Daniel Finkelstein

Hitchens got it wrong on Israel

By Daniel Finkelstein, December 29, 2011

It doesn't seem all that long ago that, at a Jewish Book Week event, I met Christopher Hitchens. We parted with him saying that we should get to know each other better. But we never did. He went home to the United States and before we could meet up, he fell ill. I will always regret it. Friends of mine, who knew him well, attest that he was great company.


Conspiracy of nonsense on Libya

By Daniel Finkelstein, November 28, 2011

I had just finished reading a book by the sociologist Duncan Watts when I heard over the weekend that Saif Gaddafi, the son of the former Libyan leader, had been captured and arrested. The book was called Everything Is Obvious When You Know the Answer.


How I became a Jewish convert

By Daniel Finkelstein, October 18, 2011

Towards the end of his career, the late, great Jack Rosenthal wrote a television play called Eskimo Day, about the feelings of dislocation and emptiness that come when you see your children off to university, letting them go out into the big world without you. Quite a lot of people reading this column have, I suspect, experienced Eskimo Day in the past month.


Religion's role in the rioting

By Daniel Finkelstein, September 2, 2011

'Why didn't they steal ping pong tables, then?" was the response of the journalist Tony Parsons to the idea that the London riots had been caused by cuts to youth services.


Pick a rabbi who speaks for us all

By Daniel Finkelstein, July 22, 2011

Look, you're welcome to tell me this is none of my business. But until you do, I'm just going to get on and say my piece. I hope that's all right. I want to chip in about the choice of a new Chief Rabbi.


Cultural roots of antisemitism

By Daniel Finkelstein, June 10, 2011

About 10 years ago, I did something I could never have imagined doing. I started writing a weekly football column for The Times. Admittedly, it is rather a quirky one.


Overcome abuse? Yes we can

By Daniel Finkelstein, March 21, 2011

So anyway, I want to tell you about two encounters I had this week with the community. Encounters that don't seem to be related, but are.


Palestinian leaks' positive side

By Daniel Finkelstein, February 9, 2011

I have just started reading a book on political hypocrisy. It has started rather well but I haven't got to the point yet. You see, the back cover promises that, by the time I get there, the book will have explained why hypocrisy is not as bad as it is usually painted. It is an honourable part of liberal democratic tradition, apparently. I hope that is right because, otherwise, I've just wasted a lot of time reading about Thomas Hobbes. But I bet Julian Assange is even keener than I am to learn that hypocrisy has its plus points.


I am more restive than festive

By Daniel Finkelstein, December 30, 2010

It was chaos. There were a lot of Jews about, and so of course it was chaos. We were inside 10 Downing Street - which is often chaotic but they keep it hidden in the side rooms and at the back, up the stairs.

On the surface, things are calm - "No, no, after you, Monsieur le President". This was chaos in the state rooms, at a public reception.

It was the annual Number 10 Chanucah party and every single guest was trying to sing the blessings using a different tune.


Net threats and court conduct

By Daniel Finkelstein, November 18, 2010

I have received only one proper death threat. And it wasn't very nice. It was during the 1997 General Election campaign when I was working for the Conservative Party, masterminding its biggest defeat since 1832. When I called the police, the officer asked me, as I called him from inside Tory HQ as we headed for a Labour landslide, whether I could think of any reason why someone might not like me. I said that, if I racked my brain, I was sure I could.


Oh what a beautiful building

By Daniel Finkelstein, September 21, 2010

When I was a boy, they built some shops round the corner from my house. They looked like rather a good thing to me. But what did I know? I was only a boy. And I was biased in any case, since the new stores provided one of the few places I could go without crossing a road.


Beware of chain-letter blight

By Daniel Finkelstein, August 12, 2010

The Judaic Studies programme of the University of Kentucky offers a course designated as "History 323: The Holocaust". I found this out last week for a rather odd reason, and I thought you would like to know.

Every so often over the past three years, you see, I have been receiving emails about the teaching of the Holocaust. Perhaps you have, too. And I have been ignoring them. But now I realise that perhaps I shouldn't have.


Peace is for those who want it

By Daniel Finkelstein, July 15, 2010

Three days before he left office, President Bill Clinton received a message of congratulations from Yasir Arafat. "You are a great man," Arafat told him. But Clinton was having none of it. "I am not a great man," he replied. "I am a failure. And you made me one".

President Clinton has always been very clear where he believes the blame lies for the failure of the Camp David peace talks that took place 10 years ago this month. Arafat, and the Palestinian leadership, Clinton believes, missed a golden chance when they rejected, out of hand, the deal they were offered by Ehud Barak.


Will a Jewish template work?

By Daniel Finkelstein, June 3, 2010

It can't be on Israel again - they'll have had plenty of that. And the general political stuff won't work with this audience. We can take questions on that, but that's all. Why don't we go down the charity route?


Analysis: Gove is a rock to which British Jewry can cling

By Daniel Finkelstein, May 13, 2010

In 1852, the Duke of Wellington gave Lord Derby's first government its nickname. The by then very deaf Duke had the names of the new cabinet read out to him at his club and bellowed "Who? Who?" as he was told of each member.

Thus was born the "Who? Who?" administration. David Cameron and Nick Clegg have just formed the "What? What?" administration.

In the space of a few days, the whole of British politics has been transformed and observers have been struggling to understand what it means. Nick Clegg and Iain Duncan Smith in the same Cabinet. What? What?


Extremism comes in crowds

By Daniel Finkelstein, April 22, 2010

Have you ever heard of group polarisation? Here's how it works. A small group of you are sitting together watching the televised Prime Ministerial debate. One of you thinks Gordon Brown is doing well and you're not convinced by the other two. Soon you are laughing at every Nick Clegg and David Cameron answer. The one member of the group who hates Brown begins to see his merits. By the end of the evening, you've all gone Browntastic.

Then you see the poll. Much of the rest of the world thinks Clegg won. And there's a group at work who watched and gave the gold medal to Cameron.


Free speech is still important

By Daniel Finkelstein, March 11, 2010

I am sorry, but I can't". With these six words, Robert MacKenzie, Professor of Political Sociology at the London School of Economics, changed my life.


Please file under 'pending'

By Daniel Finkelstein, January 28, 2010

To: Michael Gove MP, Shadow Secretary for Children, Schools and Families
From: Daniel Finkelstein
Re: Jewish school admission policy

● I thought you might find it useful if I prepared a memo for you on Jewish school admissions. I realise that we talk often about these sorts of things, but I thought it couldn’t hurt if I sent you a note of the kind I used to draft, as director of the Conservative research department for members of the Shadow Cabinet. It is an irony, of course, that in those day you were the Times journalist and I the politician.


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.)


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.