Your blogs

  • Where were you when........?

    Geoffrey Paul
    Sep 13, 2011

    As almost a lifetime critic of Israel's lack of public relations skills, I have watched even more aghast than usual as Turkey's Erdogan has made the running against Israel with his portrayal of her attack on the Turkish “humanitarian relief flotilla” to Gaza as something not short of an international crime. I will concede absolutely that, confronted with opposition. the Israeli commandos went into overdrive and did not stop to decide whether they should suffer casualties before responding to their attackers. But then this was no innocent `”humanitarian” sortie by well-intentioned Turks – and I do not rely on Israeli propaganda sources for my information. What's wrong with the Washington Post and why has Israel not drawn on what it had to say in an editorial in June last year? You don't know what I am talking about? Well, here's the editorial and if you did not know about the information it contains, phone your local Israel Embassy and ask why (all the words that follow are from the Washington Post editorial):

    Western governments have been right to be concerned about Israel’s poor judgment and botched execution in the raid against the Free Gaza flotilla. But they ought to be at least as worried about the Turkish government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, which since Monday has shown a sympathy toward Islamic militants and a penchant for grotesque demagoguery toward Israel that ought to be unacceptable for a member of NATO.

    On the opposite page today, Turkey’s ambassador to the United States makes the argument that Israel had no cause to clash with the “European lawmakers, journalists, business leaders and an 86-year-old Holocaust survivor” who were aboard the flotilla. But there was no fighting with those people, or with five of the six boats in the fleet. All of the violence occurred aboard the Turkish ferry Mavi Marmara, and all of those who were killed were members or volunteers for the Islamic “charity” that owned the ship, the Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH).

  • Not in my lifetime

    Geoffrey Paul
    Sep 8, 2011

    I have always believed – sometimes, admittedly, in desperation – that what opponents, enemies even, address to each other in public does not truly reflect the life-and-death stuff of which they talk in private. Lives really depend upon this hidden intercourse. I am not sure of this any more, after ten hours this week spent in the company in London of old-hand Israeli and Palestinian negotiators. It became frighteningly clear after only a short while that they were not talking to each other. They were talking past each other. The Israelis talk, as they must, about security in depth. The Palestinians talk, as they must, about the degree of self-determination they require. A senior Arab spokesman insisted that , in Mahmoud Abbas, Israel now had an opportunity of negotiating with the most pragmatic Palestinian leader they were ever likely to encounter. The Israelis insisted that Abbas spoke for just a fragment of Palestine and that there was that other element, Hamas, which was sworn never to accept a Jewish State.The Palestinians spoke about a need for Israel to accept , at least in principle, the right of Palestinians to return to their former homes. The Israelis spoke about a need for the Palestinians to accept, absolutely, that Israel be recognised as the national state and home of the Jewish people. Sir Malcolm Rifkind told a joke (and he does not have great recognition as a joker): The Israelis and the Arabs sent a delegation to God. “God,” they said. “will there ever be peace between us.” And God replied: “Yes, my children, there will be peace between you – but not in My lifetime!.” It was hard to disagree.

  • From Oxford to Ramallah

    Geoffrey Paul
    Sep 3, 2011

    An unexpected spanner has been thrown into the intention of Ramallah to seek recognition of a Palestinian state at the UN later this month. A leading Oxford academic and legal expert has warned that, by pushing ahead with their bid for recognition of a Palestinian state, the PLO leadership may well hazard any right of Palestinians to return to what is now Israel and disenfranchise every Palestinian living outside the area currently under the control of the Palestine Authority.

    Professor S Goodwin-Gill, a barrister and senior research fellow at All Souls College, Oxford, in an opinion requested by a member of the Palestine National Council, a sort of Palestinian inner cabinet, has cautioned that:“Until such a time as a final settlement is agreed, the putative State of Palestine will have no territory over which it exercises effective sovereignty, its borders will be indeterminate or disputed, its population, actual and potential, undetermined and many of them continuing to live under occupation or in States of refuge.

