Welcome to Spiel, the JC’s blog.

  • Among the missing

    Jenni Frazer
    Dec 1, 2011

    I have rarely felt such a sense of disappointment in a Labour leader as I do today in Ed Miliband.
    Repeatedly asked to condemn what you might think would be a no-brainer, MP Paul Flynn's scurrilous remarks about the British ambassador to Israel and his alleged "dual loyalty", Mr Miliband took refuge in weak silence. It was left to his shadow foreign secretary, Douglas Alexander, to do the deed and castigate Mr Flynn's comments.
    In recent weeks Mr Miliband has let drop intriguing hints about releasing his inner Jew. He has had, we are told, deep conversations with himself about his Jewish identity following the birth of his second son. He has had long discussions with the Chief Rabbi, Lord Sacks, and the new Israeli ambassador to Britain, Daniel Taub (who, by Paul Flynn's bizarre logic, should also be guilty of dual loyalties since he is British-born.)
    I can't imagine that such conversations, were they to take place this week, would be so comfortable for Mr Miliband.
    All he has to do - in fact all he had to do - was to state clearly and unequivocally that Paul Flynn's remarks are completely and utterly unacceptable, no ifs, buts, or maybes. No hedging, no fudging, no ringing round with putting in context.
    What Paul Flynn said was deeply offensive and completely bought in to every antisemitic trope and stereotype currently being peddled on what we have hitherto considered the lunatic fringe. But Flynn has now brought this attitude into respectable conversation. Mr Miliband needs to tread on this immediately; but I cannot understand why he hesitated. Unless, of course, he believes that his own background will lead to a loss of credibility, and he is allowing his Jewish identity to constrain him.
    For shame, Ed. I thought you were better than that.

  • Democracy in Israel - how worried should we be?

    Orlando Radice
    Nov 30, 2011

    What to make of the so-called ‘anti-democratic’ laws being batted around in the Knesset? Is this the beginning of end of Israeli democracy, as many on the left would have it? Not all bills are as ruinous to political pluralism as they have been made out.

    The ‘Grunis’ Bill, for example, which is designed to reduce the Supreme Court president’s minimum tenure and has been much derided for potentially allowing a right-leaning Judge, Justice Asher Dan Grunis, to preside over the court, will not change the identity of the entire court since even the president only has one vote and can be overruled, just like any other court member.

    Moreover, Bibi, caught between a sustained legislative campaign from the right of the Knesset and negative feedback from the media and opinion polls, is trying to steer a middle way, promising to “soften” the laws before the are presented for their final votes in the Knesset.

  • How not to talk about the Arab Spring

    Orlando Radice
    Nov 25, 2011

    Congratulations to Israeli news website Ynet for posting a shining example of the kind of bigoted thinking that keeps the Middle East in perpetual conflict.

    In a series of dangerous conflations and groundless generalisations, the op-ed claims that ‘Arabs are in love with anarchy’ and ‘Egyptians failed to understand that Tahrir Square protests are not real democracy’. It goes on to blur the activities of suicide bombers, the Egyptian military and pro-democracy protesters, claiming that the rallies in Tahrir Square are 'sanctifying violence'.

    What nonsense - and hypocrisy. What chance do Egyptian people have of ever winning some degree of freedom other than through aggressive demonstration against their long-time oppressors? When Israel fights to defend its existence, freedoms and democracy is it then 'sanctifying violence'? Are price-tagging settlers therefore the same as an IDF pilot taking out a Hizbollah missile silo?

  • Picking the Chief

    Simon Rocker
    Nov 17, 2011

    The United Synagogue has, predictably, decided not to take the radical step of holding a ballot to elect its next Chief Rabbi after Lord Sacks retires in September 2013.

    But it has set up an tripartite structure to make the selection process more representative of the Chief Rabbinate’s constituents and, notably, women will play a greater role than they did in previous years.

    But there are two comments made by US president Stephen Pack, who also chairs the Chief Rabbinate Trust, when he announced how the Chief would be chosen this week which are worth noting.

  • Football - a game where colour should not be an issue

    Danny Caro
    Nov 17, 2011

    The campaign to kick Racism out of football in England has been one of the success stories of the modern game.

    As per the battle against Antisemitism, Islamophobia and Homophobia, it remains an ongoing project, and one that is rarely out of the headlines.

    On the day that Luis Suarez was charged with racially abusing Patrice Evra, the words of FIFA president Sepp Blatter on the topic left the football world open-mouthed. They displayed a lack of understanding of FIFA’s own rules of the game.

  • China, Russia and fearful symmetry

    Orlando Radice
    Nov 15, 2011

    China may be wavering in its support of “Basher” Assad, but Russia is hanging on in there.

    Syria is a crucial stepping stone in Iran’s axis of influence to the west and Iran would view Russian pressure on Assad as a direct affront to its imperial ambitions.

    Russia, for its part, does not want a fallout with a country that, once nuclear-ready, could act as a counterbalance to US geostrategic dominance – or, for that matter, has vast gas and oil reserves that await exploitation with the help of Russian energy firms.

  • The breadmap to Mideast peace?

    Jennifer Lipman
    Nov 4, 2011

    For those who say there will never be peace in the Middle East, here's a "hole" lot of proof that coexistence is possible.

    Reports the New York Daily News:

    The oldest Jewish bialy and bagel shop in New York City is being rescued by two Muslim cab drivers - and they plan to keep it kosher.

  • Name games

    Simon Rocker
    Oct 31, 2011

    In the past couple of weeks, we have read about the Creation and the Flood in the Torah portions of the week. But for all the drama of the stories, both sedarot end on a seemingly anti-climactic note with a list of names detailing the generations from Adam to Noah in the first sidrah, and then from Shem to Abram (he does not become Abraham until this week) in the second.

    It’s easy to find your attention wandering when they are recited but one curiosity is to pick out which names are still in currency today. Understandably, no one is going to call their son Cain; Abel instantly evokes the American Bible Belt. But Seth, the name of Adam’s third son, enjoys greater popularity.

    I can’t think of any Methusalehs, but you’ll still come across Chanoch, the Hebrew for Enoch. Does the name Ada derive from Adah, one of the wives of Lamech? I don’t know. You are unlikely to bump into a Mahalaleel today but Jared (son of Mahalaleel) is still around.

  • Let's Occupy this debate

    Orlando Radice
    Oct 28, 2011

    It was sad to hear that antisemitism found its way into the Occupy Wall Street demonstration in New York. The odd banner bearing the age-old tropes about Jewish bankers were spotted in the crowds. But the idea that the whole movement should be tarred with the brush of Jew-hatred is absurd: there was a Kol Nidre service near Wall Street on Yom Kippur, which led to the establishment of Occupy Judaism, swiftly followed by Occupy Simchat Torah, both of which have been camped out in and around the heart of the protest site, Zucotti Park. Anyhow, wasn’t the message of the protest something to do with capitalism, or am I straying from the point here?

    Despite the issue of antisemitism being, evidently, a marginal one, prominent US conservatives – notably the Republican National Committee, Rush Limbaugh and columnist William Kristol – have stepped over themselves to condemn the protests as embodying race-hatred. Meanwhile, the NYT reports a reply from Sean Spicer, the communications director of the Republican National Committee, that: “Democrats were quick to single out any instances of perceived extremism among Tea Party supporters, But with Occupy Wall Street, they turn a blind eye.”

    So like everything else in the US, Jews become a political football in an extreme sport where the opposing side must be battered into the pitch with the first tool that comes to hand.