Your blogs

  • Fifth Annual Israeli Apartheid Week to be marked on campuses countrywide

    Simon Friend
    Feb 26, 2009

    Activities and campaigns marking the Fifth Annual Israeli Apartheid Week will be held next week on campuses around the country. In previous years, events have taken place in Oxford, Manchester, London and Edinburgh universities, as well as more than 40 other campuses around the world. The main aims outlined on the organisation’s website are “to achieve full equality for Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel, and an end to the occupation and colonisation of all Arab lands — including the Golan Heights, the Occupied West Bank with East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip”. A further aim is to “educate people about the nature of Israel as an apartheid system and to build boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) campaigns as part of a growing global BDS movement”. Previous speakers have included prominent Jewish anti-Zionist academics such as LSE emeritus professor, Jonathan Rosenhead, member of the British Committee for Universities of Palestine.

  • Mourning marathon

    Geoffrey Paul
    Feb 26, 2009

    We need a new short prayer for funerals. The two I have been to most recently, although they took place in the open, involved neither burial nor, plainly, cremation. In fact, rather than calling them funerals it would be more appropriate to term them farewells to the departed. They were conducted at the back of an open hearse kitted out with a sophisticated public address system over which tributes to the departed were directed at the closed box within and to family, friends and surprised passers-by in the street. As both took place after dark, there was a rather surreal aspect to the obsequies. The timing was inevitable since the hearse was going to be heading, not for Bushey, but for the evening plane to Israel. There, next day, the deceased would be buried in the hallowed soil of the Holy Land.
    But you cannot plan for every eventuality, as we discovered one evening this week. The rabbi having recited appropriate psalms and said a few appreciative words, we lined up behind the hearse in traditional Orthodox manner to walk some small part of the way in final tribute to the one who had gone before. The driver paced it rather more slowly than necessary for even the halt and near-lame amongst us. So the rabbi, striding ahead to draw abreast of the man at the wheel, suggested he might move along a bit faster. There was obviously some breakdown in communication. The mourners, having walked no more than twenty or thirty paces, were brought to a staggered stop as the hearse accelerated away and was out of sight before you could say Shalom chaver!

  • Crise de conscience

    Geoffrey Paul
    Feb 24, 2009

    Like me, you are probably finding it hard to make the cash go around nowadays. It's not just that the essentials of living - like food and transport and household utilities - cost ever more. It's also the fact that, if you have any savings, they seem to speedily be heading for that never-never land which the economists drably identify as negative equity. One of the more dire aspects of this development is that those of us who have been brought up to regard charitable giving as part of our Jewish identity are having to do that which is the most depressing: to pick and choose between those good causes we have previously supported, no matter how modestly, and ditch some of them. I find myself consigning more and more appeal envelopes to the waste basket, some with a real pang, others with surprise that I have ever donated to them at all. The process of refining will inevitably continue for as long as the credit crunch tears away at disposable incomes. Which makes all the more difficult the proper response to those relatives, dear friends, children of friends, even grandmothers of children of friends who seek your sponsorship, patronage and hard cash as they set out to conquer Everest on mountain bikes or chase tigers through some overgrown undergrowth – all in the name of charity. Do you think it would be rude/unreasonable to suggest they indulge themselves nearer home and donate the saving to their favoured charity? I really don't want to upset them by saying anything. Will you do it for me?

  • So, now what in Gaza?

    Geoffrey Paul
    Feb 20, 2009

    I wondered how long it would take for the un-sayable to be said but now it has been set out in black and white and by no less an Israeli insider than a reserve major-general and former head of the Israeli National Security Council. The Council is the central body responsible for co-ordination, integration, analysis and monitoring in the field of national security. It reports directly to the Prime Minister. You cannot be more inside than General Eiland. In a paper for the Jerusalem Institute of Contemporary Affairs he writes:
    “In Gaza today there is, for all practical purposes, an independent state led by Hamas. It is not part of the Palestinian Authority because that is what the Palestinians decided. If there is an accountable state in Gaza, although it is an enemy state, Israel has a degree of deterrence because there is another party that has something to lose. Current Israeli policy claims that Israel's goal is to bring about the collapse of the Hamas government in Gaza, but that is not going to happen.”
    A little voice at the back of my head whispers, So what then was Operation Cast Lead really all about? There being no answer, let's get back to General Eiland. How would he break the present impasse in the search for peace? Here, in short, is what he says:
    “If we make Gaza double or triple its current size by adding an additional 600 sq. km. of territory from Egyptian Sinai...Gaza would have the space to build a new city of a million people, along with a real seaport and airport, and to create the conditions that would make economic expansion possible.
    “At the same time, Israel needs 600 sq. km. in the West Bank because the 1967 line is unacceptable from a security point of view. In return, Israel could give to Egypt 600 sq. km. in the Negev in southern Israel. At the end of the day no one loses land, while multilateral swaps enable us to solve the currently intractable problem of Gaza and solve Israeli needs in the West Bank.”
    Snap, crackle and pop – the general has a solution. Permanently remove 600 sq. km. from what the Palestinians regard as part of their heartland, compensate them with the same amount of territory from sovereign Egyptian Sinai and give the Egyptians the equivalent amount of desert from the Negev.
    That would be fine if the Palestinians were ready to welcome in the settlers with happy smiles and bunches of flowers and the Egyptians had no qualms about exchanging bits of desert with Israel. But it is not going to happen in the lifetime of General Eiland or any one of us. Meanwhile, Hamas remains in control of Gaza. So, now what?

