Marcus Dysch, 20 January 2011
The Jewish Leadership Council has postponed a trip to meet Palestinian leaders in the West Bank following an angry reaction from community representatives.
Chairman Vivian Wineman had been due to travel to Ramallah next month with other council members including Sir Trevor Chinn and Rosalind Preston. They would have met Palestinian Authority officials and members of non-governmental organisations such as Oxfam and War on Want.
The JLC had also proposed that a representative of the Office of the Chief Rabbi join the touring group.
News of the trip was revealed at Sunday’s Board of Deputies meeting, drawing an overwhelmingly negative reaction from deputies.
The following day the JLC took the decision not to travel to Ramallah, saying it wanted to “take soundings from the community on the nature of the trip”.
Another factor in the postponement was the breakdown of talks between the PA and the Israeli government. It is understood the Israel Embassy was also opposed to the trip, but a spokesman for the ambassador declined to comment.
Sir Trevor, a JLC vice-president, is believed to have initially proposed the Ramallah mission.
Jeremy Newmark, JLC chief executive, said: “The relationship between diaspora Jewry and a number of major NGOs has been extremely challenging for some time and this initiative has been designed as part of a programme of activity to more actively engage those NGOs.”
Mr Wineman, who also serves as Board president, said he was taken aback by the reaction from the embassy and the deputies.
He said: “I spoke to my colleagues on the JLC but then I did take opinion from the embassy, and with other people knowledgeable on these issues, and I was surprised they had a very much more critical take on it. We are not going to do anything that would be seen as damaging the interests of the state of Israel. It is the last thing we would do.”
A joint liaison committee, set up to strengthen ties between the JLC and Board of Deputies, will now be used to garner opinion from members of Jewish communities around the country.
Peter Sheldon, chairman of the Chief Rabbinate Trust and deputy for the United Synagogue, said: “I made it very clear there was no way anyone from the OCR could be involved in what I considered a highly ill-considered mission.”
Samuel Hayek, JNF UK chairman, said: “I am pleased the JLC’s proposed trip has been cancelled. Despite best intentions, the trip would have simply been used by our enemies as further ammunition in their ongoing campaign to deligitimise Israel.”