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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The tale of Battersea power station shows how affordable housing is lost

Initially, the developers promised 636 affordable homes. Now, they have reduced the number to 386. 

It’s the most predictable trick in the big book of property development. A developer signs an agreement with a local council promising to provide a barely acceptable level of barely affordable housing, then slashes these commitments at the first, second and third signs of trouble. It’s happened all over the country, from Hastings to Cumbria. But it happens most often in London, and most recently of all at Battersea power station, the Thames landmark and long-time London ruin which I wrote about in my 2016 book, Up In Smoke: The Failed Dreams of Battersea Power Station. For decades, the power station was one of London’s most popular buildings but now it represents some of the most depressing aspects of the capital’s attempts at regeneration. Almost in shame, the building itself has started to disappear from view behind a curtain of ugly gold-and-glass apartments aimed squarely at the international rich. The Battersea power station development is costing around £9bn. There will be around 4,200 flats, an office for Apple and a new Tube station. But only 386 of the new flats will be considered affordable

What makes the Battersea power station development worse is the developer’s argument for why there are so few affordable homes, which runs something like this. The bottom is falling out of the luxury homes market because too many are being built, which means developers can no longer afford to build the sort of homes that people actually want. It’s yet another sign of the failure of the housing market to provide what is most needed. But it also highlights the delusion of politicians who still seem to believe that property developers are going to provide the answers to one of the most pressing problems in politics.

A Malaysian consortium acquired the power station in 2012 and initially promised to build 517 affordable units, which then rose to 636. This was pretty meagre, but with four developers having already failed to develop the site, it was enough to satisfy Wandsworth council. By the time I wrote Up In Smoke, this had been reduced back to 565 units – around 15 per cent of the total number of new flats. Now the developers want to build only 386 affordable homes – around 9 per cent of the final residential offering, which includes expensive flats bought by the likes of Sting and Bear Grylls. 

The developers say this is because of escalating costs and the technical challenges of restoring the power station – but it’s also the case that the entire Nine Elms area between Battersea and Vauxhall is experiencing a glut of similar property, which is driving down prices. They want to focus instead on paying for the new Northern Line extension that joins the power station to Kennington. The slashing of affordable housing can be done without need for a new planning application or public consultation by using a “deed of variation”. It also means Mayor Sadiq Khan can’t do much more than write to Wandsworth urging the council to reject the new scheme. There’s little chance of that. Conservative Wandsworth has been committed to a developer-led solution to the power station for three decades and in that time has perfected the art of rolling over, despite several excruciating, and occasionally hilarious, disappointments.

The Battersea power station situation also highlights the sophistry developers will use to excuse any decision. When I interviewed Rob Tincknell, the developer’s chief executive, in 2014, he boasted it was the developer’s commitment to paying for the Northern Line extension (NLE) that was allowing the already limited amount of affordable housing to be built in the first place. Without the NLE, he insisted, they would never be able to build this number of affordable units. “The important point to note is that the NLE project allows the development density in the district of Nine Elms to nearly double,” he said. “Therefore, without the NLE the density at Battersea would be about half and even if there was a higher level of affordable, say 30 per cent, it would be a percentage of a lower figure and therefore the city wouldn’t get any more affordable than they do now.”

Now the argument is reversed. Because the developer has to pay for the transport infrastructure, they can’t afford to build as much affordable housing. Smart hey?

It’s not entirely hopeless. Wandsworth may yet reject the plan, while the developers say they hope to restore the missing 250 units at the end of the build.

But I wouldn’t hold your breath.

This is a version of a blog post which originally appeared here.

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