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Guilt by Association

Published in The Irish Times (Dublin) on December 16, 2006.

Guilt by Association

Ad hominem guilt by association is often the last recourse. This is what Mr Nelkin did in his letter to the Editor (Irish Jews and Zionism, December 14, 2006). He writes that “Prof Rabkin is known throughout the Jewish world as a person who associates with organisations holding views which are both controversial and abhorrent to most Jewish communities”. He also writes that “a person associated with viewpoints which are unacceptable and insulting to most of the worldwide Jewish community.” If this is not guilt by association what is?

Moreover, he writes “ there is a world of difference between debating the policies of the Israeli government (which is perfectly acceptable) and a denial of Israel’s right to exist.” Without quoting one line from my writings he insinuates that I am denying Israel’s right to exist. I find it unprofessional on the part of a vice-chairman and the public affairs spokesman of The Jewish Representative Council of Ireland.

My reputation and that of my book are likely to survive Mr Nelkin’s attack. But he certainly discredits the community he represents by his gratuitous and uninformed opinion that he chose to make public. It is always better to read what the author writes before criticising him. My book about Jewish opposition to Zionism has been translated into six languages, praised at international meetings, and nominated for the Governor General Award, a major literary distinction in Canada. It has been the object of dozens of interviews and reviews around the world, including, as I mentioned in my earlier letter (December 13), in major Israeli newspapers such as The Jerusalem Post and Haaretz. If Israelis are not afraid to discuss and question Zionism, if I have invited to present my work in Zionist forums in Israel and elsewhere, why should this cause havoc in Ireland? By resorting to guilt by association and insinuation Mr Nelkin exposes the vacuity of his accusations.

Yakov M Rabkin
Professor of History
University of Montreal

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