Friday, June 26, 2009

Stonewall anniversary

From Wiki:
The Stonewall riots were a series of spontaneous, violent demonstrations against a police raid that took place in the early morning hours of June 28, 1969 at the Stonewall Inn, in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of New York City. They are frequently cited as the first instance in American history when gays and lesbians fought back against a government-sponsored system that persecuted homosexuals, and they have become the defining event that marked the start of the gay rights movement in the United States and around the world.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

On Left and Right and Antisemitism

In the wake of the USHMM shooting, and following on the heels of Jonah Goldberg's completely idiotic Liberal Fascism, there's been an attempt on the right to politicize the shooting by claiming the shooter was a Leftist. Many commenters have rightly expressed indignation at the stupidity of such arguments, including Leonard Zeskind in the interview on WNYC I linked to Friday.

Unfortunately, this is framed around Goldberg, which is to say that the debate is kind of beside the point in a discussion of antisemitism. Left and right are adequate for describing older variants of antisemitism, but a major political function of antisemitism is to organize coalitions during reorganization of the Left/Right divide. The USHMM shooter was a member of the far right, but in saying so, we're also saying that he's holding on to political arguments that aren't very relevant today. His kind of antisemitism is probably the most lethal to me today, but not tomorrow.

Here's Zeskind in an interview with Hatewatch:
More, the concepts of left and right have lost a lot of their explanatory power. Who’s on the left, who’s on the right, in Russia and Eastern Europe today? I can’t tell.
Also, from the same interview, and this is meaningful because people often mistake all revolutionary tendencies for Left revolutions:
Here’s the trick about spotting the transformation into a white revolutionary movement: The piece that makes them the most revolutionary is anti-Semitism, because it creates for them a ruling class. The invention of a fake ruling class transformed a reform-oriented conservative movement into a revolutionary movement. Jared Taylor [editor of the white nationalist journal American Renaissance], for example, does not embrace the anti-Semitic theories that William Pierce [late leader of the neo-Nazi National Alliance] did. Taylor apparently worked in international finance at one point, and he doesn’t see himself as separate from that, despite the people railing at the banks and the Federal Reserve. It would be a mistake to call vanguardists and mainstreamers factions; they’re ideological tendencies, and they can both exist within a single organization.

Nixon's concern for Jews

No surprise Nixon was an antisemite. We've known that for a long time, but with the release of new tapes there's a little more detail for me.
Anti-Semitism is stronger than we think. You know, it’s unfortunate. But this has happened to the Jews. It happened in Spain, it happened in Germany, it’s happening — and now it’s going to happen in America if these people don’t start behaving. ... It may be they have a death wish. You know that’s been the problem with our Jewish friends for centuries.
That quote is reported by the NYT here and in the "main" article here. Toward the end of that main article, the quote is presented in pieces --both articles elide parts of the conversation, but the "main" article is more disjointed-- but some context is provided that's less apparent in the article with the full quote. Only the main article provides a short audio clip in a sidebar.

What's a little surprising for me is how sincere Nixon sounds in expressing his concern for Jews. His "concern" includes stereotyping Jews as having a death wish and using that as an excuse to blame Jews for antisemitism. But I wouldn't have guessed that someone also capable of much more blatant, explicit, and hateful antisemitism could sound so genuine expressing what he thinks of as concern.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Jewish student won't join Saturday graduation ceremony

"It's peculiar, and she's suffering," Levine told the New York Post. "She shouldn't have to choose between her religion and her high-school graduation."
What's really galling is the offer for her to have her own private ceremony in the library.
School officials later offered Morse an alternative by inviting her to march down the aisle of the school library by herself on Friday to receive a diploma from school Principal Walton. Levine however did not agree with the alternative and found it offensive.

kinda creepy

I had no idea there are non-Jews on J-Date.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

The greater and lesser Seitan: Iran and cooking for inlaws

I just finished a meal with olives and gorgonzola, as well as lemon juice and parsley, cooked for Koreans. (And praise seitan made from scratch. Not bad for a first try, but I wonder if it will get better.) Talk about culturally inappropriate. Dong-sa trying the gorgonzola with chopsticks before not adding any to his dish was... Yes, I intentionally try to cook just outside guests' comfort range. For my wife and her sister, it can sometimes be wonderful experience. My wife previously couldn't stand olives. But with multiple guests, Dong-sa gets screwed.

