Thursday, April 30, 2009

A Cultural Code

A good post at Anti-German Translation. It deals with how the situation in Sri Lanka has been (ab?)used by different people who also comment on Israel/Zionism. In other words, Anti-Zionism is being cemented as a cultural code.

One spot of difference, though. Instead of retiring the word Zionism, I'd rather sharpen the definition. Being a Zionist myself, I find it useful. The problem is when other people proceed to tell me that I believe in things I don't.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Funny People

The film, coming out in July, looks good. Watching the trailer, I caught something. Eric Bana plays hyper-masculine jerk, Clark.

Remember, from Knocked Up, "If any of us get laid tonight, it's because of Eric Bana in 'Munich.' " Put that in your Film Art and smoke it.

A neat little casting trick from Apatow, who continues to impress as someone far more serious about film than most imagine him to be.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Jonathan Chait quotes me.

Or, not really. But he could have.

His version:
That's the nub of the problem right there. The vast majority of Israelis are willing to live alongside the Palestinians in one form or another, and the vast majority of Palestinians are not willing to do the equivalent.
So there are some ways in which it's hard to really interpret this data. Or at least to compare. The meanings and shapes of responses [supporting a two-state solution on each side] seem to be different for each side. But also I think it points to a problem that needs to be recognized.

To create a Palestinian state or even just to settle the conflict requires more than a plurality of Palestinians opinions. It requires some sort of consensus. To talk about what Palestinians want in a way that reduces complexity and disagreement so that they are as an undifferentiated population, as Goldberg does, is essential.

It is called, after all, "..of the Elders of Zion"

Brian Klug has an article in the Guardian (via) that makes a significant point well.
Guardian readers will know the answer to the first question: it is quote C that comes from the transcript of Ahmadinejad's speech. But if you thought it was A or B, you could be forgiven, since all three quotes contain essentially the same discourse: all of them attribute to "Zion" and "Zionism" the same mysterious power of pervasive influence and sinister control of societies and states...
Someone might object that, unlike the Protocols, Ahmadinejad confines his attack to Zionists and does not brand Jews collectively. But no other political movement in the world is credited with the kind of fantastical power and influence that he attributes to Zionism. Moreover, Zionism is a Jewish movement; and what he attributes to it is precisely the kind of power and influence that antisemitism attributes to Jews. It's a bit of a giveaway.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

What's wrong with the word "antisemitism"?

Obama's now criticized Ahmadinjad's speech at Durban II. I'm grateful so many nations have been highly critical of Ahmadinejad. But in news reports and public condemnations, something is curiously missing. We get "appalling and objectionable." HRW said "hate-filled." The Norwegian PM called it "incitement to hatred." But funny that the word antisemitism is missing from all of this. I've yet to see it.

What do Palestinians want?

So I just got email from One Voice:
The results [of their poll (.pdf)] indicate that 74% of Palestinians and 78% of Israelis are willing to accept a two state solution (an option rated on a range from ‘tolerable’ to ‘essential’), while 59% of Palestinians and 66% of Israelis find a single bi-national state ‘unacceptable.’ Additionally, according to the data, 77% of Israelis and 71% of Palestinians consider a negotiated peace ‘essential’ or ‘desirable.’ Ninety-four percent of Palestinians and 74% of Israelis think that the people must be continually informed on the negotiations process.
Odd, given that those numbers are completely out of line with most of what I've seen for the past decade or so. This Jerusalem Media and Communications Centre poll, from January, for example, shows 58% of Palestinians prefer a two-state solution. So that got me wondering. But also, just this morning, I read Jeffrey Goldberg ask if Palestinians really want a state. He quotes two people suggesting that Palestinians are more interested in their self-righteous indignation than in a state. Of course, that doesn't mean they don't want a state at all. In fact, it's a little annoying to frame it that way. But still, there's something compelling there.

So I took a closer look at the data, which is always a good idea! I should say that I'm totally in support of the OV movement. I think it's totally awesome, and support it with my full heart. But I also think it's important to be realistic and avoid cooked numbers that make the situation seem rosier than it is. And, though I'm going to talk about the data, I haven't gone through it with a fine-toothed comb.

