Full disclosure: I’m accepting expenses from the Israeli Government

Full disclosure: I’m accepting expenses from the Israeli Government


norman lebrecht

September 07, 2018

At a time when the leader of the British Labour Party wants to argue that the foundation of the State of Israel was a racist act, it’s time for all good people to declare where they stand.

I shall be going to Israel next week for the first festival of Israeli music, curated by the composer Oded Zehavi. My expenses will be paid by the Ministry of Sport and Culture in Jerusalem. I am very happy for them to do so.

I would not dream of accepting money – like certain Labour Party leaders – for appearing on Russian or Iranian TV channels because I would be unable to criticise Russia or Iran on their turf. Israel, on the contrary, has invited me precisely in order to criticise cultural policy and that is why I am happy to take their money.

Why do I declare this now? Because it has become a shibboleth of the BDS movement that any artist accepting expenses from Israel will be subjected to their boycott. Dear readers, please boycott me if you feel that way. I’d be proud to lose acquaintances of that ilk.


Was the Soviet creation of a state of Armenia a racist act? Armenia is, after all, the only state in the world that has an Armenian identity, as Israel has a Jewish one.

The same goes for Finland. Or Moldova.

Those who call the creation of a Jewish state a racist act are irredeemable anti-semites. Must Jews alone be eternally stateless?


  • Ted says:

    Should musicians who cooperate with BDS be barred from consideration for awards named for supporters of Israel, such as Isaac Stern, Richard Tucker, and George London?

    • Samir S. Halabi says:

      All musicians that agree with the BDS should be barred for their lifetimes from entry into Israel. Adding to that if there should ever be G-d for bid another threading time on the Jewish people in the diaspora those Jews who back the BDS will findo themselves locker out of Israel as theyou made their own choice in standing with degenerates who want to visa get he complete destruction of Israel therefore let them perish in hell because they have committed a Hilull Hashem against Israel.

  • esfir ross says:

    Jewish Athonomy Region’s a Jewish state created by Soviet before Israel -official language’s Yiddish and doesn’t claim to have Jewish identity. Jews’re not stateless since 1934

    • M2N2K says:

      This is another nonsensical statement by “ER”.
      A “region” – any region, but especially one of this type that was created as a kind of ghetto by Stalin and his government – is neither a state nor a country, by any definition.

    • Mark says:

      Esfir Ross, you know this “Autonomous Region” was intended for the mass deportation of Soviet Jews, which was only averted by Stalin’s death ?

    • Ms.Melody says:

      The Jewish Autonomy region was and is under the jurisdiction of the Russian Federation.
      This is the place where Stalin was planning to deport Soviet Jews during purges after the war. Fortunately, the monster died in 1953 and the mass deportations did not happen.
      The region is located on the Far East of the former Soviet union close to the border with China. When it was established, the living conditions were very harsh and many who moved there left.
      Currently, less than 1 % of the population are Jews, the rest are mostly native Russians.
      So, your statement that the Jews had a state in 1934 is historically inaccurate.

  • MavisP says:

    So enjoy already, who would not want you to have a good time.

  • Mike Schachter says:

    The ultimate comment on this was made by Martin Luther King, a rather greater man than the likes of Corbyn and Milne.

  • Dragon Hawk says:

    Last time I checked, Israeli citizenship — or any other citizenship per se —is not a race. Neither are, for example, the Jewish or Muslim religious persuasions.

    Acccording to the USA Food and Drug Administration Guidance for the collection of race and ethnicity data in clinical trials (Oct 2016), page 11, which refers also to earlier documentation from the office of Management and Budget, the following are generally accepted main racial categories:

    -Black or African American
    -American Indian or Alaska Native
    -Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander

    For “ethnicity”, they offer Hispanic or non-Hispanic Latino.

    • Will Duffay says:

      And yet the very right-wing Israeli government recently passed its ‘nation state’ law and removed Arabic from the list of official languages. For all Norman’s blustering, Israel is a repressive state if you are an indigenous Arab, and really should not be surprised when people protest against it.

      • Dragon Hawk says:

        Valid point and agreed, but that still does not make Arabs a race, or even a uniform ethnicity due to the divergences in cultural orientation between different Arab groups.

        My objection is to the indiscriminate pulling of the race card, most often by socialist utopians on being confronted with uncomfortable facts, when the use of the word is manifestly incorrect.

        • Sue says:

          Good comments. And remember that socialist utopians have one language tool; abuse. That goes with the one brain which they seem to share!! 🙂 In accusing others of violence and aggression they attempt to project their own perfidy on to others. Ha!

    • Samir S. Halabi says:

      IF the Jewish people aren’t recognized as an ethnic group by the BDS and other Jew-hating
      Slime bags, why were 6,000,000 Jews slaughtered by the Nazis and their willing executioners in world war two. For 2,000 years the Jews weren’t considered as part of the the European people N W S or visit east, only since the establishment of Israel do these same Jew-hating swines now state that
      JEWS have no right theory a state because they are simply white european colonialists.
      What hypocrites they are. When it suits them Jews are not part of the international community and then they change their minds when it’s politically expediently to do so.

