Sunday, 13 December 2020

Hanukkah for Palestinians

My latest blog is published at Patheos

Here's an extract:

When our children were young, I used to be invited into their local primary school to give a talk each year about Hanukkah. Today I ask myself, how I would teach Hanukkah to Palestinian school children, or indeed to their parents? How comfortable would I find it to tell this story of Jews denied the right to express their culture, identity and history? What would go through the children’s minds as I explained our annual celebration of an armed Jewish revolt against an occupying power? And could I convey convincingly the idea of on-going Jewish vulnerability in Israel, the United States, or anywhere else?

But this is exactly the self-awareness we need today when we celebrate Hanukkah.

Read the full post at Patheos

Saturday, 17 October 2020

Dear Vice Chancellor, don’t let Gavin Williamson bully you into adopting IHRA



Dear Professor Schofield

I’m writing to you as a Jewish student studying at Lancaster University in the hope that you’ll resist the pressure being put on you by the government to adopt what I, and many other Jews in the UK and around the world, believe to be a flawed and deeply problematic document on antisemitism.

...this is far from being a purely academic debate. If you’re a Palestinian student studying at a British university this is about your right to express your lived history and that of your family and people. Denying the expression of that experience would seem to go against any ambitions to be truly diverse, inclusive and welcoming institution...

...Understanding of Zionism and the creation of the State of Israel cannot be the exclusive right of Jewish people. For a rounded understanding of what Zionism has meant, and what it means today, you need to include Palestinian testimony and Palestinian academic writing. I can’t imagine any serious educational institution, especially Lancaster, to expect anything less.

Friday, 18 September 2020

From ‘Vision for Peace’ to ‘normalisation’ – 2020 has become the year of forgetting

 My latest blog is published at Patheos

Some ironic reflections on Trump's peace plan, this week's Abraham Accords, and the Jewish New Year which begins tonight.

Here's an extract:
"Memories are short. But when did the world start forgetting? Or perhaps everything that was once strange and abnormal is now normal and unremarkable. Thanks to Covid-19, we’re all learning to live in a ‘new normal’. And now there is the new normal for Israel/Palestine too. And we call it ‘normalisation’.
In both cases things are not what they used to be, and may never go back to how they were."

Read the full post here.

Shanah Tovah to my Jewish freinds and readers

Sunday, 26 July 2020

“History will judge us” – Have Progressive Rabbis reached the end of the road on Israel?

My latest post published at Patheos


This month’s letter to the Israeli embassy in London starts to look like Progressive rabbis are finally confronting the Jewish implications of the entire Zionist project. Although the layers of denial and ethical dissonance are still on display, it’s the strongest and most despairing expression of criticism I’ve seen.

Read the full post here. 

Wednesday, 1 July 2020

Annexation (even when delayed) is the great truth teller on Israel/Palestine

My latest published at Patheos


What’s been notable over the last few months, is the way in which even the prospect of annexation has revealed so much about the nature of the Israel/Palestine situation. There is a parallel to be drawn with how Covid-19 has also been an exposer of truths about the unfairness and inequalities of societies around the world. Perhaps, annexation is just a subset of the surfacing of injustice which we’ve seen across the globe in 2020 and which has stirred locked-down populations to question their tolerance for institutionalised immorality.
Read the full article here. 

Saturday, 6 June 2020

As Jews, we’ll never address racism while clinging to Zionism


A reflection on some of the responses to the murder of George Floyd from the Jewish community and its lack of self-awarness on issues of racism.

