Monday, December 27, 2010

Muzzlewatch on Alison Weir

For various reasons I decided to look up Muzzlewatch's response to Alison Weir. You know, Alison Weir who promoted the Blood Libel in the online Lefty mag, Counterpunch? And I found... nothing. You know, since they claim to take antisemitism seriously, you'd think JVP might have mentioned it. So what about, since Muzzlewatch is a sub-project? Still nothing. So while they try to position themselves as somehow middle of the road (Just like Michael Steele) let's dispense with that.

Or does someone else have a case of blatant antisemitism that they'd like to check out? Has JVP spoken out against something else? Let me know.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Allies? What allies?

There's a section from April Rosenblum's "The Past Didn't Go Anywhere":
Our political decisions are also affected. Historical attitudes toward Jews taught us to believe our own struggle was not worthwhile. Gentile European intellectuals, including thinkers who heavily influenced the Left, like Hegel, taught that Jews were a people ‘outside’ of history; prominent theories held that because Jews had no land of our own, we were a deformed group without a role to play in history and revolution. In addition, much developing revolutionary theory saw the groups that mattered in creating social change as the industrial laborers or peasants. But European Jews, having been excluded from many traditional trades, often didn’t fit neatly into those categories. From both directions, Jews learned we didn’t matter; our only meaningful role in
changing the world would be supporting other peoples’ struggles; in making ourselves useful. All this has compounded the biggest piece of internalized antisemitism: After centuries of experiencing other people not coming to our defense when we were targeted by violence and persecution, Jews have internalized the idea that there’s no hope of getting other people to stand with us. For Jews who struggle for social justice, that means we often stay quiet about anti-Jewish oppression: We learn to fight in support of other groups without requesting the solidarity we, ourselves, need. For Jewish communities, it means we lose sight of building a strategy for our liberation  by finding allies in other grassroots communities. Instead, we depend on those in power, hoping that if we are useful to them, they will protect us. At times that leads us to cooperate in the oppression of others.
Well, leftists are still defining oppression to exclude anti-Jewish oppression. Has any anti-racist group, blog, or individual of note talked about Glenn Beck's "expose" on George Soros, "The Puppermaster"? Because, that would be the sort of prominent, classically conspiracist, right-wing antisemitism that I would think would make an easy target for anyone who cared about antisemitism even just a little. But while I've seen plenty about it from Jewish groups and individuals (all the way from the ADL to Jewish Funds for Justice), I've seen nothing from the anti-racist discourse I follow most closely. Am I missing something?

For that matter, nothing about Howard Jacobson winning the Man Booker Prize for The Finkler Question. Of course, nothing on Ahmadinejad saying that Wikileaks was a Zionist conspiracy. Frankly, nothing at all, except when Jews are being criticized for not being white or for not being good enough allies to other people. If it were one story here or there, it would be one thing, but it's terribly consistent, and the failure to even mention Beck's antisemitism just really highlights how completely Jews are ignored by so many "anti-oppression" activists. A lot of anti-racists seem to see no problem with completely erasing Jews. If there's a criticism of Rosenblum I'd make here, it's that the lack of hope for real, consistent allies isn't so much a bit of internalized antisemitism so much as an honest assessment of continuing realities.

(And if anyone wonders why some Jews might turn to "Christian Zionists" for support, stop wondering.)

Friday, December 3, 2010

The no-true-liberal fallacy

Perhaps it's a variation of the no-true-Scotsman fallacy, but there's something that's been bothering me for a while. That's the claim that lots of liberal Jews are liberal except when it comes to Israel. That's the premise of this piece at +972 by Jerry Haber (and posted to Facebook by Meretz USA), titled "Zionist, Yes; Progressive, Maybe."
But when push comes to shove, many progressive Zionists I know will let their Zionism trump their progressiveness. As one pointed out to me, the State of Israel is the bedrock of their Jewish identity. So while they can conceive a tactical compromise on their progressive values, they cannot countenance any move by any third party that will have the slightest negative effect on Israel
But, of course, lots of liberals are pro-Israel precisely because they're liberal (or even, like me, Leftist). Haber's piece could easily be turned around as "Critic of Israel, Yes; Progressive, Maybe." I'm not sure what's meant here by "the State of Israel is the bedrock of their Jewish identity" -- I might say that Israel provides self-determination on which is based my ability to speak to my Jewish identity and on behalf of my Jewish identity in the public sphere with somewhat less fear, making my political rights more practical and not merely theoretical, but I don't think that's entirely what's meant here -- but let's take it for granted that the State of Israel is indeed the bedrock of Jewish identity for a great many Jews, enough that it is a meaningful example. Then I have to ask what is progressive about denying an oppressed minority their identity? Indeed, isn't that the basis for many of the criticisms of Israel's claim to be a Jewish state - that it denies its Palestinian minority their identity?
But why will they sit in coalitions with the likes of ZOA, but not with the likes of JVP?
I'm in no position to sit in coalition with the ZOA or anyone else, but I will happily and loudly say that I despise them. I can think of no reason more significant than historical accident that the ZOA should be part of AIPAC while JVP isn't. But I'm no fan of JVP, either, because I believe they traduce my rights. Since when is "stop playing the race card" a progressive argument? True progressives -see what I did there- recognize that the race-card-card always trumps the race-card, and that "Stop playing The Race Card™" is constantly used to derail discussions about race and racism. Supposedly some powerful trump card, The Race Card™ is more like the 2 of clubs. Yet this is the basis of JVP's Muzzlewatch website. JVP claims to take antisemitism seriously, but when have they ever said, "now that's some serious antisemitism"? I would take them more seriously if they were to also point out when pro-Israel arguments or discussions about antisemitism were muzzled by, for example:
Is it too much to ask from progressive Zionists in the US to emulate their Israeli brothers and sisters and, at the very least, not diss JVP in public?
Now, of course, Haber does say:
Of course, I have my red lines; I wouldn't join a coalition with Neo-Nazis Against the Occupation.
But, of course, any anti-racist with more than an hour's experience talking with racists knows how quickly they start saying, "I'm not a Klansman or a neo-Nazi." Usually, they start the conversation with "Now, I'm no racist, but..." Again, this is Anti-Racism 101: Racism is more than just the extreme edge that most people easily recognize as racist. I will not abandon these lessons and principles just so that Jerry Haber can accept me as a liberal in good standing.

If Haber wants to broaden the debate, rather than chastising Jews with good, solid, leftist reasons for supporting Israel  as a bulwark against antisemitism, he would do better to acknowledge what is right in what they say. He would do better to say that broad coalitions provide relationships in which it is easier to criticize than to say that we shouldn't criticize. And if I'm more likely to sit down with someone too anti-Palestinian than to sit down with Haber, it may be because it's Haber who wants me to keep quiet.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Gut Yontif

Hannukah was the only Jewish holiday I ever celebrated as a kid. Twice, with paper napkins on our heads since we had no yarmulkes or prayer shawls. Often, really often, I would hear Jews say that it's "not even that important a holiday" when someone else talked about how important it was to say "Happy Holidays" or something equally inclusive. I'd briefly wonder at what they were getting at and gradually just accepted, after hearing from many Jews, that it wasn't an important holiday. It was a long time before I realized they were lamenting the sorry state of American multiculturalism. Hannukah is the only Jewish holiday most Americans know. And what they know of it is basically that they have no idea how to spell it. (It's transliterated from another language that doesn't use Roman script, so there are lots of variations.) In recent history, it has actually gained some prominence in parts of the Jewish world for "Jewish" reasons, re-establishing a Jewish state has had some resonance with rejecting assimilation into ancient Greek society, but in America it's been about proximity to Christmas. Because some Christians wanted to be inclusive, they picked a simple (for them) and Christian-centric way to do so. Nice going, lazy mamzers. If people in America want to actually be inclusive, they can do better.

I don't actually want to devalue Hannukah. I like it, and celebrating the rejection of assimilation (even if there are some icky bits in the story, like fundamentalist terrorism and whatnot) seems really appropriate to me. Let's make Hannukah newly important. Just let's not celebrate it by settling for half-hearted assimilation.

And here's Ben Kweller talking Hannukah songs (there is no video, however, because it's radio - silly WNYC):
View Full Audio on WNYC

View Audio? Here's a segment on Jewish foods.

And, of course, Happy Joel doing Christmas Kicks Hannukah's Ass:

Monday, November 29, 2010

Nothing suprising in Wikileaks

Very little overall seems all that surprising in the recent leaks, except perhaps for some people. Ahmadinejad is convinced the whole thing is a conspiracy. I wonder what Mearsheimer and Walt think, given how much they have invested in the notion that it's American Jews pushing us to war.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

UNRWA chief on charm offensive

Note that the UNRWA is directly under the general assembly, which is run as a direct democracy of nations without any formal protections for minorities. The General Assembly discriminates heavily against Israel. Many feel the existence of the UNRWA, an organization exclusively for Palestinian refugees which defines Palestinian refugees differently from all other refugees and which does not aim to resettle them, is intended to prolong the conflict. (cf.) He is clearly being diplomatic and vague, but even the gesture is itself interesting. Where he is clear, it is remarkable.

