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6 December 2023

Letter of the week: The Jewish left will continue

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Your coverage of the current situation of Jews – “The return of the ‘longest hatred’” (24 November) and “What it means to be Jewish now” (Cover Story, 1 December) – is brilliant. My politics are on the left because that mirrors Jewish values. Benjamin Netanyahu’s government does not, and I and a majority of Israelis will continue to fight it. We are going through very difficult times with deep sympathy for Israel’s position and a continuing belief that Palestinians deserve their own state. The left in Israel is still strong but would most likely define itself as centrist. The Jewish left will continue, both pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian but anti-Hamas. I would think that I am closest in my thinking to Fania Oz-Salzberger and I loved her reference to Cato’s injunction about Carthage.
Sir Trevor Chinn, London

[See also: Peace can still be salvaged in Gaza]

A breadth of perspectives

Despite the breadth of perspectives provided by writers in your excellent analysis of “What it means to be Jewish now” (Cover Story, 1 December), one thing was lacking: the changed reality of everyday life as a British Jew. At work, in school and among friends we are more isolated, distrusted and misunderstood than at any time since our grandparents were welcomed into this country. For the first time (at least in my 55 years of existence), we are being made to feel part of a marginalised minority. At the very moment in which we assumed British society would wholeheartedly stand with us to suppress the anti-Semitism that has always lurked in its shadows, we’ve been largely ignored. Something has broken that many of us fear cannot be easily fixed.
Grant Feller, London W4

Your cover story illuminates the anguish and vulnerability of Jews in Israel and elsewhere. There are telling insights, but also points that might be debated: can refugees never be colonists? Is no one on the left calling for the release of hostages? It is possible to be a supporter of Palestine, condemn Hamas and recognise the right of Israel to exist. But is it significant that Jewish voices have been given this platform, which is not offered to Palestinians, who have also been persecuted (albeit over decades rather than millennia)?
Geoff Skinner, London NW10

I would commend all your contributors for their erudite and thoughtful pieces about their own identity and how the Gaza war is affecting them personally and the world at large. They were all even-handed in their views on what appears to be an intractable problem. Time and the tragic collateral damage will tell if there is indeed a just and rightful process out of the impasse for the Jewish people and Palestinians alike.
Judith Daniels, Great Yarmouth, Norfolk

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Having been brought up as an orthodox Jew, but holding secular beliefs and being on the political left since mid-adolescence in the late 1940s, I read “What it means to be Jewish now” with interest. None of the entries came near to reflecting my views. In May 1948, after the UN General Assembly had passed a resolution recommending the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine, such a state was declared and recognised by the great powers. Thus, however mistaken the UN may have been (and, given the context, I do not think it was), Israel has a legal right to exist.

But the Israeli government’s response to the brutal attack by Hamas on 7 October has been illegal, immoral and stupid. Hamas will not be eradicated and the killing of thousands of civilians will merely motivate Palestinians to join it or similar groups. Yes, Israel has a right to defend itself, but there are other means of defence than indiscriminate onslaught.
Philip Graham, London NW5

[See also: Humza Yousaf: what my family went through in Gaza]

A numbers game

I noted with interest your call (Leader, 24 November) that “a basic grasp of maths and science should be a requirement for occupants of the highest office”. The correct mathematical modelling and interpretation of data will not just help to save more lives in the next pandemic. Advanced mathematics research is now an integral part of our daily lives and digital economy, from quantum tech to AI.

I welcome the Prime Minister’s enthusiasm for maths and commitment to change the nation’s “anti-maths mindset”. However, his government is presiding over a series of cuts to maths departments in the higher education sector. In November Oxford Brookes University proposed the closure of its maths degree courses. This follows retrenchment at the universities of Leicester, Brighton and Birkbeck.

Mathematics is one of the UK’s success stories, fundamental to its economy and underpinning our security. Those in high office must act to increase the number of people entering the mathematical sciences from all sections of society, across the UK.
Professor Jens Marklof FRS, spokesperson for the Protect Pure Maths campaign and president of the London Mathematical Society, London WC1

Wasted youth

“Youth is wasted on the young.” These were the words of my university lecturer years ago. Being a socialist utopian at the time, I thought he knew very little. Having just read Pravina Rudra’s enlightening piece on Gen Z (Comment, 1 December), I’m not so sure.
James Martin, Southend-on-Sea, Essex

Pravina Rudra equates abstemiousness with conservatism. My – happily limited – experience of nights out with Tory MPs suggests differently. In the absence of Gen Z, I assume it is this demographic propping up the UK’s night-time economy. 
Joel Newsome-Hubbard, Wimbledon

Seeing orange

An interesting interview with the rugby official Wayne Barnes, who refereed the World Cup final (Encounter, 1 December). South Africa won 12-11 after the All Blacks captain was shown a red card. As a New Zealander, I was dismayed, but agreed with the sanction. But this was a World Cup final, weighted with significance. I suggest that a better system in such games would be an orange card, given for offences in the final that would normally receive a red. The offender would be sent off for ten minutes and subsequently banned from all international matches for a year.
David Halley, Twickenham

Linguistic pursuits

Peter Williams’s review of Philip Seargeant’s The Future of Language (The Critics, 1 December) omitted the best answer to “What is language for?” I’ve come across, from Dead Poets Society. “To… communicate?” “No! To woo women!” Although I hope that my husband would respectfully disagree.
James Argles, London N4

Love, actually

I’m not surprised Theresa May, architect of the Windrush injustice, entirely missed the point of Claire Gilbert’s excellent I, Julian (The Critics, 17 November). It’s about love, pure and simple.
Sarah Johannessen, Hertford

243 not out

David Horspool says the oldest continuous sporting fixture is Eton vs Harrow, since 1805 (The Critics, 1 December) – but the Derby has run since 1780. (The St Leger is older, but was cancelled once, in 1939.)
Pete Maris, Coalville, Leicestershire

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[See also: Letter of the week: Precedent for pipsqueaks]

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This article appears in the 07 Dec 2023 issue of the New Statesman, Christmas Special