Last week, I upset a lot of people by suggesting Zionists saw themselves as “chosen”. My words were badly chosen and poorly used, and I’m sorry for it. But accusations of antisemitism have also been intemperate. One can accept the right of Israel to exist, while still believing that the manner in which the nation was created – against the wishes of many of the people already living there, hundreds of thousands of whom became refugees – was problematic and made a contribution to Israel’s subsequent and terrible troubles. (This, in turn, does not imply that the violence against Israel has been either justified or deserved. It has done the Palestinian cause much damage, and rightly so.)
Nevertheless, it would be absurd to believe that Jewish people are any more or less capable of making geo-political miscalculations than anybody else, or any more or less likely to be called to account for them. Evidence from every corner of the world, throughout the ages, attests to the fact that such behaviour is all too typical of humans, as is reluctance to accept that such actions are bound to have their critics.
Deborah Orr’s response is revealing. Does she even know what she has been accused of?
Addressing charges of anti-Semitism, she says that “one can accept the right of Israel to exist.” Orr’s use of the third person leaves us wondering whether or not she does actually does accept Israel’s right to exist. In any case, this was never the issue and it is incredibly disturbing that Orr’s best defense against the charges against her is to concede that Israel may have the right to exist as if this lame concession should immunize her against the criticism she is facing.