The quote, “Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes.”, is attributed to the American poet Walt Whitman. Now, it is not the place of this post to test that hypothesis and we might content ourselves by adopting a bit of academic caution and leaving it at, Walt Whitman might have contradicted himself, because it could have been that he contained multitudes.
However, the Guardian pen pusher, Nick Cohen, most certainly does not contain multitudes, and even if it is disgusting that the British Council prefers to keep the Chinese government happy by facilitating the literary world applauding 31 state-approved authors from the PRC, while authors critical of Beijing are kept away from the London Book Fair, we can only be amazed the scribbler’s inconsistency on such matters.
Of course, any effort to be some sort of politically correct left-wing Zionist would leave any of us confused and another article by our scribbler, which was published recently in the Spectator, surely demonstrates his excelling himself when it comes to selling a morally unsustainable political stance as some sort of balanced, free of bias, opinion. In discussing the recent poem by Gunter Grass and the Israeli government’s reaction to it, he comes to the conclusion that: “Both sides are bullying and illiberal, infantilist and infantilising. Both have a contempt for the public, when they ought to have contempt solely for themselves.”
Now, that conclusion in itself might appear fair enough, or we might at least concede that Nick has the right to that opinion. However, to precede it by even suggesting that anyone who criticises Israel, and this accusation is not just being levelled at Grass, is actually anti-Semitic is quite absurd. Nevertheless, and here Nick is consistent, for someone who states that “we should sympathise with Israel, but not with the blockade”, it is all too obvious that confusion is going to be a common trait when we look at him.
It is not that Nick, or anyone else for that matter, is wrong to criticise the organisers of the London Book Fair for bending over backwards to please the Chinese. Unfortunately, with Nick, it is a bit like the King of Saudi talking about democracy in Syria. The reality is that Israel, whether Nick likes it or not, is an ethnocracy, the reality is it cannot be a democracy and a Jewish state at the same time. That Nick is not anti-Semitic, that is quite simply a fact. Moreover, it is that fact that has led to the blockade of Gaza, that has led to an ongoing ethnic cleansing, and has led to racism of the sort that we invariably find in ethnocracies. One wonders how many authors will be at the London Book Fair who are critical of that oxymoronic state.