Outgoing Board of Deputies treasurer Laurence Brass has aimed a parting shot at the Israeli government, saying that he has “been bursting to criticise the Israeli administration” for six years.
Mr Brass will stand down from the executive because he “could not contemplate another three years of not being able to speak freely”, he told a Board plenary meeting on Sunday.
Speaking to the JC, he added: “I decided that to be true to my principles and beliefs was more important than seeking office.”
Making the announcement on Sunday that he would not seek re-election, Mr Brass criticised the Board for stopping honorary officers from expressing personal opinions.
The asylum judge, who was tipped to run for president in the May election after being twice elected as treasurer, said: “I felt constrained not to have been able to speak out on subjects that are close to my heart, such as the treatment of the Palestinians in the Occupied Territories and the discrimination still being suffered by Arab citizens of Israel.
“There have been countless occasions over the last six years when I’ve been bursting to criticise the Israeli administration, but I’ve restrained myself.
“I want to be released from the chains of office to contribute to the wider debate on the Middle East, as well as on the critical political issues that I consider to be important here at home.”
Mr Brass said his replacement should feel free to be openly radical. He had previously met “very harsh and often quite abusive personal criticism” when speaking out, he added.
The treasurer, who will continue his 40-year stint as a deputy, received a standing ovation after his speech, but Board president Vivian Wineman cautioned other executive members to maintain their silence.
Mr Wineman said: “People aren’t interested in our private opinions; they’re interested in what the Board thinks and what the Jewish community thinks. When we express ourselves, we always have to bear that in mind.”