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The Plot Against England

Man Booker winner Howard Jacobson talks about English anti-Semitism, ping-pong, and the seriousness of Jewish jokes

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Howard Jacobson, 2006. (Colin McPherson/Corbis)
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The Man Booker Prize winner profiles hardbat ping-pong champ Marty Reisman, who never lost his taste for winning

The British Jewish writer Howard Jacobson’s eleventh novel, The Finkler Question, was awarded the Man Booker Prize today. On the eve of the announcement, Jacobson spoke to Tablet Magazine about English anti-Semitism, Israel “swaggering around,” and why Jews used to be good at ping-pong. Plus: The first U.S. publication of Jacobson’s 1999 profile of table tennis champion Marty Reisman.

You described your 2007 novel Kalooki Nights as “the most Jewish novel that has ever been written by anybody anywhere” and we agree—

It certainly uses the word “Jew” more than any other novel.

So what do you mean by that?

I suppose I meant that its preoccupations are unrelievedly Jew talking to Jew thinking about Jew. This was deliberate. That’s what I wanted to write. Jew, Jew, Jew, joke, joke, joke, the world as seen entirely through the eyes of Jews for Jews. There are some Jews who live like that. To a degree, there’s a possibility in every Jew I ever met, for them to live like that. That you ask the question “Why?” and then back you go to the Holocaust and back to the pogroms before that, and everyone wants to know what it is that’s made this particular kind of Jewish morbidity into a positive feature now of the Jewish imagination. So, the book was really about that. Jews thinking about Jews talking about Jews to Jews written by somebody who is a Jew, who is obsessed by the subject, has some crazy obsession, who wants to get to the bottom of this obsession and wonders where this obsession comes from. And will deploy every kind of act of the mind to think about it, including, primarily, what Jews do best, which is make jokes. No one makes jokes like Jews.

So, it’s not only the most Jewish book ever written, it’s got more Jewish jokes in it, good or bad, than any book ever written. Certainly more about Jews and more jokes in it than the Old Testament.

That leads us directly to Shylock. What do you make of him?

I don’t have as many problems as others do. Shakespeare does no wrong for me. I think he’s thinking about what it’s like to bear that stereotype. To have to wear that stereotype as a badge and how hellish that is. That doesn’t stop him thinking that in the end Shylock is Shylock and doing Jewish things. Shakespeare is about as humane about it as you could expect for that time and given his knowledge.

You are most often described as an English Jewish novelist, but you might feel you have more in common with post-colonial literature, Indian writers, Irish, or others. Or do you see yourself and other Jewish writers in Britain doing something more like a regionalism, something more like Scotsmen, or cockneys, or people from Wales?

Funny, I don’t think of myself like that. I’m an “Eng Lit” man. I gave up my table tennis, and I went to Cambridge, although I played a bit there, and I studied English literature, and I went to Australia and I went back to Cambridge, and I taught here for 20-odd years English literature. I’m an absolutely English Literature Man. English literature is what I read. When my first novel came out and people said he’s like Philip Roth, I hadn’t read any Philip Roth then. I was what was called a Leavisite, and if you know Leavis, I was taught by F.R. Leavis, and those of us who were taught by F.R. Leavis believe that D.H. Lawrence was the last great English novelist and he died in 1930 and that was that. I hadn’t read modern books. And I went on to read Roth and I thought, Christ being compared to him ain’t bad—he’s some writer! He’s fantastic! And then I went on to read him more, and Saul Bellow, and I became more consciously working a bit like them, but not in their tradition. Their Jewish roots are in European novels. They’re sort of Kafka and Dostoyevsky and Babel and the better for it. I—and I’ve made this joke about myself—I’m not the English Philip Roth, I’m the Jewish Jane Austen. As far as I’m concerned I’m an English novelist working absolutely square in the English tradition. I’m regional to the degree that I’m Manchester. I try to write the sentences of a centralized, cosmopolitan English writer who has read all the great English writers. The voices in my head are Shakespeare, Dr. Johnson, Dickens, George Eliot.

And then onto that, I have laid—and God knows why, it has astonished my parents—this whole Jewish palaver. My parents didn’t get it. “Where’s this from?” my dad said. On his death bed, my dad said, “You’re not going to be a rabbi, are you?” I thought he’d be proud of me. Well, he was proud of me. But I thought, “Look, look at all this Jewishness that you wanted me to go in for. You wanted me to have a Jewish wife, you wanted me to give you Jewish grandchildren, what I’m really giving you now are Jewish books.” And he thought they were great, but he didn’t get it.

