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The question without answer and the answer without question


My views on the Jewish question
Frederic Raphael Writer
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And I suppose, in some sense, since I wrote a fairly sympathetic book about Josephus, my position is a bit like his. I think a lot about the Jews and Israel and Palestine and Harold Pinter and I don't know what not all else. But I don't have any strong desire to live with Jews. I've got a lot of Jewish friends, and I hope I've got a few – what my father would call – Christian friends. But I truly don't discriminate, except on the cheapest possible level of the jokes that one tells or whatever. But I am ridden by the Jewish thing, just as Josephus was, even though he did not dare to go back to Judea because they would kill him if he did. He didn't renounce Judaism any more than Nahmanides did in Spain in the 13th century or than Rosenzweig, 20th century Jew in Germany, who was about to be converted – as many Jews were in Germany – to, I think, Lutheranism, and then, at the last moment, he stayed on his side of the line. Hitler made sure the Jews had their choice, but to stay on their side of the line, and the ones that tried to cross the line he pushed back across it and then, if he could, he murdered them.

An English general in Palestine, as it then was, asked Golda Meir to tell her quite frankly what she thought it was that the Jews had done wrong because surely the Germans had not murdered them for no reason. This didn't go particularly well with Golda Meir. And it doesn't go particularly well with me. But I know what the reason is. It is, of course, the validation of Christianity. There's been a great attempt with anti-Semitism to divide it into religious anti-Semitism, which was discriminatory, sometimes cruel, but not murderous. Although you could've fooled the pilgrims... you could've fooled the Jews who lived in the Rhineland who were murdered by the people in the First Crusade on their way to Jerusalem to kill the rest of the Jews that they could find. You could forgive them for not thinking that in view of the number of Jews that were killed in Spain by the Moors as well as by the Christians. You could be forgiven for all sorts of things, and you would still find it very hard to find any Jews, until of course the present wicked generation of Israelis, who ever killed anybody. In fact, as we all know, the Jews were cowards. And when the Cossacks came, they ran away. There were a few Jews who became heavyweight boxers and various other things. There was a guy called Jew Mendoza who was a friend of Byron's. And Byron himself was a... philo-Semite, actually.

I don't really care all that much about whether people like Jews or not. And if you have a problem with them, by all means don't tell me about it. The fact of the matter is, all I ask is that you should not murder my children and my grandchildren. And preferably not the murder of children and grandchildren and various other people with whatever weird race... racial kink you think we have because, actually, there isn't one, you know. Just like there wasn't any racial distinction between the Tutu and the Hutsi... or the Tutsis and the Hutu or whatever they were bloody well called in Rwanda, who murdered each other with the acquiescence, to some degree, of the European powers not all that long ago. People do a lot of killing. They used to kill a lot of Jews. And then the Jews actually, slow on the uptake as they can be, evolved a strand of resistance to being murdered, which started in the Eastern... in Eastern Europe and in the Pale of Settlement, in particular in terms of resisting the Cossacks who liked murdering Jews. The Ukrainians murdered lots of Jews and they wouldn't mind doing it again if there were enough there to murder. But of course we all support Ukrainian independence because what else can we do?

And when the Jews tried to get out of Europe in the 1930s, the great powers including United States and Britain did their very best to deter them from entering their shores. And if they did, on the whole, they pushed them away again. People say that they didn't, but they did. And why was it so noble to take the children in the Kindertransport and leave their parents behind? Well, you know, there was a problem about room. Was there really? But would you have done that with French people? Would you have taken the French children and not allowed the parents to come if they were going to be murdered? No. The truth of the matter is there were too many Jews. There weren't many, but there were too many. Voltaire wrote against the Jews – the great symbol of liberty and intellectual honesty in France. He wrote a violent tract against the Jews because, of course, there were so many of them weren't there in France? Yes, there were. There were 0.5% of the population of Alsace and Lorraine and various other parts.

So, oh, be careful, he's ranting. He's ranting. Presently, as they say in Ben Johnson, he will 'rail desperately.' Well, I'm not going to rail desperately, but I'm fairly unmoved by the deep regret which nice people have about the way the Israelis seem to be impervious to the possibility of shaking hands with their enemies. Their enemies have shown no disposition whatever to shake hands with them, except under heavy financial pressure, usually from the US. But nevertheless, of course it's disgraceful that they haven't given back the occupied territories which they weren't occupying until Nasser and his friends decided that they would destroy the status quo as it was in 1967. And I wish that [the Israelis]had kept their word which they gave to me personally – imagine them breaking that – that they would give the lands back. Yes, I do wish all that. And I don't want to live in Israel. And yes, I have been there. And yes, two weeks was quite enough. I don't want to be involved in communities. When I hear the word 'community', I reach for my passport. I don't like communities. I don't want to sit with other people, deciding what's best and all the rest of it. I want to do my work. That's all I want to do. It's convenient. Oh yes, it's convenient. But that's what I do and it's what I do best.

Born in America in 1931, Frederic Raphael is a writer who moved to England as a boy. He was educated at Charterhouse School and was a Major Scholar in Classics at St John's College, Cambridge. His articles and book reviews appear in a number of newspapers and magazines, including the Los Angeles Times and The Sunday Times. He has published more than twenty novels, the best-known being the semi-autobiographical The Glittering Prizes (1976). In 1965 Raphael won an Oscar for the screenplay for the movie Darling, and two years later received an Oscar nomination for his screenplay for Two for the Road. In 1999, he published Eyes Wide Open, a memoir of his collaboration with the director Stanley Kubrick on the screenplay of Eyes Wide Shut, Kubrick's final movie. Raphael lives in France and England and became a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 1964.

Listeners: Christopher Sykes

Christopher Sykes is an independent documentary producer who has made a number of films about science and scientists for BBC TV, Channel Four, and PBS.

Tags: Palestine, Israel, Golda Meir

Duration: 6 minutes, 39 seconds

Date story recorded: March 2014

Date story went live: 10 September 2014