Geoffrey Alderman

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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A muddled view of extremism

By Geoffrey Alderman, December 3, 2009

I do hope that the rumours circulating around Whitehall are true, and that Gordon Brown is indeed preparing to announce the conferment of a life peerage on Dr Muhammad Abdul Bari, general secretary of the Muslim Council of Britain. I hope it is true for three reasons.

First, there can be little doubt that the peerage recently bestowed upon Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks has not gone down well in all parts of the Muslim world.

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How Orthodox can you get?

By Geoffrey Alderman, November 26, 2009

Some years ago, my wife and I attended in London what is usually called an “ultra-Orthodox” wedding — though, in spite of the fact that I am myself guilty of using this term, I do not like it. Two hundred years ago — not a long time in terms of the history of the Jewish people — the phrase “ultra Orthodox,” denoting a particularly fearful, obdurate and immoderate form of Orthodoxy, did not exist. Indeed the term “Orthodox” did not then exist. Jews were Jews, some more observant, some less so.

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When Caryl's among the carols

By Geoffrey Alderman, November 19, 2009

Christmas is coming. The signs are unmistakable. Shops are already offering seasonal goods seasonally wrapped. Shopping centres are bedecked with the glitter and tinsel we associate with the onset of Christmas festivities. But the most obvious sign — for me at any rate — is that the purveyors of Palestinian victimhood have once again elbowed their way into the Christian season of goodwill.

A year ago, I used this column to draw attention to a service of Christmas carols that took place in the fashionable St James’s Church, in London’s Piccadilly.

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UK's slippery Goldstone game

By Geoffrey Alderman, November 12, 2009

If there is even the merest grain of comfort to be extracted from the resounding endorsement of the Goldstone report by the UN’s General Assembly last week, it is that the Board of Deputies and the Jewish Leadership Council appear to have galvanised themselves into positive action on something worth being positive about.

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Solomon Schonfeld: A Purpose in Life

By Geoffrey Alderman, November 5, 2009

By Derek Taylor
Vallentine Mitchell £45 (pb: £16.95)

Last year, Derek Taylor co-authored a work on Jewish Parliamentarians, the numerous errors in which were catalogued by Professor W. D. Rubinstein in Jewish Historical Studies.

Now, in a biography of Rabbi Dr Solomon Schonfeld, Mr Taylor appears disinclined to learn from past mistakes — something he shares with his subject.

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JFS is inclusive - exclusively so

By Geoffrey Alderman, November 5, 2009

Last week, in a packed Supreme Court, I heard learned counsel advance arguments against and for the view of the Court of Appeal that, in acting on an edict handed down by the United Synagogue’s Chief Rabbi and so refusing a child (“M”) admission to JFS, that school had breached the 1976 Race Relations Act.

That this is an important case needs no emphasising. But, if anyone doubted its significance, the presence in that court room of the world’s press (to say nothing of communal representatives of every shade of opinion) ought to have settled the matter.

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Shimon, stay out of politics

By Geoffrey Alderman, October 28, 2009

During the recent Succot festivities, an extraordinary meeting took place in the succah of rabbi Yosef Elyashiv in Jerusalem. Rabbi Elyashiv — now in his hundredth year — is a talmudic sage without equal in the Charedi world. As spiritual leader of the Degel Hatorah party (now part of United Torah Judaism, which has two seats in the current Knesset) he also naturally wields a certain amount of political influence within as well as beyond Jewish state.

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Board packs a (puny) punch

By Geoffrey Alderman, October 22, 2009

There’s nothing like a good row to clear the air — and I welcome the revelations of recent discord between the Board of Deputies and other communal interests.

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Jews in unlikely places

By Geoffrey Alderman, October 15, 2009

By Tony Kushner
Manchester University Press, £60

Is it possible to write a history of Anglo-Jewry in which the Jews of London and Manchester occupy the periphery, while Jewish communities in much smaller provincial centres take centre-stage?

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Items to usher in a good year

By Geoffrey Alderman, October 15, 2009

It is time — I thought as I recovered from Yom Kippur — to reflect upon some recent good news stories. So, now we are into a new year, let me share with you some of these stories and invite you to join me in savouring the optimism that they project.

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Every chief needs a rich patron

By Geoffrey Alderman, October 8, 2009

‘While the Chief Rabbi prepares to don his ermine… speculation is growing over who is likely to succeed him as mainstream Orthodoxy’s spiritual supremo.” So ran the introduction to Simon Rocker’s reflections (JC, September 25) on the gossip now beginning to gather momentum, triggered by the realisation that Professor Lord Sacks has only three-and-a-half years remaining of his contract as Chief Rabbi of “the United Hebrew Congregations”. Who — if anyone — will succeed him?

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Excusing Iran is a fatal flaw

By Geoffrey Alderman, October 1, 2009

At one level, no one need be the least bit surprised at either the tone or the content of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s most recent speech to the General Assembly of the United Nations Organisation.

Not once during that speech — apparently — did Ahmadinejad mention Israel or the Jews.

“It is no longer acceptable”, the Iranian President insisted — “that a small minority would dominate the politics, economy and culture of major parts of the world by its complicated networks”.

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Bias within 'impartial' body

By Geoffrey Alderman, September 24, 2009

Christine Chinkin, professor of international law at the London School of Economics, is a much-published academic, the recipient of numerous awards.

On January 11, her signature appeared, along with the signatures of other lawyers, below a letter in the Sunday Times that was highly critical of Israel’s military action in Gaza. The signatories deplored Hamas’s rocket attacks on Israel. But these attacks did not, protested the signatories, justify Israel’s military response, which, in the view of the signatories, amounted to “aggression, not self-defence.”

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Firemen ignore the real fires

By Geoffrey Alderman, September 17, 2009

This week, the Fire Brigades Union asked the Trades Union Congress to support a motion exhorting the massed ranks of the British trades-union movement to endorse a policy of boycott, divestment and sanctions against the state of Israel. Under the motion, the TUC would have to promote a boycott of goods and services originating from Israel, and do its damndest to encourage divestment from companies operating in the territories. Additionally, the TUC would be obliged to reconsider its relationship with the Histadrut, its Israeli counterpart.

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This JFS mess was avoidable

By Geoffrey Alderman, September 9, 2009

I have read few documents in the field of Anglo-Jewish history more miserable in tone and more immature in content than the “Certificate of Religious Practice”, which is now required from all parents who wish their children to be considered for admission to the JFS in September 2010.

Only applicants scoring at least three points in answer to a series of questions will be given “priority” status. Has your child attended synagogue (apparently any synagogue, however informal, will do) on the High Holy Days — Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur (two points)?

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BNP case is of special concern

By Geoffrey Alderman, September 3, 2009

Last October, the Conservative MP for Monmouth, David Davies, addressed the annual conference of the National Black Police Association. Mr Davies had apparently been invited by mistake — the NBPA had meant to ask the former shadow Home Secretary, David Davis. No matter, Mr Davies is a special constable.

The speech he gave clearly arrested his audience — so much so that, while some gave him the slow handclap, others simply walked out.

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