Simon Rocker

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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'Yellow River' singer's World Cup bid

By Simon Rocker, June 3, 2010

A top songwriter hopes to spur on England's footballers by adapting a version of his classic 70s hit as a World Cup anthem.

Jeff Christie's Yellow River topped the charts in 26 countries, including three weeks in the UK.

Now it is being re-released under the title Hat Trick of Lions on Monday, refreshed with a ska beat, a rap and a new chorus: "Come on England".

There may be no official English theme song, but Christie hopes the team will remain in the tournament long enough for the song to catch on.

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Progressives up battle against JFS law reversal

By Simon Rocker, June 3, 2010

Non-Orthodox leaders this week upped the pressure on the Board of Deputies to justify a campaign to reverse last year's Supreme Court ruling on JFS.

In a joint statement reacting sharply to recent comments by Board president Vivian Wineman, the Reform, Liberal and Masorti movements warned it was "premature" to talk of legal change.

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Split over salmon

By Simon Rocker, June 3, 2010

An argument has been going on among strictly Orthodox rabbis over the past few months about whether wild salmon is unkosher because of a tiny worm that dwells in the fish. I won’t belabour you with the details but one of the most prominent pro-banners happens to be named Rabbi Moshe Karp.

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ebay's star-crossed user

By Simon Rocker, June 3, 2010

You have to marvel at our readers' capacity to take offence.

Online auctioneers eBay use a multi-coloured star system to show people how many other customers think they are good to do business with. The colour of the star shows the level of positive feedback.

But one user was not so chuffed to receive her first star. "I am absolutely disgusted that you refer to it as 'giving me a yellow star'," she complained to the company - as someone "who lost many family members in the Holocaust".

So why not, she suggested, use "gold star" instead?

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Caffeine shutdown

By Simon Rocker, June 3, 2010

It must have been tough for those who turned up for the Zionist Federation's show of solidarity outside the Israeli Embassy in London on Wednesday.

The local Starbucks had been closed in case of trouble because of the anti-Israel protests. How did they manage without their coffee?

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The non-kosher cow

By Simon Rocker, June 3, 2010

A colleague was amused to see that bang opposite the north London headquarters of the United Synagogue and Chief Rabbi is a restaurant called the Golden Calf.

Perhaps the Beth Din ought to consider giving it a kashrut licence and renaming it the Red Heifer.

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Mind your protocols

By Simon Rocker, June 3, 2010

A whiff of antisemitism? "The Israelis are extremely clever and cunning," a woman in the audience at Tuesday's lecture on Gaza at the LSE told her neighbour. "They have wormed their way into every nation and no one has the courage to go for them."

I wish I'd brought an aerosol.

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