The Israeli occupation, Emily Hilton and the eternal privilege of the spotless mind

In the minds of most editors, journalists and contributors at The Independent, the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict is a straight-forward story of the weak against the powerful, the privleged against the unprivileged, the oppressed and their oppressors.  

The fundamental ‘progressive’ principle to which they seem wedded as professional purveyors of news and opinion – to comfort the afflicted and afflict the powerful – is channeled to reveal Israeli culpability, examine the body politic’s darkest inclinations and expose the atavism of heart of modern Zionism.  Palestinians, within this ideological framing, are to be championed, comforted, pitied and humanised – but certainly never critically examined nor taken seriously as moral agents who control their own destiny.

In assigning an op-ed to a young British Jew named Emily Hilton (As a young Jew, the news coming out of Israel makes me feel hopeless about ending the occupation, Jan. 10), Indy editors were certain that, regardless of the particulars, the words would abide by the secular catechisms of this moral tale. 


Hilton, a board member of Yachad UK and a New Israel Fund UK Fellow, like so many of her political fellow travelers in the US and UK, believes the root cause of most of what plagues the region can be explained by Israel’s 50 year occupation of  the West Bank – a theory of political causality so absolute that it necessarily usurps all other particulars, and negates the role of individual actors.  

The occupation, according to Hilton, is what drives Israeli soldiers to shoot incapacitated Palestinian attackers and what drives Palestinian terrorists to stab Israelis in the chest.  Except that, even here, in what she would likely claim was an expression of empathy towards the occupier, the precise words she uses in her opening are quite revealing. 

Five decades of occupation is what led an Israeli soldier, Elor Azaria, to shoot an incapacitated Palestinian man lying on the ground in the head, with 67 per cent of the country now supporting a pardon for his conviction. It is 50 years of occupation that drives someone to take a knife and stab a person in the chest while they wait for their friends by the walls of Old City. It’s what leads to a truck being driven into a public bus stop killing four people

In all three examples, only in the first, where the Israeli is the instigator of lethal violence, is the national identity of the actor revealed.  Whilst an “Israeli” soldier killed a “Palestinian” man, “someone” took a knife and stabbed a “person” in the chest, and a “truck” was driven into a public bus stop killing four “people”. 

Though some of her prose seems intentionally vague in an attempt, perhaps, to display fairness, expressing her generation’s dismay over a “slew of violence” and the “cycle of oppression, violence and retaliation”, most of it betrays her proclivity towards viewing the Palestinians as victims only.

My generation hasn’t lived through an existential threat to Israel’s existence. For me, my relationship with Israel began with the Rabin assassination, the second intifada, and two wars in Gaza – all episodes of extreme aggression that, in my view, seem underpinned by the dehumanisation of Palestinians.

For Hilton, two wars against a very specific antisemitic extremist group, and five years of coordinated Palestinian terror against Israeli civilians, is alternately generalized “aggression” or conflicts reflecting the denial of Palestinian humanity.  Of course, Hilton seems breezily disinterested in the ‘relationship’ of most Israelis to these fateful years – a tale involving a Oslo generation once hopeful about an inevitable peace, only to be traumatised by an unending war.  

Britons of Hilton’s generation can’t understand the current Israeli political milieu without appreciating how the decidedly inhuman terrorist violence of the second intifada, in response to an Israeli peace offer which included a contiguous Palestinian state, shattered their grandest illusions.

Similarly, those in her London political circle who understandably have grown weary over the continued occupation can’t truly comprehend Israeli political caution over efforts to achieve two states without appreciating the aftermath of the Gaza withdrawal – in which an occupation was ended, and yet, not peace, but extremism, terror, and war followed.

Indeed, further in her op-ed, Hilton explains that the occupation is sustained by the belief “that the people you are ruling over are going to try and hurt you”, suggesting, it seems, that the fear of Palestinian extremism, incitement and violence is not based on a sober understanding of actual Israeli experiences since Oslo, but on some irrational phobia of a benign minority.

