Quote of the day

“We can tell that this hostility to Israel is as artificially constructed as any antisemitism by looking at the list of theatre groups [performing at the Globe Theatre World Shakespeare Festival in London] against which the enlightened ones organized no boycott. Antizionists have created a whole new ‘-ism’, a worldview, around their campaign against Israel. Within it, a caricature of Israel is endowed with huge symbolic significance which relates only here and there to the actual state, to the complex conflict and to the diversity of existing Israelis. If the Palestinians stand, in the antizionist imagination, as symbolic of all the victims of ‘the west’ or ‘imperialism’ then Israel is thrust into the centre of the world as being symbolic of oppression everywhere. Like antisemitism, antizionism imagines Jews as being central to all that is bad in the world.”

From the truly brilliant reflections by David Hirsh on the Habima Theatre’s performance of “The Merchant of Venice” in London. David prefaces his post with the often debated question: “Is the Merchant of Venice an antisemitic play or is it a play which intimately depicts the anatomy of persecution, exclusion and bullying?” The way David tackles this question is particularly powerful because he combines his impressions from the play with his thoughts about the BDS protesters who tried to disrupt the performance.


At CiFWatch, Adam Levick has an excellent post on the review of the Habima production by the Guardian’s theatre critic, who, unsurprisingly, happens to be an enthusiastic admirer of Caryl Churchill’s antisemitic play “Seven Jewish Children.” It’s only natural then that the Guardian’s theatre critic can’t help herself when she sees the broken Shylock at the end of the play: why mention anything about antisemitism if you feel so strongly that it’s “impossible not to think of other displaced people, too, most particularly the Palestinians”…

13 responses to “Quote of the day

  1. Off-topic, but Barak calls for unilateral withdrawal while the PA is against it. Presumably, the so-called pro-Palestinian contingent will side with the PA. By doing so, they will come out AGAINST ending the occupation. Makes one wonder just what the anti Israel contingent wants. They say they want an end to occupation, but now they don’t. Seems they’re the ones who need the occupation to continue, for without it what would they do? Start advocating against Syria?

    What’s funny is that the pro-Palestinian (anti-Israel) extremists are just as against the end to occupation as the most hardcore rightwing Israelis and their supporters. Both groups are against such a unilateral withdrawal. Kinda funny to see the so-called “Leftwingers” agreeing with their far rightwing counterparts, being against ending the occupation.

  2. Indeed, and what unites the so-called “pro-Palestinian” campaigners and some of the hard-right groups in Israel is that they all want a “one-state solution” — to be sure, they want it for different reasons, and Israeli right-wingers delude themselves into believing that Israel would still somehow remain a Jewish state

  3. “this hostility to Israel is as artificially constructed as any antisemitism” – it has such a smooth and politically correct sound to it, it almost could be true! Is this supposed to imply that “artificially” is somehow flawed as compared to – what? Maybe: “naturally”? And: What is supposed to be the “natural” state then – “philosemitism”? Quick test: Which one is a better candidate for “natural”, geographically and historically speaking, the ubiquitous rule or the local exception? And what is it that is so “natural” about Israel? Is it the 19th-century ideology, the post-holocaust mass-immigration, the cold-war proxy wars or rather the existential dependance on foreign aid? The likely uncomfortable truth is that the construction of antisemitism relies now (as it always has) on the most basic of human and possibly even pre-human instincts, exhibited in its crude means and by addressing the least sophisticated of social elements, while the construction of the Jewish people on the other hand and thus also of Zionism rely heavily on a set of complex and generally poorly understood cultural (ahm – “unnatural”) artifacts.

    • You rush to take issue with David’s use of “artificial” and question what, in contrast, should be considered “natural”. But “artificial” as used by David simply means “fabricated” — i.e. BDS accusations against Israel are as fabricated as medieval libels against Jews. This seems to me the obvious reading considering the context of this quote and David’s article in its entirety.

      • Wrong, I’m “taking issue”, not hastily but rather consistently, with addressing antisemitism (and its derivatives) by relentlessly elaborating on its level of “fabricatedness” or “revealing” its lack of “intellectual honesty”. As if the underlying affects were somehow subject of independent verification. In truth these are rather shallow moral imperatives of the kind: “Thou shalt not hate (Jews)!”. I consider that a regrettable waste of valuable positive energy. Beside the unquestionably important aspect of elementary education, the critical and political merits of this approach are in my view rather questionable … well, we may also simply agree to disagree …

  4. Yes, I’m afraid we’ll have to agree to disagree. And frankly, if you feel that exposing antisemitism is a “waste of valuable positive energy”, I wonder what you’d prefer instead — sitting back and doing nothing, or perhaps just quietly feeling contempt?

    • “Frankly” – neither nor, actually I do realize alternatives. But you asked a rhetorical question, didn’t you?

