Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Rise in violent antisemitic attacks

Reported in Ha'aretz:
Despite an overall decline in anti-Semitic incidents around the world in 2007, the Tel Aviv University anti-Semitism research center recorded a 6.6 percent rise specifically in violent anti-Semitic attacks, including arson and the use of firearms with intent to kill.

The Tel Aviv University report, published Wednesday on Holocaust Remembrance Day, encompasses 632 incidents of violent anti-Semitic attacks. The report maintains that the number of severe violent attacks has risen threefold with 19 incidents in 2006, and 57 incidents in 2007.
Six hundred and thirty two violent attacks might not seem like a lot to some, but we should remember that reported violent attacks like that are the tip of the iceberg. The FBI Uniform Crime Reports lists a mere three cases of hate-motivated murders for 2006, yet this is hardly proof that the US lacks violent racism.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Oh, that Hitler! (hits forehead)

U.S. Congressional candidate Tony Zirkle is facing criticism from one of his primary opponents, and a host of people on the Internet, for speaking at an event over the weekend that celebrated Adolf Hitler's birthday.
Yet he has our best interests at heart:
Let's save our Jewish brothers and sisters from this tyrant king porn dragon before we get to another world-wide pogrom after a war with Iran or some other conflict and after the Jews get blammed again.
He is, fortunately, something of a fringe figure:
Zirkle received 30 percent of the vote in the 2006 primary, losing to incumbent Chris Chocola, who was defeated in the general election. Zirkle said Tuesday that winning the election is not his primary goal.
But, that fringe figure makes a point. This response to criticism is about the only thing I'd agree with him on:
He compared his speech to other politicians appearing at Bob Jones University.
Yes, those other Republicans need to stop appearing at Bob Jones University. That points to how Zirkle is maybe just the fringe of an ugly trend that is much broader in society.

His campaign website is a hoot. For evidence that Jews were disproportionately represented among early, male performers in pornography, that Jews are major players in international sex slavery, and that Jews make kiddie-porn snuff films, he cites a number of sources. Including David Duke, the wakeupfromyourslumber blog, the Historical Review Press (I'd expect it's a branch of the Holocaust-denying Institute for Historical Review), and the JewWatch website. No wonder he didn't realize that the group that invited him to speak in front of a giant picture of Hitler, with swastikas all around was a bunch of Nazis.
When asked if he was a Nazi or sympathized with Nazis or white supremacists, Zirkle replied he didn't know enough about the group to either favor it or oppose it... He also told WIMS radio in Michigan City that he didn't believe the event he attended included people necessarily of the Nazi mindset, pointing out the name isn't Nazi, but Nationalist Socialist Workers Party.

But this quote may damn him more than anything else:
I'm considering discussing divorce aids and my plans for a "Derrenger's for Dildos" policy to put guns in American women's hands instead of divorce aids... When a women turns in her stash of divorce aids, then give her a free gun to defend America when the jihadists follow us home.

I may discuss the historical fact that before there were Nazi doctors, there were divorce aid doctors who used these divorce aids to "treat" "hysterical" women. Is there an etymological connection between hysterical and hysterectomy?

I may also call attention to the fact that one of the biggest commercial frauds is that divorce aids market themselves as being for "novelty purposes only" so that they can avoid all consumer safety inspections; yet ,they then go to court and claim they have a 1st Amendment so called right to privacy to abuse their bodies. Who knows what toxic chemicals these women are inserting into the most intimate areas of their bodies and how many men chase children because they can not find comfort from an adult women.

Ezekiel noted women made male images and committed whoredom with them just before their 70 years of slavery, and Bertrand of Worms implored women to set aside their divorce aids about a generation before the crusades began. (I'm still looking for the cite on Bertrand (sp?) of Worms).

Jeremiah 3:9: And it came to pass through the lightness of her whoredom, that she defiled the land, and committed adultery with stones and with stocks.

Ezekiel 16:17 (Whole Chapter)
Thou hast also taken thy fair jewels of my gold and of my silver, which I had given thee, and madest to thyself images of men, and didst commit whoredom with them.

Ezekiel 16:26 (Whole Chapter)
Thou hast also committed fornication with the Egyptians thy neighbours, great of flesh; and hast increased thy whoredoms, to provoke me to anger.

(That last one did not sound like a ringing endorsement for Jungle Fever to me. Maybe that should go into the self-determination segregation section).

By giving our soccor moms guns, they will be better able to take out the suicide bombers once they start following us home. Isn't that what the republicans are saying will happen if the deomcrats get elected and even dare to withdraw our troops from Iraq prematurely?

