Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Antisemitism as 'lofty sentiment'

In an interview with Paul Berman at Z-Word, Berman presents a remarkable description of antisemitism:
We like to think of hatred of the Jews as a low, base sentiment that is entertained by nasty, ignorant people, wallowing in their own hatefulness. But normally it's not like that. Hatred for the Jews has generally taken the form of a lofty sentiment, instead of a lowly one - a noble feeling embraced by people who believe they stand for the highest and most admirable of moral views.

In the Middle Ages, Christians felt they were upholding the principles of universal redemption, and they looked on the Jews as terrible people because the Jews had refused the word of God - had insisted on remaining Jews. And so, the loftiest of religious sentiments led to hatred of the Jews.

In the 18th century, the Enlightenment philosophers looked on the Enlightenment itself as the loftiest form of thought - the truest of all possible guides to universal justice and happiness. The Enlightenment philosophers detested Christianity because it was a font of superstition and oppression. But this only led them to despise the Jews even more - no longer because the Jews had refused the message of Christianity, but because the Jews had engendered the message of Christianity. And the damnable Jews insisted on remaining Jews, instead of repudiating religion altogether.

The religious wars wreaked all kinds of damage on Europe. But the Treaty of Westphalia came along in 1648 and put an end to religious wars by establishing a system of states with recognized borders, each state with its own religion. The new Westphalian system embodied yet another Enlightenment idea of lofty ideals - the grandest guarantee of universal peace and justice. But the Jews were scattered throughout Europe, instead of being gathered together in a single state. The new state system was supposed to be a comfortable shoe, and the Jews were a pebble. And they insisted on remaining Jews, instead of helpfully disappearing. So one hated the Jews for failing to conform to the new system of states.

Today we have arrived at yet another idea about how to bring about universal peace and justice - the loftiest, most advanced idea of our own time. Instead of looking on well-established states with solid borders to keep the peace, Westphalia-style, we look on states as a formula for oppression and war. Lofty opinion nowadays calls for post-state political systems, like the European Union. Unfortunately, nowadays the Jews possess a state. Thus one hates the Jews in the name of lofty opinion, no longer because the Jews lack a state but because, on the contrary, they have a state. They seem keen on keeping their state. And once again the Jews are seen to be affirming a principle that high-minded people used to uphold but have now rejected as antiquated.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, people with advanced ideas began to look on Christian hatred of the Jews as a retrograde prejudice - and the advanced thinkers embraced, instead, the pseudo-science of racism. They no longer hated the Jews on religious grounds - they hated the Jews on racial grounds. The word "racism" originally applied to hatred of the Jews. Racial hatred seemed up to date. Today, however, racism itself has come to seem like a retrograde prejudice. And so, people with advanced opinions hate the Jews on anti-racist grounds, and they regard the Jews as the world's leading racists.

And so forth. The unstated assumption is always the same. To wit: the universal system for man's happiness has already arrived (namely, Christianity, or else Enlightenment anti-Christianity; the Westphalian state system, or else the post-modern system of international institutions; racial theory, or else the anti-racist doctrine in a certain interpretation). And the universal system for man's happiness would right now have achieved perfection - were it not for the Jews. The Jews are always standing in the way. The higher one's opinion of oneself, the more one detests the Jews.
There are other worthwhile observations in the rest of the interview. This one just stood out for me.


Somehow, this one slipped under my radar for 2 days.
As an aside, hopefully this talk about supersessionism makes it clear why the establishment of Israel was so important to much of the Jewish psyche. Many people, it seems, can’t grasp why establishing Israel mattered to Jews aside from some romanticized Biblical claim. I don’t think reestablishing the reign of Biblical kings was a major motivating factor for (largely secular) Zionism at all. For nearly 2,000 years, Jews had been seen as a sort of living fossil – a relic of a bygone era that had no autonomy, agency, or even subjectivity. Its continued survival was interpreted along a continuum of amazement to fury, a long since obsolete people who by all rights should have just become Christian or French or European or American a long time ago. The establishment of Israel was a stunning repudiation of this mentality – in many ways, the first undeniable assertion of Jewish popular agency since entering the diaspora. Here was living proof that we created something, that we were live actors, not a dead relic. Israel was undeniably real and undeniably ours, and commanded the attention, at least, of the global community. In the wake of the Holocaust – when it was an open question whether this wound against the Jewish people was too deep, one we could not survive – this could not have occurred at a more important time.
Please read the whole thing.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Reader, "pernicious"

