Geoffrey Alderman

So, there really is a Jewish vote

By Geoffrey Alderman, April 15, 2010

Even before Gordon Brown had journeyed to Buckingham Palace to ask the Queen for a dissolution of parliament, I had found myself on the receiving end of inquiries from the media as to the existence and likely impact of "the Jewish vote".

The fact that we can now ask these questions in public - "Is there a Jewish vote and, if so, what effect might it have?"- shows how far we have come during my own lifetime as an academic interested in such matters.

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Frum move back to the future

By Geoffrey Alderman, April 8, 2010

Three weeks ago, a meeting took place in London that could have fundamental repercussions for the way British Jewry organises itself.

Although held at the Maida Vale premises of the Spanish and Portuguese Jews' Congregation, the gathering owed its existence to the initiative of Jonathan Guttentag, rabbi of the Whitefield Synagogue, Manchester.

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Hacking off Hackney voters

By Geoffrey Alderman, April 1, 2010

Three weeks ago on this page, I addressed a serious communal problem, namely the tendency of our Charedi brethren to put their own interests above everything else. Citing several recent new stories, I referred to the seeming inability or unwillingness of Charedim "to consider their needs in the context of the needs of the wider society of which they are part."

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Bibi is right, Obama is wrong

By Geoffrey Alderman, March 25, 2010

Three weeks ago, the American vice-President Joe Biden visited Israel in order to kick-start what were termed "proximity talks." What this odd phrase really means is that, rather than pressure PA President Mahmoud Abbas to talk face-to-face with Bibi Netanyahu, Mr Biden hopes to act as the go-between. He will talk to one side, and then to the other. And so on and so forth. Whether this is a sensible way of going about peacemaking is a pertinent question, but it is not one that concerns me at the moment.

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Can we trust Gordon Brown?

By Geoffrey Alderman, March 18, 2010

Politics - I keep telling my students - is a nasty business, in which principle counts for little and pragmatism - cynical and often heartless - counts for a great deal.

The late Michael Foot, for instance, was a man of principle, and therefore a very unsuccessful politician. Tony Blair, by contrast, was a survivor, a Thatcherite leader of an ostensibly socialist party. Behind him, waiting in the wings, was of course Gordon Brown, a professional student of politics as well as a consummate practitioner.

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Religion, or mere self-interest?

By Geoffrey Alderman, March 11, 2010

How far out does charedi outreach reach? Just how prepared are charedim to reach out to their Jewish brethren, and on what terms?

Here is a selection of the many news stories that have landed on my desk over the past couple of weeks:

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Moses Montefiore: Jewish Liberator, Imperial hero

By Geoffrey Alderman, March 4, 2010

By Abigail Green
Harvard University Press, £24.95

The commanding figure of Moses Montefiore dominated the Jewish world for much of the 19th century. Born into a family of Italian-Jewish merchants, he made a great deal of money in business but he also married a great deal of money - his wife Judith was a daughter of Levi Barent-Cohen, from whom practically the entire Anglo-Jewish "cousinhood" was descended.

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Hooray for Catholic sex change

By Geoffrey Alderman, March 4, 2010

There is something profoundly depressing about the political jig that Ed Balls, Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families, was obligedto dance so publicly last week.

A portmanteau bill sponsored by his department is currently making its way through parliament. Among its provisions is the requirement that all taxpayer-funded schools teach pupils something about sex and contraception.

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Murky deeds, mealy mouths

By Geoffrey Alderman, February 25, 2010

There are few worlds murkier than those of espionage, counter-espionage and "special operations". These are the worlds of bluff, counter-bluff, lies, deceit, forgery, treachery, blackmail, sedition and slaughter. Most countries support "special operations" units, and the exploits of some of these have become the stuff of legend.

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What drives lecture-hall hate

By Geoffrey Alderman, February 18, 2010

In terms of the ongoing battle against anti-Jewish racism in this country, February has not been a particularly good month.

First, Cambridge University's Israel society capitulated to pressure from the university's Islamic and Pakistan societies and withdrew its speaking invitation to professor Benny Morris, thereby giving its seal of approval to the absurd accusation that this Ben-Gurion university academic is an "Islamophobic hate speaker."

