Words of the Week

“Ask why she feels confident in asserting that I often speak out against justice for Palestinians—when I never have—and we quickly run into the rigid dualism of the activist, where whatever isn’t wholly good in their eyes must be wholly evil. According to this febrile logic, those who don’t support the cause must of necessity oppose it. Thus, while she is right that I am unlikely to be a friend of Palestine Live, she is wrong to suppose that a hostility to Palestinians is the reason.

This assumption of heartlessness whenever Israel is defended or Zionism embraced bedevils relations between the factions contesting the rights and wrongs of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. To speak up even lukewarmly for Israel outside a Jew-friendly environment is to invite obloquy. To declare oneself a Zionist of any kind is to present an incontestable thumbprint of exceptionalism and cruelty.

There is a vicious circularity to this essentialist logic. In the very act of arguing that one or other aspect of the ‘occupation’ is not as it is frequently presented—that one wall does not apartheid make nor one war a genocide—one merely confirms the original charge of inhumanity. Not to grant Palestinians everything is to grant them nothing.

Thus, the Jew remains forever trapped in being Jew. Simply to invoke anti-Semitism is to prove his bad faith. The more he struggles in the birdlime, the faster stuck he becomes.”

From Howard Jacobson’s “Free Palestine” (Tablet)