May 24, 2007

Open Letter to “The JC”


Until recently, when I walked into my local Sainsbury’s, I would have to zigzag across to the cul-de-sac at the end of aisle 32 for anything Jewish; matzo ball soup mix and tinned gefilte fish. But now it’s up close and personal with “The JC” featuring prominently on the newsstand in the entrance. Every passing gentile sees the front page story. A fortnight ago: a Jewish child molester banned from shul. The previous week: Jews on the Rich List. Last week: Jews cohabiting with non-Jews. For Jewish shoppers, salmonella in the kneidlach would have been a lot less embarrassing.

It prompts me to reflect on what ‘The JC’ is doing for our community. It’s widely acknowledged that the decline of Jewish hasbara (public relations) these days is inversely proportional to the success of the propaganda machine of our enemies – both Islamists and ‘enlightened’ academics - who demonise Israel for every act of self-defence and, to wit, her awfully inconvenient existence.

At a time when we are accused of controlling the banks and world markets, “the JC” has to emblazon a Jewish Rich List on its front page. At a time when we are accused of controlling everything from the neocons in the White House to the peerages conferred by Tony Blair, “the JC” has to publish a league table of England’s 100 most influential Jews. At a time when Jewish homes have been targeted by armed gangs, “the JC” has to print stats of the most populous Jewish boroughs and show how the largest segment of the community pie chart is into property and big business. The fact that the fastest-growing sector is of orthodox families close to the poverty line is reserved for the small print on page 5.

Aside from such reckless and irresponsible reporting, “the JC” seems to give free vent to every self-hating Jewish Israel-basher in search of a soapbox. So much so, that even the wisest and bravest of journalists like Melanie Phillips can’t keep up with the drivel of kooks “the JC” promotes.

Last month “the JC” published an opinion piece boldly entitled: Maimonides was a Racist. I will not recount the daft premise upon which the enlightened Professor Alderman built his egregious conclusion. Suffice it to say, such a headline is deeply offensive and utterly unacceptable in a Jewish community newspaper. That it appeared without even the usual redeeming quotation marks shows, at best, an extraordinary lack of editorial control and sensitivity. At worst it goes a long way to explaining why “the JC” dropped the word ‘Jewish’ from its household name.

Then there was “the JC’s” attack on Cyril Stein; a major builder and benefactor of Jerusalem whose reunification we celebrated just a few days ago. In an editorial entitled “The Wrong Address” the JC branded Stein’s private purchase of a Hebron property as a 'decidedly unhelpful … empty gesture'. In the same issue a news reporter quoted the JNF view that Stein's major contribution to the building of the State should not disqualify him from doing what he feels is right.

I wrote to “the JC” pointing out that, in recent times, Israel has given up land in Lebanon and Gaza to be 'helpful'. Those gestures have been repaid with missiles. I suggested that perhaps Stein's 'decidedly unhelpful' assertion of Jewish rights in Hebron might get us something better: belief in our own 4,000 year-old claim to the land. Needless to say, the letter was never published.

In its latest issue, “the JC” has ratcheted-up what appears to be a determined attack on outreach groups and all for the offence of offering willing JFS students their first ever taste of a true Jewish Shabbat. A few pages on, another columnist tries to establish whether Pete Doherty is Jewish. Instead of vilification, should not “the JC” be applauding and supporting any outreach organisation that offers our youth an enriching alternative to the Doherty drug culture?

So I have to ask myself: “what useful purpose does “the JC” serve to the Jewish community in this country?” It’s certainly doing an astounding job as reference material for all our detractors, vilifiers and the gangs who aim to raid our homes. And it has provided a great platform for all those self-hating Jews of the enlightenment. And true to old style, it never misses an opportunity to attack the Orthodox.

The truth is that “the JC” has long lost its moral compass. It has lost its authority as a mouthpiece of Anglo Jewry. In a week that saw children being evacuated from schools in Sderot, “the JC” should have committed its entire front page to the 2,053 Kassam missiles which have been launched from Gaza since Israel’s ‘decidedly helpful’ but extremely painful gesture of disengagement. Had “the JC” done so, Israel might have got more understanding in this week’s mainstream media for its resumption of targeted killings of terrorist leaders. Instead it was more important for “the JC” to boast where the richest Jews in the UK live and with which non-Jewish partners they are cohabiting.

This is a time when Jewish university students are under the most intense pressure from jihadist activists on campus. It’s become so bad that many begin to question their own legitimacy. These kids need a community newspaper that supports them with positive Israel advocacy and pride in Jewish identity and heritage.

Having divested the word ‘Jewish’ from your title, you appear well placed to drop that other badge: Sefer Zikaron. Chronicles are all about reflection on the past. You need to reflect on the extent to which your current output fits with the aspirations of those who originally set up the Jewish Chronicle as a community trust .

So, next time you write a headline, please think of how it will look in Sainsbury’s.



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