Simon Rocker

Analysis: We must pay attention to UJIA concerns

By Simon Rocker, June 17, 2010

Mick Davis heads British Jewry's biggest charitable investor in Israel, which spends more than £15 million a year on projects in the country, Zionist youth groups and other Israel-related educational programmes.

His intervention into the often stormy relationship between the diaspora and Israel comes amid increasing signs of unease over Israeli policies, most visibly expressed in the recent J-Call and For the Sake of Zion petitions in Europe and the United States that urged a settlement freeze.

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NIF boss sees 'progressive surge' in Jews around world

By Simon Rocker, June 17, 2010

There is a "progressive awakening" among diaspora Jews in their attitude towards Israel, according to one of its best-known left-wing activists.

Professor Naomi Chazan sees evidence of a growing trend in the formation of the doveish lobby group, J Street, in the USA and the recent J Call petition in Europe, which urged a settlement freeze.

The former Knesset member for the socialist Meretz party, now president of the New Israel Fund, was in London this week on behalf of the NIF. She also had a meeting at the Board of Deputies.

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UJIA chief: More collaboration between Jews and Israel

By Simon Rocker, June 17, 2010

One of Israel's leading supporters has demanded a greater "collaboration" between Israel and diaspora Jews.

Writing in today's JC, Mick Davis, chairman of both the UJIA and the executive committee of the Jewish Leadership Council, says that "whereas an Israeli can at least influence events through the ballot box, we are a simple recipient of their impact".

He asserts that "we have a legitimate role as a partner with Israel in developing" its long term strategy.

Israel, he writes, is a "cornerstone" of the identity of most Jews in the diaspora and central to their future.

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It's kosher whisky galore

By Simon Rocker, June 17, 2010

Forget President Obama's huffing and puffing over the BP oil spill, here is a more grievous threat to peaceful transatlantic relations.

One of Scotland's finest malts, Glenmorangie, has agreed to accept kosher supervision - under America's OU label.

Surely this great British brand ought to be sporting the certification of a home-grown rabbinic authority.

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Nick Hewer goes to Israel

By Simon Rocker, June 17, 2010

Happily returned from his first visit to Israel is Nick Hewer of BBC Apprentice fame. "It was wonderful," he said. "I spent a lot of time in Jerusalem and I found the whole thing fascinating."

He visited earlier this month to attend the wedding of Nick Bildner to Natasha Orson. Her twin Anna Orson also got married in Israel a few days later to Adam Abrams.

But I doubt whether the pink shirt Lord Sugar's right-hand man wore for the occasion will be allowed many appearances in the boardroom.

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Middle Eastern whispers

By Simon Rocker, June 17, 2010

The New Statesman reported that Tim Franks, the BBC's outgoing Middle East - and Jewish- correspondent, had revealed on radio that he was leaving because of rumours that he had got the job through Israeli lobbying.

Actually, all Franks did was to recall a remark at the news of his appointment (in 2007) by a non-Jewish family friend who had told a relative of his that it had come about because of pressure put on the BBC's director-general by the previous Prime Minister of Israel, Ariel Sharon. He certainly didn't cite that as a reason for going.

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Mr Burt's reading list

By Simon Rocker, June 17, 2010

At a Foreign Office lunch for Jewish and Israeli journalists, the newly appointed minister for the Middle East, Alistair Burt, asked them which books he ought to read before visiting the region. He had put the same question to Arab journalists the week before.

If you have your own recommendations for the minister's reading list, send them in and I'll try to pass them on.

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The 'Israeli' ambassador

By Simon Rocker, June 17, 2010

Has Matthew Gould, Britain's new Jewish ambassador to Israel, gone native before he even gets there?

Speaking at Borehamwood Synagogue, the personable envoy was asked how he felt in a previous diplomatic posting in Pakistan. "Well," he said, "I didn't walk round announcing that I am Israeli."

Much audience chuckling before he corrected himself.

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Palestinian leader says Quran acknowledges Jewish links with Israel

By Simon Rocker, June 11, 2010

Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas told American Jewish leaders in Washington that the Quran recognises Jewish ties to the land of Israel, according to The Forward.
When questioned about his comments by Al-Jazeera, he replied: “Jews are there, and when you read the Holy Koran you have it there. That’s what I said.”
For background: see my JC piece last year

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Pitfalls and perversity the heirs to JFS ruling

By Simon Rocker, June 11, 2010

The Liverpool case is the first to bear out what was feared might happen after last year's JFS court case: that a Jewish child eligible to get into a Jewish school under the old admission rules would end up being denied a place under the new system.

