Howard Jacobson the antisemite


By Ben Abuyah
July 30, 2010
Share

In today's JC (http://www.thejc.com/comment-and-debate/comment/36256/anti-zionism-facts...), Howard Jacobson somewhat surprisingly comes to the defence of Caryl Churchill. Whilst being unequivocal in his condemnation of her play, "Seven Jewish Children", he concedes that "I'd be surprised if Caryl Churchill ... turned out to be antisemitic in her person".

However, Jewish critics of Israel don't get any such benefit of the doubt. "When it comes to Jewish anti-Zionists, their Jew-hatred is barely disguised, not in what they say about Israel but in the contempt they show for the motives and feelings of fellow-Jews who do not think as they do."

So, according to Jacobson, Jews qua Jews are not entitled to hold opinions which other people are. Strikes me as a classic example of antisemitism.

COMMENTS

Jon_i_Cohen

Fri, 07/30/2010 - 14:34

Rate this:

-1 points

It wasn't a bad article until we reached this naive sentence:-

"Let's get something out of the way. I don't think that being critical of Israel makes anyone an antisemite. Only a fool would think it does".

Sorry Mr Jacobson, but today, being crtical of Israel is just a smoke-screen and a "trendy lefty" buzzword for being an anti-semite - it is one and the same thing.


Yvetta

Fri, 07/30/2010 - 15:09

Rate this:

0 points

Absolutely, Jon. Israel is cast as a pariah - as "the Jew among the nations". The never-ending story takes a new twist, that's all.


happygoldfish

Fri, 07/30/2010 - 16:02

Rate this:

2 points

yes, ben abuyah, that would be antisemitism, but it's not what jacobson is saying …

Ben Abuyah: So, according to Jacobson, Jews qua Jews are not entitled to hold opinions which other people are. Strikes me as a classic example of antisemitism.

his whole blog (and his whole book, "the finkler question") is about jews who declare they feel ashamed to be jewish

unfortunately, if you declare publicly "i feel ashamed to be jewish", you automatically imply that you think that all other jews should feel ashamed too

(which incidentally jacobson also refers to as "show {contempt} for the motives and feelings of fellow-Jews who do not think as they do")

in other words, while he does not apparently think that caryl churchill would say "you jews should feel ashamed to be jewish", and so is not a jew-hater, he does think that jews who declare "i feel ashamed to be jewish" would say "you jews should also feel ashamed to be jewish"

telling people they should feel ashamed to be jewish, or gay, is racist, or homophobic, whether or not the speaker himself is jewish or gay …

jacobson is simply saying that "ashamed" jews automatically fall into this category, while caryl churchill apparently does not

(btw, the link above for no apparent reason isn't working … try the node-number instead … http://www.thejc.com/node/36256 )

hmm … since, ben abuyah, you've stuck your head over the parapet, perhaps you'd like to answer the following fun quiz

(a) do you feel ashamed to be jewish?
(if your answer to (a) was no, pass this quiz on to someone else)
(b) do you think all jews should feel ashamed to be jewish?
(c) if your answers were (a) yes, (b) no, what is it about you that makes you more unworthy (or worthy) than other jews?

btw, i answered "no" to (a) …
so obviously i've had to pass the quiz on!

DeborahMaccoby

Sat, 07/31/2010 - 21:12

Rate this:

1 point

Happygoldfish, if Jacobson is aiming his attempts at satire at Jews for Justice for Palestinians, then I don't think any of its signatories would say that they are ashamed to be Jewish (and I think the same can be said for other groups, such as Jews Against Zionism). On the contrary, JfJfP signatories are openly asserting their Jewish identity, of which they are proud. The Jewish identity they are asserting is one that reclaims the Jewish tradition of standing up for justice and human rights. We don't think at all that all Jews should be ashamed to be Jewish; we would like them to be proud of this Jewish tradition and to speak out in support of it.

best wishes,

Deborah


Ben Abuyah

Sun, 08/01/2010 - 00:02

Rate this:

1 point

happygoldfish,

My reading of Howard Jacobson's article was that he thinks that any Jew who is anti-Zionist is automatically self-hating. He doesn't allow for the possibility of someone being perfectly comfortable being Jewish, and also being anti-Zionist.

