Jo Glanville

17 October 2023

This was not a pogrom

It is the Palestinians who are stateless now. Hamas’s terrorism has caused devastating damage and death, but it does not have a military arsenal and infrastructure to compare with Israel’s – which is currently being deployed against Gaza – or such powerful allies.

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23 March 2023

Beyond Compare

Since Gary Lineker compared the way the British government talks about asylum seekers to the antisemitic language of the Nazis in the 1930s, guardians of Holocaust history have been lining up to criticise anyone who dares to make such comparisons. Last Sunday, the actor Tracy-Ann Oberman asked people to ‘stop using … false comparables’. But why can’t we make comparisons? Like Oberman, or the people in whose name she’s speaking, I have family who were murdered in the Holocaust, though I don’t think it’s necessary to be connected with the history to speak up in this argument.

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18 July 2022

At the Museum of Things

In Berlin last month I went to the Museum der Dinge in Kreuzberg. The museum of things tells the history of the Werkbund, an early 20th-century movement to bring aesthetic values to mass production. The small space is filled with wooden cabinets displaying every household object imaginable: crockery, furniture, glasses, knick-knacks. It’s an absorbing exhibition that gives you a sense of acquisitive discovery, like rooting around in someone else’s cupboards. Halfway through there’s a cabinet partially obscured with text, asking the visitor: ‘How should the swastika symbol be handled within the exhibitions of a museum? Should it be displayed? Or not?’ The cabinet also carries the text of the German criminal code that forbids the distribution of Nazi propaganda, punishable by three years’ imprisonment or a fine.

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10 November 2021

Formerly known as

When the Royal Court published an apology at the weekend for giving a Jewish name to an unscrupulous billionaire in a play, it was greeted with some derision. The theatre said the ‘mistake’ was a result of ‘unconscious bias’. But how could the name Hershel Fink not be instantly identifiable as Jewish? (There’s a Jewish joke that begins: ‘My name’s Fink, whaddya think?’) And why did it not occur to anyone that associating Jews with power, money and unprincipled behaviour is one of the oldest antisemitic clichés in the book?

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5 December 2020

What difference would it make?

De Montfort University students’ union is calling for a name change, to rid the institution of its association with Simon de Montfort (c.1205-65), the sixth earl of Leicester, leader of the barons’ revolt against Henry III and a key figure in the prehistory of parliamentary democracy. He also happened to be a hater of Jews (antisemitism wouldn’t exist as a term for another six hundred years) who expelled the Jewish community from Leicester. His supporters assaulted and murdered Jews across the country.

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8 April 2020

Basic Necessities

The government announcements that flash up on Twitter tell us that shopping for basic necessities such as food or medicine is one of only four legitimate reasons for leaving your home (although the regulations include 13 ‘reasonable excuses’). But what counts as a basic necessity? The police and local councils have announced that Easter eggs are ‘non-essential goods’. In Plymouth, the police tweeted that ‘going to the shops for beer and cigarettes is not essential’. In my local Boots, in north-east London, the self-service cosmetic racks are covered up as if they’re an offence to modesty, with a sign saying ‘sorry cannot sell as it is non-essential’. The pandemic has unleashed a rash of puritanical dictums on what we’re allowed to buy.

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