In a 45-minute address that was later complimented as “almost holy,” award-winning British novelist and columnist Howard Jacobson said Monday night that in a bit of tricky psychological contortionism, Holocaust deniers ameliorate their guilt over hating Jews by criticizing the Jewish state.
Jacobson, author of the Man Booker Prize-winning “The Finkler Question,” tackled anti-Semitism, Holocaust deniers and his own British Jewish upbringing in his Monday night lecture for the B’nai B’rith World Center at Mishkenot Sha’ananim in Jerusalem.
During the address, titled “When will Jews be forgiven the Holocaust?” Jacobson stated that anti-Semites sought to deny the Holocaust and used criticism of Israel to both disguise and excuse the guilt of their anti-Jewish sentiment.
“The shocking psychological truth is that man rejects the burden of guilt by turning the tables on those we have wronged and portraying ourselves as the victims of their suffering,” he said. “The Roman historian Tacitus spells it out. ‘It is part of human life,’ he wrote,’ to hate the man you have hurt.’ Those we harm, we blame — mobilizing dislike and even hatred in order to justify, after the event, the harm we did. From which it must follow that those who are harmed the most, as in the case of the Shoah – are blamed the most.”
“Anyone who cannot bear to look at the reflection of his conscience in the mirror of a crime,” said Jacobson, “has only to smash the mirror to feel innocent.”
The 70-year-old author, who has written 12 novels, told jokes, philosophized and used wordplay to get his points across.
“I only have to ring up my mother and after 10 minutes I’ve got a novel,” he told the audience while answering a question about his writing.
British Ambassador Matthew Gould, who offered concluding remarks, said Jacobson has an “almost holy role in shaping Jewish identity.”
“You have to get over your resentment and envy of other novelists,” Finkler said jokingly during a Q&A on his writing after his address. “It was uber English literature that made me a Jewish writer,” he added, noting that his literary examples were Jane Austen and Shakespeare, among others, but it was his father, a non-reader, who made him a Jew.