Jewish Chronicle columnist expresses "pleasure" over death of peace activist

Can you imagine if a Muslim columnist had written something similar? Geoffrey Alderman should be ashashamed.

Can you imagine the reaction if I wrote a column expressing my "pleasure" at the strangulation to death of an unarmed, peace activist at the hands of Islamist terrorists? I suspect I'd be clearing my desk here at New Statesman Towers rather than writing this blog post. I'd have columnists, bloggers and activists up in arms over my heartless and sickening remarks, demanding my resignation or sacking. Perhaps I'd be accused of being an "Islamist" or an "extremist" myself.

After all, which non-extremist revels in the murder of civilians? Well, if you really want to know, Geoffrey Alderman, that's who. Alderman is the writer and historian who defended Israel's war on Gaza, and the deaths of 1,400 Palestinians, on the basis that "every Gazan citizen who voted for Hamas" was a "legitimate" target for the IDF. (Can you imagine the response if a Muslim or Arab argued that "every Israeli citizen" who voted for Ariel Sharon was a legitimate target?)

On 13 May, however, Alderman went one step further, writing in his Jewish Chronicle column:


Few events -- not even the execution of Osama Bin Laden -- have caused me greater pleasure in recent weeks than news of the death of the Italian so-called "peace activist" Vittorio Arrigoni.

On Thursday 14 April, Arrigoni was murdered in Gaza by members of Jama'at al-Tawhid wal-Jihad (JTJ), who had him strangled and then dumped his body in a deserted Gaza apartment. This same group had previously had him kidnapped in order -- apparently -- to compel the Hamas government of Gaza to release the group's leader, Sheikh Abu al-Walid al-Maqdisi.

He added:

The death of a consummate Jew-hater must always be a cause for celebration.

This is not the language of a respectable or mainstream columnist or historian; this is the vile, heartless, bigoted language of the terrorists that Alderman claims to despise.

Yet the piece was published by the Jewish Chronicle. It is still there, unamended, on the JC website and defended by the Chronicle's editor, Stephen Pollard.

[Hat-tip: Harriet Sherwood of the Guardian.]

Mehdi Hasan is a contributing writer for the New Statesman and the co-author of Ed: The Milibands and the Making of a Labour Leader. He was the New Statesman's senior editor (politics) from 2009-12.

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Scotland's vast deficit remains an obstacle to independence

Though the country's financial position has improved, independence would still risk severe austerity. 

For the SNP, the annual Scottish public spending figures bring good and bad news. The good news, such as it is, is that Scotland's deficit fell by £1.3bn in 2016/17. The bad news is that it remains £13.3bn or 8.3 per cent of GDP – three times the UK figure of 2.4 per cent (£46.2bn) and vastly higher than the white paper's worst case scenario of £5.5bn. 

These figures, it's important to note, include Scotland's geographic share of North Sea oil and gas revenue. The "oil bonus" that the SNP once boasted of has withered since the collapse in commodity prices. Though revenue rose from £56m the previous year to £208m, this remains a fraction of the £8bn recorded in 2011/12. Total public sector revenue was £312 per person below the UK average, while expenditure was £1,437 higher. Though the SNP is playing down the figures as "a snapshot", the white paper unambiguously stated: "GERS [Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland] is the authoritative publication on Scotland’s public finances". 

As before, Nicola Sturgeon has warned of the threat posed by Brexit to the Scottish economy. But the country's black hole means the risks of independence remain immense. As a new state, Scotland would be forced to pay a premium on its debt, resulting in an even greater fiscal gap. Were it to use the pound without permission, with no independent central bank and no lender of last resort, borrowing costs would rise still further. To offset a Greek-style crisis, Scotland would be forced to impose dramatic austerity. 

Sturgeon is undoubtedly right to warn of the risks of Brexit (particularly of the "hard" variety). But for a large number of Scots, this is merely cause to avoid the added turmoil of independence. Though eventual EU membership would benefit Scotland, its UK trade is worth four times as much as that with Europe. 

Of course, for a true nationalist, economics is irrelevant. Independence is a good in itself and sovereignty always trumps prosperity (a point on which Scottish nationalists align with English Brexiteers). But if Scotland is to ever depart the UK, the SNP will need to win over pragmatists, too. In that quest, Scotland's deficit remains a vast obstacle. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.