One Voice writes inside their report (not the email):
The first choice for Palestinians is, as might be expected ‘Historic Palestine’ at 82% ‘essential or desirable’ followed by an Islamic Waqf at 71% ‘essential or desirable’. ‘One shared state’ is rejected by Palestinians at 66% ‘unacceptable’ followed by ‘Confederation’ at 65% ‘unacceptable’ and the ‘Political status quo with economic development’ at 40% ‘unacceptable’. The Palestinian results for the ‘Two state solution are very similar to the Israeli results at 53% ‘essential or desirable’ and only 24% ‘unacceptable’. So the ‘Two state solution’ continues to be the most widely accepted option for both Israelis and Palestinians and all other options presently being considered are less likely to gain as much support in both societies as a basis for a peace agreement.
But the results aren't "very similar" except in a very specific way. The numbers on each side who accept or refuse to accept a two-state solution are indeed roughly similar -out of context, they could even suggest greater support among Palestinians than Israelis- but it seems to have a different meaning for each group.

Fifty nine percent of Palestinians said that "Historic Palestine – From the Jordanian river to the sea as an Islamic Waqf" was essential. Seventy One percent said it was essential to have "Historic Palestine – From the Jordanian river to the sea." We should note that 18% thought a one-state solution in which Jews and Arabs were equals was essential, so those 71% and 58% statistics shouldn't be taken as the "nice" version often presented by Western one-staters. Only 38% said a two-state solution was essential. An additional 15% percent described a two-state solution as desirable. (That adds up to 53%, about in line with the JMCC poll. I think it's dubious to add in, as OV does, those who view the two-state solution as barely 'tolerable' or merely 'acceptable'.) One thing that's clear here is that these options aren't mutually exclusive. Some people have to be answering that both a two-state solution and 'Historic Palestine' are both 'essential.'

By contrast, only 17% of Israelis believe a "Greater Israel – A Jewish state from the Jordanian border to the sea" to be essential. Fourty seven percent found this unacceptable.

So there are some ways in which it's hard to really interpret this data. Or at least to compare. The meanings and shapes of responses seem to be different for each side. But also I think it points to a problem that needs to be recognized.

To create a Palestinian state or even just to settle the conflict requires more than a plurality of Palestinians opinions. It requires some sort of consensus. To talk about what Palestinians want in a way that reduces complexity and disagreement so that they are as an undifferentiated population, as Goldberg does, is essential. The conflict can't be solved individually. And, in that way, polling as OV uses it is rather awkward. It doesn't get at the consensus Palestinians have or would form. And that brings me back to the arguments before that peace is predicated on Palestinian democracy. Until then, what appears to be pluralistic support for a two-state solution doesn't have the force to guide negotiations. I think negotiations are still important, that a two-state solution is my ultimate aim, and that Israel should remove much of the settlements for no more reason than it's right to do -and I'm pretty optimistic about these things in the long term- but I don't think peace is around the corner.

Zamir on Zamir

The individual accounts were never intended to serve as a basis for broad generalizations and summary conclusions by the media; they were published internally, intended for program graduates and their parents as a tool to be used in the process of educating and guiding the next generation.
That's Danny Zamir, whose criticisms of the IDF's moral failures during the war in Gaza became the backbone for broad generalizations and summary conclusions demonizing Israel.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Holocaust Remembrance Day, 2009

Or Yom HaShoah. There's a different HRD in the US and another in Europe.

As a practicing Buddhist, the most natural response for me is to chant "Ji Jang Bosal" (a name which comes particularly from a Korean, Buddhist tradition, JJB is also known as Ká¹£itigarbha or by other names) a sort of prayer for the dead. But it's also awkward, because it's caught up in Buddhist rhetoric about reincarnation. JJB is a sort of saint figure, who guides the dead. By chanting we hope to offer teaching to the dead, so that they might have a more favorable rebirth. Obviously, it isn't the victims of genocide who most need teaching, but then there's also quite a loophole in Buddhism. If there's no self, then who is dead and who is reincarnated? For someone who's not Buddhist, that might not be a very interesting question. But it points to a complexity and nuance in the idea of reincarnation that's often unacknowledged.

