Since the Spanish Civil War, the left has allied itself to a succession of progressive causes. In my lifetime these have been Czechoslovakia, Nicaragua, Northern Ireland, South Africa. They are the struggles according to which you define your politics. Today it is Palestine. In the British media, critical pro-Israel voices are drowned out by pro-Palestinian ones and the angry American Zionist right. Either you’re a supporter of apartheid or a self-hating Jew.
In such a climate, it is very difficult to speak at all. To critically support Israel is to discredit your own progressive values – to be a pariah in the artistic and intellectual communities that are your natural home. To feel you can’t stay shtum a moment longer and must express outrage is to contribute to an environment in which anti-Semites cherry-pick your words for their own abusive propaganda. To stay silent is the peaceful alternative, but for a writer the one that seems most shameful.
Linda Grant is the author of “When I Lived in Modern Times” (Granta Books, 2000 ) and “The People on the Street: A Writer’s View of Israel” (Virago Press , 2006).