I haven't seen it, don't want to. My first thought about it was that it was yet another Holocaust movie not about Jews. (Schindler's List - protagonist is the Good German. Sophie's Choice - among other things I've said about it, the protagonist is a Pole. The Diary of Ann Frank - they took every step to trivialize Frank's Jewishness.) But then there was Ron Rosenbaum's plea at Slate not to give the film an Oscar. "We don't need another 'redemptive' Holocaust movie." The review is damning, and solidified my personal feelings against seeing the film. Now, here's more from historian Deborah Lipstadt:
This is a rewriting of history. It is, simply put, soft core denial. It does not deny the reality or the horror of the Holocaust. Not at all. But it does deny who was responsible.

Is the peace movement in Israel dysfunctional?

Part of it? Just like, Yikes! Wow. My God.
'Never mind.' Karim leans into me. 'Let's burn some Jews.'

I'm like, what? I don't know what to say. I need some time. Let's burn some Jews. He has a merry twinkle, the kind of goatee you'd find in Shoreditch, and American hip-hop clothes.

The conversation has moved on slightly. The Jewish woman's spooning up kubbe and smiling again. And I still don't know what to say. OK, now I do. 'I think you meant that as a joke,' I tell Karim, 'but I found it offensive.'

'Why? Are you Jewish?' he says.

'I am, but even if I wasn't, you know, I'd still say it's wrong.'

'But I think it's funny!' the Jewish woman says. 'Don't you see? The power imbalance. Between our two groups. It's funny because of that!'
Via Mira Vogel at GreensEngage. Mira selects several more entries at The Other Side that focus more on the need for and the positive side of the Israeli peace movement. Rather than repeat them, I'm just going to recommend a long look at the blog.

More on Kovel

In comments below, Rebecca offers additional information about Joel Kovel:
I think that Kovel actually has stepped over the line into the world of conspiracy theories. If you take a look at a recent article of his (published before he was notified that his contract would not be renewed at Bard) - at - you'll see that he's taken up James Petras' terminology of the "Zionist Power Configuration." The most disturbing part of the essay comes close to the beginning: "Accordingly, Zionism is the world-historical disease of Jewry in the present epoch. It is the structural disorder that drives ethnocentric chauvinism, ethnic cleansing of indigenous people, structural racism—and also the peculiar moral logic that shapes the Zionist power structure in the United States and configures its impunity. There is a “bad conscience” to Zionism, which results as the ancient identity of the Jew as the ethically superior perpetual victim encounters the endless transgressions required to construct Zionism’s dream of a Jewish state in historic Palestine." You can see he's very attached to a kind of psychoanalytic gobbledegook to explain what he doesn't like. Another peculiarity of the essay is that he talks about how Jimmy Carter is a Zionist, something I suspect Carter himself would be surprised to learn.
Judeocentrism? Check. Jewish Supremacism? Check. Bizarre essentialism? Check. In fact, the article is deeply conspiracist. I'm really grateful to Rebecca for her comment. I was for too kind to Kovel on the basis of my own ignorance of the full scope of his views.

If you wonder why I think this is a big deal, you might take a look here. The link goes to an anti-racist professor's take on the tenured white supremacist, Kevin MacDonald.
Beyond that, I think that what those of us who toil in the academy need to explore is not whether McDonald’s speech is protected now that he’s tenured (it is), but rather we need to examine how exactly McDonald rose to tenured, full status and what this reveals about the institutional mechanisms that are designed to serve gate-keeping functions in the creation and legitimation of knowledge
Academic freedom is not the same thing as protection for hate mongering. There are lots of difficult questions there that I really don't feel prepared to address, but so long as we have a system of tenure then it seems to me that we have to be far more critical in various ways. In ways that we aren't already.

I bring this up again because I recently wrote against a certain kind of othering or excluding certain extremists from our compassion. At the time I wrote that, I knew it was half the story. I knew I'd be writing in response to my own post, and Kovel is a good reason why. Most anti-racists I'm familiar with have attacked absolutist notions of free speech. Frankly, a lot of "free speech" doesn't merely violate my rights by being racist - it violates my rights by threatening me in order to silence me. If I speak up about antisemitism or some topic of interest to me as a Jew, there are consequences. Though there are far more serious examples I could point to (like cross burning as an act of "free speech"), I've experienced these issues first hand. So absolutist notions of free speech actually act against maximalist free speech. Absolutist free speech defends exclusion.