In one appearance, he says,
Talking about sanctions and boycotts is not going to bring about anything positive
There's also an interview posted at Adi Schwartz (with much commentary from Schwartz, an Israeli journalist) which is somewhat critical of the UNRWA, itself, of Hamas, and of Gazan society.
“We shouldn’t exist after so many years”, says Ging, “and I perfectly understand the Israeli negative view towards my organization, because it is the manifestation of the political failure of the international community to resolve the conflict. Our 60th anniversary was not a moment of celebration but a commemoration of failure because we should not have had to exist after 60 years”.
If this is the manifestation of an underlying problem, then surely that problem is the widespread failure to recognize that Jews have the same rights to self determination as other peoples.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Israel, more average than you think

Israel is routinely characterized as "the worst [whatever] in the world" in order to justify singling it out for criticism or sanction. Except it's rarely never true. Though, like any society, and in particular like any post-colonial society, there are clearly problems, the exaggerated criticism is almost completely the product of antisemitism. For example, I've regularly seen the claim that the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza is the longest-lasting occupation in the world. People making such a claim must never have heard of Tibet or Western Sahara. That doesn't mean Israel's occupation shouldn't be criticized -it should- but those who criticize it should be aware of the problem and avoid exaggerated rhetoric. And if they have a singular focus on Israel, they should acknowledge that. Anyway, what I just heard on the radio:

The world's biggest buyer of arms is.... India.

Friday, October 29, 2010

conspicuous Jewish philanthropy, an AJWS appeal

There's a new AJWS ad made by Judd Apatow that's really funny. For the time being at least, you can see it on the front page at Or any of several more convenient webpage for the lazy. You can also see it embedded here, but it cuts off a third of the screen. As Sarah Silverman says about the AJWS, "that really throws a wrench in the Jews are cheap premise." As Jodie Foster (I think that's Foster) Helen Hunt says, "it fosters civil society, sustainable development, and human rights for all people, not just Jewish people." And Patrick Stewart, "That's something you don't need to be Jewish to support." I'm cutting out the jokes here, so watch the video:

It's a good cause, and I don't want for a moment to convince people not to give, but I do want there to be a discussion about this. Why is it necessary to have a conspicuously Jewish group that gives to causes other than Jewish ones? I think there are some good reasons. For instance, a lot of Jewish activists work with Churches because there aren't enough Jews in an area to recreate the organizational structure of the Church groups. If this gives Jews a way to act in ways they already want to while doing it within a Jewish space where they're more comfortable and respected, then that's great. But a lot of it feels to me, for whatever my feelings are worth, like they're acting specifically against the stereotype that Jews only give to Jews.

To that, I think the most appropriate response is to point out that Jews, in fact, give time and money to all sorts of worthy causes. If people don't notice, because people never really notice Jews,* that's their fault. Would you be shocked to hear that there are Jews who give to Greenpeace, the ACLU, or the NAACP? Well, a lot of people would for some reason. Furthermore, we really ought to ask: is there something wrong with giving to Jewish organizations? Certainly Christians give to Christian organizations all the time. Are Blacks who give to organizations like the NAACP seen as selfish? Are Muslims who give to CAIR seen as selfish?

When the motivation is to defy the stereotype, as opposed to pointing out the inherent stupidity in the stereotype, I don't think that ever really works. In fact, I think it gives the stereotype a certain strength because it reifies a standard of behavior against which people can be judged.

*Seriously, a friend watched Apatow's Funny People. I asked her about the Jewish content, and she said she didn't notice. There was a bit in the trailer about Seth Rogen being Jewish. Adam Sandler accuses him of hiding it, to which Rogen responds, "my face is circumcized." Flew right past my friend.

In that vein, I think the Andy Samberg bit, "People often come up to me and they'll say, 'Hey Samberg, I didn't even know you were Jewish,'" could be interesting, but it goes in a different direction.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Ahmadinejad in Lebanon

With Ahmadinejad recently in Lebanon, I thought I'd check Juan Cole so that I could understand exactly how Ahmadinejad was being misrepresented. In comments, Yaakov Lozowick asks Cole:
Prof. Cole,

Any comment on Ahmadinejad’s explicit call for the destruction of Israel? In the past you’ve suggested he doesn’t really say such things; this time it seems a bit hard to deny, don’t you think?
Cole responds:
Hi, Yaacov. What I said was that Ahmadinejad hasn’t threatened to kill any Israelis, roll tanks against Israel, etc., which the invented mistranslation ‘wipe Israel off the map’ implies. He does want a collapse of what he calls the Zionist regime, on the analogy (for him) of the collapse of the Soviet Union, and some odd form of the one-state solution. But he also says that if the Palestinians accept a two-state solution, he will too.
According to the Washington Post, what Ahmadinejad said was
Today the Zionist occupiers have no choice but to surrender to reality and return to their homes and countries of origin.
That would indeed be a particularly odd form of one-state solution.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Current UNSC membership

In addition to the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, there's Austria, Japan, Turkey, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Lebanon, Uganda, Brazil, Mexico, Gabon, Nigeria. Israel remains the only UN member-nation barred from the UNSC.

Friday, October 1, 2010

An observation

To say that a Jew sees everything through the lens of Israel is the same as saying a person of color sees everything through race. In both cases, it's a statement of privilege and ignorance proving only that the (gentile) speaker has the luxury to ignore antisemitism/racism.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Tony Curtis

Tony Curtis (aka Bernard Schwartz) has passed away. Ji Jang Bosal. WNYC has put up a link to an old interview which somehow I didn't pass on at the time.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Interview on Roma Rights

The Leonard Lopate show (guest hosted by Andy Borowitz) has a really great interview regarding the situation faced by the Roma today, fittingly in their "Underreported" series.
In recent weeks, France has been locked in a war of words with the European Union over its effort to expel the Roma living there. But the Roma in Italy have also been facing discriminatory policies and prejudice. On today's Underreported, Bernard Rorke, director of Roma Initiatives at the Open Society, discusses what’s behind these restrictive policies towards Roma.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Of imperialism and second campists

I've been thinking this since Noam Chomsky's reply to Mearsheimer and Walt (Why now? I don't know) but I want to commit it, especially the emphasized part below, to paper.

The first thing to note about it is:
But recognizing that M-W took a courageous stand, which merits praise, we still have to ask how convincing their thesis is. Not very, in my opinion.
I have to wonder why such an unconvincing argument (to Chomsky) would deserve praise and merit (from Chomsky). I've noted before that his explanation for the appeal of M&W looks a lot like Chomsky is accusing M&W of scapegoating Jews for American imperialism:
The reason, I think, is that it leaves the US government untouched on its high pinnacle of nobility, "Wilsonian idealism," etc., merely in the grip of an all-powerful force that it cannot escape.
Except Chomsky doesn't seem to recognize the familiar pattern of scapegoating Jews.
M-W focus on AIPAC and the evangelicals, but they recognize that the Lobby includes most of the political-intellectual class -- at which point the thesis loses much of its content.
What Chomsky seems to appreciate is not the argument, but the target.

Israel, for Chomsky, is a client state of the US, not the other way around. He cites several cases where Israel has furthered the interests of the US or bowed down to the interests of the US. (Here, Chomsky shares the definition of American interests with Mearsheimer and Walt as specifically being national security and business interests. I disagree with that definition.) But if Israel is a client state, it should follow that Israel has interests that we, the Left, ought to liberate Israel from American imperialism. I imagine Chomsky may agree with that so far. I've also seen others write in the same vein about how the Miltary Industrial Complex in the US profits off Israel's conflict. But it's plain that if we are to liberate Israel from American imperialism, then we, as Americans, ought to do a better job of listening to Israelis. Otherwise, we're only presenting a different face of American imperialism; you can't liberate anyone by forcing something on them. Israelis want security, and so American anti-imperialists ought to be concerned with Israeli security. Here, it's also plain that Chomsky disagrees that such a principle ought to be applied to Israel. He isn't interested in exploring how Israelis view their interests, except to criticize and undermine Israelis. It's exactly the sort of stance Moishe Postone singles out. Chomsky isn't interested in anti-imperialism, per se, but a perverted form of anti-imperialism. Chomsky is a second campist -- and here I choose the phrase second campist over similar terms such as Manichean entirely on purpose.

Friday, September 10, 2010


Shana Tova, if anyone reads this in time. And also Eid Mubarak to Muslim readers.

And, for September 11, if anyone is in New York, there will be an interfaith/Buddhist memorial at Pier 40. Things will start at 6:30 pm, but people should gather at 6, especially if you want to write a message on a lantern. The organizer, a Japanese Buddhist priest, sends out wonderful news:
This weekend, I am arranging "Hibaku" Piano (the piano which was survived from atomic bombing of Hiroshima) Peace Concert at various places, so I hope that you can join the concert and enjoy yourself.
The schedule will include interfaith prayers and meditation for peace and a Buddhist ceremony. At 8pm lanterns will be set out into the Hudson River (modeled on the Japanese commemoration of the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki). It's a beautiful ceremony.

