Tuesday, July 22, 2008

For a more radical anti-antisemitism

The Girl Detective has a post up that starts with something I was thinking about addressing:
Rachel Shukert of Jewcy is starting a biweekly column called The Protocols, which will examine internalized anti-Semitism among young Jews... Funny that she mentions anti-Semitic comments on blogs, because - and this is so perfect that I almost can’t believe it’s authentic - the second comment in the thread is by a real live anti-Semite, claiming that the Zionists orchestrated World War II in order to facilitate the creation of Israel.
And Jewcy leaves the comment. Would any other ethnic minority board leave something like that? I don't think so, and I think they'd be right to delete such comments. But we Jews can't allow ourselves to show that it bothers us. We're so committed to universal values, we have some problems valuing our own rights. We're the only ethnic minority constantly playing down the oppression we face. "It's not so bad. In Russia, it's worse." It's those "other Jews" who are always complaining about the next Hitler.

Look at Seinfeld (who is up for contention in TGD's post). Is it really cool to be a Jew, or does he present his family as stereotypes to distinguish himself from them? "Sure, I'm neurotic, but harmless. Jewishness isn't such a big differance." Does anyone really know if George or Elaine are Jewish? I thought I knew, but there's a lot of conflicting messages there. Like gay camp, the aim is to destabilize, but there's a radicalness missing. In the end, the show is about how it's not cool to be a Jew, but Jews can assimilate. And that attitude leads us to understate antisemitism.

Even Shukert takes it for granted in her article tackling antisemitism that, well:
On a strictly Jewish level, I think my generation has simply lost patience with our Hebrew school educations, with the constant focus on victimhood and hardship, and the sometimes reactionary politics of the Jewish establishment—with the powerful lobbies and their professional outrage, the shell-shocked parents and grandparents ever at the ready to pick up a phone or file a formal complaint the second a Jewish child is made to sing "Silent Night" or assigned a biology midterm on Yom Kippur (I speak from personal experience here.)
There's a lot in that little section I have a lot of problems with. Our society should make reasonable accommodations for subaltern religious beliefs, and we should be willing to recognize that. Shukert claims, more or less, "I'm not like those other Jews who are so neurotic. When I complain about antisemitism, please, please take me seriously." And don't get me started on that powerful and reactionary lobby Shukert throws in to try to seem reasonable.

Any sort of modern anti-racism work begins by noting how individual interactions are bathed in a very subtle racism, hard to recognize and dangerous to challenge because to respond always seems way out of proportion. This is what we need to challenge, and it's explicitly what we're not challenging. We need a more radical anti-antisemitism.

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