Anyway, I've mostly stayed off the events in Iran. Despite personal interest, I've largely limited the topics on this blog in a way that they previously didn't seem to fit. But I do need to pass along this bit of news. Chavez is supporting Ahmadinejad. Chavez is no Leftist, but is often inexplicably treated as such. Screwiness on the Left often has repurcussions for Jews, so this was a good excuse to share.

And while I'm at it, let me recommend Richard Jeffrey Newman's careful interpretations. Often, democracy is best understood as institutionalized power for the individual. But often, for the sake of moving beyond dualism, it is better understood as the ability of the government to listen to the people. Newman bridges that gap as well as anyone.

Update: My wife instists it's dong-SUH. Like I'm some kind of expert transliterator.

Friday, June 19, 2009

On the radio

Leonard Zeskind looks at the white supremacist movement over the last 30-plus years, and the politics of the disparate groups that make up the movement--from neo-Nazi skinheads and Holocaust deniers to Christian Identity churches and David Duke. His book is Blood and Politics: The History of the White Nationalist Movement from the Margins to the Mainstream.

Chip Berlet has studied extremism, conspiracy theories and hate groups for more than 25 years. In a recent report for, he says that the murders of abortion provider Dr. George Tiller and Holocaust Museum guard Stephen T. Johns exemplify the potential for violence that often lurks within extremist groups.
Listen here.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

hegemonic whiteness and anti-racist antisemitism

Matthew Hughey writes at
Moreover, in my doctoral work, “White Guise: The Common Trajectory of the White Antiracist & Racist Movement,” I found that white male racists and white male anti-racists relied on strikingly similar racist worldviews. (For example, both groups relied upon and often accepted views of blacks and Latin@s as culturally or biologically dysfunctional and dangerous, while simultaneously treating racial “otherness” as a kind of “epidermal capital” which served as a temporary alleviation of their collectively-shared understanding of whiteness as “bland,” “boring,” and “meaningless.”) These shared dimensions of what I call “hegemonic whiteness” were solidified in the nation’s founding as a white male supremacist state. And while these racialized and gendered violent foundations may be invisible to most, their influence is continuously present among varied contexts of predominantly white male groups like white supremacists, American Legion outposts, and even some “white antiracists.”
Where he writes, "solidified in the nation's founding," he's referring to the US. But it describes Gorgeous George pretty well, no? And perhaps a lot of the anti-racist antisemitism around.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

LGBT Community on Film

From WNYC:
June marks the 40th Anniversary of Stonewall. We're commemorating the occasion by talking about representations of LGBT life and politics on film as part of our Projections series. Film critic Nathan Lee, professor of Cinema Studies at CUNY David Gerstner, and by filmmaker Cheryl Dunye join us to discuss the following films:
"The Boys in the Band" (1970) "Parting Glances" (1986) "The Watermelon Woman" (1996) "Milk" (2008)

The discussion is fascinating for several reasons. At one point one of the guests suggests that representation on film is crucially important for gays in a way it isn't for many other oppressed groups because they pass in everyday life. In that way, I think a lot of it is also relevant for Jews. In particular, there's a discussion of how gays are more welcome on the screen when they die at the end of the film. It was progress when they only wound up severely emotionally damaged rather than dead. Let me recommend for comparison, The Pawnbroker and Sophie's Choice.

(Video might show up around here at some point. Since they watch film clips during the show, video might be helpful, but I think most of what's important comes through in the audio.)

Bridging the gap on natural growth

Seeing this article gave me an idea. Housing in Israeli settlements in Occupied Territory is cheap. That can be changed through tax policy. (Of course, this would hit some of the poor hardest, but in this case, I'm willing. Other solutions might well hit them harder.) I have no particularly strong views on natural growth. So let's first freeze what Israel is willing to freeze. Then tax what natural growth Israel is not willing to freeze. It doesn't have to be prohibitive, but should be significant. The money could go into a fund for eventually relocating settlers when borders are finally decided. Or, it could even go into a fund for the PA. Ideological settlers, who will be the hardest to relocate, would be put in a bit of a quandry, as they'd be actively supporting policies they don't like by living in the territories. Non-ideological settlers, who make up the vast majority of the settlers and who live in the larger settlement blocs where natural growth is a bigger (and more pragmatically driven) issue, would merely face a different set of constraints.

