Wednesday, 8 November 2017

Dear Simon Schama, you need a history lesson on Zionism

My reply to leading historian Simon Schama following his letter to The Times this week taking a shot at Corbyn's Labour Party and claiming anti-Zionism has no place in civil society.

"...overall your letter only adds to the lock down of freedom of speech on Israel by attempting to make criticism of Zionism toxic by association. That doesn’t feel like a good position for you to take as a public intellectual."


Read the full post at Patheos

Saturday, 4 November 2017

For the children of Palestine the second Balfour century has already begun

This post written from East Jerusalem this week was first published on my Patheos page on Wednesday 1 November. 

Here's the opening:

Tomorrow (2 November) is the centenary of the Balfour Declaration. Around the world there is limited interest in this anniversary. Even in Israel it’s not much of a news story. Prime Minister Netanyahu can afford to be in London with Theresa May and Boris Johnson celebrating Balfour at a private dinner party.
But here in the Occupied Palestinian Territories it’s different. Here Balfour matters. It’s on the streets, it’s in the air. Here it’s understood that Balfour’s sixty-seven words of incompatible imperial pledges locked together the fate of two peoples, but with vastly differing outcomes for each. Balfour made a promise, that promise led to the creation of the State of Israel, and that State led to the displacement and dispossession of the Palestinian people.
What’s clear to see when you’re ‘on the ground’, is that Balfour isn’t history – it’s current affairs. It’s the checkpoints; it’s the Settlements expanding before your eyes; it’s the Israeli artist living on the Gaza border who says she wants peace but really wants only peace and quiet; it’s our Jerusalem Arab taxi driver, who explains why his Bethlehem born wife, a qualified engineer, can’t get work because she’s denied the same citizenship rights as her husband. This week, the consequences of Balfour remain present and un-corrected.
Thursday’s anniversary will come and go and nothing will have changed. On Friday we will begin the second hundred years of Balfour, not knowing when or how, or if, it will ever end. The children of Palestine will become adults and Balfour will still be here.

Read more here...

Sunday, 22 October 2017

Corbyn and Arkush show how Balfour is marking the end of the British consensus on Israel

My new post is just published at Patheos. Here's the start: 
This past week Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn snubbed a dinner invitation from the Jewish Leadership Council while Jonathan Arkush, President of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, sent an angry email to the UK Ambassador to the United Nations.
Arthur Balfour and his infamous Declaration are to blame for both incidents.
 It doesn’t sound like much to get worked up about. But you should do. As the Balfour centenary year approaches its climax on 2 November, we’re witnessing in Britain the fracturing of decades of mainstream political consensus over Israel and the gradual isolation of the Jewish communal leadership as it becomes ever more intolerant of Palestinian solidarity.

Read the full post here

Sunday, 1 October 2017

No, Ambassador Regev, don’t turn Balfour into a holy Jewish text

My latest post is just published at Patheos. Click here to read it in full.

Here's the opening:


The 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration is nearly upon us (November 2nd 2017) and its 67 words of apparent British imperial generosity towards the Jewish people are already taking on sacred status.
We are about to canonise Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour, and turn his letter to Lord Rothschild, which viewed “with favour” the establishment of a Jewish “national home” in Palestine, into a holy Jewish text.
But unlike other Jewish scripture, these are not words our rabbis will be allowed to examine, verse by verse, in synagogue sermons, nor our students wrestle with in yeshiva study halls.
For the sake of future Jewish generations, not to mention historians of the 20th century, it would be a good idea to put a stop to this manufacturing of holiness, this muddling of religion and nationalism. It’s only adding to the mountain of historical and political deceit that blocks the road to a place of justice and peace.
Read more at Patheos


Saturday, 9 September 2017

“Trust me, I was once a first-year Jewish student too."


This month a new generation of Jewish students will begin their first term at University. Here’s my advice to them.

Congratulations/Mazel Tov! 

You’re off to university. First time away from home. First time away from your synagogue community. Or perhaps you’ve had a year out after school and have been in Israel soaking up your Jewish heritage. Maybe you’ve been on a Jewish leadership trip organised by your youth movement or a Birthright tour. But now it’s back to reality and you’re about to discover what it means to have your ideas challenged, your prejudices pointed out and your Jewish identity undermined.

But don’t worry. This is all to the good. It’s exactly what you need. Trust me, I was once a first-year Jewish university student too.

Saturday, 5 August 2017

“It’s about equality, and that’s why I can’t work with you on this.”

My short talk this week at the Quaker Annual Gathering in the UK


Extract:

Because if you say: “Zionism is nothing more and nothing less than a Jewish movement of national liberation and self-determination”, then, I can’t work with you.
Mostly because you need to read more books and talk to some different people and you need to understand what happens when your sacrosanct understanding of Jewish identity plays out as a catastrophe for another people.
If you say that Zionism is a “noble and integral part of Judaism”, then, I can’t work with you.
Mostly because you are very ignorant about Jewish history and Jewish theological understanding of exile – and this is especially problematic if you also happen to be Britain’s Chief Rabbi.
If you say boycotts in support of Palestinian rights are a form of antisemitism and/or should be illegal, then I can’t work with you.
Mostly because you don’t understand the history of political protest and you certainly don’t understand Nazi Germany boycotts of Jewish businesses in the 1930s, and because you also oppose free speech.
Or perhaps, you do understand all these things but you prefer to play politics with history for the sake of a very narrow and short sighted advantage.


Read the full post at Writing from the Edge 

Friday, 7 July 2017

Brace yourselves for costly Palestinian solidarity

My new post at Patheos is published. Click here to read.

"Jewish-Christian dialogue is about to go through the wringer. And not before time. Long standing relationships with Jewish neighbours and clerical colleagues will deteriorate long before they can be rebuilt with new foundations. But costly solidarity requires no less."

