Jonathan Freedland

Are Arabs the new Zionists?

By Jonathan Freedland, February 28, 2011

Long after his death, the wisdom of Abba Eban lives on - no nugget more frequently dug up than his observation that "the Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity."

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McCarthyism - Israeli style

By Jonathan Freedland, January 24, 2011

'An evil wave is sweeping over Israel" and the latest act of the Knesset "sends a warning signal: here is darkness."

Before you dash off a letter to denounce the authors of those words as hateful anti-Zionists bent on delegitimising the state of Israel, pause a moment. Because the first quotation comes from the Kadima leader Tzipi Livni and the second from Likud MK Benny Begin. What could have moved such fervent Israeli patriots to speak this way?

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Misplaced shots at true Zionist

By Jonathan Freedland, December 9, 2010

Nearly a month has passed and the fallout keeps falling. The episode that future historians of Anglo-Jewry will surely dub "The Mick Davis Affair" goes on and on, as supporters and critics of the chairman of the UJIA argue ferociously about his right to speak, his motives and his judgment following the remarks he made about Israel and the diaspora at a public meeting in London in mid-November.

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Allow our artists Leigh way

By Jonathan Freedland, November 1, 2010

Last week saw two Manchester Jewish titans of the arts of near-identical vintage get two very different responses from our community.

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A very Jewish book's appeal

By Jonathan Freedland, September 16, 2010

At least one Jew among us has begun the new year sweetly. Twenty-four hours before Rosh Hashanah, Howard Jacobson was named on the shortlist of the Man Booker Prize. "About bloody time" was my reaction. Incredibly, Jacobson - long placed by the critics in the first rank of British writers - had never made the shortlist before. (Almost as surprisingly, Jacobson thereby became the first Jewish man to have achieved the feat: Jewish women, including past winners Anita Brookner and Bernice Rubens, have tended to do better.)

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It’s ‘This Life’ with sheitels on

By Jonathan Freedland, August 5, 2010

I’ve been thinking about Natti: is he ever going to get over his commitment problem and settle down? And Yifat is worrying me: she’s getting too used to being alone. And Amir is so lonely these days it hurts.

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Israel, listen to your friends

By Jonathan Freedland, June 24, 2010

If there's one thing we know about Israel, it is that it doesn't listen to its enemies. Those implacably hostile to the Jewish state can rant and rave, but Israel simply closes its ears. If anything, such criticism only makes the country dig in its heels, confirming its gloomiest, most isolationist instincts: "see, everyone really does hate us ­- all the more reason for us to retreat from the world, becoming the people that dwells alone".

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The PM who understood Jews

By Jonathan Freedland, May 13, 2010

There'll be no hard evidence of it - not since my upstairs neighbour on this page, Prof Alderman, ended his studies of the Jewish vote in British general elections - but it is widely assumed that, last week, Britain's Jews switched their allegiance from Labour to Conservative.

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Israel's impaired global vision

By Jonathan Freedland, April 1, 2010

The word of the hour is delegitimisation. Doesn't exactly trip off the tongue, but it has nevertheless become the vogue term of art for those defending Israel.

Critics no longer merely "disagree with" - or even "attack" - Israel; they now seek to undermine its very legitimacy as a state.

So hot has this topic become, the Jewish Leadership Council and Bicom are hosting a joint seminar on it this month. Their focus will be a report by Israel's Re'ut Institute that has already prompted a major think-in hosted by Israel's Foreign Ministry.

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Israel needs its internal critics

By Jonathan Freedland, February 18, 2010

Perhaps from the very beginning, there have been two distinct types of critic of Israel: those from within and those from without. For many years, the latter have been barely tolerated. If outsiders - whether the United Nations or the BBC or Amnesty International - dare to criticise Israel, their observations are immediately discounted. "What do you expect of [fill in name of loathed foreign institution here]? We've always known they hate us."

Dissenting voices from the inside, however, were treated differently.

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JFS: Why are no heads rolling?

By Jonathan Freedland, January 7, 2010

It’s a new year, a new decade and a time when we are told to look forward, rather than back. Nowhere is this attitude stronger than among the leaders of British Jewry who, after one of the most appalling episodes in our communal history — the Supreme Court ruling that the admissions policy of JFS fell foul of the law on racial discrimination — are keen that we draw a line and move on.

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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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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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We were once the 'maniacs'

By Jonathan Freedland, September 17, 2009

Terror suspects, caught by police surveillance, boast of the blood-curdling havoc they hope to wreak. “The corpse of an enemy smells nice”, they hiss. In messages addressed to the British public, they say the deaths they plan are “retribution you have so justly earned.” After all, insist the killers, “For many years we have suffered humiliation.”

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Bevis Marks: a very fishy row

By Jonathan Freedland, August 27, 2009

They say there’s no war so bitter as a civil war, to which we can surely add an amendment. There is no broiges quite so acrimonious as a synagogue broiges. If you want a row that has fear, loathing and everything in between, look no further than a bust-up in a shul.

The sensible JC columnist would steer well clear. It’s impossible to write about a synagogue dispute without one faction — sometimes both — denouncing you in the following week’s letters page for totally misunderstanding the entire business. Still, every rule is made to be broken — so here goes.

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Yes! If you will it, you’re a Jew

By Jonathan Freedland, July 9, 2009

If it’s physically possible to give a cheer and a sigh at the time, then that was my reaction on hearing last week’s ruling in the JFS case.

I cheered that the Court of Appeal had seen the injustice in denying a boy a Jewish education just because his mother’s conversion was not deemed good enough by an Orthodox establishment that prides itself on having the most intransigent “standards” in the entire Jewish world.

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Big test of settlement attitudes

By Jonathan Freedland, June 4, 2009

By all accounts, Barack Obama is a keen and skilful poker player. That’s useful to know because he’s about to call the bluff of Israel and many of its supporters around the world.

That much became clear last week when Obama’s secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, told Israel that the President “wants to see a stop to settlements — not some settlements, not outposts, not natural-growth exceptions” but an end to all settlement expansion on the West Bank. Period.

Obama himself has rammed the point home. He wants a “freeze on settlements”: no qualifiers.

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A very futile boycott attempt

By Jonathan Freedland, April 30, 2009

Tricky business, boycotts. Take the case of Omar Barghouti. In 2004, the graduate of Columbia in New York helped found the Palestinian Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel campaign, urging scholars and researchers around the world to cut ties with Israel’s universities. But, as reported in last week’s JC, Barghouti is studying for a doctorate at… Tel Aviv University.

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End this brutalised occupation

By Jonathan Freedland, March 26, 2009

Soon my favourite festival will be upon us, the season of freedom, where we celebrate the greatest liberation story in human history. I love everything about Pesach, from the ridiculous — kosher-for-Passover washing-up liquid, anyone? — to the sublime, including the glow that comes from a family sitting around a Seder table retelling a tale passed down the generations since the beginning of Jewish time.

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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.

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