- Simon Friend
Mar 12, 2009
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”.
- Geoffrey Paul
Mar 8, 2009
Gallup has completed the first ever nationally representative in-depth analysis of how American Muslims see themselves and their status in the US. What Gallup has not been able to do is establish just how many Muslims there are in the States. Estimates vary widely from 1.2 million to as many as 8 million. What Gallup did discover is that 35 per cent of the Muslim population is Afro-American, 28 per cent describe themselves as “white” and 18 per cent say they are of Asian origin. The Gallup researchers placed Muslim responses to their queries alongside those of other major religious denominations. The result is that we have some interesting comparisons with the Jewish community (estimated 5.3 million). For one thing, the percentage of young Muslims aged between 18 and 29 is 36 per cent of the sample surveyed. This is much larger than Jews in the same age bracket – 16 per cent. Of the Muslims in that age range, 41 per cent said they went to the mosque at least once a week. Young Jews who went to synagogue were less than one half of that, 19 per cent.. In a question which covered all age ranges, 80 per cent of Muslims and 39 per cent of Jews said that religion was important in their daily life (which placed Jews well below the national average of 65 per cent). Jews in total were also well below both the Muslim and national average of those attending a place of prayer at least once a week. Overall, 40 per cent of Muslims said they had a college degree or higher. For Jews, that figure was 61 per cent, while Muslims earning over $5000 a month totalled 28 per cent. For Jews, the figure was 41 per cent. Asked if they felt they were thriving or struggling, 41 per cent of Muslims said they were thriving, 56 per cent said struggling (Jews 56 per cent and 41 per cent respectively). The same percentage in both groups – 3 – said they were “suffering.” Both were more charitable (70 per cent and 78 per cent} than the national average of 64 per cent but when it came to political outlook only 29 per cent of Muslims described themselves as liberal or very liberal. The figure for Jews was 45 per cent.
[You can read the whole, very lengthy survey here: http://www.muslimwestfacts.com/mwf/116074/Muslim-Americans-National-Portrait.aspx]
Israel Apartheid Week was not greeted with total apathy. Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Centre took a tough attitude to the growing harassment of Jewish students on campuses across Britain and north America. It has launched a new campaign which is aimed, according to the centre’s associate dean, Rabbi Abraham Cooper, at “debunking the mythology of the anti-Israel forces”. Central to the campaign is “iCan”, featuring two aluminium cans connected with string. The iCan posters and adverts in student papers ask where modern society would be if it boycotted Israeli technology.
The former Israeli ambassador to the UK, Yehuda Avner, last week spoke to a crowd of 120 students from universities around the country in Oxford’s David Slager Jewish Student Centre. The talk, hosted by Chabad, was set against the backdrop of a small crowd of anti-Israel protesters who demonstrated against the speaker, waving flags and offering leaflets to passers-by and people entering the centre. Rabbi Eli Brackman, who chaired the event, said: “The protesters respectably fell silent not to disturb the prayers that were going on inside, after they learnt from a student that it was a religious, rather than political, event.” The student centre was patrolled by a number of representatives from the Community Security Trust, and the protesters voluntarily dispersed by the end of the evening.
The co-editors of Oxford University’s student newspaper, Cherwell, resigned this week because of a spoof issue that joked about paedophilia and the Holocaust. Lecher was distributed last November and included a story in which two students talked about molesting and killing babies, and another about a street musician in Oxford playing the bagpipes and joking that it was used for torture by the Nazis.
A picture showed a former editor of the publication covered in a white sheet, impersonating the Ku Klux Klan. Sian Cox-Brooker and Michael Bennett, who were elected as editors for the new term, were held responsible by Oxford Student Publications Ltd., despite insisting in a statement that they were “not responsible for the compilation of that edition.” Cox-Brooker and Bennett further noted that they “understand that satire can be misconstrued”, and “as this term’s editors we apologise for any offence which might have been caused and have now resigned”.
As part of the “Bleed B’nei Akiva Dry” campaign, last week over 100 student members of the Orthodox Zionist youth movement gave blood, including 40 first-time donors. Stations were set up in Leeds, Manchester, Birmingham, Cambridge and London university campuses. “We want to educate our members in the practical ways they can make a difference to society at large,” said BA’s education director, Zak Jeffay. He said that after “phenomenal support for the programme”, the movement intends to run a second one in four months’ time — the required waiting period between donations.
Three out of six posts on next year’s Leeds University union executive have been won by former prominent members of Leeds JSoc. Jak Codd, next year’s communications officer for the union, was the education officer for JSoc; Mike Gladstone, former events officer for JSoc, will be education officer of the union; and Josh Landy, last year’s JSoc president, will be next year’s union activities officer. Next year will be the first time that there has been more than one Jewish officer of LUU.
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.
- 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!
- 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?