Your blogs

  • Ice cream and democracy in the Middle East

    Jennifer Lipman
    Feb 15, 2011

    Which would you prefer? You’re at an ice cream shop, and you can either have a scoop of an untested flavour – one that might turn out to be cookie dough fabulous, but might also be rum ‘n’ raisin terrible – or go for the boring chocolate one, like you always do.

    Would you take the risk, step into the unknown? Your reward for such intrepid behaviour could be more like a punishment; you could end up with a cone you don’t want. But you could get something wonderful, something better than you’d imagined.

    Democracy is the untested flavour. It doesn’t come with a disclaimer, it’s not “rule of the people, except when…”. You either have it, or you don’t – like what you get, or lump it (until the next election).

  • Words matter: Greenslade, Desmond, the EDL

    Jennifer Lipman
    Feb 11, 2011

    When Jan Moir wrote that inflammatory column about the death of Stephen Gately, there was a Twitter campaign and public outrage almost immediately, Likewise, Liz Jones’ rather tasteless piece retracing Joanna Yeates’s final steps prompted web-wide consternation.

    Roy Greenslade has admitted he was somewhat amiss to write in his blog about media baron Richard Desmond and the Daily Star’s English Defence League coverage: “As a Jew, he may well have negative views of Muslims”.

    It’s an outrageous, idiotic line, a slur against all moderate members of the Jewish community and particularly offensive to those engaged in interfaith efforts, of whom there are many. Some Jews may well have “negative views” about Muslims, likewise some Muslims may well have negative views about Jews.

  • Only be well!

    Geoffrey Paul
    Feb 2, 2011

    Part of the post-operative recovery programme for patients in hospital has to be the care, attention and, by no means least, diet provided for their recuperation. Having been the unfortunate close-up viewer of the kosher diet provided in a leading London hospital, I can only say, if you can possibly help it, don’t opt for the meals provided by a well-known kosher caterer whose offerings, while well intended, are plainly not designed for the bed-bound patient. Mounds of silver foil and plastic wrap, while they may protect kosher food from contamination from handling by non-Jewish staff, arrive at the bedside table in a jumble requiring forensic skills to detach the food from the wrapping. Soup comes in bowls which have been upset within their outer packaging, with more soup in the containing package than the bowls. Cold cuts of meat are heated to the same temperature as a portion of chicken and are therefore inedible. I could go on but would not want to disturb your digestion. All I want to say is, in this day and age of advanced technology, it cannot be beyond the skills of Jewish scientists and food technologists to come up with a kosher diet which is edible within a hospital context and which does not provide the best reason for opting, instead, for a vegetarian, non-kosher diet. By the way, if you order a kosher meal for a visitor, expect to pay £31.50 for something which will almost certainly be left uneaten, Outrageous.

  • Protest humour (part two)

    Jennifer Lipman
    Feb 2, 2011

    Ok, so boundaries and borders in the Middle East are often the subject of debate. But disagreeing over where the lines go isn't quite the same as misplacing an entire country. Which, obviously, is something a major news organisation would never do. Right?

    Oh wait. Mazel Tov, Fox News for confusing Egypt with Iraq.

    NB: I am told the map is actually from 2009. But last I checked, Egypt was still not where Iraq is back then

  • Protest humour

    Jennifer Lipman
    Feb 2, 2011

    Not to make light of the political situation in Egypt, but some wit on Twitter has come up with a nice way of summing up the delicate power balance in the region:

  • Revolution by Twitter

    Geoffrey Paul
    Jan 26, 2011

    Have we entered a new era of revolution by tweet? Until the Egyptian cut them off yesterday, it was possible to follow the unfolding of events in Cairo by logging into one or the other of the social networks being used to spread the word of demonstrations against the regime. This is so much more authentic in conveying the flavour of events in Cairo than the digested and sometimes overly-cautious interpretations offered by media experts. Some of the best stuff on developments in the Arab world comes from savvy bloggers. One who seems to know his olives from his dates pointed out that the al-Jazeera/Gurdian leaks of Palestinian papers came from within the Palestinian Negotiations Support Unit (NSU).  The NSU is funded by DFID, the UK Department for International Development, and exists to provide parity in the negotiations by giving the Palestinians a professionally-staffed reach-back capability for negotiation details. My blogger observes: “ I'm not casting aspersions here - the NSU hires a lot of young international idealists, and local skeptics, any of whom might have been to blame for the leak.  But that detail, combined with the recent admission by a British general that his support to the Palestinian security forces has not made any impact on the use of torture by those forces, reinforces the perils of giving any backing to a regime that doesn't have the support of its own people.” There’s a thought. And another one: how does supporting the Palestinian negotiating team fit in with DfID's apolitical remit of poverty reduction?

  • Mitigating shame

    Geoffrey Paul
    Jan 20, 2011

    Daniel Liebeskind has designed one of his most poignant memorials, a miniature in scale when compared with his Berlin Jewish Museum or his plans for the rehabilitation of the site of the World Trade Centre in New York. The “Wheel of `Conscience” as he calls it is reminiscent of a ship’s steering wheel. At its centre is a mesh of revolving gears as would be found in an engine room, individually bearing the words hatred, xenophobia, racism and antisemitism. On the reverse are the names of more than 900 German Jews who sought refuge from the Nazis in 1939 aboard the liner St Louis. Men, women and children, they were waved away from ports in Cuba, the United States and Canada. The US had a patrol boat make sure none tried to swim ashore. Over 250 perished in the Holocaust, after their return to Europe.

  • A questionable cartoon from the Daily Mail

    Jennifer Lipman
    Jan 19, 2011

    The Mail has a story today about the gay couple, Steven Preddy and Martin Hall, who were awarded £1,800 after winning their case against the hotel owners who refused to let them share a room.

    Peter and Hazelmary Bull, a Christian couple, turned the civil partners away after they realised that the booking was not for a husband and wife.

    In my view, this is a victory against discrimination. But the Mail has focused on the story in a slightly different way, headlining it: "'Now some people are more equal than others': Despair of Christian hotel owners penalised for turning away gays".

  • What do Jews and Chinese people have in common?

    Jennifer Lipman
    Jan 17, 2011

    Well, Jewish fashion designer Diane Von Furstenberg thinks she knows.

    She told an interviewer at a Bloomberg panel event: "The Chinese people are very individual.

    "I mean, they are not like the Japanese that are obedient. They're very — they're like Jews, really, except that there is a lot more of them.

  • Tunisian dominoes

    Geoffrey Paul
    Jan 16, 2011

    I have no doubt that Israeli military and political think tanks are hard at work trying to assess the outcome of events in Tunisia on such vulnerable neighbours as Jordan and Egypt and, within the same zone of influence, Libya and Algeria. There is no question at all that changes of regime in either Jordan or Egypt - unlikely immediately given the strength of their internal security forces - would have a major impact on Israel (and no less the Arabs of the West Bank and Gaza). There are some fanciful soothsayers in Israel who see the monarchy in Jordan being overthrown by the country’s Palestinian majority who will then create their Palestinian state which will absorb their brothers and sisters in the West Bank and Gaza and leave Israel within its present borders. That is to presume the Jordanian Palestinians are more sympathetic to Fatah than Hamas. There is absolutely no justification for this. None at all. And, in Egypt, if the Mubarak dynasty is to be brought to an end, by whatever means, it is likely to be followed by - if not a regime dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood - a strongly Islamist coalition. The two signed peace agreements Israel has - with Jordan and with Egypt - will be worthless given the overthrow of the existing regimes and a whole new ballgame will be signalled in the Middle East. Tunisia was the first domino. Who will predict the last?