Archive for October, 2010

My Justin Bieber biography is selling like hot cakes here in England, which is nice. It’s been snapped up by publishers around the world and is currently also in the bestseller charts in Canada and Brazil.

But it gets better. The latest countries to buy rights to the book are Indonesia, Russia and…Israel! This is the first one of my books to be officially published in Israel. I hope it won’t be the last.

What a proud moment - and to think it was only a few weeks ago that I was writing about ‘Justin Bubbeleh’!

This is my latest column for Jewish News:

They say one shouldn’t meet one’s heroes because they will only disappoint. Well, when I met Howard Jacobson he didn’t disappoint at all, but he did seem to think I was a child.

I was on the Salute To Israel march in London in 2008 when I spotted Howard watching from the side. Normally I would have been far too shy to just waltz up and introduce myself but I was with Julie Burchill, so I felt emboldened to do so. She does that, does Julie, she emboldens one – in many different ways.

The three of us had a lovely chat. Howard was as charming and witty as any fan could hope. I told him that Julie and I had recently finished writing a book together. “What do you mean ‘together’,” he asked. “What did you do?” I explained that Julie and I had each written half of a co-authored book about hypocrisy.

He still seemed confused.

“But you don’t seem old enough,” he said. Reader, I was 35 at the time, but as you can see from the photograph, I was so decked out in jolly Zionist carnival gear that I probably did seem too young to be hacking away at hypocrisy at Julie’s side. I’ve always been a bit of a baby-face.

Indeed, Julie and I have often bonded on people making mistakes about our ages. When the gas board ring her house they nearly always ask the very-young-sounding Julie, “Can I speak to your Mummy?” If they call in-person at my house they still sometimes ask if my parents are home.

Anyway, Howard has since become an occasional reader of my blog. He wrote to me about it once and said “I am impressed by your ballsiness”. Well, I replied, I’m rather impressed by your authoriness.

The first novel of his I read was Kalooki Nights. I was flicking through a newspaper on an El Al plane, on my way back from my first visit to Israel, when I read a quote from him describing Kalooki Nights as “the most Jewish novel that has ever been written by anybody, anywhere”.

Well, I’ll have to read that, I thought.

But he has since out-Jewed Kalooki Nights with his latest, Man Booker-winning The Finkler Question. I was naturally amused by the latter novel’s gentile character who becomes fascinated by all things Jewish. So much so that a Jewess tells him, “Most goys I know don’t spend their time reading Moses Maimonides and memorising Yiddish endearments.”

Well, quite. And the book got even closer to home for me when Howard indulged in a bit of word-play around the word ‘goy’. He described the aforementioned character as “The real McGoy.”

Oy va goy -  no wonder he won the Man Booker Prize!

Speaking of which, I was a little disappointed when this very newspaper took such a strange angle in its report about the prize. There’s enough envy and sneering in the world already, can’t we just be pleased for authors who do well?

Me, I’m overjoyed for the man they call ‘the English Philip Roth’. Not that I’ve ever really approved of that comparison. I mostly enjoyed Roth’s The Plot Against America and The Ghostwriter, and occasional passages in The Counterlife and Portnoy’s Complaint also entertained me. But in my eyes Roth is not a patch on Howard.

There’s no escaping the fact that Roth is held in high esteem. But perhaps we can now turn those tables of transatlantic comparison. No more talk of Howard being ‘the English Philip Roth’, please. Let’s instead describe Roth as ‘the American Howard Jacobson’.

And mazal tov, Howard – from your ballsy, baby-faced fan.

From Commentary magazine:

The New York Times tucked a remarkable statistic into the tail-end of an article on WikiLeaks’s latest document dump, one with ramifications for the ongoing delegitimization campaign against Israel: for most of the last century, the normal civilian-to-combatant wartime fatality ratio has been 10:1.

Civilians have borne the brunt of modern warfare, with 10 civilians dying for every soldier in wars fought since the mid-20th century, compared with 9 soldiers killed for every civilian in World War I, according to a 2001 study by the International Committee of the Red Cross.

This elicits an obvious question: if civilians routinely account for 90 percent of all casualties in modern warfare, why is the world up in arms about the civilian casualty rate in last year’s Israel-Hamas war in Gaza — which, by even the most anti-Israel account, was markedly lower?

Read the rest here.

(With thanks to La Cumparsita.)

I pray that Starbucks does its Toffee Nut Latte again this winter – they’re so addictive!

