How I Stopped Being a Jew by Shlomo Sand and Unchosen: The Memoirs of a Philo-Semite by Julie Burchill – review

Will Self in The Guardian:

43187fcb-2470-4236-a612-c7586720d820-460x307In 2006, as the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) were undertaking their second major incursion into Lebanon, I resigned as a Jew. I did it publicly in an article for the London Evening Standard. My resignation wasn’t a protest against Israeli aggression – why would they care about such a gesture? – but aimed, I believed, against prominent leftwing English Jews, who, despite the complete contradiction between their espoused values and the undemocratic, apartheid and territorially expansionist policies of the so-called Jewish homeland, continued vociferously to support Israel. A couple of years earlier, on Question Time, I had also challenged Melanie Phillips over her campaign to force British Muslims to take a loyalty oath, saying: if British Muslims, why not British Jews? But on that occasion, when she had accused me of being an antisemite, I was still able to play my trump card: I’m Jewish.

The reaction to my resignation was pretty muted. I did receive an email the following morning from a pressure group called Jews for Justice in Palestine, urging me to reconsider on the basis that it was perfectly possible for me to retain my Jewish identity while objecting to the activities of the Zionist state. In fact, I’d been surprised by my own apostasy (if it can be called that), and it’s only now, having read Shlomo Sand’s elegant and passionately felt essay, that I’ve come to understand why it is I resiled from … what? This heritage? Or is Jewry a people, a religion, or possibly – if pejoratively – a tribe?

Sand, a history professor at Tel Aviv University, is the author of The Invention of the Jewish People (2009), a discursive yet polemical work that systematically undermines the claim that Jewishness is necessary – let alone sufficient – to justify the claims of the Israeli state to the territory formerly known as Palestine. Now comes this short, highly personal text, which repurposes some of these arguments to serve existential ends; Sand asks the question: what, in this day and age, exactly is a secular Jew?

More here.