Tuesday, 28 August 2007

Bad faith?

When I wrote here about Carmen Callil's book Bad Faith (about anti-semitism and collaboration in France during the Nazi occupation), I had no idea of the furore that had already been caused by the link she makes between the Holocaust and Israel's treatment of the Palestinians. Saturday's Guardian review section carried an interview with Callil, which mentioned the apparent cancellation of an American launch party for the book after pressure from 'a pro-Israeli lobby group.' The interviewer, Emma Brockes (who nails her own colours to the mast in describing 'the idiocy of this response') asks Callil if she regrets including the line. This is Callil's answer:

No! I wish I'd said more. I don't see why Jews shouldn't be monsters. Jews can be monsters; they're not sacred people. And I think Israel behaves monstrously towards the Palestinians, I don't care what you say. Quite truthfully, I said what I meant in the book.

Actually, this is what Callil said in the book, and it's what has caused such controversy:

What caused me anguish as I tracked down Louis Darquier was to live so closely to the helpless terror of the Jews of France, and to see what the Jews of Israel were passing on to the Palestinian people. Like the rest of humanity, the Jews of Israel 'forget' the Palestinians.

To my mind, this goes beyond legitimate criticism of Israeli policy towards the Palestinians, which Callil has a perfect right to voice. As I said in my previous post, it's the attempt to psychologise that policy and to see it as a 'passing on' of Jewish suffering at the hands of the Nazis (which, at however subterranean a level, draws some kind of parallel between the two events) that I find unacceptable. The attempt by the Guardian article to paint Callil as simply the victim of a heavy-handed attempt to silence her criticisms of Israeli policy obscures all of this.

As I said before, it's a shame that such a powerful and necessary book has been diminished by this unnecessarily tendentious attempt at contemporary relevance in its final paragraph.

No comments: