24 July 2012
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Response to the continuing saga afflicting Anglo Jewry

For those of you interested in following the issues raised in my recent column concerning the British UJIA, below is my response to two letters from Joe Millis (attached below), the latter carrying the imprimatur of the UJIA and my response to the letters to the editor of the Jerusalem Post submitted by Mick Davis and Vivian Wineman, president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews. 

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Mr. Millis spins an extraordinary fantasy portraying himself as a devoted Zionist and yet was unable to refute even a single quote attributed to him in my recent column New scandal impacts on Anglo-Jewry.

By any benchmark, his statements radiating hatred would qualify him as a rabid demonizer of Israel. I attach an example from the Jewish Chronicle and encourage you to also note his talkback responses.

Despite implying otherwise, Millis has been actively calling for a ban against the produce of settlements. Indeed as recently as 30 May this year, he tweeted to Jeremy Newmark, the CEO of the JLC: “Zionist #BDS is not a boycott of Israel, it helps the fight against our one staters”. Given space, I could quote numerous statements of Millis on other themes expressing his vitriolic hatred of Israel even including comparing it to Syria and Iran.

It is surely astonishing that the UJIA has avoided responding to the issue and merely circulated the response of Millis. How can the principal Jewish community’s pro-Israel charity organization even remotely consider appointing such a person for the post of “PR and Communications Director”?

And the letter by Vivian Wineman, President of the Board of Deputies of British Jews implicitly supporting the UIJA position is mind boggling. Wineman refers to his efforts to “turn the UK Jewish community into a powerful voice for fighting the assault upon Israel’s legitimacy”. How can he then serve that goal and remain indifferent to the appointment of a PR chief to a communal body like the UIJA, who had openly been  demonizing Israel ? Once Mr. Wineman issues a public statement on this matter, he should at the very have the courage to state whether he supports or condemns the appointment. Or alas, is this an internal manifestation of the” trembling Israelites”.

If over the past few weeks Mr. Millis has suddenly undergone a dramatic change of heart and now rejects the obscene positions he unrelentingly promoted over the years, the time to have spoken up and repudiated his former despicable views would have been before he assumed his new role, rather than now in response to calls for his resignation.

The Millis role in the UJIA is analogous to a person renowned for promoting the sale of meat being appointed overnight as the PR and communications head of a vegetarian lobby – prior to even having publicly repudiated his former stance.

Mr. Mick Davis told a number of his colleagues that my quotations from his notorious address to the Jewish Cultural Centre were distorted. I challenge him to back up that assertion or cease making false allegations.

It is surely somewhat bizarre for Mr. Davis, as chairman of the UJIA, to concede that he had never met or was unaware of the opinions held by the person appointed to act as the PR and Communications Director for his organization. Especially so as his JLC CEO was fully au fait with the views expressed by Millis. Now that he cannot feign ignorance of his spokesman’s long-standing hostility towards Israel, what is he going to do about it?

ileibler@netvision.net.il

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Joe Millis to Isi Leibler (message sent via Facebook)

I am the Joe Millis whom you libel.

I have great respect for you, especially for your work in uncovering the misdoings at the WJC and the Claims Conference. If memory serves, I believe I interviewed you on the subject when I was Israel correspondent for the Jewish Chronicle or maybe when I was its foreign editor.

Speaking of the Jewish Chronicle, I am sure you didn’t know this, but the paper and I parted company almost 6 years ago because during the second Lebanon War I was considered to be too pro-Israel because of my “family and friends” there.

I am not now nor have I ever been anti-Israel or far left. I wear my Israeli citizenship as a badge of honour. I am a Zionist and proud to be such. I do not see that as a derogatory term. I am educating my children to love Israel and Zionism and take them there to see their extended family at least three times a year. Both are determined to follow their father and do at least some service – perhaps military – for the nation.

I am proud to have served in the Israeli Army, for three years, in a combat unit, in Sinai, on the Golan and in Lebanon, including Shalom Hagalil when I was a reservist. My Army ID is 3126156, and I know that number off by heart despite the fact that it is at least 25 years since I donned a uniform. And if I had to go through it all again, I would.

Would that my misinformed and misiniforming detractors could claim the same.

