Friday, June 08, 2007

On Howard Jacobson from the Independent

The campaign to boycott Israeli universities and academia is rapidly gaining steam here in the UK and it is interesting to see the responses of those who support the occupation of Palestine. Howard Jacobson has written a lengthy diatribe of sorts equating (indirectly) and as always, those who oppose Israel with anti-semitism. Of course he doesn't allow you to realise that because quite clearly he "is tired" of trying to work out who is anti-semitic. Besides, he tells us, there are plenty of other crimes one could be guilty of. Crimes, one could argue, which can be just as equally useful to tag people with should they believe that they are allowed to criticise Israel.

In one paragraph he (without naming anyone) refers to those who might prefer seeing Jews in concentration camps rather than their own country. In one sentence he manages to bring up that spectre of the Holocaust, and then expects us to take for granted the ridiculous notion that a religious group should have its own country (I don't believe Saudi Arabia should be a Muslim only state). Mr Jacobsons article argues that the entire boycott is unjustified, immoral and done out of some sense of spite people have with Israel (nobody mention anti-semitism!). True, Israel's perception may have changed in the West, but Mr Jacobson attributes that to some bizarre change in peoples attitudes, rather than the fact that more information about Israel's formation and subsequent actions with its neighbours may have played a role in this.

Another interesting aspect of his article is his measly attempt to pre-empt any criticisms about Israel, or even his article, by going through an impressive range of these criticisms, dismissing and trivialising them to petty and malicious babble and debate. Unfortunately for Jacobson, this neither lessens from the force of these arguments, nor is he able to disprove them directly. Rather than engaging, he attempts to deconstruct and marginalise these accusations.
Finally, he brings up the bogeyman of the Holocaust (did I say nobody should mention anti-semitism), and deftly equates the Arabs fighting to regain their land with the Nazi's and their attempted extermination of the Jews. Jacobson seems to want everybody to think that the end of Israel means the end of world Jewry which is not the case. Should anybody say that actually, the Arabs and the Jews have never had problems coexisting historically, again, the brilliant Jacobson thinks he has pulled off a coup by recycling and regurgitating tired arguments from right wing anti-Islamic thinktanks such as Jihad Watch and Daniel Pipes that these medieval Jews in Islamic lands were "second class citizens" and merely tolerated. He deliberately confuses contemporary understandings of citizenship and politics with historical periods in a way which is completely out of context. He "sincerely" hopes that the Wall the Israeli's are building, allegedly to keep Palestinian suicide bombers out isn't there in the future, but one wonders whether it is not the Arabs and Muslims which he wishes are not there? Again, he works on the assumption that the end of Israel must equate to some horrific 21st century Holocaust.
In a sham attempt to present himself as concerned with just and peaceful solutions, Jacobson, while trying to torpedo the boycott, is aiming to shift the entire nature of the debate again away from Israel and to the boycott itself, presenting it as devoid of legitimate motives and actual grievances. Thank you Mr Jacobson, but no thank you. I sincerely hope the boycott goes through, in addition, I hope to see the Zionist state dismantled in the future. I am neither anti-semitic, nor am I hiding anything in my other hand.


Anonymous said...

you say you are opposed to saudi arabia as a state. what about other islamic states? iran? pakistan? sudan? are you also opposed to them? if so, why aren't you (or anyone else) out protesting their existence? that point, that boycotts and other such blather about dismantling the state of israel, contains the kernel of antisemitism that makes the idea so odious: that of all the peoples in the world it is only the jews that are not permitted to have their own state. if you and your ilk were to protest russia's occupation of chechnya, china's occupation of tibet, turkey's occupaton of kurdistan and the many other illegal occupations currently occurring, you might have a leg to stand on. but since you only single out israel, it becomes obvious that you have a special animus for jews and their right to self-determination. saying "i am not an antisemite" does not make it so.

Wassim said...

Thank you for your comment, it is one which is often made when some try to dismantle the moral argument against Israel, 'It's not the only evil in the world, so why protest only against it and not against everything?' or something along those lines.

In answer of your question about other so called "Islamic" states as you call them, I am against them, not by virtue of them being "Islamic" but for the injustice and abuses that those in power continue to perform. The Islamic state ideal, in its theoretical proposals, like democracy, I have nothing against and encourage when necessary. Such a state ideal is not based upon ethnically cleansing a lands inhabitants and aims at justice as an end for all inhabitants. The Zionist state is not such an entity in that it only seeks justice for a small community at the expense of an entire people (Zionism is not to be confused with Judaism, again I say this) and the fact that you don't know you don't know this is implicit in your arguments construction and your statements.

