The Plank

Albion's Alarmism


A group of trendy British Jews (Stephen Fry among them!) have formed a
coalition called Independent Jewish Voices in
opposition to the Board of Deputies of British Jews, the long-standing
communal umbrella organization. They have published a "declaration" stating their
claims. It contains much of the victim-language
from those with the persecution complex leading them to imagine that their
beliefs--irrespective of intellectual speciousness--are unfairly maligned and
sinisterly suppressed. Cries of "social justice," the canard that
"opposition to Israeli government policies is automatically branded as
anti-semitic" and distress over the "appalling living conditions" of the
Palestinians pepper the treacly document. This statement is, to borrow the
words of David Mamet, "a hailing
sign of membership in the group of right-thinking urban liberals."

Several of the signatories supported the British boycott of Israeli
academics two years ago. Professor Eric Hobsbawm, perhaps the group's most
distinguished signatory, is an unrepentant communist who once
infamously (and erroneously) declared that "Fragile as the
communist systems turned out to be, only a limited, even nominal, use of
armed coercion was necessary to maintain them from 1957 until 1989."

In last week's Independent, Howard Jacobson observed:

If you wonder why statements such as IJV's are always signed by a
disproportionate number of theatre people and academics, that's because they
are members of the play professions, with time on their hands and the
licence to pretend. I am paid to play myself and value the activity highly.
In play we can go where politicians and soldiers cannot. In play we
hypothesise the world. But we shouldn't go confusing it with the real thing.

Indeed, one of the signatories is the actress Janet Suzman, niece of
anti-apartheid heroine Helen Suzman. Last year,
left-wing (and anti-Zionist) South African Jews passed around a petition very similar
to the one produced in Britain last week. Not long after, I asked Mrs. Suzman
if she had been asked to sign it. "'Go jump in the lake,' I told them," she
laughed. "But not in so many words." The woman's perspicacious sense of
justice goes well beyond condemnation of the ignominy of apartheid, but to
other ignominies as well.

--James Kirchick

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