Thursday, August 11, 2005

Jews hung, drawn and quartered 1

This quarter’s Jewish Quarterly is excellent, as always (though not a very attractive cover). Some things in it:

Against the Boycott

Editor Matthew Reisz on the academic boycott of Israel (my emphases): “I once wrote an article for this magazine about the leading Israeli Darwinian, Amotz Zahavi, famous for his bold theories about peacocks’ tails and zebras’ stripes. Much of the natural world looks different in light of his work – which I would warmly recommend to anyone in search of intellectual stimulation and pleasure.

That, of course, is the most fundamental reason for opposing the [boycott], a supreme example of narrow-minded gesture politics. Israeli academics have much to tell us about almost every subject under the sun… We are only depriving ourselves if we don’t get the chance to hear them.

What could be more pointless than removing the name of an individual academic from the masthead of a learned journal read by a few dozen specialists? It is grossly unfair to the person concerned, and obscene to demand some kind of loyalty (or anti-loyalty) oath that they don’t support particular Israeli government policies. But it surely also a fatuous, preening and ineffective way of trying to promote change in Israel/Palestine.


R
edemption

Adina Hoffman, in a Letter from al-Andalus, quotes Jerusalem poet Yehuda Amichai’s poem ‘Tourists’, in which a guide, pointing above the poet, asks his group, ‘You see that man over there with the baskets? A little to the right of his head there’s an arch from the Roman period.’ Redemption, writes Amichai, will come ‘only when they are told: “Do you see that arch over there from the Roman period? It doesn’t matter, but near it, a little to the left and down a bit, there is a man who has just bought fruit and vegetables for his family.”’


Patronising Muslims

Rosna Mortuza, who “works as a consultant enabling disadvantaged communities to increase their participation”, reports on the lessons of the Galloway result in Bethnal Green and Bow. She rightly opposes the simplistic idea that “the Muslim vote” was responsible. She suggests, basically, that Oona King’s Blairism was to blame, and that Galloway received votes from a rainbow coalition of “white East Enders”, left-winger Labourites, “graduate professionals” and Islamicists.

But then she seems to contradict herself by saying King lost the election because that either Oona, Tower Hamlets Labour Party or Blairism in general (it isn’t clear which one she means) have lazily failed to find “innovative ways of listening to newer citizens who want to play a part in their localities”. The point she misses is that these “newer citizens” have in fact dominated Tower Hamlets Labour Party since the Liberal Democrats disgraced themselves by their racist policies a decade or so ago.

In other words, Mortuza is making the same communalist mistake she is criticising, saying that people should be treated as homogeneous communities not as diverse citizens.

But her diagnosis does have the advantage of suggesting the Labour Party needs to hire a consultant specialising in enabling disadvantaged communities to increase their participation…

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While I'm at it, here are some great links from the JQ website:

Jewish Book Council
Nextbook: A gateway to Jewish culture, literature and ideas
Institute for Jewish Policy Research
All About Jewish Theatre
Zeek: a Jewish Journal of Thought and culture
Limmud
European Association for Jewish Culture

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Jewish Quarterly is distributed in the UK by Central Books. Get your bookshop to stock it!


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