Monday, June 15, 2009

speaking for Jews and others

In this post, Jeffrey Goldberg chides Roger Cohen for being naive on Iran. Cohen writes:
I erred in underestimating the brutality and cynicism of a regime that understands the uses of ruthlessness.
That is, indeed, an understatement worthy of derision. But Goldberg does something odd.
Brutal and cynical? Really? Who would have thought that the Iranian regime could be so brutal and cynical and ruthless and undemocratic? Well, perhaps gay people, who are executed by the regime for their sexual orientation.
He goes on to list other groups persecuted by Iran, groups he doesn't have the authority to speak for. His list does include Jews. The effect is to fold the oppression of gays into the oppression of Jews, which not all gay people might appreciate. Without including Jews, however, the effect would be to completely appropriate the oppression of others, which would be worse. This probably isn't the worst example since it's likely few queers or Bahai's or others persecuted in Iran would object here. (Though on what authority do I say so?) So I hope my criticism of Goldberg is seen as constructive engagement in a tone appropriate to that aim, but is still worth mentioning that we should be careful how we speak for others. When Roger Cohen speaks on behalf of the Jews of Iran, he is not only wrong in blatantly obvious ways, but he is also assuming an authority he doesn't have to speak for others.

But there's also something else about the need to include Jews among others, which is not unique to this situation. It even appears with the Holocaust, where plenty of people have difficulty understanding the centrality of antisemitism and emphasize the non-Jews killed to deny the meanings of the Holocaust for Jews. In fact, even the common belief that 5 million non-Jews were killed in the same way Jews were is problematic:
I gave them the example of how the late Simon Wiesenthal invented, without any basis in fact, the notion that the Holocaust constitutes the murder of 6 million Jews and 5 million non-Jews.

He did so, he admitted to Professor Yehuda Bauer, in order to get non-Jews to care about the Holocaust. He assumed that they would not do so unless there were non-Jews included in the total. He therefore created a number that was almost – though not quite as large as the number of Jews.
As if antisemitism and the murder of Jews were not reason enough to care. I think Goldberg is mistaken in the way he frames the issue with Iran, but I think it stems from a well proven fear that Jews speaking about Jewish issues will not be taken seriously. Jews like Roger Cohen (who is certainly entitled to his views no matter how wrong they are) are promoted when they say things useful to others. At the same time, Jews like Goldberg are dismissed, typically with antisemitic stereotypes about neurotic Jews who abuse their fears to manipulate and control politics in pursuit of global domination, when they say things others don't want to engage with.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Far Right responds to USHMM shooting

From Editor and Publisher.

Fund for Stephen Tyrone Johns, victim of USHMM shooting

AJC Opens Fund to Help Family of Holocaust Museum Guard

June 12, 2009 – Washington – The Washington Chapter of AJC has created a fund to benefit the family of Officer Stephen T. Johns, killed Wednesday at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.

“Officer Johns bravely gave his life protecting others as well as the peaceful values that U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum embodies,” said Melanie Maron Pell, director of AJC’s Washington Chapter. “This horrific event reminds us that AJC's fight against intolerance and extremism are as critical as ever, and it is essential that we respond swiftly in the wake of tragedy.”
There is a link for donating online, as well as an address for offline donations.

Customers who bought this also bought...

So the USHMM shooter was apparently influenced by a book called Iron Curtain Over America. I hadn't heard of this book, so it drew my attention.

On the Amazon page, customers who bought this book also bought an interesting list:
  • The Synagogue of Satan probably needs no explanation
  • James Petras's antisemitic Rulers and Ruled in the US Empire
  • Koestler's bizarre The Thirteenth Tribe
  • The Revolution: A Manifesto by Ron Paul
  • Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid by Jimmy Carter
  • And something called The Transparent Cabal

Young Jewish and Left

Something really odd about it: There are two straight men in the entire thing. Neither of them are young. I favor the explanation that that speaks to the filmmakers ideas of Left over the explanation that there just aren't Left, straight men.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Two better articles on shooting

The CST:
There is a reason why this kind of attack seems to happen more in the United States than elsewhere, and not just because of the relative ease of obtaining guns. The whole mode of thinking behind this kind of ‘lone wolf’ attack was developed in American far right circles, most notably by two highly influential writers and leaders: Louis Beam and William Pearce.
And Chip Berlet at Public Eye:
The shooting today is a prime example of why it is a mistake to ignore bigoted conspiracy theories.

NY Times buries USHMM shooting

I can hardly believe it. Looking at the NYTimes online, there was nothing about the shooting at the Holocaust Museum in Washington. Going to the U.S. section, it's there, but the top story is "Despite Odds, Cities Race to Bet on Biotech." An item on the shooting is seventh. This is the online version of burying a story.

