Follow me on Twitter @tonylerman
I’m a writer living in North London commenting mostly on antisemitism, racism, Israel-Palestine, Middle East politics, Jewish life in Europe, global Jewish politics, multiculturalism, religion in public life and senses of belonging in Europe. I used to blog weekly on the Guardian Comment is Free website.
I am a Senior Fellow at the Bruno Kreisky Forum for International Dialogue in Vienna, Honorary Fellow at the Parkes Institute for the Study of Jewish/non-Jewish Relations at Southampton University and Associate Editor of Patterns of Prejudice.
From February 2006 to January 2009, I was Director of JPR (the Institute for Jewish Policy Research), a think-tank I founded in 1996 and directed until 1999, which devises policy solutions to social, political and cultural problems facing Jews and other minorities in Europe.
Prior to that, from December 1999, I was Chief Executive of the Rothschild Foundation (Europe), a grant-making trust I established for the UK Rothschild family, chaired by Lord Rothschild. The Foundation supports Jewish life in Europe focusing on academic Jewish studies, Jewish heritage and Jewish culture. When I left in 1999, the foundation was giving grants totalling £4 million a year for projects in more than 30 countries.
Before founding JPR, I was Director of the Institute of Jewish Affairs, JPR’s predecessor and the research arm of the World Jewish Congress (until 1994), from 1991 to 1996. At JPR I was the founding General Editor of Antisemitism World Report, a country-by-country yearly survey of antisemitism. From 1986 to 1999 I was editor of Patterns of Prejudice, an international academic journal on racism and antisemitism (published by Taylor & Francis).
In the early 1990s I was a member of the Runnymede Trust’s Commission on Antisemitism (chaired by Richard Harris, then Bishop of Oxford) and from 1998-2000 was a member of the Commission on the Future of Multi-Ethnic Britain chaired by Lord Bihkhu Parekh.
I graduated from Sussex University in 1976 with a first class BA Honours degree in modern European and British history. I then pursued research in the history of 20th century British industrial relations at the London School of Economics (1976-1979) and lectured in British and European history at what is now Brighton University (1977-1979). I joined the Institute of Jewish Affairs in 1979 as a Research Officer and became Assistant Director in 1983.
I am the author of numerous papers and articles on contemporary Jewish affairs, Middle East politics, international relations, antisemitism and racism. I am Editor of Jewish Communities of the World: A Comprehensive Guide, published in 1989 by Macmillan, and was Assistant Editor of the annual Survey of Jewish Affairs from 1982 to 1992, published by Blackwell. From 1985 to 1986 I was the Editor of the Jewish Quarterly magazine.
I was a member of the Black-Jewish Forum and of the Advisory Committee of the Holocaust Exhibition at the Imperial War Museum. I was a founder member of the Jewish Forum for Justice and Human Rights, and a founder member of the Independent Jewish Voices (IJV) steering group, a Trustee of the Humanitarian Trust and a Board Member of the European Jewish Publication Society. I was a member of the Board of Paideia, the European Institute of Jewish Studies in Stockholm, until 2013 and was a Trustee of the UK Friends of the Museum of the History of Polish Jews.
I have written for the Independent, Guardian, Haaretz, New York Times, New Statesman, Prospect, the Nation, London Review of Books, aufbau, tachles, Congressional Quarterly, Jewish Chronicle, Red Pepper, Jewish Quarterly, openDemocracy, Jewish Renaissance and other publications. In the mid-1980s, I was temporary Media Columnist for the Jewish Chronicle for four months.
My book, The Making and Unmaking of a Zionist: A Personal and Political Journey, was published by Pluto in 2012. It explores my personal, political and intellectual engagement with Israel and Zionism over 50 years.
I am Editor of Do I Belong? Reflections from Europe, published by Pluto in 2017.
My latest book, Whatever Happened to Antisemitism? Redefinition and the Myth of the ‘Collective Jew’, will be published by Pluto in June 2022.
I lived in Israel for 3 years in the 1960s and 1970s, spending most of my time living as a member of a kibbutz and working in a banana plantation on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. I spent three months as a conscript in the Israeli army.
I like your opinions which to me are a breath of fresh air. Normally when a Jew or Israeli mentions anti-Semitism I think “not again” and switch off. Not so in your case. I find your position is both reasoned and reasonable, and brings the term (which I dislike in itself for its basic inaccuracy that deprives (other) Semitic people of what is rightfully theirs) back to the reality where it is used to describe racism and bigotry. In that context I am very keen to take the subject seriously.
I would be very interested to read your opinions on BDS, if you would be so kind as to recommend some of your writing on the subject.
Listened to your conference on British Society and the Tate War, concerning the painter R.B. Kitay during a symposion recently held in Berlin, 25.-26. October. This conference on anti-semitism or not in Great Britain during the 1970-ies and later was very enlightening and differenciated and encourageing to my thinking. The research was done so competently and the results were taken so carefully and full of lifelong thoughts on the subject! Thank you very much for that, Mr Lerman – hope you had a good return back to London. All the best!
Very glad to find your blog.
I’m not used to commenting on a blogsite so I can’t tell whether my message will be on view to the public or not – hence a degree of circumspection. I participate in a local circle concerned with justice in Israel / Palestine, and in particular the treatment of Palestinians in the occupied Palestinian Territories. I have encountered reserve when talking to people about this circle. People have varied in their response from “they are all as bad as each other” through “there are atrocities on both sides” to “seems dangerously biased against Israel” and “the Palestinians are nothing but terrorists”. To counter these and to safeguard the reputation of the circle I would like to find a way of showing our even-handedness, and I would really like it to be practical rather than theoretical. After all, we carry out practical acts in going to the occupied Palestinian Territories and meeting with Muslims and Christians there. What practical ways are open to us in the south of England to demonstrate to ourselves and to others that we are just as much against anti-Jewish behaviour (and attitudes) as we are against infringements of human rights in the occupied Palestinian Territories? Who can I talk to about this?
Not sure exactly how to advise you on this. The problem you speak of is encountered by many who understand that human rights are for everyone, not just for Palestinians, not just for Jews. And that support for Palestinians doesn’t mean undermining the human rights of Jews. I note that you speak of working with Christians and Muslims, so if that means you have an interfaith perspective, perhaps you could contact the interfaith officer at one of the mainstream Jewish organizations, like the Board of Deputies of British Jews, ad explain to them you dilemma and see what they say. You can get details of how to contact the Board of Deputies through their website, http://www.bod.org.uk.