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October 14, 2010

Howard Jacobson, Man Booker Prize Winner, on Anti-Israelism

Howard Jacobson was just awarded the prestigious Man Booker Prize for his novel The Finkler Question.

It's as good a time as any, then, to recall his impassioned critique of anti-Israelism, academic boycotts, and other bigotry.

Some highlights follow, but you can read the whole piece here.

• "I am tired, myself, of deciding who is and who isn't [an anti-Semite]. Anti-Semitism, when all is said and done, is not the only crime on the block. You don't have to be an anti-Semite to be a blackguard. And you certainly don't have to be an anti-Semite to be a fool. Boycotters assure us of their innocence of anti-Semitism as though that settles once and for all the question of their intellectual and moral rectitude."

• "If anti-Semitism is repugnant to humanity, then it is no less repugnant to humanity to single out one country for your hatred, to hate it beyond reason and against evidence, to pluck it from the complex contextuality of history as though it authored its own misfortunes and misdeeds as the devil authored evil, to deny it any understanding (which is not the same as sympathy or succour), and - most odious of all - to seek to silence its voices."

• "To understand the motives of a suicide bomber and not the motives of those who seek to keep him out is to understand nothing. "

• "For an Israeli academic not to think exactly as they think on the campuses of Birmingham and Brighton is to be guilty of a crime for which the punishment is expulsion from the international community of thought. Will someone, in the light of that, explain to me what universities are for? Is not scholarship meant to constitute a sacred bond, an implicit assurance that here at least, in the free academy of the mind, the conversation will always go on no matter how bitter the disagreement, no matter how unorthodox or incorrect or even offensive the views expressed?"

Posted by GI at October 14, 2010 05:10 PM

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