X Close

Why people love dead Jews The existence of Israel looms over a new essay collection

Few lessons have been learned. (MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP via Getty Images)

Few lessons have been learned. (MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP via Getty Images)


October 11, 2021   5 mins

I remember being in the alleys of downtown Cairo a decade ago and coming to the ruins of a synagogue, one of dozens that once housed the religious life of the thousands of Jews who gave this neighbourhood its name. It is still called The Jewish Quarter, even though by the time I arrived in 2009 the actual Jews who had crowded the alleys up to the 1940s had been hounded out by state persecution and mob violence. As far as I knew, the Jewish population of Cairo’s Jewish Quarter on the day I visited was one: me.

The synagogue was named for the philosopher and physician Maimonides, who led the Jewish community here in the 12th century, when Cairo was the most important Jewish centre in the Middle East. The building was nothing but a roofless shell, but I discovered a work crew laying planks in one of the rooms, up to their knees in fetid water. It turned out that the Egyptian government — the same regime that took possession of much of the property of the 80,000 Jews who’d been forced out of the country two generations earlier — was engaged in a restoration project.

A polite young engineer on the site showed me the location of the stand where the Torah scroll was once read. Another man, in civilian clothes but with some vaguely military authority, told me not to take pictures.

There couldn’t be anything bad about the restoration of a synagogue, could there? It was hard to explain why none of this felt right; why I preferred to see the building left to rot, rather than see it made up like a corpse at a wake. I had the same feeling when I saw other journalists refer seriously to the “Jewish community of Cairo”, quoting a woman who was its “President”.

There was no community, just a regime-approved simulacrum designed to allow everyone to pretend that an ethnic cleansing hadn’t taken place, and that something dead was alive. It was Weekend at Bernie’s. At the time of my visit, the Egyptian Government was trying to get one of its officials elected to a top cultural post at the UN, an effort hindered by this same official’s past support for burning Hebrew books. A synagogue renovation couldn’t hurt his cause! The real Jews were long out of Egypt, but their imaginary avatars were still hard at work serving the narrative needs of others.

In Cairo, and at similar sites I’ve visited elsewhere in the Middle East and Europe, I’ve felt — in the words of the author Dara Horn — an “unarticulated sense that despite all the supposed goodwill, something was clearly off”. Horn has now articulated that sense, and many other important and elusive senses, in a superb new essay collection, People Love Dead Jews. (I should mention that I spent a summer with the author on a youth programme three decades ago, and have remained in touch.) Horn comes at her subject with a deep grasp of history and a personal commitment to the living Jewish tradition, with an acerbic sense of humour that pops out now and then — and also, refreshingly and necessarily, with anger.

One memorable essay recounts a bizarre trip to several “Jewish heritage sites” in Harbin, China, near the Siberian border. The city is known for its vast Ice Festival every winter, and also for being founded by Jews who were sent there by Tsarist Russia as part of a railway project, but were then dispossessed and driven out by a mix of imperial Japanese occupiers, White Russian bigots, and rapacious communists of both the Soviet and Maoist variety. (Horn quips that “Jewish heritage sites” — a benign term used in many countries for the purpose of multicultural branding and drawing Jewish tourism — sounds better than “Property Seized from Dead or Expelled Jews.”)

The author visits “the largest Jewish cemetery in the Far East”, which turns out not to be a real cemetery at all, but just gravestones on empty ground. The original cemetery was re-zoned years ago and the Harbin municipality moved only the markers, not the bodies, which now seem to be under an amusement park.

The names of those Jews have inevitably been forgotten. A very different posthumous fate befell Anne Frank, the subject of another essay in this book, who, in the decades since her murder at age 16, has been turned into a global brand. Horn is cutting about the way her famous diary has been used as a feel-good story that flatters readers in the same way that a renovated synagogue flatters the multiculturalism of the Egyptian state.

The book’s most famous sentence — “I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are truly good at heart” — is something we all like to hear. But it obscures the obvious truth of the text, which was written a few weeks before Anne was turned in by Dutch neighbours to die in a German camp. No one was good enough to save her. “It is far more gratifying,” Horn writes, “to believe that an innocent dead girl has offered us grace than to recognise the obvious: Frank wrote about people being ‘truly good at heart’ before meeting people who weren’t.”

And it’s easier to love a Jewish girl who can no longer express her potentially uncomfortable conclusions about her own life than it is to tolerate her annoyingly living co-religionists. In 2018, the Anne Frank museum in Amsterdam, located at the site of the house where she hid with her family, wouldn’t let a Jewish employee wear a kippah, explaining that this violated the museum’s “neutrality”. The directors changed their mind only after four months of deliberations, Horn observes, “which seems like a rather long time for the Anne Frank House to ponder whether it was a good idea to force a Jew into hiding.” A similar observation might be made about a place like Belgium, which also has nice Jewish museums and memorials, yet just passed a law banning kosher slaughter, a necessity for those living Belgian Jews who would like to practice their religion.