  • Extreme Idiot says:

    As a Jew, I am sick of being represented around the world by the likes of the murderous Netanyahu regime. I support Israel’s right to exist (as does Corbyn), but I believe there is no excuse not to support the most elementary human rights of the Palestinian people. Sorry but I’m just not proud to see these anti-semitic pastors hold hands with the Trumps and Netanyahu while the IDF picks off countless people 50 miles away in broad daylight.

    The media is using the unimaginable suffering of the Jewish people in WWII as a prop, and I am disappointed to see you constantly running interference for the worst political trends of our time- austerity, military adventurism, legalized tax evasion of elites, all inevitably leading to rise of more angry far-right parties who think Jews are the problem with everything. Not only is Corbyn not a hater of jews, but it is the people running this media circus that could not possibly care less about the welfare of the Jewish people.

    You should know better.

    • Mike Schachter says:

      I presume Corbyn’s repeated meetings with men who hate Israel and Jews is all about persuading them to be peaceful? He certainly never said so in public. While it is frightfully decent of you to support Israel’s right to exist why should it be a question at all? It is not for any other country.. Corbyn clearly does not believe it but has been forced to say it by the more intelligent members of his clique. as for the reasons for the rise of the far right in most countries there has been little austerity and no military adventurism. There has though been mass immigration which you presumably approve.

  • V.Lind says:

    Did the leader of the Labour Party say that? Not what the Guardian said.

    • steven holloway says:

      He did not say that, but there’s not much sense here when this and kindred topics are brought up, as they regularly are. Nothing better to bring out the right-wing trolls and start an enless, increasingly futile stream of comments.

      • Sue says:

        Anyone who disagrees with the Left is called,

        1. A troll
        2. Extreme or hard right.

        Name-calling is their stock in trade since rational argument is usually nowhere to be seen.

        • steven holloway says:

          Now, you are yourself much given to the use of terms such as ‘snowflake’, etc., which somewhat weakens your argument here. But, in any case, ‘troll’ has a very clear meaning if not carelessly used, which cannot be said for snowflake. I recommend careful and lengthy examination of the Care2 website if anyone should want to see how trollery operates, though I must think that Care2 would itself make you as apoplectic as it would have Ayn Rand. Second, I wrote ‘right-wing’, not extreme or hard right. If you are not right-wing, damned if I know what you are, but I should not term you extreme, for there are, of course, far worse lurking out there. Hard right you may be, but I am not inclined to engage in the procedure of pilpul on this point.

  • JoBe says:

    Well said, Mr. Lebrecht! Thank you!
    The Nazis, like “Esfir Ross”, who love to pollute your page, will continue to do so. But you stand, and they crawl!
    And to all those who say “Hitler did nothing wrong”, I recommend a look on a map of Germany before 1933. His anti-Semitism ultimately led to the severe and irreversible mutilation of his own country, with the loss of major cities like Königsberg, Posen, Breslau, Stettin, Danzig, Bromberg, etc. Some “nothing”.

  • Jon McGurk says:

    You are incorrect and should be ashamed. The Labour party and its leader DO NOT view the creation or existence of Israel as a racist act. If you have any evidence – then why don’t you share it?
    Why don’t you mention that Tory MPs have dressed up in Nazi uniforms, spouted support for the Nazi regime and are currently engaged in a transatlantic love-in with vile racists and fascists who openly display Nazi symbols and ideology? But when a principled politician speaks up for people who have been shamefully used as pawns by Arab and Western politicians as well as some in Israel – that is too much is it? What rubbish.
    You are perfectly entitled to visit Israel (boycotts like this are pointless and damage the very things we should be cherishing) but please don’t tie yourself to the lies spouted by the right wing press, and stop implying that anyone who criticises the current actions of the Israeli state is a violent anti-semite.

    • norman lebrecht says:

      The evidence is in the amendment that Corbyn proposed to the IHRA. Read it yourself, and feel shame.

    • norman lebrecht says:

      The evidence is in the amendment that Corbyn proposed to the IHRA. Read it yourself, and feel shame. Then meet his acknowledged friends in Hamas and Hezbollah

      • Jon McGurk says:

        I am not aware of anything in his statement on the IHRA that directly describes the foundation or existence of Israel as racist. It simply asked for the country to be held to the same standards as every other country. It was a document for discussion and he and the Labour party have now fully adopted the IHRA definitions. Corbyn is on record as being strongly against anti-semitism, and to suggest that a party such as Labour is anti-semitic is laughable.
        OK so he apparently has contacts with Hamas and Hezbollah, but where has he said he supports their wish to wipe out Israel? If you don’t talk to people (even those with views you oppose) you are left relying on media lies and learn nothing. Would we have got peace in Northern Ireland by not talking to the IRA? – No.
        You have painted yourself into a corner. Equating concern for the Palestinians with anti-semitism and a wish to destroy Israel is a lie and morally reprehensible. Too many people do it and the shame is theirs.

        • norman lebrecht says:

          Not aware? Read his amendment. End of.

          • V.Lind says:

            “…this does not in any way undermine the freedom of expression on Israel and the rights of Palestinians.”

            What exactly is wrong with that?

