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    Very perceptive post Judy. Yes there is a blatant disconnect between the leadership and the rank and file. That's what happens when those that pay the pipers call the policy tune and those pipers are themselves leftist grandees with a 'don't rock the boat so they won't notice us' mentality. Fortunately there is now a backlash.


    Judy, I agree there is a disconnect between the rank & file and leadership, and that the JLC is a fundamentally undemocratic body.

    However, I don't get the connection between this issue and the alleged Peace Now/Labour entrism. JLC does include Labour figures like Lord Levy and Trevor Chinn, but also Tory grandees like Stanley Fink, Poju Zabludowicz and Howard Leigh. Isn't Mick Davis also a Tory? (I recall he was implicated in the Werrity/Fox scandal and that he has bankrolled Michael Gove.)

    I'm less confident in saying the following, but I also think you overexaggerate the unrepresentativeness of the Peace Now folks. Yes, the overwhelming majority of members of the British Jewish community are pro-Israel Zionists, but the majority of them are pro-peace and supporters of the two state solution, not Likudniks. And I think (contra Ken Livingstone's self-fulfilling claims) the majority of British Jews still vote Labour (if not in London mayoral elections!).


    The rank-and-file, Jonathan? You mean you and your four friends.


    Bob, the driving forces in the JLC today are Mick Davis (definitely well left of centre on Israel, was happy to give the Jewish Chronicle an interview in which he said he was sometimes ashamed of Israel), Vivian Wineman (Peace Now), Jeremy Newmark (had brilliant idea of funding soft Trotskyists Engage to lead the campaign against the higher ed boycott with disastrous results), with political support from Jerry Lewis (Labour, sympa to Peace Now), Laurence Brass (LibDem, sympa to Peace Now) and Gerald Ronson (massive property development interests in London, funded Livingstone in 2008 election). The ones you name are not currently active.

    Mick Davis did not fund Fox/Werrity. I think you're confusing him with Michael Hentze.Davis is an arrogant billionaire used to getting his own way who is totally convinced he knows best and despises the views of the ordinary mainstream Jewish community. But he's no fool.

    Peace Now has so few supporters in the UK that it has all but folded as a community group. Its leadership and activists have embedded themselves in the leadership of the Board of Deputies and the JLC. Vivian WIneman, previously Chair of Peace Now, and now President of the BoD is also the former UK chair of the New Israel Fund which inter alia funds radical anti-zionist NGOs like Adalah, Breaking the Silence etc. It is also all but dead in Israel.

    You use a concept of "Likudniks" which appears to come straight from the lexicon of Engage as the favoured boo-word to apply to people who might consider that the current elected coalition government of Israel is doing what's best for Israel in the current situation.

    There are very few British Jews who currently think peace is within reach in the Israel-Palestine conflict.
    They do not share the current pollyanna-ishness of the UK political parties, the EU or the US Democrats about peace being just around the corner if we can only get the two parties talking to each other.

    Avoid relying on Engage and high profile left-left wing Jews for your view of the community.


    Thanks for a very comprehensive and persuasive answer Judy. A few points:

    1. Looking on the internet for Mick Davis' party finance connections is very murky, as people like him attract antisemitic conspiracy theories like the proverbial flies to etc, but looks like a fairly reliable source. "The donors to Mr Gove’s office include Mick Davis, who also gave money to Pargav, the company that funded Mr Werritty’s international travel.
    Mr Davis, the chief executive of the mining company Xstrata, gave Mr Gove £7,500 to support him “in the capacity as an MP”." According to the (perhaps less reliable) Guardian in October, "Davis gave £150,000 to Conservative party central office over the last 21 months according to Electoral Commission records." The Telegraph also says that Poju as well as Davis channelled money through Pargav. Of course, as you note, it is wrong to see these people (as the Guardian does) as "pro-Israel" or a "Zionist lobby", in that Davis, for example, has been sharply critical of Israeli government policy. Nonetheless, he is not by any means an anti-Zionist, and nor is he a Labour supporter.

    [More to follow]


    2. It is certainly true that Peace Now and New Israel Fund supporters have become prominent in communal organisations, both through democratic mandate in representative bodies (as with Wineman, Lewis and Brass) and undemocratically as "the great and the good" and/or through their philanthropic activities (as with Davis, Pears, Chinn, etc).

    It is also true that in the case of the Board there was quite a striking, rapid rise to prominence.

