The law of Unintended Consequences


By mikesamuels
November 8, 2011
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The American sociologist, Robert K Merton interpreted the ‘law of Unintended Consequences’ into roughly three group types:

• A positive unexpected benefit
• A negative detriment occurring in addition to the desired effect of the policy
• A perverse effect contrary to what was originally intended

The latter is the route that Rabbi Jonathan Guttentag’s initiative of the ‘Big Tent for Israel’ has now taken.

He was well intentioned in his summation that Israel advocacy needed some new blood and direction. His attempt to mix politics and religion was dangerous, naïve, and failed in no small way because of my input.

To sideline BICOM, to leave a sour taste in the mouths of the Board of Deputies and the JLC and have to relate to the President of the United Synagogues was unprecedented not only in British Jewish communal circles but in Manchester’s long history of Zionist success.

The ‘Tent’ event now seems to be on a sound multi faceted communal course and I hope that it succeeds in its direction.

My thoughts are well documented in my previous blog post and have caused some major upsets in the UK and especially in Manchester resulting in me resigning my position as joint Vice President of the Manchester Jewish Representative Council, an organisation that I have served almost continuously since 1974.

An event of this magnitude costs a fortune and takes a veritable army of people to organise. So what does it hope to achieve?

For the answer to this we must examine what Rabbi Guttentag said in his speech to the Representative Council last Sunday:

‘……My friends it is time for us to do something about this. We must galvanise the quarter of a million Jews who live in this country; we must leverage that into several million non-Jews in this country who are surely fair-minded and who can see that it is to their benefit to be supportive of Israel and to assist us in rebalancing the debate.

We must cast off the pessimism that nothing can be done; or the media is against us or the politicians are against us and everybody is against us. And there are too many of our enemies and too few of us.

We have got to start constructing the framework that will allow us to make a difference; we have got to start thinking big.

We have got to get the community back into campaigning mode. We have become complacent. In the 1960’s in 70’s in the 80’s we knew there was something to fight for; we had to liberate Soviet Jewry, we had to fundraise to pay for the defence of Israel…….’

Fighting talk indeed however with modern technology thousands of activists can be mobilised at short notice and at a fraction of the cost and effort.

He also slaps in the face some of the most knowledgeable and capable people who work tirelessly on Israel’s behalf every day.

This is not only about Israel, it’s about British Jewry’s right to practice our religion unhindered and in whatever degree of observance we choose. It is about the enormous rise in anti Semitism and the vile misinformation being peddled around.

However, we must also carefully examine remarks and criticism before jumping in with both feet and arms flaying.

This is the fight and it’s a fight for all, irrespective of whether they lay tephillin or not. Which Synagogues they attend or how they choose to relate to Hashem that is their private choice and no Rabbi has the right to marginalise them for their beliefs nor attempt to exclude them from playing an active role to preserve their way of life in the UK.

Let us now hope that Robert K Merton interpretation of the ‘law of Unintended Consequences’ first group, positive unexpected benefit is the outcome.

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