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The JC letters page, November 3

Dr Stanley Jacobs, David Lee, Daniel J. Levy and Deborah Maccoby share their views with JC readers

    Photo: Getty Images
    Photo: Getty Images

    Selfless goodness

    May I comment on Rabbi Chanan Atlas’s Lech Lecha Thought For The Week (Genesis 16:6).  While an “over-righteous act” may well lead to cruelty, a “selfless” act of goodness should not. They are categorically different.

    The former is ideologically motivated, bound by ideas, and, thereby, fraught with dire consequence. The latter is responding purely to the needs of a situation. It should naturally embrace a good overall result. 

    In the case of Abraham’s wife, Sarah, I doubt very much if it can be so confidentially asserted, as does Rabbi Atlas, that her action in giving her handmaid Hagar to a disconsolate childless Abraham was such a “selfless” one. Sarah is blaming herself for their childless state. So it is much more likely her action is based on relieving her feelings of guilt and inadequacy as well as assuaging the bad feeling of her husband towards her. In this, it is more of a “selfish” act. Indeed, we subsequently see her action leading to much suffering for everybody.  

    Although it is very, very hard to say, and easy to in retrospect, but if only both parents had the faith to wait their son would still have appeared.
    We should also remember the young Hagar — in reality, a bonded servant or slave —  being given no choice whether or not to sleep with her elderly 85 year old master. 


    Dr Stanley Jacobs, 
    London SW18


    Balfour refusal

    By his refusal to attend the banquet celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, Jeremy Corbyn has nailed his colours firmly and finally  to the mast of antissemitism.  (It is semantic nonsense to claim you are opposed to the Jewish state of Israel but not opposed to its people). 

    I am a socialist. But as things are, voting for the party of my choice would also mean voting for an enemy of my religion. I could never give my vote to a party led by an enemy of Judaism. I only hope my fellow Jewish socialists will join me in denying Corbyn our vote. To young Jewish socialists I warn, Corbyn will no doubt trundle out his version of the old “some of my best friends are Jews” nonsense. Do not be fooled by it. 

    So I say to my fellow Jewish socialists: we need an antisemitic Prime Miunister like we need a hole in the head! Do not give this Corbyn fellow your vote.


    David Lee, 
    Surrey KT2 7LT

             
    More to the story

    There is no doubt that the United Arab Emirates’ insistence on an Israeli judoka only being allowed to compete in Dubai wearing a flagless uniform and without playing his national anthem is discriminatory and unsportsmanlike. However, his mere presence indicates a de-facto, but unofficial recognition of Israel (Israelis are theoretically barred from entering the UAE). A full normalisation of Israel throughout the Arab world is far off, but the mutual Iranian threat pushes Israel and conservative Sunni states ever close. That, rather than a banned flag and national anthem should be this event’s real takeaway.


    Daniel J. Levy, 
    Oxfordshire OX2 


    About free speech

    In his Holocaust Education Trust dinner speech (The scourge of antisemitism is changing form, JC, October 20 2017) Andrew Neil erroneously cited the Free Speech on Israel fringe meeting at the Labour Party Conference: “the chair of the meeting asked: ‘We demand the right to debate ‘Holocaust: yes or no’”.

    The chair of the meeting, Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi, made no mention of the Holocaust. The guest speaker, Miko Peled, an Israeli-American who is not a member of the Labour Party, said: “This is about free speech, the freedom to criticise and to discuss every issue, whether it’s the Holocaust: yes or no, Palestine, the liberation, the whole spectrum. There should be no limits on the discussion”.

    Peled was defining free speech as a principle, not calling for a Labour Party debate about whether or not the Holocaust happened, as was implied by Mr Neil.

    Later in his speech, Andrew Neil quoted Mark Twain: “the truth has barely got its boots on before a lie is halfway round the world”.  Exactly. 


    Deborah Maccoby, 
    Leeds LS17


    Self-selecting?