            The written agreement settled on is fine as far as I can see. What may be worrying and/or annoying the Jewish community was that it took some discussion before Corbyn was persuaded to sign on the IHRA and this perfectly reasonable addendum, plus his general attitude of reluctance to see antisemitism in his party, even when it is pretty blatant.

            There seems in some quarters also to be a hostile response to any notion that Israel, the state as is, must be held to account the way any government or nation is. or that Israel cannot exist in borders of its own choosing. A lot of thinking, civilised people believe that Israel as not always right, and does not get a free pass. They also think Palestinians are people and entitled to due respect, as well as a decent life, and that this is surely something Israelis should understand (as indeed many do).

            Corbyn, who is not convincing or consistent on anything, is no more so on the anti-semitic question. I am astonished and appalled that this man of little conviction except his own purity of soul has such a grip on the Labour party. I don’t remember hearing this sort of rubbish during Blair/Brown, whatever else their sins. if Corbyn’s form of Labour attracts anti-semites — perhaps because of his stated sympathy for some Palestinian plights — it needed to be clearly and forcefully addressed from the off. Instead we got the dithery, self-justifying, slow-handed reviews and weak expressions of support for the decent side of the argument.

            But I have yet to read of his saying the creation of Israel was racist. Which is a far cry from any of this.

  • Bart Wauters says:

    You fill me with disgust. You do not have to equal the creation of the Israeli state with a racist act, to boycott this murderous state. So your statement is a lie to begin with. More importantly, Israel has been oppressing another people for half a century. It has stolen land they lived on for centuries, it steals their water, it uproots their trees, it boycots their economy, it humiliates them daily. It daily commits war crimes according to the 4th Geneva Convention and its additional Protocols. Accepting the money of this government is immoral, and stating proudly that you do it, is disgusting.

    • Ms.Melody says:

      Where do you get your information and why are you ignoring the facts?
      Why don’t the “oppressed “Palestinians move to Jordan, or Syria or Lebanon?
      The answer is: they enjoy a standard of living in Israel that they could never have in any of the neighbouring countries. Free medical care, free education and no danger of being killed because they belong to Sunni or Shia or any other branch of Islam. When Israelis left some of the occupied lands, they left orchards, greenhouses. All of that was destroyed by the “oppressed”. Israelis did not burn trees they planted them. If anyone is “murderous”, it’s the terrorists who do not value human life and kill innocent people and send their own children to die.

  • Mark Thompson says:

    Finns haven’t set themselves up as ‘God’s chosen people’ for centuries. Many Jews appear to remain oblivious to the fact that it’s their perceived self-importance and even grandiosity that continues to incite so much hostility.

    • norman lebrecht says:

      So anti-semitism is the fault of the Jews? Yes, we’ve heard that before…

    • Mark says:

      Given the fact that the Jews gave this world the Bible and have been producing great scholars and artists in quantities completely out of proportion to their small number, their “grandiosity” is very much justified. Perhaps you could publish a (very short) list of the Finnish nation’s contribution to humanity ?

      • Tamino says:

        There is nothing ‘grandios’ about the bible in particular. It’s a collection of scripture. Much of what the Greek philosophers, the Persians and others wrote down even earlier, is much more grandios than that bible. The bible is historically probably the most influential collection of scripture, but certainly not the most ‘grandios’.

  • Tamino says:

    Well, it’s complicated. Definitely more complicated than fitting into one propagandistic sentence on a bus stop.
    But Zionism definitely is a racist ideology. By definition. It’s about believing into a genetic, ethnical Jewishness. Which by itself is a questionable idea, not backed by reality.
    But – with the decline of religion as the primary foundation of people’s identity – there were only two choices for a stateless group of people with a defined culture.
    To either assimilate with their host nation and people, or to invent their own nation. That was the zionist idea in a nutshell.
    Anyway. I don’t think anyone questions the right of the Jews to have their own state.
    What is questioned, and rightfully so, is the idea of many Jews, that they can grab a land, based on mythological ideas. The continuos warfare against the people around them, the new settlements, the declaration of Jerusalem as theirs and only theirs, that is an open act of aggression. You reap what you sow. Having been a victim of much persecution and violence over the centuries does not make one immune against own wrongdoing, apparently.

    • Ricardo says:

      This was the best entry in this thread, as far as I am concerned. And the one that observes good manners throughout. Bravo!
      I’ve been in Israel. Even played there in 2000. I have some very decent, brilliant and sensible Israeli friends.
      However, regardless of the viewpoint one adopts, what the country (whatever that is) is doing to the Palestinian population is, and will remain (as long as it doesn’t improve) inadmissible, outrageous and disgusting.

    • Not so much says:

      “Zionism definitely is a racist ideology. By definition. It’s about believing into a genetic, ethnical Jewishness. Which by itself is a questionable idea, not backed by reality.”

      Hmmm… not so much. Jewishness is, in fact, and has always been, ethnic and genetic, like all other nationalities. If you’re born to a Jewish mother (or according to some today and in the past, a Jewish father), you are Jewish. It has nothing whatsoever to do with belief. You can be an ardent atheist, eat pork sausages, never set foot in a synagogue and still, nevertheless, be Jewish. I was born to English parents, therefore I’m English. If you were born to Jewish parents, therefore you would be Jewish. And look back at old official government documents from various countries before the State of Israel was established, and you’ll find that ‘Jewish’ was often a national category rather than a religious one.

