Welcome to Spiel, the JC’s blog.

  • Primark to Israel?

    Candice Krieger
    Jan 13, 2009

    British retail sales fell at the fastest pace on record last month and experts warn that things will only get worse. Not the best time then to be getting involved then? Unless you're Israeli it seems.

    Magnolia, Israel's leading retailer of silver jewelry, has recently set up shop in London's Brent Cross shopping centre, with plans for further UK stores in the pipeline, while designer Michal Negrin continues to increase her presence - in Selfridges, Liberty and Harrods to name a few. Contemporary fashion chain Castro is also rumoured to be opening in the UK later this year.

    And it was reported today in Israeli newspaper Yediot Ahronot that Primark, that increasingly popular value clothing brand, is in negotiations with Israeli fashion chain H&O, to sell its stock in Israel. H&O Chairman and President Dr. Israel Peleg confirmed that the negotiations are taking place but refused to reveal details.

  • We're so even-handed

    Jenni Frazer
    Jan 12, 2009

    The police have had a rough time of it over the last couple of weeks as they attempt - often at considerable personal risk - to maintain public order at the increasingly violent anti-Israel demonstrations in the capital.

    However, according to the Evening Standard, Met Police Commander Bob Broadhurst is planning "discussions with both sets of protestors this week to prevent any more violence." He said, again according to the paper, "We will need to sit down and talk to organisers and say 'enough's enough.'"

    Forgive me but as far as I know, it's not the pro-Israel demonstrators who have smashed and looted their way through shops and businesses and racked up a policing bill of more than £1 million. Commander Broadhurst is welcome to sit and talk to the Stop the War Coalition, under whose aegis much of this charmless behaviour appears to have occurred - but so far the Jewish side has behaved like law-abiding meerkats. As one might expect. They hardly need a metaphorical smack on the wrist from the cops.

  • Where are the voices of protest for conflicts that don't involve Israel?

    Jan Shure
    Jan 12, 2009

    I can't prove this - though I suspect that one of the Middle East monitoring organisations has some statistics - but I have a strong suspicion that the Israel-Palestine conflict generates more shturm and drang among the non-involved than any other world issue. And, lest you think I mean on Israel's side, I do not. I mean the members of the general populace, the chattering classes, who have no connection either by birth or residence to the region yet - with a handful of notable exceptions - are stirred to virulent anti-Israel rhetoric whenever there is any flare-up in the region.

    This anti-Israel sentiment manifests itself in calls to radio phone-ins, letters to newspapers, advertisements signed by academics, medics and lawyers, and in demonstrations whose slogans frequently deny Israel's right to exist.

    But, where, I wonder is this passion, and where are the letters, calls to phone-ins and raised voices for the victims of other conflicts across the world - for Tibet, Burma, Somalia, Angola, Zimbabwe, Congo. And where were the campaigns, demonstrations and marches across London during the Rwandan genocide, or when Serbs where carrying out ethnic cleansing in Bosnia.

  • More unanswered questions

    Jenni Frazer
    Jan 9, 2009

    I see from the BBC website that Jeremy Bowen, its Middle East editor, has an online diary which he has called "Unanswered Questions", such as how long the conflict is going to last and why it is that he doesn't know the names of dead Palestinians while simultaneously attending the funeral of an Israeli soldier, Natei Stern.

    This morning on the Today programme Bowen gravely read out in its entirety a press statement issued by the International Red Cross in Gaza. The allegation, shocking in itself, is that Israeli soldiers herded a group of 100 Palestinians into a house in Gaza which was targeted a day later by Israeli warplanes, killing 35 of those inside. Bowen insisted that the IRC claim, based on eyewitness testimonies, was credible and had to be taken seriously.

    So ask the Israelis, I shouted at the radio. Ask them what they say.  Nothing. No opportunity given to the Israelis to confirm or deny this.  Now that's what I call an unanswered question.

  • Ceasefire now

    Daniella Peled
    Jan 8, 2009

    We need a ceasefire in Gaza now. We need massive amounts of humanitarian aid to be allowed into the Strip. And we have to find a longer-term, more durable way to prevent a repeat of this horrific situation.

