The Left

Arthur Neslen: “Kill Us: We Deserve It”

There is a chapter in Nick Cohen’s book, “What’s Left” – which sketches pretty much all the is wrong with a section of the Western Left – entitled “Kill Us: We Deserve It”). The essence of the argument is here.

Arthur Neslen’s remarkable and stupid piece, about his quest to meet and understand the knife wielding Palestinian who tried to stab him in the back is a perfect example of this phenomenon.

In summary, Neslen goes to Gaza, where he is interviewing people for a book on “Palestinian Identity”. However, he encounters a Gazan who is somewhat unfriendly:

That day as I crouched, snapping away, a finger tapped my back. I turned and hauled myself up to see a young, trim-bearded man in a red bandanna, smiling from ear to ear. He looked so pleased to see me that I automatically smiled back and said, “Ahlan wa sahlan” (“Greetings”). But the man, whom I will call Khalid, seemed in a trance. Still smiling, he held up a long, red-and-white-handled dagger. Then he unsheathed the blade, raised it above his head and plunged it towards my chest. A split-second of dissonance between the smile and the dagger broke with a jolt as I spun around and sprinted off down the street, yelling for help.

His would-be assailant is arrested, but quickly released. So Neslen does what any sensible Jew would do when threatened with murder. He runs as fast as he can for Israel:

When the border crossing at Erez reopened a few days later, I made a beeline for the exit, my interviews unfinished, never expecting to return.

Here is his conclusion:

Since my barmitzvah, I had never felt that I looked particularly Jewish. At school in east London in the early 1980s, I was frightened that appearing Jewish would make me a target for attack. More than once, it did. Still, I never denied being Jewish and fought my corner when faced with violent antisemites.

But I cannot see Khalid as one of those.

At this, I lean forward and we embrace. As we do, I feel my shoulder blades instinctively tense. I realise that I don’t actually know how I feel towards Khalid. His initial justification to the police after the attack on me had been that he thought I was “a Yahud [Jew] who had come to steal Palestinian land”. Perhaps it was a plea for extenuating circumstances. The only Jews he had ever met were uniformed gunmen who brought with them fears of collaboration, expulsion and death.

I do not request an apology and none is offered. Khalid has been a diagnosed schizophrenic since 2007 and, Asad says, had never behaved violently before he was arrested during Operation Cast Lead. I can appreciate that his attempt to kill me was nothing personal.

Khalid has a human face to me again, and I hope that he feels the same way, too. The chain of trauma that linked us has been acknowledged, if not broken. I wish only that I could have told him that I was Jewish.

Also, read this piece by Adam Levick at CIFWatch, which is spot on.