Looming over Horn’s essay collection is the place that is now home to the largest number of living Jews, the state of Israel. Israel is the ultimate demonstration of Horn’s thesis, though she mostly, and wisely, steers clear of the topic. Many people eager to venerate their vanished Jews are simultaneously uncomfortable with the ones who are still alive in the tiny corner of the Middle East where they fled after most other places on earth became unlivable.

Horn skirts close in one moving essay about a group of Yiddish actors and writers in the Soviet Union of the 1940s who were exploited for propaganda, then killed when they were no longer useful. The communists could tolerate Jews, she writes, “provided they weren’t practising the Jewish religion, studying traditional Jewish texts, using Hebrew, or supporting Zionism” — meaning that nearly all of Jewish life was out of bounds. “The Soviet Union thus pioneered a versatile gaslighting slogan, which it later spread through its client states in the developing world and which remains popular today: it was not anti-Semitic, merely anti-Zionist.”

This differentiation, which outlived the Soviets and is increasingly popular on the Western Left today, is largely lost on the plurality of Jews who are Israelis, and on the vast majority who think a Jewish state is a good idea. Older people here in Israel still remember how in the Yom Kippur War of 1973, just 28 years after the concentration camps closed, the same liberal countries of Europe that were expressing pious regret for the recent extermination of their Jews wouldn’t allow desperately needed American resupply flights to land in their territory en route to Israel, which had just been attacked by two Arab clients of the Soviets and was struggling to recover.

And in 2021, young Jews can still see how countries like France, Germany, and the UK lay solemn wreaths at Holocaust memorials while participating in the isolation of the Jewish state at the UN, where the Human Rights Council, to give just one example, has condemned Israel more times than all other countries on earth combined. They can also observe how activists in places awash with Jewish heritage sites and Holocaust museums are energetically promoting a boycott of “Zionists” with telling success.

Horn doesn’t go there, in part because she doesn’t need to; her inspired essays say enough. But it is that kind of hypocrisy that’s at the heart of her argument. People Love Dead Jews helps explain the acute anxiety of many Jewish citizens of Western countries in 2021, who feel the ground shifting as old forms of thought reappear in public on both the Left and the Right — and as it becomes clear how few lessons have really been learned.


Matti Friedman is the author, most recently, of Spies of No Country: Secret Lives at the Birth of Israel. He lives in Jerusalem

MattiFriedman

Join the discussion


Join like minded readers that support our journalism by becoming a paid subscriber


To join the discussion in the comments, become a paid subscriber.

Join like minded readers that support our journalism, read unlimited articles and enjoy other subscriber-only benefits.

Subscribe
Subscribe
Notify of
guest

84 Comments
Most Voted
Newest Oldest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Jon Redman
Jon Redman
2 years ago

“The Soviet Union thus pioneered a versatile gaslighting slogan…which remains popular today: it was not anti-Semitic, merely anti-Zionist.”

Fascinating to see this common lie tracked down to its roots, and quelle surprise (not) that it’s always been so popular among Soviet sympathisers like Livingstone and Corbyn.
You can actually play the “when will the anti-Semitism crop up?” game with much broadcast media.
Yesterday I was watching a Channel 4 or 5 series called Departure. It is supposedly about an air crash and the people investigating it. With TV’s regard for gritty realism the investigators are largely women, Muslim, black, or more than one of those; the white characters are either nasty bullying bosses or dim stooges having orders barked at them by the super smart minorities. The good guy pilot who doesn’t crash the plane is black and the villainess is white, obviously. Meanwhile, the bloke on board who seems to be an Arab terrorist isn’t – he is in fact a Mossad agent. And them Mossad Jews won’t be helpful.
The idea of Muslims bravely investigating an air crash caused by white terrorists is gaslighting in itself but this being lefty media they simply couldn’t resist inserting some Jews. But of course they’re not anti-Semites, no sir. They’re anti-Zionists maybe.

Judy Englander
Judy Englander
2 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

I’ve lost count of the number of times in a drama or film where the ‘usual suspects’ for terrorism or trafficking, middle easterners, turn out to be completely innocent and the perps are a white far-right group. I turned off the last series of Baptiste (BBC of course) for this reason.

D Glover
D Glover
2 years ago
Reply to  Judy Englander

White far-right groups seem to loom larger in the minds of playwrights than they do in real life. The BBC’s Ridley Road gives Colin Jordan far more importance than he ever really had.

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
2 years ago
Reply to  Judy Englander

Yes, I first noticed this in 2003 when the Tom Cruise vehicle Collateral came out. Tom plays a hit man driving around LA in a taxi killing the prosecution witnesses on the eve of a big criminal trial. It’s not a bad movie, except that the criminals and suspects are – with one exception – white. The heroine putting these wicked criminals behind bars is black, as is the hero, who’s reluctantly driving Tom’s cab for him. At one point Tom leaves him cable-tied to the wheel of his taxi, whereupon he is immediately mugged by three white punks.
I left the cinema thinking that guy had to be the unluckiest guy in America: what are the odds of being commandeered by a white murderer and then mugged by three white men?

