The JC

Letters to the editor, 12 January 2024

Christians, Jewish history and Rabbi Dweck


Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby delivers a speech next to Imam Monawar Hussain and Rabbi David Mason (R) during the "Building Bridges, Together for Humanity" vigil to "give a voice to the majority of the public who stand against hate" in central London on December 3, 2023 (Photo by HENRY NICHOLLS/AFP via Getty Images)

January 11, 2024 11:56

Debate, not irony

My letter last month was intended as a counter to the xenophobic, inflammatory and often baseless comments which have been bandied about (Peace prospects, Letters, December 29) . I wasn’t suggesting a magic panacea; just that we seek a way forward from the frozen mind set of decades. It’s true Hamas and its other supporters want nothing less than the destruction of Israel but the Arab world, despite President Erdoğan’s prognostications, is a much broader church.

Maybe the economic pressures that contributed to the Abraham Accords, the need to perpetuate the oil producing states’ moves to broaden their economic base, equated with the need to satisfy the aspirations of growing populations in those Arab countries with which have diplomatic relations with Israel, may, a respectable time after the guns stop firing, have an impact on this argument.

Irony, rather than a formula for debate, debases argument. The suggestion that impoverished, homeless Gazans will avoid radicalisation by comparing their plight with the enforced transfer of ethnic Germans at the end of the Second World War is specious. Gazans are trapped in their shattered territory whilst displaced Germans were able to rebuild their lives supported by the largess of international relief in the shape, substantially, of the Marshall plan. There’s a further dimension, Nazism being a demonstrably destroyed secular belief far more amenable to a denazification than a belief system bound in many cases by a distorted concept of religion.

History doesn’t always repeat but it does indicate trends, hence the argument that at some stage negotiations will in time prove necessary with a sworn enemy. The Allies wouldn’t negotiate with Nazi Germany because of the lessons of the First World War, out of whose ashes the Second World War was born. Times are different now; technology and weaponry, let alone the impact of social media, bear little comparison with the 1940s and no longer are borders impermeable so, equally, diplomacy isn’t set in stone. One of Clausewitz’s most famous comments was “War is merely the continuation of Policy by other Means” and so it should be in reverse.

Robert Bieber

War Studies Department, King’s College London

Not a prophet of doom

Whilst I do not want to appear to be a prophet of doom, I must disagree with the thrust of Rabbi Dweck’s article, It’s easy to dwell on doom but life for Jews is more likely to get better (December 29), as do his compatriots at the American Sephardi Federation, who on  December 31 issued an email contradicting him.

The ASF said: “… there is no going back to the pre-7 October world. The masks are off and the antisemitic mobs are out. This is the new “normal”. Efforts to divide, demonize, and demoralize us will only grow worse.”

We all hope that things will improve in 2024. However rather than complacently assuming that things will get better as claimed in the comment item, we need to prepare for the scenario which ASF predict, which is a tough year with both Israel and diaspora Jews coming under increasing pressure and physical and verbal attack, to provide to reduce the risk of, and to shield us against, harm.

Of course mainstream Orthodox Jewish belief holds that the Almighty has ultimate control over events so things are not entirely in our own hands, therefore prayer is needed. Indeed, as the JC has been reporting, since October 7 more and more people have been attending synagogues, but whilst the senior minister tells readers “...never to forget to take the attend shul as our parents, grandparents and their before them did”, bafflingly he omits to exhort us to have faith in the Almighty and to pray for the victory, security and peace which Israel needs, for our soldiers and all its other citizens, and for the relief from the increased antisemitism which we in the diaspora are facing.

Raymond Levy



 It was heartening to read the words of Rheinhold Niebuhr, the leading Protestant theologian, written in 1957, as quoted by Oliver Kamm, regarding the present Gaza war (Christians reacted to October 7 with muddled thinking, 5 January): “The simple fact is that all schemes for political appeasement and economic cooperation must fail, unless there is an unequivocal voice from us that we will not allow the state to be annihilated, and that we will not judge its desperate efforts to gain some strategic security… as an illegitimate use of force”.

It was a remarkable insight from a decent man, worthy of a plaque in the Knesset reminding law makers of this essential truth essential for Israel’s survival. Unfortunately, Mr Kamm, in calling for a “Palestinian state alongside a secure Israel on territories roughly approximating the pre 1967 armistice line”, misunderstands its message.

The notion of such a state alongside a “secure” Israel is an oxymoron, given that the ruling Palestinian Authority openly calls for Israel’s destruction as its declared goal, relentlessly indoctrinating its youth to that effect.

The late Abba Eban famously called the armistice lines “The Auschwitz Border” to emphasise its indefensible character, as confirmed by a visiting high ranking military US delegation after the Six Day War.

