February 20, 2009

Let's see Howard Jacobson for what he really is

Poor old Howard Jacobson. He must have thought he'd closed down all possibility of counter-argument and still they come. Two more letters in today's Indie taking exception to his smear-merchant brand of hasbara.
Howard Jacobson's hysterical piece (Opinion, 18 February) that seeks to equate all criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism, made me very angry. He objects to the use of the words "massacre" and "slaughter" in reference to the killing of 400 Palestinian children by Israeli tanks, missiles, bombs and bullets, with his opinion that "it is in the nature of modern war". As a former professional soldier with four years on active service, I can categorically inform him, it is not. The British Army, the US Army, or any other army, do not, to my knowledge, deliberately kill children on the pretext of "self-defence".

I, and many, many other British Jews, have given repeated, and documented, warnings to the London Jewish Chronicle and elsewhere, of the dangers of the Board of Deputies of British Jews allying itself so closely and unwisely with Israel's brutal treatment as an occupying force in the Palestinian territories. That overt alliance, together with the millions of pounds sent every year to Israel by Jewish charities, virtually ensures the inevitability of anti-Israeli feelings being extended to those in Britain who so clearly, and sometimes, it must be said, arrogantly support the Israeli government agenda.

There was nothing in Howard Jacobson's article that indicated one shred of remorse that 400 Palestinian children should be killed as a reprisal for the rockets of Hamas. Nothing. That, tragically, is the attitude that contributes to the resurgence of anti-Semitism in Britain and thereby also endangers those of us, within British Jewry, to whom political Zionism is anathema. Zionism is not, and never was, a synonym for Judaism.

Michael Halpern

Westbourne, Dorset
"Zionism is not, and never was, a synonym for Judaism" or Jewishness we might add but imagine with all that we know about zionism that such things still need to be said.

Sadly Mr Halpern's letter was followed by the obligatory balancer which I'll skip.

Now this next one really sticks the boot in:
By trying to confuse genuine moral outrage with secret anti-Semitism and by drawing the cloak of Jewish victimhood over Israeli atrocities in Gaza, Howard Jacobson reveals the full intellectual bankruptcy of his tired old arguments.

If people deliberately do hateful things, particularly if hundreds of innocent women and children are maimed and killed as a result, other more civilised people will have every reason and every right to loathe and despise the aggressors. This expression of outrage is one of the basic ways in which standards of civilised behaviour are maintained.

In the 21st century, political attempts to maintain ethnic purity and claim exclusive rights to territory on the basis of history, race and religion can no longer be regarded as acceptable. We know where that road leads. As for the Churchill play, it sounds like blatant agitprop, but just look at the Old Testament and you will read how the ancient historical Jewish occupation of this territory was carried out in a welter of racism, ethnic cleansing, slaughter and genocide: all supposedly sanctioned by their own private God and on the understanding that the Jews were the chosen race, this was their promised land and the others didn't matter.

Jacobson should be ashamed of himself for allowing his partisanship to subdue his moral sense. He should be grateful that "cosy old lazy old easy-come-easy-go England" has a history of quite violent "criticism" of political fascism in all its forms.

Rob Brownell

Colchester, Essex
Not sure about all that religious stuff but I do like the open and close.

Let's just turn to Engage, for whom Howard Jacobson appears to be the greatest living Englishman. Engage seems to have given up on defending Jacobson today. Still with all that antisemitism all around us they might have too much work on. But yesterday, all the antisemitism all around us wasn't too bad for them to get a couple of smears in for the great cause of Jewish health and safety.

I posted yesterday on the letters responding to Jacobson's astonishing hasbara for Israel's operation "cast lead". Well so did Hirsh. Remember this?
His [Jacobson's] "argument" is predicated on his tedious belief that he is, by definition, cleverer, more intellectually discerning and more morally subtle than anyone who disagrees with him.
There you go, a little dig at smugness, Howard Jacobson's smugness. But Howard Jacobson is a Jew. So according to Engage, smugness is such a Jewish trait, an attack on Jacobson must be because he's "the too-clever-by-half-Jew".

Oh and what's this? Here's one I missed yesterday but let Hirsh point it out for us:
Graham Griffiths cries "Israel!" in response to Jacobson’s piece about antisemtism in Britain and conflates antisemitic demonization with “criticism”:

“…is Mr Jacobson really surprised that people will protest”

He cried "Israel" when all poor Jacobson was writing about was antisemitism in Britain? Damn it! I've had to go check the article again. See this:
And Israel? Well, speaking on BBC television at the height of the fighting, Richard Kemp, former commander of British Troops in Afghanistan and a senior military adviser to the British government, said the following: "I don’t think there has ever been a time in the history of warfare where any army has made more efforts to reduce civilian casualties and deaths of civilians than the IDF (Israeli Defence Forces) is doing today in Gaza."
Yeah, that was all about antisemitism in Britain. Just to remind Hirsh, since it was only the day before that he posted the article on Engage, the article was about "criticism of Israel" in Britain which Jacobson claims is motivated by antisemitism. Elsewhere in the article he insists that what took place in Gaza for 22 days from 27 December 2008, when over 1,300 hundred Palestinians and 13 Israelis were killed, should be described as "fighting". Elsewhere in a previous article he said that Israel was doing what it had to do. But no, like Engage, all Jacobson is doing is having a little natter about "antisemitism in Britain". As it happens, Jacobson was and has been saying that Israel's actions in Gaza are necessary and right, therefore criticism of Israel must be antisemitic. That is not, by any reckoning, simply about antisemitism in Britain.

The Independent got a lot of letters expressing disgust at Jacobson's latest effort for Israel. I know this from the buzz of emails. Hopefully the editor will have got the message that readers are wise to this hasbara nonsense now. It isn't helping Israel. The game's up. The Indie is the lowest circulation broadsheet in the UK. Save your money and find that hole in the market that could be filled by telling the truth about Israel rather than smearing its critics. You'll feel much better for it and the shareholders might even be happier too.

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