I’ve liked Iain Banks’ writing ever since reading The Wasp Factory in the 1980′s. And although I never met him, I’ve liked what I’ve seen and heard of him personally: self-deprecating, witty and obviously a good leftie.
His humanity, humour and courage were all in evidence when he announced that he had terminal cancer a couple of months ago, adding that he’d asked his partner to do him the honour of becoming his widow.
So it was with genuine sadness that I heard about his death yesterday.
That doesn’t mean, however, that I agreed with everything he said and did. His decision to refuse to have his books published in Israel was, in my opinion, stupid, counter-productive gesture politics of the worst kind, and all too typical of the antics of the BDS campaign and the PSC (especially, it seems, the Scottish PSC).
The fact that immediately following his sad announcement, Banks agreed to let the Guardian publish his views on Jews and Israel, doesn’t make those views any less stupid or ignorant.
David Hirsh at Engage came in for some stick for attacking Banks at the time, but I like to think he (Banks) was a big enough guy, and serious enough about politics, to have taken the criticism on the chin:
What would you do if you only had a year to live?
What would you do? You’d do the important things, right? Iain Banks decided to have the stupid things he’d written about Jews re-published in the Guardian.
“A sporting boycott of Israel would make relatively little difference to the self-esteem of Israelis in comparison to South Africa; an intellectual and cultural one might help make all the difference…”
Yes, because white South Africans only care about Rugby while Jews spend their time with their noses in a book… Mike Cushman came up with this one ages ago: “Universities are to Israel what the springboks were to South Africa: the symbol of their national identity.” And Tom (Israeli archeologists are nastier than Nazi killers) Hickey too: “we are speaking of a culture, both in Israel and in the long history of the Jewish diaspora, in which education and scholarship are held in high regard. That is why an academic boycott might have a desirable political effect in Israel, an effect that might not be expected elsewhere…”
“Israel and its apologists can’t have it both ways, though: if they’re going to make the rather hysterical claim that any and every criticism of Israeli domestic or foreign policy amounts to antisemitism, they have to accept that this claimed, if specious, indivisibility provides an opportunity for what they claim to be the censure of one to function as the condemnation of the other.”
Jews as hysterical? People who say that “every criticism” is antisemitic? Classic Livingstone Formulation… The conflation of criticism with demonization combined with the charge of raising antisemitism in bad faith in order to silence “critics”.
“Of all people, the Jewish people ought to know how it feels to be persecuted en masse, to be punished collectively and to be treated as less than human.” [ach you know what comes next...]
The Jews should know better? The Jews should have learnt more at Auschwitz? Well, take your pick. Chris Davies? Jacqueline Rose? Desmond Tutu? “My heart aches. I say why are our memories so short. Have our Jewish sisters and brothers forgotten their humiliation? Have they forgotten the collective punishment, the home demolitions, in their own history so soon? Have they turned their backs on their profound and noble religious traditions? Have they forgotten that God cares deeply about the downtrodden?”
Why does everybody who comes up with this garbage think they’re really clever, brave and original to have thought of it?
Iain Banks’ illness is terrible news for a talented writer, a man who always seemed to be one of the good guys. I’m sad that he thinks that this clichéd, dangerous and stereotyped nonsense is the most important thing that he should do now.
Graun obit here