JNF quits leadership council after dispute

One of the oldest Jewish charities, JNF UK, has been accused of "withdrawing from communal life" by deciding to quit the Jewish Leadership Council.

JNF chairman Samuel Hayek, writing in today's JC, said he had resigned his seat at the council because of the JLC's escalating costs and its executive's failure to listen to other members.

But the JLC's Vivian Wineman, in a sharp letter to Mr Hayek, seen by the JC, said that the JLC had left a few weeks after being threatened with suspension for failing to pay more than £10,000 in membership subscriptions.

He told the JNF head: "Under your leadership JNF has shut down its education department, closed its regional offices and is in effect withdrawing from communal life… Your withdrawal from the JLC represents a continuation of this process."

The divorce between the two organisations follows months in which Mr Hayek has been at odds with the council's leaders. He objected to the criticism of Israel made by Mick Davis, who is chairman of the UJIA and of the JLC's board of trustees, and to the JLC's planned mission to the West Bank.

Public criticism of Israel by Jews, however well-intentioned, "strengthens the global delegitimisation campaign [against Israel] in a way that any one-sided report on Al Jazeera or the BBC cannot", Mr Hayek stated. The West Bank trip, if it had happened, would have "fallen into the propaganda framework set by Israel's enemies".In troubling times, Israel deserved "unwavering, public support" from the diaspora, he said.

He criticised the JLC for shifting "from a domestic to a foreign agenda based around Israel" and into areas covered by the Board of Deputies.

The JNF could not justify the £26,000 annual membership to cover the JLC's escalating costs. "The isolated manner in which the JLC's executive leadership operates meant that voices round the table were not being heard," he said.

But Mr Wineman accused JNF of "failure to meet its communal responsibilities". As well as owing the JLC £10,2675 in membership fees, JNF UK had failed to pay £15,000 in expected contributions to the community's anti-boycott campaign for three years, he claimed.

Mr Wineman, who is also president of the Board, denied the JLC had changed its agenda and said Israel-diaspora relations had always been part of its remit. Only last month, JNF had proposed that the JLC set up an Israel policy forum chaired by Mr Hayek, he said.

Mr Wineman also said that to suggest that "the JLC or any of its members would do anything to support the delegitimisation of Israel is shameful".

Accusing Mr Hayek of having attended only four out of a possible 11 JLC meetings, he said: "It is very difficult for you to credibly offer commentary on the agenda of the organisation."

● El Al have announced a new deal with JNF and KKL in which passengers who book return London-Tel Aviv flights online will be spared an additional
tariff on the ticket to offset carbon emissions. Instead, a tree will be planted in Israel to offset emissions.

Last updated: 2:20pm, March 3 2011