Bugs, biscuits, trench foot: from the front line of the uni protests

On the grass in front of UCL’s main building, on Sunday night, there were about 30 tents and the portico was plastered in handwritten signs: ‘Students: You’re in debt so UCL can fund a genocide!’ Some protestors sat on chairs, eating biscuits. Others stood at the front gate chanting ‘From the River to the Sea’. ‘Do you want a tent, bro?’ asked one protestor. I explained that I was a reporter and was immediately whisked away to talk to a spokesman. ‘Spectator, Spectator … yeah, I think that’s left-wing. All good.’ A girl who had come along for the day received a keffiyeh tutorial and as night began to fall,

Downhill all the way: the decline of the British Empire after 1923

The British Empire, the East African Chronicle wrote in 1921, was a ‘wonderful conglomeration of races and creeds and nations’. It offered ‘the only solution to the great problem of mankind – the problem of brotherhood. If the British Empire fails, then all else fails.’ Stirring words – and not those of some sentimental Colonel Blimp back in London. They were written by the newspaper’s editor, Manilal A. Desai, a young Nairobi-based lawyer and a prominent figure in the large Indian community in Kenya. But, as Matthew Parker observes in One Fine Day, an ambitious account of the empire at the moment of its territorial zenith on 29 September 1923,

My futile morning guarding Churchill’s statue

On Armistice Day I made my way to Parliament Square with some vague notion of protecting Churchill’s statue. I’d discussed the need to stop it being defiled by pro-Palestinian protestors a few days earlier with a group I’m involved with called the British Friends of Israel, but in my head this had been a theoretical discussion, not something that involved me personally. Then Allison Pearson, a member of the group, announced in the Telegraph that she intended to stand in front of the statue armed with a rolled-up copy of the paper, and I felt shamed into joining her. Not that I was worried about her being knocked over by

The case for prosecuting ‘from the river to the sea’

As an international lawyer, splitting my time between London and Brussels, I dare say I might be considered one of Theresa May’s ‘citizens of nowhere’. Nonetheless, as the protests about the Israeli response to the atrocities committed by Hamas on 7 October have become more strident and legally problematic, I have also had cause to reflect on my heritage as a dual British-Israeli national.  Much of my mother’s side of the family arrived in Israel from Bukhara (then part of the Russian empire, now modern-day Uzbekistan) at the end of the nineteenth century. They were prosperous silk traders who originally settled in the Bukharan Quarter of Jerusalem, following pogroms in Russia. When I was young,

When righteous anger goes wrong

From abroad I’ve returned to a country where, in language to which the word ‘shrill’ hardly does justice, fellow British commentators have been letting fly on both sides of the argument about Gaza and how Israel should or should not respond to Hamas’s unspeakable attacks on 7 October. There’s just one thing both sides – the British Muslim banner-wavers and those who bay for a war of attrition in Gaza – seem to agree upon: that whatever the answer might be, it is, in the most important sense of the word, simple. It is not simple. Things so rarely are. The simple bit is who – in the immediate –

Lionel Shriver

What did Hamas think was going to happen?

Much misfortune the woebegone couldn’t have seen coming: a raging fire in the house next door that spreads to yours. The invention of some kooky technology called ‘the internet’ that puts your travel agency out of business. Yet other calamities are foreseeable. If you suddenly stop filing tax returns without a good excuse – like, dying – it’s a virtual certainty that the all-seeing computer will come after you. So when compounding fees and interest leave you skint, our sympathies are apt to be scant. What did you think was going to happen? Or to up the moral ante: if you slaughter 18 innocents in a frenzy for no apparent

Letters: policing pro-Palestinian rallies isn’t an exact science

Call for common justice Sir: Rod Liddle’s piece on the true desires of Palestinians was rare in its acceptance of the complexity of aspiration (‘What Hamas promised its electorate’, 28 October). People cleave to those who stand for their best hopes. They voted for Hamas. Rod ends saying only Israeli Arabs in his experience did not loathe Jews. Why would they? Presumably being the right side of the ‘peace’ wall, they had no fear of losing their birthright to illegal settlers acting in defiance of UN resolutions with official acquiescence. If the Israeli rule of law could have extended to the occupied West Bank Arabs, then there would be no

