1. Tom Paulin: "I can understand how suicide bombers feel"
2. 'That weasel word' (Al-Ahram, April 4-10, 2002)
3. "More pressure for Mid East peace" (Guardian, April 6, 2002)
TOM PAULIN: "I NEVER BELIEVED THAT ISRAEL HAD THE RIGHT TO EXIST AT ALL"
[Note by Tom Gross]
Below is an interview in the Egyptian government daily Al-Ahram with one of Oxford University's trendiest professors, Tom Paulin.
Paulin is a favorite of leading British leftist publications The Guardian, the Independent, The Observer, the New Statesman and the London Review of Books. Last year, the Observer's "poem of the week" written by Paulin spoke of the "Zionist SS".
In this new interview, Paulin says American-born Jews living in ancient Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria are "Nazis" and "should be shot dead". He suggests that the British government is under "Zionist" control. (As a matter of record, contrary to what Paulin says, the son of Tony Blair's sole Jewish advisor, Lord Levy, does not work for the Israeli government, but is an advisor to Yossi Beilin, and Lord Levy's wife is a prominent member of the British friends of Peace Now.)
Far from Paulin being one of "the few British intellectuals who has dared to criticize Israel," as Al-Ahram states, dozens of British "intellectuals" are in fact doing so daily.
By way of example, I attach (after the Al-Ahram interview), letters from last Saturday's Guardian, one signed by Harold Pinter and 22 other writers and artists, and the other signed by the head of Kings College, Cambridge and 124 other leading European professors and academics.
-- Tom Gross
As an increasing number of intellectuals speak out against the Israeli onslaught in Palestine, very few have broken the conspiracy of silence in Britain. In Oxford, Omayma Abdel-Latif meets the Irish poet Tom Paulin
We are fed this inert
This lying phrase
Like comfort food
As another little Palestinian boy
In trainers jeans and a white teeshirt
Is gunned down by the Zionist SS
Whose initials we should
– but we don't – dumb goys
Clock in that weasel word
– Tom Paulin, "Killed in the Crossfire," The Observer (18.02.01)
Tom Paulin does not attempt to hide his anger at what the Israelis are doing in Palestine: it is, he says, "an historical obscenity."
Paulin, currently professor of English at Hartford College, Oxford, a leading poet and, for several years now, a controversial TV pundit, is among the few British intellectuals who has dared to criticise Israel, questioning even its very existence.
"I never believed that Israel had the right to exist at all," Paulin told Al-Ahram .
"Paulin has become the rare thing in contemporary British culture; 'the writer as conscience'," wrote one critic. It is a position that has led him into acrimonious public debates about his political views, particularly in relation to the Arab-Israeli conflict. He recently took up his pen in defence of Edward Said, berating Guardian columnist Ian Buruma as a Zionist.
Paulin makes no secret of his uncompromising views on Israel. "You are either a Zionist or an anti-Zionist," he says. "Everyone who supports Israel is a Zionist."
Such Irish bluntness, as one reporter described it, has made him a constant target. His publication of the poem "Killed in the Crossfire" in the Observer newspaper almost a year ago caused an uproar within pro-Israel circles with predictable consequences: the usual accusations of anti-Semitism followed almost immediately.
Paulin is not intimidated by such tactics. "I just laugh when they do that to me. It does not worry me at all. These are the Hampstead liberal Zionists," he explains, "I have utter contempt for them. They use this card of anti- Semitism. They fill newspapers with hate letters. They are useless people."
Although he describes himself as a failed historian, Paulin maintains a habit of explaining politics only in reference to history.
"In my view the European culture carries a very heavy responsibility for the creation of Israel... it is a product of both British and Stalin's anti- Semitism, but the British never faced their own complicity in its construction."
Should the British, then, declare a historic responsibility towards the plight of the Palestinians?
"I am not very moved by historical apologies. I don't think the British carry a historical consciousness either."
"Because there is a sort of amorphous, sort of darkness at the heart of things, because there is a certain kind of complacency and individualism."
Despite this bleak vision, Paulin thinks the majority of British people do support the Palestinians. The problem is, though, that there is no way of articulating this support.
"This sympathy is not translated into force against the British government because it is not like the anti-apartheid movement which had a high profile here and Mandela is a more engaging figure than Yasser Arafat," he says.
But he believes that the Palestinian cause must somehow occupy that space. "I think protest and actions have to be organised against the Israelis and their backers. There needs to be a concerted high profile campaign to raise awareness of the people in this country."
One of the responsibilities of the writer is to take a stand, argues Paulin, and any literary-political weapon he can summon to support his cause he will. Recently he resigned from the Labour party after realising that the Blair government was "a Zionist government."
"Sixty members of the Labour party went on friendly visits to Israel. Blair's special envoy to the Middle East, Lord Levy, has a son who works for the Israeli government, which means that it is linked in all kinds of ways to the Zionist government in Israel."
Israel Paulin describes as an "ahistoric state." "It is a state created by the powerful nations somewhere else. It is an artificial state."
Nor is he quiet about the balance of power between the Israelis and the Palestinians. The Palestinians, he says, need good anti-tank weapons. "They have got to meet force with force. They have to be cunning and forceful."
So how does the suicide bomber fit within this balance of power?
"I can understand how suicide bombers feel," he answers. "It is an expression of deep injustice and tragedy. I think – though – that it is better to resort to conventional guerrilla warfare. I think attacks on civilians in fact boost morale. Hitler bombed London into submission but in fact it created a sense of national solidarity."
If there is one thing Paulin clearly abhors about Israel, it is the Brooklyn – born Jewish settlers.
"They should be shot dead," he says forcefully. "I think they are Nazis, racists, I feel nothing but hatred for them."
MORE PRESSURE FOR MID EAST PEACE
More pressure for Mid East peace
April 6, 2002
Despite widespread international condemnation for its policy of violent repression against the Palestinian people in the occupied territories, the Israeli government appears impervious to moral appeals from world leaders (Fear of wider conflict as army pushes on, April 5). The major potential source of effective criticism, the US, seems reluctant to act. However, there are ways of exerting pressure from within Europe.
Odd though it may appear, many national and European cultural and research institutions, including especially those funded from the EU and the European Science Foundation, regard Israel as a European state for the purposes of awarding grants and contracts. Would it not therefore be timely if at both national and European level a moratorium was called upon any further such support unless and until Israel abides by UN resolutions and opens serious peace negotiations with the Palestinians along the lines proposed in many peace plans, including most recently that sponsored by the Saudis and the Arab League.
Prof Patrick Bateson
Provost, Kings College, Cambridge
Prof Richard Dawkins
Prof Colin Blakemore
Prof Steven Rose
Dr Marina Lynch
Trinity College, Dublin
Prof Jean-Marc Levy-Leblond
Prof Juliette Frey
Institute for Neurobiology, Magdeburg
Prof Nora Frontali
Prof Eva Jablonka
Prof Per Andersen
and 115 other academics
• "They would love to see me dead," says the Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish in one of his poems. We writers and artists believe in his right and the right of the Palestinian people to live free of the nightmare that is now unfolding at their doorstep – the nightmare of living under curfew and siege, without electricity, telephones, or the needs of daily life, cut off from the rest of the country and the world; of having their homes broken into, their sons rounded up, tagged, and hauled away; of summary executions whose purpose seems to be to incite further violence; of fear of adding yet more names to the list of the disabled and dead.
We call on all people of good conscience to protest against the onslaught on the Palestinian people, their institutions, and the fabric of their society, and to demand the immediate withdrawal of the Israeli army so that the peace process may resume. We call on the US to adopt an evenhanded approach to justice and not to blame the victim for the crimes of the oppressor.
It seems the policy of the government of Israel is to eradicate the very idea of Palestine. What they have succeeded in doing instead, is creating the grounds for vendettas for generations to come.
Andy De La Tour
and 18 other writers and artists
Artists for Palestine