Sometimes when someone dies, I chant "Kwan Seum Bosal," instead. If JJB is the patron saint of the dead, KSB is patron saint of compassion. I chant for survivors, for perpetrators, and for myself, but not for the victims. Today, however, JJB comes more naturally.

Someone I know passed away recently, so we did JJB chanting at practice last week. I explained to someone there for the first time the traditional teaching that you become JJB when you chant his name. Suddenly, I realize that to chant for a favorable rebirth isn't about some notion of karma located specifically with the deceased, a mistake that can too easily lead to blaming victims. It's about making the world a better place where their rebirth will be favorable. Chanting meditation brings this back to the Great Question: What am I?

It's funny because it's racist

Cause, you know, Jews are never Black. Or Athletic.

Maybe he's getting back at his Jewish ex. Or maybe there's just something he's missing - like the authority to talk about the Jewish experience.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Durban II

Today is Hitler's Birthday-- and the first day of Durban II.

We'll see at the end how the conference has gone, but early on, I'm heartened. Several nations have boycotted entirely. Not just Israel and the US, but Germany and Poland, as well. I've got mixed feelings on Italy being among the early refusers, as they've got some serious problems with anti-Roma racism that can't be ignored right now, but they were among the many.

And though many nations remained, it was great that they called out Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on his shit. Also, via David, two very important nations, Jordan and maybe Morocco, were among the nations to leave during his speech. [In later reports, I haven't seen mention of these nations. Not sure what happened.]

If people and nations are unwilling to accept antisemitism, there might be a chance to keep it from spreading. Perhaps the antisemites of the world will be radicalized, but if enough nations are willing, we can deal with that.

Living in Israel helps Survivors cope

Holocaust survivors in Israel cope better with the traumatic effects of the genocide than those living in the U.S. and Australia, according to mega-analysis of prior studies performed by researchers from the University of Haifa.

The analysis, carried out at the university's Center for the Study of Child Development, encompasses results from dozens of research works on some 12,000 Holocaust survivors living in the three countries.

The research found that living in Israel played a role in moderating the long-term effects of the Holocaust on survivors.
This is apparently a huge meta-study. Generally such studies are conducted because numerous smaller studies were inconclusive, and the results should be understood in that vein. Individual variation might be so great that this sort of aggregate data isn't very informative in most contexts. You can't tell without being an expert. Yet this strikes me as probably meaningful.

Tragedies, even more personal or local tragedies without anything like the magnitude of the Holocaust, destroy so much. Things that are hard for a lot of us to recognize, like a basic sense of integrity, control over one's own life at the level of the body. It should be obvious that political empowerment of the sort Israel provides would be meaningful to survivors.

The full story is at Ha'aretz. It provides conjecture on why this finding might be. There's also a note that the constant state of war Israel has been in might be a reason Isreal isn't more obviously good for survivors.

Friday, April 17, 2009

the values of critical thinking beyond critical thinking

This post from Ta-Nehisi Coates is a couple weeks old, but I just re-read it. It's worth re-reading.
The other thing I learned in the conscious community was the value of critical thinking. The idea was that you live in a world where the Tuskegee experiments actually happened, where the FBI did plot to destroy the Panthers, where J. Edgar Hoover terrorized black leaders from Garvey to Huey Newton. In that vein, you should be skeptical of what you see and hear. This is the perspective Mos is coming from. (Note the Assata reference.) But here's the thing--if you really get that message, it ultimately leads you to be critical, not just of the larger white narrative, but of the narrative put forth by those around you.