I never thought when I was trying to write in my 20s and even in my 30s, that I was going to write about Jews. But I wasn’t getting anywhere not writing about Jews. I couldn’t write a page.

Margaret Drabble wrote an essay for Tablet Magazine and singled you out for your exceptional novels, and then told us that there isn’t much anti-Semitism in England. How are the Jews of England doing these days?

The novel I’ve just published—about which I saw a very interesting review on Tablet the other day—raises this question. Do you know? We don’t know. This is the thing we don’t know. The last time I was in America talking about Kalooki Nights, many people asked me there what’s it like in England. There was a real sense of, “What’s it like on the streets of England for a Jew to go walking without a bodyguard?” That Muslim extremists would attack him; that ordinary English anti-Semites would attack him. It isn’t like that. I don’t need to tell you that. It doesn’t feel like a dangerous country to be Jewish in.

There is a sense that when something like Gaza erupts, the flotilla episode erupted, things get said by the intelligentsia that feed down into the populace, and every now and then you know someone will kick a Jew. At the time of Operation Cast Lead, the Gaza thing, there were probably several dozen, maybe even a few hundred anti-Semitic incidents here, some of them truly violent, people really being physically attacked, sometimes abuse, upsetting things like Jewish kids at school being told by Muslim kids at school, “Your people are killers,” and all of that. How do you measure that? How do you decide what any of that is? There’s always been low-level bits of skinhead brutality: A Jew is somebody you push around. There’s always been a little of that.

What we don’t know and what we’re all trying to figure out and measure, those of us who think this is worth putting our mind to, is how far the rhetoric of anti-Zionism is spilling over into another thing, through the sheer violence and virulence of its own language. Because it might very well be that a person might say, “I’m not anti-Semitic, not at all, my best friends are Jews”—you know the story—“I just think this has to be said.” But it might be that if enough people are saying that, then a kind of linguistic climate is created in which people feel Jews are what they’ve always felt Jews to be: fair game.

Do you find yourself feeling obliged to defend Israel’s right to do all kinds of bad things that other nations do to survive?

Oh, non-stop. I write a column in the Independent, which has some journalists who are known throughout the world for their undisguised, and perfectly well-expressed and declared anti-Zionism and worse, and I have to bite my tongue off each week. Do I now become a person who writes about nothing but Israel? Is there or isn’t there something to complain about? Are we going mad by thinking that there is? Does it make sense to shut up? And sometimes, quite simply, can you afford to go on thinking about this? Can you wake up each morning, and go to the computer, and go to the websites, go to the hate sites and then go to the few sites in which the people are calmer and take a more rational approach to these things. When I was writing The Finkler Question, this is what was happening.

And we’re not just talking about those bloody settlements. I’d go out with my own bare hands and pull them down. I want to throttle [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu for not knowing that you’ve got a golden opportunity here: Stop the bloody settlements. It’s not that kind of thing, which is perfectly fair. It’s the other stuff, that goes from that to “Israel is an apartheid country,” which is rubbish, “Israel is a fascist country,” “Israel is a Nazi country,” to “Zionism has always been colonialist in ambition,” to a whole false re-evaluation of the history of Israel, as though what Israel at its very worst now and then is is what Israel was always bound to be and always had to be. And that’s unforgivable.

I remember very vividly in 1967, the Six-Day War. I remember it vividly because I was at sea. I was coming back from Australia from my first job in Australia and the ships were disrupted and we had to go a long way around. I remember reading the newspapers on the boat—could we have gotten newspapers on the boat? Yes, as we landed—and my sense was that the whole world felt that Israel was about to be beaten and about to be destroyed, and everybody was on its side, poor little Israel. And the moment Israel won, you could almost start to see people’s expressions change. Israel winning became a problem. And Israel winning big became a bigger problem. Israel swaggering around—well, Israel swaggering around is a problem for all of us—Israel not in trouble, not under threat has been a problem for people, and you have to ask, Why is that?

It’s one thing to feel, “Those poor Jews, they’re about to be murdered,” and another thing to feel, “Those bastard Jews have just won.”

How do you see the relationship between Jewishness and Britishness? Is there a connection or affinity, or is it just an accident?

