Just one question, Mr Cohen.


By Dan Judelson
October 21, 2010
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Since Howard Jacobson won the Man Booker Prize last week, columns of newsprint, both real and virtual, have been wasted on assessing the political significance of his victory and of the book itself.

Jacobson, the “Jewish Jane Austen” who cites Samuel Johnson’s Rasselas as his favourite book and Dickens as his favourite comic writer is also known as a critic of groups such as the one of which I am a signatory and activist, JfJfP. Or at least, that is what some – most explicitly Nick Cohen - would have you believe.

Cohen characterises the novel and its prize-winning status as some unimpeachable criticism directed at JfJfP and several public figures, also signatories, who Cohen sees as representatives of the novel’s ASHamed Jews.

Now I’ve always been curious about my Jewish heritage, both secular and religious. Despite the occasional, 99% uncomprehending (on my part) synagogue visit, I was only vaguely aware of my different status as a part of Anglo-Jewry until I arrived at secondary school where assemblies were divided along confessional lines. Notwithstanding a lack, by this time, of observance and synagogue attendance, still less the slightest command of Hebrew, I still recall the bright April day in 1980 when I was Bar Mitzvah at the Western Wall in Jerusalem as the unique religious moment of my life. This was brought into much greater relief in 2001 with the birth of my child. I – along with my sibling – have built our families with non Jewish partners over the last quarter century or so. Ensuring that they could share in my background remains important for me (and my activism within JfJfP is but one part of that.)

So, curious? Eternally. Ashamed? Not once, including of anything the Israeli government has done over the years. Pretty bloody angry at times, sure - in the same way as I was with the refusal to let asylum seekers work, the abolition of the GLC or Britain’s role in arming Saddam Hussein made me angry with different UK administrations. French intelligence agencies bombing a Greenpeace ship and Japanese evasion of whaling bans provoked some ire too. This is hardly unique.

I’ve never been anti-Zionist either. Without wishing to parse down the various definitions that may be applied to ‘Zionist,’ ‘left-Zionist,’ ‘revisionist Zionist’ or non, anti and post Zionist, the most accurate description I can give of myself is as a Zionist, though sometimes only by the skin of my teeth.

Hence my scepticism over the strength of the supposed analogy Nick Cohen draws. Nick Cohen excoriates some – Stephen Fry, Jonathan Miller, Mike Leigh. On the other hand he praises the work of Pinter and Stoppard. These names have something in common: they are all signatories of JfJfP, so there would appear to be some at least some inconsistency here.

Bu the biggest inconsistency is not in the selection of names for approval and disapproval. It comes in the accusation that signing up to a group such as JfJfP or Independent Jewish Voices is in itself to be criticised.

Now I’ve never met Nick Cohen but I’m pretty certain that his views today are no longer as they once were. Because presumably he was once of the opinion that speaking out as an Anglo-Jew against Israel’s more egregious breaches of international law was worthwhile. How else to explain his position – still current in name, if clearly not in feeling – as a signatory of JfJfP since 2002?

COMMENTS

richmillett

Thu, 10/21/2010 - 10:04

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3 points

Dan, why don't you drop "Jews for" and just call it Justice for Palestinians? I have never understood this. Many of JFJFP claim to want religion to become less important in Israel but then go out of their way to call themselves "Jews". It's hypocritical.

As for "egregious breaches of international law" i think that you should set up a debate on this. It is bandied about with no substance. You wouldn't dare call someone a thief unless they had been convicted but many cowardly accuse Israel of crimes. It is all just opininion really and therefore quite meaningless in reality.

Interesting piece though.


Jonathan Hoffman

Thu, 10/21/2010 - 11:19

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1 point

JFJFP organises demos with know Hamas and Hizbolla supporters.

