Friday, April 30, 2010

Anthony Julius interviewed by Leonard Lopate


A fairly good interview, though I think it really says something that Leonard Lopate is wrong about a few significant facts. At one point, Lopate lists a string of criticisms of Israel, to which Julius replies that none of them are true. (Without listening to it again, some are true and some aren't, but Julius can't be blamed for treating them in bulk when they were presented that way.) This isn't FOX News or even CNN. This is one of the best radio shows out there, and yet there's some stuff from the host that's simply wrong. Julius is right to note that Arabs in Israel are allowed to serve in the military -- what is different is that Arabs are not generally compelled to do so, with some exceptions from communities that asked to be compelled to serve. Portraying this choice as Israeli compassion is probably going too far, but he could have added that Israeli Arabs (as are all Israelis) are allowed to do civil service in their own communities to substitute for military service. Few Arabs, though the number was growing last I heard, elect to do so because they feel it would legitimize the state. In that way, they refuse the benefits given to those who do military service. Here, before we address the legitimacy of a policy with such an effect arising in such a way, we must notice that this question hinges on whether it is legitimate to criticize Israel (uniquely) for simply existing, since that is the reason underlying the refusal to do service.

Btw, the comments online are not so much better than would be expected elsewhere.

But there are people who bridle at any criticism of Israel just like there are people who bridle at any defense of Israel. And I've had that experience on this show both ways. I'm afraid to say that I think Avidgor Lieberman is somebody who may be engaged in something the equivalent of racism because I know I'm going to get angry mail. So I didn't say that.
Something the equivalent of racism?? Would he describe Hassan Nasrallah so tepidly? (I imagine he would, but I expect he'd only bridle at different criticism.) I wish Julius had offered a more comprehensive response than merely, "Yes." Lopate's description of Lieberman just after is really flawed. Lieberman's argued for redrawing the borders so that many Israeli Arabs (currently Israeli) would be citizens of a new Palestinain state. And he's talked about a loyalty oath for those left (and for Orthodox Jews, who aren't Zionists, as well). That's not the same as "expelling" Arabs -- at least, not in the way most commonly understood and in the way previously used in the interview to describe the expulsion of Jews from England. That expulsion of Jews from England forced people to actually leave their homes; Lieberman's policies wouldn't require anyone to move. And it's certainly nothing like Nasrallah's desire to kill all Jews worldwide. I bridle at the absurd phrase "something the equivalent of racism" to describe someone who is clearly racist, but this is hardly unique to describing Israelis. Regardless of what side he's on, or his views on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, Lopate ought to be afraid of simply getting facts wrong.

The fact that both sides are oppressed means there's not a lot of room for poetic expression. And if Lopate can't get the facts right, how are we supposed to expect anyone to.

And, blatantly, the "antisemitism of fools" should be attributed to August Bebel and not Thomas Mann.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

To Have and Have Not

Watching the film on PBS with my wife, introduced by a film scholar. Didn't know Lauren Bacall (aka Betty Joan Perske) was Jewish. Or that she hid her Jewishness in the face of Howard Hawks casual antisemitism.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Disability Studies and The Shannon Technique

I've tried to pimp Michael Bérubé's book, The Left at War. But that book is generally about The Left and politics and that kind of stuff. He actually specializes in disability studies, and this post on that is too cool to not pass along. The videos of artist Bill Shannon are awesome. And the rest of the post has a great deal going for it (though non-regular readers will have to sift through some thoughts about Bérubé's life).

With his reference to Total Recall, I thought just how completely an issue can be erased from public consciousness even as it features prominently in major blockbuster films. And the line from Goffman.

(And perhaps soon I'll update the post on tL@War I rushed before my extended absence.)

Monday, April 12, 2010

Remembrance, and the righteous among the nations

Today is Holocaust Remembrance Day. So, remember. On Passover, we're injoined to remember as if we had personally been there, and we should remember this as if it had happened to us personally.

