December 13, 2008

Howard Jacobson takes a pasting

Howard Jacobson has taken a few slaps in the Independent newspaper recently in spite of the valiant efforts of Mark Gardner of the Board of Deputies' provisional wing, the Community Security Trust. First up, take a look at Jacobson's article in last Saturday's Independent. It's a response to the Green Party leader, Caroline Lucas saying of Mumbai that "if we are to defeat extremism we have to go to the root causes of it – we have to look in particular at countries like Palestine." Well Jacobson can't have it said that islamist violence has root causes.
to argue that Palestine fuelled the massacre at Mumbai, that the Hindu waiter shot in the forehead after serving water to a terrorist was paying for the inequities of Gaza, that he wasn't already, in the eyes of that terrorist, expendable enough as an unbeliever, as one who had stolen Kashmir, or simply as a spot of target practice en route to a mad and misguided martyrdom, is not only preposterous, it is irresponsible
He goes on to make the tedious hint of antisemitism on Lucas's part:
However carefully Caroline Lucas distinguishes between Jews and Israelis in her frequent newsletters and platform speeches on these and other "Green" issues; whatever her hurt at being accused of anti-Semitism when it is only a Jewish country, for God's sake, and not Jews themselves she abominates – it would appear she has not succeeded in communicating this nice distinction to the Mumbai terrorists.
Why does he say "It's a Jewish country, for God's sake"? "Jewish country" as distinct from Jewish state needs a bit of explaining and why does he say she "abominates" the country? Why does he have to spin it that way? Could he not just say she criticises the state? Well no he can't. That wouldn't satisfy the point that he is trying to make, that she somehow "abominates" an unchangeable reality and a Jewish one at that. Countries are fixed, states are moveable. And "abominating" is being hateful. And if there's one thing the supporters of Israel's ethnic cleansing hate, it's hatefulness.

And Jacobson knows that Israelis don't do hatefulness, not Israeli Jews anyway:
I have visited Israel several times recently, making a documentary about Jesus, travelling in the company of Israelis of all parties and persuasions. The "Green" view is that there are good Israelis and bad Israelis, the good being those who oppose the occupation. Nothing could be more simplistic. I encountered extreme left-wingers who could not bear what their government was doing, but understood its sometime necessity; I met right-wingers who had no sympathy with settlers, and could not wait to live in peace with Palestinians; all wanted change, all were frightened, all loathed the naive, ahistoric sentimentalism that paints them as brutal invaders of a foreign land, and not as fellow combatants in a long and tragic struggle for safety and self-determination.
Mealy mouthed doesn't get more mealy mouthed than that. If he was younger and a woman he'd get an Orange prize for that nonsense.

He finally ups the general irresponsibility of Lucas's suggestion to a direct allegation of culpability:
And propaganda, by Caroline Lucas's own account, kills. Come the next massacre, when she is looking around for someone other than the perpetrators to blame, she might ask how much of their hatred she has stoked.
Ok the responses. First up, we'd better take a look at Caroline Lucas's response in yesterday's paper:
I am astonished at Howard Jacobson's inability to distinguish between what he terms "playing the blame game", and genuine efforts to comprehend what is driving the spread of extremism ("Another act of terrorism", 6 December).

He criticises my response to a question about whether extremism can ever be defeated (on the BBC's Any Questions last week) as evidence that I am "looking around for someone other than the perpetrators to blame". To the contrary, I am simply suggesting that unless we seek to unravel some of the root causes of appalling terrorist acts, we stand little chance of preventing them in future. Jacobson offers no proposals of his own on this point.

Terrorism can never be justified. But to vent spleen on those who try to seek its root causes is simplistic and unhelpful. I said on Any Questions that defeating extremism cannot be done by military means. If Jacobson wants to argue the opposite, let him do so – that would at least be a more constructive debate than knee-jerk criticism of those with whom he disagrees.

