Stephen Fry praises ‘brilliant’ essay suggesting Israel justifies ‘persecution and hate’

Actor and author tweeted praise for piece by American writer Benjamin Moser recalling a trip to Hebron, described as ‘the worst place in the world’


NEW YORK, NY - MAY 18: Stephen Fry attends 2016 CBS Upfront at The Plaza on May 18, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Matthew Eisman/Getty Images)

Stephen Fry waded into the debate over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on Thursday with a tweet praising a “brilliant” essay that compares Israel to a Jew who embarrasses other Jews in the eyes of gentiles and justifies their “persecution and hate”.

The Jewish actor and author, 63, tweeted a link to an essay by Jewish American writer Benjamin Moser recalling a trip to Hebron describing it as “the worst place in the world”.

The piece accuses Israel of committing “ethnic cleansing” in the West Bank city.

“In Hebron, I saw a racial tyranny that was not only not over: it was actively getting worse. I saw ethnic cleansing happening in real time, house by house, block by block,” it says.

Elsewhere in the piece, Mr Moser writes, “It’s hard for me to think of the State of Israel as anything but a shanda fir di goyim," which he explains as "a Jew that embarrassed the Jews, and thus justified Gentile persecution and hate".

“You walk down the street in Hebron. You see people stealing people’s homes because they belong to a different race. And why? In order to build an ugly condo for someone from New Jersey,” he writes.

Mr Moser is the author of several award-winning biographies. His latest about the life of Jewish writer Susan Sontag won a Pulitzer Prize in 2017.

Mr Fry said his Hebron essay was “quite brilliant, as Benjamin Moser so often is.”

“Aside from being a wonderful piece of writing in itself, it has clarified so much for me,” he wrote. 

Mr Fry has in the past been critical of Israel, backing in 2008 a letter published in the Guardian in which signatories said they would not be celebrating Israel’s 60th anniversary.

He tweeted in 2014 that while he didn’t support Israel “as they’re behaving now,” he believed in its right to exist.

In 2019, Mr Fry put his name to an open letter backed by more than 100 artists opposing calls to boycott the Eurovision Song Contest in Israel. 

He also said in a tweet the same year that he stood with broadcaster Rachel Riley after the anti-racism activist spoke out in the row over antisemitism in the Labour Party. 

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