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'Equality' debate is artificial

By Geoffrey Alderman, February 11, 2010

The tension between private rights and public obligations is one of the most enduring themes of human development. As a result of the American and French Revolutions — or, rather, as a result of the ferment in political thought that gave rise to them — the balance between public obligations and private rights began to shift.

Philosophers of the Enlightenment stressed the primacy of the rights of man, by which they meant the rights of individual men (and women) over the rights of the state, and of organised religion, which they tended to regard as an adjunct of the state.

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Comment is (not quite) free

By Geoffrey Alderman, February 4, 2010

You may be familiar with the Guardian newspaper’s website and with that website’s “Comment is Free” section.

Comment is Free takes its name from the famous dictum of C P Scott, the legendary owner and editor of the then Manchester Guardian, in 1921. “Comment is free, but facts are sacred,” Scott declared.

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Duelling rabbis' real agenda

By Geoffrey Alderman, January 28, 2010

A public rift has broken out among the rabbinate of the United Synagogue. What are we to make of it?

Two weeks ago in the JC, rabbis Naftali Brawer (Borehamwood) and Michael Harris (Hampstead) issued an extraordinary call for the US to reach an accommodation with the Reform, Liberal and Masorti movements in order to facilitate a change in the law so as to reverse the Supreme Court judgment in the JFS case.

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An MP's quest for Jewish voters

By Geoffrey Alderman, January 21, 2010

Some weeks ago, I sat down in front of my laptop to revisit my data on parliamentary constituencies with significant Jewish electorates — significant, that is, in relation to the degree of marginality of the particular seat.

The trend of the opinion polls suggests that the Conservatives are heading for an overall majority. But there are a number of imponderables, including the impact of so-called “minor” parties — primarily the Greens, UKIP and the BNP. Some polls are suggesting that we could end up with a hung parliament.

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We came here to integrate

By Geoffrey Alderman, January 14, 2010

In less than five months’ time there will be a general election in this country. Whether we like it or not, the election campaign will feature a number of issues directly touching upon Jewish interests, and not only in relation to foreign policy. Faith schools are more or less certain to be an issue. So are the calls being made from some quarters to extend the blasphemy laws — and from others to abolish them.

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It's time Obama pressed the PA

By Geoffrey Alderman, January 7, 2010

How are we to account for the complete lack of progress in peace negotiations between the Palestinian Authority and Israel during 2009?

To give a comprehensive answer to this question would require many more column inches than the JC permits me. So let me focus on just one of the components. But first I must dismiss two excuses repeated ad nauseam in the media.

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An unseemly public brouhaha

By Geoffrey Alderman, December 30, 2009

The now very public slanging match involving Michael Gross and David Newman, reported in the JC last month, represents, for me, a multiple sadness.

On November 16, Newman, the British-born professor of political geography at Israel’s Ben-Gurion university (BGU), appeared on the notorious Channel Four Dispatches pseudo-documentary that purported to examine the working and impact of “Britain’s Israel Lobby.”

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In defeat, JFS still won't learn

By Geoffrey Alderman, December 22, 2009

I was not surprised at the judgment of the Supreme Court that — in initially rejecting the application made on behalf of the child “M”— JFS and its religious authority, Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks, had contravened the 1976 Race Relations Act.

It has to be said at the outset that the advocacy of the counsel representing “M”, Dinah Rose QC, was brilliant. Calmly and methodically, Ms Rose demolished the disingenuous arguments put forward by Lord Pannick on behalf of JFS.

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Israel's settlements are legal

By Geoffrey Alderman, December 17, 2009

What role, if any, does the present UK government see for itself as a peacemaker in the Middle East? Does it see itself as an honest broker, or has it already taken sides? Some developments over the past fortnight — which build on the lesson we must learn from the UK government’s refusal to condemn or even criticise the Goldstone report — do I think enable us to answer these important questions.

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Minaret ban is really small fry

By Geoffrey Alderman, December 9, 2009

On December 1, a church in central London hosted an anti-Israeli Christmas concert. On the pavement outside, a participant in this event mouthed appalling anti-Jewish sentiments, which you can see and hear on a video posted on the JC website. What did the Board of Deputies of British Jews do? Nothing.

The following day, the website of the Jerusalem Post published graphic film of a Palestinian Arab stabbing a Jewish soldier at a West Bank checkpoint. What was the reaction of the Board of Deputies? There was none.

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