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.

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