The Dan Sheldon Affair

Dan Sheldon

Hoffman

The man whose Israel advocacy got him thrown out of the Royal Albert Hall.

This surely is the low point in Hoffman’s lying, dissembling, life. It is also notable for some appallingly duplicitous behaviour on the part of his minder, Stephen Pollard, editor of The Jewish Chronicle.

High on Hoffman’s long list of hates are Jewish students.  The reason is that they won’t be led by him.  For the most part they see him exactly for what he is, a loud mouthed, ineffectual loser, an old self-deluded dinosaur. He wants them to look to him to show them the way when it comes to “doing Israel”.  He wants them to let him  teach them how to do “Israel advocacy” when they clearly see that he is manifestly and abjectly hopeless at it.  As one girl succinctly and sweetly put it…..”Jonathan when did you ever change or even modify a single mind ?”

On April 1st this year the UJS  held their annual awards dinner.  Someone asked  “Where are the ZF ?”  Someone on the platform joked  “probably at an EDL  rally.”  Someone else equated Stand With Us with the “hilltop youth.”

Now in the sane world what do you think would have then happened ?

You are absolutely correct.

NOTHING

There would have been a few titters, a barely audible ripple of nervous laughter…a bunch of kids having a bit of a well deserved  laugh at the old oafs that keep pushing them around.

Unfortunately, we are not in the sane world here. We are in Hoffman’s world. In this world EVERYTHING , however tiny, is a great melodrama and an unmissable opportunity for self promotion and an opportunity to perpetuate the pursuance of some old or new vendetta.

Hoffman heard from a “reliable source” what had been said and immediately went nuts.  A blog appeared on the JC site.  To Hoffman’s undisguised glee, among those on the platform had been Dan Sheldon, the UJS  campaigns director.

Hoffman reminds us that Sheldon “has form” and that he “must surely go now.”  All this is par for the course and typical of how Stephen Pollard cheerfully gives him carte blanche to use the JC, which theoretically serves the whole community, as an unfettered platform to conduct vendettas against other members of that community.

Simultaneously, Hoff got on the back of the long-suffering Harvey Rose who, doubtless with the heaviest of sighs, complained to the UJS.  The outcome was a fairly grovelling apology from Sheldon by way of email to the ZF in general and Hoff in particular. (Why Sheldon, who claims not to have made any of the comments, is anyone’s guess).  But in any event, Rose got an apology on behalf of the ZF and Hoff got his apology.  It’s hard to credit two grown men behaving like this, but there you go.

So now Hoffman is satisfied.

Well not quite. His response is…..

“Public slur, private apology…………pathetic”  (his emphasis)

Ever the gracious one.

Now what is this “form” to which Hoff refers?

Well this brings us to the Dan Sheldon affair proper.

On October 31st 2011, there was a debate held at Leeds University JSoc.  It was, in effect, a head to head between Hoffman and Dan Sheldon on the issue of Israel advocacy on campus.  Why the students put themselves in this position is beyond our comprehension.  But they did.

Hoffman spoke first and delivered the predictable stuff.  Get into the “enemies’” faces, disrupt their meetings etc., etc.  All the tired old stuff, as preached by the small lunatic fringe of the Zionist Federation.  For a full transcript of what he said, see Appendix A.

Then Sheldon spoke.  Sheldon was perfectly polite and courteous, but there is no doubt that it was a withering rejection of everything Hofmanf stood for when it came to Israel advocacy.  And a withering rejection of Hofman’s feeling that when it came to standing in Israel’s corner in campus conditions, he knew better than them.  If it had not been for one fatal mistake, it would have been a resounding success for the students.  Hoffman would have huffed and puffed and screamed and screamed until he was sick.  But it would have profited him not.  He had been firmly put in his place by the students and there he would have stayed.

For the full transcript and video, see Appendix B.

The mistake was that Sheldon referred to him as having been happy to demonstrate alongside the EDL, without being able to adequately back it up.

Well……. Hoffman went hysterical and built up to nuclear.  He climbed his JC soapbox, kindly afforded by Stephen Pollard for just these occasions.  He tells us that he had been defamed 12 times in Sheldon’s speech.  Obviously, the EDL thing counted as one.

Another was that he had turned up to a demo in a crash helmet when in fact it had been a cycle helmet.  You know, real reputation destroying stuff.