So, maybe we need a whole army of Sen. Hillary Clinton styled Annie Oakleys? Didn't Sen. Obama recently say that one would think she was Annie Oakley or something.

If the Derrengers for Dildos idea doesn't get me an invite to John Stewart's Comedy Center or the Colbert bump, I'm not sure what will.

That's right, he actually says the crusades were the result of dildos. And, in case you missed it, he's not too fond of the mixing of the races. But he expects we ought to forgive his ignorance for speaking before the sort of Nazis who wear their bigotry on their sleeves.

h/t David Neiwert at Orcinus

Friday, April 25, 2008

Sean Bell verdict

This morning I heard the verdict in the case of police officers charged for the shooting death/racist murder of Sean Bell. Not guilty. The coverage below is quite good - listen if you're not familiar with the case. At first, I was surprised. I heard cars honking outside and hoped it was the city rising up against injustice. No, just New York.

But ultimately I find the verdict credible. The judge did call the police officers negligent, but felt that their negligence didn't rise to the standards of the criminal charges, even to the level of Reckless Endangerment. The verdict is credible to me because it is legal in this country to shoot a black man over 30 times. They even reloaded.

In other words, what I'd like to see is a discussion of how racism can be subtle and unconscious and still have dramatic, tragic consequences. Even in this time of heightened consciousness and arguably lessened (public) racism, racism still kills. All the time.

Three sentences

BobfromBrockley has tagged me with a book-related meme. Here's the task:

1. Pick up the nearest book.
2. Open to page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the next three sentences.
5. Tag five people, and acknowledge who tagged you.

The nearest book is Yours in Struggle: Three feminist perspectives on anti-semitism and racism by Elly Bulkin, Minnie Bruce Pratt, and Barbara Smith. Page 123 is in the section written by Bulkin about Jews in the civil rights struggle in America.
Returning to the changing political landscape of their own neighborhoods, some of these Jews found themselves on the sidelines of--and even occasionally opposed to--Black demands for quality education, job opportunities, and community control of local services and institutions. Even for those who maintained their political activism in other arenas, the option remained for them because of their race to leave the movement to go back home--to college, to jobs--and make it, or attempt to make it, as people who were both Jewish and white.

If rage at the exercise of white-skin privilege, during and after the civil rights movement, has resulted in some expressions of anti-Semitism by Black people, the active role of Jews in the civil rights movement has been misused by some Jews in ways that are clearly racist.
I'll have to think about who to tag....

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Synagogue Arson

From the NYT:
A Miami Beach synagogue was severely damaged by fire early Tuesday morning, and members said they suspected arson after discovering a small piece of the Torah on the lawn outside the charred building.

A complicated matter of free speech, work around

Neo-Nazis marched in Washington. About 30 of them, from Michigan.
At midday, about 50 demonstrators found several march supporters next to the Washington Monument, and an angry confrontation erupted... "People marching in brown shirts and swastikas is a tool of intimidation and terrorism. We came out here to oppose them so they won't feel they can do it safely," said Dan Peterson, 23, a D.C. resident who was arrested.
This is not how to handle Neo-Nazis. They like the confrontation, feed off it. The problem is not that they can feel safe while spouting such vile messages. Provided they aren't making threats, they should feel safe, even though their goal is to make others not feel safe. The problem is that they feel they can be effective.
Periodically, hecklers watching from a distance shouted "racist pig" or vulgar slogans. But a far more powerful reproof came from a protester who played a tape of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech from the March on Washington in 1963.
That's how to handle Neo-Nazis.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The problem and solution to Jimmy Carter

I don't have a problem with Carter speaking to Hamas. I do think it would be a mistake for Israel to speak with Hamas, since it cuts Palestinian moderates advantages. David Trimble, who has a Nobel Peace Prize for his role ending the violence in Northern Ireland, made the point that preconditions on talks were productive and even productive there. But Carter isn't Israel, and I don't have a problem with Carter talking to Hamas.

I do have a problem with all the press coverage I've seen, which breathlessly tells us things like "Carter Says Hamas and Syria Are Open to Peace." That quote is the New York Times headline. Then, in the eighth paragraph, Carter and the Times become very confusing:
In a subsequent interview, Mr. Carter struck a more cautious note, saying, “I’m not claiming it’s a breakthrough.” He added, “I don’t have any control over whether or not Hamas does what they tell me.”

