Reader’s Letters: Henry viii, The Board, Hamas and anti-Semitism

Reader’s Letters: Henry viii, The Board, Hamas and anti-Semitism

Richard Ferrer has become a leading voice on Jewish communal issues since becoming editor of the Jewish News in 2009, writing about contemporary Jewish life for a national audience. He edited the Boston Jewish Advocate, America's oldest Jewish newspaper and created the Channel 4 series Jewish Mum of the Year.

Wish you all well over the fast!
Wish you all well over the fast!

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Our ‘defenders’ are not quite Henry viii

Dear Sir,

At the start of a new year, I’d like to offer my appreciation to some unsung heroes of Judaism, whose contributions to these pages always raises a smile when news elsewhere is so unpleasant. I call them “Defenders of the Faith”. The original holder of this title, Henry VIII, received it from the Pope for opposing the Reformation but he then thanklessly turned Reform himself, unleashing his bloodthirsty vengeance on anyone still professing the old faith.

Happily our defenders are quite harmless, but like Henry see themselves as proponents of the only true faith; all others will lead to ultimate perdition. Unlike him, there’s not the slightest chance of their turning Reform. So let’s raise a glass to the leader of the pack, Councillor Brian Gordon, always the articulate apologist for the ultra-Orthodox, whatever antics they get up to. But in a recent column (Jewish News, 27 November), Brian worryingly gave a very rational response to the Jews for Jesus setting up an office in Hendon, saying effectively that it’s no use making a huge fuss about it. If Brian is turning sensibly pragmatic, there’s always this letters page and Martin Stern’s regular dispatches from behind the battlements of Salford, Britain’s final bastion of uncompromising moral rectitude.

Normally sedate and intellectual, as befits an Oxbridge-educated maths lecturer specialising in Hebrew numerology and the menstrual cycle, Stern was reduced to a spluttering rage by a letter of mine in which I dared to suggest that it was wrong for Charedim to bully women out of their seats on planes. I’m delighted to inform his fans that he has written a book called A Time to Speak (quoting Ecclesiastes), and assume its companion volume A Time to Remain Silent will be forthcoming.

There’s good news for a less discerning letter writer to whom incoherent ranting is preferable to arcane sophistry. Blackhatter Stern now has his own Baldric in the form of one Joseph Cohen, ostensibly from Edgware. His latest feverish outpouring (Letters, Jewish News, 27 November) suggests that mixed seating on El Al planes leads to sordid and illicit sexual relationships, although he does not explain whether these take place in the air, when eyes meet while sharing a romantic Hermolis meal lubricated by a bottle or two of Palwin, or in the long queue at Ben Gurion waiting for security clearance – in which case the progeny of such alliances would make an appearance just as the procreators reached the front of the queue.

Either way, I suspect he’s being paid by El Al’s PR department to drum up more customers. I wish all these providers of top-class meshugas a happy and successful new year, on the strict understanding that this period of time is purely secular and in no way alludes to any person real or imaginary whose teachings – if he existed at all – are in no way to be seen as challenging the strict Torah laws as uniquely upheld by these worthy contributors.

Herbert Goldberg, Pinner

Board has got into bed with the enemy

Dear Sir Jonathan Arkush’s clarification, in responding to mine and others’ criticism of the Board of Deputies getting into bed with the toxic likes of Yachad was as clear as Dead Sea mud (Letters, Jewish News, 31 December).

His clichéd line of the Board being “inclusive”, prompts several questions: What is “inclusive” about shacking up with a group whose aim is the de facto exclusion of Israel as a Jewish State and therefore in name? If the Board were doctors, would they be arguing for the non-use of chemotherapy as the tumour has “rights” to “share the same body” despite its fundamental raison d‘être being to kill that body? It seems that if the Board, the Jewish media and “intelligentsia” were IDF chiefs of staff, they’d be arguing for yet more capitulation “for peace”.

We all remember the “rockets of peace” and “tunnels of love” borne from the appeasement “success” of Jews expelling fellow Jews from Gaza and creating an apartheid terrorist conclave whose constitution dictates the peace of the grave and the love of killing Jews. I reiterate that our “leaders”, as in the 1930s, seem far more interested in their lofty titles and social positions as a Jewish Ghetto Council than defending Jews and standing up for Israel, the only safe haven for us Jews in the entire world.

Would Mr Arkush be prepared to risk his membership of the Board of Deputies to publicly question the shameful motives of those executive officers and presumably ”friends of Israel”, Vivian Wineman (its president), Laurence Brass who is allegedly a judge, Alex Brummer and Laura Marks (vice presidents) who all voted for hard left anti-Israel Yachad? Their names were relayed by yet another disgusted local Deputy. In fact, 61 local deputies voted against Yachad, but it was insufficient to overturn the two-thirds majority that “inclusively” got into bed with the enemy. Various shuls need to have a little chat with their deputies as to what they are playing at.

As for the Marxist influence, perhaps instead of “doing a Nelson”, Mr Arkush should look at the hard left agendas of his fellow executive officers and the Facebook page of the Pinner Deputy posing proudly under the statues of Marx and Engels. Finally, contrary to your 31 December editorial, and having spoken to many people to ask their views; a “change of government” in Israel will not make it better; a lurch to the left, as last time, will make it far worse. It is time not just to “mow the grass”; it is time for some strong weed killer because, like it or not, the Hamas weeds have every intention of taking over the entire lawn, killing the grass and tunnelling under the roots.

