Jonathan Freedland is an editorial-page columnist for The Guardian. In 2014 he was awarded the Orwell Special Prize for journalism.

 (April 2016)

Maggie & the Storm Over Europe

Margaret Thatcher, the new leader of the Conservative Party, campaigning for England to remain part of the European Economic Community, June 1975
In early February, before the date had even been set for the June 23 referendum that will decide whether Britain remains a member of the European Union, the governing Conservative Party began a fight with itself over how Margaret Thatcher would have voted. Her former private secretary Charles Powell (pronounced …

Netanyahu’s Churchill Syndrome

Benjamin Netanyahu

Netanyahu has been re-enacting the Churchill story for more than two decades: as a junior member of the Knesset, he was warning that Iran was just “three to five years” away from a nuclear bomb back in 1992. He’s sounded the same alarm at intervals ever since. The great value of Churchill syndrome to one who suffers from it is that it is self-vindicating. The more Netanyahu’s warnings of the Tehran menace are dismissed, the greater his similarity to the cigar-chomping seer who was fatefully ignored in the 1930s.

What Scotland Won

Runners at the start of the 2014 Perth Kilt Run

British prime minister David Cameron promised that if Scotland voted No, Scotland would be rewarded with much greater autonomy. So Cameron is now honor-bound to cede many new powers to Scotland—moving closer to “devo-max,” or maximum devolution—at breakneck speed: the timetable published on the eve of the referendum speaks in weeks and months rather than years.

Liberal Zionism After Gaza

Destroyed houses in the Shejaia neighborhood of Gaza City, July 26, 2014

When Israelis and Palestinians appear fated to fight more frequently and with ever-bloodier consequences, and when peace initiatives seem to be utopian pipe-dreams doomed to fail, the liberal Zionist faces something like an existential crisis.

The Liberal Zionists

Israeli soldiers on a hill overlooking an Israeli settlement in Ofra, the West Bank, 2001
In the toxic environment that characterizes much, if not most, debate on the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, a special poison is reserved for the liberal Zionist.

Will Scotland Go Independent?

Graffiti in favor of Scottish independence, Bannockburn, Scotland, January 2012
On September 18, Scots will be asked to say yes or no to the following question: “Should Scotland be an independent country?” It is a beguilingly simple query, a model of clarity compared to, say, the 106-word essay put to the people of Quebec in a 1980 referendum that asked if they wished to break away from Canada, phrased in so convoluted a manner that many barely understood the question. Much will hang on the Scots’ answer.

Shutting Down the World?

A tourist leaving the US Capitol, Washington, DC, September 30, 2013

Around the world, the US government shutdown has produced not just bemusement but a growing sense of angst. European and Asian leaders have not quite reached the stage of harboring nostalgia for George W. Bush, the solitary “decider” and global unilateralist, who felt no need to consult anyone. But they are suddenly finding that the collective decision-making they demanded a decade ago has very definite drawbacks when applied in Washington. It used to be enough to persuade the US president of the need for action; now, foreign governments calculate, they will need the backing of the US Congress too.

The Unknown Maggie

Margaret Thatcher studying a parliamentary reference book with a colleague during her first political campaign, for the seat of Dartford, Kent, January 1950
In the more than seven hours set aside for parliamentary tributes to Margaret Thatcher in April this year, only one member of the House of Commons dared to speak unabashedly ill of the just dead. Glenda Jackson, the actress who won two Oscars and then traded Hollywood for the lesser …

Protecting Powerful Men

Rupert Murdoch (left) and British Prime Minister David Cameron (right), during separate appearances before the Leveson inquiry earlier this year.

On Thursday, after some sixteen months digesting a vast outpouring of written and oral evidence, Sir Brian Leveson, the judge appointed by British Prime Minister David Cameron to investigate “the culture, practices and ethics of the press,” delivered his two-thousand-page verdict. Given what he had heard in his courtroom, Leveson could plausibly have delivered damning judgements about the police, politicians—including Cameron and his ministers—and, especially, News Corporation and the Murdoch family who run it. Yet much of the report’s immense length is taken up by filling in the background, setting out the facts rather than apportioning blame.

America Forgets the World

Minnesota, 2007

Most of the time, the world outside America consisted of three Is and (toward the end) a single C: the threat of a nuclear Iran, the need to stand with Israel, the wisdom of going into Iraq nearly a decade ago and of maintaining a troop presence there now, and finally the menace of job-stealing, currency-manipulating China. Europe surfaced just once, and then only in a list of regions where the US had strong alliances, alongside Africa and Asia. India, home to a billion people and a rising power, was mentioned not at all.

The Republicans: Behind the Barricades

All conventions—whether of insurance salesmen or political parties—are sealed worlds, closed communities that, for a few days, develop their own microclimates, language, and customs. That was especially true of the Republican gathering in Tampa, where 4,411 delegates and alternate delegates, watched by some 15,000 journalists, met to nominate Mitt Romney for president.

The Case for Robot Romney

A woman holding a cutout of Mitt Romney at the Republican convention in Tampa, August 29, 2012.

