Wednesday, November 9, 2011


Yes, this is serious. Yes, it is structural. When you're talking about protesting at Hillel, you're not protesting Israel. You're protesting the rights of Jews to have a Jewish life on campus. When you protest at a JCC, you're actually protesting the rights of Jews to have a Jewish life. For anyone who couldn't guess, "CC" stands for "community center." The fact that the majority of people there have politics you don't share is not enough reason. There are good reasons the majority of people at any random Jewish Community Center have the politics in question.

No, I don't see Occupy Judaism dealing with it. That's why I couldn't sign the pledge from Occupy Judaism (a Jewish movement within OWS), which read, in part: "We are committed to keeping Occupy Wall Street free of anti-Semitism and other forms of oppression. We are committed to holding accountable those who would attempt to discredit Occupy Wall Street with unfounded allegations of anti-Semitism." It's not that there haven't been plainly outrageous claims made by right-wingers about OWS -- it's that there's no room to talk about actual antisemitism. The bit about keeping OWS free of antisemitism is, in practice, mostly refusing to see it. I have supported OWS, and I'd love to embrace it more fully, but I can't until there is real space to talk about antisemitism.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Occupy Wall Street: a bleg

Not exactly a full post here, but I was at the Kol Nidre service at Occupy Wall Street and found it incredibly moving. However, I have some fears ans skepticism regarding the protests. For one, Adbusters is involved. And I'd noticed a peculiar absence of reference to the Israeli Tent City protests. According to one activist who was involved in both, the
“There is some hesitancy with proclaiming to be in solidarity with the tent protests in Tel Aviv, because there has not been a direct call from those protests to end the Israeli occupation of Palestine,” said Ari Cowan, 21, who said on September 26 that he had slept in the plaza all but two of the nine nights of the occupation.
The complaint, which is not uncommon, is one for which Eidelman has little patience.
“To look at a social movement only through the prism of the Palestinian struggle, that’s very limiting,” Eidelman said. “What do you expect, we’re going to change the whole system in two months?”
So the protesters in New York refuse to look at Israelis, even anti-Zionists, through any other lense. Can you imagine how I, a avowed Zionist, would be treated? Well, there are plans to build a sukkah at OWS. I have every intention of going to show support for the protest through a specifically Jewish lense. The protesters deserve support, but they can and need to do better. With that, I thought I'd bring copies for the OWS library of: the Forward article above, April Rosenblum's pamphlet, "The Past Didn't Go Anywhere," and Steve Cohen's "That's Funny, You don't look antisemitic." Any ideas on other materials? Maybe the Emma Goldman letter here?

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Again, on broad definitions of racism

I disagree with these two posts, but the comments on both are well worth reading.

Like Phoebe, "I do not gasp in horror when Palestinians adopt the symbolism or vocabulary of sinister, old-school, Western anti-Semitism, or if they condemn Jews and not just Israel/Israelis." At least not most of the time.. Sometimes I'm startled by just how blatant and extreme it is (which is meaningful even if, per Phoebe, we take it as an attempt to coral the prejudices of others rather than as some more essential quality of the speaker), but often I just feel sad. What usually bothers me in a more immediate way is when Western "allies" take up the same antisemitic tropes (and there are more than enough people who are far too uncritical of Palestinian claims to keep me busy if I wanted to make that my sole focus) or when Arab or Muslim leaders who have more actual power in global relations (such as Ahmadinejad) do so. And I completely agree that we need to find better ways to recognize the legitimate interests of both sides, which I think is the major point of the posts. When we call a speaker racist (as opposed to their speech), it typically means that that speaker should be banned from the discourse because their presence is unproductive. If we ban too many Palestinians or too many Jews, we wind up completely disrupting the discourse in a way that is certainly unproductive, because there's no one left to convince. A conversation between Nonie Darwish (who harbors no antisemitism whatsoever) and Richard Silverstein (who harbors no anti-Palestinian prejudices whatsoever) would be plain dumb and would not adequately represent the legitimate claims of either side. Further, since few people would be evenhanded in banning speakers on both sides, we might introduce a bias that probably ought to be called racist. Still, I disagree with Phoebe over whether it's useful to call certain behaviors by Palestinians or Jews "racist." She distinguishes very clearly between the immediate actors and outsiders, and I think that distinction is worth preserving.. but not by banishing terms like "racism." For starters, I don't think the distinction she seeks to make works. We can distinguish between actors on the basis of their role in the conflict, but why should we distinguish between the claims of different actors on that basis when the claims are identical? And while we might seek to be inclusive of a variety of perspectives and actors in our conversation, that doesn't mean that all claims are equal in that conversation. In short, I don't think it's often useful to think of racism as a matter of intent or as an exercise into soul divination.

Often, I go back to the 1929 Hebron Massacre. (Phoebe talks about the "ultimate" cause being about land, so lets go back in time.) Palestinian leaders spread a rumor that Jews were massacring Palestinians in Jerusalem. Palestinians (enough) in Hebron chose to believe that rumor because they were willing to believe almost anything about Jews, and they chose to respond by killing Jews. Ultimately, it was about preventing Jewish immigration and the possibility of Jews forming a state when Palestinians, themselves suffering under British colonialism, wished the land for their own state. The Palestinians sought to frighten Jews away and to force the hands of the British 
 (who, we shouldn't forget, had actual control over immigration but prioritized keeping the peace and keeping control). But I look at how Jews were prevented from immigrating to so many places, and I feel I must understand this (together with the sad story of the MS St. Louis, the Evian Conference, and plenty of other stories for which the whole world bear responsibility) as a part of the murder of 6 million. I can't not call that privilege. I can't not call that racism. I think I can understand how Palestinians might have thought their cause (not their methods) was just, but that doesn't mean agreeing that their cause was just. Isn't that indifference to the lives of Others, evidenced in restricting immigration, the very heart of privilege? And isn't privilege just a different perspective on racism? 

