Tuesday, December 23, 2008

How queer are Jews?

Went to my local, lefty bookstore yesterday. Mostly I was looking for something on camp. Shockingly, since the bookstore specializes in Feminism and Queer studies, there wasn't anything in particular. But I also have other interests...

In the section on Israel/Palestine -there's an entire shelf devoted to the Zapatistas, so it isn't the only shelf so specific- there was Alexander Cockburn, Norman Finkelstein, Michael Neumann, and on and on. No Gilad Atzmon or Israel Shamir, but there's no lack of antisemitism. There was this, which I very nearly bought, and other books that looked to be quite sane. I didn't see Gershom Gorenberg's Accidental Empire, but I'd seen it before in that store.

In the section on race and racism, the only book related to antisemitism was that pamphlet by Jewish Voice for Peace. Based just on the pamphlet itself, it strikes me as far too tepid to be of any use; but looking at JVP's website Muzzlewatch, it may be far worse than that. In actual implementation, JVP's stance not only lacks any conviction that antisemitism is a serious problem, but attacks those who would fight antisemitism. To argue against antisemitism is reframed as muzzling Israel's critics. I find the rationale, in opposition to the advice offered by oppression theories, to be indistinguishable from far right claims of Jewish hypnorays invading white homes through the Jewish media.

If someone entered the bookstore looking for information on antisemitism, they'd probably walk away thinking that anti-antisemitism is a right-wing politics. However, since I was primarily looking for something else, I stumbled upon Not Your Father's Antisemitism. Under the broadly labeled section on "Cultural Studies." I don't know why it was there (although a pencil marking inside the cover shows this was intentional). Nice of them to carry it, I suppose, but is it really asking so much to put it in a section that makes sense? Jews aren't specifically a race and antisemitism isn't always racial, so maybe not under "race and racism." And antisemitism is certainly an important piece but certainly not the same as the Israel/Palestine conflict. But are Jews so queer that we can't even find a place to shelve books on antisemitism where someone could find them? Are we that hard to classify?

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