Leading to surrender

Readers of the Jerusalem Post have doubtless been bemused by a rumbling controversy over whether or not the Anglo-Jewish leadership comprises what Isi Leibler derided as “trembling Israelites”.

Leibler suggested that both the Board of Deputies and the Jewish Leadership Council were in denial over the UK’s dramatic upsurge in anti-Israel feeling. In particular, they understated the threat of Muslim antisemitism and jihadism, and continuously issued statements warning of the dangers of Islamophobia which paled beside the violence and threats levelled against Jews.

Leibler was accused of misrepresenting the situation. What happened to Brooke Goldstein, however, suggests he is nearer to the truth.

Leeds JSoc invited Goldstein, a US lawyer who fights Islamic extremism and defends Israel, to deliver a talk at about the stifling of free speech on the Middle East.

The JSoc then abruptly cancelled her talk – on the grounds that it would jeopardise community relations and endanger the welfare of Leeds students.

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The route to prosperity lies not in the public sector

The Chancellor, George Osborne, will reportedly announce in Wednesday’s Budget an immediate end to national pay bargaining, giving government departments new powers to set localised wage rates.

The response has already been uproar. The aim of this change is merely to rebalance the economy by reducing the distorting effect in some areas of relatively high public sector wages.

Since those areas tend to be the most disadvantaged, however, the trade unions and others on the left have claimed that the Tories are up to their same old tricks in hurting the poor by cutting pay in areas of high unemployment.

A toxic charge indeed for the supposedly kinder, gentler Cameroons. But given the way in which they have so far allowed this issue to be presented, it’s not surprising their opponents are making such hay with it.

The Chancellor wants to end the anomaly by which public sector pay is on average some eight per cent higher than wages in the private sector.

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Fast and, er, furious, Mr President?

In 2009, the Obama administration began instructing gun storeowners to break the law by selling firearms to suspected criminals. Agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) were then ordered — according to testimony by ATF agents turned whistleblowers — not to intercept the smugglers but rather to let the guns cross the U.S.-Mexican border and into the hands of Mexican drug-trafficking organizations. One tragic if eminently foreseeable outcome was that some of these firearms sent to arm Mexican drug runners were used in a gun battle with the US Border Patrol, during which a Border Patrol agent was killed. You can read about this scandal in Forbes magazine. The scandal is known by the code-name ‘Fast and Furious’.

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A brave telling of the Koran’s human stories

Most of the attention given to this book so far has, rightly, been favourable. But it has skirted round the key point. Tom Holland is attempting to show that much of what Muslims believe about the Koran is incorrect. Since their belief is rigorously literal – they hold that the Koran is the uncreated word of God recited (the word Koran means “recitation”) directly through the mouth of Mohammed – any Muslim who accepted Holland’s evidence would have to reconsider many aspects of his faith.

This painful process of textual inquiry into scripture has been well known to Christians since the 19th century, when the Bible came under similar scrutiny. It has caused anguish, but many have been able to reconcile their faith with the discoveries of scholarship. No such process has taken place in Islam. Indeed, the suppression of questioning has actually got worse. Until 1924, for example, seven different versions of the text were considered canonical, so areas of doubt were implicitly acknowledged. Now there is only one normative text, and it is inconsistent in many particulars, but Muslims dare not say so. Holland is being brave.

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Treasury figures reveal startling tax avoidance by super wealthy

Treasury officials argued the revelation underlined the need for action to prevent the super-rich exploiting loopholes to reduce their tax bill below that of low-paid workers.

The figures, released by the Government, show 6 per cent of £10 million-plus earners pay less than 10 per cent in tax and another three per cent pay below the basic 20 per cent rate. Fewer than three quarters pay more than 40 per cent.

A Treasury spokeswoman said: “There are currently millionaires paying a lower tax rate than ordinary taxpayers.

“This is the system we have at the moment, but the Government is committed to making it fairer. We’re capping benefits and these figures clearly show why it’s fair to cap tax reliefs for the wealthy as well.”

Meanwhile David Gauke MP, Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury, agreed that the “vast majority” of charitable giving did not amount to abusive tax aviodance and that the Government hoped to buid a consensus on the issue.

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