Hoff has been defamed more times than you have had hot dinners.  The most damaging one was when someone at a demo advised a passer-by not to mind Hoffman because he was “on medication.”   That warranted a whole crying whining blog post and surely was worth several million in damages.

Hoffman then put up one of his cronies to start an online petition (or starts it himself, which is more likely) demanding an apology and that Sheldon be removed from office.  This petition is very interesting.  In his blog following the awards dinner affair, in which Hoffman  states that Sheldon “surely must now go”,  he refers to the previous spat and declares that “hundreds called for him to go”.  When a blogger pointed out that he was lying again he edited it to “over a hundred“.

See it here.

These online petitions are a hoot.  That a grown man, holding positions of some consequence in the community should make a fool of himself playing with them is almost beyond belief. The degree of childish game playing is breathtaking.

This one had …SPONSOR….UNKNOWN.  That is, the originator of the petition does not identify himself.  So for “unknown“  you can safely insert Hoffman.  The game is to create the impression that masses of outraged individuals have spontaneously rallied to Hoffman’s defence.

Signatory No. 3 is Hoffman himself along with the comment “Thanks as always to those willing to stand with me”.   Now, there is, prior to this, two “signatures“, one of them from “ disgruntled Jewish student.”  Get the idea ?

At first glance it would seem that 146 people  signed.  But wait………

There are 18 entries signed “anonymous”.  Who signs anonymous on a petition ?

Then there is…

Disgruntled Jewish student

Unknown…“I will stop funds to UJS  because of this man.”

UJC student.   (obviously so UJS  he/she  thinks the acronym is UJC)

Student

Gs

The following “signed“ twice.

Jonathan Turner

Tanya Dahon

Rubin Katz

Norman Lawrence

Martin Sugarman  (with entirely different comments each time)

E Taylor

John Clifford

No. 136 was supportive of the students.

No 143 was an advert for a software firm.

No 144 was an advert for another software firm.

No 145 was a spoof by “Meir Kahane”.

No 146 was a spoiler  just a random jumble of letters.

And of course No 94 was Roberta, but then you knew that already.

So out of 146  “signatures“, we have 36 that  are OBVIOUS pieces of garbage, plus Hoff making it 37.

Richard Millett ” signed” but then withdrew his signature. He explained that he had had a phone call asking him to sign. He later learned the phone call wholly misrepresented what the petition was calling for.

This leaves 108. How many of those are make ups (many consist of just a forename), is impossible to exactly specify.  A goodly number are straight out of Hoffman’s mailing list, real people who are sympathisers and who can be relied upon, on receipt of an email request, to “sign” whatever he has put up.

The method is to put up the excruciatingly silly “petition”, which the usual suspects will “sign” and bulk it out with multiple “signings“ and make ups.  How many make ups there were on this occasion is anyones guess, but it is obvious from the Hoffmanesque comments accompanying many of the “signatures”, that it is a goodly few.

Then Hoffman presents the whole thing as “hundreds“ sharing his outrage and “hurt”, and demonstrating their willingness to put their names and reputations on the line in his cause.

The Jewish Chronicle played an enthusiastic part in the game.  On November 4th, The Chronicle reports that two dozen “ people “ had signed by “ Friday evening “. Later it reported that 120 “ people “  had called for Sheldon to go.

At first the students stood firm but gradually the pressure from the dinosaurs in the Jewish establishment led by Stephen Pollard built up to what must have been unbearable levels. All kinds of threats seem to have been made, not least, threats to cut funding. The tipping point seems to have been an editorial in the Chronicle calling for Sheldon to apologise.

Eventually  the transcript of Sheldon’s speech were removed from the UJS website and Sheldon apologised “since Jonathan has now made his opposition to the EDL clear”.

This wasn’t good enough for Hofman

He complained that this implied that he hadn’t made his opposition to the EDL clear in the past. He hadn’t done so of course, but as we have said, this is not the sane world.  He is further miffed because Sheldon hasn’t been forced out. He whines that he had sent the students a draft of the expected apology which they had ignored. In other words our man/child not only wanted an apology, he wanted to write it himself.

So Sheldon apologises for stating the well-known, proven, obvious truth.  (See our page “ The ZF/EDL Alliance” )  Needless to say, Sheldon’s name, if it wasn’t already, is now very firmly on the list.