What if your natural self is not that appealing to the voters, what indeed if your natural self is not all that natural? This is the conundrum confronting the team advising Mitt Romney. From the hordes of journalists, pundits, and armchair experts gathered here in Tampa, the campaign has received the same unsolicited advice: it needs to “humanize” the Republican presidential nominee, formally anointed as such on Tuesday, to present what the National Journal calls his “warm, fuzzy side.” But this might just be the time when a stiff personality could work.

An Exclusive Corner of Hebron

Palestinians outside the Mosque of Abraham, which covers the Tomb of the Patriarchs, Hebron, 1976
If you exclude Jerusalem, Hebron has the largest population of any Palestinian city in the West Bank. It is, along with Nablus, a commercial center, and what serves today as its thronging market square brims with life and trade, noise and fumes. There are stores selling groceries and electronics, as …

All Their Flummery and Finery

Prince William and Kate Middleton visiting the University of St. Andrews, February 25, 2011

If William and Kate have three girls and one boy, in that order, it will be the boy, the youngest, who becomes king. There are very few places where there is still egregious and blatant gender discrimination like that, and not only is it not against the law, which it would be in any workplace, it is actually enshrined in the law. In that sense, the royal family is fascinating, because it enshrines a view of men and women and how they relate to each other, and the order of things, that in all other aspects of British life has been reviewed, reformed, revised, or just plain thrown out.

Windsor Knot

Prince William and Kate Middleton visiting the University of St. Andrews, February 25, 2011
These should be anxious times for the House of Windsor. They are about to stage a lavish wedding at the very moment when their subjects will feel the full chill of austerity measures billed as the most severe in Britain’s postwar history. As Prince William Arthur Philip Louis of Wales, second in line to the English throne, and his girlfriend since student days, Catherine Elizabeth Middleton, are heralded into Westminster Abbey on April 29 by a Ruritanian phalanx of footmen and flunkies in gilt-edged robes, watched by a bejeweled congregation of aristocratic cousins including several crowned heads of Europe, their domestic television audience will include a good many who will have just received redundancy notices, sharply reduced welfare payments, or notification of the removal of much-cherished social services.

Obama’s Nobel: It Makes Sense in Norway

Over the last few days a consensus has formed, on both the left and the right, that awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to Barack Obama was too much, too soon. Even the President’s warmest admirers were embarrassed by the honor’s prematurity, while his domestic critics seized on it much the way they had reacted to the international adulation Obama received as a candidate, when, for example, he brought more than 200,000 people onto the streets of Berlin: they saw it as evidence both of the wide-eyed, teenybopper crush foreigners have on Obama and, somehow, of the President’s own hubris. But on closer examination, the award is not the stunning surprise it first seemed. And, at least from the point of view of those who gave it, it’s not so daft either.

A Black and Disgraceful Site

Diego Garcia, the largest island in the Indian Ocean’s Chagos archipelago. Between 1968 and 1973, Britain and the United States expelled the island’s residents in order to make way for a US military base, which has since been a launch pad for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and was used as a ‘black site’ in the Bush administration’s system of extraordinary rendition.
In the very lowest reaches of organized English soccer, in the bottom division of the amateur Crawley and District Football League, there is a team whose name sets it apart from its rivals. They are identified with their home villages in Sussex in southeast England: Ifield, Maidenbower, Worth. But this …

A Case of Intellectual Independence

There are not many professors in any field equipped to produce, for example, learned essays on the novels of Primo Levi and the writings of the now- forgotten Manès Sperber—yet also able to turn their hand to, say, a close, diplomatic analysis of the Cuban missile crisis of 1962. Analysts …

Falling Hawks

The “war on terror” inaugurated on September 11, 2001, and its mutation into the invasion of Iraq in March 2003 certainly divided political conservatives, with gung-ho neocons on one side and old-school realists on the other: Paul Wolfowitz versus Brent Scowcroft or, for those who prefer their feuds domestic, George …

Who Is Gordon Brown?

Every sign, whether in his past, in his temperament, or in the usually stubborn laws of political gravity, pointed toward Gordon Brown becoming one of the greatest prime ministers Britain never had. His career could be sketched as a series of missed opportunities, either through bad luck or lack of …

Bush’s Amazing Achievement

One of the few foreign policy achievements of the Bush administration has been the creation of a near consensus among those who study international affairs, a shared view that stretches, however improbably, from Noam Chomsky to Brent Scowcroft, from the antiwar protesters on the streets of San Francisco to the …

The Enigma of Ariel Sharon

One night in the early 1930s, Vera Scheinerman, the mother of the future Ariel Sharon, grabbed a rifle and a pair of pliers and headed out into the dark. Vera, an immigrant to Palestine from newly Soviet Georgia, was angry at a plan approved by her neighbors in the moshav, or agricultural commune, of Kfar Malal that would force each family to give up a portion of its land in order to found a new village close by. With a gun in her hand, Vera cut the wires which designated the turf the Scheinermans were expected to surrender, thereby collapsing an entire two-mile-long fence and, with it, the plan. Sharon would later tell that story to his own children, a parable on the importance of borders, the merits of bold, if unauthorized, action, and, above all, the power of facts on the ground.