European opposition to the right of Jewish people to live in Israel amounts to “chutzpah with blood in it,” an award-winning British journalist and novelist declared in a recent BBCinterview.
In conversation with correspondent Chris Cook for a “Newsnight” film on anti-Zionism, antisemitism and Israel — which aired April 29 — Jacobson condemned the continued audacity of certain Europeans in telling Jews they have no claims or rights to Israel.
When I hear people in European cultures attacking Zionism, I think, ‘What a nerve.’ We [Europe] kick you out, we say, ‘Go to hell and we don’t care where you go.’ And you’re lucky if you’re kicked out. You’re lucky if you get out. And then we [Jews] go somewhere. We go to what for a long time was considered home and what in the Jewish imagination has been home for a few thousands years. And this begs many questions I accept about the indigenous population [in Israel]. I accept all that. But the idea that we [Europe] would then say to the Jews, ‘Get the hell out of here,’ and now we’re going to tell you where you can go? I mean there’s a Jewish word for that. That’s chutzpah. That’s chutzpah with blood in it.
During the interview, Jacobson explained his understanding of Zionism and said that the Left in Britain must reeducate itself on core Zionist ideology. “Zionism was a liberation movement. It wasn’t a movement of oppression. It wasn’t a movement of colonialism,” he said. “It was the beginning of a Europe-wide movement of liberation of the Jews from themselves…and some of the [European] countries.” This movement of liberation among Jews began “long before the Holocaust” and “the Holocaust just then confirmed the need for that,” Jacobson said.
Commenting on the antisemitism scandal currently plaguing Britain’s Labour party — specifically comments made by Labour MP Naz Shah calling for Israel to be relocated to America — Jacobson said he would like to hear more officials renounce antisemitic views and reeducate themselves. Remarks like those of Shah, Jacobson said, remind Jews of the importance of Zionism.
“The reason why Jews get so upset when they hear Zionism denounced is because for a Jew, for most Jews, it still is a liberation movement and not only in the mind,” he stated. Reflecting on 1930s Europe, Jacobson said, “Where were Jews going to go? They were being kicked out everywhere… ‘Go to your own country,’ they were told. Okay. And now they’re in their own country and now get out of that. And now Naz Shah says, ‘Get out of your own country and go to America.’ Not only do we remember Zionism for the liberation movement it was, it’s a liberation movement still.”
While Jacobson readily admitted he wasn’t brought up a Zionist, he said, “I was just brought up to believe whatever you think about Israel, don’t forget you might need it one day. There isn’t a Jew living — no, there are very few Jews living — that won’t feel in some way or another that they might need it one day.”
Watch highlights of Jacobson’s interview below: