Godfrey Hodgson in an otherwise balanced obituary ends it with an unsupported accusation of anti-Semitism. Although he doesn’t have the courage to make the charge directly; instead he sly insinuates it, by referring to a claim made by that paragon of careful scholarship and honesty… Alan Dershowitz!
The accusation, like so many Dershowitz has made over the years, is absurd. Produced by a man who has an enormously long record of misrepresenting people he disagrees with; especially if they criticise Israel. Hodgson surely knows this… So why bring up such a disreputable source, especially at the end of the piece, to make such an outlandish and terrible allegation?
It would be as if the Guardian invited me to write Hodgson’s obituary, and I quoted David Icke as accusing him of Neo-Nazi sympathies, which I balanced by including his own denial. Although such treatment would be kinder to Hodgson, as must people would spot the absurdity; recognising my source to be a fruitcake. They may even think I did it ironically; to quietly defend old friends while escaping a direct attack from Icke himself… However, outside the radical fringe, it is not all clear that Dershowitz’s real history is known – many, unaware of his record, he may still regard him as a respectable figure. If that is indeed the case, however strange to those who know his history, Hodgson’s reference is unpardonable. That last substantive paragraph leaving a nasty whiff of racism on a gloriously maverick life.
Anti-Semitism is one of the hate words of the liberal mainstream. If you don’t like someone’s arguments there is an easy way to erase them – call the writer an anti-Semite. There was an interesting recent example in the TLS when Ferdinand Mount brought in a quite unnecessary reference to Keynes’ anti-Semitism to rubbish a book he didn’t like; a book that seemed to question the very fundamentals of the modern economy – that growth and a full time job are the essence of a healthy society. One can only think that Mount finds such an idea so repulsive (and so threatening) that he feels he must squash it completely, and so out pops the irrelevant anti-Semitic reference. There is no better way to discredit an author.
Because it is such a powerful accusation charges of anti-Semitism must be used with extreme caution; and with precision – only those who are really anti-Semites should be described as such. Hodgson’s slapdash use of the terms suggests something of his quality: too lazy to establish the facts, and an insouciant disrespect for the recently departed. Hardly human.
Alexander Cockburn deserves better than this; but no doubt it is what he would have expected from the corporate press; although the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal both give him a decent send off – Americans, it seems, have more humanity than our British liberals. The Guardian. What a rag it can be.