Welcome to Spiel, the JC’s blog.

  • Spot the Israeli flags at the Champions League final? This lot did...

    Marcus Dysch
    May 22, 2012

    During Saturday night’s Champions League final some of you will, I expect, have noticed two Israeli flags displayed in the stands.

    I spotted them in the first half – hanging at pitch level just near the halfway line – and then thought little more about it. Every now and again when they flashed across the screen they caught my eye, but they were really rather secondary to the remarkable match unfolding before my eyes.

    But while I and more than 10 million other Brits were watching Chelsea win London’s first ever European Cup, others were busy enquiring as to why the flags were there.

  • Antisemitism & Its Antidotes (2)

    Winston Pickett
    May 21, 2012

    Teaching can be the ultimate instructor. It is where your most basic assumptions are challenged, amplified – or both.

    Take the notion that simply ‘talking’ about antisemitism would spark debate. If I had any doubt that introducing the subject would lead to a spaghetti junction of contentious issues and live-wire associations – those misgivings were jettisoned during the first 20 minutes of my first class.

    With the mere introduction of the topic and the ostensibly ‘safe’ route of asking participants to say what they understood by antisemtism, it didn’t take long before a Pandora’s Box of competing definitions burst open. Anti-Zionism, anti-Israelism, racism, Jew-hatred and xenophobia all clambered for recognition while hot-button local events vied for equal time as concrete illustrations.

  • Did Mossad send a big-nosed bird to spy on Turkey?

    Jennifer Lipman
    May 15, 2012

    Could a Jewish Mossad agent have been masquerading as a bird to gather intel about Turkey?

    Remember when the Saudis captured a vulture on suspicion it was spying for Israel? Or the bizarre claim that the Sharm el-Sheikh shark had been sent by Israel to attack unsuspecting tourists? Well, to add to your list of spurious claims made by Israel's enemies about Mossad's dastardly tricks, I bring you the big-nosed bird spy.

    Apparently, the Turkish authorities are in a bit of a flutter about a European Bee-Eater (it's a species of bird – who knew?) that was recently found dead in a field in Ankara.

  • Deadly comments

    Simon Rocker
    May 14, 2012

    Last week’s Torah portion of Emor ended with the unhappy of a story of a man who was stoned for cursing God.

    Despite the biblical precedent, however, the rabbis, always reluctant to impose the death penalty, later made it extremely difficult to convict for blasphemy.

    Alas, modern trends seem to be going in the opposite direction. Kuwait is the latest country that has moved to make blasphemy (against the Prophet Muhammad) a capital offence. According to the Tablet, the crime was previously punishable by imprisonment (which is bad enough). The national assembly has passed a law to introduce harsher punishment, although it must still be approved by the Emir.

  • Antisemitism & Its Antidotes

    Winston Pickett
    May 10, 2012

    Tonight I begin teaching an eight-week course called “Antisemitism and its Antidotes: From Talk to Action” as a part of a Limmud-inspired, cross-communal study programme in Brighton and Hove called Lishmah Sussex.

    I’ve chosen the title for two key reasons, both based on observations I have made over the years.

    The first is that when people raise the subject of antisemitism or talk about it in any way, the conversation rarely stays ‘on topic’. It tends to wander – from definitions of what constitutes antisemitism, to debates about its reality or pervasiveness, rapidly descending into an encapsulated history of Jew-hatred throughout the ages.

  • Vidal Sassoon: What a nice man

    Jenni Frazer
    May 9, 2012

    Without a doubt, Vidal Sassoon, whose death has just been announced, was a really lovely guy. I interviewed him a few years ago and was astonished when Sassoon, rather than take refuge behind a usual retinue of "people" and hangers-on, made all the arrangements for the meeting himself, phoning me up, just like a regular human being. This was unusual behaviour for a celebrity, but Sassoon was unusual. A fierce anti-fascist and lifelong fighter against antisemitism, he didn't just talk the talk. He was a mensch who never forgot his roots. Baruch Dayan emet.

  • Now we're 64: Ambassador Taub's children steal the show

    Jennifer Lipman
    Apr 30, 2012

    At the Israeli Embassy's Yom Ha'atzmaut celebration last week, Ambassador Daniel Taub's children wowed guests with their version of "When I'm 64".

    The song, performed by Judah, Sophie, Reuven, Asher and Amichai Taub, had the audience clapping and cheering - and for good reason.

    When we were younger, when Israel began, not so long ago

  • Keep me a seat in the Lords

    Simon Rocker
    Apr 26, 2012

    A parliamentary committee this week backed the government’s proposal that in future members of the House of Lords should be restricted to a maximum 15 years’ service.

  • Extraordinary

    Jenni Frazer
    Apr 25, 2012

    The Guardian's letters page and its adjunct Corrections column is a constant source of fascination. This week it excelled itself with a letter from Ben (I am not an antisemite) White, letters attacking the Globe Theatre for not withdrawing its invitation to Habima to perform in London, a correction for having traduced the JC over a BNP blog, and this little gem:
    "The caption on a photograph featuring passengers on a tram in Jerusalem observing a two-minute silence for Yom Hashoah, a day of remembrance for the six million Jews who died in the Holocaust, wrongly referred to the city as the Israeli capital. The Guardian style guide states: 'Jerusalem is not the capital of Israel; Tel Aviv is.'"
    Well. Where to start? With one hand the Guardian giveth, with the other it taketh away. It carefully cloaks itself in we-love-the-Jews-hood by running the Yom Hashoah photograph in the first place. Even the Guardian couldn't find anything snarky to say in the caption.
    But wait! Yes, it had made a mistake according to the paper's style guide. It is the paper's style guide, you see, which carelessly runs roughshod across international norms of sovereignty and a country's right of self-determination. No matter that Israelis believe Jerusalem to be their capital; the Guardian style guide trumps that belief, as simply wrong.
    No ifs, buts, qualifications; the Guardian knows best. Here is The Times on the same issue: "Jerusalem must not be used as a metonym or variant for Israel. It is not internationally recognised as the Israeli capital, and its status is one of the central controversies in the Middle East." That's a reasonable and sane approach.
    Sad conclusion: the Guardian has lost the plot.

  • What Mel Gibson could learn from Lady Bracknell

    Jennifer Lipman
    Apr 12, 2012

    So, does Mel Gibson really “hate Jews” quite as much as Joe Eszterhas claims he does?

    According to Eszterhas, Gibson is an unrepentant antisemite, who used him to clean up his reputation after that infamous drink-driving anti-Jew rant, and all the rest. Mel Gibson will no longer star as Judah Maccabee, the Jewish hero and warrior, or at least not in the Warner Bros version of the film as scripted by Eszterhas.

    Eszterhas’ private letter to the actor, made public on a gossip website as all good Hollywood take-downs are these days, includes some pretty strong accusations; Gibson wanting to convert Jews through the film (he thinks his acting is just that damn good?), rubbishing the Holocaust (that old faithful) and repeating the blood libel of “the sacrifice of Christian babies and infants” (FYI, Mel, that’s not what the Torah says).