The Jewish National Fund UK has resigned from a British Jewish community
representative body, questioning its mandate and legitimacy and stance on Israel
and serving a blow to the already beleaguered organization.
tendered its resignation from the Jewish Leadership Council on Thursday, citing
numerous concerns, including some relating to its remit and
Samuel Hayek, chairman of JNF UK, spoke exclusively to The
Jerusalem Post after informing the JLC’s leadership of the decision.
JNF Board of Trustees has decided to resign from the Jewish Leadership Council
with immediate effect. This decision has been taken as a result of numerous
concerns,” he said.
“JNF is a charity whose history is intrinsically
intertwined with the establishment and development of Israel and whose support
for it over the past 110 years has always been and will remain steadfast. The
decision to resign from the JLC is based on principle and was not taken
lightly,” Hayek said.
The JLC was established as a membership body for
the lay leaders of the major Jewish organizations in the UK in 2003 by the
then-president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, Henry Grunwald.
According to its website, its remit is “to strengthen the major institutions of
British Jewry, promote cooperation between them and help the leadership of our
community articulate a confident and compelling narrative of mainstream Jewish
life in the UK.”
Over the years the organization has had a difficult
relationship with the Jewish community.
Recently it has suffered a number
of high-profile resignations and accusations that the organization is
unrepresentative and has gone beyond its remit. Last month, the JLC’s public
relations agency, the PR Office, terminated its contract with it.
originally established, the JLC’s remit was an internal focus on communal needs
but in recent years and months this has shifted significantly towards a focus on
foreign affairs and particularly in relation to matters of Israeli government
policy,” Hayek told the Post. “As a result, the JLC has sought to take upon
itself a leadership role in areas already covered by others such as the Board of
Deputies, an elected and representative institution, where as the JLC comprises
a self-appointed and non-mandated body.”
In January, Lord Michael Levy,
who was Middle East envoy for former prime minister Tony Blair and a founding
member of the JLC, resigned from the organization, accusing it of “grabbing too
much power” while not defining its role.
“When I helped to create the
JLC, I saw it as a forum to bring together the heads of such organizations and
people who had been in leadership positions to discuss issues facing us. But it
has not yet defined its role. I certainly did not envisage it becoming a new
power base and expanding its infrastructure – something that is neither
necessary nor needed. For that reason I decided to resign from it,” Levy told
the Jewish Chronicle at the time.
Last year, Baroness Ruth Deech,
academic and lawyer, also resigned from the JLC, “in an effort to shake it
With JLC’s operating costs increasing from £191,600 in 2007 to
£455,900 in 2010, JNF UK also questioned the high cost and democratic nature of
the organization. JNF currently must pay £26,000 annually to the
“The current structure and payment of membership fees of £26,000,
together with the manner in which it operates, make it impossible for council
members to truly have our voices heard or exert significant influence on
decisions taken by its leadership. JNF has always supported community
cooperation and will continue to do so, just not in this way,” Hayek
The JLC has, however, tried to improve its standing in the
community by revamping its structure.
Last year, it took away voting
rights of members appointed in a personal capacity, leaving voting to the
leaders of the 16 Jewish organizations on the council. The Board of Deputies and
JLC also set up a joint liaison committee to improve ties.
JLC executive chairman Mick Davis sparked a huge debate in the Jewish community
by agreeing, in response to a question posed to him at a public event, that
Israel would become an apartheid state in the absence of a two-state
Hayek said that this attitude, and a recent decision by the JLC
to visit the Palestinian Authority – a move which was eventually canceled after
a backlash in the community – also impacted on JNF’s decision.
Zionist charity, JNF’s fundamental belief is that in these troubled times in the
region, Israel deserves to see a Diaspora community with unwavering support,” he
said. “There should be a diversity of opinion, but it is harmful to the State of
Israel and its people for such a debate to take place by community leaders in
the public domain. Recent comments by JLC’s leadership, together with actions
such as the proposed trip to the West Bank, will simply provide further
ammunition to individuals and organizations who continue to pursue a campaign of
delegitimization against Israel.”
The JLC said on Thursday that it was
holding discussions with JNF UK.