Thursday, January 19, 2012

In a press

I pretty much agree with David here.
I've noted before that, my general affinity for J Street notwithstanding, one thing I do not like is their "mushiness" on anti-Semitism. They really seem either uninterested or incapable of taking a strong stand on the issue, and it is really alienating. I've written about the serious problems with the "dual loyalties" charge even on a conceptual level, but in a sense I'm even more concerned about Ben-Ami's demand that Jewish groups "tread lightly" in talking about anti-Semitism.
In fact, I find myself feeling increasingly alienated from the Left.

Jeremy Ben-Ami said that if Jews talk about antisemitism too much, "when they do need to use that word [antisemitism], people won’t take you seriously." So in order to be taken seriously regarding antisemitism, Jews must not talk about antisemitism. Catch-22.

I don't think many non-Jews understand how powerfully this acts on Jews or how it actually plays out. We must balance the fear of present antisemitism with the fear of more distant (but possibly worse antisemitism). We "save it up" for something really, really bad. But, of course, that strategy simply allows antisemitism to flourish until it's too late when we finally do speak out, doesn't it? In the meantime, the psychological pressure to talk/not talk really does a lot of work.

But all of us have somewhat different ideas of what's "really, really bad." Maybe some of us are more optimistic about the future, so we find it more important to fight the antisemitism right before us. Others, more anxious about the future, perhaps find it harder to speak out today. Maybe some of us laugh off strongly racialist antisemitism but find conspiracist antisemitism far scarier. There's too many complications to really try to analyze how we decide what's more important, but we can talk about the effects with more certainty. It's part of why certain conversations can get so heated so quickly.

And it's part of why non-Jews can manipulate the conversation so easily, by pitting some Jews against others. In contrast to the view some people have of antisemitism as sporadic violence, I see a system of levers that non-Jews use to colonize Jewish communities constantly, punctuated by massive violence. I find this mushiness absolutely frightening.

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