Hamas’s charter calls for Israel’s destruction, and it has consistently refused to recognize Israel. But Mr. Carter says that Hamas is coming around to the idea of a two-state solution.
And then later still:
But Khaled Meshal, the Hamas leader with whom Mr. Carter met in Damascus, gave a televised news conference late Monday in which he seemed to contradict Mr. Carter’s statements. “Hamas accepts the establishment of an independent Palestinian state on the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital and with full and real sovereignty and full application of the right of the Palestinian refugees to return, but Hamas will not recognize the state of Israel,” Mr. Meshal said.
What I heard on WNYC was as breathlessly optimistic, but there I had to wait a full day for even a slight moderation. They acknowledge that Meshal has made contradictory statements. And they quote a commenter from the website, who wrote:
When they promise a "ten-year cease-fire," they are speaking in code to those who know Muslim history. Mohammed famously declared a ten-year hudna with a tribe that controlled Mecca; when sufficiently rearmed after two years, he declared a technical "violation" on the part of the other tribe and invaded and conquered them. A "ten-year cease-fire" is code for a temporary truce that will be broken when they are sufficiently armed (in this case, by Iran). Carter and others would do well to learn the history and culture of those with whom they presume to negotiate.
This is certainly right-wing and probably racist. This is presented as if it were the other side of the story. It serves as a pro-Israel perspective to balance Carter (the host and guest on the show positioned in the middle). Even a public radio station might fall victim to the same sensationalist impulse that encourages other media outlets to present the two(?) sides as the extremes of the two(?) sides. But here it completely misrepresents so many Jews, like myself. And the reason for that is probably the way Carter promoted his own peace-making prowess, presenting Hamas as something other than what they are.

Even Meretz USA's Ralph Seliger -a real peacenik, dovish, Jew-unlike the guy who's comment was read on the radio- is less than thrilled:
If you read the article, as opposed to the headline, the NY Times report on what Pres. Carter has claimed to achieve in Syria is far from encouraging. The layering of complicated conditions would mean, in effect, a capitulation to Hamas, with a referendum including the participation of Palestinians outside of the territories likely to result in a demand for an unlimited Palestinian "right of return" to Israel.
"Capitulation to Hamas" in return for "Hamas will not recognize the state of Israel." Not promising. Yesterday, in Ha'aretz, I read that what Hamas was willing to accept is a "transitional" Palestinian state, which I understood to mean a staged plan for destroying Israel.

Since this -not the conflict, but this misrepresentation which will bite Jews in the ass- is essentially Carter's fault, here's my solution: Make Carter go back to Hamas. Make him ask why they put him in that spot. Make him ask Meshal for something concrete. Make him follow the situation in more than a sporadic way based on his Christian-influenced frame. Make him negotiate for something concrete and productive as the new precondition for Israel talking to Hamas.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Today's Brian Lehrer show

had two really great segments. First, on renewed feminism in the wake of sexist attacks on Hillary

And on Morgan Spurlock's new documentary, Where in the World Is Osama bin Laden?

identity is fluid and communal

Wisconsin Yankee has a good post on identity. Because identity is both fluid, not restricted to neat categories or even fixed in an individual, but also operant within a society, there are bound to be ironies.

Passover: Why This Night?

Some great radio programming, on Jewish holidays, is available at

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

J street already "too Jewish"

Judeosphere notes that JStreet is already saying things "progressives" will hate. What will the moderates say when "more progressive" people start saying that they knew all along that it would just be another arm in the Zionist Lobby.

Vaguely related, since, as Judeosphere noted, J Street is concerned about Iran ("US policy towards Iran is not working. The threat of a nuclear Iran, its destabilizing regional influence and the vile rhetoric of its President are all real":) Seven ancient synagogues in the Iranian capital, Tehran, have been destroyed by local authorities

Canadian antisemitism hits record highs

Y-Love with the story.

Damn-straight post of the year!

Read Kate Harding's guest post at Racialicious:
Some people, though, are still not only not getting it, but insisting that those of us who do get it are hypersensitive, overreacting, “looking for racism everywhere,” etc.–the usual, in other words. For the most part, I can just roll my eyes at that, because it’s all so familiar. Anything short of someone saying on national TV, “If you see a black man, you should shoot him in the face, and let me be perfectly clear that I mean you should shoot him in the face because he is black,” might not be racism after all, because some white people can’t see it. And if not all white people can see it, then the benefit of the doubt should automatically go to whomever made the racist statement/took the racist action/produced the racist image, not to the people identifying it as racist–because there is NOTHING WORSE IN THE WORLD than being a white person unfairly accused of racism! You lucky people of color have NO IDEA how horrible that is!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

J Street

I'm still kind of skeptical about this J Street thing. Not because I disagree with any of it's stated aims, but because everything I've seen about J Street, up to this video, promotes the antisemitic framing of "the Israel lobby." There are a thousand dovish, pro-Israel groups already, like Meretz USA and Americans for Peace Now. (The apparent difference here is that those organizations are not registered as lobbies.) And people like Mearsheimer and Walt already know about them. I entirely expect that, as soon as Mearsheimer and Walt have some disagreement with this J Street project, they will conceive of the whole thing as just another head on the Jewish hydra.