In her penultimate paragraph, Hilton boasts of the time she spent last summer in the West Bank “with a Jewish group carrying out solidarity work with Palestinian communities”, demonstrating, she explains, “the power of human relationships in challenging narratives that are created around the other”.  

However, by turning a complex and vexing political dispute into a binary moral paradigm, reducing the historical and diplomatic complexities of a more than 100 year-long conflict to one territorial dispute, and dismissing authentic, historically-informed Israeli fears of Palestinian intentions as nothing more than a failure of empathy and imagination, Emily Hilton is certainly not “challenging narratives”.  

Rather, she’s coldly ignoring the reality of Israeli and Jewish experience, illiberally denying Palestinian agency and predictably reinforcing her own political community’s echo chamber.

69 replies »

  1. I too feel that the occupation must end. The largest colonial empire in the history of the world occupies most of the Jewish homeland and it must end for there to be any chance of peace.

    Deport the Islamofascist colonists and their moronic leftist supporters

    • The largest colonial empire in the history of the world occupies most of the Jewish homeland
      Can someone please explain what empire this is supposed to be, i.e. larger than that of the British?
      And how does it occupy “most of the Jewish homeland”?

      There are indeed scumbag Islamofascists out there, and they have indeed colonised certain areas – but no part of the Jewish homeland.

  2. In January 1995, Israel suffered a double suicide attack. That is to say, one terrorist detonated the belt around a crowd near a bus. The second waited until the rescue party, the medics arrived, then detonated, brutally murdering those that had come to help the victims of the first. Isn’t it odd that Emily’s relationship with Israel began in the same year, but only later. For some reason, Jews lying dead in the street, the hundreds of Oslo, or the 1000+ of the second intifada, never made enough of an impression for her to remember them. I sat on a panel with Emily at Limmud, at best she’s an idiot.

  3. Someone should point out to Emily that the Israel-Arab discussions and arguments preceded the Rabin assassination by about 5 decades. These 5 decades include 4 wars of annihilation against the Israeli state, none of which were ever solved by peace treaty. That said, Israel gave up Sinai for peace in 1979, and Jordan made peace with Israel in 2001 w/o taking any land back.

    It’s nice to be educated in the field one is willing to write criticism about. If you can’t go back in time to understand the current situation, don’t tell those of us who have that we’re incapable of understanding.

    The Independent can fuck the fuck off.

    • The key sentence of Emily: the dawning realisation that if I wanted to make any friends at my new non-Jewish high school, I should probably stop talking about the Holocaust so much.
      Exactly as you want to make friends in your Jew-hating environment and you realized this solution in high school. Probably this is the only lesson you learnt in your sorry life and you learnt it well.

      • Emiliy had to stop talking about the Holocaust? what Holocaust would that be? I thought that for her History starts in 1995…

        Considering that in reality Emily has a BA in History and a Mphil in Middle Eastern studies, she comes across as a thoroughly FAKE individual.

    • I suggested that Emily might combine her two interests at next year’s Limmud:

      “Vaginal Masturbation and the Two State Solution?”

      “72 Virgins: The Role of Multiple Female Orgasm in the Psyche of the Shahid”

      “Clitoral Stimulation in the Context of Settler Colonialism and Cultural Appropriation: A Postmodern Intersectional Approach”

  4. “My generation hasn’t lived through an existential threat to Israel’s existence” – exactly. You are an ignorant waste of space.

  5. So we no longer have the old “as-a-Jew” brigade.

    We now have the “as-a-young-Jew” brigade.

    “Last summer I spent time in the West Bank with a Jewish group carrying out solidarity work with Palestinian communities. ”

    Did she consider spending a summer in Sderot, I wonder, and help kids run to shelters?

    • Greetings, AKUS

      Yes, there are scumbags launching rockets at Sderot – but how exactly is Emily supposed to help out there?

