Stop moaning and start doing

November 24, 2016 23:22

Isi Leibler, the much-respected Australian-Israeli communal elder statesman, is well known for his plain-spoken but closely reasoned analyses of the situations in which Jews find themselves. A veteran worker on behalf of Soviet Jewry, a decade ago he turned his attention to suspected financial irregularities in the World Jewish Congress (in which he had occupied a number of senior roles). A spiteful campaign was launched against him but he was vindicated. Indeed, the scale of irregularities turned out to be greater than he had originally alleged.

It's worth noting that, at one stage, the WJC filed a $6million defamation lawsuit against him. You or I might subside into a nervous breakdown if faced with such a prospect. Leibler was completely unfazed. The lawsuit was withdrawn.

Last week, in the Jerusalem Post, Leibler (a not infrequent visitor to our shores) turned his attention to the state of British Jewry. He contrasted the apparent calm of Anglo-Jewish suburban existence with unpleasant realities. He praised our vibrant cultural and religious institutions and welcomed "the mushrooming of synagogues and kosher facilities, not to mention the highly successful educational initiatives like Limmud." But then he gave a sharp warning: "even though British Jews have not yet suffered from the bloody jihadi violence and murders of their French counterparts, as European Jews they will ultimately face the same threat, and if they believe they are in a different category, they are in denial. Moreover, indigenous antisemitism in the form of feral anti-Israelism is as blatant in the UK as in France."

Within a day or so of Leibler's article appearing, I found myself being lobbied by sundry communal machers, who urged that I use this column to refute Leibler's grim warning and denounce him for having had the effrontery to interfere in something that was none of his business. Now it is true that I have on numerous occasions warned against the semi-hysterical rants of professional doomsayers. But - especially after the Copenhagen and Paris outrages - which of us can say that Leibler was wrong to have cautioned us as he did?

Then, whilst mulling whether I should have my say on these grave matters - whether, in fact, I would be doing more harm than good by even entering the debate - my attention was drawn to the petition initiated by Golders Green resident Moses Hoffman calling on the British government to provide "armed security for Jewish public places," as other European governments have done, as "the only feasible solution" to terrorist threats. Or, rather, my attention was drawn to a "confidential" response to it from the Community Security Trust.

Whether it is or would be at all feasible for Mr Cameron's government to provide armed guards outside Jewish communal buildings is a matter for experts to decide. But in an email circulated on December 10, the CST saw fit to rubbish the petition for the following reasons. First, publicity surrounding the petition would put ideas into "terrorists' warped minds"; second, alerting terrorists to the fact that currently synagogues in the UK do not enjoy armed protection was "stupid and counter-productive"; and third, the petition "risks implying that all of the work done by the CST, communities and Police is worthless."

These arguments are spurious. One of the objectives of Islamic State is to kill as many Jews as possible. No jihadi terrorist of even average intelligence needs any prompting to attack Jewish public buildings, and suicidal jihadists, since they actually seek martyrdom, are not really concerned with the level of armed protection such buildings may enjoy.

I can well understand that Mr Hoffman's petition will have put the CST's nose out of joint.

But the CST must learn to deal with situations as they are, not as its officials would wish them to be.

The CST's email itself confesses that "the situation is now very serious." If that is the case, can the CST - whose mission statement claims still "to represent British Jews on issues of… policing and security" - kindly stop moaning and tell us what it is doing on our behalf?

November 24, 2016 23:22

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