Max Hastings’ Love Life – Eamonn McDonagh

Israel is just a state.  Don’t love it.  Don’t hate it.  It is just a place like any other.  It is not a light unto nations.  It is not the new apartheid state.  It is not Nazi.  It is not the New Jerusalem.   It isn’t a brave experiment in communal living and socialism.  It isn’t a colonial outpost.  It is just three small cities and some suburbs where the unmurdered Jews of Europe, the Middle East and Russia live with their grandchildren.

Eamonn McDonagh explores.

15 Responses to “Max Hastings’ Love Life – Eamonn McDonagh”

  1. Saul Says:

    So, your girlfriend dumped you Max, get over it. So, now you found out all along that she clipped her toe nails in bed, and broke wind in bed. So, now because she didn’t live up to your idealist expectations you can go badmouth her about town telling anyone who would listen how you were set up, how she always played the “Holocaust card”, how she always would say that criticism is antisemitism.
    You fell in love with her; no one made you (or is that your next line of argument).

    You know, in the old days, liberals got upset that, after emancipation, Jews were not as noble and perfect as they imagined and felt let down that, after all that work loving and emancipating Jews, the Jews were not the specimens of Enlightened humanity. And, for that they blamed the Jews.

    By the way, I hate to tell you this, but your love was unrequited; but you never asked us if we loved you, did you? You were too wrapped up in how good it felt to love the Jews. Well, here’s a secret; we’ve had lovers like you for centuries. We know you better than you know yourself; that’s why we never gave ourselves to you.

  2. Absolute Observer Says:

    “Most of Mazower’s passages on the Holocaust address hideously familiar issues. The importance and originality of his impressively authoritative book rest upon its portrait of Hitler’s empire as a political and social entity, and his depiction of the fate of millions of non-Jewish victims. Far too much modern scholarship about the Nazi era addresses the Holocaust in isolation. Mazower’s conclusion is that Hitler’s vision for Europe was doomed by the fact that it offered nothing save subjection to the nations beneath its sway.”

    NYRB Hastings review of Mazower’s book.

    “Far too much”………hmmm, how much is far too much?
    Maybe “far too much addresses the Holocaust in isolation” because hitherto no-one mentioned it. Levi could not get published, Hilberg also has trouble, Hodbsbawn’s history of the 20th century doesn’t mention it, Arendt’s work was percieved as cold-war mongering.

    But now Hastings who so loved the Jews now thinks that talk of the Holocaust as an event in itself is in excess of itself. Enough, he seems to be saying.

    Now, of course, placing the Holocaust in its nazi context is important; and full credit to Mazower’s work (as well as Arendt’s); but subjects, any subject, can be approached and enriched by a multitude of perspectives. But not for Hastings.

    No doubt for Hastings, this relatively recent scholarship of the Holocaust is an expression of the “Holocaust card” that his ex-lover used and was always using behind his back.

    So, for all you scholars out there studying the Holocaust, move on, get over it; there is enough of it already.

    • Jacob Says:

      “No doubt for Hastings, this relatively recent scholarship of the Holocaust is an expression of the “Holocaust card” that his ex-lover used and was always using behind his back.”

      Absolute Observer points to an interesting phenomenon: those who attack the Jewish State often also tend to minimize the Holocaust.

      Now, while it isn’t true as many of these critics have argued that Zionists have used the Holocaust in order to legitimate Israel’s existence since Zionists have traditionally been uneasy with linking the two, it is true that Holocaust deniers or minimizers tend to link the two historical events.

      Hence I am not surprised by Hasting’s comment on both Israel and the Holocaust.