Monday, 12 June 2017

So many bad ways to mark the Balfour Declaration – but here’s one good one

"How to mark the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration this November? You can be sure there’s going to be no end of bad ways. So how should Balfour be remembered? What’s an honest way to mark this centenary, one that carries with it not only a rounded understanding of history and politics but one that includes a degree of humility, penance and an outlook for peace that embraces justice and equality? A small British Christian charity has found a way to achieve all of this."
My latest at Patheos marking the launch of the Amos Trust 'Just Walk to Jerusalem'

Read the full post at Patheos

#ChangeTheRecord


Friday, 26 May 2017

From Manchester to Jerusalem: The limits of Trump’s terror narrative

Latest post published in full at Writing from the Edge

Here's an extract:

There was nothing wrong in Trump offering his condolences and sympathy. That was entirely appropriate. The attack in Manchester was a wicked, senseless crime.
What made me uncomfortable was the way Trump used terrorism to avoid confronting the complicated, compromised and messy reality in which we live, especially in the Middle East.
For Trump, in all the speeches he made this week in the region, terror appeared to be the only cause of the problem, and its defeat would be sure to bring peace.
If only it were true.
Trump’s narrative lacked understanding, substance and integrity. And that went for terror in Manchester as well as the Middle East.

Read the full post here 

Monday, 1 May 2017

Church of Scotland must be fearless against the bullying Board of Deputies


My new blog post on the latest attempt by the Board of Deputies to close down debate by Churches on Israel/Palestine

Once again, the Board of Deputies of British Jews has shown itself to be a bully when it comes to interfaith dialogue on Israel/Palestine. This time its victim is the Church of Scotland. It’s all depressingly predictable and immensely tiresome for anyone who cares about justice in the Holy Land and indeed the future of Jewish-Christian relations in the U.K.

Read the full post at Patheos 

Sunday, 2 April 2017

Zionism, Apartheid and the Delegitimisation of Passover

This year's post for Passover is published @ Writing from the Edge


Here's an extract:

This Passover abandon the traditional Haggadah. Set aside the alternative Haggadahs too. Leave the supplements alone. Instead adopt an entirely different religious text.
My proposed liturgical replacement also tells the story of slaves and of a Pharaoh. It also describes oppression and it shows a route to liberation. It represents all that makes Passover delegitimised and, simultaneously, exactly how it can be made legitimate once again. It was published last month on the 15th March.

My recommended reading for your Passover celebration is the UN’s Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) report on Israeli Practices towards the Palestinian People and the Question of Apartheid. 
If we read it, carefully and faithfully, if we pay attention to its descriptions and analysis, it can free both Jews and Palestinians from our joint (but very differently experienced) modern slavery to Zionism. And, if enough others join this movement of liberation, then we Jews may even find a way back to a legitimate Jewish Passover.

Read the full post here

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Dear Rabbi Sacks – stop your lies about BDS




Dear Jonathan Sacks

 Stop telling lies about BDS.

Your video animation, designed to make the moral and political case against this year’s Israel Apartheid Weeks on campuses around the world, is a skilful piece of deceit that needs urgent challenge from all who support human rights.

I’ve always admired your writing on Judaism and I recommend your books to others. Except where you talk about Israel, at which point you appear to abandon your learning and your ethical values.

You’re hardly the only rabbi who does this. But most of them don’t have your worldwide reputation, status and audience. When you say something on an important topic like boycotts many will be listening and they will take your position to be the authentic, intelligent and trustworthy voice of Judaism.

That’s exactly why it’s so important to challenge the deliberate distortions and misrepresentations you’re making.

Your website says the video sets out to explain what “lies beneath the BDS campaign, why it is so dangerous, and why Jews, humanitarians of all faiths and of none, and all those who value a free society, must stand up against it.”

Well, I’m one Jew, among many, who wants to stand up for BDS not against it. I do so because I am a Jew and a humanitarian and because I value a free society. I’m sorry to have to tell you this, but the dangers to both Jews and Palestinians come from your attitudes rather than mine and the other Jews, Christians, Muslims and secularists who support BDS. We are the ones who believe in equal rights for all who call the Holy Land home. I’m far from convinced that you do.

I’ve reproduced the transcript of your video below and added [my own commentary] to explain to the many students on campus who may watch it, why it’s you that have got BDS so dangerously wrong.

Read the full post at Patheos

Saturday, 11 February 2017

“As Jews, we welcome refugees” (unless they’re Palestinian)

My latest post is just published at Patheos

Apart from the Israeli government, Donald Trump, and various Zionist lobby groups around the world, like the Board of Deputies of British Jews, everyone else knows that the West Bank Settlements are obstacles to peace.
But there’s something else that’s just as big an obstacle to peace as the Settlements. But nobody wants to call it out. Nobody wants to draw attention to the double standards, the tragic irony, the gaping hypocrisy.
It’s the obstacle to peace and reconciliation that gnaws away at our tradition of Jewish ethics undermining the future of Judaism itself.

Read the full article. 

Monday, 2 January 2017

Love in the Age of Trump

Despite many good reasons to fear for the future under a Trump Presidency, when it comes to Israel/Palestine there are some positives we should grab hold of.

Here's an extract from my latest post at Patheos.

I’m hopeful that years of public ambivalence and public confusion are coming to an end.

After all, who’ll believe there’s a peace process to support when the American Embassy moves to Jerusalem? How much longer can the pretence of a Jewish democracy last when the Settlements become annexed but equal rights remain forbidden? And why would an objective observer wait patiently for diplomatic progress when the Age of Trump also becomes the Age of Naftali Bennett?

Read the full post at Writing from the Edge @ Patheos.