It’s an accident. There isn’t an affinity. Except of course there’s a puritan tradition in English literature, which I quite like, actually. My old teacher F.R. Leavis made bones about his really being in sympathy a sort of Puritan. That’s got its roots in the Old Testament. They read the Old Testament, studied the Old Testament, and a kind of biblical connection between the Jews and the English. But essentially, temperamentally, no. And that’s been my great challenge, really, to try and sell it. Can I sell it to the English? Here’s Jane Austen’s world, I’ll beef it up a bit with some Yiddish expressions, with some Yiddish obscenities, even. But the real way in which this has expressed itself is through comedy.

Can someone who actually makes you laugh win the Man Booker Prize? I don’t know how good I am, that’s not for me to say. But I can say I am as serious as anybody else. I am serious in my intentions as anybody.

We say in America you’re supposed to “dress British and think Yiddish.”

[Laughs.] That’s good. I don’t know the expression. That’s good.

How did you first meet ping-pong champ Marty Reisman, the subject of the profile Tablet Magazine is publishing today?

I was in Manchester, my hometown, where my novel The Mighty Walzer, which came out 10 years ago, is set. The World Table Tennis Championships were being held there, which was very fortuitous for me. I kept running into people I’d not played with or seen for 40 years, and when table tennis players meet after 40 years, they don’t say, “Hello how are you?”; they say “God, that point you won, 22, 20 years ago, that was amazing.” So, I was wandering around enjoying all that, and met a guy, a very good player who had played for England and lived in Manchester, and he introduced me to Marty Reisman. He said, “This is the great Marty Reisman.” I’d read of Marty Reisman, and even seen some film footage of Marty Reisman, and he was a table tennis hero, so to meet Marty Reisman was fantastic. To see him play was thrilling. And then I thought, it would be really fun to write about him.

Are you any good at ping-pong?

I was a very good junior player. I was in the top 10 junior players of England, and I thought I would play for England as a junior player, but I just missed out. I used to play for Manchester and my county, and I played for Cambridge and all that, but I never made it as a grown-up player, because I lost interest, really. I wasn’t good enough. But I’m good enough to be able to stand at a table and get back 10 of Marty Reisman’s smashes, until he’s decided I won’t, and then, that’s that.

I’m tempted to take The Mighty Walzer, which is about a ping-pong player, as a reflection of your own history in the sport.

I dreamed of being a great table tennis player. And was good enough to have a bit of a life as a 14-, 15-, 16-year-old boy. That was what I did. I wandered around and I played table tennis, not international table tennis, but county table tennis, city table tennis, city-to-city table tennis, and it was my whole life, and it mattered. And when you meet someone like Marty, of course, you meet someone for whom it’s mattered but it didn’t stop mattering, and that’s what’s wonderful about him, he didn’t stop. For most of us it’s 16, 17—it’s girls, it stops. It still hasn’t stopped for Marty.

The other person I met when I played with him in New York—this now is years ago—was Dick Miles, who I talk about in the piece. Did you know Dick Miles has written a novel? Dick Miles has written a novel and it’s very good. I mean really good. Witty and sexy and atmospheric.

What are the deeper connections between ping-pong and literature?

I think in America, literature and sport are more associated with each other. You think of some of the great baseball novels like The Natural, Malamud’s novel, but in England sport and writing don’t mix. Cricket a little bit, maybe. But a lot of people who write play table tennis, and a lot of the people who play table tennis write. I think it is to do with the quiet introspective nature of the game. You’re obviously an indoor person if you write, unless you’re Hemingway. And you’re certainly an indoor person if you play table tennis. You need to be fit. When I played table tennis, I trained like an athlete. People couldn’t believe their eyes: There was me, running down the street in a track suit, skipping and training like a boxer.

And it goes with wryness, shyness, quietude. Not that any of those things are true of Marty. He’s the least characteristic table tennis player I’ve known, which is what makes him so wonderful. He brought showmanship into table tennis, and there’s very rarely any showmanship. Dick Miles was a great table tennis player and he went everywhere with a copy of Ulysses, apparently. You can imagine Marty staring at the copy of Ulysses and wondering, “What the hell?”

And I should say, too, when we talk about writing and table tennis and how one moves from one into the other, that where I came from in Manchester, it was a very Jewish game. Every Jewish boy I knew played table tennis, some better than others, me better than most. But everyone played table tennis. It was just something that we did. Our mothers liked it. I’ve made this joke a million times, but it’s true: Our mothers liked us to play table tennis, because they felt we wouldn’t get injured. My mother didn’t like the idea of my being out there on frozen cold playing fields in winter in northern England, kicking balls around. Cricket bats and balls are dangerous. Table tennis, that seemed safe.

Is it fair to say that the Jews dominated 20th-century ping-pong until they were bested by the Chinese?

