Mr Bean and an unfunny farce

By Melanie Phillips, March 12, 2009

Irony and satire are risky literary devices. As I know to my cost, some people always fail to get the joke by taking such conceits literally. In these dangerously discombobulated times, when the giving of offence to certain minority groups can be a capital offence, such a sense of humour failure can cost you dear.

The latest victim of this syndrome is the playwright Richard Bean, whose play at the National Theatre, England People Very Nice, received rave reviews — and then was denounced as “racist”.


Peace talks that are pointless

By Geoffrey Alderman, March 12, 2009

Readers have been asking me why I have not yet devoted a column to the prospects for peace in the Middle East following the recent Israeli elections. The fact is that the elections themselves are much less important than the particular complexion of the resulting coalition government and this complexion may not be fully apparent for several weeks yet.


Medical journal made me ill

By Daniel Finkelstein, March 5, 2009

Dear Editor of the British Medical Journal,

I have just taken delivery of your February 28 edition and have, as usual, been enjoying its contents. There were two compelling papers on the “Effectiveness of nurse delivered endoscopy” and you entertain your readers also with a meta-regression analysis of randomised controlled trials on the association between change in high density lipoprotein and cardiovascular disease morbidity.

Oh, and you devote more than seven pages to complaining that Jews send you too many emails.


A laughable interfaith initiative

By Geoffrey Alderman, March 5, 2009

Although we shall not be celebrating Purim until next week, some Jews have decided that the revelries associated with this most anarchic of festivals should actually commence as soon as the month of Adar has been ushered in.

This was the suggestion made to me by a senior communal rabbi after reading a press release issued by the Board of Deputies on February 25 — the first of Adar. He thought it could only have been intended as a Purim spiel – and, frankly, so did I, until the Board confirmed that we were wrong.


Let’s unmix mixed marriage

By Miriam Shaviv, February 26, 2009

How to treat Jews who marry “out” is one of diaspora Jewry’s greatest dilemmas. Should they be welcomed into mainstream communities, in the hope that they will bring up their children as Jews? Or should they be rejected, to make the option of marrying out less appealing?


Foul play needs firm response

By Geoffrey Alderman, February 26, 2009

In recent weeks, the JC has reported on a wide variety of semi-hysterical manifestations grounded in an undoubted (though limited) public disquiet in this country following Israel’s military action in Gaza. These manifestations have ranged from genuine humanitarian concern at the incidence and intensity of civilian casualties to an outrageous manipulation of this concern for the sole purpose of pushing a scarcely disguised anti-Jewish agenda.

The recent production staged at the Royal Court Theatre — Seven Jewish Children — clearly sits at this latter end of the spectrum.


Lieberman is betraying Israel

By Jonathan Freedland, February 18, 2009

As parties go, this was not exactly a classic. There was not much in the way of food or drink — just a few plates loaded with those crumbly kosher biscuits that are a staple of the shul Kiddush — and not much of an atmosphere. Indeed, the host was among the last to arrive. Still, the victory party of Yisrael Beiteinu in Jerusalem was a night to remember.


Beware Lord Ahmed’s bigotry

By Geoffrey Alderman, February 18, 2009

On January 26, Baron Ahmed of Rotherham exercised the privilege of his position as a member of the House of Lords to ask the government “whether any British citizens are serving in the Israeli Defence Force or the Israeli Defence Reserves”.

How the government could possibly know this is a moot point, because British citizens are under no obligation to inform the government where they are going when they leave the UK; in any case, their first port of call might not be their final destination.


Israeli fatalism may be fatal

By David Aaronovitch, February 12, 2009

So, Israel picks up and starts again, further back than it was before. We can talk a bit, if we like, about the toytown election system, which turns voters into adolescents who expect their exact political view of the moment to be represented in their choice, rather than making the adult compromise — the necessary decision between several less-than-ideal coalitions — themselves. Israel is a land desperately in need of leadership, where the mechanism for electing governments makes it almost impossible to lead. Except when there’s a war to be fought.


Why I worry about the JNF

By Geoffrey Alderman, February 12, 2009

The Jewish National Fund is almost as old as the Zionist movement. The Fund was established in 1901 to purchase and develop land in Turkish-controlled Palestine. The monies used for this purpose were derived partly from wealthy philanthropists and partly from the pennies collected in the famous “blue boxes” that graced the mantelpieces of even the poorest Jewish households.