THE CURIOUS CASE OF THE BANNING OF WATCHFUL IRIS

You may wonder what it takes to get banned from posting comments on Jewish Chronicle blogs.  It is not as easy as you might think . You have to hit the right note.  Well don’t try posting threats of violence.  And don’t try posting that you would  stand with the EDL.  And don’t try posting extremist, racist, and sexually aggressive comments with veiled threats of rape.  None of that stuff will work.  See here.

On November 9th 2011 a blogger, Watchful Iris, had a post pulled from a JC  blog. In addition, she was banned and her ISP blocked.  Looking back through the blogs, it is clear Iris was a harmless soul, if a little dippy.  She was an entertaining blogger specialising in one or two-line ironic drily humorous  posts.  On the 9th, clearly irritated by calls for Dan Sheldon to apologise, she had what was for her, a little bit of a wobbler.  She posted this:

Watchful Iris

9 November, 2011 – 13:13

Here’s why Dan Sheldon shouldn’t apologise to Jonathan Hoffman:

  1. 94
    Name: Ufara Bat-Asherah on Nov 7, 2011
    Comments: Jonathan is a good friend and ally who was not afraid to stand alongside us outside Ahava. He is someone who will do what others only think and is a true Zionist. The ones who are against Jonathan are the real anti-semites. Am Yisrael Chai!

    Ufara Bat-Asherah is Roberta Moore’s nom de plume and this comment was removed from the petition to remove Dan Sheldon.

    In all actuality, it’s Jonathan Hoffman who should do the apologising for lying about his affiliation with the EDL and for his conduct towards other human beings. Add in an apology to the Zionist Federation for sullying their reputation with his abrasive and poor representation of their interests. His resignation would go a long way to making it up to the Jewish community. His continued activism should be conducted as a private citizen. And lastly, he should apologise to Dan Sheldon for being even remotely connected to this absurd petition since Dan’s conduct was civil and respectful (and I can post that url too, if need be) while expressing his disagreement with Jonathan’s obviously unacceptable and embarrassing conduct and approach to his advocating for Israel.

Now granted, this was a sensitive time in the Hoff/Sheldon/EDL  issue. But one would have thought this was not only fair comment but fair EVIDENCED comment.  One would have expected such a post to stay.  And even if it was pulled, the banning seemed inexplicably over the top.  At least until you read the editorial in the next day’s Jewish Chronicle:

‘There has long been a tension between those who favour direct confrontation with our enemies and those who take a different approach.  It was present within the 35s campaign for Soviet Jewry and it is present today in the campaign against Israel’s delegitimisers. Tensions can rise as either side finds the other’s tactics frustrating. But the libelling of Jonathan Hoffman is of an altogether different order.
The Zionist Federation co-vice chairman generates strong reactions, but he is indefatigable in his espousal of peace in the Middle East.  For a representative of the Union of Jewish Students to repeat outrageous smears put out by Israel’s enemies, as a deliberate means of doing down Mr Hoffman, is indefensible, and he should apologise now’.

We doubt there has been a more disgraceful editorial in all of the JC’s history.  Stephen  Pollard is a smooth, experienced and well-trained journalist.  This economical manipulation of his readership is straight out of Tabloid Journalism 101.

He didn’t write that  Jonathan Hoffman is indefatigable in his advocacy of Israel.  That would have been wildly untrue but sorta kinda within the bounds, explainable in terms of  journalistic licence and feigned innocence.

But rather, he wrote “The Zionist Federation co-Vice Chair  (a man of some importance in all our lives don’t you know, dear reader)  ……is indefatigable in his espousal of Middle East peace”  (and we all want that, don’t we ?)

We defy Stephen Pollard to point us in the direction of one single occasion when Hoffman has lifted a little finger in the cause of Middle East peace.

“For a representative of the Union of Jewish Students (one of our community institutions, don’t you know, dear reader) to repeat outrageous smears put out by Israel’s enemies… (the readership is probably thinking he means Iran and Syria and not a handful of obscure anti-Zionist bloggers).

Now the “smear“ was kicked off by the publication of David Hoffman’s threesome pic, not by Assad or any ayatollah.  The “other side“  in the London parochial inter-cult sandpit squabble, naturally and gleefully leapt on it.  C’est la guerre.