J'accuse

I accuse JfJfP signatories of supporting an outfit which supports terrorists. Nick Cohen should withdraw his signature, if he has not already done so.


mattpryor

Thu, 10/21/2010 - 11:49

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0 points

Dan:

I don't mean any disrespect, and I'm sure you have the best of intentions, but from a non-Finkler's perspective it seems very odd to see a Jewish group supporting a profoundly anti-Semitic and violent cause which is based on an historically false anti-Jewish narrative - a narrative which your group apparently endorses.

When Hamas called for the death of all Jewish children during Operation Cast Lead (which the London Metro gleefully printed on its front page) I don't recall them qualifying it with "except for the children of those Jews that don't support the occupation".


Jon.

Thu, 10/21/2010 - 12:11

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0 points

Jonathan

You stand with the EDL.

People in glass houses...


telegramsam

Thu, 10/21/2010 - 12:24

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0 points

Dan, The Observer's Nick Cohen has made it clear he isn't Jewish, and therefore can't be part of the first Jf of the JfJfP -- so your signatory may be another Nick Cohen.
Jonathan, you can be Jack Hughes all you like, but as long as you do not dissociate from the EDL/BNP, you are no better or different from those who stand with Hizbollah and Hamas proxies. As Jon says...People in glass houses


richmillett

Thu, 10/21/2010 - 12:36

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0 points

telegramsam and jon. - why do you keep bringing up JH? He has a history of fighting racism and constantly disassociates himself from the EDL and repeatedly asks for a third pen for the them outside Ahava. You are both completely out of order to continue the lies and smears. Please, please change the record.


telegramsam

Thu, 10/21/2010 - 12:55

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0 points

Rich, he hasn't. Every time he is asked to dissociate himself, he gets all defensive and abusive. And all he ever does is get other people to say he has dissociated himself, yet he himself doesn't. As for his alleged stands against racism, it's very telling that he has on these blogs repeated the American extreme right's insistence on calling the American President by his middle name, Hussein, in order to seek justification for what they perceive as his pro-Islamic, anti-Israel stance.


telegramsam

Thu, 10/21/2010 - 12:56

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0 points

And that's why so few Jews turn up to his Ahava demos-they cannot stand with the EDL/BNP Nazis.


Jon.

Thu, 10/21/2010 - 13:00

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0 points

@Rich to be fair Jonathan did raise the idea first on this thread with his comments on jfjfp.

I'll happily stop mentioning it in good grace if you can point me to an example of JH disassociating himself from the EDL and stating categorically that they are not welcome to stand with him or the ZF at these events. I have asked Jonathan to point out where he has done this and he has not.

I'm not just trying to use it as a stick to beat Jonathan with. I just think the legitimisation of the EDL is an incredibly worrying thing and that we should all stand against them like we did against Mosley in October 1936.


Anthony Posner

Thu, 10/21/2010 - 13:01

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0 points

Do Jacobson's favourite writers ( Austen, Dickens, and Johnson) really determine what sort of novels he writes? I find his obsession with being linked to the English cannon a bit strange. He seems to be suggesting that he is kosher but reads treif.


Advis3r

Thu, 10/21/2010 - 13:06

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1 point

Mr Judelson I have noted what you say but as an Israeli I would be more convinced by your arguments if your group called itself Jews for Justice in the Middle East - since why do the Israelis not deserve justice too for the 60+ years of terrorism, attempts at deligitimisation, for constantly being held to higher standards than other democratic states and the repeated threats of annihilation it has had to endure during which the State has been in existence. So why did you not call your group that if as you say, you are a Zionist?


richmillett

Thu, 10/21/2010 - 13:15

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1 point

Jon. I am not his agent (although he is welcome to pay me) and I am not going to go through blogs looking for his comments but in private conversation he does it all the time including constantly asking the police for a third pen.


telegramsam

Thu, 10/21/2010 - 13:18

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0 points

Rich, he's a public figure who has a huge amount to say on everything else so private conversations don't cut it. Why the sudden coyness? Suffice it to say it must be a helluva problem for him to dissociate from the EDL if he turns abusive when he is asked.