In answer to your quiz question - do I feel ashamed to be Jewish?

In one sense, it's an odd question - it's like asking whether I feel ashamed to be a man, or ashamed to be white. It's something that I was born as, and can't (easily) change, so whether I feel ashamed or not isn't really relevant.

On the other hand, if one accepts the idea that we are all now "Jews by choice", then I have no problem saying that I am definitely not ashamed to be Jewish. On the contrary, I would say that I'm very proud to be Jewish.


Jonathan Hoffman

Sun, 08/01/2010 - 07:30

Rate this:

0 points

"On the contrary, I would say that I'm very proud to be Jewish."

As-A-Jew, I would say that you are "proud to be ashamed to ne Jewish"


happygoldfish

Sun, 08/01/2010 - 09:06

Rate this:

2 points

oh come on jonathan, if you just say that without any reason, you're doing exactly what ben abuyah is accusing jacobson of

Ben Abuyah: … he thinks that any Jew who is anti-Zionist is automatically …

… ashamed to be jewish!

do you think that?

if so, say so, if not, either withdraw your accusation against ben abuyah or substantiate it!

btw, howard jacobson (whose book is about a group specifically called "ASHamed Jews", and with a progenitor who explicitly says "… I am, as a Jew, profoundly ashamed") thinks that "only a fool" would say that …

howard jacobson: Let's get something out of the way. I don't think that being critical of Israel makes anyone an antisemite. Only a fool would think it does.

But only a fool would think it follows that criticism of Israel can never be antisemitic, or that anti-Zionism isn't a haven in which antisemitism is sometimes given leave to flourish.

When it comes to Jewish anti-Zionists, their Jew-hatred is barely disguised, not in what they say about Israel but in the contempt they show for the motives and feelings of fellow-Jews who do not think as they do.

But here is the beauty of being a novelist ---- I can have fun ascribing pathology to whom I like. I know what's really bothering them. They are my creations, after all.

you're not a novelist, jonathan (and ben abuyah is god's creation, not yours!) …

so get real

jacobson can make his facts fit the arguments, but you have to make your arguments fit the facts!


Yvetta

Sun, 08/01/2010 - 17:40

Rate this:

-1 points

Deborah, without wishing to cast aspersions on everyone in the organisations you mention, there are certainly people in them who appear to be contemptuous of other Jews and think they're a cut above - persons who appear to be making the old "yekke" vs "Ostjuden" distictions, for example. Seeing other Hews proudly waving the white-and-blue seems to make such types a whiter shade of pale.
There are also people, such as a certain happens-to-be-Jewish knight of the realm, who had nothing at all to do with matters Jewish until he joined an Israel-bashing outfit. And then there are the halachic Jews whose mothers married Christians and brought the offspring up as Christians yet the offspring, divorced from all meaningful ties with the Jewish community, reinvent themselves as Jews entirely for the sake of denigrating Israel.


Yvetta

Sun, 08/01/2010 - 17:44

Rate this:

-1 points

Hews - LOL. Sorry about the typo.
Alot of these types I've mentioned are out-married and their children are lost to Judaism. That doesn't smack of pride to me.


Jonathan Hoffman

Mon, 08/02/2010 - 05:59

Rate this:

-2 points

To the Jewish Israel bashers:

Please confirm the following:

1. Examples of active participation in synagogue services over the last six months
2. The number of mezuzot in your home
3. Fluency in reading/speaking Hebrew
4. Participation in rabbinical shiurim in the past six months
5. Positions held within the Jewish community
6. Extent of kashrut observance
7. Examples of active support for Israel in past six months
8. Frequency of synagogue attendance


happygoldfish

Mon, 08/02/2010 - 07:31

Rate this:

3 points

cardinal hoffman

the jewish inquisition!
nobody expects the jewish inquisition … !