So we need to ask some serious questions about what kind of speech we wish to exclude and what kind of speakers we wish to exclude. (Those two are not the same question.) Also, can we exclude speakers without excluding them from our circle of compassion?

So, while there's an apparent conflict between two things I wrote, I'm aware of that and I think it's appropriate. But also, I'm afraid a lot of people -mainly those who complain about being silenced by charges of antisemitism- need to deal a little more seriously with these issues. Maybe they'll come to different conclusions than I have, but I'd rather have that discussion than deal with the sort of injured narcissist Kovel proves himself to be.

Health statistics..

..have been deliberately and cynically manipulated for political purposes.

Monday, February 23, 2009

On the firing of Joel Kovel

Judeosphere posts at Harry's Place on Bard College's letting go Professor Joel Kovel. Kovel it was an act of political censorship.

J. quotes from an article at Inside Higher Ed, "Kovel was treated the way many non-tenured professors are being treated these days as colleges retrench — and that mixed student reviews of his organizational skills in the classroom may have hurt him more than his politics." In fact, the administration at Bard has associations with the Palestinian Al Quds University, and Bard's President Botstein expressed modest support for Kovel, saying, "I am delighted that you hold views that many consider wrong or dangerous. You are not as controversial as you would like to believe."

I once saw Kovel speak at my local lefty book shop. I attended with my wife. It's perhaps worth noting that, while she's become sympathetic to the concerns of Zionists since knowing me, she is not herself a Zionist and continues to view the creation of Israel as a mistake. She was quite struck with the absolute absence of any discussion of antisemitism and even put off by the repeated assertions that antisemitism was irrelevant to the discussion. The only reference to the Holocaust -something that really can't be ignored in a discussion of Zionism- was to claim that it was a myth that Israel's existence was necessary to prevent another Holocaust.

Further, he continually referred to his own book as "banned." That was a blatant lie. In fact, his book was on sale at that very shop. The truth is that distribution of his book was suspended while the University of Michigan Press reviewed it's relationship with Pluto Press. It was Pluto Press which published Kovel's book, but using UM Press's name. UM Press decided Kovel's book was terrible and that they needed to sever their relationship to Pluto Press in order to protect their own reputation. However, when they reached that conclusion, they continued publishing Kovel's book, citing academic freedom. So, rather than banning the book, UM Press continued to publish what they saw as an obviously inferior work. In his narcissistic rant about being let go from Bard, he continues to refer to the episode as "book burning."

Although he never used words like "conspiracy" or "cabal," Kovel's version of history also contained many, many details that strongly suggested a conspiratorial worldview. For instance, he attributed US support for the creation of Israel monocausally to Jewish funding for Truman's presidential campaign. Never mind that Truman had been a vocal ally to Zionism long before running for President.

Given the similarity between his organization's name, The Committee for the Open Discussion of Zionism (CODOZ), to the blatantly antisemitic Committee for the Open Discussion of the Holocaust (CODOH), I find it difficult to ignore the possibility that these were intentional dogwhistles. Perhaps he's really that ignorant of antisemitism that he doesn't know to avoid such things (like Juan Cole's recent advocacy for an America First movement), but then I think it's still a revelatory Freudian slip. His sense of victimization and the hands of some powerful, vaguely defined (but constantly growing) group supposedly out to silence him is the same category of mistake -is the same functionally- as antisemitism.

So, had Bard actually dismissed Kovel for his views -not his advocacy of a one-state solution, but his (borderline?) conspiratorial views on the power of Zionists- I'd probably support them in that. But they didn't. They cut him to save money.

UPDATE: See also, More on Kovel.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

On projection

And interesting post at Jewschool on criticizing Israel.
We do this out of our own love, our own unique pride in Jews, Jewish culture, Judaism and Israel. We are our brothers’ keepers. These racists, they are ours. These murderers, they are ours. These zealots, they are ours. But also, these activists, they are ours. These changemakers, they are ours. These reincarnations of the Nevi’im, they are ours too. To draw upon Bavli, Shabbat 54b, this is our family, this is our community, this is our world.

For better or worse, they are all ours.
Because when we cast people out, it is emotionally satisfying. But it is also selfish. I've always had problems with the notion of being responsible for the broader community, but this is that notion in the best possible light.

There's a Muslim woman in my sangha. At a dharma talk once, around the '06 war in Lebanon, she said she ended a friendship over something horrible someone had said to her. The Zen Master responded that she had given up her chance to teach her friend.