Kamm’s idea that “there is an unassailable case on grounds of justice” for such a state is astonishing, given that Jordan’s illegal occupation of Judea and Samaria, renaming them the “West Bank”, was the result of its war of aggression in 1948 against fledgling Israel. Its subsequent brutal ethnic cleansing of the indigenous Jews rendered the land Judenrein, giving rise to the misnomer “Palestinian Territories”, perpetuating the falsehood that Israel’s presence there is illegal.

He should know that Israel’s ironclad rights to sovereignty on all the land west of the Jordan river inhere in the binding treaty of San Remo 1920, supported by the Mandate for Palestine document 1922, both of which are guaranteed in international law under article 80 of the UN Charter, extant to the present day.

Furthermore, the “land for peace” concept is a dangerous illusion. Peace will only come when the Arabs accept the Jewish right to sovereignty in their ancient homeland.

Warren S Grossman

Leytonstone, London E11

Oliver Kamm is naive to think that the Christian response to October 7 was “muddled”, particularly with regard to the Archbishop of Canterbury’s address to the Church of England’s Synod.

It was exactly what one would expect…a carefully crafted piece of sophistry purporting to sympathise with Israel’s predicament, yet calling for a ceasefire as a “moral cry from people of many faiths and none”, which was really a call for Israel’s defence to be ineffectual.

The Pope has called the Gaza war “terrorism”, and the Archbishop’s statement on October 31 from the House of Bishops dishonestly described consequences of Israel’s actions in Gaza which were counter factual.

It also sought a context for the October 7 barbarity by including a one sided accusation of “illegal Israeli settlers” in the “West Bank” reportedly killing increasing numbers of Palestinians, and that “Israeli Arabs now find themselves subject to abuse, harassment and discrimination” in the mixed cities, without any mention of the ongoing terror attacks against Jews, said to average seven daily.

It is no coincidence that the Israel success story as a world leader in so many fields in recent decades, leading to its global influence out of all proportion to its tiny size, has aroused the ire of the church across many denominations.

The reason is the principle of supersessionism, fundamental to the Christian faith, that God has abandoned the promises made to the Jews and has replaced the Jews with Christians as His chosen people on earth, (for rejecting their messiah). The contradiction of Israel’s success story to this message is obvious, and the upsurge of antisemitism by the Church was as predictable as night follows day.

It also explains the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel church initiative, (EAPPI) created in 2002 by the World Council of Churches, to “monitor interaction between the Palestinians and the Israeli military, (beyond the Green Line), to monitor and report violations of human rights (of Palestinians) and to support peace advocates and advocacy”.

It has predictably been shown to try to undermine the Jewish state, and far from encouraging conciliation, sows discord by its hostile actions.

James R Windsor

Ilford, Essex

Confused idea

The suggestion that there should be a Jewish History Month begs a number of questions. Who will lead, support, maintain and fund such a project and under whose auspices? The UK Jewish community has become so diverse, as shown by its United Synagogue, Masorti and progressive factions. Which will be taking the lead? Can they work together?

But what really confuses me is the call for this project when the community and its benefactors allowed the Jewish Museum in Camden to close its doors last year.

Here was a historical memorial to the UK Jewish community founded in 1932 by Cecil Roth, Alfred Rubens and Wilfred Samuel which has now gone, certainly for the time being.

Would not the same fate ultimately befall a Jewish History Month?

Should not the community be putting its resources and energy into restoring and resurrecting the existing Jewish Museum?

Jonathan Metliss


Action Against Discrimination

 It is entirely creditable that the great and the good of British Jewry should propose a Jewish History Month. However, there is no mention in your article of the bodies that already promote Jewish history and culture, such as JACS, Jewish Historical Society, the Abraham Talks, Milim and the great work done at individual shuls.

The Jewish Museum London has closed, the Palgrave Dictionary of Anglo-Jewish History was last produced in 2011, only five talks out of hundreds at Limmud focused on British Jewish history and British Jewish history is not included in Jewish GCSE or degree studies or the syllabus at cheders. I could go on.

People like musician Harry Pitch, cookery writer Florence Greenberg, the bandleader Ambrose and journalist Henry Rose who made such a impact on British culture or history are now only remembered by the elderly.

It all seems to be top down. Perhaps before we educate the non-Jewish masses some thought should be had of getting our own house in order.

Tony Zendle


 I agree with Simon Schama that one month of Jewish history would be “calendrical tokenism” and that we’d be better to campaign for a second excellent Jewish museum (the JM in Manchester is an excellent, locally oriented museum). Cecil Roth, who co-founded the London Jewish Museum in 1932 — and who would have turned in his grave at its closure last year — wrote: “To the Jew, history should be more important by far than to anyone else. It is for him not merely a record: it is at once an inspiration and an apologia. Only from his history can he understand the facts of his present being. Only from his history can he brought to appreciate not only his former glory but his former degradation, to realise its causes and to sympathise with is consequences. It is only from an appreciation of his past that he can be imbued with self-respect and hope for his future.”

Dr Jay Prosser,

Reader in Humanities

University of Leeds

January 11, 2024 11:56

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