It’s Austro-Hungary, that’s where. Austro-Hungary would be the perfect place for table tennis, these melancholy deracinated men, with a wry sense of the ridiculous. Philosophical, pessimistic, the game suited them. The clever, the quick-witted, the game suited them perfectly. The majority of those people were Jews, but not all. I mean the great [Viktor] Barna wasn’t Jewish, was he? Berger was Jewish.

Altogether Jews have stopped playing table tennis, I think. When I went back to Manchester to research The Mighty Walzer and met Marty as the visitor there, I couldn’t find Jewish boys playing in large numbers. Certainly it was no longer a game that all Jews played. It was a game that poor Jews played. It was a working-class game. We were all still—our fathers were poor. Our fathers were market men, taxi drivers, small upholsterers, professional men. Their children went on, and our lot became much more professional, and now our children don’t play. They have more money and a more sophisticated sense of games. Some of them would even imitate the goyim and play football.

Another plot for one of your novels would be the Miliband story—Ed Miliband was just elected Labor party leader, beating out his older brother, David, among others. It just seems like—it’s biblical, the younger son taking the birthright of the older son.

I wrote it 20 years ago, nearly. I wrote a novel called The Very Model of a Man, which is the story of Cain and Abel, actually. I set it in the Bible times, which is why nobody reads it.

I am the oldest boy in my family, and I have intense sympathy for David Miliband. I actually rather like Ed Miliband, and for the country he might be better, but for the family, that’s quite a shocking thing he’s done. Shocking thing. I couldn’t have taken it. When my younger brother was born, I tell it a million ways and I tell it funny, but it was a terrible, terrible shock. I love my younger brother, we get along fine, we’ve gone in our own directions, he’s a painter, I’m a writer. But he stole my birthright! He did. He stole my mother’s love for a little while, he stole the love of my aunties, my grandma, everything. It’s a serious thing to lose that.

What about the idea that sometime in the near-medium future Britain will probably have a Jewish prime minister?

That will be something, won’t it? That really will be something. That could be a great thing. Of course let’s not forget we’ve already had a Jewish prime minister in Disraeli, even though he’d given up his Jewishness, or his Jewishness was given up for him by his father at birth. He was still referred to as a Jew and stood for Jewish things.

I’d love for it to happen. I think every Jew would love it to happen. It could backfire. The interesting thing is how little—and this is what gives me pause around the whole anti-Semitic business in this country. Gentiles in this country don’t seem to give a damn about the Milibands. I know that other journalists who are Jewish can’t stop talking about the Milibands being Jewish. I tell you something, half the people in England, they wouldn’t know.

So, then that asks the question: Is this whole bloody thing brewed up in the Jewish imagination? It isn’t that we don’t have enemies enough. Are we now so conscious of the whole damn thing that in their absence we create them? It’s a proper question to ask, anyway.

That’s what makes it seem like it would be a perfect plot for one of your novels.

Actually, that would be a good one, do it the Philip Roth way, you know one of those good Roth novels in which he goes bad. The Plot Against America. The Plot Against England and set it forward—hey, you’ve given me an idea!

All the best with Booker Prize.

It’s a long shot.


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Melanie Phillips who is just as respected as this author says there is a huge problem in England with anti-Semitism. So is she alarmist or is he hiding his head in the sand same as the German Jews did before Hitler?

The Millibands basically disavow their Judaism and were raised by one of the most ardent communists in the UK. The first thing the new leader of the Labour Party did was to lambast Israel, not the Conservatives in England but Israel. I suppose he had to prove to his lefty colleagues that he really isn’t very much of a Jew, or “that kind of a Jew” even if born from a Jewish womb. The Millibands have already proven their disdain for Jewish survival in Israel. Jewish survival in the diaspora doesn’t seem to interest them much either.The reality is that Disraeli, that convert to Christianity, probably will go down in history as one of the most pro-Jewish PMs ever, even if a Milliband becomes PM.

Not sure about the ping-pong thing. Jews growing up here in the US were generally relegated to the cities where there were no real tennis courts so table tennis and handball were the games of choice for many, besides basketball of course or baseball for some. When the Jews moved to the suburbs where tennis courts were aplenty they were kept out of the clubs basically because they were Jews. So of course, here in the US the Jews created their own tennis clubs (Jewish mothers here didn’t worry about getting hit with a tennis racket for some reason, maybe cricket bats are harder)and table tennis became a sport long gone. What did the Jews of England do when faced with restrictive rules? Would like to hear the rest of that story too. Would actually go along way in understanding the English Jewish mind and maybe that would provide some insight and an answer to the question in my first paragraph about who is right the author or Phillips.

