Columnists

Labelling as sop to boycotters

By Daniel Finkelstein, December 17, 2009

‘The British government is opposed to any kind of boycott of Israel” says a spokesman for the British Embassy in Israel. Yeah, right. What do you think I am mate, an idiot? (Don’t answer that.)

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Israel's settlements are legal

By Geoffrey Alderman, December 17, 2009

What role, if any, does the present UK government see for itself as a peacemaker in the Middle East? Does it see itself as an honest broker, or has it already taken sides? Some developments over the past fortnight — which build on the lesson we must learn from the UK government’s refusal to condemn or even criticise the Goldstone report — do I think enable us to answer these important questions.

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My quest for the one true faith

By Julie Burchill, December 9, 2009

Earlier this year, I did something I had dreamed of since I was a child growing up in the very gentile English West Country; I attended a synagogue. After a few months, I stopped. It wasn’t them, it was me.

When I decided a few years ago that I wanted to put something back after having such a gorgeous, fun life for so long, my first thought was volunteering, which I did. This in turn led me to wonder why Christians carry out so much of the voluntary work in this country — a whopping 80 per cent.

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Minaret ban is really small fry

By Geoffrey Alderman, December 9, 2009

On December 1, a church in central London hosted an anti-Israeli Christmas concert. On the pavement outside, a participant in this event mouthed appalling anti-Jewish sentiments, which you can see and hear on a video posted on the JC website. What did the Board of Deputies of British Jews do? Nothing.

The following day, the website of the Jerusalem Post published graphic film of a Palestinian Arab stabbing a Jewish soldier at a West Bank checkpoint. What was the reaction of the Board of Deputies? There was none.

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A muddled view of extremism

By Geoffrey Alderman, December 3, 2009

I do hope that the rumours circulating around Whitehall are true, and that Gordon Brown is indeed preparing to announce the conferment of a life peerage on Dr Muhammad Abdul Bari, general secretary of the Muslim Council of Britain. I hope it is true for three reasons.

First, there can be little doubt that the peerage recently bestowed upon Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks has not gone down well in all parts of the Muslim world.

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Why I wish I had said Kaddish

By Miriam Shaviv, December 3, 2009

Last week was my mother Judy’s first yahrzeit. She died, aged just 57, following a long illness and was buried, at her request, in her beloved Israel. The family is — naturally — still reeling from our loss, still getting used to a new reality. How we miss her grace and good humour, her courage, her insights, her love for us all. It has been a very long year.

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Casually caustic 'diplomacy'

By Jonathan Freedland, November 26, 2009

If every great stereotype should be lived up to, then the retired panjandrums of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office have been fulfilling their duty admirably. The stereotype, cherished fondly by British Jews down the ages, is of the FCO man as “Arabist”, innately hostile to Israel and with perhaps a less-than-charitable attitude towards — how shall we put it? — those of the Mosaic persuasion.

No doubt today’s Foreign Office would reject the caricature, noting that they serve happily under a Jewish Foreign Secretary. But the ex-diplomats don’t all seem to have got the memo.

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How Orthodox can you get?

By Geoffrey Alderman, November 26, 2009

Some years ago, my wife and I attended in London what is usually called an “ultra-Orthodox” wedding — though, in spite of the fact that I am myself guilty of using this term, I do not like it. Two hundred years ago — not a long time in terms of the history of the Jewish people — the phrase “ultra Orthodox,” denoting a particularly fearful, obdurate and immoderate form of Orthodoxy, did not exist. Indeed the term “Orthodox” did not then exist. Jews were Jews, some more observant, some less so.

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We're an invention? Prove it

By David Aaronovitch, November 19, 2009

Beware of scholars with agendas. When the modern historian, Tony Judt, described The Invention of the Jewish People by Shlomo Sand as being remarkable, cool, scholarly and vital for anyone “interested in understanding the contemporary Middle East”, was it because he had genuinely been able to assess Sand’s assertions about the historiography of the Jews, or because it resonated with his view that a “self-serving and mostly imaginary Jewish past (had) done so much to provoke conflict in the present”?

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When Caryl's among the carols

By Geoffrey Alderman, November 19, 2009

Christmas is coming. The signs are unmistakable. Shops are already offering seasonal goods seasonally wrapped. Shopping centres are bedecked with the glitter and tinsel we associate with the onset of Christmas festivities. But the most obvious sign — for me at any rate — is that the purveyors of Palestinian victimhood have once again elbowed their way into the Christian season of goodwill.

A year ago, I used this column to draw attention to a service of Christmas carols that took place in the fashionable St James’s Church, in London’s Piccadilly.

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