But what is notable here is Pollards complete disinterest in the truth of the matter.  Whether Sheldon should apologise, surely was a function of the truth or falsehood of what he said. What did Pollard know that enabled him to come down so emphatically on the side of an apology ?

You are correct.

Nothing.

It was a completely partisan “Jonny is my boy”  piece of journalism.

So why was Iris banned ?

She posted on November 9th.    Pollard’s editorial appeared in the JC November 10th issue. By the time Iris’s post appeared, the issue with the editorial had already been printed and copies were already winging their way to subscribers.  The online edition was probably already accessible.

Iris had posted something that totally contradicted the editorial and this contrary view was EVIDENCED, in contrast to Pollards “make it up as I go along” piece.  It wasn’t enough to pull her piece, she had to be banned in case she tried it again.

The banning of Iris had nothing to do with the maintenance of standards on the JC  website. It was now no longer now about backing up Hoffman. It was about Pollard protecting himself, about  Pollard saving his face.  Iris stood to make him look stupid.

Appendix A

What is the best way to advocate for Israel on campus?

In  asking this question we are in the realm of the social sciences.

In the physical sciences we can conduct experiments. Finding the best breaking system for an express train, or finding the best treatment for tetanus, are both possible through experiments. In the social sciences the nearest we can get to experimentation is to set up a focus group. To the best of my knowledge there has never been a focus group on Israel advocacy on campus. So one has to look at the evidence.

What I will argue is that the evidence suggests that campuses are a centre – if not the centre – of the monstrous and remarkable inversion of reality whereby Israel has become a pariah state because of its determination to defend itself. (Of course they are ably assisted by some parts of the Press in particular The Guardian, Channel 4 and the BBC). I argue that by its failure to take on the delegitimisers on campus full-square, UJS has allowed them to gain much more traction.

The Reut Institute is a national security think-tank in Israel. In a report published last year it said that London was the ‘hub-of-hubs’ of the delegitimisation network. Much of the delegitimisation activity takes place on university premises. I know because a small group of us go to hostile meetings and we have been to many on London campuses. We hand out leaflets, make a fuss and then blog what happens at the meetings, on the basis that “sunlight is the best disinfectant”. (Some community leaders say “don’t give it the oxygen of publicity” but in my view that is a totally misguided line to take).

We have been to Israel-bashing meetings at Goldsmiths, LSE, UCL, Imperial College and SOAS. Only a week ago tonight we were at a meeting at SOAS to discuss boycotting Israel. Steve Hedley – Bob Crow’s right-hand man at the RMT trade union – told me at that meeting that I was one of the ‘Chosen People” (this phrase used in an abusive manner is a favourite of antisemites: of course the phrase “Chosen People” in the Bible clearly means chosen for responsibilities and not chosen for privilege). Then he referred to “your friends in the media” (the trope that Jews “control the media” is beloved of antisemites – it appears of course in that well-known antisemitic forgery “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion”).

But it’s not just London campuses where delegitimisation meetings under the auspices of Palestine Societies are taking place. It’s happening at most British Universities. I can give you plenty of examples.

Here’s one that’s coming up. This time next week Norman Finkelstein will be speaking on this campus in Leeds. The following day he moves to Manchester, on Wednesday to Nottingham, on Thursday to Birmingham and on Friday to Logan Hall, London. Norman Finkelstein is what I call a ‘renegade Jew’ –the phrase ‘self-hater’ – while probably true – is not one I use. Norman Finkelstein supports Iranian and Hizbolla terrorists and thinks that Jews exploit the Holocaust for financial gain and for propaganda reasons. He even exploits the Holocaust suffering of his parents to delegitimise Israel. He is invited here by one of the pro-Palestinian organisations.

Why do the PSC, the Islamists and the Left organise so many anti-Israel events on campuses? Simple. Because they want to recruit students. It’s not for nothing that Israel has been called “the recruiting sergeant of the Left” (by Robin Shepherd in his great book “A State Beyond the Pale”). The Palestinians have long been seen by the Left as an instrument of revolution in the Middle East. Since the collapse of Communism, Israel as a whipping-boy has become even more important to the cause of the Left.

Demonisation of Israel is now the glue that holds the Left together. To persuade students of their cause, they lie through their teeth. They make false ‘apartheid’ analogies about Israel. They lie that those who defend Israel from their calumnies do it by accusing Israel’s detractors of antisemitism.

