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.