Recently, the ZM told of how he was mugged years back. As he told it, he was guilty for helping this mugger make the bad karma of stealing. I was, and still am, a little uncomfortable with that idea, honestly. But there's also something important there, a feeling of obligation to everyone. That obligation is without exception because we are all connected. All of us, intimately.

I've always considered that sense of an all-encompassing humanity essential to being a Leftist. When we cast people out of our circle of compassion, we violate that idea. It is a selfish act that relieves us of the responsibility to help our friends overcome their base prejudices.

Thich Nhat Hahn went back and forth between all sides in the Vietnam War. Each side hated him for talking to the other. But as he went back and forth, he refused to hate. I think we can say he made judgements about skillful means (anger can be a skillful means), he refused to reject anyone.

As Norm Geras wrote once:
A second variant of the argument says that our real business is to concentrate on political sins and omissions close to home - where (the implication often is) we are more capable of making a difference for the better. Apart from the fact that the one focus doesn't rule out the other since you can object to injustices in your own society while giving what support you can to movements against injustice elsewhere, this argument is usually one of mere convenience anyway. Most of its sponsors don't genuinely believe that, for example, the work of the anti-Apartheid movement internationally was misguided, or that people in Britain should ignore the appeals of Amnesty International concerning prisoners of conscience in far-off places. They're just wanting to discomfit some political interlocutor over a criticism he or she has made, the force of which they'd prefer not to have to acknowledge.
He referred to this old post recently:
Once those people have asked that question, these people often reply, 'We have a greater responsibility for righting wrongs closer to home, and are better able to do so as well; our voices are more likely to be effective here than there, in influencing our own government than other people's, distant movements, different cultures...' and so forth. I have said before that this is merely an argument of convenience meant to embarrass political opponents, and that most people who use it don't really believe it: when it suits them to do so, they agitate and they act from afar, so to speak, as well as from nearby.
Geras is right, so far as that goes. But I think there's something he doesn't address, one way (of, perhaps, several) in which the principle of criticizing closer to home holds. To criticize close by is to refrain from casting out those far away. It is, or can be, the refusal to draw a line between us and them, the attempt to draw our circles of compassion as all-encompassing. On the other hand, it can be an attempt to simply redraw the lines between us and them. I think this is common enough today that Geras's criticism is appropriate and not merely 'right, so far as that goes.' Certainly, many people who make the close-to-home argument have succeeded in making Jews feel like they aren't welcom close to the arguers' homes.

I think this projection onto others of our own desire to create us and them. For we do have that impulse within us: to relieve ourselves of our responsibilities for "our community... our world... For better or worse, they are all ours." This projection must be challenged at it's source. The principle of close to home must be carried to its absolute extreme: Self-criticism begins with the self. To those who criticize Israel or Jewish Diaspora communities because they are close to home, I ask that they first/also criticize the way they criticize Israel. Is your criticism skillful or just selfish projection?

Friday, February 20, 2009

On the Post

There's been, rightly, plenty off condemnation of the NY Post. Here's Jesse Daniels. Emphasis is mine:
Rev. Al Sharpton gets is right when he says that the cartoon is “troubling at best given the historic racist attacks of African-Americans as being synonymous with monkeys.” (An aside about Rev. Al: Y’all can say what you will about Rev. Al, but living in New York City and seeing him at most of the same rallies I go to and hearing him on local news, he gets it right more often than he gets it wrong. In the national mainstream press, he’s regularly treated with derision, but I have a lot of respect for him.) In fact, I think he doesn’t go quite far enough here. What’s also troubling about this particular image is the not-so-subtle threat (again) to President Obama’s life and the similar way in which this cartoon legitimates the police-shootings of so many young, black and brown men on the streets of New York City and beyond. Sean Bell, Oscar Grant, anyone? It doesn’t matter though, they were just “monkeys” - as one of the commenters on this blog referred to Oscar Grant just a few weeks ago.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Differences of opinion

Perhaps people can have very different opinions on this. That movie everyone makes funny Hitler videos out of -here's one where Hitler's banned from WoW- someone made one about parking in Tel Aviv. There are complaints to Youtube.

But the disagreements over this don't have the stakes that disagreements over allegedly antisemitic criticisms of Israel. I'm think about the compare and contrast.

Monday, February 16, 2009


A [UK] government adviser on extremism was criticised last night after sending an email claiming “Jews” were behind a number of websites that undermined Islam.
Via this post on how the Left in Britain is failing to take antisemitism seriously.