We could argue about the best way to advocate for Israel at these meetings. Should you stay silent and hope to be called on in the Q+A, or should you heckle and interrupt, in the knowledge that only people hostile to Israel will be called upon to ask a question? (My strong preference is to heckle and interrupt, because the chance of being called is very low).

One thing I hope we can agree on is that defenders of Israel should be outside the meetings before the start and after the end, handing out fliers which tell the truth. And that they should make themselves available when the meetings are over, to talk: sometimes there is just one person who mistrusts the certainty of what he has heard in the meeting and wants to know more. Some of my biggest successes have been in such 1-on-1 discussions after meetings.

Yes we could argue about the best way to advocate for Israel at these meetings. But we surely all agree that it is folly for Israel advocates to stay away from these meetings completely. Because that leaves the door wide open for a new generation to be indoctrinated by the delegitimisers.

But in many cases that is what UJS is doing – staying away and standing aloof. Not all cases. There have been some great victories and I have been the first to acknowledge them. Getting Birmingham students to vote to accept the EUMC Definition of Antisemitism in May 2010 was a great victory. So was the defeat in January 2008 of a motion at LSE calling for a boycott of Israel and calling Israel an apartheid state, raised at the student union general meeting.

But against this have been some horror stories. When Danny Ayalon spoke at the LSE in October 2009, we knew there would be a hostile demonstration so we organised a counter-demo, to support Ayalon. It was in Lincolns Inn Fields which is a public street. We asked Ben Grabiner – who was at that time head of the LSE I-Soc – if he would put the word round his members to join the counter-demo. We were horrified by the response.

He did not get back to us but the then UJS Campaigns Officer did. She was furious that we had dared organise a demo to support an Israeli Minister. She felt it would just be provocative! She tried to tell us it was an internal LSE matter and that UJS should handle it. It was not ‘internal’, Ayalon happened to be speaking at LSE but that was it. And our proposed demo was in the public street. So we held the line. She then called the Chairman of the ZF to try to get him to put pressure on me. Ben Grabiner sent a text to his members warning them not to join our counter-demo. He said – absurdly and slanderously – that it was being organised by a ‘right wing organisation’. I know because one of the LSE students joined our demo despite being warned off by Ben Grabiner, and showed me the text.

More horror stories. In February 2010 Cambridge Israel Society capitulated to pressure and cancelled a meeting with Benny Morris on the grounds that he is a racist. Benny Morris is no racist. In April 2010 under pressure from the Federation of Student Islamic Societies, UJS cancelled Douglas Murray at short notice, having invited him to speak in Gateshead. Douglas subsequently wrote a blog entitled “How to lose friends and alienate people. A lesson from Islamist-cowed Jewish students”.

Douglas wrote:

“But what of the UJS? If the Union of Jewish students wants to take dictation for their events from the Federation of Student Islamic Societies, one wonders what they think FOSIS will ever do in return. Does the favour get reciprocated do we think? Are they going to vet any speaker that Jewish students don’t like? Or are these students just going to have to learn the hard way that in this matter, as in so many others, ”tolerance”, “openness” and a respect for free speech are currently very much a one-way street.”

And most recently there was UJS’s proposal to give out Palestinian flags.

No, no, no. The Hamas Charter urges the genocide of Jews, the Palestinian Authority does not recognise Israel’s right to exist as a state grounded in Judaism. Mahmoud Abbas, the President of the Palestinian Authority, wrote a doctoral thesis in which he described the Holocaust as “the Zionist fantasy, the fantastic lie that six million Jews were killed.” To have the Union of Jewish Students giving out the Palestinian flag is something that most Jews would regard as obscene.

And I have been to many hostile meetings on campus where there is no sign of Jewish students whatsoever.

The reticence to engage with the Israel-bashers is, I believe, a contributory factor to the rise in antisemitism on campus. Antisemitism includes the vilification of Israel – see the EUMC Definition – if it is expressed in certain ways. To say that Israel is a racist state is antisemitic. So is holding Israel to higher standards than other nations. So is making Nazi comparisons when speaking about Israel. So is holding Jews collectively responsible for Israel’s actions.

The recent JPR Report said that just over two out of five (42%) respondents had experienced an antisemitic incident since the beginning of the academic year (7 months at that time). Confining the sample to respondents who were ‘very positive’ about Israel takes the figure up to 48%.