There's plenty at the Washington Post, and the LA Times has items on it's online "front page," but the NY Times doesn't seem to think this is national news.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


I'm just hearing on the radio someone walked into the Holocaust Museum in Washington and open fired with a gun, probably a rifle. Possibly a white supremacist.

There's some links here.

The gunman is a white supremacists. He and a guard were shot. The guard has died.

more: The NYTimes has a copy of the bio he wrote for his own wikipedia page. Do note, "International bankers" means Jews. The Times also links to a post at TPM with his Ron Paul-style antisemitism.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Extent of Nazi Camps Far Greater Than Realized

Shapiro says that the sheer number of camps may end one of the lingering protestations surrounding the Holocaust -- that ordinary people knew nothing of the killing underway in their locales. "In most towns, there was some sort of prison, or holding area or place where people were victimized," Shapiro says. "Think about what this means. For anyone who thinks this took place out of sight of the average person, this shatters that mythology. There was one Auschwitz. There was one Treblinka. But there were 20,000 other camps spread through the rest of Europe."

Saturday, June 6, 2009

identity acceptance and perception

Interesting, though I disagree.
I have always wondered what difference it makes if the proverbial Cherokee grandmother exists? In what sense is somebody Indian who has to hire a genealogist to find an ancestor? I’m not saying that an adult onset Indian cannot belatedly form tribal ties, but connection to a tribe for such people is the exception rather than the rule.

My own position is that Indian identity is not about what you claim, but rather about who claims you. This is diametrically opposed to Churchill’s idea that self-identification is what counts...
How many of us have come across someone claiming that what they're saying isn't antisemitic since they're "of Jewish descent." Funny, that phrase. I've come across people claiming to be Jewish in a more straightforward way while spouting blatant antisemitism, but plenty of people are quite inconsistent in claiming to be Jewish. They qualify it by saying only that their ancestors are Jewish. For them, it becomes a matter of convenience.

Consider transgendered people struggling for recognition among other queers. Or ask, are Jews people of color if other people of color claim Jews run the world? I think the problems of demanding acceptance over identification can become apparent. But such an identification can be interrogated. What is identification without connection?

Thursday, June 4, 2009

natural growth

This article from Ethan Bronner lays out the dispute between the Netanyahu and Obama administrations pretty well.
A second senior Bush administration official, also speaking anonymously, said Wednesday: “We talked about a settlement freeze with four elements. One was no new settlements, a second was no new confiscation of Palestinian land, one was no new subsidies and finally, no construction outside the settlements.”

He described that fourth condition, which applied to natural growth, as similar to taking a string and tying it around a settlement, and prohibiting any construction outside that string.
Those same parameters are stated in the article by several sources, though there appears to be disagreement over whether they were formalized to the extent that they should be seen as binding on anyone (namely, at this point, Obama). And apparently there has been at least some construction outside those guidelines anyway, but the article makes it seem minimal. The remaining point of contention is natural growth within the settlements.
On Monday, Mr. Netanyahu said Israel “cannot freeze life in the settlements,” calling the American demand “unreasonable.”
Given the parameters above, we're basically talking about people with kids moving to bigger houses and kids moving out of their parents houses without having to move to a different city. Netanyahu isn't out of line to talk about "freezing life." And if Israel has been limiting growth to within those parameters, good on them. I can't imagine the objection to that being too strong. Except if it involves certain settlements.

For Israel, those settlements that are most likely to remain Israeli after peace agreements are the most important places to allow natural growth today. I can see that no one should want to let Israel unilaterally decide which settlements those are. But there are settlements that have been consistently spoken about in negotiations to remain Israeli. Even outside a mutually agreed upon framework, natural growth in those areas might be opposed but is hardly treacherous.

On the other hand, Israel is small enough that moving to a different city doesn't really mean moving far away, so I don't understand the Israeli insistence on natural growth, either. The burden of a freeze on natural growth might mean freezing life within the settlements but not in a way that the disruptions to individuals' lives can't be accomodated for.

What am I missing? I'm kind of at a loss to explain the heat generated over natural growth.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009


My wife asked me to buy her a copy of the Talmud. Way outside my expertise!

Can anyone recommend a good (I assume heavily abridged) copy? Will this do?