Ben Abuyah

Mon, 08/02/2010 - 11:00

Rate this:

2 points

Hoffman - are you addressing that to me by any chance (although I deny that I am an Israel basher)?

Any indication of how many points we get for each question? Does a positive answer (or what you would consider to be a positive answer) to Q7 trump everything else?

For example, how would you score someone who eats treif, doesn't speak a word of Hebrew, wouldn't know the difference between a blatt of gemara and the sports pages of yediot achronot, and hasn't been to synagogue since their bar mitzvah, but writes regularly to the Guardian and the BBC to complain about bias?

And what about a Satmar hasid, who would beat most of us hands down on Qs 1-6 and Q8, but might struggle with Q7? (I'm assuming that the words "the State of" are implicit.)

In other words, what are you trying to prove?


DeborahMaccoby

Mon, 08/02/2010 - 12:12

Rate this:

1 point

Jonathan, you sound like a Jewish version of the Spanish Inquisition.....

Yvetta, yes, it's true that some signatories of JfJfP (by no means all) didn't have much sense of Jewish identity before they signed up to JfJfP - they weren't religious and didn't have much to do with the Jewish community. But they have discovered a sense of Jewish identity through seeking justice for the Palestinians and speaking up about this as Jews - and I would say that they have discovered the essence of being Jewish and are more essentially Jewish than someone who keeps all the laws of kashrut, attends the synagogue every Saturday, is immersed in the Jewish community and condones Israel's injustice towards the Palestinians.

Re Jacobson: as Ben Abuyah points out, Jacobson labels signatories of JfJfP (most of whom actually wouldn't even call themselves anti-Zionist; I certainly don't call myself "anti-Zionist") as "self-hating" and then assumes that they see themselves as "self-haters", which of course isn't the case at all. There are a few anti-semitic Jews, such as Gilad Atzmon, who are proud to be self-haters, but these are only a few, and JfJfP has strongly resisted their influence in the Palestinian solidarity movement. (Incidentally, Yvetta, thanks for your comments on your blog in response to attacks on my contributions).

Who are these JfJfP signatories who "appear to be making the old 'yekke' vs 'Ostjuden' distinctions, for example"? I haven't encountered them.

best wishes,

Deborah


Yvetta

Mon, 08/02/2010 - 13:02

Rate this:

-1 points

Deborah, Tom Eisner comes across like that.


happygoldfish

Mon, 08/02/2010 - 13:39

Rate this:

1 point

deborah, where do you get that from? … "self-hating" doesn't occur anywhere in jacobson's article

(nor does "signatories of JfJfP", or any reference to anyone other than "Jewish anti-Zionists" … which you say excludes jfjfp anyway!)

DeborahMaccoby: … Jacobson labels signatories of JfJfP (most of whom actually wouldn't even call themselves anti-Zionist; I certainly don't call myself "anti-Zionist") as "self-hating" and then assumes that they see themselves as "self-haters" …

… the nearest he gets is the following paragraph, in which he talks about "jew-hatred" (not "self-hatred") …

howard jacobson: When it comes to Jewish anti-Zionists, their Jew-hatred is barely disguised, not in what they say about Israel but in the contempt they show for the motives and feelings of fellow-Jews who do not think as they do.

are we reading the same article?

DeborahMaccoby

Mon, 08/02/2010 - 17:58

Rate this:

0 points

Haopygoldfish, surely if "Jewish anti-Zionists" are accused of "Jew-hatred", this is the same thing as self-hatred? And as JfJfP is regularly (and wrongly) called "anti-Zionist" and "anti-Israel" and "Israel bashers" in the JC (including its blogs) I think it's quite likely that Jacobson's attempt at satire is aimed at groups like JfJP and IJV, as well as groups like JAZ (Jews against Zionism)or J-BIG (Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods).

I haven't read Jacobson's novel yet, but have pre-ordered it from Amazon and hope to read it soon.

