The disgraceful vendetta against Stephen Sizer and its culmination in the Board of Deputies instigating a complaint against him under the CDM provisions, is a logical and understandable consequence of the prevalent culture of the Board, that is, a culture of silence and silencing.
Included in the Board’s constitution is the objective to advance Israel’s “security, welfare and standing”. Fair enough. Except that this, in interpretation and application, is taken to mean that there is to be no criticism of The State of Israel or any current or past government of this State. Several years ago Laurence Brass became Board treasurer and upon taking office said..
” Many are concerned that for some time the Board has been perceived as merely an extension of the Israeli embassy…..I beleive that the Board enhances its credibility if it acknowledges that constructive criticism of Israeli policy is a legitimate part of the democratic process “.
He then went on to try to get a resolution passed whereby the Board would permit itself such criticism where appropriate. It had a snow ball in hell’s chance . Even when there was almost universal discomfort at the Israeli announcement of an intention to build in the area known as E1 the integrity of the code of silence was maintained. Laurence Brass made no effort to disguise his frustration. Even the Jewish Chronicle had felt able to describe the move as “petulance not statesmanship “.
From the Board, nothing. The silence on the matter wasn’t coincidental. There was an explicit reaffirmation of the code.
This is all the root cause of the perceived problem with the Jewish Leadership Council. The JLC, they whine, is unelected, unaccountable and is chipping away at the traditional position of the Board. The problem is that the backbone of the JLC is a number of men that are very wealthy indeed and the Board is strapped for cash. But this seeming creeping of the JLC onto traditional Board territory is problematic in another, more important sense. The JLC men are outside the club, and therefore not bound by the code. Further, they tend to be realists. The JLC Chairman, Mick Davis, is a particular figure of hate. In November 2011, he said some things that drove the Deputies into apoplexy. That Netanyahu lacked the courage to make peace, that if there wasn’t a two state solution soon, Israel would drift into a de facto apartheid state. No brainer stuff. All hell broke loose. Davis cheerfully agreed to go along to a Board plenary to be interrogated. It is said that Deputies queued for an hour for their turn to duff him over.
Jonathan Arkush is a Board Vice President and in his fourth year as chair of the Defence Division. It is not called the Defence Division for nothing. Its role is, in partnership with the Community Security Trust, to defend “the Jewish Community“ from criticism of Israel, or has been, under Arkush’s stewardship.
Arkush is the code of silence personified. He goes further than most and declares that no Jew should ever publicly criticise Israel. The others think it, but Arkush has no qualms about saying it. He is also disastrously over emotional. These emotions are sincere unlike the faux emotions of say, Hoffman, in whose case they are merely attention seeking tantrums. Faux emotions do not adversely affect judgment, sincere ones can and do. That Hoffman has zilch judgment is entirely coincidental.
At a Board plenary in February 2012, Arkush had a wobbler right off the Richter scale. In the most amazing failure of judgment, he launched into a vitriolic tirade against the JLC. Not the least of it, “The JLC is unelected, unaccountable and it is unacceptable to the community for it to assume a leadership role.”
Then there were dark hints of financial impropriety concerning the funding of the Leeds and Manchester Representative Councils.
There was a considerable level of support on the floor, but the minds of the powers that be were wonderfully concentrated when, after declaring Arkush’s position “untenable”, Mick Davis went on to muse ominously that JLC members “…may feel they can no longer provide ongoing financial support for the Board while being subjected to this kind of attack by the institution”.
The floodgates opened.
Board President Vivian Wineman said that “It is unhelpful and incorrect to say that the JLC was unaccountable”.
Treasurer Laurence Brass suggested that Arkush “…should consider whether he wants to seek re-election as Vice President”.
Deputy Sheldon advised that Arkush “…might wish to consider taking a break from community politics.”
And of course everyone’s favourite cuddly fruit cake, Jerry Lewis, weighed in with the less nuanced “RESIGN NOW !!!!”
Within a week, Arbush did what the Jewish News described as the ”…u turn to end all u turns”. He issued a grovelling apology which he circulated to every deputy. This wasn’t a clarification, it was a complete retraction of just about everything he had said. While a week ago the JLC had been the devil incarnate, they now were playing ….
“…a vital role in the infrastructure of our community “
“…a much needed vehicle for strategic action and planning“
and has done
“…a huge amount to enhance advocacy work for the community.”
The apology placed particular emphasis on the retraction of the inference of financial impropriety.
Arkush explained that he had been “unwell“.
How far from reality Arkush had drifted, is starkly illustrated by the fact that at the time, he was sitting on a liaison committee set up to improve relations between the Board and the JLC !!!!!!
The JLC is no friend of the Palestinian people and has many flaws. Most notably, it retains as CEO, Jeremy Newmark, the notorious perjurer and instigator of the hapless covert funding of Engage Campaign. But, unlike the Board, it at least has one foot in the world inhabited by regular people.
In what was clearly a rhetorical question, the Jewish News asked whether Arkush had any remaining semblance of credibility.
Why did Arkush do this?
His emotional fragility is part of the explanation, but not the whole of it. Many on the Board, including some among the powers that be, are resentful of what they see as a JLC takeover. But it was Arkush who had the wobbler. The explanation is that Arkush had a grievance rubbing on top of a grievance. The ostensible tipping point had been that a deputation of Jewish leaders had had a meeting with David Cameron. It had been led by the Board President but the rest had been mostly JLC people. While this was the tipping point, it was not the underlying sore.
For that, we have to go back to Mick Davis and his temerity in criticising the State of Israel. For Arkush, it was all about Mick Davis. While the encroachment on Board territory was one thing, in speaking his mind, Davis had stepped on Arkush’s own patch. He was the man that dealt with such matters. He was the man that defended the community against the de-legitimisers. Yet Davis, although assuming leadership credentials, wasn’t signed up to the code. He spoke with authority, but was way beyond being bullied, blackmailed or otherwise sanctioned. This was the pent up frustration that led to the melt down.
This man/child, with wildly unpredictable emotions, devoid of judgment but rich in hubris, is driving and fronting the ludicrous vendetta against Revd. Sizer. We have a sneaking suspicion that he’s soon to be “unwell” again.
Links to other websites
From time to time this website may also include links to other websites. These links are provided for your convenience to provide further information. They do not signify that we endorse the website(s). We have no responsibility for the content of the linked website(s).
If it works for the Board of Deputies, it’ll work for us. ~Editor