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....."