Geoffrey Alderman

'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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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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