February 21, 2009

The Jacobson "debate"

Honestly, what a word to describe a dispute involving Howard Jacobson. Debate indeed. More letters to the Independent in response to Jacobson's hasbara by smear. Like Dr Hirsh at Engage, Jacobson is becoming quite an asset for the anti-zionist movement. Having said that, even Engage isn't defending him now. Perhaps they'll wait until memories have receded as to what he actually said. Then it'll suddenly become antisemitic to criticise Howard Jacobson. Anyway, let's have a look:
Like beauty, or so it seems, anti-Semitism lies in the eye of the beholder, and Howard Jacobson is determined to see it everywhere. His attempt to associate criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism and the shades of Nazism is misplaced. The distinguished Jewish scholar, Yeshayahu Leibowitz, introduced the term “Judeo-Nazism” after the Six-Day War, an event he described as having destroyed the “moral infra-structure” of the Jewish state, predicting that, “continued occupation and oppression of the Palestinians must eventually lead to a fully fledged fascist regime inside Israel”, a prediction we are perilously close to witnessing.

Despite what Jacobson may claim, criticism of Israel is essential, for, as the social critic Isaac Deutscher said, “The ‘friends of Israel’ have in fact abetted Israel in a ruinous course”. For such apologists and religious zealots there is never a case to answer, however intolerable the actions; rather, as Avigdor Liebermann recently put it, they should despise the “weakness of the Gentiles”. Israel’s Jews have become, in Deutscher’s memorable phrase, “the Prussians of the Middle East”.

Though Jacobson makes much of the betrayal of the Holocaust, it was Israel’s Premier, Menachem Begin, who showed willing to manipulate its memory in using the analogy of the Warsaw ghetto to justify the bombing of Beirut, that the Jews would be victims no longer. And therein lies the problem: Jews were expurgating their victimhood, but against the wrong people, a people who (at first) were not their enemies, but were driven to be.

It is time for Israel and Zionists to show moral maturity and less incendiary defensiveness, to respond to justified criticism honestly rather than by continuously invoking monsters of the past or, as does Jacobson, with tawdry canards of evasive exculpation.

Dominic Kirkham


Cripes! See that?? "tawdry canards of evasive exculpation". I wish I could use words like that. They say so much but with not too much toner. Hirsh likes to invoke Deutscher, as one of the earlier converts from trotskyism to zionism, to justify Israel by playing the holocaust card. What you might call an ad hominem defence. Nice to see that same card thrown back. Maybe they should dis-card it now.

Ok, the next one:
Howard Jacobson is extremely, and may I suggest wilfully, confused. He accuses those of us who have protested about the Israeli slaughter of Palestinians of anti-Semitism. Our protest has always been aimed at the state of Israel and the Zionist ideology it rests on.

On our side, there is no confusion about Israel being a “Jewish state”. We do not see the vast wall separating Palestinians from their families and land as Jewish. Nor did we blame the dropping of thousands of cluster bombs on Lebanon as Jewish. Nor do we see the illegal occupation of the West Bank as Jewish. Nor did we decry the recent massacre of Gazans as Jewish. Nor do we see the blockading and starving of Gaza as being inherently Jewish.

All these atrocities belong to the Israeli state, and our protests are aimed at the perpetrators and their supporters here, of which the current government is the most culpable.

Howard Jacobson insists on saying that Israel is a “Jewish state”. If he was right, anti-Semitism would be highly logical and difficult to deny. If war, terror and illegal occupation occur because the perpetrators are Jews rather than Zionists, then the victims would be perfectly correct in hating their tormentors for being Jews.

Thankfully, the victims see things a little more clearly than Howard Jacobson, who, perversely, sees Israel as the victim. So here is another reason to hate Israel: they cause anti-Semitism and then blame it on us.

John Westmoreland

Doncaster, South Yorkshire

Great stuff. Now to something a little shorter and simpler but pretty much amounting to the same thing:
Here we go again; criticise Israel and we are immediately accused of anti-Semitism. Presumably, the only way in which we could not be accused of it would be to remain silent. But why should Israel be subject to preferential treatment among the countries of the world ?

Mr Jacobson should grow up (or stop being disingenuous). Israel’s attack on Gaza was extreme so it elicited an extreme response.

James Stevenson

Godalming, Surrey

"Here we go again". They are so on the ropes. I wonder what Jacobson thought he would achieve. Of course his editor will be pleased that Jacobson drew so much response but credibility is still important for a newspaper. It's not of paramount importance or Jacobson and other resident zionists in the media couldn't survive there but there must be some boundaries, mustn't there?

There are two token letters supporting Jacobson but they don't deal with what he or others have said. Look at this one:
Most of the responses to Howard Jacobson’s article serve to demonstrate how right he is. He is "accused" of supporting Israel and therefore being “one-sided”.
No he isn't. He is being accused of playing the antisemitism card against people that criticise Israel and he did say that criticism of Israel over Gaza is antisemitic. There is no mention of that in either of the letters supporting him. But then in a western society you can't support Israel by reference to the truth and you can't support Israel's supporters in an honest way either, unless you just feel sorry for them.

I wonder if the "debate" will continue on Monday.


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