Arkush was driven by passion, not cynicism

By Alex Brummer, March 1, 2012

First, a confession: I was not present when Jonathan Arkush delivered his excoriating critique of the JLC. After sitting through a couple of hours of procedural gobbledegook about votes for the under-35s, it seemed to me time to return to my day job.

But unlike other BoD members, I did have exclusive access to Mr Arkush as we sat next to each other on a flight to Israel.

My understanding of the reasons for his intervention are that, as he travelled the country, there was unrest in the broader community about the increasing prominence of the JLC, and that he had his own questions about its transparency and accountability.

Both are legitimate concerns, worthy of debate.

The difficulty was, that by raising the issues from the platform, he may have left the impression he was speaking for honorary officers rather than himself. And by overrunning the time limit for speakers he set a bad precedent for people wanting to speak from the floor. He may also have been injudicious in some of the language used.

Moreover, as a member of the BoD-JLC liaison committee (on which I also sit), he had ample opportunity to raise the issues privately and obtain some answers from the JLC representatives - including Mick Davis - rather than making matters public.

Hence the unsubstantiated charge that he was electioneering. The reality is that he felt passionately about the issues and felt he had to speak out.

Given his harsh tone, delivered without warning or discussion, Vivian Wineman - who thinks very deeply about these issues - had no choice but to dissociate himself. Mr Wineman sought a personal apology from Arkush to all parties and has suggested that his vice-president reconsider his position.

However, it has to be said that Mr Davis's response, a veiled threat to future Board funding, only served to reinforce the prevalent (not necessarily accurate) view that somehow the JLC members are wealthy philanthropists pursuing their own agenda.

The right place to deal with these issues was on the liaison group where there has been debate about radical changes in the architecture of the board and the JLC.

Even if more accountability is built into its operations, the JLC may still be regarded with suspicion as a self-perpetuating elite.

It has proved admirably capable of opening doors in government, including those at Number 10, which is critical if the Jewish voice is to be heard at the top table.

But that is not a sufficient reason for the JLC to resist democratic change.

Alex Brummer is City Editor of the Daily Mail and vice-chairman of the BoD's International Division

Last updated: 3:12pm, March 1 2012