A charismatic leader in the original, Weberian sense – one who dominates by the sheer force of his personality – Isi Leibler was long active in combating antisemitism and improving intra-communal relations as public relations supremo of the Board of Deputies in the State of Victoria, before serving for very many years as president of the community’s chief body, the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, and in due course being elected senior vice-president of the governing body of the World Jewish Congress.
During his years as head of the Australian Jewish community the fearlessly frank and extraordinarily dedicated Leibler met many world leaders. In the nineteenth century, the Anglo-Jewish philanthropist Sir Moses Montefiore, who headed the fledgling Board of Deputies of British Jews, made several visits overseas on behalf of oppressed Jewries. In the twentieth, it was Isi Leibler who, long before the cause of Soviet Jewry was taken up by others, strove for the rights of the trapped and persecuted Jews of the USSR. Owing to his endeavours, Australia became, in 1962, the first country to raise the issue at the UN, and his book Soviet Jewry and Human Rights (1965) – which sits beside me as I type – forced the Jewish Left throughout the world, which had hitherto consisted of servile apologists for Soviet antisemitism, to reassess its attitude.
|Alexander Lerner, Andrei Sakharov and Isi Leibler in Moscow|
Over the years, Leibler made several visits to the Soviet Union, befriending refuseniks and Prisoners of Zion, and interceding on their behalf. “Even if I am not able to realize my dream of returning to my homeland in our lifetime, we are still happy to take part in this biblical event,” the late and noble Professor Alexander Lerner, dismissed from his job for applying to emigrate, once assured him in an effort to cheer him. “We feel we are involved in dedicating ourselves to our people and our country.”
In 1987, Leibler was invited by Moscow’s chief rabbi to address worshippers from the pulpit of the KGB-controlled Archipova Synagogue at Rosh Hashana . “Giving a Zionist address in broken Yiddish to a packed synagogue in the presence of refusenik friends ... was an unforgettable experience”, Leibler has recalled. And in 1989, thanks largely to Leibler’s efforts, the first Jewish Cultural Centre since the advent of glasnost, the Solomon Mykhoels Centre, named for the celebrated Yiddish poet murdered on Stalin’s orders in 1948, was opened in Moscow.
These days, the man who as a young leader had the courage and the audacity publicly to berate Dr Goldmann for his “silent diplomacy” – and who has claimed many scalps in his time – remains frank and fearless, writing a much admired Jerusalem Post blog entitled “Candidly Speaking ...”
Among those deploring this ridiculous notion, none was more eloquent or trenchant than Isi Leibler, who justifiably stated:
'We have grown accustomed to the ravings of the Jew haters of Zion - the loony left who identify with Hamas and Hizbullah rather than their own people, the post-Zionists who seek to undo the Jewish character of Israel and the bleeding heart liberals who make excuses for the criminality of our neighbors and condemn us for defending ourselves.
But what is more frustrating is an emerging new trend, involving even well-meaning friends of Israel, primarily liberals, who demand that as Jews and "partners" of Israel, they are entitled to partake in determining Israeli security and defense related policies....
Despite living thousands of miles away and not subject to the consequences of the policies they promote, they have the gall to insist that they are more sensitive to the security needs of the Jewish state than we Israelis. Being "genuinely pro-peace," they purport to be acting in our best interests by exercising "tough love" ... Their hubris and arrogance is mind-boggling.
....We all agree that Diaspora Jews have been and remain the most important partner of the Jewish state. No one challenges their right to provide input toward Israeli decisions which impact on the future of the Jewish people. But that principal was always accompanied by a caveat that campaigning against government policies affecting security was absolutely off limits for non-Israelis.
....We are one people. But Diaspora Jews and Israelis are not equal partners.
Whereas during the formative founding years of the state, the financial contribution of global Jewry was crucial, today Israel has evolved into a powerful economic entity and Diaspora support represents a minimal percentage of GNP. In many respects the principal benefit of Diaspora funding is that it represents a key element in maintaining Jewish identity by providing constructive involvement with the Jewish state.
However if Jewish philanthropists believe that contributing toward worthy causes in Israel makes them eligible to become involved in security related decision-making, they should retain their money. There is no question that ultimately only Israelis can determine security-related policy. It is we, our children and our grandchildren who will be placing our lives on the line, not Jews in New York, London, Melbourne or Rio....
Surveys show that the dropouts, the new liberals who are alienated from Israel, primarily originate from assimilated and intermarried families and those overwhelmed by the hostile culture and media surrounding them especially on the campus.