RonRon says:

The idea that not defending certain aspects of the Israeli occupation equals anti-semitism is an old, worn out cliche. I, for one have never denied my Judaism and I detest some of the brutal tactics used by the Israeli government. Elise is letting her right-wing paranoia run rampant, this is clearly shown by her referring to the Millibands “being raised by one of the most ardent communists in the UK”, what in God’s name does that have to do with anything? Far too many Jews see the world through a single prism and seem to have lost any sense of fairplay.

Allan Leicht says:

Mr. Jacobson:

In the Arab mind Tel Aviv is a settlement.

RonRon- first of all I am many things paranoid is not one of them but educated in history that I am. Ironically a main tenet of communism is the “Jews are evil, and responsible for the ills of capitalism” canard.It seems to always slip Jewish communists minds. Really you do need to look back at your Marx. Also if you would recall it was the left aka the Soviets and their apologists which the Milliband father was a part of, that turned on Israel and was responsible for some of the most despicable acts of anti-Semitism in the 20th century after the Holocaust, or does the history of the Soviet Refuseniks and treatment of Soviet Jewry not ring a bell? Furthermore, how you are raised and what you are taught by family is a major aspect of your psyche. It is also the Millibands themselves that have stood and made sure that everyone knows that their Judaism is not a part of them in any way shape of form and that they have rejected it.Also describing their father with the title as one of the best known communists in England is something the man is quite proud of.Really read Melanie Phillips.

Also no one said to criticize Israel is anti-Semitic, but you need to employ the 3D test enunciated by Sharansky. It happens to be a good barometer of what and how a person truly thinks when it comes to Israel. Tony Blair criticizes Israeli policy but is one of Israel’s staunchest friends. It is all in what you say how you say it and the underlying meaning and purpose.

Lorraine fox says:

A distinction can be made between anti-Israel policies and anti-semitism as Tony Blair seems to be doing,however such people are few and far between. I maintain that much of proposes to be anti-Israel is also anti-semitism. Scratch an anti-zionist and you will find an anti-semite.
For centuries there has been jealousy of the accomplishments of many Jews. Since Israel won the wars against the attacking Arab nations and has also proved itself to have accomplished much in science and technology, it is seen as strong.Hence the resurgence of overt anti-semitism.
Lorraine Fox

marzipan says:

Did I miss something? It seems as if the Muslims who shout insults morphed into skinheads. Does that happen in the U.K.?

Here’s another odd switch–it’s not nice when Muslims and skinheads hurl insults at Jewish kids, but he himself would like to tear apart the homes of Jews who are settlers. ‘Cause settlers are really the most Jewish, totally fair game.

I guess when you make your living entertaining the goyim with Jewish stereotypes, you gotta smack a few Jews to make yourself likeable in your little anti-Semitic pond.

Dani Levi says:

Melanie Phillips is the UKs Geller. Picking up her train of thought is an instant disqualifier and shows you know nothing about England. And even dreaming that England is like 1920s Germany is again a red card. This US Hebrew narrative is awfully tiring and needs to be checked. I do not know what it is that makes many US Hebrews so aggressive and frankly ousts them as ignorant about most things European. My guess is that in the American melting pot syndrome it is easier to clobber an identity together with bricks such as the above, instead of actually attempting a true self awareness. Europe is elaborate, try and do it some justice. Please.
Last I heard you elected W. TWICE! so lets have some bloody humility here, shall we.

US Hebrew(s). Que?

A better analogue for Melanie Phillips is Robert Fisk. They are both occasionally brilliant and often barmy. Geller as far as I can tell is just a nutter.

But, with “US Hebrew” I rather suspect Dani Levi is closer to Geller.

I am a 43 yr.old American woman and confused about what anti-semitism means today.I’m not Jewish.I have Jewish friends and family.I question the settlement policy in Israel,not for love of Arabs or dislike of Jews but for the negative effects on world peace. As goes the peace of Jerusalem,so goes the peace of the world.I see magic in Jewish life and resigned from a country club because there were no jewish or black members.Because I question the settlement policy,am I an “anti-semite”under the surface?Could someone please help me out here?

david samuels says:

No, you’re not an anti-semite. In fact, you sound like a very nice person.

See: for a succinct and relevant summary measuring whether something anti-Israel is anti-Semitic.

Mazal Tov, Howard Jacobson on winning the 2010 Booker!!!

