Sunday, February 14, 2016

UK: "If you complain about antisemitism, you are being paranoid"

Foreign Policy interviewed Jewish-British author Howard Jacobson:
FP: You’ve told me that you hadn’t thought of yourself necessarily as a person who is a Zionist, or pro-Israel, or even really devoted much to Israel as a political issue. Why did that change?

HJ: I wasn’t against Israel or anything; I was just never wildly interested in that, you know? I was an Englishman, and I was pleased that there was somewhere for Jews to go, and if I ever needed to, for me too to go, but I was, you know, living my life as an Englishman, wasn’t even thinking about being Jewish much. But over the last 15, 20 years, criticism of Israel has grown venomous, and it grows more venomous by the day over here. People say until I’m sick of hearing them say, “It’s not anti-Semitic to be anti-Zionist.” Well, we know it’s not necessarily anti-Semitic to be anti-Zionist. We know that. No one is saying it is, and it’s bad faith to go on insisting that.

The point that one makes is that anti-Zionism can have an anti-Semitic face, might have an anti-Semitic face, and often does have an anti-Semitic face.

FP: What’s your sense of how high those levels of anti-Semitism are right now?

HJ: The issue of anti-Semitism is sort of vaguely in the air. We think, “Well, it’s worse in France than it is here.” It’s quiet at the moment, but I tell you something: If there’s another Gaza incursion, it will be on again here, and all hell will break loose.

FP: I love the line in the book where Strulovitch runs through various anti-Semitic slurs tossed at Jews — unbelievers, infidels, dogs — and then thinks it was better when they “at least didn’t deliver the final insult of accusing us of paranoia.”

HJ: Even raising the very real prospect that a person might be an anti-Semite, or calling them out for it when it’s clear that they are, inevitably brings the response back of, “Oh, you Jews. There you go again. You’re just always accusing us of anti-Semitism.” And it just sort of shuts down the argument. If you complain about it, you are being paranoid. That’s common these days. I enjoyed, in that world of Plurabelle and D’Anton and the rest of them, doing modern versions of the anti-Semite. The anti-Semite who wouldn’t really for a moment think of themselves as anti-Semitic. “Anti-Semitic, us?” And the answer would be, “Yes, you are.”
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