Saturday, July 14, 2007

As per yesterday's post, here's Howard Jacobson's speech in today's Independent:

The other thing that seemed worth saying related to that now classic formulation - "It is not anti-Semitic to be critical of Israel." I wasn't concerned to make the no less classical rebuttal - "Of course being critical of Israel doesn't necessarily mark you out as an anti-Semite, but it doesn't necessarily mark you out as not one either." Enough already with who is or who isn't. What I wanted to address was something different - how the glamour word "anti-Semite" has transfixed both parties to this semantic tussle, when the real issue is what we mean by "critical".

Reader, only think about it: was ever a tiny word sent on such a mighty errand, or to put it another way, was ever such a massive job of demolition done by so delicate an instrument. Critical - as though those who accuse Israel of every known crime against humanity, of being more Nazi than the Nazis, more fascist than the fascists, more apartheid than apartheid South Africa, are simply exercising measured argument and fine discrimination.

I know a bit about being critical. It's my job. Being "critical" is when you say that such-and-such a book works here but doesn't work there, good plot, bad characterisation, enjoyed some parts, hated others. What being critical is not, is saying this is the most evil and odious book ever written, worse than all other evil and odious books, should never have been published in the first place, was in fact published in flagrant defiance of international law, must be banned, and in the meantime should not under any circumstances be read. For that we need another word than critical.

So try replacing it with whatever that word or words might be and have a look at how the statement bears up now. "It is not anti-Semitic to defame or curse or stigmatise or revile or execrate or anathematise or with malice aforethought misrepresent Israel." You might think that veers a touch too far in the opposite direction, but you take my point. Put back the inordinacy of reprehension hidden behind the pretend even-handedness of fair-seeming little "critical" and you see why those who oppose the boycott and other such traducements smell a rat.

(Via: Engage)

0 Comments:

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home