Welcome to Spiel, the JC’s blog.

  • "Best country on earth!"

    Geoffrey Paul
    Jun 29, 2009


    For more than sixty years, Jewish and Gentile supporters of Israel organised in the Anglo-Israel Association have been working away quietly in the parliamentary, academic and educational fields to create a better understanding of Israel in the UK and vice versa. On a shoestring budget and relying on a headquarters' staff of one, director Ruth Saunders, backed up by volunteers, the AIA has created a reputation for preferring fact to propaganda and private discussion to public argument. This is what probably helped it to pull off a major coup last week when, in the palatial Locarno Suite in the Foreign Office, former ambassadors of Israel to the Court of St James's and British ambassadors to Israel sat down together for a day-long "Ambassadors' Roundtable" sponsored by the Association.

    The more than 10 hours' of discussions were conducted under "Chatham House" rules  which means participants are free to use information received, but neither the identity nor the affiliation of the speaker(s), nor that of any other participant, may be revealed. Having said which, it is no secret that, the ambassadors apart, Sir Malcolm Rifkind and Professors Martin Gilbert and Shlomo Avineri took a prominent part in the proceedings which were not without their heat - hardly surprising since the theme for the roundtable was "to address concerns about signs of mounting anti-Israeli sentiment in the UK."
    Reports circulating later suggested that a leading Jewish Tory parliamentarian set a snarling cat among the pigeons with a blistering attack on Israeli policies and her foreign minister. But for the rest things seem to have been much more measured. The kind of diplomatic approach adopted by participants was reflected in a brochure produced for the occasion in which former envoys in either country spoke for publication to Katy Ostro. Here, the ambassadors looked back, mainly with warmth, on their time in Britain and Israel. Sir Patrick Moberly (1981-1984} is still in touch with Israeli friends. What he admired most about Israelis was "their constant liveliness, their energy and determination It is these warm-hearted people that make Israel the country it is."
    Perhaps the warmest of all is Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles (2001-2003) who went on from Israel to be ambassador to Saudi Arabia and then Afghanistan and who is now the Foreign Secretary's Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, a hot seat if ever there was one. Cowper-Coles told Katy Ostro: "Israel is the most wonderful country on earth. If it could attain peace with the wider region this would be an invaluable asset in every sense. I believe that one of the tragedies for the region is that many Arabs have happy memories of Jewish populations in their midst, such as in Baghdad and Cairo, and that the separation of their communities has distanced the many good things that were held in common. For Israel to survive, this common destiny between Arabs and Jews must be embraced."

  • Michael Jackson's Jewish children

    Stephen Pollard
    Jun 29, 2009

    As we report,

    Michael Jackson's two elder children could be returned to the custody of their Jewish mother, Debbie Rowe.

    The children are Prince Michael I, who is 12, and Paris Michael
    Katherine, 11, who — according to halacha — would also be considered

  • C'est la vie

    Stephen Pollard
    Jun 29, 2009

    Another reason to groan at the unending Wacko Jacko drivel: it led to the Mail running out of space for my book serialisation.

  • Wacko Jacko

    Stephen Pollard
    Jun 26, 2009

    Ok, so Michael Jackson's death is a global story. But the BBC's Today programme devoted twenty of the 24 minutes after the 8am news to the story - including some madman who told us that Wacko Jacko ranked alongside Mozart and Beethoven as a musical genius - and then ended the programme with one of his songs.

  • A big headache for Jewish schools

    Simon Rocker
    Jun 25, 2009

    The Court of Appeal’s ruling today that the entry policy of JFS – and by extension, many other Jewish schools – is in breach of the Race Relations Act will come as little surprise to those who attended the three-day hearing.
    But that makes it no less historic: what the court has said is that the traditional rules for deciding who is a Jew – matrilineal descent –cannot be used for deciding who can enter a Jewish school.
    Almost certainly more legal action will follow: JFS is already set to appeal to the House of Lords. It might even go all the way to the European courts.
    There may be pressure to change the law so that Jewish schools will be free to set entry policies according to halachah.
    Meanwhile, other parents of children denied places at Jewish school because their mother was not considered halachically Jewish could bring fresh law suits.
    It’s going to be a long summer for school governors – and lawyers

  • How curious

    Jenni Frazer
    Jun 24, 2009

    I notice, with very little surprise, that there do not appear to be mass protests in the streets of London after the tragic and baseless shooting of the Iranian protestor, Neda Soltan.

    Why would this be, I wonder? Could it be that the people who are so eager to turn out on the streets to demonise Israel at every turn are less anxious to offend those who are in charge of the Islamic Republic? Surely not.

    Sooner or later an ayatollah will blame the evil Zionists for fomenting unrest against the regime and then it will be safe to demonstrate again. Colour me cynical.

  • Ban the burkha? That can't be fair

    Alex Kasriel
    Jun 24, 2009

    While I am not in favour of women being made to wear restrictive, all enveloping clothing that covers their faces I can't say I agree with Nicholas Sarkozy and his desire to ban the burkha.

    In a free society men and women should be able to choose whatever they want to wear however bonkers or impractical that might be.

    If he argues that the item was thought up by men as a way to opress women, banning it won't change men's attitude. And if the burkha means women are allowed to leave the house at all - then it must be a good thing.

  • Simon and Sir Philip – a match made in money heaven

    Candice Krieger
    Jun 24, 2009

    So, Simon Cowell and Sir Philip Green are set to take over the world with a multi-billion dollar international television business that they hope could become bigger than Disney.

    The new TV production, talent management and merchandising company will reportedly be based in Los Angeles and London, and own all the rights and content of Mr Cowell’s hit show; Britain’s Got Talent, X factor and American Idol.

    The move surprised the City today but surely it has been quite a while coming.