Oliver Kamm

Idealist and realist: rich blend of Zionism’s instigator

By Oliver Kamm, December 12, 2013

By Shlomo Avineri
Weidenfeld & Nicolson, £20


Germany must seek out owners of looted art

By Oliver Kamm, November 15, 2013

To the devoutly irreligious like me, the word “miracle” does not come easily. Yet two developments since 1945 might reasonably be described that way.


Chesterton defence that doesn't stand up

By Oliver Kamm, October 10, 2013

Antisemitism is an evil, not a writerly idiosyncrasy. That’s a mere truism. It needs to be stated, however, because the Catholic Church is examining the case for canonising G K Chesterton, author of the Father Brown detective stories.


G K Chesterton: a writer unfit to be a saint

By Oliver Kamm, August 29, 2013

G K Chesterton is a minor writer in vogue.This has less to do with his literary merits than with his religious apologetics. A Catholic convert, Chesterton wrote exhaustively on the virtues of faith. The Bishop of Northampton has appointed a priest to make initial inquiries whether Chesterton should be canonised.


A secular society is the key

By Oliver Kamm, June 23, 2013

Teaching science to Jewish children is not the enemy of knowledge but the prerequisite of it, declared the JC in its leader last week. It was a reference to disquiet among Charedi Jews about the GCSE science curriculum. Michael Gove, the education secretary, wishes to put greater emphasis on teaching evolution. Charedi educators maintain that this "flies in the face of their ethos and culture".


A damaging document

By Oliver Kamm, May 12, 2013

'All men," wrote Reinhold Niebuhr, the great Protestant ethicist, "are naturally inclined to obscure the
morally ambiguous element in their political cause by investing it with religious sanctity. This is why religion is more frequently a source of confusion than of light in the political realm."


Chomsky, sophistry champion

By Oliver Kamm, March 28, 2013

Among Jewish contributors to modern intellectual life, few carry as much name-recognition as Noam Chomsky. Visiting London last week, he drew enthusiastic crowds to a lecture given in honour of Edward Said, the Palestinian literary critic, and an interview at the British Library with Jonathan Freedland, the Guardian columnist and my fellow JC contributor.


Civilisation beyond the Church

By Oliver Kamm, February 15, 2013

It is particularly difficult for a Pope that comes from Germany to come here,” said Benedict XVI at Auschwitz in 2006. This was surely true.

But the Pope, who resigned this week, might have mentioned, too, the difficulties for the Roman Catholic Church in confronting its own historical contribution to the hatreds that fuelled the Holocaust.


From nonsense to indecency

By Oliver Kamm, January 4, 2013

John Rentoul, the political commentator, and I have a friendly competition to find ever more outrageous examples of a genre of newspaper commentary that he calls "Questions to Which the Answer is No". This is a headline that floats a bogus and unsupported theory by posing it as a question.


Unlovable, but not self-hating

By Oliver Kamm, November 26, 2012

Postwar America found not only prosperity but a new literary voice. Philip Roth, one of its principal exponents, has now laid down his pen. Having written 31 books, Roth has decided that he has said what he wants to say. He told the New York Times last week: "I sat around for a month or two trying to think of something else and I thought, 'Maybe it's over, maybe it's over'."


Hobsbawm’s blinkered vision

By Oliver Kamm, October 14, 2012

The history of the past century is dominated by the clash between universalism and nationalism. Eric Hobsbawm, who died last week at the age of 95, wrote about it and lived it. He combined scholarly brilliance and monumental political error.


Fine writer’s love of conspiracy

By Oliver Kamm, September 2, 2012

"He is materialising my fear that he will do something to disgrace his oeuvre," Christopher Hitchens told me an in interview a few months before his death. The "he" was Gore Vidal, the author and essayist. They had once been allies. Vidal had only semi-jokingly nominated Hitchens as his successor in the world of letters.


Islam must let bad ideas perish

By Oliver Kamm, July 23, 2012

In his memoirs, published last year, Ken Livingstone referred to "several commentators and minor intellectuals" who, he said, had become obsessed with Islam. These included Christopher Hitchens, Nick Cohen, Martin Bright and me.


Don’t let the Philistines succeed

By Oliver Kamm, June 7, 2012

"It's fundamentally ignorant to censor and suppress art," James Shapiro, the Shakespeare scholar, told me, referring to the campaign to ban Habima from the Globe. Habima performed last week; the actors withstood disruptions and heckling. It recalled the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra's Proms concert, when protesters purporting to defend Palestinian rights interrupted the performance.


Dangerous lies that spread from Auschwitz to Srebrenica

By Oliver Kamm, April 27, 2012

The words "I was wrong" rarely appear under journalists' bylines. But in the Observer this week, John Simpson, the veteran BBC correspondent, acknowledged that he had been mistaken about a libel trial arising from the Bosnian war.


Pantomime cases against Israelis make a mockery of international justice

By Oliver Kamm, February 24, 2012

There is a concerted effort by Israel's adversaries to try to delegitimise it by using the rhetoric rather than the substance of international law. It is tempting to ignore such an obviously tendentious and malevolent campaign.


Man who put tragedy into words

By Oliver Kamm, December 8, 2011

WG "Max" Sebald, the novelist, was killed in a car crash near his home in Norfolk ten years ago this week. He was 57 and at the peak of his creative powers. He was posthumously awarded the Jewish Quarterly Wingate Literary Prize for his novel Austerlitz, of which a tenth anniversary edition has just been published.


Review: The Philanthropy of George Soros

By Oliver Kamm, October 11, 2011

Perseus, £20

George Soros's public activities are a conundrum. While containing much interesting detail, this unsatisfying book fails to resolve it. Soros has devoted huge sums to the cause of establishing institutions to protect human rights and advance the disinterested application of justice. Yet he conspicuously fails to exemplify the qualities he espouses.


Bigotry and xenophobia well to fore

By Oliver Kamm, September 8, 2011

Anti-Israel campaigners have every right to assemble, demonstrate, picket and argue. But preventing speech that they disapprove of is no legitimate part of a democratic society. Shouting down a musical performance is the same type of outrage, but a degree worse. It is not mere boorishness but militant philistinism. Its near equivalent is book-burning.


Interivew: Peter Beinart

By Oliver Kamm, November 22, 2010

Peter Beinart is an articulate and important liberal voice on American foreign policy. Now a professor of journalism at the City University of New York, he became editor of The New Republic in 1999, at the age of 28, and held the post for seven years. A few months ago he published in the New York Review of Books an essay arguing that Israel needs to be saved from itself and from the American Jewish establishment, whom he charged with promoting "an uncritical brand of Zionism".