Poets, PMs and Israel 1

November 29, 2002

Tom Paulin of Oxford University is alleged to have said that "US-born Israeli settlers should be shot dead", ( THES , November 22). Tom Gross of the American National Review compares this opinion with incitement to "murder blacks (or) homosexuals" and suggests that Paulin has not been roundly criticised by the academic community in this country because that community shares Paulin's bigotry against "Americans and Jews".

If Paulin expressed the quoted opinion, its stress should fall as equally on "Israeli settlers" as on "US-born", for many critics of the Israeli state would wish to observe that "settle" in this context does not connote rest or repose, but the violent displacement of Palestinian people by wealthy armed foreigners.

American Jewish "settling" of Palestinian land has been nothing other than colonialism, and those meeting this violence with violence can use compelling historical precedents to justify their actions.

Since it is doubtless not a disciplinary offence to express the view that terrorists, US-born and others, should be shot dead, it is hard to see the need to establish whether Paulin gave the quoted opinion; it is free of bigotry whether or not one happens to agree with it, as I do.

Gabriel Egan
Shakespeare's Globe and King's College London

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