Saturday, August 31, 2002

Two Jews, One Hundred and Three Opinions
So last night I went to dinner at some friends round the corner, and the conversation inevitably turned to - as I'm sure it did around many a North London Friday night dinner table - the Sacks-Freedland thing going on in the Guardian.

Someone asked if Jonny Freedland was a self-hating Jew, which surprised me as as a question. I said no, he's a committed Zionist, but left-wing. My friends' kid, who's eight and has just spent three weeks at sports camp and looks at the world exclsuively through football-tinted spectacles picked up the conversational thread and said "I play right wing".

Here's the original interview - non-contentiously sub-headed "Guardian interview will shock Jewish community", so perhaps something of a self fulfilling prophecy, here's the letters page correspondence, here's Michael Harris's response, which he discussed with us over dinner last night, and here's Friday's follow-up , detailing the much prophesied Jewish communal rift.

And here's what I think: I'm as committed a Zionist and a supporter of Israel - even among her imperfections - as I am a supporter of a Two State solution. The Israeli Government has made some serious mistakes, and by the same token, is often misreported, especially in the European press. But the days when all Jews felt they were up against the wall, don't show them we disagree, are over. The war is over. They may well be out to get us, but I don't think a united-we-stand approach gains anything now, if it ever did. There's a well-known saying "two Jews three opinions" and it's just as true about Israel as any other topic. So it's perfectly possible to be a supporter of Israel, while concurrently criticising her mistakes. It doesn't make you any less of a Jew, and it doesn't make you any less of a Chief Rabbi.

This is the first time in my life I've agreed with Jonathan Sacks (although I'm sure he's unaware of our previous philosophical differences) - up until this point, if asked about him, I've always said: "he's not the messiah, he's just a very naughty boy."

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