David Hirsh at the London Conference on Combatting Antisemitism

At the Experts Forum of the London Conference on Combatting Antisemitism, David Hirsh talks about making the narratives of Israelis and Palestinians, and their respective supporters, compatible, a requirement for peace and a requirement for an anti-racist position on the conflict:

“We’re not surprised that when there is an ongoing, bloody, hand-to-hand conflict over a piece of land – that there is a tendency amongst those involved to construct ‘the other’ as being essentially evil.

One of the aggravating features, however, of the Israel/Palestine conflict, is that everyone, all over the world, seems to think they are involved.

Not only do Jewish families around the world – many of whom ended up where they did and not in Israel only for contingent reasons – often feel themselves to be connected to Israel and to its fate; not only do Palestinians and Arabs and Muslims around the world feel themselves to be harmed when Palestinians in Palestine are harmed; but there also seems to be a tendency for narratives of Israeli and Palestinian nationhood to transform themselves into universal narratives – rather than narratives which bind together small and insignificant nations in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Some hold the view that the settlement of this conflict is a pre-requisite for the settlement of most other conflicts in the world.”

Some people think that this conflict stands, symbolically, for all other conflicts – and so Palestinians come to symbolize “the oppressed” and Israeli Jews come to symbolize “the oppressors”.

Some people think that Israel is the embattled outpost of “Western civilization” – and so constitutes the global frontline in the war against “Muslim” terror and threat. But of course the point is to avoid and to oppose the construction of a separate “Judeo-Christian world” and a separate “Muslim world” – not to act as though war between the two is already inevitable.

One thing which distinct antisemitisms in different times and places have had in common is the understanding that Jews are central to all that is wrong with the world.

This is where it’s at.


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