Friday, February 13, 2009

non-Jews for Leiberman?

Analyzing the Israeli election gets harder and harder. Half the Druze voted Lieberman. (via)

Also, it turns out there's even a Druze candidate on the Yisrael Beitenu list, now an MK.

Also, Arab parties have one more MK.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Israeli Elections

No, Labor is not dead. No more than Likud was dead last time. Some people are saying the Israeli left voted Kadima to prevent a Likud victory. That's good and bad. Good because it worked. Bad because it didn't work well enough. Likud is one seat short of having the same number of seats as Kadima in the Knesset. Yisrael Beitenu is the next largest contingent. (Fuller results.)

I don't really like that Yisrael Beitenu is being called fascist. First, it means "Our Israel," but it should be understood that it's a largely Russian-Jewish party. For recent immigrants largely hated for using up welfare services, and there was an exaggerated perception that few were really Jewish, to announce "Israel is ours, too" was a progressive politic. Further, they're really far left on a few issues, like LGBT rights. Hypermasculinity was such a big part of fascism, I can't square pro-gay fascism. And they're strongly secular, which is going to really frustrate Shas and the religious right. (Look for a push for civil marriage.) On the other hand, they also push politics that are deeply troubling, like a 'loyalty oath' for all citizens. No way the Supreme Court would uphold such a thing, but I'd be deeply hurt if it manages to pass the Knesset. Just because I find it awkward to call Yisrael Beitenu fascist doesn't mean I don't think they're dangerous far-rightists.

On the other hand, it should be noted that Likud is not the Likud of the past. Netanyahu is still Netanyahu, not quite as right-wing than you might imagine. As Gershom Gorenberg put it (I say him at the 92nd St Y last week), he'd often agree to maybe a quarter of what Clinton would ask for, then scrap it facing pressure from his own party and the Knesset. But beneath Netanyahu, who wanted to run to the center, several far-rightists joined Likud and took over. According to Wikipedia, Moshe Feiglin, who previously founded Zo Arteinu ("This is Our land" - contrast with "Israel is Our Country"), once served 6 months of community service for sedition following civil disobedience in opposition to Oslo.

Between them, though, these three parties have 70 out of 120 seats in the Knesset. Something I haven't seen (in what seems a rush to condemn Israel) is that no coalition will likely last long. I think Israeli governing coalitions have averaged around 3 years since the end of Oslo. This time, there might be new elections in as little as 2 years.

It's hardly surprising that Israel has moved to the right - every nation under attack moves to the right. Now we have to think about strategies for reviving the Left. Hint: If attacks push them to the right, being nice might work the other way.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Shoah not a heartwarming story.

Ron Rosenbaum is as ticked at Hollywood's Shoah-fest as I am. Defiance is the only one I saw, and the only one I wanted to.
But that's what The Reader is about: the supposedly difficult struggle with this slowly dawning postwar awareness. As Cynthia Ozick put it in her essay: "After the war, when she is brought to trial, the narrator ['Michael Berg'] acknowledges that she is guilty of despicable crimes—but he also believes that her illiteracy must mitigate her guilt. Had she been able to read, she would have been a factory worker, not an agent of murder. Her crimes are illiteracy's accident. Illiteracy is her exculpation."

Indeed, so much is made of the deep, deep exculpatory shame of illiteracy—despite the fact that burning 300 people to death doesn't require reading skills—that some worshipful accounts of the novel (by those who buy into its ludicrous premise, perhaps because it's been declared "classic" and "profound") actually seem to affirm that illiteracy is something more to be ashamed of than participating in mass murder. From the Barnes & Noble Web site summary of the novel: "Michael recognizes his former lover on the stand, accused of a hideous crime. And as he watches Hanna refuse to defend herself against the charges, Michael gradually realizes that she may be guarding a secret more shameful than murder." Yes, more shameful than murder! Lack of reading skills is more disgraceful than listening in bovine silence to the screams of 300 people as they are burned to death behind the locked doors of a church you're guarding to prevent them from escaping the flames. Which is what Hanna did, although, of course, it's not shown in the film. As I learned from the director at a screening of The Reader, the scene was omitted because it might have "unbalanced" our view of Hanna, given too much weight to the mass murder she committed, as opposed to her lack of reading skills. Made it more difficult to develop empathy for her, although it's never explained why it's important that we should.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Sharp rise in antisemitic incidents in Britain

