Laurence Brass

 

By Justin Cohen

The treasurer of the Board of Deputies has spoken of how his role had forced him to hold back when “bursting to criticise” the Israeli Government over recent years, as he announced he would not stand again for one of the organisation’s top jobs.

Laurence Brass, who will vacate his post after two three year terms this May, said he would look back on his tenure with “satisfaction” but also “frustration” at the convention that honorary officers don’t express personal opinions.

“I’ve felt constrained not to have been able to speak out on subjects that are close to my heart such as the treatment of the Palestinians in the Occupied Territories and the discrimination still being suffered by Arab citizens of Israel,” he told deputies at this morning’s plenary.

“There have been countless occasions when I’ve been bursting to criticise the present Israeli administration but I’ve restrained myself. Candidly, the doctrine of collective responsibility – whilst sometimes necessary – can also be interpreted as an impediment to frank and honest debate.”

“For those reasons I have decided that I will not be a candidate for any office, including that of President, in the forthcoming Board elections. I want to be released from the chains of office to contribute to the wider debate on the Middle East as well as political issues I consider to be important here at home.” He hoped whoever took on leadership roles after May would speak out even if “in so doing, as I have found, you ar subjected to very harsh and sometimes quite abusive personal criticism”.

Following a visit to the region with Yachad last summer, Brass spoke out about Palsetinian villagers’ fears of attacks by settlers.

Brass – who listed his chairing of the Board’s 250th anniversary celebrations as his proudest moment in office during a farewell address for which he received an ovation – said he hoped to spend more time at his home in Israel working to “improve the lot of “all the people in the region which I remain convinced is the best way of securing a long-term peace”.

Reporting on the Board’s finances, he hailed the £63,000 increase in sums raised through the communal levy.

But prelimary indications show a potential defecit for 2014, which he put down largely to the absense of a president’s dinner and the costs of moving to new premises. However, he said the £5.8m “sale places the Board on a sound financial footing”.