Yvetta, I can't comment on Tom Eisner, as I don't know him personally and haven't read any comments he may have posted here,but after all, you can't generalise from one person.....

best wishes,

Deborah


DeborahMaccoby

Mon, 08/02/2010 - 18:03

Rate this:

0 points

PS Happygoldfish, I've just noticed your comment about the Jewish Inquisition - I honestly didn't see it before I posted my own comment about this, though maybe I saw it subliminally....anyway, we had the same reaction to Jonathan.....

Deborah


DLeigh-Ellis

Mon, 08/02/2010 - 18:15

Rate this:

0 points

Cardinal Hoffman indeed,

I'm just glad that Hoffman whilst some people do seem to take him seriously on political matters, is an absolute joke when in comes to faith-based reasoning.

Only someone like JH would demand other Jews to 'prove' their 'Jewishness' anyway.

The third Reich had much simpler criteria than JH, and they were happier to decide who was and who wasn't Jewish.

Likewise, Jewish Halacha does not invoke any of things he chose to mention as distinctions of religion.

The beauty of Judaism is as it has always been, that Jew's can decide where they stand within it. We are a pluralist and not an intellectually homogenous group. In that fact, lies our identity, not in some random set of criteria dictated by an angry right-winger.


DLeigh-Ellis

Mon, 08/02/2010 - 18:56

Rate this:

0 points

I might add, that there are Jewish groups to whom even our illustrious and most noble JH would be seen as little more than a well-spoken gentile.

Its all a question of perspective, Judaism's ability to recognise that basic truth is also one of its greatest strengths.


happygoldfish

Mon, 08/02/2010 - 19:20

Rate this:

2 points

deborah, although i could debate with you at length about the true meaning of the epistle of howard, i'll wait for you to get the actual book of howard so that you can either confirm or revise your opinion

and … no offence taken , since … erm …

mine was funnier!
(click for the true oracle of pytho)

Jonathan Hoffman

Mon, 08/02/2010 - 21:14

Rate this:

-1 points

It's as I thought: the only time the "as-a-Jew" Israel bashers identify "as a Jew" is when they want to put the boot into Israel and think it somehow confers extra credibility upon them to write 'as-a-Jew'.

The rest of the time they couldn't give a toss!


Ben Abuyah

Mon, 08/02/2010 - 21:22

Rate this:

0 points

JH, have you actually read any of the comments above? The only person who believes the crap you're writing is you.

You also haven't answered my question - are you accusing me of being an Israel basher? And are you trying to make me out myself as what you call an "as a Jew"? Well, I'll show you mine if you show me yours ...


Jonathan Hoffman

Tue, 08/03/2010 - 05:50

Rate this:

-1 points

"are you accusing me of being an Israel basher?"

Absolutely

You are on record on this blog (25 July) as saying "I don't believe Jews are entitled to a homeland."


Jonathan Hoffman

Tue, 08/03/2010 - 05:53

Rate this:

-1 points

You also do not have the guts to write in your own name.


Ben Abuyah

Tue, 08/03/2010 - 10:14

Rate this:

0 points

Ok Hoffman, gloves off.

As you know full well, you're quoting me selectively. If I recall correctly, I said that I don't believe Jews are entitled to a homeland because I don't believe any people are inherently entitled to a homeland.

I am not using my own name because, as I have explained before, I work for a major Jewish communal organisation and I know that, if I used my real name, people like you and your fellow delegitimisers would do your best to make life very difficult for me.

In answer to your interrogation (although it's not very well written - it's not at all clear what you're looking for in several of the questions):

1. Examples of active participation in synagogue services over the last six months

How do you define active participation? I'd be the first to admit that I haven't got a very good voice, so I'm reluctant to inflict it on the members of my community in the capacity of shaliach tzibbur. I've probably received aliyot on a dozen or so occasions, but I don't keep an accurate record.

At my previous synagogue (which was religiously to the left of my current synagogue and therefore didn't require any musical ability!) I was on the list of people known to be capable of leading services, giving sermons and reading from the Torah in the absence of the rabbi, and I did do all of these on several occasions.

2. The number of mezuzot in your home

Four.

3. Fluency in reading/speaking Hebrew

I read Hebrew fluently, and can get by with basic conversational Ivrit. (I do have a degree in Hebrew and Jewish Studies, but the Hebrew was predominantly biblical and rabbinic - being able to discuss eg the laws relating to public fasts isn't necessarily much use when trying to ask directions in Jerusalem.)

4. Participation in rabbinical shiurim in the past six months

How do you define a rabbinical shiur? A shiur given by a rabbi, or a shiur on a rabbinical subject (gemara, halacha etc)? Again, I don't keep an accurate record (it's not as if I have to record them for CPD), but in the past couple of weeks I can recall attending half a dozen of the former and four of the latter.

5. Positions held within the Jewish community

I work full-time for a major Jewish communal organisation. I spend a large part of my spare time volunteering for another Jewish organisation, of which I currently happen to be a trustee. I've been involved with running several other groups over the past 20 years.

6. Extent of kashrut observance

I'm vegetarian, and as far as I am concerned I observe kashrut (although I will buy products without a hechsher).

7. Examples of active support for Israel in past six months

I'm a regular donor to the New Israel Fund, and have attended a number of events that they have organised.

8. Frequency of synagogue attendance.

Shabbat morning - on average, at least three weeks out of every four.
Friday night - tend to go for less formal services, but probably two weeks out of four.
Chagim - most of them, mornings at least.
Weekdays - not very often - I'm not very good at getting up early in the morning.

Over to you.


happygoldfish

Tue, 08/03/2010 - 11:00

Rate this:

1 point
ben abuyah 8 cardinal hoffman 0

(but the result might have been different if he'd had to sit in … the comfy chair! )


Jonathan Hoffman

Tue, 08/03/2010 - 11:21

Rate this:

0 points

Unless you come out from behind that cloak of anonymity none of this is verifiable.

When you demonise Israel and deny that the Jewish people should have their own state, you do it 'as-a-Jew' - just look at your moniker.

You are a gift for our enemies.


Ben Abuyah

Tue, 08/03/2010 - 11:37

Rate this:

0 points

Fail!


happygoldfish

Tue, 08/03/2010 - 11:40

Rate this:

1 point
better a cloak of anonymity than a cardinal's cloak!

Ben Abuyah

Tue, 08/03/2010 - 13:29

Rate this:

0 points

Seems that someone at the JC is deleting any new blogs I create (including the one asking why they're doing it). I wonder who could be behind that ...


DLeigh-Ellis

Tue, 08/03/2010 - 17:57

Rate this:

0 points

JH, you are the one who is the gift for the enemies, anyone who will refuse to discuss something because they are so sure they are already correct is a liability to their cause.

Furthermore, you attack and question the legitimacy of other people's 'jewishness,' you are not a rabbinical authority, neither are you even particularly learned with regard to Halacha. You encourage fighting within the Jewish community itself with your assertions whilst your inability to compromise renders any positive contributions you may make through your work at the ZF to be ultimately redundent.

Once you told me to examine my prejudices after an article I wrote, to which I responded positively, I now believe you should take a long hard look at your own illusory worldview.


DLeigh-Ellis

Tue, 08/03/2010 - 18:01

Rate this:

0 points

forgot to add, you are so keen on people posting under their own name... I do, yet I could show you at least a dozen occasions on which you have still managed to avoid my questions.

So your apparent problem with anonymous posting is really just another mad grab into your magic bag of excuses I guess?


Jonathan Hoffman

Tue, 08/03/2010 - 19:17

Rate this:

0 points

"....you attack and question the legitimacy of other people's 'jewishness'

Please don't misquote me. The thing I attack is people whose Judaism only appears when they think it gives them extra credibility in bashing Israel.

(And it's 'redundant' not 'redundent')


Yvetta

Tue, 08/03/2010 - 21:56

Rate this:

0 points

Jonathan was not trying to determine Jewishness, only manifestations of yiddishkayt.
So there!