      But, Jews were denied a nation state for centuries because they were ethnically cleansed from their ancestral homeland by the Romans. And, crime of all crimes, they failed to forget about that, and failed to disappear by fully assimilating into wider societies. Yet they passed on their heritage, genetically and biologically, generation after generation. And then, when nationalism became a popular idea and a political possibility, Zionism, like all other forms of nationalism, sought to rectify the original injustice.

      I’m all for Palestinian rights – they absolutely deserve national self-determination too – but if Zionism is racism, we either don’t understand what it is, or we’ve lost the plot.

      • Tamino says:

        I disagree. That definition of Jewishness was encapsulated into religious law, into a RELIGION. it is in no way a natural law or scientific fact.
        Now what Zionism did, being itself an atheistic ideology, a “völkisch” ideology, was taking that religious law out of context and putting it artificially on its own feet.
        Thus kind of “inventing” a Jewish nation outside of the religious context, in an atheistic manner.

        The “cleansing” be the Romans is not proven, it might be a myth, according to recent historical research.

        Also, unlike today, many centuries ago there was widespread conversion toward Judaism from other tribes and people. Thus over the last two thousand years today’s claim of a lineage of the majority of today’s Jews toward the tribe that inhabited Palestine roughly 2000 years ago, is most likely unfounded in reality. It is a myth.

      • Tamino says:

        “It has nothing whatsoever to do with belief. You can be an ardent atheist, eat pork sausages, never set foot in a synagogue and still, nevertheless, be Jewish. I was born to English parents, therefore I’m English. If you were born to Jewish parents, therefore you would be Jewish.”

        Much confusion.
        If you are born to English parents you are English. Correct.
        If you are born to Jewish parents you are Jewish. Maybe, according to religious law only…
        If you are born to Christian parents… you get my drift.
        You can be both!
        And if you choose not to be religious?
        Well of course the Rabbi says you are still Jewish. He justifies his existence by the number of his sheep. 🙂

        Before the 20th century there was no option to opt out of religious affiliation for anyone. Jews and Christians alike.
        With the advent of atheism being an option, Zionism invented a Jewish nationality to solve the dilemma for Jews, having no nation state. But that nationality is not something that was ever an accepted construct outside of religion, before Zionism invented it.
        The other arm of Judaism argued in the 19th century for assimilation into the host nation. The Zionists kind of won.

        • Michael says:

          “Zionism invented a Jewish nationality”

          Really? Are you aware there was a Jewish state for over 1,000 years that preceded the Zionist movement by 2,000 years? And Jews have ended the Passover seder with the words “next year in Jerusalem” long before the modern zionist movement. Zionism did not “invent” a Jewish nationality. It gave rebirth to it.

          • Tamino says:

            So? The Roman Empire spanned most of Europe and North Africa back then too. Does that mean the Roman Empire could be revived legally today by the Italians?

            As far as the Passover prayer is concerned, that by itself doesn’t justify statehood either. Neither does it constitute nationality. Many see it as a religious metaphor. Not as an invitation for reoccupying that town. Jerusalem symbolizes “the city of peace”, an ideal. When the world is at peace, inside of us, and outside, then we are “in Jerusalem”.

          • Michael says:

            Tamino – you said zionism invented the idea of Jewish nationality. I simply pointed out it did not because a Jewish state had already existed for over 1,000 years which the Jewish people remembered and identified with each year on Passover. I was not making a statement on whether there should or should not be a modern Jewish state. Also, your analogy to the Roman Empire is false since 1) the Italians have a nation and 2) no one is systematically murdering Italians.

          • Tamino says:

            Well, I hear you. But the people of 2.000 years ago are only somewhat connected to the people today. The biggest share of that thread from the distant past to the present is mythology.
            I don’t think the Roman Empire analogy is flawed, as far as the analogy of grabbing land based on statehood 2.000 years ago is concerned.
            I said Zionism invented the construct of a Jewish nation outside of the religious context. In the present.
            At the end of the day, we need a solution for all the people who live there. Today.
            Zionism doesn’t help. It’s a quasi racist, “völkisch” ideology. Having very ironic similarities to the nonsense the Nazis came up with with their ‘Aryan’ nation and race bullshit.

          • Michael says:

            Tamino – Recall that zionism is a modern construct. The Jews were willing (if not content) to live in exile for 2,000 years even through such things as the Inquisition, ghettos, and second class citizenship in their host countries. It was the Russian pogroms and the Nazi “solution” that gave birth to and reinvigorated modern zionism. Jews in danger iin Europe attempted escape to more liberal countries. They were almost always turned away (i.e., the MS St. Louis). Zionists saw Jewish statehood as the only alternative to oppression (and often death) in their host countries. We should applaud that they called for a secular Jewish state. States should be secular and Israel today is essentially secular with the exception of the right of Jewish return, which is logical given that Israel was created as a necessary safe haven for persecuted Jews. I agree we need a solution for the people who live there today. The Jews need a solution of a safe haven and the Palestinians need a solution of a state. The Palestinians have been offered a state on numerous occasions both pre and post 1948. There were pre-1948 offers that called for a Jewish state that was less than 1/4 of the state has Israel is today and the Jews accepted and Palestinians rejected. Since its inception Israel has always been willing to accept Palestinian statehood in exchange for peace (The Jews have a long tradition of exchanging land for peace). The Palestinians have not been willing to recognize Israel’s right to exist in exchange for statehood. Therein lies the problem.