JP Martin
JP Martin
2 years ago

The truth is sometimes too painful to hear. The people who need to read this essay will not read it. If they do read it, they will resist it.

Alison Tyler
Alison Tyler
2 years ago
Reply to  JP Martin

You are not wrong.

chris sullivan
chris sullivan
2 years ago

Clear informative essay thanks – I have a theory that most people do not have the attention span to read much history (or much of anything actually) and of course are doomed to repeat it etc etc. Had a discussion not so long ago with an aquaintance about whether Golda Meir’s autobiography could be deemed as factual – he seemed to think ‘of course it is full of spin’ – upon closer questioning it turned out that he had only ‘sped’ read it ! He said ‘you did not expect me to read the whole thing did you cos its quite long and dense”. We still live in primitive times which often leave me at a loss for words !

chris sullivan
chris sullivan
2 years ago
Reply to  chris sullivan

And my circle of friends has shrunk steadily………….

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
2 years ago
Reply to  chris sullivan

I have read hundreds of political biographies/autobiographies and what makes them readable to me is not just the content but how well they are written – in some cases the translation is important as well. Being huffy about speed reading a book, which you happen to think is important, is a bit over the top.

I am not Jewish but I once read GM’s autobiography and it struck me that I was reading about someone’s ‘self-image’ for posterity.

Judy Englander
Judy Englander
2 years ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

Nothing wrong with speed reading a book. It’s sometimes necessary in a busy life. But if you’re going to make something that sounds like informed comment, you have to read it properly.

Barry Phillips
Barry Phillips
2 years ago

The ignorance on display at events such as the Scotland v Israel World Cup (football) game last Saturday night is breathtaking. Judging by the presence of Palestinian flags and booing of Israeli players, one would think it was they, not Arabs/Muslims, responsible for the ethno-religious cleansing of MENA.
That the Israelis have had the temerity to claim and defend a tiny sliver of land (8.6 thousand square miles) in the midst of millions of square miles claimed by Muslim nations, has made them perpetual targets for a cohort that are rarely described as far-right or fascist as they should be.

Judy Englander
Judy Englander
2 years ago
Reply to  Barry Phillips

If I remember correctly it takes just four minutes to fly by helicopter from the Mediterranean coast to the eastern border of Israel (green line) at the narrowest point.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
2 years ago
Reply to  Barry Phillips

If those football fans disagree with the foreign policy of Israel as a country should they not be allowed to criticise them? Many people protested against South African teams during the apartheid years, are you saying they were wrong to do so?

Barry Phillips
Barry Phillips
2 years ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Not at all.

However, they do seem to have a highly selective grasp of actual historical events.

Dustshoe Richinrut
Dustshoe Richinrut
2 years ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Them? So the Israeli football players are ambassadors for Israel. What next? The booing of the Israeli singer at the next Eurovision Song Contest? Because the audience disagrees with his or her country’s foreign policy?

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
2 years ago

Football is a very tribal game. I don’t hold any living Germans responsible for the crimes of the Third Reich, but that isn’t going to stop me singing 10 German bombers whenever England play them, ditto anti IRA songs when we play the Irish or anything to do with the Falklands when we play Argentina. Why should fans walk on eggshells when playing Israel but not other teams? Why shouldn’t they hold up flags in support of another people if they believe they’re being mistreated by the country they’re playing on the night?

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
2 years ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Israel, you may have noticed, is regularly attacked by Hamas and Hezbollah by having rockets aimed at its citizens. I am sure you’d be very happy to tolerate this were they coming from Ireland into your home town.
The other chants are perhaps a now rather tedious bit of banter, but Israel is under attack, which would be an existential threat were it not able to defend itself. With the increase in anti-Semitism in the US Democratic Party, even its support from the US is in question in the long term. Frankly, compared to this, Brexit is a minor issue, much though I support the latter.

Last edited 2 years ago by Andrew Fisher
Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
2 years ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Rugby league manages to evade crass songs. Why ?

Martin Johnson
Martin Johnson
2 years ago
Reply to  Charles Hedges

Because there Aren’t many Muslim rugby fans?

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Apartheid South Africa is a very different proposition to Israel. Typical facile conflation.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
2 years ago

The Palestinians probably don’t think so

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
2 years ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

The ‘Palestinians’ have had many opportunities to have peace, which they have rejected it at every turn. Far too many, including obviously Hamas, want the world to basically reverse the creation of the State of Israel. Many others are devious about what their ultimate ‘goal’ is, but this often includes the swamping of Israel by millions of the great-grandchildren of the 1948 refugees, destroying it by other means. The majority of mandate Palestine is actually IN Arab possession by the way. Look at a map and see the size of Jordan which formed part of it, compared to Israel.
Regarding those refugees, in precisely the same period since 1947-8, millions of European refugees have been successfully settled, as have millions in South Asia, whatever the many problems still exist in that region. And isn’t it odd how the many Jews who were expelled from THEIR homes in the Middle East and North Africa in 1948 are always ignored in this debate?
Jews don’t actually have all that many safe places to live; certainly not France with its high Muslim population with their anti-Jewish sentiments. Israel is the only (relatively) safe home for the Jewish people, and will quite rightly will look to its security first rather than the endless ill-will of those who say one thing to a Western audience and quite another to the ‘Arab Street’, quite apart from the pusillanimous and hypocritical Europeans on the issue. This is what this well-argued article is all about.