Dan Judelson

Thu, 10/21/2010 - 15:49

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0 points

Richard, I like your idea of a public debate on international law. I assume you are thinking of how one reconciles the San Remo agreement and the Geneva Convention? If you want to suggest speakers, let me know (I think you have my contact details but if not, just comment here).

There’s an entire separate book, never mind blog post to be written on the differences between Judaism and Jewishness. JfJfP contains people who are atheists and observant and all points in between. Unless you define Jewishness in such a way as to define my child, born to a non Jewish mother, as not Jewish, I cannot see how JfJfP is hypocritical as regards our name.

Advis3r, with respect to justice for Israel, JfJfP is built on one thing only, and that is opposition to the occupation/settlement of land beyond the 1949 armistice line/1967 borders. (The alternative terms are offered in the hope we can focus on the issue and not get into an endless argument about definitions.) My own opinion is that this issue is harming Israel and its people in many ways and the best chance for an end to hostilities lies in an end to this project. This could only happen if it was balanced by the kind of offer expressed in the Arab League initiative, offering full recognition of Israel and normalisation of relations between Israel and its neighbours, in return for a withdrawal to the lines of 1949/1967. That would be justice for Israelis and Palestinians alike, I think.

Matt, I do not agree at all that the right of Palestinians to have a state of their own, together with the same rights, benefits, virtues and handicaps that statehood offers the Israeli people is an anti-Semitic project in anyway. It’s a solution currently hanging by a slender thread & which involves some political fudging, but I think it is the only one that offers any kind of exit strategy from interminable enmity.
Sam, I’ll check of course, but it was not just assumption on my part. I’m 99.9% certain that whatever Nick Cohen has said about being Jewish, he is a signatory of JfJfP. His views in discussions in the past and I think he confirmed to another signatory that he was a signatory to but could not be bothered to remove his name.

Anthony, aren’t all writers inspired or influenced by their favourite authors? Far be it for me to speak for Howard Jacobson (he hardly needs that in any case) but from what I have read, he was determined to define himself as he saw himself, particularly in light of what he felt was an erroneous definition as the English Philip Roth.


Dan Judelson

Thu, 10/21/2010 - 15:52

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0 points

Typo & spelling mistake above re Nick Cohen. It should have read:

His views have come up in JfJfP discussions in the past and I think he confirmed to another signatory that he was a signatory too but could not be bothered to remove his name.


richmillett

Thu, 10/21/2010 - 16:19

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0 points

It would be an interesting debate. We would have to list the international laws Israel is accused of being in breach of first.

Why not just drop the "Jews for"? It is irrelvant, surely. If the argument is strong enough it really doesn't matter what religion one is.


Dan Judelson

Thu, 10/21/2010 - 16:43

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0 points

If we did change the name, I personally would rather consider dropping the last two words, which would more along the lines of what Advis3r suggests.


Advis3r

Thu, 10/21/2010 - 16:45

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0 points

I have noted your further response. However, it is rather shortsighted and indeed prejudicial to Jewish claims in the Holyland which as a Zionist you must surely recognise to attempt to look at the position solely following the Six Day War of 1967. No Arab country sought to grant the Palestinians a state in what was then land occupied by Egypt and Jordan. Indeed even before that War and despite there being no "occupation" Israel still suffered from terrorist attacks and threats of annihilation. The results of the 1967 war did not change the Arab World's perception of the Jewish people's right of self determination and even now they refuse to accept Israel as the State of the Jewish people. In fact isn;t it true that "the occupation" has nothing to do with the Arab rejection of Israel. Why do you ask Israel to give up strategic gains from a purely defensive war which would place it in the same perilous position it was on the eve of the Six day War with as Abba Eban put it Auschwitz Borders and was certainly not envisaged by UN Resolution 242 - why do you advocate for a position that would put Jews living in Israel in danger. So again I must ask why do you specifically exclude Justice for Israelis from your aims?


Jonathan Hoffman

Thu, 10/21/2010 - 16:45

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-1 points

As regards enquiries about the ZF, I am advised that I cannot respond anymore to queries which are posted anonymously on the Internet. However, please do not hesitate to write to the staff at the Zionist Federation with your concerns. (You will of course need to give your real name and supply a postal address).

Zionist Federation of Great Britain and Ireland
BM BOX 1948
London WC1N 3XX
office@zionist.org.uk


DLeigh-Ellis

Thu, 10/21/2010 - 18:06

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0 points

Funny how Jonathan's posts seem to so often leave me with the strangest sense of deja-vu.


stephenb

Thu, 10/21/2010 - 18:12

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0 points

I still wanna know what you guys are planning to do with the 5 million plus arabs west of the river. I keep asking ......don't make me stamp my feet and throw a wobbler


telegramsam

Thu, 10/21/2010 - 18:20

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0 points

I think we can conclude, DLE, that Jonathan refuses to dissociate from the EDL because he actually agrees with it. And this referral to the ZF maybe because he is in trouble over this very strange bedfellow. This would be a very good thing, of course, because the ZF has to restore credibility.
What other explanation is there?


Jonathan Hoffman

Thu, 10/21/2010 - 18:26

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-2 points

As regards enquiries about the ZF, I am advised that I cannot respond anymore to queries which are posted anonymously on the Internet. However, please do not hesitate to write to the staff at the Zionist Federation with your concerns. (You will of course need to give your real name and supply a postal address).
Zionist Federation of Great Britain and Ireland
BM BOX 1948
London WC1N 3XX
office@zionist.org.uk


telegramsam

Thu, 10/21/2010 - 18:28

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0 points

So it's true. Jonathan must have been slapped down by the ZF. At last. It's the first step to a return to credibility. Now instead of wasting time on cutting and pasting perhaps he could dissociate from his strange bedfellows


Jonathan Hoffman

Thu, 10/21/2010 - 22:13

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-1 points

Lying toerag. I have never written what you allege. You should be banned from here.

Why do I have to put up with endless personal defamation from this scum, and waste my time responding to it?


DLeigh-Ellis

Thu, 10/21/2010 - 22:43

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0 points

Simple answer JH, People dislike your attitude because you spend your time calling people, worms, lying toerags, stinking f***ing liars, twats, scum and all manner of other things.

If you don't want to put peoples backs up, give them just the smallest ounce of respect. All too often your comments sound like something more likely to be found gracing the youtube boards, as if written by a hormonal fifteen year old.

Basically, you make it very easy for people to want to have a go at you.


Jon_i_Cohen

Thu, 10/21/2010 - 23:01

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0 points

stephenb
21 October, 2010 - 18:12

"I still wanna know what you guys are planning to do with the 5 million plus arabs west of the river. I keep asking ......don't make me stamp my feet and throw a wobbler"

For stephenb's benefit, once again, here are the actual figures, not 5 million, 6 million, 10 million or whatever the Palestinian supporters dream-up, the actual figures as at the last government census published by the bureau of national statistics at the end of 2009;-

Arabs 1.535 million, others 313,000, Jews 5.7 million total 7,548,000


Jon_i_Cohen

Thu, 10/21/2010 - 23:06

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0 points

DLeigh-Ellis
21 October, 2010 - 22:43

JH will no doubt answer for himself, but as for your comment:-

"give them just the smallest ounce of respect"

Jews that support Hamas, Hezbollah,Iran and the de-legitimising of The State Of Israel deserve NO respect.


DLeigh-Ellis

Thu, 10/21/2010 - 23:42

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0 points

Ok, Jon- but prove to me that I support any of those....

Because like you Hoffman tends to lump one with all and throw words around like bullets without actually considering whether the person that has challenged him is quite the evil piece of work that you like to pretend they are....

I understand it might be the easiest way for you to make your point, unfortunately its transparent as ever.


Jonathan Hoffman

Thu, 10/21/2010 - 23:53

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-1 points

And the weak coward does not reveal his name ....


DLeigh-Ellis

Fri, 10/22/2010 - 00:11

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0 points

Jonathan, It's your issue that you have to be so abusive in your retorts... If you are going to swear, why bother to block out a few letters... We all know what you are saying, so be man enough to say it...

Is he really the scum of the Earth? Is he truly as bad as the genocidal maniacs or zealous fundamentalists that bring so much pain to others... I doubt it, he's simply a bit annoying and has happened to take a dislike to yourself....

I can see exactly why you dislike him, what I don't understand is why you don't realise that your inevitable tirades only serve to make you look completely unreasonable...

And besides, there are many things that you have thrown at others including myself which have been entirely unprovoked. It's a shame, because it does a great disservice to your cause, which I personally, despite our differences in opinion believe to be very honourable.

I havn't seen anyone except yourself use such abusive language on this website. It says everything about you, Jonathan, that you do not see this..


Jonathan Hoffman

Fri, 10/22/2010 - 01:20

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-2 points

Diddums, I use occasional bad language about the anonymous coward T-scum, who should be banned

The fact that he lies about me incessantly and defames me unremittingly appears to have passed you by, however. Do you think that might have summat to do with it?

He also defamed UJIA and impersonated the ceo

Seems you never found that moral compass


telegramsam

Fri, 10/22/2010 - 03:57

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0 points

Jonathan, just dissociate yourself from the EDL/BNP and I'll never darken your door again. Until then, all that abuse -- water off a duck's back -- just proves me right. You won't dissociate from the EDL/BNP because you identify with them.


telegramsam

Fri, 10/22/2010 - 03:58

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0 points

And don't try and be evasive about the moderated post.


Watchful Iris (not verified)

Fri, 10/22/2010 - 05:55

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0 points

Is Jonathan busted?


Jonathan Hoffman

Fri, 10/22/2010 - 06:37

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-2 points

As regards enquiries about the ZF, I am advised that I cannot respond anymore to queries which are posted anonymously on the Internet. However, please do not hesitate to write to the staff at the Zionist Federation with your concerns. (You will of course need to give your real name and supply a postal address).
Zionist Federation of Great Britain and Ireland
BM BOX 1948
London WC1N 3XX
office@zionist.org.uk


telegramsam

Fri, 10/22/2010 - 08:32

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0 points

Yes he be busted.


richmillett

Fri, 10/22/2010 - 08:58

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0 points

"You won't dissociate from the EDL/BNP because you identify with them."

Honestly, telegramsam. You need to get out more.


richmillett

Fri, 10/22/2010 - 09:02

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0 points

Meanwhile, getting back on topic for once, Dan still hasn't answered me why he won't drop the "Jews for" in his organisation's name. If one's argument is strong enough why does one need to proclaim to the world one's religion?


zair (not verified)

Fri, 10/22/2010 - 09:39

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0 points

"You won't from the EDL/BNP because you identify with them."

Honestly, telegramsam. You need to get out more.

As previously mentioned in this blog, I have overheard conversations at a ZF meeting where an unholy alliance between the ZF & EDL was being forged. This is why they can't dissociate themselves. They don't want to upset the EDL.


Dan Judelson

Fri, 10/22/2010 - 12:41

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0 points

Richard, thanks for dragging the discussion back on topic (I feel for you, I have noticed on your blog one or two people can go on - sometimes for over a hundred exchanges off beam.

But I think I did answer your query in my first long response to the first tranche of comments: "Jews for" does not signify religious adherence. Rather, it encompasses, any one of a cultural and ethnic background; religious observance to whatever degree; family upbringing - or indeed a combination of all three. And further, I support not only a two state solution, but a two state solution in which one of those states explicitly retains its status as a Jewish state, or a state with a predominantly Jewish character. Not the offensive and absurd "the home of the Jews". (The difference is in the use of definite and indefinite articles. I'd have much less of an issue with an oath calling for adherence to a state which was "a home of...") I don't want that state to be one in which religion defines the state, any more than I want a theocrat in power in any state. So if being Jewish - even being Israeli - is about more than being observant, which I think it very much is then I do not see how it is at all wrong to include the first of the two "Jf's" in JfJfP.

Advis3r, I hope some of the above perhaps reassures you that I and JfJfP (I am no longer on the executive of the organisation so do not speak directly for it as I have in the past) very much include justice for Israelis in our aims, if not explicitly stated in our name. As I mentioned above, I'd personally be happy to call ourselves JfJ (as many people already shorten it anyway). The right of Israelis to live in peace, security and freedom west of the 1949 armistice lines / within the 1967 borders is now and always has been, since the establishment of JfJfP, explicitly stated in our aims.

I think the Arab Peace Initiative - restated several times since 2002 - is important precisely because it does entail political and diplomatic acceptance and recognition of Israel and the Jewish people's right to self determination.

With regard to strategic gains and borders, I think some of those claims held tactical weight when they were first made. Now, when Hamas can build technologically primitive rockets that still reach as far as Ashkelon, I think more than ever that security and justice for Israelis depend on a political settlement rather than one that was militarily advantageous almost half a century ago.


DLeigh-Ellis

Fri, 10/22/2010 - 17:59

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0 points

Diddums???? I suppose being patronising is actually a step up for you Jonathan.... You actually abuse many individuals here, I wouldn't be saying it if you hadn't done it to me personally, but you have and you can't even admit it.

Ultimately, it doesn't change the fact that you continually break the clause that you agreed to in order to blog here, from the terms and conditions:

9.4.7 post, link to or otherwise publish any User Material that is unlawful, threatening, abusive, defamatory, inflammatory, harassing, indecent, vulgar, invasive of another’s privacy, hateful, or racially, ethnically or otherwise objectionable or which contains, in our opinion, any other form of illegal, objectionable or harmful content or which restricts or inhibits another’s use or enjoyment of the website;

I call you primarily on abusive and vulgar.

Apologies Dan for the distraction from the topic, but Jonathan's page does not allow me to send him a private message so I am forced to conduct this discussion in public.


Jonathan Hoffman

Fri, 10/22/2010 - 18:13

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-1 points

..... and I call you on wilful ignoring of persistent defamation of me ...


DLeigh-Ellis

Fri, 10/22/2010 - 18:18

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0 points

Im not trying to 'defame' you or ignore others efforts to, I said before I respect your cause... I only want you to stop being so abusive.. You asked why you have to put up with this stuff and I answered.

There is a profound difference between attempted defamation and questioning your methods of discourse.


Jonathan Hoffman

Fri, 10/22/2010 - 18:37

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0 points

I invite you to type the following:

"I unreservedly condemn T-Spam's persistent despicable defamation of Jonathan"


DLeigh-Ellis

Fri, 10/22/2010 - 18:52

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0 points

I tell you what I will write...

'I find Telegram Sams singularly minded attacks against Jonathan boring, repetitive and about as disruptive to decent debate as Jonathan's constant refusal to engage and consistent use of abusive language.'

I invite you to apologise (in your own words, im not a control freak) to all the undeserving users of this website to whom you have caused offence in the past.

Off to light my candles now, so can we leave this at least for tonight, but this shabbos I would genuinely appreciate it if you would at the very least agree to have a little think about what I have said.


Jonathan Hoffman

Fri, 10/22/2010 - 19:03

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0 points

I knew you wouldn't condemn it. All you can do is whine pathetically about robust language.

Hope you rediscover that moral compass over the weekend.


DLeigh-Ellis

Fri, 10/22/2010 - 19:06

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0 points

The point is you are in breach of this websites rules, not me.

If you've lost your moral compass Jonathan, you need to find it not me....

Shabbat Shalom

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