I'll be in a meditation retreat, so I won't be there, but I'll talk to our teacher about some chanting. In Korean Buddhism, we chant Ji Jang Bosal for the dead. However, s/he (Boddhisattva's don't really have fixed gender, though Ji Jang Bosal is usually depicted in a male form) is known for the vow to save all being in the hell realms. That would include those who would do such awful things as 9/11 or the Florida preacher who plans to burn Korans. So I chant for them as well. I hope they hear my chanting and realize the truth.

Ji Jang Bosal Ji Jang Bosal Ji Jang Bosal
Ji Jang Bosal Ji Jang Bosal Ji Jang Bosal
Ji Jang Bosal Ji Jang Bosal Ji Jang Bosal
Ji Jang Bosal Ji Jang Bosal Ji Jang Bosal
Ji Jang Bosal Ji Jang Bosal Ji Jang Bosal
Ji Jang Bosal Ji Jang Bosal Ji Jang Bosal
Ji Jang Bosal Ji Jang Bosal Ji Jang Bosal
Ji Jang Bosal Ji Jang Bosal Ji Jang Bosal

And, for the victims of hatred and prejudice, I also chant:

Kwan Seum Bosal Kwan Seum Bosal Kwan Seum Bosal

Korean Buddhists chant for specific occasions, such as the death of a loved one, but also at New Years. At that time people chant Ji Jang Bosal for all those who have died in the past year but especially with a certain flavor of karma, such as those who died in war. There are many events on the calendar to remind us to strive to be better. And many ways to strive. But please remember, that is a moment-to-moment struggle within. It's dogma that blinds us when we look for that struggle outside ourselves.


Monday, September 6, 2010

The goyishe kopf (or the plainest case of gentile privilege)

How can I not say: What a goyishe kopf. And by that, I mean, what an outrageous example of privileged stupidity. According to a piece from The Guardian and reproduced at Engage:
Karel De Gucht, the European commissioner for trade, and a former Belgian foreign minister, sparked outrage after voicing his scepticism about the prospects for the negotiations which opened in the US this week. He told a Belgian radio station that most Jews always believed they were right, and questioned the point of talking to them about the Middle East.

De Gucht, who negotiates for Europe on trade with the rest of the world, and is one of the most powerful officials in Brussels, was forced today to issue a statement declaring that the views he expressed were personal.

“Don’t underestimate the opinion … of the average Jew outside Israel,” he told the radio station. “There is indeed a belief – it’s difficult to describe it otherwise – among most Jews that they are right. And a belief is something that’s difficult to counter with rational arguments. And it’s not so much whether these are religious Jews or not. Lay Jews also share the same belief that they are right. So it is not easy to have, even with moderate Jews, a rational discussion about what is actually happening in the Middle East.”

Explaining why he thought the peace talks were probably doomed, he added: “Do not underestimate the Jewish lobby on Capitol Hill. That is the best organised lobby, you shouldn’t underestimate the grip it has on American politics – no matter whether it’s Republicans or Democrats.”
First off, what an odd sort of apology to say that one's bigotry is 'personal.'
“I gave an interview … I gave my personal point of view,” he said. “I regret that the comments that I made have been interpreted in a sense that I did not intend.

“I did not mean in any possible way to cause offence or stigmatise the Jewish community. I want to make clear that antisemitism has no place in today’s world.”
In fact, the comments were surely interpreted in exactly the sense in which they were said. His comments did not regrettably cause offense so much as they are plainly offensive in their nature. Look, there's a long history of claiming that Jews aren't rational, but even setting aside that stereotype, his claim about Jews being irrational only points to his inability to listen to what Jews have to say. More importantly, the stuff about that powerful "Jewish lobby" is plainly antisemitic. Whenever you find yourself about to make such an outrageous generalization, you should first assume that the problem is your own insensitivity. Like so many people, he doesn't seem to get the most basic fact of antisemitism: claiming Jews have power way beyond what we actually have is one of the most dangerously antisemitic things that can be said. The immediate implication is that something has to be done to take power away from Jews in order to right the world. In other words, Jews must be oppressed. Because the problems of the world are not actually the fault of Jews, however, that's a useless strategy which inevitably escalates to more severe oppressions in order to sudbue the "powerful" Jews. If he wants to make clear that "antisemitism has no place" he should certainly disavow the whole making-incredibly-antisemitic-comments thing, rather than merely expressing his sincere regret that other people are so irrational and don't get what he's saying when he's making incredibly antisemitic comments. No apology can mean anything here unless De Gucht can take responsibility for the plainly bigoted nature of his remarks. Regardless of his intention, he has precisely "stigmatized" and threatened Jews.

Also, I think it's time the words organized and grip should be seen as inherently problematic in these debates, just like the word cabal. I don't know why I keep seeing grip but it turns up strangely often. Such as here.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

contemporary Anti-Roma/Traveler depictions

My wife started watching The Riches, with Eddie Izzard and Minnie Driver as Irish Travelers in the American South, on Netflix. Twenty episodes aired from 2007-2008 on the FX Network and got quite good critical response. I have to say, in many ways it's a fun show. It paints buffers (a word Travelers use for non-Travelers) as mean, hypocritical, selfish, cheats, and we enjoy watching the protagonists cheat them. But still, it's just a plainly racist show. Even if we enjoy watching the heroes scam and steal, it's a show predicated on the stereotypical depiction of Travelers as scammers and theives. There's a nice scholarly article by Peter Kabachnik from the journal Romani Studies.
Most revealing about The Riches is the decision to base the show on how Irish Travelers take on another family’s identity and become settled buffers, parking their caravan in the woods behind the house and ceasing their traveling way of life. Apparently the only way for Irish Travelers to live the American Dream is to steal it.
He also deals with the film Traveller and mentions a few other films, including Snatch. Add these to the standard "gypsy curse" plot from Thinner (the only thing here besides The Riches I've seen) and Drag Me to Hell, and despite the general invisibility of Roma and Travelers there's really quite a lot of plain racist depictions in high profile projects and big star roles.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Catching up -- closet edition

Things I missed while my computer was down:

The ADL's position on the "Ground Zero Mosque" was pretty shameful. I applaud Fareed Zakaria who returned prize from the organization. But, ummm, hey guys, this is not an opportunity for Jew-bashing. For starters, at least the ADL's rejection of the community center (it's not a mosque) was tepid. Many Americans, even many New Yorkers are not nearly as tepid in rejecting it. It's not like the ADL or any other Jewish organization or leader is responsible for the general response. As near as I can tell, the ADL actually doesn't even represent Jewish opinion very well on this particular matter. Other organizations and people, particularly Mike Bloomberg (who is Jewish, if you didn't know), did better.
Brett Domino doing Lady Gaga. I really love these guys. They really lay bare a lot of stuff about popular music. In this case, I think it highlights some of what's so great about Lady Gaga, though previously it was what's so silly about Justin Timberlake. I don't think any of the members of the BD Trio are Jewish, but I think there appeal to me does have something to do with my being Jewish. A lot of Jewish theater and comedy (Seinfeld, e.g.) makes fun of the outsider assimilating into mainstream culture in a way that similarly lays bare the arbitrary conventions and assumptions of that culture.
Racialicious and Mad Men: It's not that Latoya Peterson hasn't got a point when she notes that Mad Men is, like many shows on television, mostly about white people. (This, however, via Racialicious, is much more interesting on that point.) I do think the disagreement with her from the comments, some of it quite pointed, is well worth reading. (And I tend to stand with that disagreement.) But what gets me is that one of the biggest, most important Jewish characters isn't part of the discussion. Latoya writes:
I refer to Rachel Menken, not because “OMG, there’s a Jewish woman” but because she got to say, on screen, that people are racist. She was able to articulate her suffering, she was able to articulate her feelings of being seen as lesser, she was able to make a salient point about being the recipient of prejudice, all while people still claim to like the individual.
But Jimmy Barret (aka Jimmy Bernstein), the comedian from season two, is nowhere in the discussion. Though Latoya says, "most discussion of Jews is framed as anti-Semitic jokes, open curiosity, or thinly veiled contempt," in fact, Jimmy is the target of one of the most blatant, hateful, in-your-face moments in the series when Betty tells him, "You people are ugly and crude." And that line does exactly what Betty intended with it: it silences Jimmy. In fact, the purpose of his character was to show the fine line that most minorities walk if they want to express themselves. Some never can in public. Others, those who have some control over the extent to which they are perceived as minorities (for instance, through name changes) can only express themselves in indirect ways - the source of Barrett's anger. He is introduced in the series on the set of a commercial where he is the consummate professional (instructing the cameraman how to shoot him) playing the fool. If anyone can walk that line, it should be Jimmy Barrett. But in the end, he got shot down. Jimmy Barrett is one of the pivotal characters in a work about closeted identities, yet he's missing from the discussion.