So here's the deal--I was a history major at Howard University. I came to that school believing very much in an Afrocentric view of history. From that perspective, my first semester was just devastating. I had a professor, Dr. Linda Heywood, who specialized in taking on kids like me (the ones who believed ancient Egypt built fighter jets) and forcing us to face facts. She was, of course, a trained historian who was used to debating kids like me, and for every Chancellor Williams or Diop I whipped out, she had a David Brion Davis or a Eugene Genovese.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

media biases

In the wake of a report of bias at the BBC, here's also an interesting report on bias in Swedish media.

If someone claims the US media as a whole is biased in favor of Israel -- honestly, I don't watch enough tv to know. The news I get online is different from how most people get their news. And the only news source I pay attention to in an unfiltered way is a public radio station. I tend to believe the US media is, on the whole, biased toward Israel, but that this is a simplification.

My concerns are more about why people think the media is biased. We know, for instance, that the biases of the reporters are not typically the same biases their editors have. Individuals have their individual biases. American reporters tend to share those biases common among Americans. But typically, in my experience, anti-Israel partisans portray it as a Jewish conspiracy. Strangely, all of those other biases disappear. What's frustrating about that is that we can't really talk about correcting the problem then. If the problem is identified as a group of people, the only solutions are either to cow those people into 'acceptable' views or to discriminate against those people in the field. And 'those people,' here, are Jews.

When it comes to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, there are undoubtedly many, many biases. There's the bias where Western media tend to focus on the conflict disproportionately because they recognize the names of the cities, just to name one. Not all of these biases are necessarily bad until they are compounded with a failure to adhere to strict journalistic standards. I don't mind if reporters have an instinct to side with underdogs, but I mind if they don't do their job well.

In the case of the BBC, the situation is significant, even though it deals with a small number of instances that weren't up to the BBC's own standards, because it deals with Jeremy Bowen, the first Middle East Editor. However, in a way the Swedish case is more interesting. It doesn't deal with particular cases that clearly cross any lines, but with the whole of the coverage.
RPM’s low-key and logically stringent criticism focuses on three points. First of all, the papers (with the exception of DN) failed in providing any explanation for the Israeli attack — instead making it seem as if an irrational and brutal war machine unleashed its fury on innocent civilians. Secondly, RPM criticizes the way the papers treat the issue of war crimes. He points out that the only case of war crime that was beyond any doubt — and even confessed, proudly, by those who committed it — even before the start of the operation, was the continuous Hamas shelling of Israeli civilians in the south. However, nearly all discussions on war crimes in the press focused on Israeli actions. Thirdly, the greater narrative into which the reporting was placed, was over all the Palestinian narrative of a poor, downtrodden people, victim of an aggressive colonial power.

RPM is careful to point out that he doesn’t claim that the coverage in these four papers was erroneous. He doesn’t know. The point is, however, that neither did the people who decided to publish. Nonetheless, they followed a publishing pattern that lead them in a consistent anti-Israeli direction. Even though there are very few examples where individual articles step over the line of what can be described as honest reporting, RPM stresses that the over-all coverage creates a picture that’s highly problematic.
Maybe there are also pro-Israel biases in these papers as well. But that doesn't mean these biases don't matter.

One particularly awkward bias that I think dominates more than anything: space limitations that preclude context and the sort of serious analysis that can avoid bias. A five-hundred and fifty-nine word piece (the number is from this piece, at the top of the NYTimes online right now) will invariably simplify. In a sufficiently complicated situation, that simplification requires bias.
In an interesting remark, Mr. Helin defended why his paper – Aftonbladet – wrote so little about Hamas’ role in the escalation of the conflict. He said that it’s obvious that Hamas is a terror organization that commits war crimes. Therefore it doesn’t have to be reported (ca 21:30 into the broadcast).
Scroll down here (a wonderful resource, btw), and watch Guy Raz (7 Dec 2006). Preceding tales of editors cutting mentions of antisemitism, he tells the story of the BBC's reporting on Kristallnacht. It was all of 20 seconds long.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The problem with unconditional bans

