The Jewish Chronicle
of London this week highlighted what it alleged was Tzipi
Livni’s endorsement of controversial remarks made last November by Mick Davis,
chairman of Anglo Jewry’s United Jewish Israel Appeal and head of its
unaccountable Jewish Leadership Council.
The story occupied the entire
front page, and was followed by a lengthy article by Davis based on his address
at the recent Herzliya conference and crafted to justify his earlier remarks.
The Jewish Chronicle
also carried an editorial lavishly praising Davis’s right
to “become Anglo Jewry’s spokesman for the view that the current Israeli
government is on the wrong trajectory,” and hailing Livni’s “admirable words”
endorsing “our right” to hold “a big conversation, of which we can all be
The editorial also condemned as “bizarre” unspecified calls “to
demand that our communal leaders adopt a vow of silence on matters of specific
Candidly Speaking: Egypt, democracy, fundamentalism
Candidly Speaking: Where are the voices of moderate Islam?
Many will regard it as a sad reflection of the state of
Anglo-Jewry that at this time, when British media hostility toward the Jewish
state has reached an all-time high, its flagship communal newspaper would adopt
such a negative approach, endorsing calls encouraging Jews to criticize the
Israeli government.The Jewish Chronicle
quoted Livni a saying that
Diaspora leaders have a “duty” to speak out when Israel “does something wrong,”
and that “as leaders, we in Israel must take into account the concerns of
In the course of a subsequent address this week to the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, she made
similar remarks, calling for dialogue between Israel and world Jewry and
“placing everything on the table.”
It is unclear whether Livni was even
aware of the earlier Davis remarks. Were she to endorse such criticism from a
Diaspora leader, she would undoubtedly infuriate most Israelis, who would not
take kindly to a British Jewish mining magnate exploiting his communal role to
intrude on matters that could affect the lives of children and grandchildren
serving in the IDF.
However, The Jewish Chronicle
’s spin on Livni’s
remarks was clearly designed to bolster its editorial line, which endorses the
critical statements Davis had previously expressed.
NO SERIOUS person has
ever denied the right of Diaspora Jews to criticize Israel or condemn moral
lapses by Israelis in public life – whether with respect to corruption,
religious extremism, discrimination or restrictions on freedom of
Indeed, such criticism has always been an important component
of the Israel-Diaspora relationship.
However, there was always the caveat
that it would be unconscionable for Jews living in the Diaspora to exert
pressure in relation to security policies which could have a lifeand- death
impact on Israeli citizens.
In his initial outburst, Davis made the
provocative statement that “I think the government of Israel has to recognize
that their actions directly affect me as a Jew living in London, UK. When they
do good things, it is good for me, when they do bad things, it is 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.”
In relation to the peace process, he also
challenged the morality and “courage” of Israeli leaders.
It was not a
proud day for Anglo-Jewry when an Israeli ambassador felt obliged to publicly
reprimand a Jewish communal leader for behaving in such an “unwarranted” manner,
deploring his use of language based on “the narrative of Israel’s
Ambassador Ron Prosor complained that remarks by Davis that
Israel is “losing its moral compass” or would be “characterized de facto as an
apartheid state” came “straight from our opponents’ lexicon.”
went beyond these comments.
In lieu of calling on Jews to rally in
defense of the embattled Jewish state, he encouraged them to join him in
publicly criticizing the policies of its democratically elected government. No
other Jewish community, including that in the US (and American Jews are
considered far more liberal than their British counterparts), would tolerate
such behavior from a purportedly mainstream leader. Davis is, after all, head of
the UJIA, not a spokesman for J Street.
It is especially problematic, and
even offensive to say the least, for the leader of a Jewish community to make
such remarks in the toxic atmosphere of the UK, where demonization and
delegitimization of Israel as well as outright anti-Semitism have reached record
levels. Davis would do well to read the chilling analysis of anti- Semitism and
hatred of Israel in the UK contained in a recent Jerusalem Post
article by Prof.
Robert Wistrich, a former British Jew living here, and recognized as a world
expert on anti-Semitism.
In an effort to justify his former remarks,
Davis disingenuously suggests he was being criticized for supporting a two-state
solution (which the government of Israel supports), when in fact what he
actually implied was that it is the government rather than the Palestinians
which represents the obstacles to peace.
This approach was replicated in
the current editorial of The Jewish Chronicle
, which also expressed its “grave
reservations about the current government’s genuine commitment to seeking a
two-state solution,” despite Binyamin Netanyahu’s unprecedented initiative in
freezing settlement activity, which still failed to persuade the Palestinians to
even participate in negotiations.
Davis also falsely asserts that “in
Israel’s formative years, there was real dialogue with the Diaspora. This is no
longer the case.”
In reality, Labor Zionist (Mapai) leaders from David
Ben-Gurion through to Yitzhak Rabin reacted far more harshly to criticism from
Diaspora Jews than their current counterparts do. In contrast to the restraint
employed by Netanyahu, they wouldn’t have hesitated to publicly vent their
outrage if a tycoon of the likes of Davis had made such provocative
Although the Anglo-Jewish establishment has failed to condemn
the Davis outbursts, there was a substantial grassroots protest, and it is
noteworthy that delegates to the Board of Deputies of British Jews took the
unusual step of expressing their displeasure by overruling the decision of their
executive to send a mission to meet with the PA and Mahmoud
British Jews today are in desperate need of leaders who will
encourage Jews to stand up and fight instead of remaining on the sidelines or
identifying with the anti-Zionist chic.
Davis dismissed my previous
of his outburst as coming “from that mad Australian who attacks
I was privileged to head a major Jewish Diaspora community
which continues to take pride in standing up and defending Israel and a
multitude of international Jewish causes. Thus, as the frenzied campaign to
demonize and delegitimize Israel in the UK gathers force, I would urge Davis to
consider the consequences of his intemperate behavior. If he has any sense of
responsibility, instead of calling on Jews to criticize Israel, he should
concentrate on promoting its case in a country which has displayed little
understanding for an embattled democracy surrounded by unstable regimes and
Islamic fanatics united in their determination to deny Jewish