Should I feel flattered or afraid?
Each time I give a talk in London, there is a strong likelihood that the pro-Israel bully Jonathan Hoffman will attend.
Hoffman turned up at a recent event held to promote my new book Balfour’s Shadow.
Not content with heckling on the evening, he subsequently posted a review on the Amazon website accusing me of “glaring mistakes.”
Yet he failed to provide an example of even a minor error in the book.
Earlier this year, Hoffman was removed by police from a meeting at which I spoke in the British Parliament.
He followed that episode by complaining that I have written for Spinwatch – “that strange organization which seems obsessed with ‘Jewish power.’”
Hoffman failed to substantiate that smear for obvious reasons: there is no basis to it. Spinwatch has cogently rejected the anti-Semitic conspiracy theories that Hoffman suggests it is peddling.
Perversely, Hoffman has leapt to the defense of a journalist who made brazenly offensive comments about Jews.
Kevin Myers was recently fired by The Sunday Times over a column which implied there was a link between the Jewish religion of two presenters at the BBC and how they were among the best paid women working for the broadcaster.
Myers had recycled an age-old anti-Semitic trope. Yet Hoffman argued that Myers was really paying Jews a compliment.
A careful reading of Hoffman’s articles leads to the conclusion that he is not interested in fighting anti-Semitism per se. Instead, he sees allegations of anti-Semitism as a weapon to be used selectively. Myers – a right-wing pundit who has previously disparaged Africans and single mothers – is permitted to insult Jews for being Jews.
Hoffman’s indulgence of such anti-Jewish bigotry is undoubtedly related to Myers’ history of defending Israel and attacking supporters of Palestinian rights.
Critics of Israel are, by contrast, vilified by Hoffman.
He has, for example, alleged that Jackie Walker, a socialist Jew, is anti-Semitic because she has described Israel as a racist state.
No doubt inadvertently, Hoffman then proved her right by alluding to how Israel prohibits Palestinians from using what are effectively Jewish-only roads in the occupied West Bank.
By his own warped logic, he himself is an anti-Semite for acknowledging the existence of that state-sponsored racism.
Hoffman has been even more vitriolic towards Hajo Meyer, an Auschwitz survivor who died three years ago.
Meyer poignantly spoke out against how Israel was dehumanizing the Palestinians as the Nazis tried to dehumanize Jews.
For drawing a parallel between his own suffering and that of the Palestinians, Meyer got labeled an “amazing dancing bear” by Hoffman.
It was by no means the only time Hoffman has displayed callousness. In March, he made fun of how a politician known to be sympathetic towards Palestinians suffered a heart attack.
And Hoffman has previously insinuated that a campaigner who uses a wheelchair had exaggerated his disability.
Hoffman’s penchant for disrupting Palestine solidarity events appears to be appreciated by the pro-Israel lobby. The Reut Institute, a “think tank” founded by a former adviser to the Israeli government, is known to have consulted him.
In 2011, Hoffman took part in a conference organized with that institute on countering Israel’s “delegitimization” – code for robust criticism of Israel and the state’s ideology Zionism.
That event took place more than a year after Hoffman had been photographed attending a demonstration to support Israel’s settlement activities in the West Bank organized by the far-right English Defence League.
He was again seen flanked by extreme right activists at an anti-Palestinian protest last month.
His willingness to embrace overt fascists may have lost Hoffman some friends. In 2012, he failed to secure re-election as a vice-president with the Zionist Federation, one of the oldest pro-Israel lobby groups in London.
That does not mean he has been shunned by fellow lobbyists. On the contrary, some of those who seek to cultivate a respectable image for Israel have remained happy to work with him.
Ahead of the 2016 referendum on Britain’s European Union membership he signed a joint article with Jeremy Newmark from the Jewish Labour Movement, a pro-Israel pressure group within Britain’s main opposition party.
Perhaps I should consider myself lucky. Though Hoffman has been rude towards me, I have not been subjected to his full boorishness.
During a presentation by Thomas Suárez, whose book State of Terror chronicles the role played by Zionist armed groups in the establishment of Israel, Hoffman shouted “answer my question, you bastards.”
Hoffman also tried to dismiss the book’s findings on the comically absurd basis that Suárez is a violinist, rather than a historian (in fact, Suárez is both).
Hoffman is undoubtedly a bully but nobody should allow themselves to be intimidated by him or by similar lobbyists. Their belligerence illustrates that Israel feels discomfited by Palestine solidarity activists.
They don’t like the message, so they slander the messengers.
•First published by The Electronic Intifada, 25 August 2017.