In 2012 the then Executive of the Board of Deputies initiated in secret a joint project with Oxfam, one of the most anti-Israel of all charities. I was a then Deputy and blogged about it here and I moved (with Gary Mond) a motion to abandon the project. Our motion was defeated but many Deputies who defeated it admitted that they would not have voted for such a project in the first place but felt uncomfortable in stopping it, now it was running. To stop any recurrence of Oxfam fiasco, Gary Mond yesterday proposed the following motion:
This Board of Deputies resolves not to engage on projects with any organisation which has expressed antisemitism or opposition to the right of the State of Israel to exist as the nation state of the Jewish people, or which has advocated a boycott of Israel, Israeli citizens, Israeli organisations or Israeli products.
Unbelievably the motion was heavily defeated, casting yet another stain on the Board. Those who voted against seemed to have no regard for the message this sends (a) to anti-Semites (b) to Israelis.
You can watch the debate here (from 1:20:00):
Speaker after speaker wilfully misinterpreted the motion, suggesting that it meant the President could not speak to antisemites (like some in the Labour Party). Of course it did NOT mean this (as Gary made clear in his summing-up (1:57:00)).
In 2013 the then President Vivian Wineman shamefacedly initiated ‘Oxfam Monitoring Group’ which was to recommend a halt to the Oxfam tieup if Oxfam was seen to cross specified red lines. I was a member of that group. I blogged about it here. The Oxfam Monitoring Group found that Oxfam had indeed crossed the red lines. But the Executive disgracefully failed to pull the project.
Another member of that group was Karen Newman who spoke yesterday (1.42.20). Karen did not deny yesterday that Oxfam had crossed the red lines. She simply said “Oxfam came back with a statement interrogating their relationship with Miftah” (1:44:35).
At the end of the debate the President Jonathan Arkush gave a pledge (2.00.38) “Not to embark on another Oxfam -style project without seeking the affirmative support of the Board”. Deputies have short memories. In 2012 the then President and Executive DID embark on “an Oxfam-style project”. Jonathan Arkush is not President for all time. Who is to say that a future President will not make exactly the same mistake as was made in 2012?
It was to pre-empt this possibility that Gary moved his motion.
Shamefully the Deputies rejected it.
They will have to live with the repercussions for years to come.
See also Brian of London here