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Book talk led to an entertaining quest

16 June, 2017

Ahdaf Soueif

A VISIT to the Bloomsbury shop of the London Review of Books on Monday for a sedate talk on a book on Palestine set Diary off on a strange quest involving accusations of anti-Semitism.

The book, This is Not a Border, is a collection of essays by writers on their stay in Israel, and the way they coped with the dizzy number of checkpoints, some of them “flying check-points” suddenly set up by Israeli soldiers in trucks.

After describing how Israel likes to see itself as a “centre of culture and democracy” in a “sea of barbarism”, the book’s editor Ahdaf Soueif, exhorted the audience to attend a weekend of culture and entertainment, the Palestine Expo, at the Queen Elizabeth Centre on July 8-9 because opponents were asking the organisers to ban it, on the grounds it would prove to be anti-Semitic.

Ranged against it is the Jewish Labour Movement – its members are usually Labourites – who accused Ken Livingstone, even Jeremy Corbyn, of being “anti-Semitic”.

They’ve had forays, I understand, into Camden Labour Party meetings.

It seems the organisers of the Queen Elizabeth Centre agreed to give “due diligence” to a request by a Manchester firm of solicitors, employed by the JLM, to call-off the event.

When Diary called the Palestine Expo organisers this week they couldn’t understand what all the fuss was about and stressed how the event would be an entertainment for all the family – poetry reading, theatre, talks, food.

In rather simple terms, it seems as if the JLM and its wide range of supporters are confounding criticism of the actions of Israel with anti-Semitism.

But can the two be joined at the hip?

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