Will we ever be forgiven for the Holocaust?

Howard Jacobson, winner of the Man Booker Prize, delivered this year’s Jerusalem Address at the B’Nai Brith World Center in Jerusalem. This is his take on why the world hates Israel.

The question is rhetorical. When will Jews be forgiven the Holocaust? Never.

The shocking psychological truth is that man rejects the burden of guilt by turning the tables on those we have wronged and portraying ourselves as the victims of their suffering. The Roman historian Tacitus spells it out. “It is part of human life,” he wrote, “to hate the man you have hurt.” Those we harm, we blame — mobilizing dislike and even hatred in order to justify, after the event, the harm we did. From which it must follow that those who are harmed the most, as in the case of the Shoah — are blamed the most.

And there’s this:

If we are to talk of tactics, then routinely accusing your critics of employing illegitimate tactics is a common, illegitimate tactic in itself. This particular one — that, as every criticism of anti-Zionism is motivated by bad faith, there can be no fair criticism of anti-Zionism — is widespread. The syllogism goes like this:

Not all critics of Israel are anti-Semites.

I am a critic of Israel.

Therefore I am not an anti-Semite.

In this way has anti-Zionism become an inviolable space. Question it and you are deemed to have cried anti-Semitism (this, whether you have or you haven’t), and since to cry anti-Semitism is a foul, no position from which it is rational to question anti-Zionism remains allowable. By the infernal logic of this magic circle, the anti-Zionist is doubly indemnified, firstly against any criticism of his position whatsoever, since the status of such criticism has been reduced to that of “tactic,” and secondly against the original accusation of anti-Semitism, which anti-Zionism cancels out.

Don’t just read the excerpts, though. Read the whole thing. No wonder he won the Man Booker prize. He’s wonderful.

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