Dr Caroline Lucas MEP
It's a little naive to think that a resident zionist in the UK media can allow the belief that Israel's behaviour needs a bit of a look at to flourish but moving on to someone who actually read the irrelevant guff about those Israelis Jacobson met, all of whom "could not wait to live in peace with Palestinians". Hold on. Does Jacobson really not know that the whole point of Israel is that Israelis don't get to live with Palestinians at all, peace or no peace? The Palestinians are mostly barred from returning to Israel and those that remain are barred from 93% of the surface area. But anyway, here's the letter:
I do hope that while Howard Jacobson was travelling around the Holy Land recently he spared a thought for the 1.2 million Palestinians incarcerated by Israel in Gaza.

As he is making a documentary about Jesus, I'm sure he paid a visit to Bethlehem and saw the ghettoisation of the town and its encirclement by Israeli settlements. Perhaps he even had time to visit some Palestinian refugees and explain to them the "truth" that they had been expelled from their villages not by Israel but by an "ahistoric, naive sentimentalism" on their part?

As for the Mumbai outrages, I as a Palestinian neither accept nor see any linkage between these crimes and the just struggle of the Palestinian people.

Riyad Tibi

Marlow, Buckinghamshire

Now you remember I mentioned Mark Gardner. Well his letter appeared before that one from Riyad Tibi but it is so out of order I wanted to show the letter that Gardner was criticising straight after it and I didn't want the flow broken. Cop this from Gardner:
Rod Cox (letter, 10 December) disgracefully accuses Howard Jacobson of blaming anti-Israel criticism for both terrorism and antisemitism, when Jacobson clearly said nothing of the sort.

Nevertheless, the saddest thing is that Cox is merely repeating the self-serving canards that are now so frequently expressed in supposed liberal-left circles. Namely, that any criticism of Israel is immediately denounced by Jews as antisemitic, and that Jews are cunning co-ordinated liars who only cry antisemitism in order to conceal Israel's supposed crimes. For Cox and so many others, Howard Jacobson's identity obviously counts for far more than his many carefully written words and articles ever will.

Mark Gardner

Director of Communications, CST

Goodness gracious! Did you see what the Independent allowed into print? Mark Gardner is right to be so angry. Can you believe that the Independent, a liberal newspaper in the UK allowed someone to go on record saying that "Jews are cunning co-ordinated liars who only cry antisemitism in order to conceal Israel's supposed crimes"? Can you believe that the Independent would publish a letter taking issue with Howard Jacobson's Jewish identity? No? What, you can't believe they'd do that? Well done, you're right. They didn't do that. Here's Rod Cox's letter

When Howard Jacobson says "Propaganda kills" (Opinion, 6 December), I agree with him.

I have seen an old Palestinian watch while the Israeli Army bulldozed his olive trees, pushed his wife into the dirt, clubbed his sons, and drove him out of his house "for security reasons." Armed only with his anger and his helpless tears, he faced down their guns by shouting "Who will help us? Where is Osama Bin Laden? I will become Osama Bin Laden."

Since the Israeli Courts, EU or USA will not, and Arab states cannot, help him, I know that Arab youth will. Since even international solidarity movement activists, and MPs, are arrested by Israel, the only vehicle for their idealistic help is Bin Laden.

Just say this, and Howard Jacobson blames you for the terrorism and for anti-semitism. In his mind, exposing Israeli war crimes is an offence worse than the crimes themselves.

If the persecution of Palestinians ends, terrorists would have no support base. If propagandists like Jacobson stopped persecuting anyone who speaks out against Israel, the sooner these crimes would be exposed and ended, and the safer we all will be.

Propaganda kills, Howard, so stop it.

Rod Cox

Chester and Palestine exchanges Ltd, Chester
So where is there anything about Jacobson being Jewish and Jews being cunning and co-ordinated in their cunning? In Mark Gardner's mind and in his letter. Not only that, Howard Jacobson did say precisely what Rod Cox accused him of saying.

Still searching for that elusive honest zionist....

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