It’s impossible for even liberal Jewish supporters of Israel to recognise the structural and institutional racism they inhabit while they cling to the idea that only an exclusive Jewish sovereignty in Israel/Palestine can guarantee Jewish security. The longer this idea is treated as a universal law of nature rather than a sorely overrated political ideology, the longer it will take to recognise and then shed a racist mind set.
While America has spent decades struggling to acknowledge and rectify its past, Israeli Jewish society remains locked in a state of denial, with no hint of even beginning the struggle to re-evaluate its foundational stories. The same goes for the communities around the world who’ve placed Israel and Zionism at the centre of their Jewish identities. And that means the racism goes on, hard wired into Jewish institutions and culture around the world.
Until we drop Zionism as the lens through which we see the world, and our place within it, we will not understand why our project of national liberation has been, and remains, a racist endeavour for another people.
Read the full post at Patheos

Sunday, 17 May 2020

Dear Marie, claiming the Board is neutral on West Bank annexation should fool no one

My letter to the President of the Board of Deputies, Marie van de Zyl, in a week that's seen her organisation under fire from all parts of the UK Jewish commuity.

Here's an extract:

Saying nothing at this critical moment in Israeli/Palestinian history only helps Israel to manage the global negative reaction that will surely happen if annexation takes place (even if it leads to little in the way of meaningful sanctions). Saying nothing proves that you and the Board care little about democracy or international law if it means having to say a critical word to Jerusalem or risk a very public debate about the role of Israel in British Jewish life.
Wanting to stand above the fray so that you can continue to “hold the community together” also begs difficult questions. What exactly are you trying to hold the Jewish community together for? What are the unifying Jewish values you want to promote? Looking the other way when a crime is committed is not a Jewish value I remember being taught in my Hebrew classes. Striving for a non-existent Jewish unity in the UK turns out to be little more than political expediency in Israel’s favour.

Read the full post at Patheos 

Sunday, 19 April 2020

Edgy Jewish reflections on a Covid-19 exit strategy

My latest at Patheos

Here's the opening:

The last blog post I published was sent from a world which no longer exists. It was written in a pre-Covid, pre-lock-down’ United Kingdom, composed in a place we now call ‘normal times’. It was a review of a theatre play in London’s West End, which itself feels wildly bizarre. There I was sitting inches away from strangers for two hours. Such crazy times, in those far off days.

I’ve found it hard to write about Covid-19 for this blog. It’s an immense event that touches everything and everyone. It’s hard to get your head around it. It can generate a mental paralysis. Even the language that’s entered our everyday vocabulary already operates at the extremities of expression. “Unprecedented”, “exceptional”, “unimaginable”. But where do you go when our language has already run out of track? The human mind is forced to hunker down until the virus passes over us, or through us, or does us in.

Read the full post here 

Saturday, 22 February 2020

Tom Stoppard’s first Jewish play leaves Zionism offstage

My latest at Patheos: 

There've been plenty of rave reviews for Sir Tom Stoppard's new West End play 'Leopoldstadt' but they've all left out the most interesting aspect - its lack of Zionism.

So here's my non-Zionist reviewer's take on the production which I saw this week.

EXTRACT: "Jewish 20th century history is so often presented as one long justification for the project of Jewish national renewal. It’s a narrative which today dominates mainstream Jewish community life and deeply influences political attitudes towards Israel by Western countries. So it was curious to see such a major artistic telling of Jewish experience leaving Zionism offstage. I expected to see it waiting in the wings as a potential redemptive finale or at the very least an answer to the human costs of being Jewish. Instead, Stoppard chooses his own tragic reading of the Jewish predicament keeping his characters locked within their own family tragedy." 

Read the full post at Patheos 

Sunday, 26 January 2020

Orla Guerin’s report shows what’s wrong with Holocaust remembrance

My latest blog post is published at Patheos 

As we begin what could be a highly significant week for Israel/Palestine, here are my extended thoughts on the controversy surrounding the Orla Guerin BBC report and what it says about how we remember the Holocaust. Here's an extract:

"The undeniable truth is that Palestinians are part of the post Holocaust story too. Their history and current situation cannot be separated from Auschwitz any more than the Jewish story can. In fact, they have become the same story because the Palestinians paid the price for Europe’s failures and the rest of the world’s indifference. What’s really offensive is the attempt to disconnect the relationship between these two peoples. Whether we like it or not, we are now bound together in our post Holocaust experience."