  3. zkharya Says:

    This is Robin Shepherd’s response to Hastings:

    A portrait of the anti-Israeli mind in upper class Britain

    Sir Max Hastings is an establishment man. Born in 1945 and educated at Charterhouse — the exclusive English private school founded in 1611 — then Oxford (for a year), he has edited two of Britain’s best known newspapers: the Daily Telegraph and the London Evening Standard. Like so many who rise to the top in British journalism, he was born into it. His father, Macdonald, was a celebrated war correspondent; his mother, Anne Eleanor Scott-James (or Lady Lancaster), edited the UK edition of Harper’s Bazaar. He writes columns for the Daily Mail, the Guardian and many others. He regularly appears on the BBC, for whom he was himself a celebrated war correspondent. He is President of the Campaign to Protect Rural England and he is a fellow of The Royal Society of Literature, an elite institution founded by King George IV in 1820. Sir Max Hastings is an establishment man indeed. He despises the State of Israel.

    In May 2009, he delievered a Leonard Stein Lecture on Israel and the Palestinians at Balliol College Oxford, extracts from which were used for an opinion piece in today’s Guardian. His writing is an almost parodical one-stop shop for every misconception, misreading of history and civilisational pathology in the mindset of Britain’s upper class, Arabist, right.

    The piece, with a link to the full lecture, can be found at:

    The tale Hastings tells is a familiar one, almost a cliche. His adimiration for the Israel of 1967 knew no bounds. Victory in the Six Day War of that year “was an awesome display of command boldness, operational competence and human endeavour,” he glowingly recounts.

    But through the 1970s things began to change:

    “… I glimpsed a darker side of Israel. I learned a lot about the ruthlessness of Israeli anti-terrorist operations. I spent many hours talking to thoughtful Israelis, who voiced their fears about the perils, the threatened corruption of their own society, which they perceived in the 1967 conquests. I also became dismayed by the naked imperialism displayed by Israel’s rightwing zealots. One night at a dinner party in Jerusalem in 1977, I heard a young Israeli talking about the Arabs in terms which chilled my blood. “In the next war,” he said, “we’ve got to get the Palestinians out of the West Bank for good.”

    That young Israeli, he later tells us, was none other than Benjamin Netanyahu, now Prime Minister of Israel. The complete lack of empathy is breathtaking: no sense whatever that after all the Israelis had been through in their struggle for survival the belief that the Arabs had turned it into a zero sum game might be at least understandable. Just shallow-minded demonology wrapped in emotive name calling — “naked imperialism”; “rightwing zealots”.

    And so he continues, drawing a portrait of a Palestinian people seemingly devoid of agency, entirely stripped of any responsibility at all for their predicament.

    Instead we get the standard shabby defence of terrorism that is now commonplace across Europe:

    “The policies of modern Israel have created the certainty of new generations of neighbours committed to its undoing. The Palestinians’ only influence rests upon the power of such weapons as they can obtain, and upon their destructive capacity to broadcast terrorism. Who can be surprised that the people of Gaza elected a Hamas government? No sane society engages an overwhelmingly militarily superior nation on the battlefield on terms which suit the possessor of power. There is no purpose in wasting rhetoric upon moral denunciations of terrorism or even suicide-bombing, especially so when Jewish terrorism played a substantial part in Israel’s birth. The Palestinians, together with the Muslim world and many in the west, no longer believe that Israel will grant justice to their people by negotiation; they believe that only force might eventually drive the Israelis to make concessions.”

    There is more, much more of this kind of moral incontinence, half-truth and falsehood slithering its way through his text. I deal with reams of this kind of thing in my forthcoming book — A State Beyond the Pale: Europe’s Problem With Israel. (It will be published in September) — and I will conclude this posting with a point which is central to my argument.

    Contemporary Europe is simply incapable of dealing with the issues that the Israel-Palestine conflict throws up. A pacificistic, relativistic, civilisationally exhausted continent may think that it is doing the judging, but it is not. It is Europe that condemns itself through the screeds of people like Hastings. Would that he were an exception. But as I said at the start, Sir Max Hastings is an establishment man.

  4. Susan Says:

    This may be off-topic, but I was amazed to see a Guardian CIF column taking the Catholic Church to task for not accepting Israel for theological reasons.

