Monday, February 4, 2008

Arun Gandhi has been sacrificed?

After his initial insult -placing a "Jewish identity" overly tied to the Holocaust at the center of a global culture of violence- and his failure to really apologize, I predicted:
Now, surely there will be arguments from the "anti-Zionists" complaining that the "Zionists" have stifled Arun Gandhi.
No surprise at all that this has happened, or that it uses more of the standard tropes of antisemitism to defend antisemitism. Not such a surprise, either that it isn't just those "anti-Zionists" who keep Nazi flags in their closets. John Mearsheimer, for instance. He's received a lot of polite criticism, savaging his arguments at the most basic levels while denying that he is an antisemite, as he campaigns against "The Israel lobby," which he claims has a "stranglehold" on Congress. Readers of this blog will know that I read that as a complaint about Jewish power that's inherently antisemitic regardless of how politely it is said. Mearsheimer says that there were many important points Gandhi raised that aren't being dealt with by Gandhi's critics. For instance, as paraphrased in an article in Outlook India (to me via Judeosphere):
it is widely recognized that many Israelis and American Jews use the memory of the Holocaust for political purposes and that Israel adopts violent strategies in the Arab world.
No, John. Among ordinary people, it is widely recognized that the Holocaust was an incredible tragedy that, a mere 60 years later, is still worth remembering. It is only people like Mearsheimer who respond to people's genuine fears by accusing them of being duplicitous. Whether such charges derive from the classic stereotype of scheming Jews is hard to say, but it certainly echoes them quite closely.

And wouldn't you be afraid if there were people like John Mearsheimer on the New York Times bestseller list arguing that you are somehow silencing them? (The implication of that argument, as we've seen historically, is eliminationist; though Mearsheimer, Gandhi, et al. haven't thought through the implications.) That an argument so clearly wrong could sell itself so well certainly makes me scared.

On the other hand, while it is disappoiniting, it's not very surprising that some of this has come from Arun Gandhi himself (again, via Judeosphere).
There is no escaping the fact that the language I used and the generalisations I made in an article that I wrote hurriedly and did not revise were the main cause of the controversy. In addition, of course there are a strong group of radical, right-wing Jewish people who don’t entertain any criticism of Israel at all.
Here, we have the insinuation that anyone who complains too loudly about antisemitism is a "radical, right-wing" member of the Israel lobby, playing up their reaction for political gain. Well, I'm not - I'm just offended by antisemitism.
I think the Jewish lobby is strongest in the US and therefore the reaction was stronger here than it would have been anywhere else.
(Oh, whoops. Not the Israel lobby as I had said, but the Jewish lobby.) This is a perfect example of what I termed double bind antisemitism. The fact that Jews act against antisemitism is taken as proof of Jewish power to push an even more antisemitic world-view. Gandhi rightly stepped down from his position - then argues that he has "sacrificed himself" to the Zionist Lions - neatly inverting the power relationship to suggest that it is Jews oppressing the rest of the world.
I was told that the university was under tremendous pressure. There was a possibility that some funding would be cut off. I thought that the institution is greater than the individual and so I was willing to sacrifice myself so that the university and the institute did not suffer.
Sure! I certainly wouldn't give money to an institute for nonviolence that was led by someone so willing to demonize Jews. Even if I weren't so offended by antisemitism, that sort of language goes against all the principles of nonviolence.

Here's what I didn't predict, though. Arun Gandhi, John Mearsheimer, et al, are using these arguments despite acknowledging that the original source of the problem was that Arun Gandhi's statement was genuinely antisemitic. Without denying that the Arun Gandhi's post was antisemitic, they claim that this is an example of a Jewish lobby stifling criticism of Israel - Gandhi portraying himself as valiantly "sacrificing." That's quite a trick, when even acknowledged antisemitism is defended by blaming the Jews.

This trick of antisemitism, to always turn it around to blame the victims, is part of the reason I think antisemitism tends to grow so quickly when it takes root.