Last edited 2 years ago by Andrew Fisher
Alison Tyler
Alison Tyler
2 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Fisher

Hypocrisy writ large really. Either all humans are valued merely for being human, or we sadly are all at risk. I think this is highly likely.

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
2 years ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Nobody cares about anyone else’s foreign policy though.
It’s only Israel’s. And they’re so exercised about it in Scotland that the very first thing they think, when they hear their team’s going to be playing Israel, is “Ooh, the wicked injustice of these West Bank settlements”.
Now let’s think. They’re not bothered by Moldova’s poor record of LGB rights, foe example. They weren’t upset by Austria having produced H itl3r. They were fine playing those teams.
So what is about Israel that makes Scots football supporters so very angry? What could it be?

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
2 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

Are you saying that Scotland fans should boo Austria because an evil man and leader of a different country was born there over 100 years ago, but say nothing when playing Israel who continue to build illegal settlements on annexed land to this day?

Samir Iker
Samir Iker
2 years ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

It wasn’t Israel that refused to accept the partition in 1948, or the existence of a non Jewish state.
From day 1, the numerous muslim nations ganged up to attack Israel with the intention of genocide….and lost every time.
And you expect the Israelis to be ashamed about building a few settlements in the land of the people who would exterminate the Israelis to last man, woman and child without compunction, if they were strong enough?

And even if you ignore the incredible provocation of attempted genocide, how is Israel conduct worse than how Turkey treated Armenians and Kurds, how Pakistan treated minorities, how Jewish minorities were treated in every single islamic country

Where are those rights activists, UN resolutions, etc for those other, far more filthy countries.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
2 years ago
Reply to  Samir Iker

So if you believe might has right, which is what you seem to be implying, you’d have no complaints if the Hezbollah and Hamas did succeed in their ambitions of wiping Israel off the map?

Samir Iker
Samir Iker
2 years ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

No, if YOU believe might is right, and believe someone else doesn’t even have the right to exist, and then get thrashed by that someone half your size….don’t expect any sympathy after that.

A. Arabs trying to exterminate Israel
B. Israel surviving, and along the way building a few settlements on other people’s lands

Not equal.
And if you are so angry about settlements, where is your outrage about all those Jews in neighbouring countries driven out of their homes, losing everything with no compensation.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
2 years ago
Reply to  Samir Iker

Or to look at it another way, Israel annexing another people’s land and forcibly removing them from it to build illegal settlements, and the Arabs flinging a few rockets over the fence in retaliation

Martin Brumby
Martin Brumby
2 years ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

the Arabs flinging a few rockets over the fence in retaliation”
Hmmm. You sound very much like an adherent of the Religion of Peace.
Just like the Luftwaffe ‘dropped the odd bomb over the Channel in Southern England in retaliation’, was it?
Twerp.

Martin Brumby
Martin Brumby
2 years ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Obviously it is a waste of time to reply to an Antisemite.
But other readers might contemplate the fact that the wartime leader of the so-called “Palestinians” was the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al Husseini, who not only was personally very involved in pre-war terrorist attacks of the long standing Jewish settlements, but was an active collaborator with and supporter of the German Nazi regime, met Hitler and other key Nazi leaders and is thought to have visited Dachau and possibly Auschwitz.
Many will remember (even if they don’t admit it now) the “Palestinians” dancing in the street after 9/11.
It is an unfortunate fact that those who end up defeated in a major war are not always immediately forgiven and I should also point out that the first vote in favour of Israel at the UN was cast by the Soviet Union, although Joe Stalin was little less Antisemitic than Hitler. Yet even he could see that the establishment of a Jewish State in the original homeland should be supported – albeit he didn’t show much support subsequently!
Yes, it is quite true that no country’s foreign policy is above criticism. It is my opinion that both Oslo Accords and Camp David Accords were massive mistakes and that Gaza should never have been handed over to Hamas.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
2 years ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

There is utter hypocrisy on this issue. Are you seriously saying that a bunch of football fans are so clued up on human rights that they are taking a principled stand here? Why not protest about the absurd hosting of the World Cup in Qatar, one of many much worse human rights abusers than Israel. This would have the merit of imposing some small cost on themselves and showing they actually invest their opinions with some sacrifice on their part.
I used to think the demonization of Israel was very naĂŻve, then suspicious, now very sadly – I do not rejoice in the fact – that it is undoubtedly an expression of out-and-out anti-Semitism, of exactly this gaslighting, deniable, kind. As mentioned, Israel gets more condemnation that the rest of the far worse humans rights abusers in the world put together. Where are the protests against China, Myanmar, Rwanda (yes, the new one), Russia, Iran, even Saudi Arabia, if we would like to select some pro-Western ones?. They are practically non-existent, only ever carried out by exiles from the countries concerned (I passed some Iranians highlighting that regime’s recent execution of thousands of prisoners.

