Board of Deputies president Arkush sparks new Yachad row

The president of the Board of Deputies decision to criticise a left-wing pro-Israel group which backed a UN resolution against Israeli settlements has triggered discord among deputies.


Jonathan Arkush told Sunday’s Board plenary meeting he “unequivocally condemned” Yachad for backing Resolution 2334.

The UN Security Council had castigated Israeli settlements last month, leading to criticism from Jewish groups worldwide.

Mr Arkush said: “I fail to understand how Yachad believes Resolution 2334 would contribute to the prospects of peace, given that leading progressive voices in Israel including Isaac Herzog and Tzipi Livni roundly condemned it.”

He scolded the group for “deciding to take their views direct to government and other public bodies,” instead of going through the Board.

But Mr Arkush’s criticisms were attacked by deputies at the meeting and led to further disagreement this week.

Adrian Cohen, chairman of the London Jewish Forum, said the “lengthy and repeated” attack on Yachad was an “inappropriate use of Mr Arkush’s position”.

Mr Cohen wrote on Facebook: “Particularly troubling is the President’s suggestion that constituent organisations have to consult with him before liaising with government, collaboration not being something that has always characterised actions of the leadership of the Board itself.”

Deputies clashed at the meeting over whether Yachad, which was accepted on to the Board in 2014 after a controversial vote, should be expelled for backing the resolution.

Flora Flank, deputy for British Emunah, said she believed Yachad had “violated the Board’s constitution”.

Yachad wrote to Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson in December, urging him to back the resolution. The group said the UN move was “an historic opportunity to put resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict back at the top of the international agenda, where it is fast being overshadowed by other issues”.

Speaking after Sunday’s meeting, Amos Schonfield, Yachad’s deputy on the Board, defended the backing, and said “reaching out to the government is nothing new” for the group.

He called Mr Arkush’s suggestion that Yachad should only communicate with ministers through the Board “ridiculous”.

“We are part of the Board, but we still have a right to our views. And we have more support for them than Mr Arkush gives us credit,” Mr Schonfield said.

Jonathan Davis, Golders Green United Synagogue deputy, said Mr Arkush was “stepping over a very dangerous red line” in his criticism.

Mr Davis said: “This Board is for constituencies to come together and establish the consensus of British Jews as a whole. It is not a place where they find themselves bound by the views of the Board.”

Michael Reik, deputy for Mosaic Reform Synagogue in Harrow, said he disagreed with the “one-sided” resolution.

Despite his own criticisms, Mr Arkush rejected calls to remove the group from the Board.

He said: “Those who talk about the Board’s constitution, I do not read the constitution as requiring every deputy to have a particular view or not to have a particular view. I am not a supporter of the views of Yachad. I voted against the membership of Yachad to this Board, when others voted for it on the basis of inclusion.

“But I am not in favour of expelling anyone. I think if someone holds an unpopular view they have the chance to have it heard here on the floor.

“I am not going to expel them because I don’t agree with them.”

Mr Arkush said he was disappointed the government had failed to veto 2334 and told deputies the UN had adopted “disproportionate focus on and stigmatisation of Israel”.


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