Wednesday, September 3, 2008

How To Tell People They Sound Antisemitic

There's a bit of a debate going on between David Hirsh and Eamonn McDonagh over something that kind of surprises me. It strikes me as something that's been pretty thoroughly hashed out in other contexts.

Hirsh likes to talk about institutional antisemitism. McDonagh has replied that there can be no antisemitism without antisemites, and Hirsh seems to have left standing the notion that there can be.

I'd like to recommend this video. As Jay Smooth says, "The most important thing that you've got to do is to remember the difference between the 'what they did' conversation and the 'what they are' conversation." There are a lot of reasons this is important, including, as Smooth says, it's a more productive conversation. But also, you can't determine whether anyone is antisemitic without first discussing what antisemitism is, which means the 'what they did' conversation has to come first.

To say of someone that they collude in institutional antisemitism is not a way of denying that they are antisemitic - or at least I don't think it should be. Instead it should be a way of not talking about what's in their soul and focusing on what they did. Even better, it can be a way of focusing the conversation on a Jewish view of the environment before even talking about who did what.

No comments: