
Palestinian as well as Israeli flags at universities which merely intensified
contempt against them.
this depressing state of affairs, dramatic positive changes are also
Chief among these is the British Israel Coalition (BIC), a
relatively new body headed by Sam Westrop, a talented and dynamic young man. It
now has in excess of 5,000 members and is growing rapidly, despite the fact that
it is denied funding from most of the established Jewish leadership.
holds regular demonstrations, monitors and acts against anti-Israel agitators at
all UK universities and aggressively combats Israel boycott movements.
allies itself with other organizations and even introduced pro-Israeli Muslim
activists like Hafeez to the forefront of its campaigns.
It is currently
expanding operations to promote political lobbying and positive media exposure
and publish monthly reports documenting anti-Israel activity at universities.
With a minimal budget it is penetrating areas in which other lavishly funded
establishment organizations have made little progress.
coordinated a campaign to neutralize the appearance at a major Manchester
secondary school of local Islamic extremists raising funds for Hamas who were on
record for hailing suicide bombers as freedom fighters, referring to Jews as the
descendants of apes and pigs and promoting The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.
BIC was castigated by Jewish establishment leaders for indiscreetly exposing the
event in the media, but the headmaster was forced to cancel the
The fledgling body deserves much of the credit for last week’s
enforced resignation of the xenophobic anti-Israel Baroness Jenny Tonge from the
Liberal Party following a toxic speech at Middlesex University.
months preparing for Israel Apartheid Week and Richard Millett, one of its key
activists, filmed the incriminating speeches at the Tonge event and published
the footage on his blog.
BIC subsequently coordinated the complaints,
presented them to the university and police and on the morning prior to Tonge’s
resignation, BIC leader Westrop lobbied the Liberal Democrat Party to take
disciplinary action against the incitement by Tonge. The Board of Deputies and
JLC sought to take credit for the outcome but it was clearly a product of the
determined activists rather than back-door whispering.
There is also the
Academic Friends of Israel, which has been confronting the academic boycott for
over 10 years. Currently its head Ronny Fraser has a pending legal action of
institutional anti-Semitism against the Lecturers Union.
created body is Lawyers for Israel, headed by Jonathan Turner. It actively
employs the law to neutralize those seeking to delegitimize Israel and expose
Muslim organizations acting as fronts for raising funds for
It recently intervened, successfully, obliging the Lord
Chancellor to formally rebuke a British judge who had exonerated vandals after
destroying $300,000 worth of military equipment destined for Israel because of
its alleged “immoral” behavior towards Gaza.
None of these independent
organizations are funded or supported by the Board or the JLC.
also prominent individuals like the indefatigable Daily Mail columnist Melanie
Phillips, who is reviled by much of the Jewish establishment for courageously
promoting Israel advocacy. She also contributes to the Jewish Chronicle, as does
urbane historian Geoffrey Alderman, who continuously excoriates the Jewish
establishment for its cowardice and silence in the face of concerted anti-
Israel and anti-Semitic attacks.
Despite the tortuous capitulation under
pressure by Board of Deputies vice president Arkush, more and more
representatives are beginning to express disapproval of the weak approach to
Israel adopted by their leaders and increasingly objecting to the dominant
communal role of the unaccountable, arrogant leaders of the JLC.
groups like the British Coalition for Israel are enjoying increasing grass roots
support is a healthy sign. They represent the only hope that Anglo Jewry will
find the courage to speak up on behalf of Israel and ensure that future
generations of young Jews will not follow the example of their elders, who are
running for cover, overwhelmed by the torrents of hatred and lies emanating from
the current hostile British social climate. They deserve greater support from
The writer’s website can be viewed at
www.wordfromjerusalem.com He may be contacted at