Sep 2004 Journal

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Letter from Israel

On a recent visit to London, I picked up a copy of the Jewish Chronicle, just for old time's sake. The paper seems to have undergone several transformations since the 1960s, when I used to read it.

First of all, most of the personages mentioned - apart from a couple of international celebrities such as Salman Rushdie and Mel Gibson - are completely unknown to me.

But second, and most striking, seems to be the prominent position occupied by Jews in British political life. A Jew who does not conceal his background heads the Tory Party (I wonder if he's the same Michael Howard who was on my Jewish Agency summer youth tour of Israel in 1959). Another Jew, Oliver Letwin, is the Shadow Chancellor. And Malcolm Rifkind is the parliamentary candidate for the safe Tory Kensington and Chelsea constituency. I'd expect it from Labour, but what on earth has happened to the Conservatives?

The name of the actress who plays the Virgin Mary in Mel Gibson's film of the crucifixion - Maia Morgenstern - sounds suspiciously Jewish. And although it's only natural for Jews to play Jews in a film set in the Holy Land 2,000 years ago, it does seem odd considering the film's alleged anti-Jewish slant. Helpfully, the paper passes on the Aramaic phrase published in The Guardian for 'I'm Jewish but I wasn't there that day.'

Alex Brummer, whose article about the Letwin-Fagin jibe occupies half a page, is the city editor of the Daily Mail. And Daniel Finkelstein is associate editor of that bastion of all that is traditionally British, The Times. But the media generally tends to be a haven for Jewish writers, so that is perhaps understandable.

Maybe there is something in those claims about world domination, after all.
Dorothea Shefer-Vanson

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