Welcome to Spiel, the JC’s blog.

  • Ken means I can't back Labour

    Jessica Elgot
    Mar 28, 2012

    I'm thinking of starting a support group. Our community is full of charities and counselling services covering every cough, spit and ailment in the medical dictionary. But I think we need another.

    I'd call it "I used to vote Labour, but now I don't know what to do." To those six Labour supporters who wrote a letter to Ed Miliband last week, expressing their concerns about Ken Livingstone's obsession with Israel, to the brave Jonathan Freedland, I say: "Comrades! You are not alone!" Together, I daresay we could add hundreds of signatures to that letter. Figures seem to suggest one in three Labour voters won't back Ken.

    I imagine we'd sit in a semi-circle, heads in our hands, recalling how Ken campaigned for Lutfur Rahman - an independent with alleged links to the Islamic Forum of Europe - to be mayor of Tower Hamlets, rather than the Labour candidate. We'd grimace at the memory of his chumminess with controversial Islamic cleric Yusuf al-Qaradawi.

  • Wilful blindness

    Jenni Frazer
    Mar 23, 2012

    Our story this week about Ken Livingstone's remarks, which prudence dictates we should still refer to as alleged, is fascinating on a number of levels. For new readers, Livingstone apparently dismissed the possibility of most Jews voting for him, because Jews were "rich" and thus unlikely to vote for the left.

    Leaving aside Livingstone's effrontery at even suggesting such a thing, it makes no sense even in his own terms. It is well known that Livingstone has spent many years cosying up to the community in Stamford Hill, whom he perceives to be "real Jews," not the inauthentic, ersatz model who give him such a hard time over inconveniences like the Oliver Finegold incident and all the other "difficult" baggage which he trails with him.

    It cannot have escaped even Livingstone's blinkered world view that surprisingly few of the Stamford Hill crowd fall into the "Jews are rich" category.

  • When George Clooney met a rabbi...

    Jennifer Lipman
    Mar 22, 2012

    When we think of Hollywood, we think of bright lights, red carpets, emotional speeches and fast-talking agents. We think of sparkly dresses and glamour, of put-upon-screenwriters and waiters waiting for their big breaks. We don't really tend to think of rabbis.

    But perhaps we should. Because, despite sounding like a contender for the "film pitch that is least likely to see the light of day award", have you heard the one about George Clooney and Rabbi Steve Gutow?

    Gorgeous George and Rabbi Gutow were among the motley crew of politicians and activists who were arrested last week during a demonstration outside the Sudanese Embassy.

  • Lord Sacks and the Whale

    Simon Rocker
    Mar 13, 2012

    I’ve heard quite a few people comment on the Chief Rabbi’s recent Jewish Book Week conversation with mathematician Marcus du Sautoy.

    I can't see that the Chief dropped any theological bombshells, although he did say, when asked about Jonah and the Whale, “No one has ever read these stories in the Jewish tradition literally.”

    Anyway, you can hear the exchange yourself because there is now a video of it on the Book Week website.

  • Chicken fun, all day long

    Jennifer Lipman
    Mar 1, 2012

    This is one for anyone in need of a distraction from work or study.

    Rosh Pinah Primary School (incidentally, the institution where I started my academic life) have set up a wonderful site with a live feed to the class pet.

    The Rosh Pinah ChickCam offers the chance to monitor these adorable fluffy fellows throughout the day. Enjoy.

  • Extraordinary

    Jenni Frazer
    Feb 27, 2012

    The news last week that there had been multiple resignations from the office of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu should have attracted rather more attention than it did. At least two of the resignations were whistleblowers who wanted to highlight the behaviour of a third colleague, the Prime Minister's bureau chief, Natan Eshel. Eshel has now resigned after admitting to sexual harassment of a female employee in the office.
    It really says something when the country's former president is in prison for multiple sexual harassment and rape, and still there are men who believe they can behave as inappropriately as they like towards women, secure in the illusion that they are untouchable because they are in positions of power.
    Eshel, plainly, learnt nothing from the Katzav affair. I do wonder, however, whether Mr Netanyahu himself has absorbed any useful lessons. He reserved his rage last week for his whistleblowing staffers because he had to learn about the Eshel situation from the media. Too much amour propre and not enough attention to what was going on, almost literally, under his nose.

  • Stop Iran? Easy, just ask 'em to

    Orlando Radice
    Feb 17, 2012

    Writing in this week’s New Statesman, former weapons inspector Hans Blix calls Israel’s use of the Stuxnet virus to hobble the Iranian nuclear programme and its assassination of the country’s nuclear scientists an “outrageous, gangster-style war”. So if you have solid evidence to believe that a country is developing the means to wipe you off the map, you are akin to a “gangster” when you seek to prevent that? Interesting argument…

  • Moral capitalism and the collapse of Jabe

    Simon Rocker
    Feb 15, 2012

    It is ironic when Prime Minister David Cameron and others have been talking of the need for moral capitalism that the Jewish Association for Business Ethics has folded owing to lack of funds.

    JABE successfully exported Jewish ideas on ethical practice to schools and offices well beyond the Jewish community.

    It grew out of an initiative, Integrity in Action, which was launched in partnership with the Chief Rabbi’s Office. And therein lay the seeds of its downfall.

  • Rick Santorum's Chanucah faux pas

    Jennifer Lipman
    Feb 10, 2012

    A new kosher conundrum in the will they / won't they rollercoaster of the Republican presidential hopefuls. Did Rick Santorum really mean to send Jewish voters a card with a quote from the New Testament on?

    Rick – he of the sweater vests and staunch Christian conservatism – was obviously hoping to shore up support from an unlikely corner when he sent the card last year (at least, I assume it was last year; getting the date of Chanucah wrong would have been an even bigger gaffe).

    But really, dude? Even for those who want all the religions of the world to work together (and Santorum doesn't really strike me as a happy-clappy interfaith kind of guy), this is pretty bizarre.

  • Harry, it's over to you

    Danny Caro
    Feb 9, 2012

    Who in their right mind would take the England job? One has to ask.

    In fact, it's the question a handful of respected managers in the game will have asked themselves this morning.

    Indeed very few people took to Fabio Capello because he wasn't English and didn't speak the lingo.