Downtown Hebron, West Bank. Steel mesh screens protect pedestrians from garbage dumped from settlers' second-floor windows. Photo by Sven-Christian Kindler, licensed under Creative Commons.

Tough conversations

Last month, in an essay in the New York Times, columnist Roger Cohen cited an American protagonist in a Philip Roth novel who said that "in England, when someone mentions the word 'Jew,' I notice that the voice always drops a little." Anti-Semitism is always just beneath the surface in England, Cohen observed. Conventional stereotypes can surface in genteel conversation.

Cohen then explored another minefield of identity: he related how in the U.S. he has been accused by other Jews of not being a real Jew or of being a "self-hating Jew," because he has criticized Israel for what he calls its "self-defeating expansion of settlements in the West Bank." His essay—and the critical response he received—is one sign of how difficult it is for Jews to talk about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.


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