          • Tamino says:

            Michael, not quite as one sided. The opening paragraph of the first Oslo agreement (1993) between Israel and the Palestinian authorities reads:

            “The Government of the State of Israel and the PLO team (the “Palestinian Delegation”), representing the Palestinian people, agree that it is time to put an end to decades of confrontation and conflict, recognize their mutual legitimate and political rights, and strive to live in peaceful coexistence and mutual dignity and security and achieve a just, lasting and comprehensive peace settlement and historic reconciliation through the agreed political process.”

            That is in fact a recognition of Israel’s right to exist.
            Shortly after the Oslo agreements Itzhak Rabin was assassinated by right wing Israelis, who wanted the peace process to end.
            Also the expansion of settlements in disputed lands in the West Bank and in Jerusalem is a one sided aggression by Israel.
            It’s not as simple “good guys vs bad guys” as you describe it.

            Re Zionism: It was created in the late 19th century, long before the Nazi atrocities against Jews. It was created as an answer to the problem, how Jewish identity could be maintained, since the religious foundation was eroding, many enlightened people in Europe having themselves liberated from dogmatic religion, Christians, Jews and others alike. Those Jews who thought about themselves as a people that needed a nation state sided with Zionism. Those Jews who considered themselves foremost citizens of their countries and only secondarily also as Jews propagated assimilation. That was the state of affairs pretty much around the end of the 19th century and early 20th century. The rest is history.

          • Michael says:

            Tamino – Arafat may have signed the Oslo Accords but the Palestinian people refused to accept them so they were de facto meaningless. The murder of Rabin did not kill a Palestinian state. A few years after Oslo came the Camp David Accords, which Arafat walked away from. President Clinton blamed Arafat for the failure of Camp David to create a Palestinian state and Clinton would later tell Arafat, “I’m a colossal failure and you have made me one.” You also don’t address the numerous other times the Palestinians were offered a state and rejected them, including the Peel Commission, the UN Partition Plan, and the 2008 Olmert Plan.

            With regard to the expansion of settlements halting the peace process, Israel uprooted every single settlement in Gaza in 2005. Not a single Israeli was left. A timetable was in motion to end blockades and open trade. The response by the Palestinians: to elect Hamas, a terrorist organization and use millions in aid they were receiving from other countries to build tunnels to attack Israel. So no, the settlements are not the reason there is no peace.

            Finally, I said Nazism reinvigorated zionism, not created it. There were all kinds of zionists – religious and secular and they all had their unique reasons for advocating for a Jewish state. After a Jewish state was created, persecuted Jews from Eastern Europe and the Middle East were the majority of settlers. Jews who didn’t face significant persecution in Western Europe and America chose to remain in their host countries.

    • Mark says:

      Actually, the idea of the Jews being an ethno-religious group isn’t questionable – it’s backed by research and historical facts.

      Now, the idea of “Palestinians” being a nation is a joke. No such term even existed before the 1960s.

      • Tamino says:

        Your double standard is ugly.
        A majority of non-Jewish people used to live in Palestine for centuries.
        You can call them whatever you want, but they are real and humans just like anyone else.

        • Scotty says:

          Michael, even the Right of Return is secular. It contains no religious test (which I would fail), only proof of descent (which I can provide).

  • Herr Doktor says:

    All I’ll say is this. It’s unfortunate that one political faction in the left/right debate has succeeded in defining the situation as either/or, and that others seem to accept that construct: Either you support Israel with all that it is doing, good and bad, or you don’t and that probably makes you an anti-Semite.

    I 1000% support Israel and want to visit it someday and see it for myself. Israel has every right to exist, safely and securely, without existential threat. The Israeli people are remarkable for their resiliency, culture, many great contributions to the world, and for amazing technology development (including that impressive device that can detect pedophiles as demonstrated by General Erran Morad). The world is better for Israel’s existence, not worse off.

    By that same token, Israel has no right to deny the Palestinians their right to exist, safely and securely, without existential threat. Israel has no business settling Palestine (i.e. the West bank and East Jerusalem), stealing their lands and livelihoods, resources, and doing everything possible to make life a living hell for those that live there. In its treatment of the Palestinians, Israel is behaving in a way that are a complete betrayal of what I have always understood to be core Jewish values.

    How do we change the current trajectory of disaster?

    • Ian Hunter says:

      Totally agree. This is the most reasoned treatise I’ve heard for ages. I support Israel’s right to exist but feel the Likud have taken things far too far to the right. The settlements should be given up (perhaps oil rich Saudi Arabia could fund the purchase of the houses so the Jewish settlers can build on their legal sites. Why can’t the Arabs see that Peace with Israel could offer so much?

