Sunday, 22 December 2019

How (not) to tackle antisemitism in the Age of Boris

My latest at Patheos

God on your side

The rabbinic leader of the UK’s Sephardi community, Rabbi Joseph Dweck, had his own take on the outcome of the election, telling the Jerusalem Post: “I believe that it was a divinely inspired result”.
Was the rabbi being ‘tongue in cheek’ when he said this? I sincerely hope so. Otherwise it begs too many painful questions about God’s lacklustre performance in Jewish affairs. Personally, I find it difficult to believe that the Almighty was at work in Blyth Valley but not at Buchenwald.

Read the full post at Patheos 

Saturday, 7 December 2019

Archbishop Justin, you need some new Jewish friends


Following the Archbishop of Canterbury's support for the Chief Rabbi's condemnation of Labour; and the publication of the Church of England's new landmark report on antisemitism in the Church, I suggest to Archbishop Justin that he needs to find some new Jewish friends that will better help him to navigate Israel/Palestine as well as understand the uses and abuses of #antisemitism.

This is the final part of my trilogy of General Election commentary.


"It made me wonder though, does the Church of England have a bigger problem with antisemitism than the Labour Party? After all, I’ve seen and heard over the years how hymns, liturgy, scripture, and teaching can still create a ‘hostile environment’ for even the most sympathetic Jew who happens to be present. However, I’ve never felt the need to call for a boycott of the Church of England, or for the Archbishop of Canterbury to be condemned for a failure of leadership or held personally accountable for enabling a tradition of antisemitism. Instead, I welcome the efforts that have been made over the decades to address the problem and build reconciliation. I wonder why the same generosity of spirit has not been applied by the Chief Rabbi to the Labour Party considering the action it has taken in just a few months? Am I so wrong to think that a bigger political agenda could be at play?"

Read full letter at Patheos 

Thursday, 28 November 2019

Chief Rabbi, we need a better way to fight antisemitism than attacking Labour

My latest at Patheos

What is the clear and present danger presented by the Labour party to Jews? Perhaps you can give me a rough idea of what I should expect, so I know whether to be ready to pack my bags when the election results come through.

Will kosher meat be outlawed? Will circumcision be banned? Will I be forced out of my job and my children thrown out of university? Will I be attacked on the street by gangs of roaming Corbynistas? Will synagogues be burnt down and Jews rounded up?

I’m not being flippant here. I genuinely want to understand the nature and severity of the threat which has created the “anxiety” you say is “gripping” most of my fellow Jews. If I can’t grasp what you mean, how can I make an informed and proportionate response?
Read the full post at Patheos

Wednesday, 13 November 2019

As a British Jew I'm not fearful of a Corbyn government but I'm horrified at how antisemitism is being used against him

My latest post at Patheos


With a General Election campaign now in full swing, Labour candidates and Labour activists, and indeed Labour voters, are being told they are actively promoting antisemitism or at least ignoring the concerns of the Jewish community in Britain. It’s no longer just Corbyn that’s being vilified. It’s half the country. Meanwhile, Jewish families have become fearful under entirely false pretenses. This is not good Jewish leadership. This is a dangerous failure of leadership.

Saturday, 19 October 2019

Extinction Rebellion has shown me the way forward for Jewish solidarity with Palestine

My latest blog post is published at Patheos:

Here's an extract:

There are parallels between how Extinction Rebellion has analysed the politics of climate change and where we now stand with Israel/Palestine within the Jewish world. Both situations have those who deny the facts, look to others to blame, or think minor reforms will fix things. As a Jew who wants to ‘sound the alarm’ on Israel/Palestine, I’ve realised in the last two weeks of global climate protest that there’s a lot to learn from XR’s strategic agenda if you want to escalate the debate and make people recognise the crisis we are facing:

Tell the truth,
Declare an emergency
Plan for radical change
Work for a just transition for all

Read the full post at Patheos 

Saturday, 21 September 2019

The Climate Emergency makes Zionism obsolete, but Judaism could help save the planet

MY LATEST AT PATHEOS: In this week of climate change protests and a United Nations summit, I'm opening a 'Jewish/green front' in the debate over Zionism.

Here's the opening:

"The Climate Emergency makes Zionism redundant as a future response to antisemitism; it’s already responsible for gross inequality in resilience against climate change; and, in the context of the global crisis we face, Zionism is one of many obsolete ideologies which needs to be ditched if we’re to build a sustainable future for all of us.
In contrast, Judaism itself, shorn of its Zionist overlay, has plenty to offer as we look for radically different ways to relate to each other and the planet." 

Read the full post here 

Tuesday, 3 September 2019

‘A splendid fellow’ Lionel F. Cohen 1926-2019

Away from the Israel/Palestine beat this month. My father passed away last week and I thought I'd share the eulogy I gave at his funeral and some further thoughts about his life.

Here's an extract:

"Inevitably, the death of a parent takes you to a place of deep reflection. How can you measure their life and draw meaning from more than 90 years of events and relationships? What made them the person they were? How did they touch the lives of others? And what thinking and behaviour have become your inheritance? Every life is unique and special however ordinary it may have looked from the outside. My father led an outwardly unremarkable life but lived through remarkable times as both a European Jew and British citizen. As an adult, I came to love and respect the way he had lived his life more and more. My father was dignified, responsible and caring. What better role model could I have had."

Read the full post at Patheos 

Friday, 2 August 2019

The BBC debated antisemitism, but who got ‘muddled’, Melanie Phillips or Robert Cohen?

My latest blog published at Patheos.

So how well did I fare in my first encounter with one of the most well-known, committed and compelling defenders of Israel and Zionism? Melanie Phillips has a reputation as a fearsome debater who takes no prisoners. She plies her craft on the global stage. I have a small blog, which earns me mostly angst.
Read the full post at Writing from the Edge at Patheos

Saturday, 22 June 2019

The Church of England is stifling Palestinian solidarity – IHRA is to blame

My latest at Patheos

What this case study illustrates is the ease with which Christian witness to the widespread injustices being suffered by Palestinians is set aside as secondary, and even inconsequential, compared to the weakest of antisemitism claims. The Church of England hierarchy is unwilling to challenge the narrative framework it has co-created and ends up censoring itself and colluding in the suppression of Palestinian advocacy. This all takes place in a belief that good Jewish-Christian dialogue is being maintained because the Church is listening and acting on Jewish concerns. But that’s to misunderstand what ‘good’ should look like and to ignore what’s missing from the conversation.

Read the full post here 

Tuesday, 14 May 2019

#DareToDreamOfFreedom and don’t watch Eurovision

My latest blog post at Patheos


The broadcasting companies have refused to heed the call. The contestants from 42 countries have ignored the petitions. Madonna is flying in. Millions around the world have been made aware for the first time that all is not well in the Holy Land if you’re a Palestinian. But despite the global campaign, the final of the 64th Eurovision Song Contest, the world’s largest live music event, is going ahead in Tel Aviv this Saturday (18 May).
So now it’s down to ordinary TV viewers to show our disapproval and solidarity by making sure there’s a big dent in the show’s normal global audience figures of 189 million.
Despite what some have said, opposition to Eurovision 2019 is not about ‘antisemitism’ or ‘hating’ Israel or ‘destroying’ the only Jewish State in the world. Boycotting Eurovision is about singing a different kind of love song. A love song that does precisely what this year’s competition slogan encourages us to do: ‘Dare to Dream’. Not the glitzy dream of sparkly costumes and on-stage pyrotechnics but a dream of freedom and safety for all who call the Holy Land home.

Read the full post at Patheos 

Thursday, 9 May 2019

How Jonathan Sacks dumbs-down Jewish history to defend Zionism

My new post at Patheos can be read here.

An extract:

Aside from being unbelievably simplistic and devoid of context, Sacks pretends to be talking history and religion while in fact he’s being deeply political. Imagine you are a Palestinian watching this video. Or maybe you are a Palestinian and have unfortunately stumbled across it. According to Sacks’ rhetorical construction of events, despite your home being destroyed, your farmland confiscated and your family sent into exile, the only possible reason for your objection to Zionism must be antisemitism.

Read the full post at Patheos 

Friday, 19 April 2019

Does Palestine make celebrating the Jewish Passover impossible?

