- 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?
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.
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.”
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.
- 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.
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.”
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.”
After a hard-fought campaign by Durham JSoc, a motion for their union to boycott Israeli goods has been defeated in a university-wide referendum by 726 votes to 525. Initially, the issue was due to be decided at a union council meeting, but the demand for a referendum was so high that all students were given the chance to vote. Durham JSoc, one of the fastest-growing JSocs in the UK, distributed around 4,000 flyers detailing their objections and held an emergency forum to give students the opportunity to debate the issue.
- Geoffrey Paul
Feb 12, 2009
Not the best of times in interfaith relations. Muslims in Britain, I am told by one of them, are filled with anger over what transpired in Gaza and, he predicted, pictures from that conflict will be used by extremists to recruit amongst Muslim youth in Britain. Then there was the Pope, compounding a couple of misplaced steps in interfaith relations, by opening the way back into the Church for a rebel bishop who doesn't believe the Holocaust really happened.
Yesterday, adding to this sour stew, the Synod of the Church of England, having adopted a paper which, in theological terms, depicts Christianity as the recipient of the blessings God promised to the Jews but did not deliver, called on the bishops to come up with “examples and commendations of good practice in sharing the gospel of salvation through Christ alone with people of other faiths and of none.”
This must have brought a wry smile to the face of the Chief Rabbi, a joint president with the Archbishop of Canterbury of the Council of Christians and Jews. Sir Jonathan, you will recall, had to respond to charges of heresy from within the Jewish community for writing that "God has spoken to mankind in many languages: through Judaism to Jews, Christianity to Christians, Islam to Muslims." He added: "No one creed has a monopoly on spiritual truth; no one civilisation encompasses all the spiritual, ethical and artistic expressions of mankind ... In heaven there is truth; on earth there are truths ... God is greater than religion. He is only partially comprehended by any faith."
- Geoffrey Paul
Feb 11, 2009
There is someone who must be praying – literally – for Bibi Netanyahu to become Prime Minister of Israel. A theme of Netanyahu's election campaign was that “We have demonstrated in the past, and will continue to demonstrate, our commitment to a complete, undivided Jerusalem.” Which is just what veteran Christian evangelist Pat Robertson wanted to hear.
Speaking last week on the Christian Broadcast Network, Robertson warned that the Battle of Armageddon will take place not in Megiddo, in the Galil, but in Jerusalem if “the forces of all nations come together and try to take Jerusalem away from the Jews.” He said he had been in touch with Netanyahu who promised him that Jerusalem as Israel's capital was “non-negotiable.”
The plain implication of this is that Robertson envisions Bibi as an agent of Christianity who, by holding fast to Jerusalem, will hasten Armageddon, the conversion of the Jews and the coming of the Christian messiah! I don't know how the Likud leader feels about this but for my part, rather than encouraging Armageddon later,I'll settle for Moshiach Now!