Sean Wallis

Here, Wallis writes,
One minute’s reading of the source blog above shows that it is the original reporter who introduces the very anti-semitic slur that I am accused of.
I wasn't entirely sure what slur he denies, so I stuck a tack in it. Now that David's addressed it, I thought I was going to be a "moderate" voice. David caught a similar denial, but one a bit less specific. I could add a bit more info and perhaps nuance, since Wallis actually references a "slur" in my quote.

However, at the "source blog" Wallis writes,
At the time of speaking I was not alluding to a conspiracy theory which I have since discovered to be in circulation on the internet.
However much clearer this is, it's still very odd. He most definitely does not deny having said what he said, only that it references a particular circulating "slur." It seems Wallis is denying a belief that Jews secreted away large sums of cash from Lehman Brothers before its collapse. Clearly, Wallis is not accusing Jews of having the sort of advance knowledge of conspirators. And yet, he sees absolutely no problem voicing a charge that rich Jews -his reference to Lehman Brother's was absolutely about the stereotype of the parasitic, rich Jew who didn't earn his money; just not about a conspiracy of parasitic, rich Jews- are unfairly interfering in the matters of the UCU. Except..

That unfair interference seems awfully conspiratorial.

I'm confused again. What he said was about lawyers with -and here's the actual quote he doesn't deny-
bank balances from Lehman Brothers that can’t be tracked down.
My impulse is always to assume a difference of narrative and consequent misunderstandings. I'd figured he had a different idea of antisemitism and the problem was bound up in that. I was prepared to argue that point, but now I'm starting to think he's just being maliciously dishonest. It's really rare for me to have any such suspicions about people, and perhaps someone can clear this up for me.

Is it perhaps that, rather than a limited conspiracy of a few Jewish lawyers, he actually associates Jews more generally with a corrupt financial system? Is that a way of avoiding charges of conspiracism? Or perhaps he's not talking at all about Jews, except so far as the powers that be happen to be Jews? Can one even delude oneself into thinking that's not an antisemitic charge of Jewish power? Or am I just veering into incoherence trying to understand what Wallis might think he meant to say?

I guess my "nuance" isn't so "moderate."

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Two from Zeek

A review by Moshe Yaroni of Dan Fleshler's book on the Israel lobby. And

David B. Kanan argues that the period since WWII has not been a period of "liberal welcome for individual Jews to civic culture" (as the period before the rise of fascism had been) --but, he suggests, a period of philosemitic tolerance. I don't know if he's right about now (or the prior time, which he doesn't really explain), but it's something to think about.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Odd history

Zomblog has this post on a bit of guerrilla advertising. One added ballon quote reads, in part, "Since 1967, Israel has maintained the world's longest currently-existing military occupation."

From Free Tibet:
The invasion of Tibet began in 1949. Chinese occupation has resulted in the death of over one million Tibetans, the destruction of over 6,000 monasteries, nunneries and temples, and the imprisonment and torture of thousands of Tibetans.
Either the anti-Israel folks have a funny way of defining "military" or they're counting from 1948, not 1967.

Boston Review article on antisemitism revisited

Response by Malhotra and Margalit to Their Critics at Crooked Timber. Do read the comments, through about 43. After that, it gets senseless.

Israel rejects loyalty oath bill

Israel rejects loyalty oath bill. It was right that the bill was widely criticized, but it's now also right that the rejection of the bill should be publicized.

Chaplin's tradition

Modernity and Mira Vogel call attention to Gary Sinyor's public response to Ken Loach. Long story short: Ken, unfortunately a pretty important filmmaker, is pretty antisemitic and involved in boycotting Israelis.
The row began after the festival accepted a £300 donation from the Israeli embassy to pay for a film studies graduate of Tel Aviv University to attend the premiere of her short movie Surrogate at the festival in Scotland next month. But the sponsorship raised the hackles of Loach, who backed a boycott unless the money was returned forcing the EIFF to find alternative ways to fund Tali Shalom-Ezer's trip.
Loach called the festival organizers and got his way. (If a Jew had done such a thing, to suggest to organizers that they might not want to provide a platform to an antisemite, surely it would be unfair and stifling interference - a gross display of power, even.)

In a blog, Tali Shalom-Ezer, aged 31, was quoted as saying: "Generalising all citizens of Israel as warmongers and racists is racism and outrageous, and as members of the peace camp we are personally hurt by it."
A coincidence, so far unmentioned but kind of poignant to me, is that Sinyor was the recipient of the Chaplin award. Chaplin, of course, made The Great Dictator while most of Hollywood was cowed into silence over Germany's horrors. I hereby call on the EIFF to change the name of their award.