Columnists

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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My moderate-Muslim test

By Melanie Phillips, November 12, 2009

As I understand it, auto-immune diseases are caused when the immune system which protects the body turns upon itself, mistaking friendly organisms for foes and vice versa.

One might say that just such an affliction now assails the British and American intelligentsia — with some British Jews themselves amongst the worst affected.

The latest example of this general disorder was the reaction to the jihadi attack in Fort Hood, Texas, last week when a Muslim army psychiatrist screaming “Allahu akhbar” gunned down and murdered at least 13 people, leaving dozens more injured.

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UK's slippery Goldstone game

By Geoffrey Alderman, November 12, 2009

If there is even the merest grain of comfort to be extracted from the resounding endorsement of the Goldstone report by the UN’s General Assembly last week, it is that the Board of Deputies and the Jewish Leadership Council appear to have galvanised themselves into positive action on something worth being positive about.

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Tories' Euro links make sense

By Daniel Finkelstein, November 5, 2009

In the late 1980s, when I was still in my 20s, I was sent on a diplomatic mission. I failed. And it wasn’t only because I am not the diplomatic type.

I was sent to Luxembourg, you see, by former Foreign Secretary David Owen to investigate the possibility of the Social Democratic Party (by that time tiny) joining the European People’s Party. The EPP, the group of Europe’s Christian Democrats, was meeting to agree upon its programme and I spent a couple of days meeting its key figures. Then I sat down with party officials and we got to the point.

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JFS is inclusive - exclusively so

By Geoffrey Alderman, November 5, 2009

Last week, in a packed Supreme Court, I heard learned counsel advance arguments against and for the view of the Court of Appeal that, in acting on an edict handed down by the United Synagogue’s Chief Rabbi and so refusing a child (“M”) admission to JFS, that school had breached the 1976 Race Relations Act.

That this is an important case needs no emphasising. But, if anyone doubted its significance, the presence in that court room of the world’s press (to say nothing of communal representatives of every shade of opinion) ought to have settled the matter.

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Israel sleepwalks into PR hell

By Miriam Shaviv, October 28, 2009

For supporters of Israel, it was like a punch to the gut.

Last Thursday night on Question Time, BNP leader Nick Griffin told the country that the BNP was the only party to support Israel in its war “against the terrorists” during Operation Cast Lead.

This was possibly the worst public relations blow to Israel in this country since Operation Cast Lead itself, perhaps longer. Mr Griffin has just ensured that anyone who supports Israel, or its right to defend itself, can be linked to the BNP. The association might take years to shake off.

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Shimon, stay out of politics

By Geoffrey Alderman, October 28, 2009

During the recent Succot festivities, an extraordinary meeting took place in the succah of rabbi Yosef Elyashiv in Jerusalem. Rabbi Elyashiv — now in his hundredth year — is a talmudic sage without equal in the Charedi world. As spiritual leader of the Degel Hatorah party (now part of United Torah Judaism, which has two seats in the current Knesset) he also naturally wields a certain amount of political influence within as well as beyond Jewish state.

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A big blind eye to extremism

By Jonathan Freedland, October 22, 2009

Here’s one accusation I never thought I’d have to make: I’m worried that we Jews are not sensitive enough about antisemitism. Oh, I know we’re super-vigilant about the threat from the Arab and Islamist extremes and I know, too, that we scour every sentence in the liberal media for the smallest hint of bias. Rightly so.

Yet when a menace looms so large it could blot out the sun, somehow we fail to see it — even when the source of the danger is that part of the world where antisemitism wreaked its most lethal havoc.

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