You can listen to some more here.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Rockin' Black Shabbos

Among the privileges of hegemony is the privilege of taking for granted everything that entails. From The World on PRI, this brief segment explores Israeli heavy metal, which has a more Old Testament feel.
The music is inspired by Motorhead, Ozzie Osbourne, Iron Maiden - the classics. But, there is a difference in the lyrics. Christian imagery, especially the crown of thorns kind of stuff, has long been present in metal. There are even Christian metal bands. But not here. One ban playing tonight, Acropolis, calls itself Hebrew Metal.

on Nadia Abu el Haj's tenure, a prelude to "Not the New Yorker, please"

The New Yorker recently published an article by Jane Kramer on attempted outside interference in the tenure process for Nadia Abu el Haj at Barnard College. The controversy over Abu el Haj’s tenure stemmed mostly from her book, Facts on the Ground: Archaeological Practice and Territorial Self-Fashioning in Israeli Society. As the magazine puts it (in the closest thing we have to an online copy at the moment):
The book looked at the role of archeology in what was essentially a political project: the Biblical validation for Jewish claims to what is now Israel.
I haven’t read the book, but as I intend to critique the article, I thought it would be appropriate to put up my observations on the book and a bit about the tenure decision-making process.

From the article, Abu el Haj describes Israel as a colonial enterprise, and archeology as a colonial tool. Certainly, archeology began as a colonial project, and I’m sure there’s a great deal worth critiquing in current Israeli archeological practice. Such a book could be brilliant. Or it might not be. A marketing description begins:
Archaeology in Israel is truly a national obsession, a practice through which national identity—and national rights—have long been asserted. But how and why did archaeology emerge as such a pervasive force there?
The seeming provocativeness of this question is bizarre in that numerous answers, some of them even trite, spring readily to mind. I don’t know that it’s necessarily true that archeology is an Israeli national obsession, but if it is, it seems easy enough to explain. That tiny area was significant in the birth to two of the major religions of this world – as well as their older brother, the smaller but historically significant Judaism. Even to Israelis who could care less about the archeology itself, the tourism industry is significant. Or, we could describe Israeli archeology as a happy ending to a history of Christian archeology appropriating ancient Jewish history. In short, the world is complicated, and it isn’t clear to me without having read the book whether Abu el Haj allows for alternatives to her views.

Certainly, "colonial" does accurately describe the Palestinian experience of the formation of Israel. It would be wrong to write that experience and that narrative out of history. However, this is radically different from the Jewish experience of the formation of Israel; and it would be at least as wrong to write the Jewish narrative, including the Diaspora and Holocaust, out of history as colonial justifications. It would be wrong to deny Jews a right to contribute to the construction of historical narratives of their own history by insisting that any such attempt can only be read as colonialist.

There seems to have been no notice of the title of Abu el Haj's work, but the phrase "Facts on the ground" is widely used to refer to Israeli settlements in the West Bank as they dictate "realistic" compromises to just political settlements. By choosing that title, she seems to suggest that Israeli archeology is an intentional obstacle to peace.