    • steven holloway says:


    • Michael says:

      Herr Doktor – are you aware of what happened when Israel disengaged from Gaza and when it began to disengage from the West Bank in 2005? The Palestinians saw it as an opportunity to elect Hamas and began a new wave of violence against Israel. The only reason Israel continues to occupy the West Bank is because they fear the same result as Gaza. Israel has no national interest in oppressing the Palestinians. Netanyahu has kept his people safe. That is what concerns the Israelis.

      • Herr Doktor says:

        I’m well aware, Michael, and am not going to get into a debate with you on this. I’m not excusing Hamas behavior. It is wrong and is self-defeating for the Palestinians (although it seems to have been good for Hamas itself). But there is such thing as cause and effect. Remember those words–cause and effect.

        The Israelis have been abusing the Palestinians for decades now, and until a truly just peace is at hand, the Hamases of the world will have plenty of fuel for their miserable existence. Gaza is an impoverished dump, and the Israelis are unwilling to allow it to be anything but that given their nearly complete blockade. Gazans are unable to do anything but survive and seethe, and the conditions for their own economic, political, and cultural success have never been created. It serves the interests of those who created these conditions that lead to disaster to point to the results and say, “Look, you can’t deal with these savages because given the opportunity, all they want to do is attack us.”

        The other reason why Israel has the greater burden here to resolve the situation (and notice my words “greater burden” which clearly implies the Palestinians have a burden also) is because Israel holds all the cards, and the Palestinians hold few if any of them.

        I have many Jewish friends and have nothing but the greatest of admiration for the Jewish people and Israel. Peace requires two parties. But the fact is, the current leadership of Israel is only interested in a unilateral peace, on its own terms exclusively, which means it is not interested in peace. There are many Israelis who publicly worried about the consequences of the occupation for Israel itself, and now we are seeing those worst fears playing out. The disaster can only multiply.

        It will be interesting to see how things develop when Marwan Barghouti is released from his prison in Israel. Amnesty International considers him a political prisoner. Will he turn out to be the Palestinian Nelson Mandela? All of us who truly love Israel can only hope.

        • Michael says:

          Herr Doktor – I agree, there is such a thing as cause and effect. Israel gives the Gazans autonomy (hardly a “unilateral peace”). Gazans elect Hamas. What should make the Israelis think anything different will happen if they withdraw from the West Bank?

          • Tamino says:

            You should educate yourself a bit more about who created Hamas and who benefits from Hamas’ propaganda and actions… The dialectical method can be quite surprising in who drives which force sometimes.

        • Roberto says:

          I cannot stand Netanyahu. But when I read the comments here – and elsewhere – and the amount of disinformation, I wonder if Netanyahu is right after all.

    • Eric says:

      Jewish technology may be impressive but their sense of humour is even greater. There is no, nor could their be, a pedophile detector. General Erran Morad is the creation of the entertainer Sacha Baron Cohen.

  • Anmarie says:

    Bravo, Norman!

  • Furzwängler says:

    I hope you enjoy your visit to Israel, Mr Lebrecht, and bring constructive and useful criticism to their cultural policies – should such be needed.

    (By the way, the Scottish National Party’s former leader, the odious Alex Salmond, has sold his soul to the Russian RT broadcaster for some pieces of silver…)

  • George Rupp says:

    The opinion of Jewish American/Israeli journalist Larry Derfner on Corbyn’s alleged anti-Semitism:


  • Helene Kamioner says:

    Todah rabba Norman. I know you will enjoy all that Israel has to offer. Your commitment is deeply appreciated. l’shana tova u’metukah,

  • Sharon says:

    You say that you feel ok about accepting expenses from Israel because they would let you criticize them in their media.

    I’m curious, based on what you say that you know from people whom you say had first hand experiences, and what you have already said and implied about him on blogs and in your books, would you be willing to accept expenses for providing testimony in a deposition against Levine?

  • James Inverne says:

    Quite right, Norman. Cultural boycotts are usually a stupid idea in any case, and as a journalist I never had any problems accepting expenses to get to a place to report on it (after all, the outlet for whom I was reporting always invested infinitely more money in providing the column inches, the staff to support them etc) as long as it was clearly understood that the reporting would be completely independent, nobody got to see it early and no pressure on how the thing was reported was attempted. It was always clearly understood – the only two occasions when someone stepped across the line, in terms of either trying to pressure me to write something or creating a stink when they didn’t like what was written, occurred in Beijing and Dubai, respectively. In Israel, certainly, they’re well-used to a rigorous press…

  • Eliza X says:

    Sounds like a John Adams opera: “Normal Lebrecht in Israel”

    Scene: NL holding a glass of champagne in the lobby of the King David Hotel……..

    I’m taking the money from the Zi-Zi-Zi-Zionists
    If they say I’m a racist, I couldn’t care less
    You know how I feel about the Cor-Cor-Cor-Corbynists
    If he’s ever elected, can you picture the mess?

    (Listening rabbis fling their hats into the air………)

  • John Borstlap says:

    I thought that ‘Jewish’ was both an indication of ethnicity and a cultural term. To define Israel as having a Jewish identity, isn’t that merely naming a fact if it refers to culture rather than to race? But is it right if it reduces Arab civilians to 2nd class people? Why not a secular, non-ethnic country, where different ethnicities and cultures can live together?

