Elizabeth Wurtzel gets it

wurtzel1Some people on the left see Hamas as a contemporary updating of Asterix the Gaul.

However, one of my favourite writers – she’s like Sylvia Plath with more style – gets it.

Wurtzel breaks a long silence to talk about Gaza on CiF.

While I would prefer to equate the fate of the Palestinians with that of Israel – meaning, I’d like to believe we’re all on the same side – I think that might be a difficult political fiction to maintain at the moment. And while I’d like to artificially separate anti-Zionism from antisemitism, like most American Jews, I’m not willing to make that false distinction: when there is more than one Jewish state, the world’s hatred of Israel might become no different from its exasperation with any other country, but since Israel is the only homeland, and really it is nothing more than six million Jews living together in an area the size of New Jersey, I can’t pretend that the problem with Israel is that it’s a poorly located country that happens to be at odds with its neighbours and only coincidentally happens to be Jewish. The trouble with Israel is the trouble with Jews.

As the kind of left-leaning liberal who tends to agree with the positions taken by The Nation in most instances, I hate having to differ so completely on the Israel issue with many I otherwise would align with. As it is my good fortune to be American, I live in the only country that as a matter of policy is pro-Israel regardless of party allegiance; Democrats and Republicans equally unite behind the blue-and-white. But to communicate with anyone I think of as rightminded (and left-leaning) in any other part of the world is to experience the purest antisemitism since the Nazi era. In fact, in Europe right now, it is de rigueur to liken the current regime in Israel with the Nazi party, and to view the experience of the Palestinians as a form of ethnic cleansing. Hamas and Hezbollah are thought by the French and British to be social welfare organisations, and Israel is viewed as a terrorist state. Here, we honor the linguistic discoveries of Noam Chomsky and otherwise experience him as a quaintly brilliant crank, but in the bookstores in London there are entire sections devoted to his political thought – and he is read as if the distinctions between Leninist and Trotskyite philosophy had genuine consequence in today’s world.

Excepting a business trip I took to England, Scotland and Ireland in early 2002, I have not been to Europe since 9/11. It’s become an unbearable place to be, as the anti-American feelings in light of the Iraq war have mingled with antisemitism to a point where they are indistinguishable, the new phobias of the First World. Because I like taking the occasional trip abroad, especially now that even the Euro is sinking, I am doing my best to understand the European perspective, or somehow excuse it. After all, beyond being a Jewish homeland, Israel is also a geopolitical actor with nuclear weapons, and it might be construed as fair to criticise the actions the country has taken as a very well-armed American client that is dropping bombs on Hamas targets, to the terrible detriment of the civilian population. It’s impossible not to feel sorry for the plight of the Palestinians, and it’s even more impossible to imagine how any Palestinian could feel anything for Israel but animosity. I can see the problem.

I watch the pro-Palestinian rallies that have been staged in capitals across the globe, and I try to tell myself that these people are not against me, or even Israel; that they just are dismayed with all the violence. I tell myself, as Jean Renoir pointed out with such pellucid irony in The Rules of the Game, that everybody has their reasons. But here is what I finally know: with all the troubles in the world, with the terrible things that the Chinese do in Tibet, and do to their own citizens; with the horrors of genocide committed in Darfur by Sudanese Muslims; with all the bad things that Arab governments in the Middle East visit upon their own people – no need for Israel to have a perfectly horrible time – still, the focus is on what the Jews may or may not be doing wrong in Gaza. And it makes people angry and vehement as nothing else does. The vitriol it inspires is downright weird. But that makes sense, because antisemitism itself – creepy, dark, ancient and insidious – is, more than anything else, just plain weird.

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6 Responses to “Elizabeth Wurtzel gets it”

  1. luke Says:

    “The trouble with Israel is the trouble with Jews.”

    So when Jews like these http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2009/01/15 protest and demand an immediate ceasefire they have a problem with their own identity.

    “But here is what I finally know: with all the troubles in the world, with the terrible things that the Chinese do in Tibet, and do to their own citizens; with the horrors of genocide committed in Darfur by Sudanese Muslims; with all the bad things that Arab governments in the Middle East visit upon their own people – no need for Israel to have a perfectly horrible time – still, the focus is on what the Jews may or may not be doing wrong in Gaza.”

    This is total nonsense. I remember people around the world protesting the Olympic torch path to China, and wasn’t it in Paris that the flame was almost put out? There are divestment campaigns going on against Sudan much like there are for Israel. In the US in particular, it is perfectly understandable that there are rallys against what Israel is doing when the American government gives billions of dollars to Israel in military assistance every year.

    “still, the focus is on what the Jews may or may not be doing wrong in Gaza”

    if this Elizabeth Wurtzel isn’t capable of saying that anything the Israel has done so far in Gaza is wrong, she is clueless.

    This editorial offers nothing new, just a rehashing of standard pro-Israel boilerplate rhetoric and a shameful attempt to defend Israel’s actions by claiming that criticizing Israel is anti-semetic.

  2. maxdunbar Says:

    Come on, some criticism of Israel is undoubtedly antisemitic. I agree that there should be a ceasefire, though.

  3. Anonymous Says:

    “but since Israel is the only homeland, and really it is nothing more than six million Jews living together in an area the size of New Jersey, I can’t pretend that the problem with Israel is that it’s a poorly located country that happens to be at odds with its neighbours and only coincidentally happens to be Jewish. The trouble with Israel is the trouble with Jews.”

    with the last sentence, she isn’t saying here that “some” criticism is antisemitic, she is saying that all criticism is stemming from antisemitism. The whole logic of her argument here is nonsensical. One billion Indians live in an area roughly the size of the American midwest, and frequently has problems with it’s neighbors to the north and west, so does that mean criticism of India is motivated by anti-Indian racism?

    this editorial is also very poorly written, is she accusing chomsky of being an antisemite? If not, why did she had that snub at him?

    I’m an American, by the way, so it’s difficult to see how true the anti-Semitic claims about Europe are.

  4. Annie Says:

    this is interesting, I’m not sure what to make of it thought. It’s an interesting viewpoint. I have so far not commented, and haven’t joined any of the protests etc. I don’t feel informed enough.

    I felt quite sad that she feels this:
    I have not been to Europe since 9/11. It’s become an unbearable place to be, as the anti-American feelings in light of the Iraq war have mingled with antisemitism to a point where they are indistinguishable.

    I wasn’t entirely sure how (she feels) american feelings have mingled with antisemitism in europe (esp as she has not having been here since 9/11…)

    I was pleased to hear about the impending ceasefire, this is good news for everyone…

  5. Anonymous Says:

    Thanks for posting this! What a fantastic gift for equivocation she has. It’s going to serve as a quite useful example of how one can seem level-headed and very reasonable about an extremely controversial issue while actually only delivering sweeping statements and non-sequiturs; in the end the entire excerpt serves as a delicious obfuscation in the guise of clarity. Neat trick.

  6. Anonymous Says:

    How about pointing out the counter-argument?

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/jan/16/israelandthepalestinians-judaism

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