Dustshoe Richinrut
Dustshoe Richinrut
2 years ago

The barrage of thousands of rockets fired into Israel earlier this year does speak volumes about how mean and disdainful much of the world is towards Israel when that mass assault was passed off by international actors and bodies and the like as if it were no more than a reckless, illegal fireworks display, yet somehow to them representative of a cry for help, a cry of anguish.
The assault actually bore in terms of the particular kind of fear that it stoked a similarity to the V-1 ‘doodlebug’ and V-2 rocket attacks on the south-east of England from late 1944 to early 1945. If not for the Iron Dome protection system, the destruction and death would have been greater, more widespread, with possibly a greater loss of life than what transpired on the ground when the V-1 and V-2s hit. Is it possible that there are some elderly Jews living in Israel who lived through the Nazi rocket strikes in London and its environs and have relived that experience decades later, in Israel, this year?
The vehemence in criticism for Israel today from various quarters in Europe must lead one to sometimes conclude that history, even recent, has no real impact on people’s sensibilities. Hitler acted out of spite when he gave the go-ahead to launch his rockets. Does spite drive the multi-pronged criticism of Israel?

Dustshoe Richinrut
Dustshoe Richinrut
2 years ago

A number of points:

“People Love Dead Jews” is a very sardonic title, typical of a particular brand of Jewish self-deprecating humour. Now I think the Hollywood screenwriter/film director Billy Wilder once said, in referring to his own Jewishness, that “they won’t beat you up if you make ‘em laugh.” He had left/fled Austria as a young man in the 1930s, if I recall his biography accurately enough. So the book’s title of People Love Dead Jews is itself an unwise choice of words, probably best left to talented entertainers in the Billy Wilder mould to express. What I mean is that the title is very jarring, reactionary. And in itself has possibly led the author here to say, in referring to Anne Frank, “
 than it is to tolerate her ANNOYINGLY living co-religionists.” (Capitals mine). Must the sardonic tone of the catchy title be automatically aped? Does that capture the reality of the true feelings of people who are in the habit of criticising Israel? Do they seriously wish Jews would 
. just go away? Maybe some of them sadly, disturbingly do. But most people do not wish in any sense that. Take the “polite young engineer” in Cairo who showed the author here the stand where the Torah scroll was once read, in the shell of the ruined synagogue. Surely the concept of the annoyingly living has not trickled down to him yet!

Second point (but as a matter of interest only): the Jewish heritage site in Harbin, China. I don’t think this was the place where some Jews after Kristallnacht got a visa to in 1939. An exceptionally kind and sympathetic official of the Chinese embassy in Berlin worked overtime to get Jews out to Shanghai I think it was, where they stayed for the duration of the war. However some died there, their gravestones subsequently destroyed during the Cultural Revolution in the 1960s, with some damaged gravestones found abandoned up to ten or so miles away in the 1990s. I know this from reading Martin Gilbert’s excellent book on the history on The Night Of Broken Glass, “Kristallnacht”. Though it is more than ten years since I read it. I just cannot recall reading if these Jews’ “sojourn” in China, in Shanghai, was turned into a ghetto of sorts by the Japanese occupiers.

Third point: Did the Anne Frank museum’s decree on the wearing of religious objects (if that’s what it was, a decree) based on the need for security? Did it pertain to visitors, too? Surely the museum was sensitive to the needs for high-level but unobtrusive security rather than trying to downplay the Jewishness of Anne Frank.

Fourth point: the author here says “
, young Jews can still see how countries like France, Germany and the UK lay solemn wreaths at Holocaust memorials while participating in the isolation of the Jewish state at the UN, 
”.
Why not mention America, too? Was not one of the last acts of the Obama Administration to downplay the Jewishness of religious sites by voting so in the UN, in late 2016? A rather spiteful last swipe? Young Jews have as much to fear from the Left in America as the Right.

harry storm
harry storm
1 year ago

There’s a world of difference between European votes and American votes at the UN regarding Israela. Your example is an outlier.

Jeff Butcher
Jeff Butcher
2 years ago

If kosher slaughter is inhumane then maybe the barbarity of certain religious practices is the issue rather than the Belgian govt. But why have a discussion about it when you can just accuse the Belgians of anti- semitism?