    Jerusalem needs a political solution soon, too. Even though international opposition has been slow in coming, a consensus is building for a ceasefire. And Israel can’t allow itself to end the operation without some sort of diplomatic or military achievement. Certainly, Hamas is not going to be destroyed, and by merely surviving will declare itself victorious. The IDF feels more confident now, judging its performance and organisation as a clear improvement on that of the 2006 Lebanon War.

    But at some point soon, Israeli troops will pass the point of no return and engage in serious, urban warfare, with all the consequential losses that will entail. It could end up reoccupying the Strip, which no-one wants. Palestinian deaths, already at an unacceptable level, continue to rise.

  • Baby names

    Alex Kasriel
    Jan 7, 2009

    Lily, Henry and Archie were all having tea. Despite how it sounds, this jolly event didn't take place at Sunnybank Home in Golders Green: it was the recent 2nd birthday party of baby Tilly.

    Looking at the most popular baby names of 2008, it is clear that Edwardian names are back. My new nephew was named Arthur, although not after any family member - but simply because the name is trendy right now. His friends are called Molly, Ruby, Grace and Alfie. For my parents' generation, Victorian names like Katherine, Alice, Victoria, William and Thomas were a la mode. Biblical names like Isaac, Jacob and Josh have always been popular. But I can't imagine my parent's generation's names every becoming fashionable.

    "Yes, we've decided to call him Brian, after my great grandpa," or "We think 'Carol' really suits our new baby daughter," are remarks which are somehow not quite believable today or any time soon. Names like Roger, Alan, Bernard, Malcolm or Brenda seem very unlikely to come back into fashion. They don't have the timeless quality of Katherine, Arthur or Henry. They are neither biblical characters nor the names of kings and queens. But what made us decide to call them to our children in the first place is difficult to fathom. Can anyone shed any light?

  • Limmud love

    Alex Kasriel
    Jan 6, 2009

    Returning from Limmud conference in Warwick University last week, I'm really feeling the love. Love for the new generation of youth (which doesn't count as me anymore and hasn't done so for at least 10 years, but hey). They seem more vibrant, talented and passionate than we ever were. I feel love for our community who manage every year, to stage such an inclusive and diverse event to which anyone can contribute. And I feel a renewed love of knowledge.
    This is my third Limmud and each time I have come back hoping to expand my tentative foray into the world of Jewish learning. Even if I don't manage to sustain my interest for longer than a week - which, knowing my track record, is likely - at least I will always have Limmud next year.

  • It's a funny old game ...

    Danny Caro
    Jan 6, 2009

    The term swings and roundabouts springs to mind when looking at the January transfer window. An Arsenal fan mocked arch-rivals Spurs on the JC MSFL’s messageboard buying Jermain Defoe for twice as much as they sold him to Portsmouth a year ago.

     However, Mr Anonymous should not forget that his beloved Gooners sold England defender Matthew Upson many moons ago and it appears that they will have to pay top dollar if they are to get their man back and maintain their hopes of winning some much-needed silverware.

  • Turkish disgust

    Daniella Peled
    Jan 6, 2009

    Israel seems to have only alienated one diplomatic ally thus far through its Gaza operation – but a vital strategic one.

     Turkey is Israel’s closest Muslim partner, enjoying a far warmer relationship with the Jewish state than the cold peaces extant with Egypt and Jordan, for instance.

     And yet Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan made a speech on Sunday which appeared nearer the rhetoric of Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad than the words of an old– though not uncritical - friend.

  • A doctor's life

    Jenni Frazer
    Jan 6, 2009

    It's always interesting to see how long it takes Mahmoud Zahar to pop up as the bloodthirsty voice of Hamas whenever there is a conflict with Israel.

    Yesterday, according to The Times, in "a televised broadcast recorded at a secret location" (wonder why?) Zahar was at it again, promising that Hamas would kill Jews abroad in revenge for the attacks on Gaza.

    Zahar, it is easy to forget, is a doctor, whose first mission ought to be the saving of life rather than pledging to obliterate Jews. But ever since meeting this deeply unpleasant specimen in 1992, I have wondered how Zahar squares his obligation to the Hippocratic oath with his vengeful statements of hatred.