    Calling the founding of Israel a racist act, is crazy. Calling criticism of Israeli politics antisemitic is as crazy. Calling the creation of Israel an injustice to the locals, is closer to reality it seems to me: claiming land on the basis of history of thousands of years ago, and disclaiming the rights of peoples living there since, is creating a terrible mess (Hannah Arendt said already as much).

    That the Israeli government pays for Norman to report on that festival and him being entirely free to do so in whatever way he deems appropriate, is common sense. I hope the Israeli music is up to the best standards and it will be very interesting to read what he will come-up with.

  • Roberto says:

    Jeremy Corbyn supports the existence of the State of Israel, as long as didn’t exist.

  • Roberto says:

    I meant, …as long as it doesn’t exist.

  • Roberto says:

    Nowadays religions became nations. Islam is not a religion anymore, it is a nation. As well as Anglicans or Jews.

    Deep down, the concept of nation states from the 19th century is very well racist.

    • Tamino says:

      How is the concept of nation states racist?
      Nation is not a race.
      Nation is also not synonymous with a people.
      It is more of a political construct.

  • John G. says:

    I support Mr. Lebrecht on this one! I think that there is too much sanctamonius and selective outrage on these pages. Israel is a beacon of moderation and relative tolerance in a notorious “bad neighborhood.” Norman, enjoy your trip!

  • Luigi Nonono says:

    It is sickening that you would pay any attention to BDS at all, by doing so you lend them credence, and they deserve none. This was unnecessary.

  • FS60103 says:

    Bravo Norman. Too many of the comments here demonstrate just how badly such a stance is still needed.

    It can only be a small consolation, but I’ve had a steady flow of friends quietly, privately assuring me that they’ve left the Labour Party – decent progressive people who don’t want anyone they respect to think they’re soiled by association with the current leadership. Alas, it’s a small gesture in the face of such ugliness, and unlikely to be effective because…well, again, see above.

  • J says:

    This is the argument without conclusion (not just to do with Corbyn’s Labour but the whole Israel-Palestine dichotomy in general). It is so easy to obfuscate, misinterpret and contrive a narrative suited to whatever agenda an individual may favour, which is why, whenever this conversation appears anywhere, no one ever wins and the dialogue enters muddy waters.

    My personal view is that Corbyn is most definitely not an anti-semite. As one of the last altruistic socialists of the Labour Party, he therefore feels a responsibility to try and please everyone, which in today’s political climate is impossible. As someone who likes Corbyn, I think his biggest flaws are naivety and perhaps being a little far fetched with his ambitions.

    Much of the antisemitism of the Labour Party comes from the Muslim members of the party (labour being the party most Muslims vote for). Corbyn is placed in an excruciating situation given that firstly, politics is sadly all about winning votes, and secondly, by trying to please everyone, he will ultimately please the majority over the minority; in this case being Muslims and Jews respectively. It’s tragic given the history many great Jews have contributed to the Labour Party, but then the alternative, if his narrative suited Jews over Muslims, could risk ostracising a complex demographic, which could ultimately lead to the rise of an Islamic party in parliament, which would be much worse than the current state of affairs.

    Secondly, as has always been the case, there is no distinction made between rabid anti-semitism or anti-Zionism. As a mentally sane human being, I am personally repulsed by antisemitism, and if anything am in awe of and hugely inspired by the richness of Jewish culture and the contributions great Jews have made and continue to make in the world we live in, but like with all ideologies, am incredibly wary of Zionism.

    Zionism, in its essence is a spiritual doctrine, much like the notion of jihad in Islam (which relates to inner struggle), and should be treated as such. Both ideologies become toxic and dangerous when interpreted exoterically, which answers for many of the problems we have today, and unfortunately, there are a few blockheads it seems that cannot distinguish this problem. This is a task, in my humble opinion, for all good Jews to address, even if it is an obligation, as the reputation of a great people’s are tarnished by the likes of a few lunatics like netanyahu.

    This now goes to the Israel question. Again, like any rational sane human being, I firmly believe that Israel not only has a right to exist, but should exist, and if anything provides a beacon of sanity in that basket case that be the Middle East. It’s potential has barely started scratching the surface, much like the United States pre-Kennedy, but this can only burgeon through radical and enlightened thinking.

    Furthermore, even though I agree with the 2 state solution, it’s complex given that firstly, many Palestinians are brainwashed at birth to be anti-Semitic due to the scum that be Hamas, and secondly, the Israeli people are placed in a pernicious situation given that unfortunately, a right-wing Zionist government like netanyahus will ultimately be a safer bet for the safety of their country than a liberal more left leaning government (as we sadly remember with Rabin) – and it’s understandable, as like any decent people, the Israelis will think of the safety of their children before all else – a universal predicament unless you’re a far left nutjob!

    So where does this leave Corbyn being friends with Hamas? Again this reinforces his naivety (trident anyone?). As someone who is a pacifist, he probably feels reaching out to Hamas in an amicable way is perhaps a better strategy than threatening them – and then of course water becomes muddied and things get misinterpreted.

