Life & Culture

Israelophobia review: As original and necessary as Baddiel’s Jews Don’t Count

Jake Wallis Simons' argument that Israelophobia should be added to the lexicon should be listened to


Israelophobia by Jake Wallis Simons
Little Brown, £12.99
Reviewed by Daniel Finkelstein

Jeremy Corbyn is a lifelong anti-racist. His parents were at Cable Street. He’s a prize-winning fighter for peace. How can he and his followers possibly be associated with antisemitism of any kind?

While this question no longer dominates politics, it hasn’t gone away. Parts of the left are still furious at what was said about Corbyn. And they carry on arguing that he was falsely accused. These people are vociferous that they are not antisemitic, and believe that the suggestion that they are is being advanced by a malevolent conspiracy of Jews bent on defending capitalism.

David Baddiel’s game-changing book Jews Don’t Count showed convincingly that progressive ideology had excluded Jews from its protection. Presumably on the grounds — itself an antisemitic trope — that we are too powerful and wealthy to require inclusion.

The power of Baddiel’s brave and welcome intervention was, in some ways, strengthened by his own lack of interest and support for Israel. It meant that attacks on him for trying to conflate antisemitism with criticism of Israel simply didn’t work. It allowed his ideas to be discussed without this infuriating riposte. (They do try this response, actually, but it is easier to rebut.)

But it did leave room for another book and Jake Wallis Simons, JC editor, has now written it. Israelophobia is as important, trenchant and original as Jews Don’t Count. And as necessary to read.

Antisemitism has taken many forms and the latest is hatred of the Jewish nation. As the author notes in the opening pages, Israel is subjected to disproportionate criticism for everything it does, whether or not it was merely acting in self-defence.

The reason for this is not straightforward, but it is important to understand. Leninists believe that capitalism is sustained only by the proceeds of imperial adventure. It is only through conquering other people that the wages of domestic workers can be kept high enough to avert revolution.

To bring down capitalism, therefore, it is necessary to promote all anti-imperialist national movements, regardless of their human rights records.

Hence the Corbynites supported Hugo Chavez, the Iranians and, of course, Hamas and Hezbollah. Pointing out how oppressive these forces are to their own people — the book is particularly strong on this — does no good, because (this is deeply ironic) all that matters about these “anti-colonial” forces is the impact they have on the Empire.

And the Empire, of course, is the United States, with other Western nations as satellite states. Some so-called progressives think Zionism is a product of the American empire while others think it the other way round. But for both, Zionism is not simply the idea of a state for Jewish people, it is the doctrine and practice of world domination in the interests of high finance.

Puzzlingly, leftists cannot see how antisemitic is this idea of rampaging capitalist Jews trying to take over the world. They respond that all they are doing is criticising Israel. And all that Jews are doing is deflecting criticism of Israel.

The great value of Wallis Simons’ book is that he exposes the weakness of this argument. Criticising Israel is not necessarily antisemitic, but it certainly can be. Just because some criticism of Israeli government action is merited doesn’t mean that all criticism has merit. And wild notions about Zionists absolutely does not have merit. The author proposes adding the word Israelophobia to the lexicon, to describe the ideas of those who attach traditional antisemitic tropes to the Jewish nation.

I wonder if his word will catch on, but his argument should.

Israelophobia: The Newest Version of the Oldest Hatred and What to Do about It by Jake Wallis Simons is available on Amazon now.

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