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The JC letters page, 27th April

Maureen Lipman, Lady Valerie Cocks, Baron Turnberg of Cheadle , Beverley Brown, Rabbi Margaret Jacobi, , Alan Miller, Anthony Joseph, Stephen Goldstein, Elliot Bishop, , Harry Levy, Stuart Kira and A. Miles share their views with JC readers

    Playing a wrong note

    True to form, on the 70th anniversary of the rebirth of Israel, the BBC have decided to mark the event by turning the 2018 Proms into a medium for Palestinian politicking.

    Not only have they (once again) not invited the Israel Philharmonic but, (once again), they have invited Daniel Barenboim’s West East Divan orchestra to play. This time the West East Divan will be playing a new piece, Looking for Palestine.

    Composed by David Robert Coleman it contains texts taken from the book Looking for Palestine by Najla, daughter of the late Edward Said, Barenboim’s fellow campaigner for Palestinian Arab Nationalism. 

    Why has the BBC decided to turn the Proms into a platform for Palestinian Arab propagandising? Surely this is not within the remit of the proms, known around the world for its celebration of music and not for the art of using music as a political propaganda tool.

    A. Miles
    London NW3

    How disappointing that the BBC could not find a place anywhere in this year’s promenade concerts programme to mark the 70th anniversary of the establishment of Israel.

    Would it not have been appropriate to devote just one night in a programme of music lasting from July to September?

    Are there not sufficient Jewish composers, song-writers, musicians, or choirs, past and present, whose  contribution to the music world would have provided a special concert in recognition of this special year for the Jewish nation state?

    Perhaps the BBC thinks that inviting the ever-present Daniel Barenboim to make yet another of his politically-motivated speeches will be more acceptable?

    Harry Levy, 
    Middlesex


    Not in our name

    You published a letter (April 6) from a number of Jewish Labour members who support Jeremy Corbyn and believe the Board of Deputies is “playing politics” and failing to combat antisemitism. As Jewish members and former members of the Labour Party, we wish to dissociate ourselves from them. Instead of being part of the solution to antisemitism in Labour, they are part of the problem.

    The signatories include one who appeared on LBC and laughed at antisemitism; the author of a gushing review of a deeply antisemitic book; and someone who, as a Palestinian Solidarity Campaign member, produced the antisemitic play Seven Jewish Children.

    Around half the signatories are founder members of Jewish Voice for Labour. JVL is a tiny group of Jews and non-Jewish supporters who question the most widely accepted definition of antisemitism, because it calls out their lies about Israel as antisemitic. JVL thus denies Jews the most fundamental right of any minority — to define what constitutes prejudice against it.

    We fully back the actions of the Board of Deputies, Jewish Leadership Council and Campaign Against Antisemitism in highlighting the failure of the Labour Party to effectively deal with antisemitism. Only by eradicating this scourge can Labour again become a party worthy of opposition, let alone government.

    Maureen Lipman CBE
    Lady Valerie Cocks
    Baron Turnberg of Cheadle 

    I am writing to express the sense of shame I feel when academics write (whether to the JC or other newspapers, notably the Guardian) in support of Jeremy Corbyn in respect to the issues of antisemitism in the Labour Party. 

    As academics, these are people who presumably are able to access and assess relevant evidence. Equally, as academics, these are people that one assumes are all too aware of the contemporary lure of conspiracy theories. Yet many seem happy to go along with the view that any focus on antisemitism in Labour is either a plot of get rid of Corbyn or ploy to distract attention from the Netanyahu government or Israeli state generally.

    I applaud Natalie Portman’s clarification on her stance as distinctly not supportive of BDS boycotts but condemnatory of Netanyahu. Natalie Portman is an actor. Are academics in the UK capable of making the same distinctions?

    Beverley Brown
    ex Birkbeck Law School, University of London, ex Professor of Law, University of East London 


    Positivity

    Amid all the gloom about antisemitism in the Labour party, readers may like to know about a more positive aspect. I attended a Labour Party event to mark 50 years since Enoch Powell’s infamous “rivers of blood” speech.  It was organised by Ian Austin, MP, well known for his support of Israel and the Jewish people. Speakers included Birmingham MPs Preet Gil and Shabana Mahmood and they were unanimous in their call to the Labour Party to address antisemitism and put an end to it, and applauded by the audience for doing do. 

    They did not know there were any Jewish people in the audience but were genuinely concerned by the issue. It is encouraging to know we are not without friends in the Labour Party.