Norm Geras criticized an article by J.J. Goldberg, editor of the Jewish Daily Forward. Norm is plainly right that Goldberg is redefining antisemitism so as not to offend anyone who isn't named Adolph Hitler. As luck would have it, someone else discussing racism just yesterday wrote:
At the moment, the right’s standard for legitimate charges of racism are quite high: as Chris Rock once put it, you have to have shot Medgar Evers to be a racist. Sliming civil rights leaders, depicting Obama as a thug or a monkey or a watermelon-eating pickaninny, writing about Michelle eating ribs all day—that’s not racist. Shooting Medgar Evers, OK, that’s racist.
But this isn't a conservative, here. This is the editor of the Jewish Daily Forward. Goes to show (further to Jimmy Barrett) that it's not so easy for minorities to speak plainly. But Goldberg also said something Geras didn't address:
Few seemed to notice the irony: Two of the most powerful men in Hollywood, both Jewish, urging a third power player, also Jewish, to punish Stone for suggesting that Jews dominate the media. The bottom line: Stone’s comment that Jewish influence in the media stifles open discussion brought the media crashing down on his head.
Ummm, no. The fact that there are powerful Jews in Hollywood does not mean Jews "dominate" or "control" the media. It only means Jews have some influence and some power. Notably, Jews in the media have never really spoken openly about being Jewish out of fear, which is to say they didn't really have much power even if many were in positions of power. So the New York Times didn't cover the Holocaust, and Hollywood didn't make a film about antisemitism until well after WWII (1947). And they're still making crap like The Reader. But if two of the most powerful men in Hollywood, both Christian, were trying to blacklist a director for being racist, would anyone be decrying the inordinate power of Christians in Hollywood? And, though maybe it would be a good idea, let's note that no one has successfully stopped Stone from anything, yet.
Is England antisemitic? Anthony Julius addresses a controversial statement by Shimon Peres. Julius says a lot of smart things there, but there's something I don't quite like about the interview.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Muslim leaders visit Nazi death camps

Too good to just put in the shared links over on the right. (Via Talk Islam.) Muslim leaders visit Auschwitz and Dachau. At the end, this is great:
Qadhi stressed the importance for Jews and Muslims to understand and accept each other’s narratives of suffering. “There’s no denying that we have problems we need to talk about, but dehumanizing the other is not going to solve our problems...

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Liveblogging a Racialicious fiasco

Too much, too much. Elle complains:
I am shocked at the level of anti-Semitism allowed on this blog.
And the response?
Ellen, this is the mission statement of the ADL, taken directly from their website:
I know I sometimes get names wrong, but I make an attempt to replicate them exactly as is. It's just a matter of decency. More importantly, while the response pointing to the ADL's mission statement is technically correct, it hardly matters. Elle made a number of points, none of which are refuted with this.

Furthermore, we could ask why it is that the ADL's mission statement is that way. I would suggest it's because Jews have always felt an inappropriate pressure to subsume our issues to "larger" issues, which is part of what makes us so vulnerable to "colorblind" (really, the analogue of) racism.

Previous. I sincerely hope I have the chance to update this repeatedly.

UPDATE: Well, so far only one more comment. From a Jew disappointed by the whole affair:
I am also terrified that my fellow “progressives” are using this as one more way of painting Jews as the bad guys, the ones in power, the oppressors, the evil Zionists who keep those poor Muslims down. Come on, you guys are smarter than that.
I hope they prove me wrong, but I am afraid, having watched Racialicious fail time and again, that they're not smarter than that.

Computer fixed, plus yet still more anti-racist antisemitism

But I'm going away for the weekend, so that post catching up on what I missed will have to wait.

In the meantime, it's really time Racialicious figures out why they get comments like this:
ADL is beholden to Zionist doctrine, and standing up against islamophobia or for muslim rights are nowhere to be found there. All Zionist linked organizations are in line with this. The Simon Wiesenthal Center is sponsoring a Museum of Tolerance in Jerusalem that’s being built on top of muslim graves with complete government approval. Imagine the inverse situation.
Further, why on Earth do they approve those comments. All comments at Racialicious are hand moderated. Granted, none of them are Jews (and really, that's potentially a problem right there, if it's indicative of who they think is worthy of a voice), but still, you'd think they could recognize THAT!

Zionist doctrine? Is that where Jews demand dignity and equality? Then, hell yeah, I'm all for it! Or is it the doctrine that says all Jews hate Muslims, just because we're Jews?

yeah i just want to re-iterate that the ADL has long been a state-sponsored terrorist organization. they are zionist. they are racist. end of story

Monday, August 2, 2010


Oy! Computer died, an due to peculiar circumstances, we're not getting a new one for at least a month. Blogging will be light or lighter.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Oliver Stone, scraping his shoe

Well, after getting caught with saying something horribly racist, Oliver Stone has now said,
“In trying to make a broader historical point about the range of atrocities the Germans committed against many people, I made a clumsy association about the Holocaust, for which I am sorry and I regret. Jews obviously do not control media or any other industry. The fact that the Holocaust is still a very important, vivid and current matter today is, in fact, a great credit to the very hard work of a broad coalition of people committed to the remembrance of this atrocity – and it was an atrocity.”
I don't doubt he saw the Holocaust as an atrocity, but critics were right that he was oafish in discussing the other atrocities that also happened. As for Hitler having had help, that was Pat Buchanan's contention when he said that it was American Jews who forced Hitler's hand, but I think Stone is still on shaky ground with that one. As for Jewish control of the media, I'm not sure what to think about Stone. Here's how it was reported in the Sunday Times (of London):
He also seeks to put his atrocities in proportion: "Hitler did far more damage to the Russians than the Jewish people, 25 or 30m."

Why such a focus on the Holocaust then? "The Jewish domination of the media," he says. "There's a major lobby in the United States. They are hard workers. They stay on top of every comment, the most powerful lobby in Washington. Israel has f***** up United States foreign policy for years."
(It's behind a paywall, but you can get an even fuller version of the quote here.) One day, it's the Jewish domination of the media. The next day, no Jewish domination of the media. What could explain this sudden dramatic shift? Not a clumsy association, that's for sure. There are only two possible explanations: (1) They got to him, or (2) You know Oliver Stone is Jewish right? So this must be clever propaganda, elaborately planned from the start.

Or, who knows. Maybe it's just a cheap apology. I'd kinda like to think someone gave him some facts and he realized he was wrong, but it's not clear what exactly changed. What I quoted above is the complete statement. Note to Stone's PR hack: I wish I had a fuller picture. Perhaps even something that talked about Stone's love of conspiracy theories.

UPDATE: ADL accepts second apology. At least he's a bit more specific. But, now the apology comes down to acknowleging it was a mistake to be "glib." Interesting... Whether it's right or wrong to accept that apology, I feel confident Michael Richards would never have had his apology accepted (not that it was accepted anyway, or that I'm commenting on whether it should have been) had he said he was wrong to be so "glib." However, Paul Mooney (of all people) said Michael Richards was out of character when he did that. This seems entirely in character for Oliver Stone. Let me be clear about something, for anyone who doesn't understand: I consider Stone's remarks to be every bit as bad as standing on stage shouting "Nigger" at a Black audience member and talking about lynching them. I don't think many anti-racists understand that this idea of Jewish control of the media or government, of Jewish power generally -- these words that Stone used are the words that have been used before, repeatedly, to justify the mass murder of Jews. It is not "controversial." It is antisemitism.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Yup, Oliver Stone stepped in it

Hard to believe it's a one off. I guess now all the conspiracism he's always dealt with has a little more context. This is unabashed antisemitism. No getting around it.

Gentile privilege in a global world

Sometime ago, Julie tried to create a gentile privilege checklist. Good stuff, and a good idea. As she said,
But I think it’s clear here that if you’re not acknowledging the existence of gentile privilege, then you’re not acknowledging the existence of anti-Semitism. Oppression cannot exist without corresponding privilege.
As she also said, there are still questions about what constitutes gentile privilege. Strange as it may be, antisemitism is still undertheorized. And one of the most ignored aspects is its global nature. Going back to this picture, an important example of Nazi propaganda:

It was a German propaganda poster, but note how it depicts a Jew as controlling the UK, Soviet Union and US. With the bowler hat, it's a particularly English Jew, associated with "Manchester" (or "free market") Capitalism, even though the physical depiction is stereotypically Jewish. Why were the Germans so concerned with the power of Jews outside their own country? Because they saw Jews as part of "international Jewry." The perception of Jews was as a global force, associated with capitalism and communism and the big isms of the day that determined world events. If the Germans had been more strictly concerned with German Jews, they would have found they could effectively oppress Jews locally and they wouldn't have needed a world war to eradicate Jewishness from the world. But, of course, that's not what happeneed, because that's not how antisemitism works.