JP Martin
JP Martin
2 years ago
Reply to  Jeff Butcher

The question is whether the laws are neutral or religiously targeted. In terms of volume, kosher slaughter is a detail when compared to halal slaughter. Kosher and halal slaughter involve comparable methods and rules. Of course, if the law affects both groups that gives a patina of neutrality. There are so many other inhumane farming and slaughter practices that this is a questionable priority for animal welfare.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
2 years ago
Reply to  JP Martin

Seeing as both Halal and Kosher slaughter is banned in Belgium I’d say it is indeed neutral rather than targeted at a single religion. Personally I think both methods are unnecessarily cruel and serve no purpose therefore I’d be happy to see them banned elsewhere

Last edited 2 years ago by Billy Bob
Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
2 years ago
Reply to  JP Martin

The ‘patina’ of neutrality – a lovely passive continuation of the smear of anti-semitism!

JP Martin
JP Martin
2 years ago
Reply to  Ian Stewart

It’s just a ‘patina’ because the legal analysis requires more than a finding of facial neutrality. EU law, whether we agree with it or not, recognises that facially neutral laws can result in indirect discrimination (or what US lawyers usually call “disparate impact”). Of course, there are many reasons to criticise this doctrine. As for the Belgian law, I have no quarrel with any law that reduces animal suffering, quite the opposite. I only question whether this is the highest priority when we tolerate many more widespread practices that cause animals to suffer during their entire lives and not just in their final moments.

harry storm
harry storm
1 year ago
Reply to  Jeff Butcher

I am no animal slaughter expert but I expect the Kosher method is hardly less humane than the current method used by non-religious slaughterers. And I think disregarding the strong religious beliefs of others can be construed as prejudice.

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
2 years ago

History has always shown that Jews have been persecuted. Not many thinking people would disagree with that point.There are many Jewish authors and they write well and convincingly. The new book of essays, advertised above, seems to make that point as well. I agree and what more can I say?

One issue is not often discussed in Jewish history and, in my opinion, it is the important issue today, especially for younger people. Does a feeling of guilt about the treatment of Jews in the past mean that the Israeli state can do no wrong?

Charles Mimoun
Charles Mimoun
2 years ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

You are true when you say that the feeling of guilt about the treatment of Jews in the past doesn’t mean that the Israeli state can do no wrong. But on the other side, have you ever heard someone who explaining he was anti-Syrian or anti-Russian, as we all hear it concerning Israel?

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
2 years ago
Reply to  Charles Mimoun

I’ve heard many people criticise Syria and Russia, in fact Russia has been the wests bogeyman since the end of the Second World War.

Charles Mimoun
Charles Mimoun
2 years ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

To criticise Russia doesn’t mean to be anti-Russian.

harry storm
harry storm
1 year ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

Oh come off it. The problem is that there are so many on the left in Europe and North America — and not only on the left — who say the Israeli state can do no RIGHT.

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
2 years ago

Initially I thought the publication recommended by this writer might be worth checking out. But then this piece started lashing out blindly.
For example, the kosher issue. Many people detest, as strongly as any religion, the form of slaughter required for what they see as an old myth. But you smear them as intolerant.
So based in your argument about accepting Jewish practices that contradict our own beliefs such as animal welfare, you would have us permit Muslims to carry out Jihad or hide women behind masks, since that’s their religious practice?
And then you bemoan Israel being bullied at the UN. This is unacceptable, but Israel is no innocent.I’ll never forget the slaughter of the innocents that Israeli armed forces enabled at Sabra Chatila. It took a very long time for me to reconcile with that emulation of a death camp overseen by Israeli forces.
And I went on my own little homage to Anne Frank – visited her hideaway and then went to the camp where she was murdered. I commissioned a sculpture too that reminded me of her when I was on holiday to remember her by at home. I’ve protested online too about USA Democrats trying to deprive Israelis of their defensive iron dome. But I expect none of that is good enough for you.
I won’t be checking out that book since I expect it echoes your own resentment of people who aren’t Jews.

Jonathan Ellman
Jonathan Ellman
2 years ago
Reply to  Ian Stewart

Your comment on the Sabra massacre of Palestinians by Lebanese Christians comes across as a justification of the UN’s anti-semitic demonisation of Israel. I wonder if you recognise that demonisation as anti-semitic.

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
2 years ago

It’s no demonisation to acknowledge Israeli complicity in that massacre – it’s a fact. I wonder if in turn you recognise that trivialising that massacre as anti-human.

Jonathan Ellman
Jonathan Ellman
2 years ago
Reply to  Ian Stewart

We’re talking about the UN’s anti-semitic demonisation of Israel, which you choose to ignore: “the UN, where the Human Rights Council, to give just one example, has condemned Israel more times than all other countries on earth combined”.
The trivialisation of the Lebanese Christian massacre of Palestinians exists only in your imagination, where it provides an excuse to further demonise Israel.

Rafi Stern
Rafi Stern
2 years ago
Reply to  Ian Stewart

So you are saying that the condemnation of Israel more than all the other countries on Earth together is well earned because of complicity in the Sabr-Chatilla masacre?

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
2 years ago
Reply to  Rafi Stern

I’m saying that perhaps they’ve done more than others to deserve that condemnation. How many other nations in the last 60 years have annexed as much of their neighbours territory and displaced the local population through settlement building as the Israelis?