Instead of becoming obsessed with an urge to tell us how to run our affairs, Jewish activists should ensure that the new generation of Jews in high school and on the campus are imbued with an understanding of our history and heritage and above all exposed to the Israel narrative which will strengthen their morale and enable them to withstand the external onslaughts. That should be their primary objective, rather than groveling to left liberals who magnify every minor fault in our society while closing their eyes to the horrors that could engulf us if the barbarians at our gates succeed.' http://wordfromjerusalem.com/?p=2279And so, it is not surprising that, when Mick Davis made some truly egregious remarks this month, that again serve only to bring aid and comfort to Israel’s enemies (including the extraordinarily repellent assertion that “the government of Israel has to recognize that their actions directly impact on me as a Jew living in London ... When they do good things, it is good for me; when they do bad things, it is bad for me”) Isi Leibler – never one to suffer fools gladly – should once more be in the forefront of the criticism:
‘Needless to say, Davis is fully entitled to say whatever comes to his mind. Nobody seeks to deprive him of freedom of expression.
Many Jews are critical of Israeli governments.
But for a person holding senior public office in a major Diaspora community to indulge in crude public attacks on Israeli leaders and relate to Israel’s security requirements in relation to their impact on his image in non-Jewish circles is surely bizarre and utterly unconscionable.
While occupying the role of chairman of the UIJA in a country in which hatred of Israel and anti-Semitism have reached record levels, Davis brazenly incites his fellow Jews to criticize Israel.
Resident in London, he had the chutzpa to berate the Israeli prime minister “for lacking the courage to take the steps” to advance the peace process, arguing that “I don’t understand the lack of strategy in Israel.” He also employed the terminology of our enemies, predicting an “apartheid state” unless Israel was able to achieve a two-state solution – unashamedly blaming Israelis rather than Palestinians for being the obstacle to peace.
His sheer arrogance was best demonstrated in his most outrageous remark: “I think the government of Israel has to recognize that their actions directly impact on me as a Jew living in London, UK. When they do good things, it is good for me; when they do bad things, it is bad for me. And the impact on me is as significant as it is on Jews living in Israel... I want them to recognize that.”
Aside from implying that Israel is responsible for the anti-Semitism he is encountering, Davis is effectively warning that when considering defense issues which may have life-or-death implications for Israelis, the government must be sure not to create problems for him in his non- Jewish social circles. From his London mansion, he blithely brushes aside suicide bombers, rockets launched against our children and the threat of nuclear annihilation because his gentile friends might complain about the behavior of his Israeli friends.
.... It is telling that over recent years, Davis has not been renowned for condemning the shameful policies of British governments in relation to Israel. And it is no coincidence that immediately after the UK abstained from the UN vote on the Goldstone Report, Davis chaired a JLC reception at which former foreign minister David Miliband [pictured, who, by the way, has tweeted his approval of Davis’s latest comments, calling them “very brave and impressive”] was the key speaker. On that occasion, the “outspoken” Davis felt constrained not to express a single word of complaint or disappointment at the perfidious behavior of the British government in relation to this issue.
Admittedly, Davis’ latest outburst is neither intellectually challenging nor persuasive.
But emanating from a Jewish “leader” in the anti-Semitic UK environment in which campaigns to boycott and delegitimize Israel are at an all-time high, and at a time when Israel is under siege and fighting for its existence, it surely represents a level of unprecedented vulgarity.
In any self-respecting Diaspora Jewish community, Davis would have been obliged to tender his resignation immediately after making such outrageous remarks.
Not so in sunny London.
Instead of condemning him, the Anglo- Jewish establishment groveled. Many even seemed delighted that one of their leading spokesmen had distanced himself from what many of them may regard as the unsavory government which the people of Israel had democratically elected.
Anglo-Jewish leaders share a long tradition of burying their head in the sand, avoiding confrontation and displaying a determination not to rock the boat under any circumstances. One of their leaders actually wrote in The Jerusalem Post, proudly boasting how their pro-Israel advocacy approach was based on “whispering” rather than “shouting.”
Today, by lacking the courage to challenge the propriety of one of its most senior “leaders” indulging in coarse public condemnations of Israel, the trembling Israelite establishment has further undermined the standing of the UK Jewish community.
When one proudly recalls the outstanding contribution of British Jews to the development of Zionism, and the role played by leaders of the caliber of Chaim Weizmann, one is left with a sense of profound sadness. The Anglo-Jewish Zionist pioneers would turn in their graves were they aware of the irresponsible behavior of those who have currently assumed the mantle of leadership of their community.' www.jpost.com/Opinion/Columnists/Article.aspx?id=196652I would add that if Mr Davis and others of his ilk are so keen to see a change in Israeli policy, they should pack their bags and make aliya, in order to participate in the democratic process at the ballot box.
For other biting criticisms of Mick Davis see: