The JC Letters Page, 7th June 2019

Professor Geoffrey Alderman, David Ashton,Dr Yair Sternberg, Dr Stanbley Jacobs, M Schachter, Renee Bravo and Lance Forman MEP share their views with JC reader

June 06, 2019 10:06

Shallow antisemitism

That the early 20th-century economist J. A. Hobson was an antisemite is not in doubt. The fact remains that, in his book, Imperialism, running to almost 400 pages there are merely a dozen or so lines amounting to what we would now call antisemitism. 

There was absolutely no need for Jeremy Corbyn to have drawn attention to them in his foreword to the 2011 edition of this important text. 

To conclude, as Daniel Finkelstein did in The Times  (reinforced in the JC of May 31), that, in writing the foreword, Corbyn had praised a “deeply antisemitic book” is thus to give a totally false impression of what this influential study is actually about.

Hobson needs to be read in context. His anti-Jewish prejudice was typical of the era in which he lived and the circles in which he moved. It is reflected in, for example, the anti-Rothschild remarks made by David Lloyd George after the House of Lords declined to approve his 1909 budget. 

And need I add that, as President of the Board of Deputies in the 1930s, Neville Laski said — publicly and on more than one occasion —that Jews, by their commercial behaviour, caused antisemitism?

Professor Geoffrey Alderman 
University of Buckingham


Was it necessary for Lord Finkelstein to distance Jews from “finance houses” when their significant contributions to banking institutions and commercial vitality are well documented by qualified academics from Howard Sachar and Jerry Muller to Cornelia Aust and Niall Ferguson?

How is antisemitism refuted if (say) Ben Bernanke, Lev Leviev, Paul Warburg, Jacob Schiff, Barney Barnato, David Salomons, Isaac Abarbanel or Aaron of Lincoln, among many others, become embarrassing “unpersons”?

Maybe a few somewhat unscrupulous characters can be found in a historically crowded field but, to take a recent nominee, George Soros, sometimes accused of collaborating  with  Nazis in his youth and an opponent of Israel in old age — here is no paid-up “Elder of Zion”, but a multi-millionaire individual whose social contributions have been mixed in value and maverick in self-interest.

David Ashton
Sheringham, Norfolk

Expanding Palestine

In  your story (Racial Abuse hurled at philosopher, JC May 31), Alain Finkielkraut’s  antagonists talk of  “A Palestinian state that lies on ten per cent of Palestine”. 

This is yet another common trick to increase Palestinian victimhood and sympathy: redefine the extent of Palestine. 

In the Faisal-Weizmann 1919 agreement  (and Paris peace conference) less than one per cent of the Ottoman empire (Palestine – today’s Jordan and west of the Jordan) was given to the Jewish state and the rest to the “Arab state”. 

This was unanimously  repeated in the 1922 League of Nations trusteeship. Later, Jewish rights were “withheld”, “postponed” in four fifths of Palestine, i.e. in Eastern Palestine – today’s Jordan. 

So there is already an Arab Palestinian state on four fifths of Palestine. Some Palestinian leaders such as Mudar Zahran recognise this. 

Dr Yair Sternberg
Cambridge CB3

All in the family

I sympathise with Shoshana Jaskoll’s lament, “Where was the Judaism at Israel’s Eurovision?” (JC May 31).   But that may not be too surprising if we envisage the non-encounter in the context of a parent- child relationship.  

Diaspora Jewry, the parent, had a very precarious birth with its only beloved child, Israel, and nurtured it intensively throughout its early fragile years of dependency.  

As Israel is now growing into its adolescence, like any normal healthy child, it wants to partly separate off from its parent in order to assert its independence and discover its own identity. 

We see this reflected when Israeli individuals or groups come to spend time in the diaspora. They tend not to want to integrate with Jewish communities. Indeed, in the JC Community News (May 31) we read: Looking for Israelis in Brighton? Try the pub.  

At times when the diaspora parent becomes insecure, it naturally seeks support and reassurance from its growing child, who may not be ready yet to fully give it.  

As in the individual relationship — not to mention family disputes — having a child brings naches as well as broches -— pride at Israel’s astounding achievements but also suffering from it being a conduit for intensifying antisemitism.  

Hopefully, as we wither into decrepit old age, we may reasonably expect an increasingly strong, prosperous and mature Israel to support the diaspora independence of its ageing ancestor for as long as possible.

Dr Stanley Jacobs 
London SW18

To cover or not to cover

There is no doubt that the comments of Chancellor Merkel and her chief antisemitism adviser (regarding the wearing of kippot in public) had a protective intention towards the Jewish people of Germany. But it prompted at least two thoughts. 

Firstly, some young descendants of refugees from Nazi Germany are so upset by Brexit that they are applying for German citizenship. 

One wonders whether this is unequivocally a good idea? 

Secondly, I often travel to Budapest, where I was born, and still have family. 

There, I note that men who are quite clearly Orthodox Jews seem to walk around without obvious apprehension, and Jewish institutions are not guarded. 

But there is a dreadful populist government in Hungary which has used “tropes” against the saintly Mr Soros. Now that is shocking.

M Schachter
London NW6

Fraternal fissures

In Rabbi Taragin’s article on the Judaism page  (The magnetic attraction of  Jerusalem, JC  May 31), he refers to “Jacob’s murderous brother”.

Whom did Esau murder? I have six translations of the Bible; nowhere does  it say that Esau killed anyone.  

Esau was the opposite to Jacob, which we see in many families, one brother an intellectual, the other brother not.  

Esau is often portrayed as the bad one, because he was not a “good boy”. Esau was a sport, not interested in study. That doesn’t make him a murderer. 

Jacob was the cheat, the liar, the “mummy’s boy”. He tricked his own dying father into giving him the birthright. 

He did whatever  his mother told him, even when he knew it was wrong.  

As a woman, I would much rather have Esau than Jacob.

Renee Bravo 
London, E18

Friendly Farage

You published a letter from my friend Shimon Cohen of Shechita UK (JC, May 24) correcting my version of events with regard to Nigel Farage blocking anti-shechita EU legislation. 

Shimon stated that Nigel Farage did this simply because he always voted against new EU legislation and not because he wanted to support shechita. 

Unfortunately, Shimon has forgotten about our conversations and emails from late 2014 to early 2015, where it was he who advised me that Nigel Farage had fought our corner vigorously. 

And, I was told, he had even taken UKIP’s farming spokesman Stuart Agnew to witness schechita with his own eyes so he was aware first-hand of what this involved. 

This was not just about blindly preventing any further EU legislation.  He even spoke proudly of his involvement at Hasmonean school.

As Shimon concludes, we may well need Farage’s support in this again in future and, if so, I will do everything I can to ensure he is fully on board.

Lance Forman MEP

June 06, 2019 10:06

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