Almost one in two? – That is simply not acceptable.

And as an aside, the Report’s attempt to downplay the figure is a disgrace. We are told that students are half as likely to express any concern about

‘Anti-Israel sentiment at university’ (38%) as they are about ‘Passing exams’ (76%) – the obvious implication being that worries about antisemitism are minor.

Worrying about exams is natural. Worrying about antisemitism is not and must never become so.

So what kind of UJS do I want? I want a UJS that is proud, not cowed. I want to see Jewish students going in to hostile meetings and making their presence felt, heckling if necessary. I want to see them handing out fliers before and after a hostile meeting so that students who are new to the subject can get the truth – to offset the lies they are fed at the delegitimisation meetings.

Of course I want to see proactive events as well as reactive activities. Proactive events celebrating all aspects of Israel, from science through culture through food through openness and tolerance. The ZF can – and does – help, providing speakers like Khaled Abu Toameh – an Israeli Arab journalist – for campus meetings. And proactive events putting Israel’s case: explaining why the security fence is necessary and why Israel had to do ‘Operation Cast Lead’ in Gaza three years ago.

StandWithUs and Britain Israel Coalition are also great pro-Israel organizations that are active on campus. If any of you can get to London on Sunday 6th November, please go to the StandWithUs Conference with the Ambassador and Louise Mensch MP. Then on December 11th it’s the ZF Advocacy Day.

Every lie about Israel has a killer response founded in truth. If you want me to give examples, ask me in the Q+A. (I hope to soon publish a pamphlet of lies and how to respond to them).

Jewish students are intellectually inquisitive and seek the truth. Yet when it comes to rebutting lies about Israel they are strangely reticent. I don’t understand why.

Advocating for Israel is cool, very stimulating intellectually and can be incredibly rewarding personally. It has made me some great friends.

I think it’s the duty of Jewish students to be ambassadors for Israel on campus and to rebut the lies, but it’s a very pleasant duty – it’s fun, too.

I really don’t see why a Jewish student should not want to be an advocate for Israel.

Appendix B

On Monday evening, in an event hosted by Leeds JSoc, UJS Campaigns Director Dan Sheldon debated the activist Jonathan Hoffman on the best way to stand up for Israel on campus.

Jonathan has been a consistent critic of UJS for many years. So it was no surprise to see him attack UJS again in his speech on Monday.

Our response is clear: Jewish students don’t need a lesson in how to support Israel from Jonathan Hoffman.

Dan Sheldon’s speech is below.

Good evening and thank you to Leeds JSoc for hosting this debate.

And – of course – I’d like to thank Jonathan Hoffman for agreeing to taking part.

I think it is important – in internal discussions such as these – that we treat each other fairly, with the courtesy we’d extend to friends or family. At times when Israel needs all the friends it can get, the last thing we need is for people within the Jewish community to start turning against each other when it comes to Israel.

But that’s precisely what is happening. Where once Israel united the Jewish community, more and more it now divides us. Every week, battles are being pitched between Jews. And unfortunately, my opponent tonight is often the one launching the salvos.

For Jonathan, there is only one way of doing Israel – his way. In his own words, “the right response is to pack the hate meetings heckle and give our fliers which tell the truth”. Those organisations who believe that there are other – perhaps more sophisticated – ways to stand up for Israel are subjected to a torrent of abuse from Jonathan.

UJS has for many years been a key target of Jonathan. We are weak livered liberals, cowering in the face of antisemites and Israel bashers. And he doesn’t just mean me – he means all of us sat here. Every year he sends us emails, and writes letters telling anyone who will listen that he knows best how to support Israel on campus. Forget actually asking students what the campus atmosphere is like – he knows best, and he’s been whipping up hysteria, telling the JC – and your parents.

He has even tried to undermine our fundraising efforts by spreading lies and misinformation about our activities. His intention was to take money away from UJS – ultimately from JSocs and Jewish students – just because he doesn’t agree with the way we do Israel.

This is a man who has called for a boycott of the Guardian; who wears crash helmets to peaceful pro-Israel demonstrations; and who is happy to demonstrate side-by-side with members of the EDL Jewish Division. He lied about that last one by saying the picture of him with the EDL was photoshopped, but – after a legal intervention – was forced to admit that the photo was completely genuine.