It’s a shame that Richard Jacobson doesn’t know any tough Jews who won’tbe beaten up by anti-Jews or Moslems. Perhaps if Jews had attacked their attackers I promie you they would think twice. Do you want to fight one black or ten Hassids?

We Jews have been conditioned over thousands of years from warriors to appeasers and worse. England threw the Jews out twice and a Jew was a prime minister Disraeli.

Be strong and be tough. I have a very simple philosophy. Respect me or fear me.

Bill Levy

first impression of this article: why is its title a reference to a mediocre Philip Roth book?

Ed Karesky says:

Hmmm. Bill Levy says be strong and be tough and respect me or fear me. Sounds like Chas Palmentieri when he was asked in a gangster movie of some years back whether he would rather be respected or feared. The mobster he played said feared. My father. his brothers, father, and uncles were all Russian born or children of Russian born Jews who were “shtarkers” who knew how to fight and did. My Dad remembered walking to school with a sock full of sand to use against the Irish kids who often attacked them when they walked through the Irish neighborhood. He said that very early on you figured out it was better to fight than run. If you ran you would always be running. My brother and I understood what he was saying and as school kids in the 50’s and 60’s we practiced what he preached. Thats been the problem for Jews and Israelis. The world liked it when Jews wouldn’t fight because we were always outnumbered and lived by our wits. After WWII Jews realized that wouldn’t work anymore because the world watched while we were slaughtered instead of beaten up. Israelis and some Jews including the Hasidic quit running, fought back and did it well – too well for most of the world. Well, tough. As someone once said about the issue of tough Jews, F–k’em if the goyim don’t like it!

Rachel says:

I really enjoyed reading this, Mr Jacobson seems like a charming man, and I imagine even more so with that Mancunian accent.

I tried starting a ping-pong club in high school but I was shut down by the county for liabilities, ending my attempted career in sport. It’s nice to see other Jews in ping-pong.

L. King says:

I used to think the settlements were a bad idea, but try as I could I couldn’t find a reason why, so I changed my mind.

Essentially the requirement for the removal of the settlements amounts to a policy of “no Jews here”, a belief that a Palestinian country is impossible as long as there are Jews present. Could the opposite statement be any less acceptable? What if the number of non-Jews in Israel were to be limited to the number of Jews in the West Bank? How would the anti-Jewish community forces feel about the fairness of that?

If I were to implement a Palestinian country I think that including these people who feel a deep commitment to the land would be an asset, both politically and economically. I’d chuck the Sharia law requirements of my constitution and go out of my way to make them feel welcome and needed. I’d ditch the law making it a capital crime to sell land to a Jew, even if both buyer and seller were Jewish, because such a law violates the very core spirit of human rights.

Examining the statement that “the settlements are an obstacle to peace” I have to ask – who would used this excuse to go to war, why would they do so. Would appeasing these sentiments be the best course, or would it be more in keeping with liberal principles to appeal to those who would take up arms to change their point of view.

Yes, I am quite aware that many Arab countries worked very hard to get rid of their Jews, but I don’t think it has worked that well to their advantage. Creating a 23rd Judenfrei Arab State is probably not the most original idea in the world, but it should be one of the most offensive.

For those not aware, Howard Jacobson’s weekly column for The Independent can be viewed at:

A.L. Bell says:

@LKing – I think the problem with the settlements is that a lot of the people who start them and some of the people who live in them are intentionally trying to get hold of more land to keep it in Israel’s hands.

I can understand why even fairly mellow Palestinians would oppose that. It’s one thing to compromise on people who moved in before about 1960, when Europe was winding down colonialism in Africa and elsewhere. Even if, at that point, some Zionism could be construed as colonialism: so what. Russia moved Jews and other peoples all over the map; what was so terrible about the Jews trying to move themselves for once?

But I think it’s another thing to compromise on settlements started after about 1960, when colonialism became a mainstream topic.

On the other hand: I think aggressively expelling ordinary, non-Meir-Kahane-esque, cheap-renting-seeking settlers caught up in that sort of situation would be pretty obnoxious. I would have a lot of respect for a Palestinian leader who talked about figuring out a way for financially oriented settlers to stay and either have work permits in Palestine or permits to work in Israel while living in Palestine. To me, it seems as if a Palestinian with that sort of attitude would be showing that s/he really gets the “Can’t we all get along?” concept, not just angling to replace the problems associated with the Israeli military with similar, or worse, problems associated with Hamasniks.