I know these issues are a lot more sensitive in Germany than elsewhere, but this seems a bit off to me:
Mr Kramer launched his critique amid increasing sensitivity in Berlin over The Producers, the comic musical that portrays a singing, dancing Adolf Hitler. It is the first time that the show, which has been seen in London, New York, and Austria, has been staged in Germany. The controversial show is due to run for two months in a venue where Hitler once watched a Shakespeare play. It includes a troupe of storm troopers tap-dancing and Hitler singing: "Heil to me, I'm the Kraut who's out to change our history." Editorials carried in German national newspapers have questioned whether it is right to laugh at Hitler, while the advertising literature for The Producers has been forced to replace the swastika motif with a pretzel, to comply with German law.
I haven't seen the musical, but the original film was one of the greatest moments in anti-antisemitism.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Early 20th century in Tel Aviv

An article from JPost up at Point of No Return argues that that the Israeli/Palestinian conflict goes back further than "the occupation."
In 1913, to counter already rife judeophobia and incendiary agitation in the Arab press, Yosef-Eliahu, along with other Arabic-speaking Tel Avivians, founded Hamagen (the shield), an organization dedicated to persuading Arabs that they and Jews share economic and cultural interests and can only improve each other's lot.
I'm afraid a lot of the earliest conflicts have been forgotten, buried under the claim that even early antisemitism among Palestinians was a response to Zionism and particularly the 1919 Balfour declaration. Though it's not quite as infuriating as the claim that the conflict goes back thousands of years, I'm amazed at how many people don't know how far back things go.

Friday, April 10, 2009

On Yaacov Lozowick on Paula Fredriksen

Lozowick quotes a small part of Fredriksen that's really illuminating. It's a short post, but I'll shorten the quote so you have some impetus to go there:
Further, all Jewish texts, beginning with Genesis, include warts-and-all presentations of some of their Jewish characters. In this sense, the gospels [if understood as Jewish sectarianism - ME] are no more intrinsically "anti-Jewish" than is the Bible itself. But again like the Bible itself, the gospels, once they drifted out of their communities of origin into a wider gentile world, were read as a standing indictment and perpetual condemnation of Jews and Judaism as such, rather than as a narrative exhortation to change from the wrong kind of Judaism to the right kind of Judaism (that is, to the author's kind of Judaism). Jewish sectarian rhetoric, shorn of its native context, eventually becomes anti-Jewish rhetoric.
And Lozowick responds (in part):
I think you can reasonably say that's a constant dynamic of Jew-hatred from the 2nd century until the Danny Zamir episode of last month, and it's not going to change anytime soon. Jews argue among themselves loudly and stridently, while their haters listen in, indifferent to any context, and choose the choicest quotations with which to damn the Jews.
I'll add in the obvious: that a lot of anti-Zionist discourse is far more blatant than the Zamir matter (which includes a lot of necessary criticism of the Gaza war with a lot of support among Jews in and outside Israel). A lot of it involves promoting Jews who are completely marginal in the Jewish community to become the face of the anti-Zionist movement.

Try to find a set pictures of an anti-Israel rally from New York or San Francisco or London at Indymedia that doesn't prominently feature pictures of Natura Karta. (I haven't checked, but I think anyone looking would get my point.) For anyone who doesn't know, they're basically fundamentalists who see the Holocaust as God's punishment for the sins of Jews disagreeing with their extremist views on religion. They're perfectly willing to commit genocide to bring about the state of Israel - they just don't think I am moral enough to do it yet.

They're somewhat larger, at maybe 5,000 members, but they're pretty much the Westboro Baptist Church of the Jewish community. Despite their having attended Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's Holocaust Denial conference, I wouldn't say NK are antisemitic -- any more than Fred Phelps is anti-Christian. Hateful and despicable, but just not in quite that way.

On the other hand, a gentile who repeated NK's line that the Holocaust was God's punishment for my sins... That person's definitely an antisemite. When a gentile uses that line, the context is stripped, and the same line becomes blatantly antisemitic. Yet anti-Zionists constantly imply NK's line by saying, "It's not antisemitic if I'm quoting a Jew," as they put up pictures of NK protesters on Indymedia. I've even had gentiles suggest that they're better Jews than I am (because they wear funny hats and look exotic).