  5. Jacob Says:

    I posted this on z-word:

    Eamonn McDonagh offers a plausible account for Hastings falling out of love with Israel when he says:

    “It’s said that true love knows no reason and the evolution of Max’s feelings towards Israel tends to confirm this. He loved it when it had the Palestinians too scared to let loose a squeak of protest, when it was winning bloody victories in conventional conflicts and when all of its neighbors were struggling to destroy it. Now that not all of them are and it’s locked in a cruel and untelegenic struggle with Iran and its proxies, his feelings have turned to bitterness and contempt.”

    Yes, few love the weak. This is a lesson that Israelis (and Jews) know well. Hastings is indeed a fair-weather friend (or lover).

    I would suggest though another plausible reason for Hastings change of heart: social pressure:

    In 1973 it was easy to be on the side of Israel since the intellectuals in the Western World for the most part supported the Jewish State. I don’t believe that critics then an now where correct in their attacks on Israel, but in those days it took some resolve to be critical of Israel. Today the opposite is true. It takes resolve and guts to support Israel while opposing it is as easy as typing on a computer keyboard.

    Hastings is not the first nor will he be the last to follow intellectual public opinion.

  6. Mark2 Says:

    Am I alone in detecting that is the anti Israeli/Ziionists who are playing their own Holocaust card more than Jew/Israeli’s/Zionists have ever played “the Holocaust card”.

    David’s introduction to this piece is as good anantidote to that sort of thing as I have seen.

  7. Saul Says:


    Yes, you are indeed right. In the early days of the boycott, those Jews who called for it all stood up and spoke about how they are the children and grandchildren of Holocaust survivors.

    Then there are others who talk about the Holocaust as placing on Jews an absolute moral impperative.

    Then, of course, there are those who use the Holocaust to say that Jews (whoops, only those who do not think Israel is the most evil thing in the world) are pathologically unstable.

    So, yes, you are right.

  8. Saul Says:

    Sorry, I also forgot the idea that Israel was given as penance to the Jews for the Holocaust by a guilt-ridden “West”.

  9. Absolute Observer Says:

    You forgot to mention Israel as the new Nazis and Gaza as Warsaw.

  10. Gil Says:

    Meanwhile, CIF continues to soil itself. Charlie Brooker writes an article saying, humorously, that Gordon Brown can save himself by orchestrating a war. So a commenter writes that he would vote for Brown if he declared war on Israel. And the comment receives 119 ‘recommendations’, third highest on the page.

  11. zkharya Says:

    I seem to have missed Benny Morris’ response to Max Hastings on CIF:

  12. Bruce Says:

    I feel sorry for Max Hastings. He displayed, so it seemed to me, about as much fair-mindedness as you are ever likely to see in print over the Israel/Palestine problem. It was a criticism of one who cares about Israel and the ultimate fate of Jews living in the Middle East, But what does he get for his pains from you guys? He gets viciously attacked as if he was some foaming-at-the-mouth Holocaust denier. You guys should keep your powder dry for when you’ll surely be needing it, for I have no doubt that the hatred building up against Israel is assuming alarming dimensions, rather than round on a disappointed friend of great intellectual distinction, who is, believe me, not making it all up, a man whose powers of judgment, honed by long years of experience, place him right up there with some of the best thinkers and commentators of our time. Max Hastings is not just anybody, to be dismissed by those ferociously defensive of Israel to a point, it seems to me, beyond reason.

  13. zkharya Says:

    ‘You guys should keep your powder dry for when you’ll surely be needing it, ‘

    Well, that’ll prove the Zionist thesis wrong, won’t it?

    Yes, poor, poor Max Hastings.

  14. Servaeus Says:

    I did not go to a public school, have never edited a newspaper, been awarded a knighthood etc etc … but, like Max Hastings and many other non-establishment figures for whom one of your commentators will have to find some other reason for sneering, experienced much the same growing revulsion for the conduct of Israel.

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