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Thursday, 3 March 2011

Yes, that's what I've been trying to say...

Keep me covered, I'm going in. I'm linking to Jonathan Freedland's article on antisemitism in today's Guardian, and I am asking everyone reading this to please do me a favour, that being: to slowly read Jonathan Freedland's piece, think about what it has to say and then draw your own conclusions. By calmly writing what he writes, and by not exaggerating the extent of the problem, Mr Freedland has succeeded in making some points that I have, on various occasions, tried to make. Nobody is arguing that it is wrong to criticise Israel or its government, just as it is not wrong to criticise any other country or government. It would be OK for me to criticise Saudi Arabia or its government - but if I did so in language that smacked not of reasoned criticism but of anti-Arab prejudice, would that be considered acceptable by all of the people reading this? Surely not.

So, it cannot reasonably be said that Jonathan Freedland is arguing that all criticism of Israel is antisemitic. He is arguing no such thing. On the contrary, he writes:
What most Jews object to is not, in fact, criticism of Israel itself, but when that criticism comes wrapped in the language or imagery of Jew-hatred...What makes all this terrain so tricky is not only that every inch of it is vigorously contested but that many of those who resort to anti-Jewish tropes when tackling Israel do so apparently inadvertently, even at the very same time as they fiercely denounce antisemitism. Because they don't lapse into Galliano-esque abuse, they believe they must be free of all prejudice. To many, it comes as a shock to discover the provenance of the imagery they have just deployed...We may want to see the likes of Galliano as relics from another era or as mere eccentrics, but they are expressing a set of attitudes that remain deep in the soil and which have never been fully shaken off. They can appear in the most respected institutions, voiced by the most respectable people.
So what do people think? Can we have a debate here about whether or not other people agree with what Jonathan Freedland has written?


  1. Matthew you have a huge problem - how Israel treats friendly open-minded people at Tel Aviv airport.

    I don't mind being searched or having my luggage gone through - but can it be done with RESPECT.

    I will NEVER, repeat NEVER, travel there again.

  2. Fair enough! I'm not an Israeli, and I certainly don't work for any country's airports authority, so there's nothing that I can do about your comment. Does anyone have anything to say that is more directly relevant to Jonathan Freedland's article?