Your blogs

  • 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.”

  • Durham JSoc boycott motion defeated

    Simon Friend
    Feb 12, 2009

    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.

  • Just when you thought it was safe

    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."

  • Praying for Bibi

    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!

  • Obama's Israel peace plan?

    Geoffrey Paul
    Feb 9, 2009

    Do we now have the detailed outline of President Obama's plan for an Israel-Arab peace? Zbigniew Brzezinski, former national security adviser to President Jimmy Carter, Obama's foreign policy and security advisor in the run up the election and regarded as eminence gris of American geo-strategic thinkers, spoke in November at Chatham House, the Royal Institute of International Affairs, in London. What he said then was strictly off the record. But now Chatham House itself has put on the record an edited version of his November address on “Foreign policy challenges for Obama.” The Israel-Palestinian peace process, he says, must be given priority. Since the parties to the conflict can never themselves reach a solution, they will need America, with the help of Europe, to spell out the fundamental requirements of “a genuine peace of reconciliation.”

    In the edited version of the Brzezinski speech published by Chatham House in its journal International Affairs, these are: a demilitarised Palestinian state, perhaps with a Nato presence on its soil to enhance Israel's sense of security; a territorial settlement based on the 1967 lines with “equitable exchanges” allowing Israel to incorporate the more heavily inhabited settlements on the fringes of those lines; acceptance by both parties of the fact that Palestinian refugees cannot return to what is now Israel but should be provided with compensation and assistance to settle, preferably, in the independent Palestinian state; and the “genuine sharing of Jerusalem as the capital of two states, with some kind of joint arrangement for the old city and a Palestinian flag over the golden dome.”

    Light blue touch-paper and retire....

  • Maybe I missed it

    Geoffrey Paul
    Feb 6, 2009

    Proud front page claim of the New York Times since 1897 is that it gives its readers “All the News That's Fit to Print.” In recent years, its critics have amended that to proclaim “All the News that Fits We Print.” Many British media outlets might be said to have further adapted this slogan to boast: “All the News that Fits Our Opinions We Print.” You'll remember that UNRWA school in Gaza the Israelis were said to have deliberately shelled causing upwards of 40 deaths? The one that Al Jazeera and its copycat newspapers suggested should be the subject of a war crimes inquiry? The fact is that no shells landed either inside the school or its yard. There were casualties in the street outside, not in the school. This has now been admitted to a Canadian newspaper by the senior UN official who, with a studied lack of clarity at the time, encouraged reports suggesting the school had been targeted. Have you read a correction and/or apology about it? Will you tell me where?

    And where in the last week have you read that Egypt's President Mubarak blamed Hamas for causing the bloodshed in Gaza by miscalculating how the Israelis might react to their provocations.? He accused Hamas of following an Iranian agenda in the area. That's not all Hamas has been doing. According to a detailed report from the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (yes, there is one, brave folks that they are), Hamas has taken advantage of the Gaza conflict to brutally bump off or hideously to maim their political (mainly Fatah) rivals inside Gaza. There is a detailed, grisly report from the Centre at I may have missed any reference to it in the British newspapers or on TV. In which case, my apologies. I certainly missed any reference to the activities of two young Israeli women who launched an appeal for relief supplies to assist the women and children of Gaza. They were overwhelmed with offers from all over Israel, have already sent many truckloads into the refugee camps and have been offered storage facilities for their continuing collections by a Negev kibbutz which has itself been the target of rockets from Gaza.

    This is in no way my personal effort to whitewash some of Israel's more extreme actions inside Gaza. It is, though, my puny attempt to try and do what newspaper editors once thought a prime purpose of their endeavour: to keep the record straight.