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.

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