Google+ Badge

Friday, 14 January 2011

The Punishment of Finkler?

Howard.Jacobson(Howard.Barlow)In a scenario that may have been invented by novelist Howard Jacobson, the Anglo-Jewish establishment is agog at news of  two of the world’s best-known and most-hostile anti-Israel journalists about to appear at Jewish Book Week

An event entitled The Punishment of Gaza will feature Israeli Gideon Levy of Haaretz  and Johann Hari of The Independent. What’s more, the event is being sponsored by The London Review of Books whose Jewish editor, Mary-Kay Wilmers, is also notoriously hostile to the Jewish state.

I first heard about the brouhaha via non-Jewish, pro-Israel celebrity biographer, Chas Newkey-Burden who explained on on his blog, ( that Jonathan Hoffman, Zionist Federation vice-chairman, is due to boycott the entire week because of the event with Hari and Levy.

Round and round has gone the largely good-natured debate on the topic within pro-Israel Jewish circles.  For once I disagree vehemently with Hoffman, believing his proposed boycott would make him no better than the many and growing army of anti-Israel boycotters. I suggest it would be better to spend our time and energy investigating why and how Jewish Book Week has become so desperate for cash that it  had to seek sponsorship from the London of Review of Books and I said Hoffman should attend the event, even if only to demand straight answers to tough questions. But  he argues that while sitting in a large audience he would have little chance of asking a question which “they will just bat it away. They have the power of the mikes, remember …”

So I ask here if Hari and Levy – otherwise fine writers - are paid by forces unknown to scribble their bile? Or if his views are genuine, why would a celebrity gay like Hari so-hate the only open society in the M.E.? But as I’m one of life’s innocents, none of it makes a grain of sense to me.

When in the U.K. I never attended a JBW  in London as I lived too far away and instead arranged a couple of small-scale ‘library weekends’ at the synagogue to which I belonged in Manchester and attended others like it. So I believe it would be a pity for Jonathan, even on a personal cerebral and social level, to deny himself a visit to what has been long regarded as a highlight of the Anglo- Jewish cultural calendar.Jewish.Book.Week.2011

Finally Jewish Chronicle editor Stephen Pollard, has added an eminently sane gloss to this mad and maddening situation. He wrote:

“The JC has been proud of its long association with JBW. But one now has to wonder what it is becoming. Last year a key session was handed over to two fanatical Israel-bashers, Tariq Ali and Mary-Kay Wilmers, editor of the London Review of Books. This year, Gideon Levy is to be joined by The Independent’s Johann Hari, whose visceral hatred of Israel makes his colleague Robert Fisk seem like a Zionist in comparison.

Geraldine d’Amico, JBW’s director, is right when she says that “our tradition is based on dialogue and debate”. So, galling as it can feel to see an institution like JBW offer a platform to Israel’s enemies, it can be right to do so. That’s why the JC sometimes gives a voice to our opponents. But only, crucially, as part of a debate or dialogue. The only debate between Hari and Levy will be over who can attack Israel the most.

“As if that was not unbalanced enough, to have the event sponsored by the LRB - a sort of Der Stuermer-lite for intellectuals – is almost beyond belief in its crassness. With friends like JBW, there is precious little that Israel’s intellectual enemies need to bother with”.

 Methinks it’s time to hand over to Treslove, Finkler et al



Post a Comment