Jeremy Zeid, UKIP PPC for Hendon

Good intentions, but the wrong view

Dear Sir,

I would suggest 2014 revealed a very different picture than the one painted in Jewish News’ editorial opinion of 31 December. It revealed Israel taking extreme care to protect civilians, often at the cost of life and limb of Israeli soldiers. It revealed the same failure of many to see beyond the soundbites and carefully crafted images to the real truth of the villains of this conflict – Hamas. By constantly piling blame and responsibility on Israel, you are fuelling Hamas’ flames of destruction and terror.

The statement of the need for another solution to this intractable problem was not followed by any meaningful or intelligent alternatives, given that the ultimate priority for any democratic state is the protection and defence of its citizens.

I believe that until the focus is placed firmly on the role of militant Islam in the manner in which it educates its children to hate and kill, and the incitement that is regularly preached by imams in mosques around the world, we will not solve the problem in the Middle East and beyond as this has become a global issue. That is where the soul searching should begin. Why are more people, including yourselves, not admitting and acknowledging these basic truths?

Roisy Nevies NW4

Dear Sir,

I refer to the editor’s comments in Jewish News on 31 December, looking back on the Gaza incursion. One of the points raised was whether more could have been done to minimise casualties. What army in the world other than the IDF warns the enemy in advance that they are going to be bombed with texts, phone calls, leaflets, and a warning knock on the roof?

Hamas stored rockets and artillery in schools, houses and mosques. Israel had no other options. Another point raised was that a “new look” Israeli government could extend a hand and offer a vision of a thriving future. Israel tried to do this very thing when it evacuated Gaza. That worked out well, didn’t it?! Lastly, it was stated that most Gazans are no more terrorists than we are. Considering they are indoctrinated from kindergarten age to hate Jews and wish for the total annihilation, not only of Israel, but Jews worldwide, and give out sweets and dance in the streets when yet another atrocity is perpetrated on Israelis, I really think this point is irrelevant. While I appreciate the editor’s good intentions, I think Israel has long abandoned any hope of a peaceful solution.

Judith Roth, By email

Dear Sir,

I’m confused. Your editorial leader comment of 31 December, however, made it quite clear that I’m not alone. For example, when asking what 2014 revealed about “us“, did your question refer to Jewish News, your readers, Jewish News and your readers, or Jewish people as an entity, if such a thing exists? Having given this a lot of thought, as well as asking others, my conclusion is that nothing that occurred during 2014 caused something to be revealed to me about which I was not previously aware. You go on to suggest that, in particular, the “Gaza war” was a source of revelation.

Now, here is where my confusion really grows. My understanding has always been that a long-standing state of war has raged for more than 60-odd years, declared and waged by the Middle East Arab nations joined by the Palestinians, against the independent, sovereign state of Israel. The latest conflict in this war was in Gaza. Palestinians are “Gazans” – “Gazans” are Palestinians. Some are terrorists, some are not. They voted in a large majority for Hamas, a terrorist organisation devoted to the extinction of Israel. Apparently, “we” (?) publicly backed Israel in this Gaza conflict and “were proud to do so”, but “privately”, had no idea why.

Now, this would have required us to be either ignorant bigots or un-informed idiots. Really? People, in the main, were quite clear why they supported Israel in the Gaza conflict and tried to ensure they were as well informed as possible, in order to form judgments. So, in this respect, your editorial leader could have been more precisely directed. As a Reform Jew who does not believe religion has any official place in politics, or vice versa, 2014 “revealed” nothing to me for 2015, about Israel, Gaza, and the way in which any government of Israel needs to make the immediate safety and security of the people and nation its first and foremost objective, until the Arab nations/Palestinians officially declare they are no longer at war with Israel. Israel has “held out its hand” for 60-odd years. Israel has made every concession for peace so far. A more prosperous future has always been available to the Palestinians. The same is on offer for 2015.

Harry Levy Pinner,

It’s wrong to avoid the tough subjects

Dear Sir,

Jewish News editor Richard Ferrer was right to claim relationships between Jews and Muslims in the UK are “held to ransom by the plight of the Palestinians” (‘We can be friends, just don’t mention the war’, 18 December). But his solution, that we should avoid the subject altogether, is wrong. Only by tackling head-on what he correctly labels “the elephant in the room,” can we build the robust relationships we need. At the end of last year, I had the pleasure of hosting two events alongside a pioneer of this work, Imam Abdullah Antepli.

We brought together Jews and Muslims and we began a long journey towards understanding. Imam Antepli has experience in the US, from where he brings young Muslim leaders to Jerusalem for two weeks, enabling them to realise why Jews feel so connected to Israel. It was these individuals who, as the war took place last summer, worked to dampen down anti-Semitic hatred espoused on Twitter and other social media platforms. Only through difficult conversations, meaningful experiences and by understanding each others’ narratives and connection with the conflict in the Middle East, can we avoid having our own conflicts here.

Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner, Senior Rabbi to Reform Judaism

Just what are the objectives of CAA?

Dear Sir,

Having returned from a wonderfully uplifting few days at Limmud, where I could really celebrate being Jewish, I returned to the real world with a bump when I received an online questionnaire from YouGov which seeks to discover the general public’s response to certain statements about Jews. This survey made such statements as: “Jews’ loyalty to Israel makes them less loyal to Britain than other British people”, “Jews have too much power in the media”, “In business, Jews are not as honest as most people”, “Jews think they are better than other people” and “Jews talk about the Holocaust too much in order to get sympathy”, “Jews chase money more than other British people”.

To my mind these are closed statements, and the bias within each statement is very likely to influence the way people respond. I was therefore very surprised to learn that this survey had actually been commissioned by the Campaign Against Antisemitism. This leads me to further wonder, who is running this campaign group, and what do they intend doing with the results? Hopefully they do not intend to publish inflammatory statements such as the infamous… “63 percent of Jews question their future in the UK”.

Kay Bagon, Radlett

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