Columnists

Hooray for Catholic sex change

By Geoffrey Alderman, March 4, 2010

There is something profoundly depressing about the political jig that Ed Balls, Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families, was obligedto dance so publicly last week.

A portmanteau bill sponsored by his department is currently making its way through parliament. Among its provisions is the requirement that all taxpayer-funded schools teach pupils something about sex and contraception.

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Your community needs you!

By Miriam Shaviv, February 25, 2010

How can we improve our community? Many of us have probably had strong - even radical - ideas over the years, but few opportunities to act on them. As in most communities, individuals have relatively little clout.

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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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