  5. RE: But you asked a rhetorical question, didn’t you?

    Nice way of avoiding spelling what those so-called alternatives actually are.

  6. “those so-called alternatives” – let’s take a minute for a few preliminary questions: First – why are we having this conversation? Is this a kind of game, an inquiry or maybe relating to a struggle? And as such, are we in for the fun, the insight or the victory? Clearly, there isn’t a contradiction, just an escalation of challenges. Then also: what would constitute a victory? The satisfaction of being on the side of “light” and “right”? Or maybe, is this necessarily an endless, indecisive back and forth? Analogous questions should be asked for “other side”, except, I’m afraid, for (at least some of) them there is one more, final and rather sinister level of potential “escalation”. It’s best to keep that in mind. My starting point here is always the assumption that by not focusing the energy on winning, I’m leaving that last, “final” decision to the adversary. (Shall I continue?)

  7. Marc, I really don’t understand what you’re trying to say. I think the issue is very simple: which conduct is acceptable in a group/society is established by condemning certain conducts with arguments. If nobody finds anything wrong with slavery/child pornography/FGM etc., it will persist unchallenged. The same applies to the agenda of the BDS/down-with-Israel crowd. There is a reason why totalitarian regimes go after political dissidents who criticize them — and the reason is: criticism counts.

    That’s also the reason why the BDSers try so energetically to market their campaigns as merely fair-minded criticism of Israel. But fair-minded criticism always means that the criticized party can do something realistic to assuage the criticism — which is obviously not the case with BDS or any other ultimately “anti-Zionist” criticism of Israel, because the only way to satisfy the “critics” is to dissolve the world’s only Jewish state in order to replace it with the umpteenth Arab-Muslim majority state.

    • Some of the posts are counter-attack:10 rensaos for 1.000.000 haters.I hate Israel (7 million people) for winning more Nobel Prizes than all the Arabs combined it makes 300 million Arabs look stupid.I hate Israel for winning every war the Arabs started with them it makes Arabs look like losers.I hate Israel for having the strongest economy in the Middle East and no oil and despite the Arab boycott it makes Arabs look lazy.I hate Israel for having 18 honest national elections since 1948 it makes Arabs look undemocratic.I hate Israel for giving its Arab minority more rights than any Arab country gives its citizens it makes Arabs look both oppressive and oppressed.I hate Israel for giving everybody including Arabs, women and non Jews equal rights before a fair, uncorrupted judiciary it makes Arabs look like bullies.

  8. (sorry, I REALLY tried to keep it short 😉 “because the only way to satisfy the ‘critics’ is to dissolve the world’s only Jewish state” – assuming you have a point here, and also assuming, from a “neutral” observers’ point of view, that the critics have “some” truth as well, you may actually succeed in convincing someone of the plausibility of that “dissolution”. Well, who needs foes with friends like these?
    No, seriously, I truly appreciate when you say “I really don’t understand” – and this is not in a patronizing way. My questions are usually directed at myself as well, and I attempt to approach them responsibly. Attempt at explanation (the short version): From the perspective of a skeptic, history and politics become academic issues only in hindsight. So, “If nobody finds anything wrong with slavery” – what do you think were the arguments that led to abolishing slavery, let’s say in America? I argue that there are two very distinct stages to this, such as the one before the secession movement in the south and another later. In other words – in a first stage the discourse clarifies the opposing interests and formulating the divergent positions. Then comes the turning point (see as above): “we’ll have to agree to disagree”. In the second stage, the one where the actual “abolishing” takes place, could be roughly summed up as “beating the drums” in one’s own camp – that is to get the troops marching …
    When talking about, say “the BDSers”, which stage would that be now? Clarification of diverging interests or propaganda? My critique is based on the assumption that it is almost pointless to demonstrate that what “they” are doing is actually “one-sided incitement”, when neither they ever intended it to be otherwise nor do most listeners (especially those it is addressed to) misunderstand it to be something else, that is, like some genuine investigation of truth. In the end it is the facts on the ground and the self-conscious determination to back them up if necessary, that count. In my view, not necessarily the “on the ground” part, but rather the “self-conscious determination”, is somewhat idealistically speaking, the crucial part here. Investing in that, in a smart, honest and critical way, is what I’d consider an “alternative”…

    • Illustration: David Harris’ “Ten reasons I admire Israel” recent blog piece would be both a nice catalog of confidence building subjects AND a demonstration of how NOT to do it. Even antisemites recognize (not to say indulge in) Jewish ingenuity. A polemic transcends propaganda and becomes truly effective only through critical juxtapositions of achievements and their costs (also to others), problems solved and problems marginalized (especially the embarrassing ones) etc., thus suggesting to convert one’s own weaknesses to strengths (by fixing them), rather than the weaknesses of others (by exploiting them) …

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