Jackie Ma­son should not be at an Is­rael 60 event

He may be funny, but his prej­u­dices are far from the val­ues we should be as­pir­ing to

The Jewish Chronicle - - Comment&analysis - JONATHAN WIT­TEN­BERG

CO­ME­DIAN JACKIE Ma­son is be­ing pre­sented as the cham­pion of An­glo-Jewry’s “Is­rael 60” cel­e­bra­tion, which will take place at Wem­b­ley Arena next week. I think he is a ter­ri­ble choice. His love of Is­rael is un­ques­tion­able. He aban­doned his show to stand with the Jewish state while the Scuds de­scended in 1991. He will be funny and ro­bust. He will draw the crowds and, with so much venom about Is­rael, sol­i­dar­ity mat­ters. But sol­i­dar­ity with what? The au­thors of the Dec­la­ra­tion of In­de­pen­dence as­serted that the Jewish state would “be based on free­dom, jus­tice and peace as en­vis­aged by the prophets of Is­rael”, en­sur­ing com­plete equal­ity for all its in­hab­i­tants. They es­poused the same ide­al­ism as Isa­iah when, in a Jerusalem sur­rounded by the Assyr­ian army, he spoke of the re­deemer who would come not with the sword, but with right­eous­ness and jus­tice. Twen­ty­seven cen­turies later, in 1948, with Jerusalem again un­der siege, my fa­ther’s un­cle, a ju­rist who had fled Nazi Ger­many, died for that same vi­sion. Those val­ues are far re­moved from the kind of stereo­typ­ing of which Jackie Ma­son’s work is full.

In Is­rael’s 60th year, I ponder the words of its found- ers in awe. I feel the chal­lenge of those who died to turn them into re­al­ity: “What are you do­ing to be true to that vi­sion?” I think of the ways those ideals have been re­alised, but also of how they’ve been be­trayed, not only by Is­rael’s en­e­mies, but within Is­rael it­self. I’ve watched a Pales­tinian house de­mol­ished, for no good rea­son.

I know Jackie Ma­son’s as­ser­tion is un­true that Pales­tini­ans have ev­ery­thing they could rea­son­ably want in Is­rael. I can­not ig­nore the de­scrip­tions by Pro­fes­sor David Shul­man, of the He­brew Univer­sity, of vi­cious set­tler in­tim­i­da­tion of Pales­tini­ans, from plain thug­gery to the poi­son­ing of fields, and his lament that such Jews “have stolen... not only land, but also the dig­nity that once be­longed to Jewish books”, by scorn­ing the val­ues they em­body.

At Is­rael 60, we should hon­our those Is­raelis, and Pales­tini­ans, who, in spite of the gross vi­o­lence per­pe­trated against the state and the wrongs com­mit­ted within it, de­vote their lives to those same ideals of jus­tice, free­dom and peace. How then can we not be trou­bled by Jackie Ma­son’s views, when on a video blog on YouTube he gen­er­alises about Pales­tini­ans as of­fer­ing noth­ing but ha­tred and killing, sug­gest­ing that the land never was their home; when he praises Pat Robin­son and Jerry Fal­well, the lead­ers of the Amer­i­can Chris­tian right, as ex­em­plars of sup­port for Is­rael; when he in­structs An­glo-Jews that they will never sur­vive “if they don’t learn a great les­son from the power of the Mus­lims”, who, he im­plies, are ba­si­cally ef­fec­tive in­tim­ida­tors; when he mocks the pusil­la­nim­ity of the Jewish con­science? Isn’t that con­science some­thing to be proud of? He speaks pow­er­fully about world jus­tice in his JC in­ter­view to­day; surely he be­lieves in Jewish val­ues too?

Wem­b­ley is about mak­ing an im­pact. What is the mes­sage we should give? It should not be Jackie Ma­son. It should be about vi­sion and ideals. It must be about re­al­ity and truth, the strug­gle for peace and rec­on­cil­i­a­tion. It must in­clude Is­rael’s many voices, among them Arab voices. It must em­pha­sise our need to up­hold our shared hu­man­ity, in spite of all at­tacks. Oth­er­wise there may be no Is­rael to cel­e­brate in an­other 60 years.

That’s the mes­sage I want to hear at Wem­b­ley. I don’t want to des­e­crate our hopes and val­ues, and all who toil for them. Rabbi Jonathan Wit­ten­berg is rabbi of the New North Lon­don Syn­a­gogue

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