Today, half of Venezuela's Jews have fled to escape state-sponsored antisemitism, including two police raids on the largest synagogue in Caracas. But, of course, what scares Venezuela's antisemites isn't the power of Jews in Venezuela as much as it's the power of Jews in the US. Also, many Jews have fled Sweden, antisemitism there taking the superficial disguise of criticism of Israel. In many places, like Malaysia, antisemitism is a significant force even though there are few (if any) Jews. Throughout the world, there is a pressing need for a new way to talk about the oppression of local Jews in a global world as well as the privileges located inside the local community.

So we need to understand gentile privilege in a global perspective. I offer this addition:

If my group is widely recognized as a national group,
If my group is the dominant group in my country,
If my group is dominant in multiple UN member states,
then these things translate to real political power in the world.

Jews are widely dismissed as a national group. Often, we are told we are just a religion, and not entitled to the political powers that come with nationhood. We are the dominant group in Israel, which, of course, is the idea. At the same time, Israel is discriminated against within the UN. Since many members of what would be Israel's regional group do not recognize it, Israel is not permitted to participate in much of the work of the UN, which is organized by region. So, for example, Israel was not involved in any of the planning meetings for either the Durban conference or its follow up.

I think that's particularly relevant for those discussions which blamed Jews for sabotaging the discussion of reparations that was supposed to go on at those conferences. For instance, in discussing Mahmoud Amadinejad's speech at the Durban Review conference, which was toned down but still incredibly antisemitic, Naomi Klein presented it as a matter of protocol that he was allowed to speak. All heads of state would be allowed to speak (it's not clear if an Israeli head of state would actually have been allowed to speak), so it shouldn't be seen as a big deal. And Klein used this to shift blame for the conference's failures from Ahmadinejad to those who protested his speech. Not only was Klein wrong, I think she was grotesque in that article. I think this offers a better language for discussing why.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

A little bit of this...

Recent facebook stuff.

For a good background article, read this from POZ (a magazine for HIV+ people). There are a lot of issues involved, but Williams had sex with multiple partners while infected with HIV and apparently in some state of denial about his status. Being young, black, poor, and HIV positive, media spun the story as a "sex monster" who intentionally infected women. Now, the news:
A [NY] State Supreme Court Judge ruled this morning that Nushawn Williams will stay in jail as a dangerous sex offender even though he already served his 12-year prison term.
Thich Nhat Hanh:
Without suffering, you cannot grow. ... The Buddha called suffering a Holy Truth, because our suffering has the capacity of showing us the path to liberation. Embrace your suffering, and let it reveal to you the way to peace.
Good luck to some friends with this.
An Adjunct Associate Professor of Religion at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign has been fired for sending this email out to students. A friend comments:
At first I was dubious of the idea that he should be fired. You know, because academic freedom is sort of important for someone with a post-Marxist foundation for theory. But, OMG.
I note, however, that other professors have not been fired when behaving similarly. Kevin MacDonald, though never accused of teaching his beliefs to students is a white supremacist. His university removed him from teaching and his department distanced itself from him, but he kept his job. The university received support in not firing him from some perhaps-unlikely places. When William Robinson sent out emails to students comparing Gaza to the Warsaw Ghetto and Israel to Nazi Germany, his university never got past a preliminay investigation. I guess tenure is a powerful thing.
This is kafka-esque.
This article on Mike Huckabee made me cringe in a few places. Especially at the word pharisaical and at the suggestion that there's no such thing as a Palestinian. But my friend is right, I think, that Huckabee's simply a better sort of Republican than many.
And a novelist comes forward:
Apropos of nothing, the author [that would be me - Matt] evokes Marx and the working class, who in all frankness, remain largely absent from my tale of fallen petite bourgeoisie. Unlike the brief morality play Ida and I enjoyed within the context of Leverage, the means of production here are not quite so quantifiable as tapes. Moreover, there is a merger of capital and worker that I daresay Marx might never have envisioned. The dilemma then is merely in methods of distribution. The media, like the tapes on that television morality play, becomes central to the conundrum.
There's a question of whether a writer is working class. It's a good question, and it think it can change depending on what the writer is writing --perhaps technical specs-- but I'm more sympathetic to it than this novelist, apparently. (Although I'm not sure I ever gave an answer to that, and I'm sure whatever answer was not apropros of nothing.) Perhaps I should say "allied to the working classes," but whenever someone is "selling out" to keep from losing their house, I think Marx's ghost is already present.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Climate change

Eve Garrard, posting at Normblog:
I don't think this would have happened 10 years ago. There certainly was anti-Semitism (of a relatively mild kind) around the place, among academics as elsewhere, but they used to know that there was something wrong with it, and hence restrained themselves, at least in public. I haven't met anything quite as nakedly direct as this in the universities before now, not even in the UCU during the boycott debates: venomous though those debates were, the fig-leaf of anti-Zionism was usually kept more or less in place.
I'll leave you to go there to read about the actual incident. Aside from actually challenging antisemites, I wonder how it would have gone if she had said she was a Zionist.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Things Jews are not resposible for

If you live in NYC, you'll see t-shirts all over the place that say "zogsports." Just a guess, but I don't think it was a Jew who came up with that. For that matter, I also doubt it was a Jew who founded Independant Truck's "Iron Cross" logo. For that matter, the Iron Cross seems to have had a resurgence in fasion, which I doubt was the fault of any Jew. I'm sure there are more examples.

Friday, July 9, 2010

What the debate over Israel means

David links to this article in the Forward. His comments are well worth reading. I'd like to add my comments on one particular line, and put that one line more clearly in context.
“Malmo reminds me of the anti-Semitism I felt as a child in Poland before the war,” she [Judith Popinski] told the Forward
Frightening, and I don't doubt it's entirely true. In part, I don't doubt it because I know something about how people described Poland before the war when they actually described it before the war. (Not quite the same as after.) But consider this:
During an interview in his office, Imam Saeed Azams said it was wrong to blame Swedish Jews for Israel’s actions. The wheelchair-bound Azams stressed the importance of teaching young Muslims to stop equating the Jews of Malmo with Israel. But this seemed to include an assumption that Jews, in turn, should not permit themselves to be seen as pro-Israel.

“Because Jewish society in Sweden does not condemn the clearly illegal actions of Israel,” he said, “then ordinary people think the Jews here are allied to Israel, but this is not true.”
I am pro-Israel because I care about having a place to go if things get as bad as Poland before the war. Won't happen here in the Good Ol' US of A? No one would think it would have happened in Sweden. By coincidence, I was born in Lund, according to Google Maps only about 20 minutes away from Malmo.

And I am pro-Israel because I care about having the right to speak out in defense of my life, a right which has been traduced and effectively if not formally restricted in every other society but Israel. That doesn't mean I support every action of the Israeli government or that I am anti-Palestinian, but I certainly support Israel's existence and Israel's right (see David's point about supporting a two-state solution) to provide for it's own defense against very real threats even when I disagree with the decision (as I often do).

Consider if I disagree with this imam on what actions of Israel's are "clearly illegal"? I've seen almost everything Israel does described as illegal and often disagreed. I've seen changes to road signs described as "ethnic cleansing." But should that mean it's a simple and understandable mistake for people to try to kill me, because I was insufficiently rabid in my hatred of Israel? That's certainly a recipe for silencing me and making it easy for various people to falsely claim, "but this is not true" that "the Jews here are allied to Israel." I'm guessing most of the Jews of Sweden, and particularly those fleeing Sweden for Israel, are like most other Jews in the world and see themselves very clearly as "allied" (whatever that means) to Israel. At least every bit as much as anti-Israel activists who attempt to murder Swedish Jews are "allied" to Palestine.

But this conflation, wherein people who support Israel in any visible fashion are responsible for everything Israel does, is not just the framing of one Swedish imam. I won't say who, except that this person will surely have a much bigger effect on the progression of antisemitism in America than that Swedish imam, but I will quote something from a recent Racialicious conversation:
Maybe you would like to elaborate on how arguing that the term “Israeli Apartheid” bars Israeli people from participating? The only way I can see it barring people from participating is if they themselves identify entirely with the Israeli government, something that you yourself go to a great extent to point out is a dangerous assumption about Israeli people.
Of course, the very point of the word Apartheid is to destroy the middle ground on which peace can be built. It is a word about which one is not allowed to have moderate feelings. The word entirely in that quote is entirely meaningless. One is not allowed to have the tiniest positive feelings about Apartheid anything. That's not just the fact of how people understand the word, but it is explicitly the point and argument of the BDS movement that pushes the use of the word and openly declares the aim of making "pariahs" of those who support Israel. Including those who support Israel by living or visiting there. Or performing music or accepting literary awards there. Or even trying to bring Jewish and Palestinian children together to learn conflict resolution skills at summer camp. Think I'm exaggerating on that last one? Sadly, no.