    I was surprised to see a picture caption of a delegation to Downing Street, suggesting it had been led by Jonathan Goldstein, head of the unelected and self-selecting Jewish Leadership Council, when present was Jonathan Arkush, the elected President of the fully-elected Board of Deputies. Does the JLC have some sort of appointed but unelected House of Lords style supremacy in speaking for the community? 

    Also, bearing in mind how late we have arrived at a situation where women are representing the community at senior level, it would have been good, with four women and five men pictured to have names.  I daresay most will have recognised Jonathan Arkush and Gerald Ronson, but who were the others? I’d like to know who speaks for me in Government circles, not to mention what they say.


    Barry Hyman, 
    Bushey Heath


    The Islamic Centre

    I recently received through my letterbox a single page leaflet inviting me to protest to the Barnet planning department with objections to the Muslim Centre which has just opened at the old Hippodrome site next to Golders Green Station.

    On examining the sheet of paper it was clear to me that whoever was pushing for this course of action was not prepared to reveal their identity. 
    Nowhere was it stated who had commissioned the request or even who had printed the message. As a Jew I have no objections to anyone pursuing their faith and I suspect that this leaflet was simply a way of saying that the Muslims were not welcome in Golders Green.  

    It also seems to me that people who want to hide their identity whilst getting others to carry out their agenda are spineless cowards.

    We have enough bad race relations without any further unnecessary stirring from within our community.


    John Cook, 
    London NW11

    I was one among several non-Jewish people who attended the public meeting on Monday October 23 in Golders Green to protest against proposals to turn the old Hippodrome into one of the largest Islamic centres in Europe. Your article does not give a true impression of the tone of that meeting, nor the intention of those who were meeting there.

    You state — without giving examples — that Mr Gavin Boby, a professional barrister, “repeatedly used incendiary language in reference to Muslims”. This is inaccurate and misleading; he did no such thing at any time. The people who convened the meeting did not do so in order to set Jews against Muslims, but to call public attention to the likely consequences if permission were granted to convert the premises from a place of public entertainment into a place of worship for the members of a particular faith group. These consequences included the inevitable restrictions on parking facilities, unreasonable noise levels in the early hours of the morning, and an increase in toxic emissions from car exhausts. These issues affect ALL members of the community, not just its Jewish population. The arguments against the opening of a new mosque in the area would carry less force if the proposed building were smaller and in a less prominent location. 

    Having said that, there is always a natural apprehension among the members of any community — nothing to do with ‘Islamophobia’, nor any other pathological hatred toward ethnic and religious minorities — when they learn that a mosque is to be opened within it.  This apprehension arises from the experience of places like the Finsbury Park Mosque, whose administration was subjected to a putsch in 1997. That putsch led to the installation of a new imam, Abu Hamza al-Masri, whose ‘reign of terror’ involved numerous solicitations to the murder of unbelievers.

    Almost half the mosques in Britain adhere to the Saudi-financed, fundamentalist ‘Wahhabi’ teachings of Islam, and these do not bode well for Jews, Christians, Buddhists, Atheists, and apostates from Islam. The Islamic group who have purchased the property (and who have already started to use it as a place of prayer, despite not yet having received formal permission to do so) may be peaceful and willing to integrate with the community but, if they receive the permission they seek, there is no guarantee that the building and its administration will always be under their control.  


    Magnus Nielsen, 
    London NW3


    Not mistaken

    Barbara Epstein’s memory is not failing her (Letters, October 27)  I can assuage her doubts. In about 1969 I saw a two man show called  Gilbert and Sullivan goes Kosher at  the Pier Pavilion, Southport. The performance starred Ian Kerr and Roy Cowan as “Goldberg” and “Solomon”.  There, I was captivated by songs such as  I’m called little Schmatacup  and Three little maids from Shul.

    Almost 50 years later — and much to my wife’s annoyance — I still  enjoy singing arias  in the bath  from The Tailors of Poznance or The Apprentice should never press his suit in the firm’s time .


    Michael Braham, 
    Southport PR8

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