Geoffrey Alderman

Israelis' avoidably poor state

By Geoffrey Alderman, November 18, 2010

Earlier this month, Israel's National Insurance Institute released its annual poverty report for 2009. It does not make for pleasant reading.

The institute has found that around 435,100 Israeli families - accounting for more than 1.75 million individuals - were then living below the poverty line.

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Kangaroo court of law society

By Geoffrey Alderman, November 11, 2010

Please accept my apologies for bothering you again with the deeds and misdeeds of the Russell Tribunal.

I know that some 20 months ago I summoned up the courage to trouble you with the antics of this entity, and
I entirely understand that, as busy people with livings to earn and loved ones to be cared for, you probably do not wish to be troubled again in the slightest with the frolics and capers of a body whose deliberations (if one can call them that) are frankly not worth the time of day. But trouble you I fear I must, for a reason that I will make clear.

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War Logs exposed a sad truth

By Geoffrey Alderman, November 4, 2010

Every cloud has at least one silver lining. Consider, for example, the recent international commotion occasioned by the release, on the WikiLeaks website, of the so-called Iraqi War Logs - around 400,000 documents relating to allied operations in Iraq from 2002 to 2009.

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Don't wear Tutu with blinkers

By Geoffrey Alderman, November 1, 2010

Earlier this month, on the occasion of his 79th birthday, Desmond Tutu, Anglican cleric and Nobel prize-winner, announced his retirement from public life. From all over the world, fitting encomia were showered down upon this turbulent priest, who made a name for himself in the 1980s as a fierce critic of the apartheid regime in which he had grown up, and later made another name for himself as the prime mover in the so-called truth-and-reconciliation movement that, some claim, has played a pivotal role in the transformation of South Africa into a peaceful, multicultural society.

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The university that censors

By Geoffrey Alderman, October 21, 2010

The annual Belfast Festival is the child of Queen's University, one of the UK's leading "research intensive" seats of learning. The festival grew out of an enterprising undergraduate initiative in the deeply troubled 1970s; it was - as its website rightly proclaims - "a cultural oasis in a landscape dominated by political upheaval."

It has - as its website also rightly proclaims - played a pivotal role in the cultural renaissance of the city and has attracted celebrities and intellectuals from around the world.

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Proud Jew Ed strong on Israel

By Geoffrey Alderman, October 14, 2010

Now that Ed Miliband has been elected as the first Jewish leader of the Labour Party, what does this tell us about Labour and its Jewish constituency?

What does Ed's acceptance speech at the party conference last month tell us about his approach to his Jewishness and how - if at all - it will shape his leadership of the party? I raise these questions because Ed himself went out of his way to raise them in that conference speech, which is one of the few party-conference addresses that I've bookmarked for future reference.

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No way to settle the conflict

By Geoffrey Alderman, October 7, 2010

The Palestinian Arab leadership is making a real song and dance about Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria. But why? After all, these settlements are hardly at the root of the conflict between Israel and its Arab neighbours and their Islamist sponsors.

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It is fine to sound off in shul

By Geoffrey Alderman, September 28, 2010

Hearing, and then reading of, the dramatic but cheerless story of the congregant who used the opportunity of a full house at the recent Rosh Hashanah evening service of an Orthodox synagogue in north-west London to publicly denounce a fellow male worshipper as an adulterer caused me to reflect on the appropriateness of a synagogue as a place in which such a grievance might legitimately be aired.

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Free speech: the burning issue

By Geoffrey Alderman, September 21, 2010

Prior to the recent anniversary of the Islamist attacks on the World Trade Centre and other American targets, an obscure American pastor threatened to publicly burn copies of the Koran on the lawn of his church in Gainesville, Florida.

The publicity given to this (subsequently withdrawn) threat sparked worldwide condemnation. Other Christian communities in the neighbourhood were joined by leaders of Muslim and Jewish congregations in berating pastor Terry Jones and his self-declared "International Burn a Koran Day."

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Union Jacks and Jills and Jews

By Geoffrey Alderman, September 16, 2010

By the time you read this, the 142nd meeting of the Trades Union Congress will have taken place in Manchester. These are troubled times for the trade-union movement. There are jobs to protect (not least in the public sector) and job-related benefits to be defended. The Labour Party - the creature (indeed the creation) of the trade unions - has recently suffered an electoral defeat, and is in consequent disarray. The brothers and sisters of the Labour movement are themselves divided over who to support as the party's new leader.