Anti Zionists rejoice when Jonathan attends one of their events. They know he will scream and shout, make a nuisance of himself. They know he will make them look like the sensible ones, and pro-Israel activists like crazies. In fact, one prominent anti-Zionist started a ‘Defend Jonathan Hoffman Campaign’, to demonstrate their approval for his ultimately self-defeating antics.

But despite all this, I still think Jonathan plays a valuable role in our community. His energy and enthusiasm for challenging anti-Israel rhetoric is admirable. He is no armchair Zionist – he gets off his arse, and does stuff. Not always the right stuff, but stuff all the same.

Unfortunately, as I said before, Jonathan hasn’t always had a similar tolerance to those in the Jewish community he disagrees with. In fact, not only has he questioned the pro-Israel credentials of some within the community, he’s also questioned their Jewishness.

Helpfully, Jonathan has written a little quiz, to determine who is – and isn’t – Jewish in his mind.

“To the Jewish Israel bashers:

Please confirm the following:

1. Examples of active participation in synagogue services over the last six months
2. The number of mezuzot in your home
3. Fluency in reading/speaking Hebrew
4. Participation in rabbinical shiurim in the past six months
5. Positions held within the Jewish community
6. Extent of kashrut observance
7. Examples of active support for Israel in past six months
8. Frequency of synagogue attendance”

Seemingly only those who pass this test qualify as Jewish in Jonathan’s mind. The rest are somehow sub-Jewish, unable to pass comment on Israel.

Who needs the Beth din when we’ve got Jonathan?

I believe that, as a community, if we spent more time tackling those who are motivated by a hatred of Israel than we do tearing shreds out of those with whom we have minor or tactical disagreements, but who have a genuine love for Israel, then we might get somewhere.

But for Jonathan, nuance is a foreign country. Instead, the tactics are usually to shout about Hamas terrorism, call everyone a liar and disrupt meetings.

If I thought those tactics would work, I would be organising a training programme for Jewish students on how to shout and heckle. But it clearly isn’t going to get us anywhere – it only serves to make us look as bad as the anti-Israel brigade, entrench divisions and contribute to a negative campus environment for Jewish students.

Instead, we must have a genuine engagement with those who are critical of Israel. Talking with them, not shouting at them. Otherwise what is the point of Israel advocacy? Either we are seeking to change people’s perspectives, or we are just talking to ourselves.

So you can forget the quiet work we’ve been doing with SUs and NUS for years – which has ensured that NUS is the only national trade union without a boycott policy against Israel. You can forget the Cabinet ministers we have forged relationships with since they were students. You can forget all the fascist and racist groups we’ve no platformed from campuses. You can forget the work we’ve been doing with the government on tackling hate speech in our universities.

Because all you need is an Israel flag, a copy of the Hamas charter and a crash helmet, apparently.
My appeal – if I am to make one, is not to say Jonathan is wrong and we are right. The view that there is only one way to do Israel is not mine, it’s his.

My appeal, is instead, to employ the right tactics, at the right time in the right place. The way we speak to a young, centre left student from North London who is critical of Israel will of course be different to the way we speak to a gun-totting Republican in the Bible Belt. Smart Israel campaigners recognise that a diverse approach is a successful one.

And this diversity must extend to our own community. We need a big tent, not an ever shrinking sleeping bag. We must be able to discuss Israel without the likes of Jonathan accusing us of being Anti-Zionists or – worse – not even Jewish. I’m not calling for the end of a vibrant dialogue on Israel, I’m calling for the beginning of it.

And I’m not calling for to abandon our loud and active support for Israel. As Jews, as Zionists and as right minded human beings, we must challenge those who seek to destroy the Jewish state. And I share Jonathan’s view that the Jewish community hasn’t been loud enough nor good enough at challenging grassroots anti-Israel activity.

But when we engage in all this, we must remember to treat others as we would like to be treated ourselves. When we complain about the vile antics of Palestine societies, we must then aspire to the highest standards ourselves: honesty, politeness and willingness to listen as well as talk. The Chief Rabbi has called this the lost ‘culture of civility’, and I believe we need to get it back.

It is in that spirit that I end my remarks and extend the hand of friendship to Jonathan and ask him to work with Jewish students in standing up for Israel.

 

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