DeborahMaccoby

Tue, 08/03/2010 - 22:26

Rate this:

0 points

Jonathan, Ehud Olmert said about the Second Lebanon War: "I believe this is a war fought by all the Jews". See this link:

http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3287851,00.html

Surely it is necessary for Jews who are horrified by Israel's entirely disproportionate and unnecessary onslaught on Lebanon to stand up and assert their rejection as Jews of this conscription into the war by the Israeli Prime Minister? This has nothing to do with how religious they are or how involved in the Jewish community. They regard themselves as Jews and reject the role assigned to them by the Israeli Prime Minister - plus all the other attempts by the Israeli government to make out that the entire world Jewish community is behind Israel's disastrous policies.

This is not "Israel-bashing". It is not against Israel per se, but against its government's destructive and self-destructive policies. Your endorsement of those policies is like giving encouragement to a friend who insists on driving while blind drunk. Not exactly true friendship or support.

Deborah


Ben Abuyah

Tue, 08/03/2010 - 23:18

Rate this:

0 points

Jonathan - we're all still waiting for your answers to the "quiz".

And Yvetta - if you think this should be about "manifestations of yiddishkayt" - would you like to have seen some questions in there about eating bagels (or possibly beigels) and supporting Spurs?


DLeigh-Ellis

Wed, 08/04/2010 - 00:23

Rate this:

0 points

Jonathan, you cannot claim that people should not use their jewishness to assert their authority on Israeli issues on the same thread that you have put up a little pop quiz in order that you can calculate some kind of individual Jew-Score based on the observance of the arbitrary issues and customs you have selected.

If somebody hear claims to be religious then you accuse them of using this because 'it gives them extra credibility in bashing Israel,' however if you believe you can win an argument because they are not religious then you pop up a little list asking people questions drawing on an apparently random selection of criteria which you apparently define as the barometer of Jewishness.

So in essence, it seems it's pretty much a damned if you do, damned if you don't, situation.

Oh, and pointing out the spelling mistake, (Thanks for that btw, it makes more sense with the correction.)
I know it gives you a warm, rosy feeling inside when you spot a typo, but ultimately it's just another of the tools in your magic bag of excuses , don't worry about it... gives us all a giggle at least.


happygoldfish

Thu, 08/05/2010 - 23:04

Rate this:

0 points

DeborahMaccoby: Ehud Olmert said about the Second Lebanon War: "I believe this is a war fought by all the Jews".

this was in a fund-raising broadcast by olmert to an audience of american jews …

ehud olmert 07.08.2006: This is a war which is fought by all the Israelis. I believe that this is a war fought by all the Jews. This is the time when all of us can show the kind of solidarity which is so unique to the Jewish people. This is the time when we expect you, our friends from across all the communities in America and in the world, to come over here, and share with us the burden and the challenge.

it was a one-off statement, so far as i know never copied by anyone else … i'm reminded of two similar one-offs …

i] president bush (i forget which one) saying "crusade" once, and it's been used against america and britain ever since
ii] jews in jerusalem allegedly shouting "το αιμα αυτου εφ ημας και επι τα τεκνα ημων" ("his blood be on us, and on our children!" : see matthew 27:24-25 and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blood_curse), and it's been used against jews ever since

deborah, did you copy the rest of your comment ("onslaught on Lebanon … the role assigned to them by the Israeli Prime Minister") from something you wrote in 2006?

anyway, that was four years ago … while i can see that many jews would have wanted to dissasociate themselves from it at the time, why are they still bothered four years later??

since jews who say "as a jew …" presumably do not think that gentiles still remember that one-off statement of four years ago, what relevance does it have?


Real Real Zionist

Mon, 06/18/2012 - 09:03

Rate this:

0 points

Nearly two years on and still we wait. Come on Jonny, Ben showed you his, you show him yours


Advis3r

Mon, 06/18/2012 - 14:46

Rate this:

0 points

Elisha ben Abuya - After he adopted a worldview considered heretical by his fellow Tannaim and betrayed his people, the rabbis of the Talmud refrained from relating teachings in his name and referred to him as the "Other One"

Says it all really.

RRZ - must try harder.

POST A COMMENT

You must be logged in to post a comment.

LATEST COMMENTS