The goading of Israel
February 8, 2007 4:00 PM
I was approached to be part of the new group, Independent Jewish Voices, and declined. I couldn't quite see how one could be independent being part of a group, especially as there is a third group, unattached, unclubable, who prefer to feel free to both criticise Israel when the time is right, and to express outrage that since the creation by the UN (Resolution 181) of the state of Israel, the Israelis have been ceaselessly goaded in one form or another.
In the mid-sixties, nearly 40 years ago, I was one of the guests of honour at a fund-raising event for The Jewish Quarterly magazine. The Israeli ambassador was another guest of honour. In my speech arguing the need for support for the arts I made the passing observation that there would never be peace in the Middle East until the Palestinians had their own state.
The air was tense with hostility from my Jewish brethren, applause for my speech was thin. I fear it may have affected the amounts donated. The point I'm making is that I did not need an IJV to speak for me 40 years ago any more than I need a Jewish Board of Deputies to speak for me now.
The Israelis may not have turned out to be the wise Jews many of us hoped for, but I don't believe that they have been allowed to create the climate in which wisdom flourishes. Had the poor, constantly occupied Palestinians, like the desperate, war-ravaged Jews, accepted partition in 1947, then a combination of the Israeli and Palestinian states alongside one another might have by now transformed the Middle East; they might today together have been the leaders in the area.
I shall never cease to wonder how a generous people - the Palestinians - could not have found it within themselves to concede a small tract of desert to a people who had such vivid historical roots in the land, who had bought most of what they claimed anyway, and who had worked its deserts into fertile stretches.
Somewhere an Arab voice is whispering: "Keep goading the Israelis, they'll react in a way that will anger the world who don't much like Jews anyway, keep goading, even Jewish intellectuals will have sympathy for us, it works! Keep goading, keep goading!"
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