Maybe 15 years ago, who could have thought Britain would get like this.
Incidents recorded by the CST include violent assaults in the street, hate emails and graffiti threatening "jihad" against British Jews. One disturbing aspect involves the targeting of Jewish children. A Birmingham school is investigating reports that 20 children chased a 12-year-old girl, its only Jewish pupil, chanting "Kill all Jews" and "Death to Jews". In another incident a Jewish schoolgirl reported being bullied at a non-Jewish school because of the Gaza conflict.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

New book on Israel lobby

Dan Fleshler has a new book that looks good. He posts some advance reviews from on his own blog. Excerpted from one, from Shlomo Ben-Ami:
This is a brilliant study of two intriguing contradictions pertaining to the story of America’s Israel lobby. One is the contradiction between the reality and limits of Jewish power, on the one hand, and the popular perception of that power, on the other. Another has to do with the yawning gap between the Israel lobby’s hawkish policies and the liberal views of the majority of American Jews.

Prosecutorial miscunduct

Kind of important. Not so much because Khalidi was wrong -Cohen probably goes too far in a few ways, like in titling his post- but because there's a preosecutorial culture in which these mistakes are impossible to correct.

What the Ghettos were like

Samuel Kassow (Who Will Write Our History?) was on Leonard Lopate yesterday. A lot of interesting info about, in particular, the Warsaw Ghetto.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Why don't we talk about antisemitism more

There's a fascinating series of posts up by Richard Jeffrey Newman at Alas, a blog and at his own blog, It's All Connected. Having been away, I'm still catching up on it (and the various related posts scattered about the internets). One of the best passages, one I found enlightening, is this:
Indeed, it often feels these days that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the only context in which a discussion antisemitism is taken seriously. It gives antisemites an opportunity to cloak their antisemitism in an argument that has a considerable amount of moral high ground built into it, and to call foul when Jews and our allies say, “Wait a minute! We’re not going to let you get away with antisemitism just because the policies of the Israeli government deserve criticism.” More importantly, I think, for Jews and our allies, precisely because antisemitism is not taken seriously enough as a phenomenon in and of itself, a reality of Jewish lives independent of what goes on between Israel and the Palestinians, and precisely because secular Zionism and that State of Israel were founded largely in response to antisemitism, discussions of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict become one of the few opportunities we have to talk about antisemitism period, all of it, how it has worked and continues to work all over the world. The result is that what should be a conversation about Israel and Palestine and the people who are living and fighting and dying there ends up bearing the burden of, for example, not only every instance of antisemitism I listed above, but the history out of which that antisemitism arises and that continues to give it context. No single conversation should have to bear that burden.
There's a lot to say around that. Like, when Morton Klein of the ZOA, a man and organization I almost always disagree with, attacked Archbishop Desmond Tutu... Many people took this as an example of how "the lobby" silences critics. But take a look at what Klein wrote. In fact, Tutu did say some pretty sketchy things about Jewish power in America. And worse.
Speaking in a Connecticut church, Tutu said that “the Jews thought they had a monopoly on God; Jesus was angry that they could shut out other human beings.” In the same speech, he compared the features of the ancient Holy Temple in Jerusalem to the features of the apartheid system in South Africa.
I not only happen to think Klein is right to criticize such statements, I think Klein is well within his rights to criticize. I don't think it's likely Klein is right that such pronouncements should "disqualify him [Tutu] as a speaker," but it seems right to me that Klein should be able to argue that. Tutu may or may not be disqualified from his post as oracle of moral authority, but in my mind his moral authority is certainly qualified. So, having found that criticisms of antisemitism tend to be as accurate as criticisms of any oppression by oppressed groups, I'm reluctant to even entertain people who say that criticism of antisemitism is stifling debate.

But Newman has a serious point that the debate over Israel/Palestine is forced to unfairly bear the burden of the conversation on antisemitism. And so I've been wondering why it is that we don't talk about antisemitism more in other contexts. Actually, I've been going back to that question. I think, if you're Jewish, you've probably asked yourself that before.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Homeward Bound

It was astounding to feel more connected to a country in the Middle East than I had ever felt for America (maybe it's because people keep questioning my Americanness). It was something like the connection I feel to the Dominican Republic. But it was very different. Now what's a girl like me doing with three homelands?
I'm not ever likely to make aliyah. I'm a cold-weather kind of guy. But, uh, I know the feeling.