- Geoffrey Paul
Mar 25, 2009
I thought I had heard everything until someone sent me a tape of part of a speech by Nadia Matar, co-founder of “The Women in Green.“ These Jewish settler ladies, as you will know, are committed to fighting by every means for the incorporation of the West Bank – Judea and Samaria – within the State of Israel and the disenfranchisement of any Arab crazy enough to stay there. Speaking in the highly-respectable, and rather beautiful, new Safra Synagogue on New York's East Side, Matar rambled on before an obviously delighted audience about her territorial/biblical philosophy until she reached her chilling climax: just as Churchill understood that, in order to bring peace to Europe, "he had to destroy the Nazi beast, today we must destroy all the terrorist organisations. We must kill all the terrorist leaders, starting with Mahmoud Abbas...” Mr Abbas just happens to be the elected leader of West Bank Palestinians and probably the only man who could bring his people to a peaceful settlement with Israel. But, for Ms Matar, it is not the concept of land for peace that drives her but all the pieces of the land for the fundamentalist Judaism she espouses. Just as shocking was the applause this earned her from her New York Jewish audience. I am glad the rabbi of the congregtion, when he heard what she had said, issued a statement “rejecting wholeheartedly the odious and repugnant remarks” of Ms Matar. While his synagoge hall had always been available to outside groups on a non-discriminatory basis, the nature of Ms Matar's remarks disqualified the sponsoring organisation from any further use of the space. The name of the sponsoriing group, by the way, is “Americans for a Safe Israel.”
- Geoffrey Paul
Mar 23, 2009
Shurat HaDin, the Israel Law Centre, is a Tel-Aviv based lawyers' organisation that utilises legal proceedings and lawsuits around the world to fight international terrorism, its leaders and their financial patrons on behalf of terror victims. It declares itself fully independent and not affiliated with any political party or organisations. I have no reason to doubt it does good work and it is probably a sustainable argument that, in the murky world where it operates, good taste is not a criterion.
But I must say that I find its notice to members – mainly American from the context - of “The Ultimate Mission to Israel” in June is, well, if not injudicious then in bad taste beyond the bizarre. For a large roll of dollars, it offers not only five-star, glatt kosher accommodation at the Sheraton Plaza, Jerusalem, where there will be a “dedicated Executive Communications Center,” but also (I have curtailed the list but use their own terminology):
*Inside tour of the Israel Air Force unit wbo (sic) carries out targeted killings.
*Live exhibition of penetration raids in Arab territory.
*Observe a trial of Hamas terrorists in an IDF military court.
*First hand tours of the Lebanese front line positions and the Gaza border check-points.
*Inside tour of the controversial Security Fence and secret intelligence bases.
*Meeting Israel's Arab agents who infiltrate the terrorist groups and provide real-time intelligence.
- Geoffrey Paul
Mar 19, 2009
Here's something with which to cheer your children: Jewish, Muslim, and Christian fundamentalists will gain significant ground against their liberal and secular counterparts by 2050, even surpassing them in some cases. This is the view of Eric Kaufmann, a fellow of the Belfer Centre which is part of the J F Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.
The increase in the size of a religion's fundamentalist population can change the local and even national politics of a country, according to Kaufmann, and demographic change can threaten a state's security because it produces a larger pool of potential religious militants. Kaufmann suggested that while most fundamentalists are not militant, all militants are fundamentalists.
While the overall total fertility rate (TFR) is on the decline, the TFR among those on the more religious end of the spectrum remains well above replacement. American Jews have a very low TFR of 1.43, but within this group, ultra-Orthodox Jews (Haredim) stand out as exceptionally fertile: they increased their share of American Jewry from 7.2 to 9.4 percent during 2000–2006 alone. In Israel, the Haredim had a TFR of 7.61 in 1996 while other Israeli Jews' TFR stood at just 2.27. This will enable the Haredi to form a majority soon after 2050. Kaufmann hypothetically asked a lecture audience he addressed to consider the impact this could have on the peace process since the orthodox and Haredim are particularly attached to Jerusalem — where they are a majority — and to the holy places and "promised" land of the West Bank.
This week has seen the start of the “Jerusalem Peacemakers’ Tour”, which intends to hold talks on eight different campuses, asking: “Is peace possible after Gaza?” The discussions are led by Eliyahu McLean and Sheikh Abdul Aziz Bukhari, co-directors of the Jerusalem Peacemakers. The tour was run by Campusalam, the university-targeted branch of the Lokahi Foundation, an NGO whose aims are to “develop a more diverse, harmonious society; provide a balanced and broad range of information on Islamic history, practices and teachings” and “to allow principled, constructive and critical debate on issues which can be contentious to raise and difficult to openly discuss”.
UJS held a party in celebration of Tel Aviv’s 100th anniversary this week. The event, held in Birmingham’s Custard Factory nightclub, was attended by hundreds of Jewish students, making it the largest Jewish student event this year. The klezmer band Ghetto Plotz played alongside renowned DJs the Scratch Perverts, with live acts from acrobats and break-dancers.
King’s College Student Union escaped a take-over bid by anti-Israel campaigners at elections for its student board positions last Friday.
A group called “Another King’s is Possible” put forward six candidates who said their candidacy “emerged from the occupation at Strand”, a pro-Palestinian sit-in demonstration on a King’s campus in January, which was repeated in 17 other universities nationwide. Dalia Nelson, outgoing co-chair of umbrella student society London JSocs, says the group would have hijacked the union with anti-Israel campaigns.
“These people were intent on causing disruption. Had they got in, we would have been subjected to a constant barrage of anti-Israel protest on an almost daily basis.”
Dan Matalon of Bournemouth University was the only Jewish student to be running this year for the post of president of his students’ union. Mr Matalon has held the positions this year of JSoc president and executive officer of the union, but was unsuccessful in his campaign, gaining only 370 votes (23 per cent), 223 votes behind his nearest rival.
Last week, former Fatah leader Hussam Khader was removed from SOAS’s “‘Israeli Apartheid Week” bill, having been refused permission to travel by Israel. Khader was arrested in 2003 and convicted of being a member of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, the armed wing of the Fatah movement that played a key role in the second intifada, and for helping fund the group through connections to Hizbollah and Iran.
Jeneration, the student branch of the Movement for Reform Judaism, has appointed a second campus fieldworker. Dan Rickman has joined Sheldon Mordsley to work on various university campuses across the country. Mr Rickman commented: “I know the importance of having a good time at university, but I have also learnt that it is a great opportunity to start asking key questions about life and really explore who you are and who you want to become.”
The top two students in next year’s sabbatical team at the University of London Union (ULU) have both recently been actively involved in anti-Israel campaigning. ULU, which includes London campuses such as University College, LSE, King’s College and Queen Mary’s College, this week elected Nizam Uddin as next year’s president. Currently the co-president of the School of Oriental and African Studies’ (SOAS) Students’ Union, Uddin called his university’s “Tel Aviv 100” lecture series “embarrassing”.