Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Here is an interview with Sir Martin Gilbert, whom I mentioned last week as the author who provided the astonishing news that T. E. Lawrence was an ardent Zionist. This is what he says about antisemitism:

Would you assess the current discourse on Israel as anti-Semitic?

Anti-Semitism certainly plays a major part. People don't like Jews. It's legitimate to dislike people. But anti-Semitism is liking Jews even less than is permissible in sane discourse.

Do you think that criticism of Israel is a way of using permissible discourse to express dislike of Jews?

When one goes to debates, such as [London Mayor Ken] Livingstone's [event last month, titled "A World Civilization or a Clash of Civilizations?" - at which he debated Middle East Forum director Daniel Pipes], the difference between legitimate criticism, based on rational arguments, and anti-Semitic criticism, not based on answerable facts, but rather on nonsense, becomes clear quite quickly.

What do you mean by "nonsense"?

The theme of the Livingstone event was multiculturalism. Its subtext was that the only intolerance one ever finds in London is that against Muslims.

Livingstone spoke very mellifluously. The only time he began to rant was when he was talking about Israel. The point he made was that Israel had no legitimacy - he even called its existence a "travesty."


When, in response, somebody asked him about the November 1947 UN vote for a Jewish state, he said: "Ah, the United Nations then was dominated and controlled by the United States, which didn't want the 100,000 Jewish survivors of the Holocaust to go to America, so it voted to establish the State of Israel to keep the Jews out."

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