    “While it may be an observer State in the United Nations, it will fall short of meeting the internationally agreed criteria of statehood, with serious implications for Palestinians at large, particularly as concerns the popular representation of those not currently present in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.”

  • Michele Bachmann: The (not) Jewish presidential hopeful

    Jennifer Lipman
    Aug 31, 2011

    As with every US Presidential election, the candidates are after the Jewish vote. (The fact that they'd also quite like to capture the Christian vote, the Muslim vote, the Humanist vote and the votes of the people who believe aliens walk among us, is not the point).

    Because we're not even in primary season yet, it's the many, many Republican hopefuls who are clearing their calendars to visit synagogues and community centres, hug Jewish babies and eat as much honey cake as they can stomach.

    Chief among them is Michele Bachmann. But apparently, she's already ahead in the race.

  • Fascinating Tosh

    Geoffrey Paul
    Aug 31, 2011

    I am ever fascinated by the world of the chassidim, especially when introduced to a dynasty of which I had no previous knowledge and which, in general, has managed to remain aloof from the outside world and struggles to keep it that way. So meet the Tosh (no joke, honest) and their venerable though ailing Rebbe, Meshullam Feish Segal-Lowy, great-grandson of the first Tosher Rebbe who sprang from a long rabbinic line and lived in the Hungarian town of Nyirtas, the last syllable of which provided the dynasty's title, Tas, sometimes Tash and most often Tosh.

    Now in his 90th year, the current rebbe lives in a town built around him and populated by several thousand of his followers. Named, not surprisingly, Kiryas Tosh, it was established in 1963 not in some Brooklyn suburb nor even in Israel, but, wait for it, in French-speaking Quebec, Canada, about a 30-minute drive from Montreal where its members previously lived. It is no surprise then that the main street of Kiryas Tosh is Avenue Beth Halevy.

    Rabbi Lowy took his followers to Tosh from Montreal so that he could preserve their life style and keep distractions at bay. He seems to have succeeded. Even in Catholic Canada, Tosh has one of the highest birthrates in the country. But is has not been without its heartbreaks. A fire last month destroyed a block of 18 apartments but caused no casualties. The local shomrim said all 200 flat-dwellers were rescued, 150 of them children.

  • Practise what you tweet? Not these activists

    Jennifer Lipman
    Aug 25, 2011

    I'm all for legitimate protest, so while I might view a group called UK Friends of Palestine & (dissident) Israel with suspicion, I wouldn't want to say they shouldn't have a platform.

    According to the mission statement on their twitter page, they want: "To raise awareness for non-violent actions to open Gaza and end the occupation."

    But, they add: "We work for equality, peace and one day lots more love again between Arabs and Jews."

  • Jody McIntyre and the Tottenham riots: quelle surprise

    Jennifer Lipman
    Aug 8, 2011

    Two days after the worst rioting in Tottenham since the 1980s, and the facts of what happened are slowly coming together.

    What's already fairly clear is that not all the rioters were locals; as David Lammy MP noted in the Times: "Many of the people arrested weren't from Tottenham. The grief of one family must never be hijacked to inflict grief on others."

    Coming after months of social unrest and protests, particularly in the capital, the idea that a peaceful protest could be hijacked by the more anarchic elements in society should come as no surprise.

  • Talking won't make all the bigots shut up

    Jennifer Lipman
    Aug 2, 2011

    Ten days on from the horrific massacre at a Norwegian youth camp and the debate about the far-right, extremism and multiculturalism continues to rage on the comment pages and blogosphere.

    Libby Purves, writing in The Times on Monday, raised a good point, arguing that compulsory English lessons would integrate immigrants and undermine the extremist cause.

    She writes: "One thing would - and must - make a difference, and that is language. Communication. Humans are social animals, and once you converse with a person - however different - you create a bond and open the way to partnership, even friendship.