  • 2,000 Friday night meals delievered to Jewish students

    Simon Friend
    Feb 19, 2009

    Last week 2,000 Friday night meals were delivered to Jewish students across the country as part of UJS Hillel’s Shabbat UK drive. Students from a wide range of JSocs — from Cardiff, Bournemouth and Keele, as well as the larger ones such as Leeds and Manchester — were provided with Shabbat candles and “How to…” kits.

  • Glasgow Gaza demonstrators meet principal

    Simon Friend
    Feb 19, 2009

    Following a petition from students at Glasgow University with over 1,000 signatories denouncing Israel’s military action in Gaza, a meeting was held this week between the demonstrators and the university’s principal, Sir Muir Russell.

    The petition came after a sit-in last week, in which students occupied the university’s computer science building, refusing to move until their demands were met.

    A representative of the university said: “We could not accept the majority of the students’ demands, but recognise that there were genuine humanitarian concerns that need to be discussed.”

  • Wave of pro-Palestinian sit-ins continues

    Simon Friend
    Feb 19, 2009

    As the wave of pro-Palestinian sit-ins and demonstrations at 24 campuses around the country recedes, Jewish students are reviewing the situation.

    Students at Glasgow, Manchester, LSE, King’s College, Oxford and Cambridge, as well as many others, have refused to budge until their respective university authorities have accepted their demands — mostly comprised of agreeing to set up scholarships for Palestinians, disinvestment in arms companies linked to Israel and the boycotting of Israeli academics and produce.

    Concessions were made by LSE and King’s College, as well as the Manchester and Dundee student unions, but on the whole the demonstrations came to an end without success.

  • I’m just not into the swing

    Paul Lester
    Feb 18, 2009

    I keep saying I’m going to do some online dating but, to be honest, there’s been no point, what with the avalanche of mail arriving for me at JC HQ from single women responding to this column and asking for a, well, Jewish Date.

    I say avalanche. There have been two letters so far, so I haven’t exactly needed to hire a lorry for a trip to the local landfill. Still, two letters mean two potential dates, and two potential dates mean one potential future ex-wife. How exciting.

    And so it was with some trepidation — I remember feeling a similar queasy sense of dread as I made my way towards the bimah on the day of my barmitzvah — that I rang the ladies in question.

  • Glasgow University sit-in anti-Israel protest

    Simon Friend
    Feb 12, 2009

    Earlier this week, around 70 students from Glasgow University organised a sit-in to protest against Israel’s actions in Gaza and the involvement of arms manufacturers with the university. The students occupied the computer science building, claiming this department to have major links with the British defence and aerospace company BAE systems. The Stop the War Coalition, which led the occupation together with Action Palestine and Amnesty International, presented a petition signed by over 1,000 students and staff, demanding that the university should sever links with such corporations, as well as boycotting all Israeli produce, such as Eden Springs water, which is currently sold on the campus. Raymie Kiernan, who has taken an active role in the sit-in, said: “We will remain in occupation indefinitely until our demands are met and will not negotiate with security guards.” The sit-in, which has seen students chanting slogans such as “Money for jobs and education, not for war and occupation”, follows a wave of similar events across numerous British campuses. A spokesman for the University of Glasgow said: “The university respects the right to freedom of speech, but the rights of students and staff to engage in their normal business must always be respected. The university will take appropriate action if the occupation causes serious disruption to staff or students.”

  • University College London’s AGM rescheduled

    Simon Friend
    Feb 12, 2009

    After being cancelled because of heavy snow, University College London’s AGM has been rescheduled for a Friday afternoon — February 27. Two motions have been tabled on the Gaza conflict. The Friends of Palestine Society want to “mandate the UCL academic affairs officer to write to the Provost of the university on behalf of the union… condemning Israel’s attacks on Gaza, as well as demanding that old books and computers are sent to universities in Gaza and scholarships offered to Palestinian students”. They also want “a wooden placard in the union building stating: ‘UCL Union is twinned with Al-Quds University (West Bank) and Al-Azhar University (Gaza).’” Daniel Sommer, a JSoc member who has tabled a motion calling for the union “to remain apolitical and neutral regarding foreign policy”, has called the union’s rescheduling of the AGM “insensitive and unfair, disenfranchising Orthodox Jewish students”. A union representative said: “While we are aware that the scheduling is deeply problematic for religious students, the timing of the meeting was largely determined by the space available at UCL.”