A chance to speak

February 11, 2011

Tzipi Livni could scarcely have given a stronger endorsement of the call by Mick Davis last year - repeated with even greater vigour this week - for diaspora Jews to speak out about Israel when they disagree with its government's behaviour. Not only did she say that diaspora Jews had the right to be listened to in Israel; she said they had a duty to speak. Indeed, while Mr Davis was widely criticised for speaking in his capacity as a communal leader rather than as an individual Jew, Ms Livni said that leaders have the very same duty to speak. So it ill behoves those who disagree with Mr Davis' right to speak his mind to argue that they are speaking on Israel's behalf, as if Israelis themselves are somehow offended at the upstart diaspora.

The woman who may well be Israel's next Prime Minister has demanded that he - and the rest of us - speak. As we said when Mr Davis first raised the issue, it is bizarre to demand that our communal leaders adopt a vow of silence on matters of specific Jewish concern. As a people, we debate and discuss. It is in our DNA. It is what defines us. But be clear: both Ms Livni and Mr Davis have called for a conversation, not a speech.

And conversation is a two-way process in which there is room for differing views to be expressed. So that does not mean that only one view should be put forward - the critical. This newspaper has grave reservations about the current Israeli government's genuine commitment to seeking a two-state solution. There is plainly more - a lot more - that could be done. So we make clear our view, and of course hope that those in power listen. But equally there are many in our community who take a different view. Mr Davis has, by default, become Anglo-Jewry's spokesman for the view that the current Israeli government is on the wrong trajectory. But it would be wrong if only that view was heard from the UK. Ms Livni naturally welcomes the expression of views critical of Mr Netanyahu; he is her political opponent. But she must also, if her admirable words are to have a real impact in changing the relationship between Israel and the diaspora, welcome equally heartfelt views in support of government policy. As must Mr Davis. And we must all do the same - listen to and discuss and then, if we wish, reject - the views of those with whom we disagree. Then we really will have a big conversation, of which we can all be proud.

Last updated: 10:53am, February 11 2011