ZF co-Vice Chair Blasts Board's 'Macavity' - by JC Muckraker

By Jonathan Hoffman
November 7, 2009


Jonathan Hoffman was given just an hour before the JC's deadline on Wednesday to respond to this attack, at a time when he was busy with his dayjob. He says "I wonder whether the timing was deliberate on Lewis' part, to ensure I had as little time to respond as possible".

He has three points to make in addition to the 'sour grapes' one made in the article.

First he was accused of "damaging both Israel’s case and beyond". "I fear my detractor is on dangerous ground" he says. "I can truly say that I have never seen him in print, in blogs or on TV, or heard him on the radio or speaking out at hostile meetings. You might call him the Macavity of Israel Advocacy. And that well-worn old Board line about 'working behind the scenes' is very convenient as an unverifiable assertion but it won't wash I'm afraid, especially given the other unverifiable assertion in the attack on me ("his tactics have been the cause of many complaints to the Board")".

Jonathan reminds us that his detractor is a past master at unverifiable assertions. In the Jewish Telegraph in 2008 (sorry, no link available) Lewis criticised ZF Chairman Andrew Balcombe for living in Israel. He said "Having a Chairman living abroad is an insult to the people in this country who wish to be part of a vibrant organisation supporting Israel. **Many other people feel the same way but are too afraid to speak out**. Andrew has a hell of a lot to answer for and I challenge him to name me one other national British organisation that is run from abroad. Sooner or later he will trip himself up, and be forced to resign, or he will lead the ZF into oblivion". (Jonathan adds: "Shortly after this, Lewis had the chutzpah to ask for a free Press ticket to the ZF's Balfour Lecture. With amazing restraint, I told him this would not be possible.")

Second Jonathan says we should look at those two words "...and beyond" ("damaging Israel's case and beyond"). They are clearly carefully chosen, he points out. What could they mean? Here's an interpretation an old friend of Jonathan's suggested. There is a long and ignoble history of people who run the Board opposing any form of Jewish activism that they do not control or originate, most particularly activism which increases the blood pressure of antisemites. It is well known that those in charge at first opposed the Zionist movement and that after the Second World War their successors opposed the 43 Group.


Could the "..and beyond" be a coded way of suggesting that by speaking out at meetings to rebut Israel-based antisemitism, Jonathan is himself the cause of antisemitism -- and that it would be far better if he stayed stumm?

"If that is indeed what Lewis has in mind" Jonathan says in amazement "how dare he make such a libellous and despicable insinuation. Would he say that Muslims who vocally protest against Islamophobia are causing it?"

"Third" he continues "let's look at the verdict of my effectiveness from the estimable veteran advocate Isi Leibler, formerly of Australia, now of Israel".


(More than anyone else, he was responsible for turning around the standing of Israel in Australia).

Leibler wrote in the Jerusalem Post last week lamenting the 'erosion and marginalisation of most Diaspora Zionist organisations, with a few notable exceptions.' Jonathan asked him if the UK ZF was one of his exceptions.

Jonathan quotes Leibler's response with permission: "For many years the UK ZF was low profile and inconsequential. It is only in recent times since you and a few others stood up to the trembling Israelites purporting to lead the Jewish community that it became one of the exceptions I mentioned"

Jonathan observes: "So much for "damaging Israel's case" (me) and "tripping himself up" and "leading the ZF into oblivion" (Andrew Balcombe)."

"And I wonder" asks Jonathan "who Leibler has in mind when he speaks of "trembling Israelites"?"

Lewis' extraordinary ad hominem attack was maybe designed to deflect attention from the criticisms which the elected officers of the Board are taking on other matters. Now that it has so spectacularly backfired, maybe (Jonathan asks) Messrs Wineman, Brass, Edlin and Arkush will have the decency to disassociate themselves from it?

"And maybe the next time Mr Bad Loser indulges in a spot of vindictive character assassination your journalists will simply put the phone down?"

"It's not as if you are going to be short of genuine stories, after all....."


Jonathan Hoffman

Sat, 11/07/2009 - 01:35

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The JC published four letters defending me. Here's a fifth:


Jonathan Hoffman is one of Anglo Jewry's greatest and most valuable activists and campaigners. Jerry Lewis should be ashamed of attacking him ("Board blasts Israel’s 'maverick' defender", JC 16 October).
Jonathan is a true and good friend to Anglo Jewry and Israel, and has the support of many Jews and non Jews, both on and off the Board of Deputies.

