Geoffrey Alderman

Israeli history men lock hornsc

By Geoffrey Alderman, April 4, 2011

This week, I tell the tale of two historians. Professor Ilan Pappe holds a DPhil from the University of Oxford. Professor Benny Morris holds a PhD from the University of Cambridge. Morris currently teaches at Ben-Gurion University, Beersheva. Pappe used to teach at Haifa University but five years ago managed to arrange a transfer to the University of Exeter.

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TV murder of common sense

By Geoffrey Alderman, March 28, 2011

I am about to reveal a secret so shocking that I advise readers of a nervous disposition to cease reading this column and - better still - to screw up this entire copy of the JC and pop it without further ado into the nearest environmentally friendly, newspaper recycling container.

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Hypocrisy - the writer's spur

By Geoffrey Alderman, March 21, 2011

I never intended to become a journalist. I have never been trained as a journalist. I have no journalistic accreditation and I am not a member of the NUJ.

Had I told my parents that I had ambitions in the journalistic direction they would at best have given me "a good talking to" and might even have called in a shrink.

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Archive integrity matters

By Geoffrey Alderman, March 14, 2011

The growth of the internet has posed both challenges and opportunities for the academic historian. My own doctoral research was undertaken in the pre-internet age. I had to make handwritten records of every relevant document in every archive I consulted; accessing these archives required a great deal of letter-writing, phone-calling and sheer legwork.

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Shul that barred its minister

By Geoffrey Alderman, February 28, 2011

Over the past four months, I have been asked to interest myself in no less than three disputes between ministers and their congregations. Legal considerations prevent me from writing about two of them. But in neither case have I encountered anything approaching the venom that characterises events at the Croydon outpost of the Federation of Synagogues.

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Palestine Papers' real scoop

By Geoffrey Alderman, February 21, 2011

Many commentators far more erudite than I am on the subject of peace in the Middle East have given vent to their erudition in respect of the so-called "Palestine Papers"- the 1,600 or so documents leaked to Al Jazeera and then passed on to other media.

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Progressives' genuine progress

By Geoffrey Alderman, February 14, 2011

This year marks the centenary of the founding of the Liberal Jewish Synagogue. The LJS was established by - and owed its survival beyond a difficult birth to - a partnership between the gentleman scholar, Claude Goldsmid Montefiore, and the woman who wanted desperately to be his wife (but whose advances he rebuffed), Lily Montagu.

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Stop this shocking proposal

By Geoffrey Alderman, February 9, 2011

From time to time, the JC has been criticised - and so have I, personally - for reporting and commenting on events from a narrow ethnic or religious perspective.

Appearing at a charity fund-raising panel last year, I was asked whether it was really "a good thing" for me to use this column simply to air "Jewish" concerns.

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Rules seem beyond our Ken

By Geoffrey Alderman, January 27, 2011

In principle, there is no reason why an active politician - one still involved in the cut-and-thrust of public life - should not also have a regular slot as a contributor to or even as a presenter of a television programme.

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Going through the motions

By Geoffrey Alderman, January 24, 2011

Those of us who attended the boycott debate held at the London School of Economics last week were privileged to learn some valuable lessons about the boycott issue itself, the motives of those - including some Jews - who identify themselves as boycott sponsors, and the manner in which their arguments may be comprehensively confounded.

We were also given a demonstration of how, on an emotive issue, a civilised academic dialogue can nonetheless be conducted.

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Abbas's ineffectual UDI threat

By Geoffrey Alderman, January 14, 2011

The current negotiations involving Israel and the Palestinian Authority are, if not actually dead, then certainly in a critical state exhibiting every sign of comprehensive systemic failure.

I say this in spite of the commendable optimism voiced earlier this month by Quartet representative Tony Blair, who told Sky News that direct talks between the two sides could start "within weeks."

Well of course they could. But how meaningful would they be?

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Chief Rabbi as mythical hero

By Geoffrey Alderman, January 10, 2011

It was the celebrated historian A. J. P. Taylor who taught me a fundamental truth about my profession. Commenting more or less positively on a research seminar presentation I'd given, he remarked: "Remember, Geoffrey, that the historian's job is to destroy myth. Of course, it is far better to prevent myth in the first place."

It is in this spirit - prevention being better than cure - that I offer some thoughts triggered by the encomia that greeted the announcement that Lord Sacks is to retire as Chief Rabbi at his contractual retirement age in 2013.

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Pinteresque drama at school

By Geoffrey Alderman, December 29, 2010

The Yesodey Hatorah schools, Hackney, owe their existence principally to the efforts of the late rabbis Abraham Pardes and Shmuel Pinter. The kindergarten and primary schools are private establishments. But the secondary school is "voluntary aided", meaning that it is part-funded by the state and is expected to conform to certain state-mandated norms.

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The facts tell a different story

By Geoffrey Alderman, December 24, 2010

On the face of it, the Israeli rabbis who signed up to an edict forbidding Jews from selling or renting homes or land to non-Jews have scored a spectacular own-goal.On the face of it this edict, which appears to have originated with the Chief Rabbi of Sfat, contravenes Israeli law, which naturally prohibits discrimination on racial grounds.

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The East End shoot-out that turned Churchill against Jews

By Geoffrey Alderman, December 22, 2010

On December 16 1910 a gang of robbers attempted to dig their way into the premises of a jewellers' shop at Houndsditch, in the City of London. Armed, it turned out, with an assortment of pistols and large quantities of ammunition, the gang was disturbed, the police (who were unarmed, of course) were called, and in the ensuing confrontation three officers were killed and a further two severely disabled.

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Masterful ignorance rewarded

By Geoffrey Alderman, December 20, 2010

A typical master's degree consists of a number of taught courses and a short thesis - generally 25,000 or so words. I have examined hundreds of such offerings.

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Time to attack local terrorism

By Geoffrey Alderman, December 9, 2010

The greatest threat to the safety and security of Jews living in the UK comes from Muslims also living in the UK. Not all British Muslims, of course, or even a majority of them. But a section of British Muslim society harbours malevolent and occasionally murderous intentions towards British Jews. This is a deeply unpalatable truth. But truth it is.

In last week's JC, political editor Martin Bright commented on a forthcoming report by the Tel Aviv-based Reut Institute that identifies the UK as (in Martin's words) "the centre of a systematic assault on Israel's right to exist."

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Mouth open and foot put in

By Geoffrey Alderman, December 6, 2010

No one of any intelligence can dispute the right of Mr Mick Davis, as a private individual, to say - in public and within reason- whatever he likes about anything he feels the need to say anything he likes about. But if, in public, Mr Davis - the head of UJIA - chooses to unburden himself of certain prejudices to which he has succumbed concerning the state of Israel, its government and the proceedings of its parliament, he runs certain risks.

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Perils of being on the guest-list

By Geoffrey Alderman, November 29, 2010

Asimchah always brings a modicum of tsores.

This truism is particularly true of weddings. How well do I remember that, in the months leading up to my own nuptials, my over-harassed parents and future in-laws were presented with potential guests phoning to say that they would never sit next to named other potential guests because of some broiges or other the details of which they could, however, not now recall.

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Israelis' avoidably poor state

By Geoffrey Alderman, November 18, 2010

Earlier this month, Israel's National Insurance Institute released its annual poverty report for 2009. It does not make for pleasant reading.

The institute has found that around 435,100 Israeli families - accounting for more than 1.75 million individuals - were then living below the poverty line.

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