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Can these rabbis be forgiven?

By Geoffrey Alderman, September 7, 2010

Five years ago, in the pages of this newspaper, a communal scandal was brought to your attention. Two Jewish children, born to Jewish parents, were denied entry into a leading Jewish school.

The reason for this denial of entry had nothing whatever to do with money, scholastic ability or shortage of school places.

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Tribute to Tribune's lost world

By Geoffrey Alderman, September 2, 2010

I was distressed - devastated would be a more accurate description - to read that the future of the Jewish Tribune is in doubt. It is a publication for which I have a genuine, if perverse, affection. To be frank, I'm addicted to it. When it arrives I devour its contents from last page to first.

What is it about this weekly Anglo-Yiddish scandal sheet that so mesmerises me?

To begin with, it's the paper's steadfast refusal to separate fact from comment.

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A child rabbi? I don't think so

By Geoffrey Alderman, August 26, 2010

I once agreed to be a member of a panel set up by a synagogue to choose a new rabbi. To begin with all went well. Advertisements were placed in suitable newspapers. My fellow panel members and I drew up a shortlist of those applicants we intended to interview. There was one outstanding CV, that of a mature man, just turned 45, well qualified in terms of both his religious and secular education, and with excellent references.

We decided to interview him and another candidate, a much younger gentleman, scarcely 24, but also well qualified on paper, and also with excellent references.

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No outcry at Abbas's racism?

By Geoffrey Alderman, August 19, 2010

In mid-July, in an interview with the Jordanian newspaper al-Ghad, Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, set out his minimum conditions for a definitive peace treaty with Israel.

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Friends uninvited to the party

By Geoffrey Alderman, August 12, 2010

My dictionary defines a "gaffe" as "a blatant mistake or misjudgment". Prime Minister David Cameron has recently been accused of having made several political gaffes in the course of various ill-judged foreign policy initiatives.

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Avoid these shady shnorrers

By Geoffrey Alderman, August 5, 2010

Attending a Tisha b’Av morning service at a synagogue in north-west London last month, my recitation of the exquisite kinot (elegies) composed for this occasion was aggressively interrupted twice by “collectors” waving grubby sheets of paper and soliciting cash donations for the supposed charities on whose behalf they were raising funds.

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Yet another out-of-tune rabbi

By Geoffrey Alderman, July 28, 2010

Earlier this month, one of my many Israeli admirers sent me a web-link to a story that on first reading I felt sure was a spoof. After all, the summer months are traditionally the media's "silly season" and this particular story struck me as particularly silly. Sadly, however, I have to confirm that the story is in no sense a spoof. It was, indeed, featured as a news item in last week's JC.

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Abuse of freedom is not freedom

By Geoffrey Alderman, July 22, 2010

Last week, the Knesset gave preliminary approval to a bill aimed at curbing the activities of citizens of the Jewish state who advocate economic or academic boycotts against it. The bill has been jointly sponsored by Knesset members Zeev Elkin (Likud) and Dalia Itzik (Kadima). It therefore enjoys support across much of Israel's political spectrum - a rare occurrence - and its preliminary reading was approved virtually unanimously - an even rarer occurrence.

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A History of the Board of Deputies, 1760-2010

By Geoffrey Alderman, July 15, 2010

By Raphael Langham
Vallentine Mitchell £35

The writer of an official history faces multiple dilemmas. Should the history be focused narrowly upon the institution, or seek to place the institution within some wider context? Should the institution's archives dictate the shape of the history, or should a broader range of original sources be consulted? Above all, should the history be sanitised and celebratory or frank and critical?

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Methodist breach not enough

By Geoffrey Alderman, July 15, 2010

I have never believed in withholding praise where praise is due. So I applaud the decision of the Board of Deputies to break off all dialogue with the leadership of the Methodist church.

But I have two reservations. The first is that this breach is not as comprehensive as it should be. The second is that other Christian denominations have not been included in the sanction.

The breach with the Methodists is to be welcomed not simply because they have enthusiastically embraced a report on the Middle East that is a catalogue of lies and half-truths.

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