All that you have is your soul (Tracy Chapman).

Monday, 3 March 2008

Jewish Book Week? I Think Not.

One of the Jews' greatest strengths is also a huge weakness.

We absolutely adore, nay worship the notion of tolerating different opinions, irrespective of how diverse they happen to be. The old joke about three Jews having four opinions isn't that funny these days (was it ever amusing?) granted that there are so many diverse groups, one tends to lose sight of who believes what, if anything at all of any substance.

I'm getting on my high horse about this, because of what I witnessed yesterday when attending the annual Jewish Book Week (hereafter JBW) stalls in Central London on Sunday afternoon.

I took the eldest three girls to see Jacqueline Wilson, who by the way gave a sterling talk. I can't say I really enjoyed the subsequent hour long wait in a very Jewish queue (you'll know what I mean if you're of the faith), but I suppose it was a neccessity, at least from the girls' point of view.

Having kibitzed with Ms Wilson, who is a very pleasant lady, I started perusing the myriad of books available for sale. I was immediately struck by the sheer number of authors whose friendship towards the Jews or Israel is not what one would call "cordial".

We had our Robert Fisks, Norman Finklestein's and Ilan Pappe's (two of whom are Jewish, if only by name) gracing the stalls of the JEWISH book week event. Did I really have to see these odious individuals' titles on sale, in this particular gathering? Don't they sell enough copies of their posionous titles to the hungry Israel bashing masses in Waterstones or WH Smith?

I suppose that's what you get for promoting the idea of democracy and freedom of speech/opinion? In other words, the right to exhibit any book on a Jewish theme whether or not it is particularly attractive to many of the punters spending their cash.

I know that my liberal, wordly brethren will no doubt call me a narrow minded bigot for expressing such views, but the presence of these books really put me off attending any future events held by the JBW committee.

I am not asking for some sort of censorship to be imposed on JBW, but I just wish that we Jews could use such a special occasion to show our brighter, sunnier and more spiritual side. Why weren't there any prayer books or Talmuds on offer? Where was the Hebrew Bible? Why did it fall to a well known non-Jewish bookstore to be the purveyors of the said fayre?

Ok, I'll let you in on a little secret...and probably the reason why I feel so aggrieved about this.

I used to work for the Jewish bookstore that supplied all the books to the JBW event. I remember setting up stalls in that very room and I remember the pride I felt when our bookshop became re-located within the confines of those four walls. We would never have thought of selling any books by people who made their money by attacking our people, heritage and country.

I felt a deep feeling of shame for what I saw there on Sunday afternoon. I'm certain that if our manager (who sadly passed away a number of years ago and who adored Israel) knew that these same tables and stalls were being used as a tool to sell Zion-bashing tomes, he would no doubt be spinning in his grave (which is ironically in Jerusalem).

There is freedom of opinion and there is also pride in Judaism and Israel. I just wonder which of these came into the minds of the people who run the JBW event - or was it a case of just trying to please everyone - at the expense of offending anyone who actually gives a damn about what JBW should represent.

I didn't ever believe that I would rather give my money to Amazon than support a Jewish cause. However, this is exactly how I felt as I exited that disgraceful excuse for a "Jewish" event.

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