Howard Jacobson accuses London Review of Books of ‘Jew-baiting’

Literary magazine produced front page suggesting Israel has leveraged the Holocaust to ‘slaughter 13,000 children’


The second March edition of the London Review of Books has been widely condemned by Jewish writers for its title, "The Shoah after Gaza"

Novelist Howard Jacobson has accused London Review of Books (LRB) of “Jew-baiting” after it published a front-page article suggesting Israel has leveraged the Holocaust to “slaughter 13,000 children”.

The piece by Pankaj Mishra, which features on the cover of the latest edition of the literary magazine, is headlined “The Shoah After Gaza” and claims the significance of the Holocaust could yet be lost due to Israel’s treatment of Palestinians.

The article says: “Memories of Jewish suffering at the hands of Nazis are the foundation on which most descriptions of extreme ideology and atrocity have been built.

“But these universalist reference points are in danger of disappearing as the Israeli military massacres and starves Palestinians, while denouncing as antisemitic or champions of Hamas all those who plead with it to desist.”

Later in his article, Mishra, an Indian novelist and essayist, suggests Israel believes it “has the right to slaughter 13,000 children not only as a matter of self-defence but because it is a state born out of the Shoah”.

Novelist and JC columnist Howard Jacobson said about the 45-year-old magazine, which claims to have the largest circulation of any magazine of its kind in Europe: “If this were not the LRBI’d be horrified. But the LRB’s Jew-baiting is a long-standing joke. It is to serious journalism what a pantomime is to theatre. We hiss, look behind us, and pass on by.”

Political correspondent Lahav Harkov called the article “disgusting”, and said the writer’s use of “the concept of the Holocaust as a ‘universal reference point’ is part of the problem [...] It led to the idea that the Holocaust was not unique, and was also some kind of purifying experience from which Jews were ennobled and therefore supposed to behave a certain way”.

Hadley Freeman, also a JC columnist, noted “the left-wing intelligentsia only tries this kind of provocative thought experiment with Jews” in an article in The Times.

Mishra also writes that Jewish Americans in the late 1960s and 1970s were “the most educated and prosperous minority group in America and were increasingly irreligious”. For well-to-do Jews, Mishra argues, the Holocaust and an affiliation to the Jewish State, “turned into a badge of identity and moral rectitude”.

Mishra goes on: “Many of the protesters who fill the streets of their cities week after week have no immediate relation to the European past of the Shoah. They judge Israel by its actions in Gaza rather than its Shoah-sanctified demand for total and permanent security.”

The Board of Deputies condemned the piece. A spokesperson said: “The article published by the LRB contains multiple examples of Holocaust Inversion – Jews being told that they are doing to others what the Nazis did to them. The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance correctly cites this as an example of antisemitism. The LRB’s eagerness to publish such a grotesquely warped viewpoint utterly disgraces the publication.”

On 18 October, LRB published a letter signed by hundreds of writers that condemned Israel but failed to mention the October 7 massacre. The letter claimed “the State of Israel commits serious crimes against humanity” and accused Israel of “genocide”.

In 2010, a media-monitoring group, Just Journalism, accused LRB of using public funds to promote writing that is “virulently” and “unremittingly” hostile to Israel.

According to a report by Just Journalism, LRB consistently represented Israel as a bloodthirsty and genocidal regime while it portrayed terror groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah in a sympathetic light.

In 2006, the magazine published an explosive essay titled “The Israel Lobby”. The piece, by professors John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, argued that the US government was beholden to the Israel lobby.


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