    Rabbi Margaret Jacobi, 
    Birmingham B13


    Facts on Gaza

    Avi Moshe (20 April) really should get his facts straight before rushing into print. The only truth in his letter is that there is a humanitarian crisis in Gaza, that it is blockaded by Egypt and that Hamas diverts aid for what he describes as military purposes and those who know recognise as terrorism. If Mr Moshe had stood, as I have, watching an unending stream of Israeli lorries entering Gaza with supplies of food, fuel, cement, etc, he would not talk of an Israeli blockade. In that context, some years ago, the Israeli government did decide to blockade Gaza but the decision was overturned by the Israeli Supreme Court as it was considered a breach of Gazans’ human rights.

    The “blockade” has not impeded the importation into Gaza of the rockets and mortars so indiscriminately fired into Israel.

    The situation in Gaza is the responsibility of its rulers. When Hamas recognises Israel and is prepared to live in peace with its neighbour, it will have peace and plenty.

    Alan Miller, 
    London N20


    A remarkable man

    The tribute to the late Bill Williams (Obits, April 20) was totally deserved. His expertise developed in the use of oral history and his success in marrying this data (which was teased out by skilled personal interview) with other more traditional sources of information made him a much valued colleague.

    He was inspirational in Birmingham when the late Zoe Josephs and the late Elizabeth Lesser were masterminding our team working on producing volumes on the history of our local Jewish community. He was also a pioneer in realising the importance of the decennial Census as an invaluable source for research. 

    Bill’s experience as being brought up a Catholic in Wales was a powerful influence on his choice of life career, investigating so often the historical and current experiences of minority ethnic communities such as ours.
    It was a deep privilege to have known him and to have had the benefit of his wisdom. 

    (Dr) Anthony Joseph
    Emeritus President, Jewish Genealogical Society of Great Britain

    I was disappointed by the obit of my friend Bill Williams.  While Bill’s efforts on behalf of the Manchester Jewish Museum received full treatment, scant attention was paid to his history of Manchester Jewry and no mention at all was made of his magisterial biographies of Sidney Hamburger and Michael Fidler. 

    His account of the rise of Manchester Jewry set new standards for the writing of histories of provincial Anglo-Jewish communities.  It is a tribute to Bill’s integrity that he treated his subjects “warts and all” — analysing (for example) the ways in which both Fidler and Hamburger used their involvement in Freemasonry to advance their public and Jewish communal careers. 

    Professor Geoffrey Alderman, University of Buckingham


    Plaudits due

    Can I congratulate those wonderful MPs, Ruth Smeeth  and Luciana Berger on the magnificent speeches they recently made in the House of Commons.

    I not only admire their words but their bravery, shown also by many others who find themselves facing the possibility of being deselected. 

    It made me wonder why so few in the Upper House have spoken up — after all none in the Lords can fear being de-selected. Perhaps they should speak up a little more .

    Stephen Goldstein CBE 
    Solihull , B91 

    It was a privilege to watch the House of Commons debate antisemitism, and hear some sincere and articulate contributions from the likes of Margaret Hodge and John Mann.

    Less impressive was the absence from the Chamber for much of the session by Mr Corbyn, and the response from Diane Abbott who singularly failed to appreciate the strength of feeling not only from those seated behind her, but among the Jewish community in particular.

    One remains at a loss as to how the moderate wing of the Labour Party can still believe they can effect change from within. If enough really is enough, surely the time has come to break away. 

    Elliot Bishop, 
    London NW4


    In working order

    I was intrigued by Susan Reuben’s article (March 30) about her mother’s copy of Routledge’s The Children’s Haggadah, printed in 1942. My mother-in-law, Betty Freeman (née Baker) has a copy, which was printed in 1937 and is still very much intact, albeit showing serious signs of wine staining on some pages.

    Miraculously, unlike Susan’s mother’s copy, all the tabs work and Moses is still rescued from the bullrushes and the Egyptians still drown -— twice every year! Not only that but the plagues’ spinning-wheel still turns unaided. Another miracle? 

    Betty by the way is approaching her 97th birthday on June 9, and her solo rendition of Chad Gadya at every Seder is a sight and sound to behold for her family every year, and PG will be for many years to come. 

    The Haggadah was originally presented as a prize to Betty’s late sister Celia on 4th July 1937 at Eleanor Road School.

    Stuart Kira,
    Hatfield AL9 

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