Deps attack JLC's Davis of 'apartheid'

“You’ve been demoted: the Main Event is now Mick Davis vs the Deputies”

“You’ve been demoted: the Main Event is now Mick Davis vs the Deputies”

Members of the Board of Deputies launched a barrage of attacks at UJIA chairman Mick Davis on Sunday during a heated debate on the role of the Jewish Leadership Council.

Amid raised voices and finger-wagging, more than 20 deputies grilled Mr Davis, chairman of the JLC's board of trustees.

Many queued for more than an hour to claim their chance at the microphone before seizing the opportunity to unleash months of pent-up vitriol.

Bernard Silver, deputy for Western Marble Arch Synagogue, told Mr Davis: "I admire your chutzpah. The arrogance of the wealthy - they see themselves as the leaders even if they are inferior in every other way."

Shenley United Synagogue deputy Anthony Spencer added: "I have stopped my donations to UJIA while you are in charge, because I do not consider you a fit and proper leader for that organisation."

But Mr Davis hit back, replying angrily: "Don't come here and lecture me."

He had agreed to speak to deputies to defend the JLC's role in community life. Many deputies are among the JLC's most vocal critics.

Mr Davis sent shockwaves through the diaspora last November when he broke the taboo on community leaders criticising Israeli government policy by claiming that Israel risked becoming an apartheid state unless a two-state solution with the Palestinians could be reached.

At Sunday's meeting he refused to withdraw those comments, saying the remarks had since been supported by Israeli politicians, including Ehud Barak, and diaspora leaders such as the World Jewish Congress's Ronald Lauder.

Mr Davis gave a 20-minute presentation explaining the JLC's structure and work, and told deputies: "This constant claim that the JLC is a self-elected, unappointed bunch of people is just absolute nonsense. It is made up of constituent members; the board of trustees is appointed by those members. The major charities of this community are entitled to get themselves together and form an umbrella body as they wish.

"The JLC has been instrumental in the last few years in the education commission, the investment into saving schooling provision in Redbridge, the new leadership network, the political oversight group.

"We all have a role to play here. It's not a competition. You ask, is the JLC superfluous? Clearly not."

But deputies were almost unrelenting in their attacks. Woodside Park Synagogue deputy Jonathan Hoffman said: "To use the apartheid analogy in connection with Israel … is to use the language of every Jew-hater, every Israel-hater, every Hamas-apologist and every far left, antisemitic anti-Zionist. No Jewish leader should place the words 'Israel' and 'apartheid' in the same sentence, let alone a South African of an age to know better."

Deputies speaking later in the session called for greater respect to be shown to invited guests.

Mr Davis, who is chief executive of mining and metals company Xstrata, admitted the JLC had "not done a good job of selling itself to the community".

But he added: "Do not minimise the good that the JLC has done. Do not think [the Board] has a sole right to determine what is right and wrong in the context of Israel. Clearly there is a trust deficit which I openly acknowledge, but that does not take away the outstanding things that have been done by the JLC."

Last updated: 1:46pm, July 21 2011