    However, to jump from that to "entryism" seems like an enormous step to me. Unless used in such a vague sense as to be meaningless, entryism implies a pretty highly organised (usually semi-clandestine) organisation systematically setting out to enter another organisation and aspire to take some control over it, as with Militant and various municipal Labour parties in the 1980s or more recently Socialist Action and the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Islamic Forum Europe and Respect then Tower Hamlets Labour, or perhaps the Revolutionary Communist Party and Boris Johnson's City Hall.

    Are Labour or Peace Now doing anything comparable with Jewish communal organisations?

    Maybe, but you need more evidence than the coincidence of a relatively small number of politically quite disparate people taking prominent positions in this period.


    Continuing the same thought. Just taking Wineman and Lewis, the two prominent Labour/Peace Now people, even if there was some concerted PN effort to become more active in the Board, you can't say that they were johnny-come-latelies to the Board or communal outsiders. Lewis has been Deputy for Hampstead United Synagogue since 1976 and been VP twice before. Wineman was a VP at least one term before becoming president, and has been a Deputy for some time. In fact, they stood against each other for the president slot in 2009, which would have been a very sloppy strategy for serious entrists. Meanwhile, Brass, the Liberal, has represented Bushey United at the Board for 38 years. Note, all 3 are from United shuls, which seems relevant too.

    [Still more to come!]


    3. I agree with you about unelected grandees in the JLC "increasingly seeking to bypass the Board and install themselves as the go-to organization for government and other agencies". It is worth noting, though, that it has ever been thus. In the 1900s, the Board and the Anglo-Jewish Association were dominated by the Cousinhood which had next to nothing in common with the immigrant Jews who made up most of the community, with completely different political interests - e.g. the Board did its best to say as little as possible about the Kishinev pogrom. By 1917, when the Board had changed a bit as immigrant Zionists entered the leadership position, the anti-Zionist Cousinhood tried to bypass it through the unelected AJA. And so on.

    [Still more to come]


    4. You are no doubt right that PN and NIF do not have the organisational support of all that many British Jews. (The former was re-launched a month or two ago, with a Tory chair. We'll see if they can make a go of it.) But I don't think they are out of step with mainstream communal opinion. The 2010 JPR survey is the most accurate picture we have of Jewish opinion It revealed a thoroughly Zionist community - but not an uncritical one:
    "Over three-quarters favour a “two state solution” as the “only way Israel will achieve peace with its neighbours in the Middle East”, and two-thirds favour trading land for peace. Furthermore, three-quarters oppose the expansion of settlements in the West Bank.
    • Some go further still – just over half (52% as against 39%) would support Israeli government negotiations with Hamas.

    Perhaps most significantly for a community that has long debated the acceptability of Jewish criticism of Israel in public, a slight majority (53% to 45%) believes that Jews living in Britain have the right to judge Israel, and nearly three-quarters believe that Jews should be free to speak their mind about Israel in the British media in at least some, if not all circumstances."

    Of course, things may well have shifted since 2010, but I doubt if they have dramatically.

    The JPR, also 2010, just before the last election, so same caveat, is best source for voting too. They found then that 31% of Jews back Labour, 30% Tory, with several interesting but very predictable differences by employment status, religiosity, gender, region, etc etc

    So I was wrong when I said the majority of British Jews still vote Labour, but any sense that the Winemanites might be out of step with the community because they are Labour is completely inaccurate.

    [Just one more to go!]


    Sorry this is taking so long (am in between some domestic chores) and that I am being so verbose (no excuse for that, just a character flaw). This is my final point.

    5. I live in South London and am not a synagogue attender, and do not for a minute claim to be close to the pulse of Anglo-Jewry. But I also read the JC most weeks, and my Jewish social network includes quite a range of non-Engagenik positions, so I think I am a reasonably informed outsider. As an outsider, I have no particular axe to grind for or against Arkush, Wineman or any of the other protagonists in this story.

    But as an academic I do have an axe to grind on the boycott issue. Is it true that Newmark/JLC funded Engage? Or that the results of Engage's strategy have been "disastrous"? Or that a different strategy against an academic boycott would have been more effective?

