The novelist, humorist and journalist Henry Jacobson, with his ingenious mix of English and Jewish humour, can afford to address a tricky topic such as the rise of anti-Semitism. Responding to the inevitable final question from the public, pretty heated and vaguely aggressive, concerning the Palestinian question, he takes the opportunity to explain in simple terms what he considers to be the root of the problem: you have not listened to me, you attack me without referring to what I have said, you corner me and force me to defend myself.
And in fact the final question has little to do with the very pleasant dialogue between him and Peter Florence, founder of the Hay festival. The attempt is to explore examples of the historical roots of this sentiment, going far beyond the current political question, and citing cases where it has emerged in various forms of art: for example Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice in the character of Shylock, at a time when there were no Jews in England. It is as if there is a constant and renewed need for anti-Semitism, which still finds its place today in English politics.
But the discourse inevitably turns to politics. Jacobson explains that Israel’s current approach to the topic is criticized by many Jews, that no one in his circle denies that more can and should be done. The lack of listening leads him to a quote from the brilliant Amos Oz, who for a lifetime explained Israel’s tragedy as a conflict of two rights, but eventually came to the conclusion that it is a tragedy of two wrongs.