Geoffrey Alderman

A Prime Minister's question

By Geoffrey Alderman, June 10, 2010

On several occasions prior to taking office, David Cameron was gracious enough to boast of his friendship with the Jewish people and to declare pride in his own Jewish ancestry. Unfortunately, I now feel moved to question how sincere those protestations of friendship really were. So, here goes:

Dear Prime Minister,

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A Muslim in need of faith facts

By Geoffrey Alderman, June 3, 2010

Mohammed Asif is the chief executive of Engage, a pressure group launched in September 2008 to "enable active citizenship and participation by British Muslims in furtherance of its aims to create a more inclusive and tolerant Britain".

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Experiencing Hackney downs

By Geoffrey Alderman, May 27, 2010

I recently spent a pleasant morning in Jewish Hackney, visiting some of my old haunts and marvelling at the changes that have taken place in the borough since I married and moved away from the area some 36 years ago.

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CST sledge-hammer, MPAC nut

By Geoffrey Alderman, May 21, 2010

The Community Security Trust seems to be seriously exercised by the antics of the Muslim Public Affairs Committee. Why?

It transpires that, earlier this year - well before the general election - the CST held a meeting with the Equality and Human Rights Commission raising concerns about MPAC.

The CST was particularly concerned about MPAC's propaganda activities against certain serving MPs whom it perceived as being either sympathetic to Zionism or Islamophobic.

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Special pleading's bad effects

By Geoffrey Alderman, May 13, 2010

At its recent biennial conference, Liberal Judaism's chief executive, Rabbi Danny Rich, warned his audience against "special pleaders" - by which he meant those who argue that faith groups should be accorded an exceptional position within British society.

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How 'aid' can be anything but

By Geoffrey Alderman, May 6, 2010

The road to hell is paved with the best of intentions. The peacemakers at Versailles thought they were creating a Europe free from war; all that they succeeded in doing was to prepare the continent for a conflict even bloodier than the one they believed they had brought to a conclusion.

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Clegg's not-so-liberal stance

By Geoffrey Alderman, April 29, 2010

By the time you read this, the third and final television debate between the leaders of the Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties will have taken place.
Whatever else happens on polling day, it is clear that these debates have changed the terms upon which political discourse is conducted in this country.

To some extent, the outcome of the poll is going to be decided by the public's perception of the party leaders based on how they have performed in these debates.

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The ASA drops its standards

By Geoffrey Alderman, April 22, 2010

The decision of the Advertising Standards Authority to ban an advertisement placed in the British press by the Israeli Government Tourist Office is not only wrong. Nor is it merely mean and malicious. It is all these things. But it also betrays a shocking partisanship on the part of the ASA, which has permitted its adjudicatory process to be prostituted in the service of rank political prejudice.

The advertisement contained

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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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