So, of course, one is not allowed to defend Israel from even the tiniest of slanders. One is simply not allowed to disagree. To do so would be to present oneself as allied with ethnic cleansing, as a fair target for hatred and discrimination. Perhaps as a target for murder. (And we're accused of bullying tactics and silencing debate!)

It's not just my life which is potentially at stake in this conversation. It's my right to live, my right to have my life protected by something other than lesser antisemites, my right to speak out in defense of my life. Somehow, dying does not frighten me nearly so much as having these rights taken away. No wonder, when so many people think they can tell me what I'm allowed to think, that the debate over Israel is so emotional and difficult and scary. And when "anti-racists" try to spin that as privilege because my skin is white, fuck that.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Recent search terms

  • is judd apatow jewish
  • jew apatow
  • judd apatow public relations israel
I figure two of these to be antisemitic. As google explains,
If you use Google to search for “Judaism,” “Jewish” or “Jewish people,” the results are informative and relevant. So why is a search for “Jew” different? One reason is that the word “Jew” is often used in an anti-Semitic context. Jewish organizations are more likely to use the word “Jewish” when talking about members of their faith.
And, if the idea that Apatow is Jewish immediately sends someone searching for his thoughts on Israel, well, that's a problem.

As for the first, I imagine anyone who needed to know that would easily find the answer in his films. But, the knowledge is pretty crucial to avoid erasing his Jewishness from his films. So that, I don't mind at all.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Commerce will set the workers free?

“Let the readers choose. Whoever pays the most on a given day can leave a comment with plot details or characters.”
“Or product placements?”
“Why not?”
“The Great American Cybernovel.”
“Or at least an interesting experiment.”
“I love you.”
“Not tonight, sweetheart.”
Colin, for a moment, believed it might work. Generosity. Commercialism. Sex. Violence. Americana in a digital age, but what would he call it?
“Commercial Novel.”
“Get out of my head, Sylvia.”
The luster of clouds dimmed. Summer mosquitoes swarmed. Colin and Sylvia took their dogs inside, and Colin, facing the blank page, buoyed by his wife’s faith, began to type the first line of a serialized behemoth that could be quite good, career suicide, or a minor lark. But at the very least it had the potential to save his house and provide antidepressants for his dog.
-from Commercial Novel
There's an interesting point (or two) in Marxism that's usually overlooked by Marxists. Capitalism is not the worst way to organize an economy; it was an improvement over the feudal systems it replaced. And it will end when the people come to understand what will replace it; the workers will bring into effect their own liberation. That's the basis between a rift between some Cultural Studies Marxists, who see progress and an in-between-ness, and some "Manichean" Marxists who see only evil in capitalism.

Personally, I have a great deal of sympathy for someone like the Reverend Billy Talen, founder of the Church of Stop Shopping. He's funny, which a person taking on such a project ought to be. Plus, I was best man at a wedding he performed in Union Square, where his sermon was truly touching. He wasn't aware he'd be performing a ceremony, so he gave an impromptu sermon on the history of Union Square and the role of public space in society. According to Wikipedia, the square wasn't named for the labor unions that formed there, but I'm pretty safe imagining myself walking in the footsteps of Emma Goldman whenever I pass through. But, however emotionally satisfying I sometimes find anti-consumerism, I also come across criticism of "culture jamming" and countercultural posturing that are intellectually quite satisfying. I know, in the end, that the in-between-ness of capitalism means a lot of critiques are going to be in-between. In the end, we have to trust the workers or any other group to know and act in their own best interest, and we ought to be respectful of their understanding of their own perspective even when we disagree. The point there is to persuade rather than disempower, while countercultures instead aim to shock.

And sometimes rank consumerism is a progressive force. Sure, it leads to the abuse of sexuality and horrible mysogyny on primetime tv. But that mysogyny, even if tv can be a force for perpetuating the ideology (and I believe it can), was not created by tv. And it also leads to lesbians on tv (and, very slowly coming around, gay men portrayed as something other than fodder for straight, male fantasies) and challenges to heteronormativity. Like it or not, crass consumerism can be (in-between) empowering. At the very least, we can use pop culture to talk about what people want rather than telling them what they want and why it's not what they ought to want. That's why I'm fascinated by this project, the polar opposite of Rev. Billy. It contravenes many of the basic assumptions I'm not sure I realized I hold, but at least it's funny, which a project of this sort ought to be. And if you want Colin to create "a lasting memorial to the conservative socialist agenda of [his] latent Christian atheism," go for it!
Commercial Novel is a novel that's for sale, but not in the traditional sense.

Instead, the very fabric of the novel is for sale. You can change the plot, change the characters, add your own details. All you have to do to participate in literary history is donate the most on a day when we post.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Comments working

I know I don't get a lot, except for spam from Chinese dating services (I think that's what they are), but hang on with me. So I wonder how often this happens. But I couldn't moderate comments last night. Now I can. And, there's actually one that wasn't a Chinese dating site. The problem didn't last long enough, I think, to necessitate pulling out so that no one misses it. But thanks for the comment!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Poll results from the Geneva Institute

See here for more.
Clinton/Geneva Parameters

The Clinton parameters for a Palestinian-Israeli permanent settlement were presented by President Clinton at a meeting with Israeli and Palestinian officials almost ten years ago, on December 23, 2000, following the collapse of the July 2000 Camp David summit. The Geneva Initiative, along similar lines, was made public around the end of 2003. These parameters address the most fundamental issues which underlie the Palestinian-Israeli conflict: (1) Final borders and territorial exchange; (2) Refugees; (3) Jerusalem; (4) A demilitarized Palestinian state; (5) Security arrangements; and (6) End of conflict. We address these issues periodically since December 2003, and in the current poll we revisited these crucial issues following the diplomatic activity of the US with regard to the conflict and the beginning of the proximity talks between the parties.

· The findings indicate an increase in support for the overall package in both publics compared to 2009. The change is larger and is consistent across all parameters among Palestinians.
· Palestinians are now split half between support and opposition to the overall package: 49% support and 49% oppose it. This level of support represents an increase in support of 11 percentage points from 2009.
· 52% of Israelis support the overall package, versus 37% who oppose it. This level of support is similar to that obtained in 2006 through 2008, and larger than the support indicated in 2009 (46%).
· Since we have been tracking these issues in 2003, there was only once majority support for this package on both sides, in December 2004, shortly after the death of Arafat which was followed by a surge of optimism and considerable moderation in both publics. Among Israelis there was majority support for the Clinton package since 2004, except in the 2009 poll.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Naming is power

Jackson Diehl in the Washington Post:
Lately, Anwar [Ibrahim, the leader of Malaysia's political opposition] has been getting attention for something else: strident rhetoric about Israel and alleged "Zionist influence" in Malaysia. He recently joined a demonstration outside the U.S. embassy in Kuala Lumpur where an Israeli flag was burned. He's made dark insinuations about the "Jewish-controlled" Washington public relations firm Apco Worldwide, which is working for Malaysia's quasi-authoritarian government.
The scare quotes hint at it, but the word antisemitism is entirely missing from the piece. Matt Yglesias, though he's not without a point, is tamer still:
Presumably there are some specific issues in the area that we care about. But certainly it would be odd to make Israel the top agenda item during a discussion with Malaysian officials (one striking thing about being in China during the Gaza flotilla raid is that nobody there cared at all) or the main criterion by which we judge a politician.
Well, yes, antisemitism is still only one criteria by which to judge a Malaysian politician. Of course, Yglesias could direct criticism a little differently. What's odd is probably less Diehl's conclusions, but rather that antisemitism is such a significant piece of Malaysian politics. (Actually, it's not odd, so much as it's antisemitism.) It's not Diehl or American politicians who have created that bit of surrealism. But, even more, I really wish Yglesias would acknowledge that the issue at stake in Diehl's piece is broader than simply Israel and that antisemitism is actually a problem worth talking about sometimes.

(As an aside, the article also provides more proof that Paul Wolfowitz is no "Zionist," unless the word is used only as a euphemism for "Jew.")

Why is it that no one can say the word antisemitism? Actually, I think I know the answer to that, and it pisses me off. Is it any wonder so many Jews feel abandoned by "progressives"?

Update: David has the same response.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

My hands are trembling reading another comment thread

Let me quote again from David Schraub's post, Of Matters 101:
Being a Jew who disagrees with the bulk of the community does not earn you super-standing.
In that sentence, David links to a post elsewhere called The Rules of Racial Standing. It's common sense among anti-racists that racists will try to shut down discussion by saying "not all [Black/Latino/Gay/whatever] thinks so." Or to use a phrase from a "cultural appropriation bingo" card posted at Racialicious some time ago, "I asked a person from that culture, and s/he said it was ok." So why is Deputy Editor Thea Lim of Racialicious responding to criticism with:
Many QuAIA members are Jewish and have Israeli family members – I wouldn’t be surprised if some of them are Israeli.
Well, most Jews disagree with them, so stop giving them super-standing, Thea.