The Tories didn’t lose Mid Bedfordshire – Labour won it

In 1975 I travelled as an undergraduate to Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and finally to Israel. I visited refugee camps and met a Palestinian militant, Bassam Abu Sharif, who had been blinded in one eye by a Mossad parcel bomb. I talked to policymakers in each country and heard a range of Israeli opinion. On return I wrote in the Jewish Chronicle of the need to address the plight of the Palestinians caused by their displacement. I made the case in favour of a two-state solution five years before the 1980 Venice declaration on Palestinian statehood. One of today’s many tragedies is that Hamas’s barbarism has pushed that solution even

Britain should back a ceasefire

Six weeks ago, I invited Ahmed Alnaouq, a young diplomat who recently joined the Palestinian mission in London, to stay for a cricket weekend in Wiltshire. He resisted all entreaties to play the game but was in every other way a delightful guest. On Sunday, Ahmed learnt that his family in Gaza has been wiped out by an Israeli bomb. His father, siblings, and more than 15 nieces and nephews had all been killed. Twenty-three dead, no injuries. Another brother was killed by an Israeli bombing in 2014. His mother died three years ago because, he says, Israel denied her medical treatment. When I sent him a text message saying that

Homer’s take on theology

The Hamas charter does not mince its words: ‘The Prophet, Allah bless him and grant him salvation, has said: “The Day of Judgement will not come about until Moslems fight the Jews (killing the Jews), when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say O Moslems, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him.”’ A return to the ancient pagan gods would surely be an improvement, but the modern world adopts the Hamas line. Consider the current deities of the bigots whose opponents, hiding behind a clearly sacrilegious belief in rational argument, must be condemned to eternal cancellation. The Greek

How is Joe Biden handling the Israel-Palestine crisis?

27 min listen

This week Freddy speaks to Dennis Ross, former Middle East coordinator under President Clinton and current Professor of the Practice of Diplomacy at Georgetown University. They discuss Biden’s visit to Israel this week, how his policy towards the Middle East borrows from Trump and Obama, and how we can discern between the public posturing and private desires of Middle Eastern states. 

Keep your politics à la carte

It’s a truism that the Anglosphere has developed a ‘tribalism’ that rivals the divisions between the Kikuyu and Luhya in Kenya. One pernicious aspect of mutually hostile groupsterism is prix fixe politics. Your side shares a rigid, prescribed collection of beliefs, and joining the club entails embracing every single one, while despising a compulsory roster of enemies and backing the folks on your team – whatever friend or foe may say, whatever friend or foe may do. As in French restaurants, there are no substitutions. Letting go of indefensible positions your gang is ‘supposed’ to maintain is a relief Rarely has set-menu morality been put on more vivid display than

Paul Wood, James Heale and Robin Ashenden

23 min listen

This week Paul Wood delves into the complex background of the Middle East and asks if Iran might have been behind the Hamas attacks on Israel, and what might come next (01:11), James Heale ponders the great Tory tax debate by asking what is the point of the Tories if they don’t lower taxes (13:04) and Robin Ashenden on how he plans to introduce his half Russian daughter to the delights of red buses, Beefeaters and a proper full English (18:36). Produced and presented by Linden Kemkaran

Can Israelis trust the UN?

You probably think you’ve heard every story there is to hear about people getting fired over their tweets. Well, here’s the story of Sarah Muscroft. She’s got them all beat. Until last Friday, Muscroft was the head of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OCHA). For 72 hours beginning on 5 August, Islamic Jihad fired 1,000 rockets into Israel and Israel responded with 170 counterstrikes, with the terrorist group citing as its pretext Israel’s targeted killing of two of its senior commanders and the arrest of dozens of its members. Eventually, a ceasefire was brokered with the assistance of Egypt.  Muscroft, based

Newcomers will need to read the play in advance: Julius Caesar, at the Globe, reviewed

Some things are done well in the Globe’s new Julius Caesar. The assassination is a thrilling spectacle. Ketchup pouches concealed inside Caesar’s costume explode bloodily with each dagger blow and the conspirators are doused in dripping scarlet gore. During the assault, Caesar fights back and very nearly survives. Highly realistic. Afterwards, his statue is toppled and rolled off the stage in a subtle echo of Colston’s ducking in Bristol docks. The crowd relished every minute of this pacy, high-energy show even though the visuals are wildly confusing. Brutus (Anna Crichlow) is a lesbian who sports a beige pashmina, a white T-shirt and a fetching gold turban. She looks like the

The art of laziness

New York Living a life of pleasure is fun, but it can also become tiresome. Living an ethical life of responsibility is beneficial to the soul, but also boring. I am stuck between the two at times, and I think age has a lot to do with it. A constant reminder of the very visible yoke of age comes daily, as I march up and down Park Avenue noticed by absolutely no one. I really don’t mind, cross my heart; in fact, it makes me laugh at times when I’m dressed to the nines and go unnoticed even by the panhandlers. And being dressed correctly nowadays makes one really stand

Israel is an apartheid state

If you’re after evidence of apartheid in Israel, you don’t have to look very far. Amid rioting by Palestinians and Arabs, the Israel Police has declared the Temple Mount in Jerusalem off-limits. For ten days, only practitioners of one religion will be allowed to visit. For context, Temple Mount is home to the Holy of Holies, the most sacred site in Judaism, and is where the First and Second Temples stood until their destruction by the Babylonians and Romans, respectively. Following Jerusalem’s conquest by Islamic imperialists in the 7th century, a succession of caliphs worked to Islamise the Temple Mount by erecting Muslim worship sites including the Dome of the

Is Israel facing a new Intifada?

Dizengoff Street is one of the busiest thoroughfares in Tel Aviv, a strip of bars, restaurants and Bauhaus architecture that is typically bustling with young people on a Thursday evening. Last night, it was the scene of the latest Palestinian terror attack when a gunman opened fire outside the Ilka bar, killing three and wounding nine. One of those killed was Olympic kayaker Barak Lopen, who represented Israel at Beijing 2008 and London 2012. In the past two weeks, 14 Israelis have been killed by a mixture of Palestinian and Israeli-Arab terrorists. For comparison, there were 17 terrorism-related fatalities in the entirety of last year. I asked on Coffee House

Priti Patel’s Hamas ban doesn’t go far enough

It’s been a rough old week for Hamas. The UK announced plans to proscribe the organisation, Justin Bieber ignored its call to cancel his 2022 concert in Tel Aviv, and even the recently friendly Labour party has vowed that it ‘does not and will not support BDS’. One minute, you’re going about your business, trying to drive the Jews into the sea, and the next you’re being treated like you’re the bad guy. Priti Patel’s decision to add Hamas to the Home Office list of terrorist organisations corrects a 20-year-old error which saw the Izz al-Din al-Qassem Brigades — Hamas’s paramilitary wing — outlawed in 2001 but the rest of

In Israel, there’s never an easy fix

From an Israeli army base on the border with Lebanon, I can see the village of Maroun al-Ras. An Iranian flag flies from the dome of the mosque. Nearby, strapped to a post, is a 20ft cutout of the late Iranian general Qassem Soleimani, which was put there earlier this year by Hezbollah after he was killed by an American air strike. His right arm and index finger are stretched out, pointing menacingly over the valley at Israel. Hezbollah, backed by Tehran, control Maroun al-Ras, and I can hear the buzz of a drone watching them. Some Israeli officials say Iran could have enough enriched uranium for a nuclear bomb