Me and my "ilk" know of the injustice happening in Chechnya, Tibet and other far places, however, each of these causes has their own dedicated groups doing excellent work and campaigning to increase peoples awareness (please note, I don't mention the sham Darfur activists who have been permitted to feel outraged about that specific group of "black people" to the exclusion of the other "black people" who have been exploited and continue to be so by the West). I fail to see what your point is other than that you wish to dilute any focused attempts at exposing and attacking the illegitimacy of the Zionist state. Do I worry about these other causes? Sure, but why go half way across the world when injustice is at the doorstep of my very own homeland. Please don't be silly.

Finally, I have no need to hide behind any slogans or mannerisms to demonstrate that I am not "anti-semitic", I am because I say I am. Again, the fact that you can't comprehend how little you know regarding the difference between a Zionist and a Jew speaks volumes about you and makes your above comment perfectly predictable and stale. The end of Nazi Germany was not the end of the German people, I think in such a framework perhaps you can understand what I'm trying to tell you since you and your "ilk" only seem to go back as far as the Second World War when using arguments and justifications.

Anonymous said...

i thank you for your thoughtful answer, even though i don't at all agree with it.

i am aware that my comment regarding the "moral" argument against israel is used frequently. you do not, however, manage to address it. why is it that jews should not be permitted to have their own state? i am one of those who supports a palestinian state alongside a jewish one. why is that so unjust to you?

although you sound like you support democratic ideals, you also say you encourage the islamic state ideal. i would suggest to you that this "ideal" is undemocratic in so many ways and disenfranchises no less than 50% of the population. there is also a wide variety of other serious problems with this "ideal."

obviously you're aware of other injustices in the world. but if the groups dedicated to promote awareness of them are doing "excellent work," as you say, they aren't doing it in the west, where these issues barely make the paper. but when someone farts loudly in gaza, it's front page news. the overblown attention israel/palestine receives is ridiculous.

as for injustices being at your doorstep, you're absolutely correct. you need to look no further than the home of bashar al-assad and the baathists that run your country.

and as to the difference between a jew and a zionist, i know it well. criticizing israeli policy is not antisemitic. calling for the destruction of israel, however, is. i might also mention that the "non-antisemitic" arab world is currently the greatest producer of antisemitic propaganda, in print and on television. it is absolutely shameful.

Wassim said...

I know you believe yourself a moderate and reasonable person and that you consider a two-state solution to be a just solution for this. You have completely missed my point which I will make again. I do not support a state which is created exclusively for one race/religion and which is based on ethnically cleansing a land of its original inhabitants. The Jews, in my opinion cannot have their own state because it is based on the ruin of another people and on land which is not theirs. I don't think I can make this any clearer. There have always been ethnic groups migrating en masse to the region, look at the Armenian and Circassian communities. These have integrated peacefully with everybody else and did not import a militant ideology such as Zionism.

On my second point. I in no way said I support democratic ideals alone. I said that amongst the ideals that I support are the democratic and the Islamic. Both have numerous advantages but applicable to different situations. Your perception of what an Islamic state ideal represents is yours, not what it actually is and could achieve.

You are not in a position to describe the attention to the Israeli occupation as overblown. Problems on my own doorstep, thank you for pointing that out. I'll sort the ship's plumbing out only once the flooding of seawater is stemmed.

Finally, calling for the Zionist states destruction is not anti-semitic anymore than destroying Nazi Germany was anti-German. I am against the ideology which has brought hundreds of thousands of European and North American immigrants to forcefully colonise Palestine.

Anonymous said...

finding a "just solution" is another word for recalcitrance. what needs to be done is simply something that works. a two state solution is the most workable option in this case.

apparently you are not aware that israel is 20% non-jewish. there is no question that the dominant culture is jewish/hebrew, but the arab, druze, bedouin, armenian peoples living there are all in similar situations to minorities living in other countries in the middle east. in fact, they have more civil rights. while there is no question that these rights are not accorded to palestinians living in the west bank, it should be kept in mind that they could have had their own independent country by now had they not insisted on maximalism and a fight to the death with the state of israel.

as to a democratic and islamic state: not possible. islam is inherently undemocratic. this issue is not relegated only to islam, but to all religions. any religious state would be undemocratic.

if i am not in a position to describe the attention to the israeli occupation as overblown, neither are you. "sorting out your ship's plumbing once the flooding of seawater is stemmed" is the lame excuse used for years by arabs. fix your own house before you fix your neighbor's.

your "destroying nazi germany" analogy doesn't work. no one ever spoke of liquidating the german state in order to rid it of nazism. the arab/muslim desire to liquidate israel usually means cleansing the palestine of jews. if you don't believe me, listen to hamas/hezbollah/ahmedinejad/binladen et al. you may think that jews would be permitted to live peaceably in a one state palestine, but you're in a minority.