A number of letter writers have responded in this week’s New Statesman. A selection follows:
“Nick Cohen used his article on anti-Semitism (Essay, 10 October) as a crude bludgeon against the left. The article was illustrated by a picture of a couple of people holding up a banner equating a Shield of David with a swastika. Who were the banner-holders? How does he know they were from the left? What really seems to annoy Cohen is that the big anti-war march of 2003 was organised by a ragbag of Islamic fundamentalists, the Socialist Workers Party and “every other creepy admirer of totalitarianism”. He adds that we should have talked with Saddam Hussein’s victims. I did talk to Iraqi Kurds, and saw not a trace of fundamentalists, creeps of any stripe or members of the SWP. Why? The march was bigger in every way than whoever may have organised it. Anti-Semitism? I marched with contingents from several Jewish organisations, joined by the Arab Labour Group. I can’t remember us being subject to a pogrom – though it was a bit embarrassing when one group applauded us.”
“While it becomes increasingly impossible to defend Israel’s policies, a new front has been opened by propagandists, namely Israel is singled out for criticism because of ongoing anti-Semitism. Nick Cohen fails to see that a country he lauds as a democracy is all the more culpable of human rights abuses, precisely because the inhabitants of that country, through the ballot box, are able to make the choice to oppress another people. He says that there is a free press, so Israelis do not have even the consolation of saying “we never knew”, as often happens under dictatorships.
“It is indeed true that Israel is treated differently from other countries. It is allowed to occupy another people’s land, confiscate their resources and build walls to imprison the population.”
“Nick Cohen’s essay had some insightful points regarding anti-Semitism and the left. I am certainly no supporter of the state of Israel, but I agree that the left concentrates a disproportionate amount of time on criticising it. As Cohen points out, this is embarrassingly difficult to explain. However, I believe that Israel’s policies in the occupied territories, and America’s support for them and greedy colonial meddling in the Middle East, are responsible for much of the animosity in world affairs today. It is an unnecessary focal point. I further disagree that opposing fascism means supporting George Bush’s warmongering. Some 25 million people across the world marching against a war that was a lie and is now a disaster suggests that the left is neither loony nor dead yet.”
“To suggest that Hamas is at the centre of a multiheaded, anti-Semitic hydra is political paranoia. Israeli soldiers and settlers, with fists, boots and bullets, bulldoze the houses and crops of poor peasants, steal their water and land, kill their children and humiliate their elders, all in the name of the Jews. It is, after all, a Jewish state. Nick Cohen wonders why the illiterates of Hamas echo the absurdities of European anti-Semites? He muddles cause and effect and persists in looking down the telescope the wrong way.”
Secretary, Jews Against Zionism, Brighton