Columnists

Murky deeds, mealy mouths

By Geoffrey Alderman, February 25, 2010

There are few worlds murkier than those of espionage, counter-espionage and "special operations". These are the worlds of bluff, counter-bluff, lies, deceit, forgery, treachery, blackmail, sedition and slaughter. Most countries support "special operations" units, and the exploits of some of these have become the stuff of legend.

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What drives lecture-hall hate

By Geoffrey Alderman, February 18, 2010

In terms of the ongoing battle against anti-Jewish racism in this country, February has not been a particularly good month.

First, Cambridge University's Israel society capitulated to pressure from the university's Islamic and Pakistan societies and withdrew its speaking invitation to professor Benny Morris, thereby giving its seal of approval to the absurd accusation that this Ben-Gurion university academic is an "Islamophobic hate speaker."

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Israel needs its internal critics

By Jonathan Freedland, February 18, 2010

Perhaps from the very beginning, there have been two distinct types of critic of Israel: those from within and those from without. For many years, the latter have been barely tolerated. If outsiders - whether the United Nations or the BBC or Amnesty International - dare to criticise Israel, their observations are immediately discounted. "What do you expect of [fill in name of loathed foreign institution here]? We've always known they hate us."

Dissenting voices from the inside, however, were treated differently.

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An offensive conversion 'solution'

By Miriam Shaviv, February 11, 2010

Six months ago, in the wake of the JFS case, consecutive commentators blasted the British courts for appearing to brand Judaism racist because it determined Jewishness by matrilineal descent and not by religious practice. Judaism cannot possibly be racist, they said, because anyone can convert into it — no matter their skin colour or ethnicity. “To be told now that Judaism is racist, when Jews have been in the forefront of the fight against racism in this country, is distressing,” wrote Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks. “To confuse religion and race is a mistake.”

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The politics of disinvitation

By David Aaronovitch, February 11, 2010

There ought to be an addition to the books of etiquette on the subject of disinvitation. Invitation we know all about.

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'Equality' debate is artificial

By Geoffrey Alderman, February 11, 2010

The tension between private rights and public obligations is one of the most enduring themes of human development. As a result of the American and French Revolutions — or, rather, as a result of the ferment in political thought that gave rise to them — the balance between public obligations and private rights began to shift.

Philosophers of the Enlightenment stressed the primacy of the rights of man, by which they meant the rights of individual men (and women) over the rights of the state, and of organised religion, which they tended to regard as an adjunct of the state.

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The chill in the Chilcot inquiry

By Melanie Phillips, February 4, 2010

In all the stürm und drang over the Chilcot inquiry into the war in Iraq, one feature has so far escaped attention. That is the emphasis placed on Israel’s role in the crisis, not least by the inquiry panel member Sir Roderic Lyne.

To those of us of a nervous disposition, the way Lyne, formerly Our Man in Moscow, has been dragging Israel into the story of what happened in 2003 is more than a little grating.

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Comment is (not quite) free

By Geoffrey Alderman, February 4, 2010

You may be familiar with the Guardian newspaper’s website and with that website’s “Comment is Free” section.

Comment is Free takes its name from the famous dictum of C P Scott, the legendary owner and editor of the then Manchester Guardian, in 1921. “Comment is free, but facts are sacred,” Scott declared.

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Duelling rabbis' real agenda

By Geoffrey Alderman, January 28, 2010

A public rift has broken out among the rabbinate of the United Synagogue. What are we to make of it?

Two weeks ago in the JC, rabbis Naftali Brawer (Borehamwood) and Michael Harris (Hampstead) issued an extraordinary call for the US to reach an accommodation with the Reform, Liberal and Masorti movements in order to facilitate a change in the law so as to reverse the Supreme Court judgment in the JFS case.

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Please file under 'pending'

By Daniel Finkelstein, January 28, 2010

To: Michael Gove MP, Shadow Secretary for Children, Schools and Families
From: Daniel Finkelstein
Re: Jewish school admission policy

● I thought you might find it useful if I prepared a memo for you on Jewish school admissions. I realise that we talk often about these sorts of things, but I thought it couldn’t hurt if I sent you a note of the kind I used to draft, as director of the Conservative research department for members of the Shadow Cabinet. It is an irony, of course, that in those day you were the Times journalist and I the politician.

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