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: