Geoffrey Alderman

Israel/Palestine: a clash of arms and opinions

By Geoffrey Alderman, April 16, 2009

Impossible Peace: Israel/Palestine Since 1989
By Mark LeVine
Zed Books, £14.99

‘A Senseless, Squalid war’ — Voices From Palestine 1945-1948
By Norman Rose
The Bodley Head, £20

There is no shortage of books purporting to explain the origins and history of the conflict between Israel and the Arab world. By way of justification for adding to this ever-burgeoning library, Mark LeVine, of the University of California, promises a “fresh and honest” account of the collapse of the peace process initiated at Oslo in 1993.

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Israel’s dubious Irish visitor

By Geoffrey Alderman, April 16, 2009

Shortly before Pesach, Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams announced that he planned to visit Israel over the festive season and that he intended to “meet with all sides and urge all sides to end all armed actions and to engage in meaningful dialogue.”

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Labour’s spineless tactics

By Geoffrey Alderman, April 7, 2009

A year or so from now we shall be experiencing a general election. When polling day comes around, Labour will be defending a majority of 67 seats. On the basis of current trends, this could be wiped out, but it is well known that there is generally a swing back to the governing party (“better the devil you know”) on the actual day of the poll.

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Wrong way to attack the BNP

By Geoffrey Alderman, April 2, 2009

In two months’ time, the country will go to the polls to elect members of the European Parliament. The British National Party has high hopes that it will register its first Euro-election success at these contests, building on its recent local election victories and the election last year of its first member of the London Assembly.

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A film director’s tunnel vision

By Geoffrey Alderman, March 26, 2009

There is something distinctly menacing about the speech made by film director Ken Loach at the launch, in Brussels earlier this month, of the so-called Russell Tribunal on Palestine.

The Russell Tribunal was established in the late 1960s by the philosopher Bertrand Russell. Its aim was to investigate war crimes alleged to have been committed by the Americans in Vietnam. It was asked to widen its inquiries to cover war crimes allegedly committed by the Communist regime of North Vietnam and by that regime’s client army that operated in South Vietnam. It refused to do so.

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Children need this protection

By Geoffrey Alderman, March 19, 2009

Three years ago, Parliament enacted a wide-ranging Childcare Act, which addressed, among other things, the lamentable lack of professional training for those to whom the care of young children is entrusted in crèches and nurseries.

It was once the case that more or less anyone could set up a nursery, and employ more or less anyone to do the caring. This is no longer legal. All “settings” in which young children are cared for outside the home must (since last September) be regularly inspected by Ofsted.

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Peace talks that are pointless

By Geoffrey Alderman, March 12, 2009

Readers have been asking me why I have not yet devoted a column to the prospects for peace in the Middle East following the recent Israeli elections. The fact is that the elections themselves are much less important than the particular complexion of the resulting coalition government and this complexion may not be fully apparent for several weeks yet.

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A laughable interfaith initiative

By Geoffrey Alderman, March 5, 2009

Although we shall not be celebrating Purim until next week, some Jews have decided that the revelries associated with this most anarchic of festivals should actually commence as soon as the month of Adar has been ushered in.

This was the suggestion made to me by a senior communal rabbi after reading a press release issued by the Board of Deputies on February 25 — the first of Adar. He thought it could only have been intended as a Purim spiel – and, frankly, so did I, until the Board confirmed that we were wrong.

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Foul play needs firm response

By Geoffrey Alderman, February 26, 2009

In recent weeks, the JC has reported on a wide variety of semi-hysterical manifestations grounded in an undoubted (though limited) public disquiet in this country following Israel’s military action in Gaza. These manifestations have ranged from genuine humanitarian concern at the incidence and intensity of civilian casualties to an outrageous manipulation of this concern for the sole purpose of pushing a scarcely disguised anti-Jewish agenda.

The recent production staged at the Royal Court Theatre — Seven Jewish Children — clearly sits at this latter end of the spectrum.

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Beware Lord Ahmed’s bigotry

By Geoffrey Alderman, February 18, 2009

On January 26, Baron Ahmed of Rotherham exercised the privilege of his position as a member of the House of Lords to ask the government “whether any British citizens are serving in the Israeli Defence Force or the Israeli Defence Reserves”.

How the government could possibly know this is a moot point, because British citizens are under no obligation to inform the government where they are going when they leave the UK; in any case, their first port of call might not be their final destination.

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Why I worry about the JNF

By Geoffrey Alderman, February 12, 2009

The Jewish National Fund is almost as old as the Zionist movement. The Fund was established in 1901 to purchase and develop land in Turkish-controlled Palestine. The monies used for this purpose were derived partly from wealthy philanthropists and partly from the pennies collected in the famous “blue boxes” that graced the mantelpieces of even the poorest Jewish households.

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Review: Major Farran’s Hat

By Geoffrey Alderman, February 12, 2009

By David Cesarani
William Heinemann, £20

On May 6 1947, Alexander Rubowitz, a teenage member of “Lehi” — “Fighters for the Freedom of Israel”, — was abducted in Jerusalem by a “special squad” of the Palestine Police, led by Roy Farran, who later interrogated and murdered him.

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Troubling Irish lesson for us all

By Geoffrey Alderman, February 5, 2009

Sometimes it is salutary to step back from our own communal preoccupations and try to capture a wider view of the society in which we British Jews live. With that end in mind, I propose to consider an extraordinary event that took place in Belfast last week.

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The Jews who wish others dead

By Geoffrey Alderman, January 29, 2009

Now that an uneasy truce has descended upon Gaza and southern Israel, it is time to consider some of the uglier domestic repercussions of the recent conflict. By “domestic”, I mean here, in the United Kingdom, where it seems to me that Israel’s action has unleashed an anti-Jewish demon that lay, like some slumbering reptile, waiting for its moment to pounce.

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Outrage that is highly selective

By Geoffrey Alderman, January 22, 2009

In the aftermath of the London transport bombings of July 2005, a number of respected leaders of Islamic communities in the UK, whilst condemning the bombings without reservation, called nonetheless for an official inquiry into their cause.

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How Gaza reveals home truths

By Geoffrey Alderman, January 14, 2009

In every cloud there is at least one silver lining. In the present conflict in Gaza, there are several.

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Jews who are no longer Jewish

By Geoffrey Alderman, January 8, 2009

Of all the columns I have written for this page, none has caused a greater outcry than that published on 3 August 2007. This addressed the question of whether or not it was possible for Jews to engage in a meaningful dialogue with Muslims. Referring to the Koran, and to the very early history of the Islamic faith, I observed that Islam had been founded “in part, on an explicit anti-Jewish discourse”.

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Out of tune fiddling on the roof

By Geoffrey Alderman, December 30, 2008

Hills Road Sixth Form College in Cambridge, the location of the bizarre end-of-term production of Fiddler on the Roof reported in the JC of December 19, is a prestigious, much-sought-after state school. As its website proudly proclaims, it was the first sixth-form college in the country to be awarded Ofsted’s “designated outstanding” status, by virtue of being assessed as outstanding in all inspection categories.

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The JLC got nothing from Brown

By Geoffrey Alderman, December 23, 2008

Earlier this month, the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary took it upon themselves to meet a delegation from the Jewish Leadership Council. The Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary are extremely busy people and for either of them — let alone both — to set aside time to meet the supposed representatives of what is numerically one of the smallest of Britain’s ethnic minorities, comprising much less than one half of one per cent of the UK’s total population, can mean only one of two things.

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Religious courts have a place

By Geoffrey Alderman, December 18, 2008

The road to hell is paved with good intentions. Nothing could better illustrate the truth of this dictum than the recent launch of a campaign to suppress all religious tribunals in this country. And nothing could better support Alderman’s oft-repeated contention that the greatest enemies of religious freedom are those who disguise themselves as champions of individual rights.

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