Responses to Howard Jacobson’s piece in the Independent

There are a number of responses in today’s paper to Howard Jacobson’s piece on contemporary antisemitism published yesterday.

Gillian Bargery berates him for being the too-clever-by-half Jew:

“His “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.”

Kim James tells us that it is the bad behaviour of Jews which is responsible for antisemitism:

“It is the success of Zionist propaganda which accounts for the renewal of anti-Semitism.”

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”

Stan Brenan wants to explain antisemitism in Britain by reference to the psychological traumas suffered by Jews during the Holocaust and he regrets the failure of Jews to live up to their reputation as “dialectical” and “self-reflective” thinkers:

“It is a pity he so quickly dismisses the psychological possibility that “Jews (may be) visiting upon others the traumas suffered by themselves”. In my experience these are offered not as “sophistical nastiness” but in a genuine attempt to evoke self-reflection among Israelis and the wider diaspora once universally so admired for such dialectical qualities.”

Pete Parkins conflates antisemitism in Britain with legitimate criticism of Israeli policy:

“Howard Jacobson invokes the tired old anti-Semitism arguments to explain the almost universal criticism of the Israeli state for its actions in recent times.”

Nu’man El-Bakri accuses Jacobson of dishonestly attempting to use antisemitism and the Holocaust in order to delegitimize criticism of Israel.  This is not a claim that Jacobson is just mistaken but a claim that Jacobson knows he is wrong but uses this form of argument because he is part of a conspiracy to close off free speech about Israel:

“I think what riles Jacobson is that the Holocaust, “anti-Semitism”, and “vilification of Israel” are not the trump cards they once were. Even Jewish critics are fed up with this tired chant every time the Israeli army decides to indulge in a massacre.”

Andrew T Barnes also employs the Livingstone Formulation:

“Howard Jacobson’s …  extrapolates from a few carefully chosen examples to disgrace all opposition to Israel’s actions in Palestine, and by labelling all criticism of Israel as anti-Semitism he shuts down the debate in exactly the same way as those who use words like “massacre” to describe the fighting in Gaza.”

Read the whole letters here.

Yesterday the Independent appeared to be taking antisemitism seriously.  Today it constructs opposition to antisemitism as one side of a legitimate debate.

On which side is the Independent?

14 Responses to “Responses to Howard Jacobson’s piece in the Independent”

  1. Saul Says:

    This psycho-babble that because Jews suffered in the Holocaust, Israel is a pathological state (the Jaqueline Rose line) is a clear illustration of a breach of Rosenweig’s “613rd Commandment” not to give Hitler as postumous victory.
    The Holocaust is used as a means to deny Jews and only Jews their won state.
    Kinda ironic isn’t it.

  2. Saul Says:

    “won”” should have been “own”, but, either will do.

  3. Susan Says:

    “failure of Jews to live up to their reputation as “dialectical” and “self-reflective” thinkers…”

    I would say that he has it backwards. It is the left that has failed live up to their reputation as “‘dialectical’ and ‘self reflective thinkers.’”

    I might add that comments posted show a lack of basic reading comprehension. They are responding to points that Howard Jacobson never made.

  4. Efraim Says:

    “Kim James tells us that it is the bad behaviour of Jews which is responsible for antisemitism:

    “It is the success of Zionist propaganda which accounts for the renewal of anti-Semitism.””

    Kim is wrong, if “Zionist propaganda” had been “succesful” there would be no antisemitism.

    Does any one in the Independent care anything about truth or logic, or is Jew baiting what they care about most?

  5. Jacob Says:

    It is one thing for a paper not to respond to antisemitism it is another to seem to respond to it and then use that response as an occasion for allowing further antisemitic diatribes.

    That paper knows what it is doing.

  6. David Says:

    Apparently there are two sides to every issue, such as whether or not the left should fight antisemitism. My thanks to the Independent for allowing both sides to make their case. Perhaps next week they will provide a similar analysis of both sides of the issue, “should we all drink hemlock.”

  7. Saul Says:

    From the letters……………

    “I told my Jewish fiancée, who had survived the German occupation of France, (unlike most of her family), that I wanted to join Haganah. She told me in no uncertain terms that if I wanted to join the reactionary Zionists then I could say goodbye to her. I got my first lesson in the politics of Judaism.”