Richard Silverstein, who the Kramer article cites as one of those who pointed out how Abu el Haj’s harshest critics misread her, notes that Kramer did manage to preserve a small bit of criticism of the book for its “…tendency to reduce the complexities of Zionism to colonial terms…” He continues:
I think this idea deserved amplification because it does deeply inform Facts on the Ground and renders it a less persuasive critique than it might otherwise have been. There is too much dismissive ideological grandstanding and speech that trumpets an academic anti-colonial approach that detracts rather than amplifies.
The article also cites Larry Cohler-Esses, who also had a role in correcting the misreading, as writing that the book was "hostile in fundamental ways to Israel." In further response to the correction, historian Ralph Harrington writes:
The critics who have argued that Facts on the Ground rejects the existence of ancient Jewish states in the land that is now Israel are, in a sense, missing the point. It would not matter whether those states had existed or not: their significance in the development of Jewish nationhood would in any case be nil, because there is no such thing.
While it might be a great work of scholarship, and almost certainly does contain positive contributions, it seems likely to me that the book deserved its controversy. Although the tenure process ought ideally to be independent to outside or political pressure, this is not the same as blanket immunity to criticism – especially noting that the process is flawed and always subject to political considerations. We should look also at the white-supremacist Kevin MacDonald, noting that his harshest critics inside the academy are not willing to go beyond criticizing the process of his tenure review in hindsight. Even during the tenure process, scholars should expect interested parties to contest their work. We can hope that these outside parties will be reasonable and informed and that other faculty will facilitate informed debate, neither of which were the case here, but it's dangerous to simply dismiss them as the unwashed masses.

The biggest problem with the petition over Abu el Haj’s tenure, was not that it dared to be critical or even aimed to influence the process, but that it seemed to insist upon the right to outside interference so stridently as to justify personal nastiness. Not everyone is a nice person. On the other hand, not every not nice person finds their way into the New Yorker.

Institutional antisemitism continues at UN

Alan Johnson calls the a scandal.
"In the present state of the world it is difficult not to write lampoons," remarked the Roman poet Juvenal. The author of The Satires came to mind last week when I heard of the decision of the UN Human Rights Council to elect Jean Ziegler to its advisory committee by 40 votes to 7.

Monday, April 7, 2008

In France the sky is blue. In Germany the sky is blue.

I do have to recommend this (h/t Engage). But while my overall position is one of gratitude to Fadela Amara for making me feel more comfortable in this world, I'll take this opportunity to criticize her for doing too good a job at it.
Anti-Semitism is a fact and we know exactly what it has led to in our history. It can't be compared to anything else.
This is absolutely true, except how she means it. To her, antisemitism must be compared so as to diminish every other atrocity and injustice. But there's no need. The horrors of the Holocaust aren't forgotten just because we also recognize the injustice of the French occupation of Algeria. I certainly would argue against the suggestion that the Holocaust was no worse, but I see no reason to indulge in any comparisons in the first place.
Here in France, I get looks. To the French, I'm not very 'French.' We're living here under a dominant culture. When your name is Francois and you're white with blue eyes, it's one thing. But when your name is Fatima and you've got a little color, the look you get is different. In Israel - because of the variety of people, I didn't feel that. In fact, I met a lot of young people there and it happened more than once that I was talking with a Palestinian and thinking he was an Israeli or vice-versa.
Here, this is great stuff.

Friday, April 4, 2008

The demise of the Becks

Via Bintel Blog, comes this story about the demise of a youthful, Jewish street-scene. A few odd points that seem to close to the American JAP stereotype (as if non-Jewish teens hanging out on street corners could never be "bitchy"). But generally a quite interesting story about how Jewishness comes into play in some people's identities.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Israeli electoral politics

The Economist, like so many, has taken aim at Israel's dysfunctional political system. Israel's proportional parliamentary system requires a low threshold for a party to put a representative in the Knesset. Generally, it's true that proportional systems with such low thresholds are a mess. Italy, I think, has a similar but more entertaining system.
Israel, which turns 60 this May, is a pure representative democracy. Virtually every social group has its own political party, if not several. This means that none of the country's many ethnic and religious subsets is disenfranchised. But as a result all governments are unstable multi-party coalitions subject to perverse incentives that have more to do with politicians' careers than with the wishes of the electorate at large.
Though they say "Israel could give itself is a new political system" they don't explicitly say what that should be. The other extreme is the two-party system in the US, but there are proportional representative systems elsewhere that lie in the comfortable middle. But I think there is a better and more important change worth trying first, though maybe harder to enact.

It wouldn't solve the problem of Israel's terribly unstable governments, but it could mean that such unstable governments couldn't hold peace hostage. The quote above is not inaccurate, but it is simplistic to say that none of Israel's minority groups are disenfranchised. The multiple Arab parties, which could be a counterweight to the right-wing Shas, the single party most responsible for pushing governing coalitions to the right, are not invited into coalitions. Because Shas is the largest party outside a center that lies between Labour and Likud it has an exaggerated role in determining the stability of governing coalitions -and an outsized ego.

As it is, center-left coalitions can count on the votes of the Arab parties for most issues related to peace, but the failure to include the Arab parties in formal coalitions probably, I would think, makes it harder to bargain for votes on other issues to form a more stable government around a genuine center-left coalition.