Happy and Proud says:

@A.L. Bell – When objecting to people “intentionally trying to get hold of more land to keep it in Israel’s hands” what do you really think is wrong? Do you object to Jews purchasing land in the disputed territory? (a difficult act right now as the P.A. will execute any Arab selling land to a Jew). Are you objecting to Jews building homes, with government permission, in Area C? (Area C is land under nominal Israeli control as agreed to by both parties). Are Arabs who are building homes and even entire cities “intentionally trying to get hold of more land to keep it in [their] hands”, or does that only happen when Jews build?

And why a situation in Africa in 1960 has anything to do with Israel makes absolutely no sense.

Why are so many people here eager to see Jews expelled again from their homeland, especially when the area being discussed (Judea/Samaria/West Bank) was originally part of Israel when partition was declared in 1948, and was occupied by Jordan between 1948 and 1967 because of military attack?

The real problem is not “settlers” or “settlements”, ie. Jews and the towns they live in, it is the Arab refusal allow any Jewish presence in dar-al-Islam. Just as Mecca and Medina are holy places and the homeland of Islamic Arabia, so Jerusalem and the rest of Israel are is the holy place and homeland of the Jews. This incontrovertible fact is why Jews have remained there for millennia, and will continue to do so for millenia to come.

Dani Levi: A master (or mistress?) of the mixed metaphor!
“clobber an identity together with bricks”? A (very) rude Englishman
could only reply “cobblers!”

Just a Thought says:

Yes, aw, you are an anti-Semite.

1. Hyper-scrutiny of the world’s sole Jewish state is indeed anti-Semitism.

2. Jewish right to a presence in the West Bank is a long-standing dispute between Jews and Arabs for over a century – but it has little to do with you.

3. The settlements are irrelevant to peace for several reasons:
– solutions have already been found at Geneva, Taba, and Camp David, only to be rejected by the Palestinians
– were Israel to evacuate all settlements, there would still be no peace
– the key problem is not settlements but the racist refusal of the Muslim world (principally, the Palestinian-Shia axis) to treat minorities such as Jews as equals, entitled to such rights as self-determination

4. What is most shocking is that those who loudly object to the settlements had little objection to the Mizrahi naqba, in which the Arab world stole from Jews property many times the size of the Palestinian territories.

5. The settlements are certainly not a threat to world peace. Islamic fundamentalism (from Osama’s terrorism, to Iranian de-stabilisation of Yemen) is entirely unrelated to the Palestinians, who serve simply as a shirt of Uthman.

Barrie Rockman says:

Mazal Tov on your well deserved prize. I love your writing though find the jew, jew, jew bit somewhat overtiring. But then, as you say, we are.
Victor Barna was jewish. As a schoolboy in Dublin in the early ’50’s I had the good fortune to be coached by him for a while.

shriber says:

I suggest people actually read “The Finkler Question” which is a subtle masterwork of fiction that doesn’t offer easy answer to complicated questions and while it satirizes British Jewish antisemitism it does so with wit, humor and without condescension.

Jacobson is indeed one of the greatest writers Great Britain has produced in many years.

shriber says:

Britain is unique in that it boasts more “Jewish” antisemites than other European country.

This is why Jacobson’s book which exposes this is so very important.

Tobias says:

Dani Levi who posts on many blogs antisemitic comments, says:

“Europe is elaborate, try and do it some justice.”

Yers, Europe is elaborate, it has many mansions and millions of Jewish graves. Jewish blood has fertilized Euro culture long enough.

One of Europe’s many mansions:

“Right-Wing Attitudes On the Rise in Germany” By Ole Reissmann

“A new study has revealed that far-right attitudes are deeply rooted in German society. One-third of Germans would send foreigners home if there weren’t enough jobs, while one-sixth think Jews have too much influence.

“Germany is in serious danger of being overrun by foreigners.” It’s a sentence one would expect to find on an election poster for Germany’s far-right NPD party. As it happens, it’s a view that is held by over one-third of the German population — a new survey has revealed that 35.6 percent of Germans agree with the statement.

Additionally, more than 30 percent think that “foreigners come to take advantage of the welfare state” and that when jobs are scarce foreigners should be sent “back to their own country.” More than one-tenth would like a “Führer” — the survey deliberately used the German word for “leader” that is associated with Adolf Hitler — who would govern the country “with a firm hand” for the benefit of all.”,1518,722868,00.html

Tobias says:

Here is another mansion:

“But there is also news from the real Budapest, and the real Hungary of recent months.