Last edited 2 years ago by Billy Bob
Jonathan Ellman
Jonathan Ellman
2 years ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

If we include the Sinai, probably no nation has returned as much land to its neighbours as Israel. Gaza was returned and in return constant violence, which goes at least part of the way to explaining the reluctance in some quarters to ‘returning’ the West Bank; except of course the West Bank could only be ‘returned’ to Jordan. Whichever body ought to decide who owns what land there, it cannot credibly be the UN given its historical anti-semitic bias. So there is no easy solution as long as the Palestinians continue to demand the termination of the State of Israel, and they do, it is in the main their end goal.
But even if you disagree, and there are credible counter arguments, Israel has done far less in terms of death tolls than numerous nations, including the UK and the USA amongst others. So no, the grotesquely skewed UN condemnations against Israel are not deserved in the global scheme of things. The only real explanation is anti-semitism from Arab/Muslim nations within the UN.

Joe Wein
Joe Wein
2 years ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

You’re kidding, right Billy? Why don’t you consider the population displacements in the 20th century
https://www.statista.com/chart/22908/people-displaced-by-conflicts-since-the-20th-century/
Then consider the 600,000 Palestinians displaced by Israel during the War of Independence and the 600,000 Jews displaced out of Arab countries during and after that same war.
Then compare the numbers. The Israeli / Palestinian conflict is not even a footnote.
Of course, if you feel equally strongly about the India / Pakistan displacement (Same year, 25x the size) I forgive you. But I suspect not.

Jean Nutley
Jean Nutley
2 years ago
Reply to  Joe Wein

Your final comment got me thinking about the India/Pakistan displacement and slaughter of innocent civilians. I saw an excellent documentary about the subject, and it left me feeling that perhaps the dream of a place to call home is better than the harsh realities of creating one.
Forcing people from their homes in order to create homes for newcomers appears to create nothing but grounds for aggression and fighting.

Samir Iker
Samir Iker
2 years ago
Reply to  Ian Stewart

It is interesting how many people remember Sabra Chitila have no recollection of the Armenians, Bangladeshis, or even the worse Black September incident that happened in the immediate neighborhood.

Rod McLaughlin
Rod McLaughlin
2 years ago

There’s a word in Yiddish for “breathtaking hypocrisy”. To be fair, UnHerd isn’t the only ‘anti-woke’ online magazine to prostitute itself to Jewish supremacy.

Last edited 2 years ago by Rod McLaughlin
Dennis Boylon
Dennis Boylon
2 years ago

Jews love dead Palestinians. Which is why they won’t listen to the UN. They want more land which means more dead Palestinians and war.

Jonathan Ellman
Jonathan Ellman
2 years ago
Reply to  Dennis Boylon

Any idea why they gave up Gaza?

Rafi Stern
Rafi Stern
2 years ago
Reply to  Dennis Boylon

I am Jewish and I don’t like dead Palestinians. Neither do I like racist slurs.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
2 years ago

What a whining article. You’d think the Jews were the only people to have ever faced any persecution or grievances throughout history the way the author carries on. Whilst the Holocaust stands alone as a horrific event, the world is littered with ruins and monuments to various people’s and civilisations who have been driven from their lands. Almost every country and religion has faced traumas throughout their history, the Jews certainly aren’t alone in this regard.

JP Martin
JP Martin
2 years ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Denialism. Whataboutism. Moral relativism. Red herrings….Bravo, that’s a lot of mental acrobatics to justify your not-so-very-latent antisemitism.

Francis MacGabhann
Francis MacGabhann
2 years ago
Reply to  JP Martin

I’d be very, very careful if I were you, going about throwing accusations of anti-Semitism with that level of abandon. I don’t know who it is you think you are, but you you’d better get a workable definition of the term before you level it at anyone else.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
2 years ago

It always strikes me as laziness. There’s no doubt that too many, and it seemed more prevalent amongst the likes of Momentum, seem to hold all Jews collectively responsible for an aggressive Israeli foreign policy which is of course completely unfair. A Jewish person in Tottenham has as much to do with Israel and the Palestinians as I do with those that practice female genital mutilation in Christian African countries.
However there are also too many Jewish figures who conflate any criticism of Israeli policy as anti Semitic, when it clearly isn’t the case. It’s simply a lazy way of trying to shut down debate. You see the same tactics by prominent Islamists who cry Islamophobia when anybody criticises the treatment of women in some Muslim countries.
I also notice all my comments on this article have so far been reported, which is quite pathetic. I thought most on here were against cancel culture? I’ve been critical of numerous religions and groups in the past, but this is the first time somebody has tried to silence my opinions

Last edited 2 years ago by Billy Bob
Jon Redman
Jon Redman
2 years ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

It happens if you challenge or fisk anything Julie Bindel writes too. If your comment has the most upvotes at the time, it gets blitzed.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago

Yet Billy Bob thinks apartheid South Africa is the same as Israel. The laziest conflation.

