I take it that I'm not eligible to sign up for Independent Jewish Voices - a new grouping of British intellectuals, academics and artists who have just declared a kind of UDI against the country's Jewish establishment - largely, it seems, in order to speak freely about events in the Middle East. Their website is far too inclusive to allow for anything like a disqualification on grounds of race - but I imagine they assume most well-meaning supporters will take the hint and disqualify themselves if they're not Jewish.
What Independent Jewish Voices actually is is a bit harder to work out, however. They currently describe themselves as a "network", which seems usefully vague, and it isn't clear whether they hope that non-committal phrase might harden into something more formal. A lobby group, perhaps, or a full-blown organi-sation which might, eventually, compete with the British Board of Deputies for microphone time and column inches.
Probably the best description of them for the moment, though, would be a protective shoal. Knowing that any criticism of Israel, even from a Jewish source, is liable to be dismissed as anti- Semitism, they have gathered together to make a little more difficult for the predators to strike.
Since I think that the capacity for self-criticism is an essential component of any advanced society, I'm on their side. This tendency can be taken too far, of course. Indeed Western liberal democracies are so conditioned to find the source of any problem within their own shortcomings that an essentially sensible instinct has become something of a liability in some quarters.
But I don't think that's the case here. What's proposed is to take a step back from the defensive aggression of much public discourse about Israel - which represents loyal dissent as a kind of treachery - and replace it with something far less polarised. …