A draft of Ambassador Mark Regev’s response to the letter to him, published in Haaretz, has fallen into my hands …..
Dear Sir Mick Davis
Many thanks for the letter from 42 prominent British Jews criticising the policy of my elected government. I assume it was you who wrote and coordinated the letter? Because 10 of the 42 are people who defended you in November 2010 (Celia Atkin, Sir Trevor Chinn, David Cohen, Stephen Grabiner, Maurice Helfgott, Isaac Kaye, James Libson, Jon Mendelsohn, Lord Parry Mitchell and Sir Harry Solomon). Isaac Kaye’s son Steven also signed the recent letter as did Maurice Helfgott’s father (Ben) and Harry Solomon’s son-in-law Alan Jacobs.
Could it be that they are as wrong now as they were then, Sir Mick?
You were roundly criticised for those 2010 comments eg by Lord Kalms and Isi Leibler and by 26 signatories in a letter in the JC. They said your accusation that my Prime Minister lacks courage was shameful, given his distinguished service in the elite Sayeret Matkal unit of the IDF. And they were lost for words at your suggestion that my Prime Minister’s policies have as much impact on you, sitting in Hampstead, as on Jews in Israel. To the best of my knowledge, Sir Mick, Hampstead is not within target of Iran or Hamas missiles, nor do the Jews who live there have to send their children to defend the Jewish State for three years.
Two of the signatories are partners in a law firm that has worked for you (James Libson, Anthony Julius).
8 further signatories are Labour Party members or former members or sympathisers (Lord Beecham, Lord Winston, Lord Mendelsohn, Luciana Berger, Howard Jacobson, Lord Mitchell, Clive Sheldon, Vivian Wineman). Plus Isaac Kaye (already mentioned). Remember that Labour’s manifesto for the 2019 general election included an arms embargo on my country and immediate recognition of a Palestinian State, should they have been elected. Despite this Lords Beecham, Winston and Mendelsohn continue to take the Labour Whip in the Lords.
Lord Beecham even said that the Chief Rabbi “somewhat over-reacted” in his Times column before the 2019 election calling out Labour for antisemitism!
Vivian Wineman and Laura Marks were Honorary Officers of the Board of Deputies which undertook the ill-fated partnership with the anti-Israel charity Oxfam.
Laurence Brass is a LibDem who abused his platform as Board of Deputes Treasurer to repeatedly criticise Israel. His claim that this position forced him to “repeatedly hold back” caused me to choke on my cornflakes.
3 of the signatories have Portland Trust connections with you (Sir Ronald Cohen, Nicola Cobbold, Douglas Krikler – as well as Sir Harry Solomon, already mentioned).
Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner mistakenly thinks that resumption of sovereignty in a small part of Judea and Samaria make a Palestinian State impossible. On the contrary, it is an explicit part of the US Peace Plan.
I note a sprinkling (if that is the correct collective noun) of academics amongst the signatories, including historians Sir Simon Schama and Simon Sebag-Montefiore. I respect them greatly for explaining the past but wonder why this should give then any credibility in solving the current problems of the Middle East. Dr Edward Kessler has accused Jews who challenge antisemitism in the Church of England of “going over the top” (and here). He also failed to respond to representations on behalf of Jewish students who were concerned about a proposed antisemitic talk by Thomas Suarez in Cambridge. I do not therefore feel inclined to give much weight to Dr Kessler’s views on my government’s policies. Another signatory, Martin Paisner, is a former Trustee of Dr Kessler’s Woolf Institute.
Sir Malcolm Rifkind has been a good supporter of Israel but I’m afraid we part company on the JCPOA Iran Nuclear Deal which he supported.
Rabbi Jonathan Wittenborg has made some questionable judgments in the past. I don’t regard him as a Middle East expert.
All in all Sir Mick that makes 31 of the 42 signatures which leave doubts in my mind, for one reason or another.
Many of the names are of business people. They therefore understand that to have influence on a company you need to be a shareholder, you need to have skin in the game. Whilst many of your signatories have holiday homes in Israel and have even been great philanthropists, that does not make them Israeli citizens and does not entitle them to influence over my government’s policies. It is Israeli children manning the borders, Israeli lives living under those rockets and Israeli families who are the targets of terrorists. As such you will I hope understand that my government is not unduly concerned about the views of British Jews.
Indeed if my government were to be influenced by British Jews that would be grist to the mill of the antisemites, as Baroness Deech and Baroness Altmann have wisely observed.
But do keep writing Sir Mick. I know that both Haaretz and the Guardian are very appreciative of your articles……….
With very best wishes
(NB to avoid misunderstanding … I wrote this …. but the Ambassador is welcome to use it)
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