    • Steven Bellamy, not only morally superior to Jews, but now much braver too! What a hero – he even spent time under the hot sun in the Negev and never complained like these whining yids, and so proved, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the biological and intellectual mettle of a fair-minded European mensch like himself, is the measure by which the Jews should be eternally condemned. Tried and tested over 2000 years! Well done Stephen! Keep on keeping on.

        • There’s something pathological about you Stephen. I remember quite clearly you telling me that you spent 9 months with the Bedouin supporting them from house demolitions. Truth not a strong point of yours is it?

        • There you go Stephen. You have zero credibility. You live in a make-believe world of splitting hairs and deluding yourself at every turn. Not worth engaging with on a meaningful level.

          “Groovy a total of nine months slaving under a blazing sun, ten hours a day, making mud bricks to rebuild Bedouin structures demolished by the IOF. What I would have given to be safe at home behind a keyboard”.

  6. The rise of the young As A Jews. Emily dear tell something about your feelings reading the classic antisemitic talkback posts supporting your article… You are not only a complete ignorant of ME history but an obviously critically stupid person believing that the occupation is the root of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict and you must be an amazingly narcissistic psychopath thinking that you have any moral or intellectual authority to preach anything to Israelis from your secure study in the UK. But let me tell you something – you are not some special edition – Jewish history is full of similar know nothings who don’t give a dirty kefiyeh about neither Jews nor Palestinians and only interested in their beautiful souls. That the potential consequences of your rants are more Jew-hate, more terror and more dead isn’t important – obviously you have other priorities.

    • I see hate speech is still alive and well on this website. Oh, the hypocrisy … (and by that I mean more the posters)

  7. You would need a very strong stomach to be able to read these articles by Jews who live abroad and tell Israelis how to run their lives and how bad their policies are towards the palestinians …Another snow flake this time a Jewish one who just managed to stray away from her safe space…..BTW Emily it is the palestinians who are the
    occupiers….Israel somehow tolerates them….

    • I think Jews in the UK would be happy to not tell Israelis how to run their lives if the Israeli Strategic Affairs Dept quit telling the rest of us, UK Jews included, how to run our lives.

      In any event its not a case of telling Israelis how to run their lives. Its a case of observing how Israeli Jews run other peoples lives and adopting a ” stop them if we can attitude”.

    • In what way are Israeli Jews telling you how to run your lives?

      For that matter how are they running anyone else’s lives. Or do you consider protecting themselves against those who would END their lives unwarranted interference?

      BTW there is no such thing as the ‘Israeli Strategic Affairs Dept’.

      • I did of course mean the Ministry for Foreign Affairs. Whats in a name.

        For example are you telling me the IOF do not control the lives of Bedouin in the Jordan Valley ?

        • Stephen dear boy as you say “Whats in a name”
          And thinking of names when are you going to name the Mayors of London with links to Gerald Ronson, and publish a list of MPs owned by the State of Israel?
          You did claim it would be easy to compile such a list, so where is it?

          I do hope you are not going to slip into your usual bad habit of making a claim and then being unable to substantiate it. It is much the same as a small child running into a building, shouting out a swear word then running away and hiding.
          Both the actions of the child and yours are tedious, annoying and infantile.
          To paraphrase Joe Biden, “It is time for you to grow up Stephen, you are supposed to be an adult now.”

        • No Stephen you are not feeding me anything. You are, supposedly, providing the list of names of MPs you claim are owned by the State of Israel and the Mayors of London with links to Gerald Ronson. Five a day or one day it is your choice but it does make your claim that to compile such a list would be easy seem hollow.

  8. “My relationship with Israel began with the Rabin assassination…”

    It was nice of her to admit up front that she hasn’t got a clue. BTW, Emily, the Jews ARE the ‘other’ being dehumanized by Arabs, Muslims, the media, etc.