April 25, 2013

Professor Alderman Hasn't got a Prayer

Here's a little noticed quirky comment from Professor Geoffrey Alderman in the Jewish Chronicle the week before last.  Last week's edition was the one that had Jonathan Goldberg QC ridiculing the notion of support for the Zionist project or attachment to the State of Israel being intrinsic to the Jewish identity.

Now let's have a look at what Alderman says:
The argument that "an attachment to Israel… is not intrinsically a part of Jewishness" is so manifestly absurd (I had only to consult my daily prayer book to reassure myself on this point) that I cannot believe any higher court would accept it. But if, indeed, at least for the moment, this ridiculous argument holds centre stage, it is blindingly obvious that it must be challenged - if not in a court of law then in some other public forum.
Now let's have a look at Jonathan Goldberg QC's comment on this:
The critics have chosen to take five words out of context from this much longer passage in order to condemn the court for allegedly not recognising the attachment between the Jewish religion and Israel.
In context, the court was saying no more than that an attachment to the modern State of Israel (“modern” is important here) is not intrinsic to Jewishness. And that is surely correct.
Apparently Geoffrey Alderman has a very modern or even post-modern Jewish prayer book.

Of course, if his prayer book does include prayers for the modern State of Israel this begs the question of what the Jewish identity consisted of before the state was established.  There's also the fact that prayer books in Hebrew and English which do mention or include prayers for the President and State of Israel also tend to include a prayer for Queen Elizabeth II, "Defender of the Faith".  Would Alderman say that royalism is intrinsic to the Jewish identity?  Maybe he would....

CORRECTION: According to Roland Rance in the comments
the prayer book includes a prayer for "the President OF the State of Israel", not "the President AND the State of Israel". Not quite the same thing...
Yup, not quite the same thing and it still begs the question, what does Professor Alderman's prayer book say that makes the Zionist project or the State of Israel intrinsic to the Jewish identity?

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