My latest at Patheos


Tonight (Friday 19th April) I’ll be celebrating the Jewish festival of Passover with my family. We’ll do it in our own way, using our own home-curated Haggadah which draws on some radical and contemporary Jewish thought to tell the story of the Exodus from Egypt and give it modern meaning and relevance....
But for a growing number of Jews around the world our relationship to the Palestinian people has become the greatest challenge to our Jewish identity and values. How can we celebrate our ‘feast of freedom’ and tell the story of our Exodus from the ‘narrow place’ of ‘Mitzryim’ while we deny, or stay silent, about the oppression of Palestine? It’s a profound challenge to our faith and the understanding of our own history.
Read the full post here

Saturday, 6 April 2019

Deborah Lipstadt, you’re wrong to say Jewish BDS supporters are enabling antisemitism

My new post at Patheos is just published.

As a Jewish supporter of BDS, I am not opposed to Israel’s existence. I am in favour of a truly democratic state for all who call the Holy Land home.
 I have not bought into “an anti-Israel narrative”, I have recognised a profound problem with Zionism while also understanding the historic experience of Jews in Europe which motivated the Zionist movement.  
The “values” you say I am upholding don’t need to be surrounded by your doubting speech-marks. We’re coming up to Passover, with its universal message of freedom from oppression, freedom from unjust Pharaohs. Since when did Jewish values become “antisemitic motifs”?  
To use your phrase, I too feel “sad and frustrated”. But my sadness and frustration is directed at the Jewish community which raised me and which is now immersed in denial about what has taken place in the name of Jewish liberation and security. As a community, we are outraged when we see antisemitism – and that’s an appropriate reaction. But when there are outrages committed against the Palestinian people (from IDF snipers along the Gaza fence, to water theft in the West Bank) our community leaders opt for defending the indefensible or staying silent.  
For me, Israel is not the most-evil regime in the world. There are far worse. But what takes place there happens in my name and in the name of Judaism and the Jewish people. And that’s what makes it my priority.

Read the full post at Patheos 

Sunday, 10 March 2019

Only by moving beyond Zionism will Christian-Jewish dialogue progress

To move forward from Zionism does not entail an abandonment of Israeli Jews. Nor does it mean forgoing our belief in a Jewish homeland, or God’s promises to our biblical ancestors. It does involve a reimagining of those ideas based on the fundamental understanding that God initiated the spark of life with the intent to create a humanity guided by love and justice, not inequality and oppression.

This article first appeared in the Winter 2018/19 edition of Cornerstone magazine, a publication by the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center in Jerusalem.

Monday, 4 March 2019

British MPs won’t get to see ‘WitchHunt’ in the House of Commons – the very place it needs to be shown

Here's the opening...

A new documentary ‘WitchHunt’ about the long running accusations of antisemitism in the British Labour Party was due to be shown in the House of Commons this week (4 March). The screening was cancelled after protests that the film itself contributes to the very antisemitism it sets out to explore.
Since the film has only been shown in a handful of public venues around the country, it’s unlikely that those who demanded the Common’s cancellation have actually seen it. That’s a pity, because having watched a preview copy of the film myself, it strikes me that MPs at Westminster are the very people that most need to see it. ‘WitchHunt’ is a vital corrective to what’s been a mostly shallow and poorly informed debate that’s done much to undermine the British public’s understanding of antisemitism.

Read the full post at Patheos. 

Sunday, 3 February 2019

It’s okay to use your smart phone, tablet and laptop to boycott Israel

My latest blog post has just been published at Patheos.

It follows this week's news that the tech giant Intel Corp is investing a $11bn in to its already existing research and development and manufacturing base in Israel.

Here's an extract:

We live in an interconnected global economy in which a single product will contain components supplied, developed and manufactured from many countries. Life has become more complicated since the 1970s and 80s when we could simply choose not to buy Cape oranges to show our support for black South Africans.
So where does this lead the BDS movement?
Do we really have to unplug and throw away every piece of communications technology we own in order to be pure in our ethics? Can we no longer research via Google and share via Facebook words or images designed to support the BDS campaign for Palestinian rights?

Wednesday, 9 January 2019

Whether it’s Brexit or Zionism – going it alone makes little sense

My latest at Patheos.

"Faith in the rejuvenating powers of Brexit or faith in the notion that Jewish national self-determination is sacrosanct both turn out to be false messiahs. There is no such thing as ‘taking back control’ or ‘going it alone’ for any of us...For all of us, we are only as safe and secure as the communities we build together locally and internationally. Everything else is an illusion."

Read the full post here