New Statesman: Israel = Racist

NewStatesmanThe events surrounding the Durban 2 conference and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s foul mouthed speech have provoked much debate. While most media outlets condemned Ahmadinejad, there were still a few commentators who took the opportunity to defend the Iranian president’s views on Israel. One of these is Martin Jacques in the New Statesman:

In fact, the Israelis offer a sad example of the intractable and ubiquitous nature of racism. After the horrific suffering of the Jews during the Holocaust, the west sought to salve its conscience by taking land from the Palestinians, in an area that had been colonised by the European powers, and using it to help establish the Zionist state of Israel. The latter has, unfortunately, always borne many of the characteristics of a transplant, and was bitterly resented by those whose land was stolen….

The way many Arabs in Israel are treated as second-class citizens, and the brutality and cruelty shown during the Israeli assault on Gaza early this year, are eloquent testimony to the racism endemic in Israel. It is ironic that a people who suffered from racism on such an enormous scale should themselves display the same kind of attitude towards the Palestinians and their neighbours.

Jacques claims that the United Nations is the most democratic international organisation, at the same time revelling in the situation where liberal democracies are outnumbered by autocracies, dictatorships and human rights abusers in that very forum.

Although a number of Western nations refused to participate in Durban 2 in order to avoid focusing excessively on Israel, Jacques specifically does just that, implying that such an emphasis would have been justified and appropriate:

  • Jacques simplistically places the Israeli-Palestinian conflict into a post-colonialist ideological straitjacket whereby Israel is an alien creation of Western colonial powers. He thus ignores legitimate Jewish rights in the region along with thousands of years of history and Jewish presence on the land.
  • Using equally crude language, Jacques repeats the rhetoric of Ahmadinejad, claiming that Israel is solely the result of Western guilt over the Holocaust.
  • Jacques invokes the Holocaust to imply that Israeli attitudes towards Arabs are governed by the same sort of racism that was employed against the Jews by the Nazis. Jacques thus labels Israel as a racist state.

Israel, a multicultural and ethnic mosaic of a country, is the last state in the Middle East that can be accused of overt racism, particularly when compared with those neighbouring states where anti-Semitism is part of the accepted discourse and human rights are thrown to the wind.

Please send your considered comments to the New Statesman – letters@newstatesman.co.uk

GUARDIAN HOSTS ‘SEVEN JEWISH CHILDREN’ guardian2006

Billed as a “ten minute history of Israel, ending with the bombing of Gaza”, Caryl Churchill’s “Seven Jewish Children” features a nine-member Jewish family agonising over the pros and cons of Zionism, ultimately portraying them as heartless child-killers.

Howard Jacobson called it: “The old stuff – Jew-hating pure and simple.”

The Jewish Chronicle’s theatre critic John Nathan concluded: “For the first time in my career as a critic, I am moved to say about a work at a major production house that this is an anti-Semitic play.”

So trust The Guardian, as the protector of freedom of speech (perhaps from the “Zionist Lobby”?), to ensure that as many people as possible will be able to see an online reading of Caryl Churchill’s “Seven Jewish Children”. Could The Guardian possibly have an agenda beyond that of bringing theatre to the masses?

We wait to see whether The Guardian will give its readership a chance to see “Seven Other Children”, a theatrical response to “Seven Jewish Children” by Richard Stirling, which will be running from 5-16 May 2009 at Hampstead’s New End Theatre. Admission is free (booking required) - see here for a PDF flyer and more details.

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