I pray that Starbucks doesn’t do its Toffee Nut Latte again this winter – they’re so addictive!

The Kibbutz movement is celebrating its centenary and to mark its 100th year they are trying to reconnect with all past volunteers. The aim is to create a worldwide network ahead of a special anniversary celebration in Israel.

You can read more about the iniative at this website and on this Facebook group. Please forward these links to any relevant people you know.

This is a guest post by Israelinurse

It took Viva Palestina four weeks to deliver 500 tons of ‘aid’ to Gaza.

In those same four weeks Israel has transported 75,000 tons of aid into Gaza.

The longer this series of The X Factor has gone on, the more I’ve come to love Katie Waissel. She intrigues me: she’s glamorous, quirky, a bit vulnerable yet very determined. There is something almost hauntingly charismatic about her. Most of all, though, she is a brilliant singer.

Controversy has surrounded her from her first appearance. First it was revealed that she had already recorded an album in America, which seemed to offend some viewers. I don’t see the problem. Countless contestants – including the lovely Leona Lewis – had previous musical ventures on their CVs. It sort of comes with the territory, doesn’t it? A bit naive to expect the contestants’ musical ambitions to have magically appeared from nowhere the day they happened to queue up to audition.

Anyway, the media obviously sniffed a prospect for a pantomime villain in Katie and got their claws into her. The level of hatred being expressed by some X Factor viewers is absurd, and when the Diva Fever called her a narcissist the pot really was calling the kettle black. As for the accusation that she’s a bit of a diva behind the scenes, well, I’d hope so. This is showbiz, darlings.

So stop with the Katie-hating! I’m reminded of the words of Pop Idol judge Neil Fox, who was so horrified by the dressing down Simon Cowell gave one contestant in 2001 that he felt moved to remind his fellow judge: “He hasn’t killed anyone – he’s come here to sing.”

Some viewers could think about that when it comes to their comments about Katie. In fact, seeing some of the snotty comments that erupt into cyberspace every Saturday night, I’d suggest that if watching the X Factor upsets some people so much then maybe it’s time they found something else to do with their weekends.

Me, I’m absolutely loving the X Factor as always. One Direction are another of my favourite acts this year. When I was researching my biography of Simon Cowell, I spoke with one of the guys who subsequently got into that band, Liam Payne, who had previously entered the show as a solo singer. Although I never ended up interviewing Liam, he was clearly very ambitious and talented, and also seemed a nice chap.

So good luck to Katie and One Direction. I’m also enjoying some of the performances of Treyc Cohen, Mary Byrne and Matt Cardle, actually. In fact, with the possible exception of Wagner and Paije I think I quite like all the remaining contestants.

In related news, there is a special new printing of my Simon Cowell biography hitting the shelves at WH Smiths anytime now. You can still get the book from all the other usual outlets. Also, my final book of 2010 is published on Friday. It is the first biography of the boy band of the year – The Wanted. The first copies landed in the publisher’s office yesterday, and I should receive mine today, which will be exciting. Here’s to another bestseller.

You can read Jessica Elgot’s interview with Katie in this week’s Jewish Chronicle, and here is a video of the girl herself. Good luck this weekend, Katie!

There will be a same-sex duo on the next season of Israel’s version of Dancing With The Stars. Gili Shem Tov and Dorit Milman will compete on the show, which will also feature a guest performance from the legendary Pamela Anderson.

Quite a contrast from Gaza, where armed Hamas men ban women from dancing at all.

I’ve written before of my contempt for the English Defence League (EDL). Watch the EDL in action below as they attack a restaurant full of Asian men, women and children.

And next time someone tries to spin you lies about the Sieg-Heiling EDL being anything other than scum, point them to this video.

When I visited Israel for two weeks in August on the Once In A Lifetime trip, one of the most poignant experiences was planting a tree in the Aminadav Forest in Jerusalem. I was even asked to give a speech at the planting ceremony, during which I spoke about my admiration of the original Zionist pioneers.

After we had planted our trees, a man from the Jewish National Fund encouraged us to pick up two stones each and take them home with us. “When you get home, give one stone to a friend to bring back to Israel, and bring back the second stone yourself,” he told us.

My good friend Jonathan Sacerdoti is currently holidaying in Israel*. He took the first of my two stones back. You can see where he left it below – love it! I look forward to returning with the second stone in 2011.

Any suggestions as to where I should leave mine?

* As per

© Copyright Chas Newkey-Burden. All Rights Reserved. Thanks to Chris Morris.