The complete dismissal of a Jewish commenter (including other intentional derails and the blanket failure to deal with the strongest part of the commenters aargument) is just really disturbing. And, among the many, many things too many anti-racists don't get, they don't get just how really scary this stuff is for me.

And with an update, the post now includes the language:
“This is a victory for the Palestine solidarity movement, which has faced censorship and bullying tactics from the Israel lobby for far too long,”
Because, of course, complaints from Jews are never reasonable. They're always "bullying." See, Jews have so much power that...

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

On Populism

An interesting argument about direct democracy (via Bob):
And if Israel's behaviour is short-termist (we will only know if it is short-termist in the long run, see Keynes aphorism on this matter) and it's continuance as a democracy with secure borders would be better served by a more nuanced and humane approach, are we seeing another instance in which a debased, creepingly direct democracy is threatening the moral foundations of democracy?
I think he undervalues one aspect of the particular case. The particular case is really a stepping off point for Paulie, though it's an important case for me, but I can use it in the same way as Paulie. A huge part of the Zionist perspective is "we have a right to make decisions about our own self-defense, since the rest of the world has demonstrably failed to care," and a huge part of the world replies, "ummm, no you don't, because you're not a real nation unless we say so. And we promise to protect you next time (provided you obey us right now, but otherwise, we'll force ourselves on you), so stop bringing that up." That kind of discourse is just.. Well, it really shouldn't be a surprise that one goal of Israeli governance to make it's own decisions with pointed stubbornness just to spite those who deny Israeli sovereignty. I think you see that all the time in postcolonial states, usually mocked by the privileged who see themselves as enlightened. Israel is founded on the notion that Jews cannot thrive without sovereignty, but that discourse is about denying Jews that sovereignty. Often, denying Israeli sovereignty while either ignoring or even championing that sovereignty for others. Disagreement is often important, but mocking and hateful shows of economic or political force aren't particularly productive in such cases.

In the general case, however, let me respond to this end:
Is a simple concerted re-statement of the values of representative democracy our only salvation? And if so, why isn't it a growing political movement?
Increasingly direct and populist democracy may be a symptom of the information age or merely a cyclically recurring problem. Perhaps, after a period of adjustment, we'll look back and say this was when Democracy grew up. I have my guesses, but I'd feel out of my depth to put them forward. There are, however, other responses besides such restatements. These restatements happen all the time, and they're usually a good thing. Toni Morrison's endorsement of Obama during the campaign, where she credited him with wisdom, being one such case (that I found moving and persuasive). Of course, when populists talk about politicians they can trust, which is something they do constantly, they're also (however dysfunctionally) working inside the rhetoric of representative democracy. But there is another, existing response, easily overlooked. What it doesn't do is deny the value of direct participation, because direct participation is actually a genuinely good thing. Instead, it expresses a measured skepticism of populist movements that criticizes populist rhetoric for excluding people from the democratic rights such movements claim for themselves.

With Zionists (like me) one of the winningest arguments is "Don't the Palestinians have the same right to sovereignty?" That's why a two-state solution is favored today by almost all Jews worldwide, which wasn't the case some 25 years ago. Unfortunately, a great deal of the rhetoric arrayed against Israel is exactly that sort of short-sighted, populist rhetoric we ought to be criticizing. That's why so much support for the Palestinians (which would be a good thing, if it were more genuinely progressive) is about the supporters getting to feel good about themselves.

Breaking News Alert: Judd Apatow is Jewish

An interesting review of the latest Apatow-gang film, here at Zeek.
Although religion is rarely evoked, it is nonetheless clear to anyone who is educated on the subject that their male protagonists are at least culturally Jewish. Indeed, Apatow’s camp has been called a “Jew Tang Clan,” playing off the name of the Wu-Tang Clan, a highly productive Staten Island hip-hip collective. By itself, this emphasis on identity might not seem particularly noteworthy. It’s not as if Hollywood has avoided Jewish humor in recent decades. What distinguishes the representation of Jewishness in films like Get Him to the Greek is that it exaggerates the schlub in its boyish men to the point where they veer perilously to negative stereotype.

These aren’t “stealth” Jews, getting to have their ethnic heritage and transcend its historical burden. Even when their romantic exploits succeed, against daunting odds, they remain marked by their deviation from the urbane, polished and post-ethnic masculinity of conventional male leads. Apatow projects may be Cinderella stories, but the magic wand doesn’t redress the superficial imbalance between their male protagonists and the love interests they improbably win over. They are both “everymen,” devoid of the special traits that stardom normally demands, and decidedlyJewishmen.
The character of Aldous Snow (in Forgetting Sarah Marshall, at least - I've yet to see this one), by being British and named Snow, is an exaggeration of whiteness every bit as much as these schlubs are exaggerations of Jewishness. Unfortunately, most audiences, reviewers, and critics just ignore the Jewish elements of the Jew-Tang Clan.
Unless, that is, members of the audience fail to recognize them as ethnic at all. One of the signal developments in postwar American Jewish history is a gradual decrease in visibility. While it might seem obvious that the protagonists featured in films from the Apatow camp are Jewish, there are plenty of moviegoers in the United States who lack the knowledge and experience to reach that conclusion. Although some of these pictures’ popularity may be a function of this ignorance – would Middle America respond to them as favorably if they were understood as ethnic films? – the degree of integration it indicates is still largely salutary.
Salutory? That's fair, as long as it is recognized that's not always the most important question. It's pretty clear from Apatow's films and a host of other places -- indeed, from the creation of Zeek, itself, founded with the recognition that Jews in journalism tend to hide their Jewishness -- that there's been a need to find new ways to express Jewishness. To be Out. That word appears in Michaelson's editorial and also in Jon Stratton's Coming Out Jewish. It's a word I like to describe a dilemma of contemporary Jewihsness.

This isn't always the most important question, either, but it's one I find interesting because it points to the relationship between Jews and the Left: Would feminists respond as critically if the ethnic character of these films, which the filmmakers strive to exaggerate, weren't so thoroughly erased? Such criticisms are right, so far as they go (in that they're not the only audiences erasing Jewishness), but it sure is frustrating.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Yeah, that's antisemitism, too

From the Rabbi who asked Helen Thomas about Israel:
Isn't it amazing that the vulgar hate mail and offensive threatening words to me and my family (and the Jewish People) are of no concern to some people. The jsut want to know if I ambushed Helen an dwhy did I report on this etc..

(Btw, my internet's been sketchy the past few days, which means this probably won't be the time when my blogging suddenly becomes regular. The more you know..)

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The goals of Birthright Israel

Post at Tablet on Birthright Israel, by Adam Kirsch, reviewing Shaul Kelner's book, Tours That Bind: Diaspora, Pilgrimage, and Israeli Birthright Tourism.

An older post from Phoebe Maltz also discusses Birthright.

Both suggest, Phoebe in her particular experience, and Kirsch in reviewing an academic work on the tours, that Birthright Israel is not about indoctrinating kids into Zionism. Kirsch:
It is that the whole premise of Birthright is opposed to the classical Zionist idea that Jews, to flourish as Jews, must settle in the Jewish State. Birthright trips are round-trip, not one-way; as Kelner provocatively puts it, “since the program’s inception, it has funded the departures of almost 200,000 Jews from the Jewish state.” Really, the tours are not Zionist enterprises but “diaspora-building” ones, meant to increase Jewish consciousness among American Jews once they return to America.
And every time Birthright comes up, someone, soon enough, will refer to "Zionist brainwashing." This could be the case on some trips, but the one I went on was far more devoted to convincing wary American Jewish guys to embrace (literally, figuratively) American Jewish girls - and, in the person of IDF soldiers, to convince American Jewish girls of the potential of Jewish masculinity - than it was about anything to do with our surroundings.
I'm sure some Birthright tours are Zionist brainwashing, but probably those would be the ones where the kids (well, young adults, and perhaps the parents as well) were looking for that particular experience. Which means it's not exactly brainwashing, then.

To reduce Birthright tours to Zionist brainwashing is to be unable to relate to Jews except as "Zionists." It stems primarily from the idea that Jewish narratives of the conflict are artificial and fake. That they must be propped up by powerful (and cynical) interests.

Like most teenagers, too, Birthright tourists are also clearly more interested in sex and drinking than in politics and religion. Kelner notes that the programs are practically designed to encourage hooking up, among the participants and between Americans and Israelis—especially American women and male Israeli soldiers, during the “cross-cultural peer-to-peer encounters known in Hebrew as mifgashim.” (Female soldiers, Kelner observes, are not nearly as interested in the male tourists.) No wonder it has earned the nickname “Birthrate Israel”—which is, come to think of it, not a bad description of the program’s ultimate goal.
If my group took anything away from the trip relating to Israel in particular, it was probably that the country's drinking age is under 21. The whole thing might as well have taken place in Montreal. Israel was at best a picturesque environment, one from which we had to be shielded by a security guard and rules preventing us from wandering off on our own for ten minutes because OMG terrorism. What I'd like to see isn't indoctrination, just more discussion of Israeli history, contemporary life in Israel, and so forth, including but not limited to the conflict, and less pleading instruction on how to be a Jew in America.
In desiring more focus on Israel, including discussion of the conflict, Phoebe is being so very Zionist. I am, too, but I don't really have a problem with such tours if people like them. Then again, I never went on one.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The failures of anti-oppression activists to deal with antisemitism

Left antisemitism matters.