    It’s a very unfortunate state of affairs for all concerned, and I have no idea how it will conclude, but basically, I think calling Corbyn an antisemite is a gross exaggeration, and an oversimplification of a far deeper problem.

    Sorry if this seems longwinded and inconclusive, but I had to address it as I’m sick to death of identity politics and virtue signalling from all sides, as like with all conflicts, it’s far too grey and murkey to decide that one side is right and the other is wrong.

    The greatest Jews were and are the most liberated thinkers (eg Einstein, Chomsky etc). If this unique peoples were all like that instead of being ideologically possessed virtue signallers, not only would it sever a big part of the problem, but what it could do for the betterment of humanity could be unprecedented, given that the outstanding work of a small minority is largely responsible for many of the great things we have in today’s world.

    So, to paraphrase the former governor of California, “stop your whining!”

    • Tamino says:

      “Zionism, in its essence is a spiritual doctrine.”

      I think you are wrong on that. At least as far as a rooting in the Jewish religion is concerned. Zionism is a secular and arguably even atheistic doctrine. Theodor Hertzl, the father of modern Zionism, was a left wing secular political thinker.

      Zionism refers to historical events and geography, and draws a conjecture in implying a natural law of Jews to settle in a certain geographical region, due to them living there thousands of years ago.

      Zionism was also born out of the reality of perpetual persecution of Jews in too many of their host countries, thus necessitating a Jewish state where they could be safe. That second aspect also is not born out of spiritual or religious roots, but a pragmatic approach to make the earthly life of Jews better.

      Last but not least, some of the strongest opposition to Zionism stems from orthodox religious Judaism, since Zionism directly contradicts holy Jewish scripture.
      So Zionism is not spiritual. It is political and secular.

      • J says:

        Thank you for correcting me to some extent. However, I will like to add that cultural Zionism and political Zionism are distinctly different in their outlook, and whereas cultural Zionism I agree with (ie Israel being the spiritual centre of Judaism), political Zionism I find dangerous due to the fact it blurs politics with religion, which then causes a load of problems given that Judaism is also a culture and a race depending on context, and that’s where the obfuscation and confusions lie, which causes many of the problems we now unfortunately have (as I know Theodor herzl’s vision was well intended for his people, despite perhaps having some flaws, although I won’t criticise it as I’ve only read about his work and haven’t directly read it). Politics and religion being blurred together is the cause of most of the worlds problems, whereas race is inherent (hence my vehement opposition to antisemitism) and culture is what should be cherished as that’s what celebrates human endeavours. That applies universally to ALL cultures, races, peoples, religions and political institutions, Jewish or otherwise, and it requires a clarity of judgement for one to really feel that, as it’s all too easy for the best of us to muddle information and get confused by details (hence these predicaments that end up building up!).

        • Tamino says:

          Judaism is not a race. Far from it. Not even a somewhat definable ethnically homogenized group of humans. I know there is a lot of false science out there, paid for by certain interest, that claims otherwise, but that’s just bogus.
          It’s a religion and a related culture.

          • J says:

            The murky waters get even murkier. Depends what defined as race I guess, as race could be basic denomination (eg black white) or based on certain ethnic groups (eg Kurds, Jews etc), and the way I see it, Jews are as much of an ethnic group as any other for myriad reasons. Whatever the case is, it’d be easier if everyone just converted to Buddhism just to overcome these complex neverending debacles that brew storms out of teacups (I don’t mean our conversation, but conversations on threads like these where nobody wins and some people get butthurt which makes a positive outcome seem impossible).

  • Hilary says:

    Itay Tiran is a noted Israeli actor who endorses BDS.

  • Saxon Broken says:

    Norman writes: “Armenia is, after all, the only state in the world that has an Armenian identity, as Israel has a Jewish one. The same goes for Finland. Or Moldova.”

    I am sorry, I have to disagree. There are at least two confusions. First, religious identities are not the same as ethnic or national identities. Hence being Jewish is not the same as being Finnish. Moreover, Israel is not EXCLUSIVELY Jewish. Claiming it is will exclude many non-Jewish Israeli citizens as somehow not fully Israeli. This is exactly the criticism many people make when they claim Israel is “racist” or accuse it of “apertheid”.

    My view is that Jewish people are citizens of whichever country they reside in. Hence one can be Jewish and British, or Jewish and American, or Jewish and German. Or indeed Jewish and Israeli. Israel is unusual since the majority of citizens are Jewish, but that does not mean being Jewish is the same as being Israeli. I am hostile to the view that, for instance, being Jewish means one can not be German.

    In any case not all religious communities have their own state. For instance, there is no Zoroastrian state. Similarly, there is no Alawite state and there is no Samaritan state. I don’t really think we should encourage these religious communities to form their own state. Moreover, not all groups who have a strong national identity have their own state. For example, there is no Basque state, or Catalan state, or Welsh or Scottish state. And I don’t think there should be.

    • John Borstlap says:

      Agreed. And the most German Germans were, untill catastrophe broke in, German Jews. The American musicologist and conductor Leon Botstein however, explains this as desperate and ineffective attempts to escape discrimination.