Mouth open and foot put in

By Geoffrey Alderman, December 6, 2010

No one of any intelligence can dispute the right of Mr Mick Davis, as a private individual, to say - in public and within reason- whatever he likes about anything he feels the need to say anything he likes about. But if, in public, Mr Davis - the head of UJIA - chooses to unburden himself of certain prejudices to which he has succumbed concerning the state of Israel, its government and the proceedings of its parliament, he runs certain risks.

Neither he nor his disciples have any right to complain if, as a result of taking these risks, he reveals himself to be a man with a great deal of money but little common sense.

And that, unfortunately, is precisely what Mick Davis has been and gone and done. And he has been and gone and done it not just as a private individual but as a holder of communal office.

Let us first consider some of Mr Davis's actual utterances at the London Jewish Cultural Centre three weeks ago.

Israel, the implication is, should frame its policies to keep Mick Davis comfortable

He made clear his dislike of some of the policies currently pursued by the elected government of the Jewish state. "I think the government of Israel…" he said, "have to recognise that their actions directly impact me as a Jew living in London… When they do good things it is good for me, when they do bad things, it's bad for me. And the impact on me is as significant as it is on Jews living in Israel."

Note the crass phrase "as significant as". The inexorable thrust of this statement is that the policies and actions of the Jewish state are responsible for the anti-Jewish prejudice that Davis apparently encounters as he goes about his business as a resident of the United

If this is true - as Mr Davis certainly believes it to be - then the inescapable implication is that, in framing its policies, and particularly in developing its defence strategy, the elected government of Israel should have at the very forefront of its mind the preservation of the creature comforts that Mick Davis enjoys in his London home and the desirability of maintaining good relations between Mr Davis and his non-Jewish friends, acquaintances and commercial associates.

Again, anyone - I would have thought - of any intelligence ought to be able to see at once how foolish (to put it mildly) such a policy would be.

Israel is a country whose inhabitants are threatened daily with suicide bombers, rocket attacks and drive-by shootings, to say nothing of nuclear annihilation at the behest of the mad men of Tehran.

The overriding duty of Israel's government is to protect its citizens and the state in which they live, not to frame policies congenial to Mr Davis (living in relative safety in London) or his non-Jewish friends, acquaintances and commercial associates.

The UJIA chairman also took issue with some specific policies currently being pursued by the government of Israel and the elected representatives of the Jewish state. He reportedly spoke about the "moral dilemmas" of settlement building and the "repugnant" loyalty oath for non-Jewish immigrants.

Let me tell him something. The oath proposal has also troubled me - but only because I regard all such declarations (including the declarations now required of all those who wish to become UK citizens) as largely devoid of meaning.

As for the settlement building, these strike me as being in large measure a strategic necessity; their construction is, moreover, perfectly defensible when considered from the point of view of international law.

But to agree or disagree with specifics of Mick Davis's remarks is to miss the point. Davis is the mega-wealthy head of an international conglomerate producing a range of precious metals and minerals including ferrochrome and coking coal.

He is the coking-coal aficionado who currently chairs, not only the UJIA, but also the executive committee of a completely unelected body here in the UK known as the Jewish Leadership Council.

If Mr Davis wishes to enter the arena of Israeli politics, perchance to stand for election to the Knesset and (who knows?) run for office, let him relocate to the Jewish state and take upon himself the rights, obligations and risks of citizenship.

If he does not wish to follow this path, he should tread more carefully on the path - that of UK communal big-shot --- upon which he at present stands.

    Last updated: 11:04am, December 6 2010