I know it’s a big ask, but a retraction and apology would be nice.

Best wishes
Joe Millis

from Joseph Millis

I am not a spokesman for UJIA and was not appointed by Mick Davis, whom I have in fact not met. My role in PR and Communications is to promote the excellent work UJIA does in helping British Jews engage with Israel and its fantastic citizens.

I am passionate about Israel, and I think it is vital that we use our own experiences to strengthen the links between Israel and the Diaspora. It is only by engaging with Israel at all levels can we better understand each other.

I am not now nor have I ever been “anti-Israel” or “far left”. I wear my Israeli citizenship as a badge of honour. I am a Zionist and proud to be such. I do not see being Zionist as a pejorative. Quite the opposite.

I am proud to have served in the Israeli Army, for three years, in a combat unit, in Sinai, on the Golan and in Lebanon, including Shalom Hagalil when I was a reservist. I am educating my children to love Israel and Zionism and take them there to see their extended family at least three times a year. Both are determined to follow their father and do at least some service – perhaps military – for the nation.

On the issue of BDS, I am totally opposed to this – even to the targeted version against settlers. In a recent – ill-advised and now removed – Facebook exchange, regarding Divisional Elections for the Board of Deputies of which I am an elected member as a representative of my synagogue, I made it clear that I adhered to John Maynard Keynes’ view that if the facts changed, I change my mind. As I wrote: ‘I don’t care what the BDS movement says. They are a failure and a small and deluded minority. The figures speak for themselves. And anyway: Why should we be defined by what our opponents say? That just gives them the veto over anything we say, which affords them an importance they do not deserve or merit. In this game, the bigger the coalition the better – and unity far outweighs anything else. Regarding the settlers, I imagine that once serious talks resume between Israel and the Palestinians, the majority will be placed within Israeli borders that will be drawn in a way that will not endanger Israel’s existence as a Jewish and democratic state.
I expect we all hope that will happen.’

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Isi Leibler

Isi Leibler is a veteran international Jewish leader with a distinguished record of contributions to the Jewish world and the cause of human rights, including the struggle for Soviet Jewry. He was head of the Jewish community in Australia for many years and made aliya in 1999. Leibler has held senior roles in the World Jewish Congress, including chairman of the governing board and senior vice president. Today, he writes prolifically and is a regular columnist for The Jerusalem Post and Yisrael Hayom.

(4) Readers Comments

  1. Diaspora leaders have to take on positions for the good of their Jewish populations. Their job does not permit them to meddle in the politics of the State of Israel of which they are not citizens. Israel has too many enemies in the outside world and in the media were any words of criticism of the Israel government are magnified and used against Jews everywhere. Mr. Davis as the CEO of a huge company should understand what harm this could do to the shares of the company he is leading if someone would start criticizing how the company is managed.
    We of the Diaspora should either be behind the elected government of Israel or just remain silent if we are for a political party in the opposition. We are only leading groups in the Diaspora and have no right to collaborate with groups like Peace Now or the BDS movement’s followers. Mr. Millis it appears has from his past behavior caused a lot of concern amongst some British Jews. The leadership should investigate this matter and take the right decision.
    The situation of British Jews has become a difficult one and there is a lot to achieve by putting them at ease by battling anti-semitic attacks, boycotts, the government and the media. This is what a leader of the CRIF Richard Prasquier does and really succeeds in. Please try to follow in his footsteps.

  2. It is hardly surprising that this appointment has been made and is supported by the Board of Deputies. The present leader of the Board of Depities was previously involved with the UK version of “Peace Now”, an extreme left wing appeasement movement. The present leader of the UJIA, Mr Davis has, in writing, accused The State of Israel of following a road to apartheid. Both individuals “lead” or are the “leadersheep” of the UK Jewish community, so for them to agree to appoint a PR Director for the UJIA who is so far to the left of centre as to be off the scale is no surprise.

  3. Joe Millis has left UJIA. Not a moment too soon.

  4. And you may want to note that due to your excellent efforts, Mick Davis is standing down. Unfortunately he is to be replaced next year by Bill Benjamin, the co-chair of the Masorti movement and a member of the discredited “Jewish Leadersheep Council”. His views are the same as Davis’s.

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