Last night there was a documentary on PBS with a Ukranian survivor, Fanya Gottesfeld-Heller. As a teenager, she entered into a sexual relationship with a man much older than she. If it hadn't been necessary to survive --he was her protector-- it would have been remarkably creepy. Her father softly encouraged her, "Be nice to him." With her parents and brother, she hid in a ditch big enough only for 2 people, for 2 years. Without even the most basic sanitation. Without the freedom even to get out of the ditch. With barely any food. And when the Nazis left and they could get out, her father disappeared. She'll never know what happened to him, but she's sure it was her lover who murdered her father.

My grandmother, born in Kiev, left after the Revolution, but it's not hard to imagine it could have been my family. Actually, I imagine my grandmother left some family behind. Cousins or such. If they were so lucky to survive, they probably had similar stories.

Tonight, PBS airs a show, The Righteous Among the Nations, about Arabs who saved Jews. There are clips here.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

ex-neo-nazi skinhead's memoirs

Ex neo-nazi skinhead, Frank Meeink. The excerpt, here, details his socialization into white supremacism. It's notable just how he had to be socialized. There's a break between the center-right racism we see all the time and the far-right racism that's less common, and it's important to understand that break.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Liberal authoritarians and radical liberals

I'm not a liberal reformist in my temperment. In my ideology, perhaps some might see me that way. I don't argue against radical change -I'm all for it- but I do think the means matter. Anyway, Alan Johnson has a piece at Dissent's blog in which one line particularly hits me:
“Revolutionary politics” he told us, “is not a matter of opinions but of the truth on behalf of which one often is compelled to disregard the ‘opinion of the majority’ and to impose the revolutionary will against it.”
That "he" in "he told us" is Slavoj Žižek, and what hits me is the incredible inadequacy of any revolution that requires authoritarianism to quell the masses it has failed to persuade. I'm going to go ahead and call Žižek a liberal reformist for his indifference to the radical project of convincing people. He's still attached to the view that it's only what the elites do that matters, but I don't think you can ever have real, meaningful change (especially on issues such as racism) merely by switching one set of elites for another.

Johnson links to an older piece he wrote for Workers' Liberty (some punctuation corrected here, for clarity):
[Noberto] Bobbio made many other contributions to socialist thinking. A leading figure in the peace movements of the 1980s, he had criticised the post-war pro-Soviet fake "peace movements". His words of 1952 should cause some - those waving the "victory to the Resistance" placards - to think about the kind of "anti-war movement" they are building today.

"Strange peacemakers, these 'partisans of peace'. They offer themselves as mediators to establish peace between the two contenders. But they announce from the outset and without any reticence that one of the contenders is right and one is wrong."
I'm definitely gonna use that! In that piece, he calls Bobbio "part of an Italian tradition of radical liberalism." Perhaps that's what I am, a radical liberal, but I'll probably just go on using the catch-all term, Leftist.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Sunday Times on Biases at HRW

Rebecca at Mystical Politics put up a link to this at the Sunday Times (of London). There's any number of interesting bits, and it's well worth reading her post and the whole article.
In June 2006, Garlasco had alleged that an explosion on a Gaza beach that killed seven people had been caused by Israeli shelling. However, after seeing the details of an Israeli army investigation that closely examined the relevant ballistics and blast patterns, he subsequently told the Jerusalem Post that he had been wrong and that the deaths were probably caused by an unexploded munition in the sand. But this went down badly at Human Rights Watch HQ in New York, and the admission was retracted by an HRW press release the next day.
Well, I suppose that makes Marc Garlasco, their Nazi-memorabilia-collecting expert, look just a little bit better. (Supposedly, though, Garlasco had a close look at the beach, so I wonder how he came to his initial conclusions when he already knew what Israel was saying publicly. He couldn't have waited to talk with Israel?) And HRW as a whole looks a lot worse. I remember just how much press this beach incident got. And leftists pushing the story as "ethnic cleansing." I didn't know Garlasco had challenged the initial story. As they say, a lie goes round the world before the truth has a chance to put on pants.