This is our truth, tell us yours
Nick Cohen has been banging the drum about the Tricycle Theatre and its row with the Jewish Film Festival all week.
Apparently, asking the Film Festival to disassociate itself from the Israeli government is anti-Semitic, and tantamount to asking Jews to conform to standards that are not applied to others.
It’s hard not to wonder where Nick Cohen has left his sense of proportion this week. The people who run the Tricycle, derided by Cohen as worthless bureaucrats, made a call that said, effectively, they would rather there was no risk of the Jewish Film Festival being seen as an activity of the Israeli government at a time when the Israeli government is being shittier than usual, even by its own reprehensibly shitty standards.
They were applying no greater principle than ‘this is all a bit shit isn’t it.’ They weren’t making a philosophical statement about Judaism, or anti-semitism, they were just shrugging their shoulders and saying ‘so what can we do?’ The worthless bureaucrats (as opposed to the highly valued, at least by himself, Nick Cohen) came up with a compromise. They would make sure the Film Festival didn’t lose money, so long as it sent back the money from the Israeli government.
Cue much sound and fury from Cohen and his allies, peerless makers of perfectly principled decisions on every occasion.
Now, there’s a problem with Cohen’s attempt to derive great meaning from the decision of the Tricycle Theatre, and here’s the nub of the problem. Whether Cohen likes it or not, the Israeli government likes to muddy the waters by intervening in Jewish culture as if an endorsement of Jewish culture is also an endorsement of Israel. Most rational people know that is not the case, but why else would the Israeli government want to fund a Jewish festival in London?
By ignoring the realities, and having a tantrum about how the decision should have been made to satisfy the high standards he requires, Cohen, a dedicated abstentionist when it comes to real politics and how people actually live, reminds us that whilst some writers might fantasize that they are the unacknowledged legislators Shelley described, actually they are the epitome of the modern commentator; people not good enough to play the game sitting on the sidelines pretending they understand it better than their audience.
I thin the Tricycle Theatre may have communicated their decision badly, but at a time when the bodies are piling up in Gaza, it says more about Nick Cohen than I can that he’d rather write a column about a bad decision in a theatre in Kilburnthan the life and death decisions being made by overwhelmed doctors and nurses in the operating theatres of Gaza.
Incidentally, spare me the spite and the bile in the comments about how bad Hamas are, and all the other rhetorical flourishes that mark out this debate. Objecting to what looks increasingly like genocide in Gaza is not an endorsement of the suicidal folly that is the policies of the vile kleptocracy that is the thugs who run the Palestinian administration in their own interests.