Last edited 2 years ago by Lesley van Reenen
Billy Bob
Billy Bob
2 years ago

I don’t believe I did say that Israel was the same as apartheid South Africa, I simply said that the Scottish football fans had a right to voice their opinion or protest about Israeli foreign policy if they wished, the same as other nations fans who disagreed with the policies of apartheid South Africa did in the past.

Jeff Butcher
Jeff Butcher
2 years ago
Reply to  JP Martin

I don’t like what he says therefore I’ll play the anti- semitism card! The same irrationality that defends kosher slaughter is the same irrationality that ethnically cleanses Cairo and bulldozes Palestinian farms. As long as it’s the right brand of irrationality eh?

Jeff Butcher
Jeff Butcher
2 years ago
Reply to  Jeff Butcher

What interests me more is why there is such little tolerance now compared to the pre-war period. What has changed? Apart from obviously the war


Last edited 2 years ago by Jeff Butcher
Dr Stephen Nightingale
Dr Stephen Nightingale
2 years ago
Reply to  Jeff Butcher

Considering that the Jewish people are among the most maligned and persecuted in recorded history, you’d think they would extend infinite tolerance towards minorities under their own sphere of influence. But I’m not hearing any plaudits from the Palestinians existing within the State of Israel.

It is curious how this whole article completely fails to mention the Palestinians co-existing within the State once known as Palestine, yet expresses dismay that many countries in the UN have a critical view of the State of Israel and its practices, without apparently understanding that the treatment of Palestinian indigenous residents is what the criticism is all about.

A disingenuous article.

Oliver Elphick
Oliver Elphick
2 years ago

Palestinian is a word invented to promote the conflict. There never was a state called Palestine. The area was under incompetent Turkish rule until conquered by Britain in 1917. The “Palestinians” are Arabs, a large number of whose ancestors immigrated in response to the increased prosperity resulting from Jewish immigration.
Arabs and Jews in Israel lived at peace with each other, even after the 1967 war, until Arafat and his cronies stirred up strife and there were frequent bombings of buses and shops and restaurants. This naturally stirred up hostility and the Israeli state response was to wall off the Arab areas in the land recovered in 1967 from illegal occupation by Jordan. The condemnation of the wall was utterly hypocritical, like most foreign criticism of Israel. Evidently the critics expect Jews just to put up with being murdered; retaliation and suppression of the murderers is so evil.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
2 years ago
Reply to  Oliver Elphick

The British Mandate of Palestine predates the creation of Israel. Just because they’ve been ruled by others for a long time doesn’t mean that there’s no people called the Palestinians. I’d wager you’re happy for nation creation for the state of Israel, but against it for Palestine? If so, why?

chris sullivan
chris sullivan
2 years ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

I dont think that anyone is against a state of Palestine – but how can that happen when the Palestinians keep chanting ‘we are going to kill all you Jews and throw your bodies into the sea” ?? Hardly the best attitude to moving forwards ??

Martin Brumby
Martin Brumby
2 years ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

OK.
What do you call people living in Jordan? Last time I checked, “Jordanians”.

Martin Brumby
Martin Brumby
2 years ago

There never was a “State once known as Palestine “.
There was a mandated territory.

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
2 years ago
Reply to  JP Martin

And there you go – lashing out with the smear. Just like the trans extremists banning any discussion of facts, as Billy Bob did – but then you are probably unable to engage in facts, eh?

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
2 years ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Did they also not dish some out?

Dr Stephen Nightingale
Dr Stephen Nightingale
2 years ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Interesting how comments approving of the article get thumbs up and comments critical of the article get thumbs down. Is it a case of bots, or a concerted effort to disrespect critical responses? Engaging with the critical response in a comment dialogue would seem to be the enlightening thing to do. A sequence of thumbs down is a useless tool for understanding what goes on in the minds of the lumpen readership of this site.

Francis MacGabhann
Francis MacGabhann
2 years ago

What an extraordinarily presumptuous and sel-regarding use of language.

Dr Stephen Nightingale
Dr Stephen Nightingale
2 years ago

Thanks for supplying a response. Now you have the ad-hominem part out of the way, you could add some actual illumination.

Francis MacGabhann
Francis MacGabhann
2 years ago

You’ve just dismissed the entire readership of Unherd as “lumpen”. You can have your ad hominem.

chris sullivan
chris sullivan
2 years ago

I presume the fact that you need to add your academic credentials to your name (Dr) means that you feel a strong need to be somehow separated from or superior to the ‘lumpen’ who might inhabit this site. In my line of work I often find that the need to parade one’s credentials is often the product of some level of one’s own concern that they might in fact be fearful that they are part of the aforementioned ‘lumpen’ and need to advertise the opposite thereof ………..

Rosalind Schogger
Rosalind Schogger
2 years ago

What does your absurd use of the English language actually mean?

Dennis Boylon
Dennis Boylon
2 years ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Yes.. This is Zionist propaganda. It is meant to make other cultures feel guilty and more sympathetic to Israel. They really need new material.