But let's leave that aside for the moment. Let's drop the fact that a lot of anti-Zionist rhetoric (not all, but plenty) includes classically antisemitic tropes like the charge of a Jewish conspiracy. Let's ignore for a moment the question of whether the the watered-down conspiracy theory of the Israel Lobby is antisemitic. There's still something that ought to be troubling about gentiles promoting marginal Jewish voices. That in and of itself is an act of asserting power over Jews, declaring which Jewish voices are valid and acceptable -- backed, of course, by a long history of violence to secure that power.

Usually there's either (1) an assertion that "anti-Zionism is not antisemitism" that blows over the fact that some of it is blatantly so or (2) a focus on the specific rhetoric that might include classically antisemitic tropes like that of Jewish conspiracy. But the mode of discourse is also meaningful - it has to take Jews more seriously.

And I gotta get me that Fredriksen book.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Paul McCartney joins One Voice


Domestic terrorism motivated by antisemitism, media talk about dog pee

Richard Poplawski killed 3 police officers, believing the US was run by a "Zionist Occupied Government." But several stories in the mainstream media -including NYT and MSNBC- not only ignored his white supremacist activity (and the mainstream news sources like Glen Beck pushing softer versions of conspiracism), they focused on idiotic details like dog pee. Read more at Orcinus.

No wonder it's so hard to talk about antisemitism. And if we can't talk about far-right antisemitism, how the hell are we ever going to talk about far-left antisemitism?

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

International Roma Day

In recognition of International Roma Day, the European Roma Policy Coalition (ERPC), encourages the European Union and its Member States to tackle the recent wave of racist violence and expand opportunities for Roma across Europe.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

On being anti-antisemitic

Here's So You Think You're an Anti-Racist? 6 Critical Paradigm Shifts for Well-Intentioned White Folks (via). These are pretty basic in the anti-racist community. For example, racism is a problem white people have. Unfortunately, the impact is felt more acutely by people of color, but it isn't located in people of color.

Not that many white people really get these things, but I've been often surprised to be in spaces where these things aren't controversial only to find that these attitudes don't apply to antisemitism.
The most anti-racist shift for white people is to understand that confronting racism is going to be uncomfortable, difficult, emotional, and painful. So why do we put so many resources into human relations programming? Who might we be trying to protect?
But talking about antisemitism stifles debate, so we should just be quiet about it? Or so I'm constantly told.
I don't believe color-blindness is possible. I see difference. If I can't be honest about that, I don't have much potential to be an effective anti-racist, do I? And if color-blindness is possible, I don't believe it is desirable. Why would I want to deny what may be a powerful, impactful part of somebody's identity?
But Jews are supposedly well-assimilated and without problems. That whole history of oppression - can't we stop harping on it already? Actually, there's a very deep assumption that goes back a long way that Jews are sort of fossils and Jewish difference is just weird. Even anti-racists can have trouble accepting Jewish difference as legitimate.
I'm not burning any crosses. I don't own slaves. (And neither did my great-grandparents!) So this racism thing isn't my issue, right? Well, not exactly. As long as I can understand racism as individual acts of wacko White people, I can pretend that I have no part in it.
Tops the list for antisemitism. That whole Holocaust thing - wacko White people. There's an incredible refusal to accept that the Shoah actually has moral reverberations. It becomes something we Jews use to blackmail the world.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Venezuelan antisemitism.

The Venezuelan Jewish community traces its roots back more than 200 years and has no history of tension with the local population. Before the rise of Hugo Chavez, the Jews were a welcome part of a society known for its warm temperament and amiable disposition, free from the discrimination and anti-Semitic violence in many other countries. Over the last 10 years conditions have worsened dramatically, and although 15,000 still remain, more than half the Jewish population has already fled.
Previously, I had heard a fifth or a third of Venezuelan Jews had left. I'm not sure if 1/2 here represents uncertainty in numbers or worsening conditions.

Something very interesting about the article, which can be found here, is how such a rabid antisemitic atmosphere is created.