I do not share Howard Jacobson’s bewilderment when Zionism is denounced (In the shadow of an unseen enemy, 7 April). Until the international community, including Israel and Palestine, has agreed where Israel is on the map, it will be criticised. Its place became a matter of doubt in the 1960s, when Israel no longer confined itself to its internationally agreed borders. Israel might be perceived as a refuge by Jews worldwide, but refuges do not expand to take over neighbouring territory.
This expansion has been justified in some popular discourse by a crude interpretation of Zionism that takes the Bible as divinely ordained property deeds for existing and potential Israeli territory. That non-religious rationalists and people with different views of religion demur is hardly surprising. I appreciate why, in the light of mid-20th century history, the Israeli state might be unreservedly supported, and why, in the light of its disproportionate action against civilians, its wars and its walls, it is also opposed. I am aware that antisemitism is used in anti-Israeli propaganda, but I reject any conflation of rational criticism of Israel’s foreign policy with antisemitism.
I too am angered by and fear the stereotyping, scapegoating, hysteria and aggression that indicate antisemitism. I urge Jacobson and all who think like him not to isolate themselves from the wider community which, like them, works to resist and enlighten the prejudiced.
St Leonards on Sea, East Sussex
• Most Jews know what antisemitism is and what isn’t – and it’s complicated. I sent my mum Howard Jacobson’s article and her reply sums it up: “It was hard to read, not for lack of clarity on HJ’s part, far from it, but because of the horrible squirmy feelings it evoked in me. In you too, I would think: it reawoke the shameful feeling, which he refers to, that an act of antisemitism engenders in the victim.
“His generation is mine, and all that he says about the attitudes of Jews from eastern Europe were familiar to me. He writes directly of our experience. Everything he says reflects the variety of thoughts and feelings that were common to members of our family.
“I hope that non-Jews and younger Jews will read and understand the issues he discusses: the historical background, the comfort of knowing the state of Israel had come into existence, the awkwardness of contemplating later decisions and actions of the state of Israel, the tentative attitude many Jews in the UK have today about how the people of our country truly view us.”