David talks about the failures of anti-oppression activists to apply the basics of anti-oppression theory when the oppressed are Jews.
What distinguishes the rare discussions of anti-Semitism in these forums is not that folks universally mock and deride the concept. On the Feministe thread, you will find many that don't. What is different is that folks that would in other context be seen as trolls, here are just "the other side". The lack of 101 penetration is astounding. Respect how the Jewish community describes its own experience. Don't accuse us of being psychopaths, overly sensitive, manipulative, or flat out liars. Don't group our history and experience into the narrative of others. Being a Jew who disagrees with the bulk of the community does not earn you super-standing. The "anti-Semitism card" can and is easily trumped by the "anti-Semitism card card". Calling a particular statement respecting Israel anti-Semitic does not mean one condemns all criticisms of Israel as anti-Semitic. For that matter, critiquing one's statement regarding Israel does not necessarily mean we've called you anti-Semitic at all.
And, indeed, in a space like Racialicious, I've seen plenty of comments that are truly shocking. Unlike Feministe, every single comment at Racialicious is hand-moderated, so it's much better (but it can also be more worrying). It's really amazing that a commenter here would have to write:
Also, I really [don't] recommend starting anything with, “I have nothing against the Jewish people.” Really, that can only end in tears.
It's common wisdom at Racialicious that anyone who starts a sentence with "I have nothing against..." is about to say something racist.

It seems to me Racialicious, in particular, has made some progress (though Racialicious, in particular, also started pretty ignominously, despite their sincerity), but there's certainly still work to be done in all such forums. Sometimes a comment may be allowed by moderators who know that another comment will respond. Indeed, there was a response in another comment. But then look at the links provided that sparked these comments. There's a model there for dealing with antisemitism, in which Jews are seen primarily as privileged. The occasion of Helen Thomas's bigotry against Jews was used to remind people that antisemitism isn't that important. Particularly for sites that already struggle to include Jewish issues, that's not living up to their ideals.

The anarchist Left is not the anti-racist Left, so it's no surprise to find them doing worse, but they have generally absorbed some 101 lessons and desire to be strong anti-racists. There is a common root that makes it sometimes useful to view the anti-racist Left together with other Lefts. A guest post at Contested Terrain, shows how an anarchist website published an article from a right-wing, antisemitic website, then silenced criticism of the antisemitism.

Why? According to a study by Christopher MacDonald-Dennis, who interviewed "Jewish peer facilitators in a nationally recognised social justice program at a university in the Midwest":
The participants explained that many people, especially people of color in the minds of many respondents, saw Jews as not only agents but as “super-privileged White people”.
I don't think it's exactly "people of color" who are especially guilty of this (though I think there is obviously something that they felt they had to say and didn't know how else to say). Perhaps it may be more accurate to say it's the Left. But when I say that, I am including many people of color who may not be Leftists in a broad sense.

Sometimes, conflicts between different people of color have to do with resentment of the relatively more successful group. That's often been the case with Jews and other people of color in America. It's what James Baldwin was mostly talking about in Negroes Are Anti-Semitic Because They're Anti-White. But that interacts with antisemitism, which creates an impression of Jews as far more powerful than we are, in funny ways which non-Jewish anti-racists really have to take more seriously. And, contrary to the common perception that antisemitism among POC is driven primarily is this sort of resentment, a lot of it has simply to do with the nature of antisemitism. Because Jews are seen as powerful and scapegoated when things "go wrong," people with real greivances have powerful incentives to antisemitism, while the powerful are often in a better position to see the illogic.

Much of what Baldwin wrote is just not relevant to today's debates about antisemitism centered on Israel and anti-Zionism in the way it would be if we were talking about the Crown Heights riots. It's not just that the "White people" part of the MacDonald-Dennis quote, which reduces and minimizes the experience of Jews, needs to be made more complicated. It's that "super-privileged" part, which goes far beyond that, that needs to be explicitly countered. Baldwin wrote, in part,
For one thing, the American Jew's endeavor, whatever it is, has managed to purchase a relative safety for his children, and a relative future for them.
But, of course, the violence against Israel and the sanctioning and apologizing for that violence (as well as the attacks on Israel that deny Jews the sense of safety we otherwise draw from having that bolthole) means precisely that this isn't a relevant a part of todays discussions. Jews have fears that are real. It is not being "hysterical" for Jews to express those fears when someone calls Israel a "colonial" or "apartheid" state, and anti-oppression websites need to face up to that if they ever hope to achieve their ideals.

But anti-racists, who rarely understand antisemitism any better than the general public, routinely deny and minimize that fear at the same time they claim that Jews are privileged because we don't have to be afraid. In the name of creating a safe space, they may create bizarre and arbitrary rules for what is allowed, because they only see one kind of disruption. All of which is part of the process of subsuming the struggle against antisemitism into a more general anti-racist campaign that doesn't begin to serve the interests of Jews. Which is, in turn, part of the wider process of silencing and suppressing Jewish voices in general.

In some places, I'm glad to say they've begun to do better, but there is still more to do. Moderators are still learning what it takes to make a space welcoming for Jews. And I'd say anyone who moderates discussion of racism needs to read Steve Cohen's "Funny, You Don't Look Antisemitic" and realize that the failures of the Left with regards to antisemitism are not accidental. It's the nature of antisemitism that Left antisemitism has always been a meaningful and significant part of the problem. And it's not our job to educate you.

Monday, June 14, 2010


Jeet Heer writes here about paternalistic racism.
In one sentence we get the two faces of paternalism: the smiling face that claims to have a special knowledge and affection (“I have deep love for our colored people” combined with the scowling desire to maintain power (“I know where they should be kept”).
He continues:
Smith’s two-faced take on race relations seemed very familiar to me. Don’t we see the same two-faces in the way neo-conservatives talk about Arabs? On the one hand there is the smile of condescension (we need to bring democracy to the Arabs) which quickly becomes the scowl of contempt (if they reject what is good for them, we’ll have to use the only language they understand which is force). The psychodynamics of racial paternalism deserve a deeper look from scholars.
Yes, we do see a lot of paternalistic racism directed toward Arabs. Also, a lot of paternalistic racism directed toward Jews. From people who have great love for Jews but fear that Israel will increase antisemitism. Or people who have great love for the Jews but fear that our constant "crying wolf" will keep them (somehow, I don't know how) from helping us when the time comes that we need their support. People who have great love for the Jews, so long as we are stateless, weak, and dependent on their protection.

I can't help but think of this, from George Galloway (apologies, but if you open the page, it will try to print; just hit "cancel"):
I cannot accept that the accusation of anti-semitism is part of the badinage of political debate. It’s a most serious allegation and hurling it at critics of Israel and its policies does nothing other than belittle victims of genuine anti-semitism down the decades, who are numbered in their millions.
He positions himself as the one who really has reverence for the victims of the Shoah. He said that after suing to shut down a Jewish radio station, which had dared to mock him for his support of the genocidal Hezbollah leader, Hassan Nasrallah. Not only did he say, "We are all Hezbollah, now," but also, "I am here to glorify the Lebanese resistance, Hezbollah, and to glorify the resistance leader, Hassan Nasrallah." He quite likes a bit of badinage, doesn't he, when he's the one speaking? He has a great deal of love and respect for Jews, so long as we let him do all the talking.

Paternalistic racism sure gets around.

Activism probably shouldn't be emotionally satisfying

If it is, you're probably in it for the wrong reasons.

Two points especially worth taking from this post at Meretz USA. First, the execrable blog, MondoWeiss, is "a project of The Nation Institute." Anti-Israel activists have always loved to claim they're outsiders, but in reality, they're not. Actual Palestinian voices are still unfortunately rare, but anti-Israel and antisemitic voices are as much a part of the mainstream as ever. Second, maybe first in importance, is Ralph Seliger's wonderful answer to the question, "What do you tell young people who want to feel they’re making a difference?"
It isn’t boycott, it’s more engagement that you need. The United States should be more engaged in finding a solution and we should be more engaged in reaching out to all sides.

That probably wouldn’t be very emotionally satisfying to someone who was upset about the issue. But I think it’s part of growing up to understand that the world is not here to give you emotional satisfaction, and in this issue there is both complexity and perplexity, and you need to learn as much as you can, and be receptive to all sides, and be discerning.
That's huge for anti-Israel types. They want to "do something." They say, "We have to do something. We can't just sit by." That's wrong. There are other options. There are organizations, like Seeds of Peace and OneVoice trying to bring people together. That's real peace activism. And the whole damn mess is not about somebody's feelings as an activist sitting comfortably in Europe or the US! Talk about privilege, yeesh!