Welcome to Spiel, the JC’s blog.

  • The Levy Committee: what's the real price we pay?

    Hannah Weisfeld
    Jul 13, 2012

    This week, the Levy Committee, set up by Israeli prime-minister Benjamin Netanyahu to examine the legal status of outposts in the West Bank, announced its findings. According to the committee the IV Geneva Convention does not apply to the West Bank and therefore Israel cannot be deemed to be occupying this piece of land. On that basis the ‘illegal outposts’ in the West Bank, built on what Israel recognises as state land, should be made legal, and zoning policies should be amended to make it easier for Jews to build in this area. The finding is indeed a win for the settler bloc within the Israeli political arena and in the face of a defeat over the Ulpana neighbourhood in settlement of Beit-El, hugely important in their eyes. It should be noted that the findings of the committee are not legally binding. However they do inform future debate and can be used as a justification for subsequent political action in the Knesset.

    Interestingly, but perhaps not surprising, lacking from the report is any mention of the status of the people living on the land. Admittedly this was not the brief of the committee - the brief of the committee was to determine the legal status of outposts in the West Bank, but can one ever consider the status of a piece of land without taking into consideration the people that live on the land?

    If, as the Levy committee reports, there is no occupation of the West Bank, and on that basis, the IV Geneva Convention does not apply, then Israel surely must justify its decision to grant full Israeli citizenship to the 500,000 Israelis that live over the green-line (1949 armistice lines) and deny it to the 2.5 million or so Palestinians that live in the area? If the Levy committee had found Israel to be occupying the West Bank then Israel would have had to defend its reasons for maintaining a 45 year occupation, and moving its citizens into the West Bank through the settlement project, which is prohibited in Article 49 of the IV Geneva Convention. The State of Israel and its courts have never reached a foregone conclusion on the status of the territory. When the settlers in Gaza petitioned the high court in 2005 during the evacuation of Gaza, the court ruled that they did in fact have no right to be there as the land of Gaza was occupied and therefore the evacuation was constitutional.

  • The Chief Rabbi on gay marriage: silence not an option

    Simon Rocker
    Jul 6, 2012

    The Chief Rabbi has come under fire for his opposition to civil marriage for gay and lesbian couples (see our front-page story this week).

    Since there is no question of the government forcing religious groups to carry out same-sex weddings, his critics say that Chief Rabbi simply should have kept shtum rather than plunge into a contentious and divisive issue.

    However, they overlook an important point. It is true that the commandments of the Torah are binding only on Jews. However, according to Orthodox theology, there are basic standards of morality which apply to all humanity known as the Seven Noahide Laws.

  • Asma al Assad's new business venture?

    Jessica Elgot
    Jun 22, 2012

    Syria's first lady Asma al-Assad has a new business to propose to you. Look what dropped into my inbox this afternoon.

    From: Mrs. Asma al-Assad []
    Sent: 20 June 2012 07:37
    To: undisclosed-recipients
    Subject: Your Trust/ Interest


  • Should the Chief Rabbi stay on?

    Simon Rocker
    Jun 19, 2012

    An online petition has been started calling for the Chief Rabbi to stay on beyond his scheduled retirement date. Lord Sacks is planning to move on after 21 years in office in September 2013, six months after his 65th birthday.

    The prospect of him postponing his departure seems unlikely. His close associates had long indicated he was minded to step down at 65. If he had wanted to remain for a couple of years or, like his predecessor Lord Jakobovits, until he was 70, the United Synagogue would surely not have turned down the offer.

    He will be able to continue doing what he does best, writing, speaking and broadcasting, regardless of whether he holds the title of Chief Rabbi or not: there seems no reason, for instance, why he would have to give up his Thought for the Day slot when he leaves office. His seat in the Lords will also guarantee him a national platform. In demand as a speaker internationally, he will be free to pursue engagements abroad without having to worry about ceremonial appearances or functional duties back home.

  • Bat Mitzvah nose jobs - according to the Daily Mail

    Jessica Elgot
    Jun 8, 2012

    Apparently my nose is newsworthy this morning. As a woman with a natural "Jewish" nose, I am pleased to report, I am part of a new phenomenon.

    The headline of the article by Victoria Wellman was "Young, Jewish and beautiful: Nose jobs decline as rhinoplasty's biggest fans no longer fear their defining feature". Apparently, we Jewish women who have longed dreamed of the cute button nose are learning to embrace our hook-nosed honks. Or something to that effect.

    The line comes from a cosmetic surgeon, once the darling of "young, affluent Jewish girls", who was quoted in a Tablet magazine article.

  • England squad visits Auschwitz - the right move

    Marcus Dysch
    Jun 8, 2012

    The England players who visit Auschwitz today are sure to have a moving experience.

    Ever since former boss Fabio Capello decided to base the squad in Krakow for the Euro 2012 tournament, the FA has worked hard to ensure the right tone is set.

    Their partnership with the Holocaust Educational Trust is an impressive one. Today’s visit is not just a quick tourist stop-off for Roy Hodgson’s men; it is the first step in an educational programme that will benefit not only the players, but thousands of British schoolchildren.

  • GCSE antisemitism: the hidden question

    Simon Rocker
    Jun 1, 2012

    There has been a sharp divergence of opinion among Jewish educators about the wisdom of the question set in a GCSE religious studies exam this year, “Explain, briefly, why some people are prejudiced against Jews”.

    Some believe it was an open invitation for children to express antisemitic views. Others point out that there was little risk of this since the question appeared in a Judaism paper and reflected a prescribed topic about stereotyping and scapegoating that those sitting the paper would have studied. The exam board says that so far responses to the question in exam papers show that students correctly understood its intention.

    Many of the 1,000 pupils who sat the paper would have been pupils at King David Manchester and JFS.

  • Avram's Journey

    Marcus Dysch
    May 30, 2012

    Avram Grant has in the past revealed elements of the remarkable story of how his late father, Meir Granat, survived the Holocaust.

    But last night BBC Radio Five Live broadcast a new, chilling documentary with Grant, retracing the steps his father and grandfather took more than 70 years ago.

    Football Focus presenter Dan Walker travelled with the former Chelsea manager to the Polish village where Grant’s family lived, and then continued their journey to Auschwitz, where almost the entire family was decimated during the Shoah.

  • Should Orthodox deputies cover their heads?

    Simon Rocker
    May 24, 2012

    One of the novelties of the vice-presidential elections at the Board of Deputies on Sunday was that they were live-streamed, enabling web spectators to follow events.

    The same was also true of the hustings a few days before, where the candidates also had to endure the sight of sometimes critical commentary on their performance being tweeted on a live screen by outside viewers as well as members of the audiences.

    Meanwhile, here is one view of Sunday’s events which was blogged by Bnei Akiva deputy Noah Nathan: