CiF’s Jonathan Romain, and ‘Guardian Left’ rationalizations for antisemitism

‘Comment is Free’ contributor Jonathan Romain is the rabbi at Maidenhead, a Reform Synagogue in Berkshire, England, who has received awards for his work in helping couples in interfaith marriages.


He published an essay at the Belief section of ‘Comment is Free’ on Jan. 19 titled “Muslim-Jewish marriages herald a brave new world“, which celebrates what he characterizes as our day’s “tolerant, pluralist society” where “mixed-faith marriage has become commonplace”.

However, his essay imputes much greater moral significance to such ecumenical success. 

Romain writes, thus:

In the past century in Britain, intermarriage tend to mean Jews (the main minority faith group) marrying Christians. However, in recent years a new trend has arisen: Muslims intermarrying.

No one is surprised that some Muslims marry Christians – they are the majority population – but to the astonishment of many, Muslims and Jews are beginning to marry each other. This is unexpected, as the Israel-Arab problems in the Middle East have affected relationships between members of the two faiths over here.

While there are many working for harmony between them, unwarranted prejudices about each other also abound, with some Jews regarding all Muslims as potential suicide bombers and some Muslims seeing all Jews as Uzi-wielding West Bank extremists.

As with Jonathan Freedland’s recent essay at Open Zion, which CiF Watch and Simply Jews posted about, Romain suggests some sort of moral parity between the two groups’ reaction to the “Israeli-Arab” conflict.  As we noted previously, reports by CST do indeed demonstrate a dramatic spike in antisemitic incidents when conflicts arise between Israel and terrorists on its borders, with a disproportionate percentage of violent attacks against Jews being perpetrated by Muslims – especially those motivated by Islamist ideology.  

However, there appears to be no evidence to suggest similarly violent reactions by Jews against Muslims during such violent conflagrations.  

Romain continues with the following passage, displaying, at the very least, an audacious level of credulity by imputing credibility to the most risible politically correct narratives regarding Jewish-Muslim relations.

“On the other hand, the fact that young Jews and Muslims are linking up has a positive angle, and shows that the conflict in Middle East is not without hope.

Once the territorial disputes are taken away, there are very few religious problems between Jews and Muslims. Whereas, for instance, Jews play a villainous central role in the Christian story, there is no such demonisation of the other in Judaism and Islam.” [emphasis added]

While you don’t need to be a scholar on Islam to acknowledge the existence of pejorative and racist references to Jews in the Koran, and in Hadiths - perhaps the best known being the following, attributed to Allah’s Apostle, which is not only cited in Hamas’s charter but supported, according to a recent poll,by an overwhelming majority of Palestinians: 

“The Hour will not be established until you fight with the Jews, and the stone behind which a Jew will be hiding will say. “O Muslim! There is a Jew hiding behind me, so kill him.”

In fairness, though, some reasonably argue that textual evidence supporting the claim that Muslims are religiously influenced to possess hostility to Jews must be balanced with a more sober understanding that Islam, as with all religions, “is subject to interpretation, which is not always the same in different times and places or among various individuals or even — in Islam’s case — countries and ethnic groups.”

In other words, to a large degree, (as with all religions) Islam, morally speaking, is what its practitioners make it.

However, even more troubling than Romain’s platitudes about ecumenical harmony is his implication that whatever problems exist between Muslims and Jews are motivated by the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict – a hypothesis which is simply ahistorical and easily contradicted by even a cursory analysis of the phenomenon of antisemitism in the Arab and Muslim worlds.

It is undeniable that extreme Muslim antisemitism in the Middle East – which manifested itself in pogroms, the ethnic cleansing of Jews from Arab lands  and even calls for genocide by Muslim religious leaders – clearly predates Israel’s conquest of territory in the 1967 ‘Six Day War’, and, in many instances, even predates the birth of the Jewish state in 1948.  Additionally, the Damascus blood libel occurred in 1840 – predating the publication of Theodor Herzl’s Zionist manifesto, Der Judenstat, by fifty-six years.

However, beyond the troubling historical reality of Muslim enmity towards Jews, those, such as Romain, who suggest Zionist “root causes” to explain away or contextualize antisemitism are necessarily suggesting that in the event a two-state solution is achieved, such anti-Jewish racism will recede.  According to such logic, the creation of a Palestinian Arab state will ameliorate the Judeophobic obsession which, for instance, led the “moderate” Egyptian President, Mohamed Morsi, to urge fellow Muslims to “nurse their children and grandchildren on hatred for Jews”. 

Romain would evidently have us believe that, upon the birth of the new state of Palestine, Hamas and Hezbollah leaders will renounce their genocidal antisemitism, Iranian leaders will acknowledge the reality of the Holocaust, the state controlled Arab media will stop inculcating the masses in vile Jewish conspiracy theories, and Jihadists in London, Paris, Milan and New York City will abort plans to target innocent Jews at synagogues, community centers, and markets. 

However, beyond the speciousness of Romain’s particular logic, the causation he’s suggesting between Israeli policy and the persistence of malignant and pervasive anti-Jewish bigotry within particular cultures in the world legitimizes a narrative which should have long since been discredited – that antisemitism may indeed a malevolent force, but one which can be ameliorated by simply changing Jewish behavior.

Perhaps one of the saddest commentaries on the Guardian-style Left – with all of its faux liberal pieties – is its inability to comprehend the most basic truth about racial bigotry of all kinds, including antisemitism: that racism is always a commentary on the moral failings of the racists themselves, and never, ever on the object of their  hate. 

Curious deletion by Guardian comment moderators in Demjanjuk thread

A May 13 CiF piece by Jonathan Romain (John Demjanjuk’s conviction is about justice, not vengeance) was open to comments for an unusually short period of time, but produced this predictable comment by a serial Israel hater known as Berchmans, who took issue with a comment by HushedSilence characterizing Demjanjuk, the SS guard at the Sobibor death camp who was an accomplice to the murder of 28,000 Jews, as a “monster”. 

HushedSilence then responded:


And then:

While we’re all too familiar with the Guardian displaying bias or double standards in their decision to delete some comments while allowing others to remain, I’m especially baffled by this deletion, and would really love to know how their moderators can possibly claim that HushedSilence’s comment in any way violated their “community standards”. 

Romain Mythology and JFS

This is a guest post by Jonathan Hoffman

Jonathan Romain had an appalling piece in CiF last Wednesday about the Supreme Court’s JFS judgment.

If a rabbi writes about the JFS judgment (which was about the right of the school to give preference to halachically authentic Jewish children – that is, children whose mother is halachically Jewish or who have converted in an Orthodox way, recognised by the Chief Rabbi) you’d maybe like to know whether he was an Orthodox or non-Orthodox rabbi. Well, Jonathan Romain never tells you that he is non-Orthodox, either in his article or in his bio on the CiF site. And if that author says he is a member of an organisation that is ‘concerned about how faith schools operate’, you’d maybe want to know a bit more. For example if that organisation wanted to abolish faith schools completely, you’d maybe like to know that. The Accord Coalition, of which Jonathan Romain is the Chairman, is rather coy about saying this: we read on its home page that it “takes no position on the desirability or undesirability of state-funded faith schools.” But go to its declaration of aims and you find this as the first “aim”:

Operate admissions policies that take no account of pupils’ – or their parents’ – religion or beliefs.

No equivocation there then.

For Romain, the JFS judgment was the first salvo in a battle that he hopes will end with the death of faith schools. No wonder we get such hyperbole from him:

It is no exaggeration to say that the supreme court has just saved the Jewish community from itself. Or, rather, from the more right-wing exclusivist tendencies that unfortunately seem to exert much greater sway than they deserve to.

And no wonder accuracy takes a back seat:

….and just as most people regard Anglicans, Catholics, Baptists, Methodists and others as all Christian, so most Jews regard each other as fellow Jews.

That’s really not correct. A Jew who attends a Liberal synagogue has about as much in common with a Chassid from Stamford Hill as he does with Her Majesty The Queen – possibly less.

And then Romain believes that the Judgment has implications for other religions:

This applies to other religious schools – whether Christian, Muslim or Hindu – which are controlled by one strand of the faith and can deny access to children of other groups within it.

It really doesn’t. Those faiths are not regarded as a ‘race’ under the UK’s Race Relations legislation. Judaism  is – and that was the problem.

As I argued after reading the Appeal Court judgment, it turned on ‘false equivalence’: the Judges said that what is sauce for the Race Relations Act goose, must be sauce for the school admissions gander: they said that Jews are correctly treated as a racial group for the purposes of the Race Relations Act but that means that a school admissions policy that relies on the Orthodox definition of Judaism (matrilineal descent or Orthodox conversion) is illegal. But the definition of a Jew for the purposes of the Race Relations Act is much wider than the biblical one which the Chief Rabbi and JFS have. It is invalid to equate the two.

Romain descends into arrant nonsense:

Whether one is religious or not, many will agree that state-funded faith schools should serve not just themselves but also the community around them. JFS was adopting an approach that breached that sense of inclusivity and fair play…. [The Judgment] will also serve as a wake-up call to all state-funded faith schools to honour their responsibilities to wider society.

Utter drivel. JFS was not failing to “serve … the community around it” or ”to honour its obligations to wider society.”

It simply fell foul of Sir Stephen Sedley’s zeal (and that of his two Appeal Court colleagues) to use his judicial office as an instrument of social engineering.