Previously, many schools would have accepted you simply if your mother was Jewish. But a year ago the Court of Appeal - in a decision upheld by the Supreme Court -ruled that the policy fell foul of the Race Relations Act.

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Academic 'will sue the UCU'

By Simon Rocker, June 10, 2010

A senior Jewish academic has said he will sue the University and College Union if it boycotts a West Bank college where he is a guest professor.

Professor Geoffrey Alderman, of the University of Buckingham, said he had consulted lawyers over the UCU's vote last month to investigate a possible boycott of Ariel College.

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JNF faces charity challenge

By Simon Rocker, June 10, 2010

The JNF came under renewed attack this week from anti-Zionists calling for the removal of its charitable status.

Veteran activist Uri Davis - author of Israel: An Apartheid State - addressed a "Stop the JNF" meeting organised by the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network (Ijan) at London's School of Oriental and African Studies on Tuesday.

Michael Kalmanovitz, an Ijan UK co-ordinator, said the event was "part of a campaign to expose the role of JNF and to protest at its fundraising activities".

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Council blunders on Hertsmere school places

By Simon Rocker, June 10, 2010

Six children have been denied places at Hertsmere Jewish Primary School's nursery this autumn after the local council miscalculated the distance of their homes from the school.

The heavily oversubscribed HJPS gives priority for its 60 nursery places firstly to those with siblings at the school and, next, to those living closest to it, according to measurements by Hertfordshire County Council.

But the council admitted this week that it had got the calculations wrong in some cases.

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World Cup Matisyahu

By Simon Rocker, June 10, 2010

Jewish interest in the World Cup may be confined to a couple of players in the USA team and there isn't even an Israeli referee (which may be just as well). But at least we can draw pride from the inclusion of reggae Chasid, Matisyahu, on The Official Fifa World Cup 2010 album.

His song One Day is one of the 12 tracks picked for the charity record and contains the words "It's not all win or lose, We all lose".

A consoling thought when watching England.

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The problem on a plate

By Simon Rocker, June 10, 2010

My colleague Marcus Dysch wanted to call in the clampers when he spotted the numberplate on this car, which was parked outside the Palestine Solidarity Campaign's press conference about the Gaza flotilla in London last week.

BDS is the common abbreviation for boycotts, divestment, sanctions, so was this an attempt to take the anti-Israel message on the road?

But his suspicions were allayed when he noticed that next door was the Barbados High Commission. BDS, we rather think, stands innocently for Barbados.

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Foxhunting in Hackney

By Simon Rocker, June 10, 2010

If only they had listened to former Mayor of Hackney Joe Lobenstein.

After baby twins in the borough were attacked in their cot by a fox, Mr Lobenstein revealed that he had warned the council of the threat from the creatures years ago.

The local Charedi community has mounted anti-crime patrols: perhaps they should now mobilise against the bushy-tailed menace on the streets.

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On the lawpath

By Simon Rocker, June 10, 2010

QC Roy Amlot joined legal critics of Israel's interception of the Gaza flotilla, co-signing a letter to TheTimes with Lawyers for Palestinian Human Rights chairman Daniel Machover suggesting UN sanctions if Israel failed to co-operate with an investigation.

27 years ago, Mr Amlot prosecuted the would-be assassins of Israel's London Ambassador Shlomo Argov: the attempt on the envoy's life triggered the First Lebanon War.

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Tel Aviv, capital of Israel?

By Simon Rocker, June 10, 2010

The Advertising Standards Authority provoked a storm of protests when it ruled an Israeli tourist ad could not display the Western Wall. But should another watchdog, the Press Complaints Commission, expect a knock on the door from the Board of Deputies, too?

The PCC this week rejected a complaint from Geoffrey Alderman against a Sunday Times sub-headline, which he argued wrongly implied that Tel Aviv was Israel's seat of government.

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Education charity cleared of Hizb-ut-Tahrir link

By Simon Rocker, June 8, 2010

An educational charity which was at the centre of controversy last year has been cleared by the Charity Commission of promoting a militant Islamic ideology.

The charity watchdog investigated the Islamic Shakhsiyah Foundation – which runs two independent primary schools in Haringey and Slough – following a Sunday Telegraph article in October.

According to the commission, the article raised concerns that the charity was being run by activists from the radical group Hizb-ut-Tahrir and teaching its beliefs in the schools.

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Board urges less aggresive approach from zionists

By Simon Rocker, June 3, 2010

The president of the Board of Deputies, Vivian Wineman, has called on Jewish groups to lower the temperature of arguments over Israel and avoid abusive language.

He suggests that they follow the example of the Stanmore Accords, the 1998 agreement between Orthodox and non-Orthodox synagogue movements to refrain from slanging matches in public.

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