Monday, June 20, 2011

Defining Antisemitism broadly

A good piece over at Flesh is Grass (and not just because she quotes a comment of mine). (via Bob.)

It's commonplace in anti-racism that racism should be broadly defined, focused on the impact on minorities rather than the "soul" of the racist. Racism against Blacks in America cannot be reduced to slavery. It's also when people say, "I don't hate Blacks, just N*****s." Yet it's an unfortunate commonplace that antisemitism is treated differently. The EUMC definition of antisemitism is like any definition of racism that focuses on the specific tropes of racist discourse, which is to say it's limited but useful for what it is. We need elaborations of stereotypes and disingenuous arguments that have already been repeatedly addressed. That's why people keep making bingo cards, like this one. That's why definitions of racism are "working definitions."

Now treating antisemitism differently. That's racist.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011


I really like this piece at Lilith blog:
There are rules, somewhere, about how to be a Chasid on an airplane.  In that same rulebook there are most likely also a set of behavioral norms for a woman in stretch pants lying about in the back of the plane.
Palestinian protesters at a Syrian refugee camp, mourning the loss of life in the protest at the Israeli border, blamed the PFLP. Palestinian leaders responded by killing 14 of the Palestinian mourners. (From Rebecca. If "Yom ha-Naksa is her phrase, kudos.)

Ameinu posted this on Facebook. I should have checked the byline before spending so much time pondering the resurrection of that bizarre calumny about Hamas: that they were prepared to implicitly recognize Israel. (Hamas spokesmen denied the charge repeatedly, but certain left-wing journalists continued anyway to put words into their mouths.) However, this is Robert Fisk quoting Munib Masri on Khaled Meshaal. If the quote is delivered accurately, there's just a touch of interpretation to muck up:
"The only thing we didn’t get from Meshaal was that the government has to be by agreement. We told him the government has to be of natiuonal [sic] unity -- on the agreement that we would be able to carry out elections and lift the embargo on Gaza and reconstruct Gaza, that we have to abide by international law, by the UN Charter and UN resolutions. He asked for three or four days. He agreed that resistance must only be ‘in the national interest of the country’ – it would have to be ‘aqlaqi’ – ethical. There would be no more rocket attacks on civilians. In other words, no more rocket attacks from Gaza."
If I read it correctly, the end of rocket attacks is conditioned on the reconstruction of Gaza but ultimately based on the principle that the government of a Palestinian state would have to have a monopoly on violence. One thing I haven't seen discussed is that if there is a Palestinian state, with Hamas in a unity government, and Hamas launches a rocket, then that would probably be seen as an act of war rather than an act of terrorism. It would be tough to claim international law in criticizing Israel's response. If Hamas is willing to operate within the constraints of human rights law, even conditionally, and intra-Palestinian talks recognized the importance of this for the legitimacy of a Palestinian state, that's a big step forward.

I only caught a few minutes of this so far, but I'll be listening to it soon. The title of this book about Iran is clearly a reference to that famous German poem, "First they came for the Communists..." That's most likely going to be interesting (or blasphemous, but given the radio show it was on, I'm expecting interesting).

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

AsAJews in MoveOverAIPAC

Adam Holland reports that "As a Jew" protesters are "heckling" an AIPAC event. I think there are a few things worth being clear on.

Jews, even those with fairly weak Jewish identities, have every right to protest at AIPAC. In fact, it's exactly the right place for them to do so. AIPAC is a more-or-less democratic organization. Its members are Jewish organizations rather than individuals. Orthodox groups are over-represented. And it uses a flawed model of consensus which is organized around that which every member group, from the far-right ZOA to leftists like Meretz USA and Ameinu, can agree on. That consensus is then pitched in a rightward direction by the leadership, which I think is in small part because of the over-representation of Orthodox groups and (this next bit is important) in large part because that's what sells with non-Jewish, American politicians. Despite those flaws, it's still an organization that has a valid claim to represent a large portion of American Jews (and in which leftist Jews can be heard). I want Jews protesting inside AIPAC so that it better represents the American Jewish community.

However, when Jews leverage the power of the dominant, non-Jewish society rather than working inside the Jewish community, and they do so "As a Jew," then there's a problem in that it disrupts the voices of other Jews. These protests are being organized by Move Over AIPAC, which isn't a Jewish organization. That, I have a major problem with -- mainly with those gentiles who refuse to engage the whole of the Jewish community. Overall, it diminishes the power of Jews in society.

To those Jews who protest against AIPAC in good faith, I ask, "Have you tried Meretz?" (Here's their blog.) To those non-Jews protesting, my words would be less kind.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Football (soccer) chants

 It's about time people started to take this more seriously. As near as I can tell, though, there are no Jews in the video. That could have been better.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


Today we had a bris for my son. Not the big family-type event, since my Korean wife doesn't want non-family visitors for another two weeks, according to Korean custom. But her sister and a 9-year-old niece are here to help. It was really a moving ceremony, to welcome him to this world and to the Jewish people.

Saturday, January 8, 2011


Ok, so I just had a baby boy. Born Wednesday at 12:53 pm, 8 lbs, 5 oz. Don't know what this means here yet.