Another ineffectual busybody

In 1985, the Jewish, national and indeed international media were fixated by the dispute between the late Rabbi Simche Bunim Lieberman and Jews' College, from which he had been dismissed. I had the honour of acting as Rabbi Lieberman's "amicus" and in that role I was present at and party to the back-room negotiations that eventually led to a settlement.

One day, I was telephoned by a gentleman (he happened to be a member of the Hendon Adass Yisroel synagogue) who assured me that he - and he alone - could obtain for us the kind of financial settlement we wanted, because he - and he alone - could bring to bear upon the leading players (including the then Chief Rabbi, Immanuel Jakobovits) the subtle pressure - the personal touch, the effortless arm-twisting - that this situation required.

He would charge not one penny - perish the thought. He would work behind the scenes. He did in fact, at that meeting, make a number of phone calls. He phoned here; he phoned there. He did indeed, to my certain knowledge, meet some of the leading players in this melodrama. And he did, to my certain knowledge, assure them that he was on their side.

The gentleman from Hendon certainly enjoyed himself. You could see it in his eyes. He was on one huge, albeit private, ego trip, relishing the attention that he had caused to be lavished upon his good self.

Rabbi Gluck was also reported to be involved in talks in Sudan

All this no doubt commendable effort naturally got us precisely nowhere. But it did introduce me to the phenomenon of the communal busybody.

This is a phenomenon of which I was reminded on reading of the labours of Rabbi Herschel Gluck, whose apparent and formerly clandestine "negotiations" with the Iranian authorities have been revealed to us all through the publication by WikiLeaks of unredacted communications between the American embassy in London and the US state department in Washington.

Rabbi Gluck is a communal busybody. If the WikiLeaks material (dating from April 2009) is to be believed, Gluck had 'over the last several years' had supposedly secret meetings in London with a representative (of sorts) of the Iranian government and had, on 7 April, and 'at the behest of the Israeli Embassy,' met with this personage expressly to discuss the fate of Israeli hostages thought to be held by Hizbollah and Hamas – specifically the airman Ron Arad and the kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit.

Believe me, I would be the last person in the world to descry the importance - in principle –- of such a mission. And I am fully prepared to accept that it was undertaken exclusively in a spirit of altruism and from the deepest of religious principles.

I can well understand Gluck's anger that this most sensitive material has entered the public domain. But now that this has happened it seems to me that his own interests would be best served by publicly answering some questions that must occur to us as we ponder what the leaked cables really signify.

One set of questions relate to Gluck's credentials. What we are presented with in this unredacted material is of course hearsay. It's a report of a report. In these situations the room for distortion and misinterpretation is very wide.

Be that as it may I did find myself asking, once I had finished reading the cables, how Gluck came to be involved in this business in the first place. Did he offer his services? Or was he invited?

I'm also intrigued that the regime that rules in Teheran would be prepared to do business with Gluck, who I understand is an adherent of the Lubavitch movement. Had the intermediary been a member of the anti-Zionist Neturei Karta, I could well understand Teheran's willingness to sanction such a dialogue. But Lubavitch is not Neturei Karta (God Forbid!). Does this revelation reflect a hitherto hidden sphere of Lubavitch activity?

And what of Gluck himself? A couple of years ago he was reported to be holding talks with the warring parties in Sudan. Before that he was seemingly 'involved' in the conflict in what was Yugoslavia. What exactly was this involvement? And what did his secret Sudanese talks achieve?

What we do know is that - alas - Gluck's Iranian initiative appears to have yielded nothing of substance.

Unless he can demonstrate that some positive benefit has derived from his numerous diplomatic exertions I shall - I'm afraid - continue to regard him as little more than a well-meaning and no doubt affable communal busybody.

    Last updated: 9:41am, September 16 2011