    Finally, on this:
    You use a concept of "Likudniks" which appears to come straight from the lexicon of Engage as the favoured boo-word to apply to people who might consider that the current elected coalition government of Israel is doing what's best for Israel in the current situation.
    I used Likudnik as a sloppy shorthand, but I do not take it from the Engage lexicon. Sure, people have the right to consider the current elected coalition government of Israel is doing what's best for Israel in the current situation, but I have the right to think they are completely wrong in thinking that. Can you suggest a better boo-word for me to use? "People who might consider that the current elected coalition government of Israel is doing what's best for Israel in the current situation" seems a little cumbersome, and PWMCTTCECGOIIDWBFIITCS seems a bit esoteric. ;)


    Yes,it is true that the then Board of Deputies, with Jeremy Newmark central to the operation concerned, funded Engage to run a campaign against the then boycott proposals of AUT in 2005.

    It was absolutely stupid and disastrous, as well as profoundly dishonest and contrary to what the Jewish community would have wanted, because it believed that a slightly less anti-zionist Trotskyist group (AWL) could muster enough support to defeat the virulently anti-zionist PLO-supporting SWP faction leading the boycott campaign.

    So this then created a huge publicity-generating platform for the boycotters, which they would otherwise not have got, and created a debate based solely around the issue of which was the best way for this academic union to show its solidarity with the Palestinians. This is something quite ridiculously stupid for Newmark and his backers to have done. Because as George Galloway's victory demonstrates, you are bound to be outflanked by more hard line radicals if you try and be just a little bit radical.

    It led to Jewish members of AUT being subjected to horrendous abuse and bullying, and to a degree of isolation that led to many of them leaving the Union.

    Most stupidly of all, Engage put a lot of energy into getting all those supporting its anti-boycott campaign to support the drive of the SWP hardliners and their allies for the merger of the much bigger NATFHE union (long dominated by the SWP and its allies) with AUT. It could have helped to defeat that merger. Instead, Engage unleashed its utmost vitriol and scorn in time honoured Trot manner on all (like me) who pointed out what disaster this would bring.

    In the end, Engage was soundly defeated, and its reps, including leader David Hirsh, were voted out of being reps. What a triumph!

    The answer to the boycott threat in the first place was to do what the Board of Deputies finally did do once this calamity had played out, which was to use the law,which actually prevents unions from exercising the boycott actions they proposed to take.

    Could all have been done much more cheaply and honestly by sending a few solicitor's letters, and without helping the SWP take control of what was formerly a respectable academic union which they could never otherwise have captured, and gain much more publicity for their anti-zionist cause with the help of the Guardian and the BBC.

    Brian Goldfarb

    As a newcomer here, I'd like to take up just one segment of the comments (and original article). Bob says, above, "Or that the results of Engage's strategy have been "disastrous"? Or that a different strategy against an academic boycott would have been more effective?"

    As one who comments regularly on the Engage website and has had two articles published by them, I'd like to echo Bob's questions. UCU has been forced to a position where it cannot implement its boycott position: pressure both from its own lawyers and from members using the law (and retaining Anthony Julius) have seen to this. And our efforts on the site have had some effect here: there are people out here, many from the academic community (even if, like me, retired) who have helped strengthen the arms of those still fighting from within. I find it significant that, even when directly challenged, the Left Faction on the UCU Executive do not take up gauntlet - they know they have a weak case outside their own political coterie.

    BTW, is Engage really composed of a lot of "soft Trotskyists"? As a recidivist Labour voter and sometime party member, who lived through the entryism crisis of the 80s (as a Hattersleyite, of all things), I find that hard to believe. I think I'm reasonably well-attuned to such nuances...and Trotskyites, soft or otherwise, are not noted for their support for Israel and a two-state solution.

    Judy, you say, with regard to the BoD funding of Engage, "It was absolutely stupid and disastrous, as well as profoundly dishonest". What precisely was dishonest about it?



    It was dishonest because it amounted to a proxy funding of a profoundly anti-religious Trotskyist group to support the Board of Deputies' aim of defending British Jews. It was dishonest because it was never formally announced-- it emerged after being referred to by at least one journalist, and Jeremy Newmark, the key official responsible for this shabby debacke commented in an article reporting his view of the supposed triumph of using this tactic that they had "worked with" this group.

    It was dishonest because it was never put to the decision-making authority of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, where it would certainly have been voted down and the tactic of using a Trotskyist group as a proxy overwhelmingly condemned.

    Additionally, it was deeply dishonest because had the funding been known and owned up to at the launch of the major campaign by Engage which got its funding from the BoD, their credibility as a radical left group opposing the boycotters from the left would have been shot to shreds.

    I'm sure i could identify more ways in which it was profoundly dishonest, but that's enough to be going on with.