    So, I guess, it is only Zionists who were traumatised by the Holocaust and who, even now, are “acting out” – and not anti-Zionists or non-Zionist survivors who remained perfectly unscathed and metally health.

    Funny that!

  8. Lynne T Says:

    Gillian Bargery berates him for being the too-clever-by-half Jew:

    “His “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.”

    What an interesting way to say, “I can’t actually refute anything Jacobson has said, so I’ll accuse him of holding himself up as being smarter than the people who hold opposing opinions.”

  9. Sabato Says:

    From Saul’s post, “I told my Jewish fiancée, who had survived the German occupation of France, (unlike most of her family), that I wanted to join Haganah. She told me in no uncertain terms that if I wanted to join the reactionary Zionists then I could say goodbye to her. I got my first lesson in the politics of Judaism.”

    Saul is right to point out the inherent inconsistency in the belief that only Zionists are to be thought of as being traumatized by the Holocaust and not anti-Zionists.

    There is also the added hypocrisy to quote Holocaust survivors approvingly only when they take an anti-Zionist point of view while denying them the right to support Zionism.

    This is sign of the continued dehumanization of Holocaust survivors the majority of whom did and do support Israel.

  10. MARK Says:

    “Nu’man El-Bakri accuses Jacobson of dishonestly attempting to use antisemitism and the Holocaust in order to delegitimize criticism of Israel. ”

    Am I really alone in noticing that the Holocaust is used considerably more by her opponents to discredit Israel than it was ever used by her supporters to garner sympathy.

  11. Lynne T Says:

    Mark:

    The reason Israel’s critics like to raise the Holocaust seems to be three-fold:

    1) to claim without substantiating the claim, that the Palestinians have suffered worse than Europe’s Jews in order to rationalize the continued opposition to Israel’s establishment

    2) to allege that Europe’s Jews deserved to be decimated because they are war-mongering land grabbers. (What’s ironic about this point is that the most antigonistic factions in the Arab/Muslim world openly aspire to the re-establishment of the Caliphate as a global power.)

    3) to beat Israel and any of its supporters over the head with the “having been victims yourselves, you of all people deserve to be held to a higher standard of conduct”.

  12. Mark Says:

    Lynne

    I am sure you are right , but my point is the contrast between the great and growing use of the Holocaust by the anti Israel crew while accusing – in the main wrongly – us of “always” using it in Israel’s cause.

    In fact I have rarely if ever heard anyone say “Israel is justifed by the Holocaust” and given that the idea of Zionism – its more modern guise – was born about 60 years or so before the Holocaust that is perhaps, not surprising. Israel’s opponents are when it suits them, deeply unhistorical effectively ignoring the pressure that built up for a Jewish State before 1939. This of course is highly convenient for them because it means they don’t have to deal for instance, with Arab violence towards Jews at the time.
    Israel like most political phenomena is the result of many causes and influences. Most people of academic bent instinctively reject uni-causal explanations for socio politial and historical phenomena because they know they are rarely adequate to explain these. It is a symptom of the antis’ hysterical haterd of Israel that they refuse to accept such an explanation(s) in the case of the genesis of modern Israel.

  13. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    “I told my Jewish fiancée, who had survived the German occupation of France, (unlike most of her family), that I wanted to join Haganah. She told me in no uncertain terms that if I wanted to join the reactionary Zionists then I could say goodbye to her. I got my first lesson in the politics of Judaism.”

    I’m surprised that no-one has commented on the elision from Zionism (“…the reactionary Zionists…”) to Judaism (“I got my first lesson in the politics of Judaism”). While it may help, you don’t have to be Jewish to be a Zionist, and the politics of _Zionism_ need have nothing to do with Judaism. However, the politics of Judaism have _everything_ to do with being Jewish.

    Or have I missed somethinghere?

  14. Jacobson’s demolition of the ‘Ashamed Jews’ wins Man Booker « Engage – the anti-racist campaign against antisemitism Says:

    [...] full piece by Jacobson here.  Read the bullying and libellous responses to Jacobson’s piece here, the following day, in the Independent.  Read also Jacqueline Rose’s attack on Jacobson, as [...]


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