The CST's figures show that the UK is facing unprecedented levels of antisemitism. Many feel the effects first-hand, and are legitimately very worried. Unbridled and unjustified attacks on Israel are the conduit for this antisemitism, and Jonathan Hoffman knows that strong action is required to stop this trend. The list of Jonathan's many effective campaigns would be too long to include here. Suffice it to say that the British Jewish community needs more people like him willing to do the hard work of protecting British Jews and Israel, and inspiring others to do likewise. If he tests the patience of those who constantly attack us, much the better. He lets them know that we won't keep quiet in the face of wrongdoing and prejudice.

We are not alone in our support of Hoffman. He was elected to be the co-vice chair of the Zionist Federation. He was elected to the Board of Deputies. And he was elected onto the International Division of the Board. He is a man with popular support. Last week, he started a petition to Gordon Brown to reject the dreadful Goldstone Report. You can count the 2,900+ people who have signed so far as yet more supporters of his action; Jonathan literally gave these people a voice. Perhaps Jerry Lewis should side with our friends like Jonathan, and not with War on Want and Amnesty who are openly hostile to Israel and consequently British Jews.

Yours faithfully,

(in alphabetical order)

Sam Beilin,
Chairman Liverpool Jewish Youth and Community Centre

Geoffrey K Bernstein

Janet Clifford

Howard Cuckle
Emeritus Professor, University of Leeds

Jennie Goldstone
UK Coordinator-Sarel-Volunteers for Israel

Carol Gould

Colin Green

Hazel Green
METRuth Group

Sue Hadden
Chair, Liverpool Israel Support Team

Dr Saul Issroff
Hon Vice-President of Jewish Genealogy Society of Great Britain
Project Director, Centre for Jewish Migration and Genealogy Studies,
The Isaac and Jessie Kaplan Centre for Jewish Studies and Research
University of Cape Town

Keith M Jeater

Lyn C Julius

Councillor Linda Kelly,
LB of Hackney (twinned with Haifa) and Past Speaker of LB of Hackney.

Ann Levin

Peter Lewin

Daniel Mann

Andrew Metz

Chas Newkey-Burden

Edith Ognall

Roslyn Pine

Thelma Ruby

Jonathan Sacerdoti

Mrs Jane Sugarman

Joel Sugarman BSc(Hons) PGCE

Martin Sugarman
Chair Hackney Anglo-Israel Twining Association and Archivist of the
AJEX Jewish Military Museum

Jonathan DC Turner
13/14 Old Square, Lincoln's Inn, London WC2A 3UE

gordon bennett

Sat, 11/07/2009 - 20:17

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Any one who publishes letters of support in his name is really scraping the barrel. And as for Isi Leibler's rant: Why should the leadership of British Jewry be spokesmen and women for Israel? Surely, Israel is old enough and behaves ugly enough to look after itself. And it has salaried diplomats to speak in its name. British Jews should look after British Jews. We don't want allegations of dual loyalty, do we?

Jonathan Hoffman

Sun, 11/08/2009 - 11:33

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"Why should the leadership of British Jewry be spokesmen and women for Israel?"

1. Because 40% of the world's Jews live there and 80% of the population is Jewish.

2. Because the Board of Deputies' Constitution obliges it to "take such appropriate action as lies within it power to advance Israel's security, welfare and standing"

3. Because the current wave of antisemitic discourse is Israel-based and it is down to British Jews and their leadership to rebut that.

"We don't want allegations of dual loyalty, do we?"

Such allegations come only from antisemites. It is up to British Jews to have the knowledge and the guts to rebut such allegations.

gordon bennett

Sun, 11/08/2009 - 22:00

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So what if 40 per cent of world Jews live in Israel or that 80 or 75 per cent of the population is Jewish. Perhaps if you really cared about Israel, you'd go an live there.Maybe the time has come to change the Board's constitution and maybe Israel needs to be reminded that through its rejectionist policies it isn't doing enough to advance its security, welfare and standing.
The discourse is anti-Israel, not anti-Semitic. It is wrong to conflate and confuse the two. Israel may have a Jewish majority, but it doesn't speak for Jews.
British Jews should have the knowledge and the guts to recognise that fact.

Jonathan Hoffman

Tue, 11/10/2009 - 18:20

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"The discourse is anti-Israel, not anti-Semitic"


Anti-zionism IS antisemitism. You obviously have not read the EUMC Antisemitism Definition, framed by an official EU body and widely accepted throughout the civilised world:

"Examples of the ways in which antisemitism manifests itself with regard to the state of Israel taking into account the overall context could include: Denying the Jewish people their right to self­determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor.

Applying double standards by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other
democratic nation.

Using the symbols and images associated with classic antisemitism (e.g., claims of Jews killing Jesus or blood libel) to characterize Israel or Israelis.

Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.

Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel. "


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