    Thanks for that. Very interesting.

    A Facebook User

    I just don't get this, far too serpentine and Smileyish for me to follow. But what is your evidence for the assertion that the BoD paid for Engage at the start? I've read through the above and might have missed it, but I don't think I have.

    Second, Engage "Trotskyist"? I don't support everything Engage says, far from it, but I still maintain that they have put forward a number of arguments that have never, to this day, been adequately answered by their opponents. (Israeli - Jewish - academics "on the planet and nobody else" -- that sort of thing; inconsistency in approaches to human rights issues, and so on.)

    Some of the above seems to me to have an odd paranoid flavour.

    -- Brian Robinson


    Brian Robinson, you're obviously someone who either wasn't around when Engage first launched its campaigns in 2005 or never bothered to read what they issued or linked to. They were always very closely linked to the Alliance for Workers' Liberty which is a Trotskyist political party. Most of the core people in Engage (particularly Hirsh, Pike and Ashworth had at one time been AWL members though they had become members of the Labour Party. They closely followed the analysis of AWL and linked to its web site from theirs with what they saw as key analysis articles, based on particularly preposterous soft Trotskyist theories. They operated as a typical closed Trotskyist caucus and took no individual step independently of the caucus line.

    The day after the AUT Council voted down the first attempt at a boycott resolution, Hirsh and Pike organized a celebratory Engage meeting at which the invited speaker was Sean Matagamna of AWL, its guru, and an obscure ideologue no other organization would ever invite to speak.

    One article which refers in passing to the Board of Deputies' sponsorship of Engage isRonnie Fraser's summary history of the series of AUT and subsequently UCU efforts to establish academic boycotts of Israeli universities and academics.

    I wrote about the machinations of Engage and the fact that the official Jewish community idiotically and outrageously outsourced the fight against the boycott to them on various occasions on Adloyada, notably here and here.

    Jeremy Newmark gave an interview to the Jerusalem Post circa 2005-2006 boasting of the extraordinary sagacity of the Board of Deputies in ensuring that there would be no boycott after having secured the totally meaningless ":reassurances" referred to in the second of the Adloyada posts I linked to.

    Melanie Phillips also blogged on her former personal blog about these actions at the time.

    Although all of these writings have been in the public domain for many years, neither Engage or the Board of Deputies have ever denied that they received funding from the BoD for the campaign. Jeremy Newmark has frequently made personally disparaging remarks about me (though we have never had any meetings or conversations) but has never formally denied that the funding took place or that he played a major role in the operation.

    For what it's worth, I was assured in a personal conversation with a senior elected officer of the Board of Deputies that funding of Engage had ceased some time ago.

    Dr Brian Robinson

    Thank you. I note that in a reply to Mark Elf you have clarified why you think it was dishonest of Engage (proxy funding &c).

    Even so, given that Engage's declared policy was then and is now to oppose what it sees as antisemitism on the left, and given that one of the roles (I'm assuming this) of the BoD is to fight antisemitism wherever it sees it, I'm not clear as to what would have been wrong with the latter organisation contributing towards the work of the former.

    They may be right, they may be wrong, as to their assessment of what constitutes antisemitism, but that's another matter.

    My recollection of Engage's early days is that a group of concerned individuals got together and worked the telephones, a quite standard practice when founding a new group.

    I recall throwing in a fiver or two myself (although my relations with Engage have had ups and downs since then).

    So even if what you allege is true (and I have no other source of information on this) there are and always have been all sorts of reasons why organisations don't always declare who all their donors are.

    Sometimes that's a reason for suspicion, or at least regret, but at other times it's just sensible politics. Absence of full disclosure (if it existed) doesn't necessarily invalidate what an organisation has achieved.

    Sure, some members of the AWL were close to Engage and vice versa, but as Brian Goldfarb has suggested above, that doesn't make *Engage*, the institution, or its policies and pronouncements Trotskyist.

    All best


    Hey, I've seen worse. In the past Israel has had at least one Prime Minister (Yitzhak Shamir) and one Foreign Minister (David Levy) whose English was even poorer than Amir's


    Hey, Elie.We live in Maale Adumim and are thinking of reinntg a cheaper place. Tzur Hadassa or maybe the moshav Mata. We have four kids and would love anything between 4 to 7 rooms, but can in no way afford a penny above 3,500 a month. We'd love a place with more nature etc but we don't have a car. How are the bus connections to Tsur Hadassah and to Mata?Tuvia

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