Neo-fascist thugs attacked Roma families, killing six people in a series of murders. The right-wing populists of the Fidesz Party won a two-thirds majority in the parliament, while the anti-Semitic Jobbik party captured 16.7 percent of the vote, making it the third-largest party in Hungary, next to the Socialists. Unknown vandals defiled the Holocaust Memorial with bloody pigs’ feet. A new law granted the government direct or indirect control over about 80 percent of the media. The television channel Echo TV showed an image of Nobel laureate and Auschwitz survivor Imre Kertész together with a voiceover about rats. Civil servants can now be fired without cause. Krisztina Morvai, a member of the European Parliament for Jobbik, suggested that “liberal-Bolshevik Zionists” should start thinking about “where to flee and where to hide.””

Tobias says:

Finally we have the British mansion:

“In Great Britain, ‘In the Grips of a Tsunami of Anti-Semitism’
October 14, 2010

Carol Gould

In my book Don’t Tread on Me: Anti-Americanism Abroad, I relate a story about an elegant Englishman in a pinstriped suit approaching a stall run by Zionist activists outside the Marks & Spencer store on London’s Oxford Street. He challenges them — infuriated that Jews have come to stage a counterdemonstration against a noisy contingent of “Free Palestine” supporters who congregate every Thursday to protest the “Zionist origins” of “M & S.”

As the “Free Palestine” contingent chants slogans about the ruthless Zionist Marks family, he tells me that he is sorry “not enough Jews” are killed when suicide bombs explode in Israel. He wishes “more would die” with each attack. I confront him, but his anger boils over and he stomps off into the night.

I have never ceased to be astounded by the level of blatancy that attaches to British anti-Semitism. Back in 2003, Tam Dalyell MP complained in Vanity Fair about the “cabal of Jews” surrounding Tony Blair and George Bush. Journalist Richard Ingrams said he never opened letters with Jewish-sounding names on the envelopes.”

“so lets have some bloody humility here, shall we.”

Yes, let’s Dani “levi”

My response to aw is as follows: Dear aw, no you are not anti semitic because you question the settlement movement. I am a Jew living in Israel and I hate the settlers with a passion for the simple reason that, despite the fact that they wear the usual accoutrements worn by religious Jews, they do not adhere in any way to the basic tenet of Judaism which is “Do not do unto others– etc” They go out of their way to attack Palestinians and burn their olive trees, they ignore the rule of law, they are violent, and in my opinion they are nothing better than a bunch of thugs and a disgrace to the Jewish people.

    Berel Dov Lerner says:

    You certainly are good at hating! Not so good at understanding the reality of life in the settlements. It’s amazing that someone can live in Israel and accuse all the Jews living east of the Green Line of committing the crimes of a few extremists.

Isidoro says:

Dani Levi says:
“Melanie Phillips is the UKs Geller. Picking up her train of thought is an instant disqualifier and shows you know nothing about England.”

You know nothing about England, “Levi”

“Grovelling alone” By Melanie Phillips:
Monday, 18th October 2010

“Angela Merkel has got the point. Multiculturalism has failed, she states flatly, as she surveys western Europe going down under the tide of radical Islam. Rather than liberal society creating the utopia of harmonious cultural pluralism, it is being swallowed whole by the giant predator whose voracious mouth it encourages, in the spirit of tolerance, to open ever wider in the unshakeable belief of western liberals that the jaws about to snap shut around their necks are actually stretched wide in a smile.

All over mainland Europe, a few shoes are belatedly – maybe too late — starting to drop.

France and Belgium have banned the burqa and other countries are debating doing the same.

Switzerland has banned minarets.

Denmark has imposed ferocious limits on immigration.

In the Netherlands the prosecution in the case against the Dutch politician Geert Wilders for allegedly inciting religious hatred — through his criticism of Islamic hatred — has thrown in the towel and asked the judges to acquit him of all charges. See here for an authoritative analysis of the significance of this.

And so what of dear old Blighty, the country which in 1940 stood alone against the threat to democratic life and liberty and the values of western liberalism? Is the shoe of reality starting to drop in the UK too?…”

I understand that but where does it take us?

No life is totally wasted, one can always be a bad example. :)

I really like it when folks come together and share views.

Great site, keep it up!

Hi there, after reading this amazing piece of writing i am also delighted to share my know-how here
with mates.

Adrian Windsor says:

Read this article.
It is important.


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The Plot Against England

Man Booker winner Howard Jacobson talks about English anti-Semitism, ping-pong, and the seriousness of Jewish jokes