This is what anti-semitism looks like

I’ve noticed that, when the topic of Israel and Palestine comes up in liberal and radical circles, discussions often have a tendency to dissolve into arguments over which criticisms of Israel are valid and which are anti-semitic. It’s a tough debate, for several reasons: Many Jews are understandably paranoid about anti-semitism, and get the wrong vibes for the right reasons; Palestinians and allies are passionate about working towards basic human rights, and employ equally passionate rhetoric that sometimes feeds into anti-semitic stereotypes; and hawkish Israeli and Jewish organizations, along with anti-semitic groups, gum up the works by either calling foul on legitimate criticism or using Israel to disguise their hatred of Jews.

And we’re all paying the price for the confusion. Many Jews, including myself, are often afraid to “out” themselves in activist circles; one radical in the documentary Young, Jewish and Left talks about how she felt her entire Jewish identity had to revolve around hating Israel, while another ruminates on the fact that, when her group made a banner saying “JEWISH YOUTH FOR COMMUNITY ACTION,” no one ever wanted to hold it. Jews are assaulted at rallies and in their communities. And Palestinians find themselves unable to describe their situation without raising hackles – or even worse, are dismissed as hysterical anti-semites before they’ve even said a word.

So I thought it might be useful to start a discussion about what separates valid criticism from anti-semitism. To be clear: I’m by no means the final authority on what’s okay and not okay to say. In fact, I’ve fucked up plenty of times myself. Also, if a Palestinian living in intolerable conditions says something anti-semitic, my priority isn’t to cluck my tongue at them; it’s just when I see allies echoing anti-semitic rhetoric that I get really nervous. I’ve compiled a list of problematic statements I’ve found in various blog posts and comment threads, but I’d like readers to approach it as the beginning of a larger discourse rather than a decree.

For a more in-depth look at these issues, see The Past Didn’t Go Anywhere: Making Resistance to Antisemitism Part of All Our Movements (AKA That Pamphlet the Girl Detective Quotes in Every Other Blog Post).

Zionists are murderers; Zionism is a threat to peace in the Middle East; the Zionist agenda must be stopped.
At first glance, this seems like a completely valid argument. After all, the militant settlers expelling West Bank Palestinians from their homes are indeed Zionists, and Israel’s refusal to grant Gazans even basic human rights like food and water is only fostering resentment and violence. The problem, though, is that the term “Zionist” has been co-opted by Neo-Nazis and other anti-semitic organizations to serve as a dogwhistle for “Jew.” For example, when David Duke decided to organize a conference entitled “Zionism As the Biggest Threat to Modern Civilization,” he wasn’t all that concerned with Gazans’ wellbeing. When I hear someone casually say that Zionists are racist pigs, I really have no way of knowing if they mean Ehud Olmert – or me.

Furthermore, it’s possible to be both a Zionist – in that one believes, in the abstract, in Jews’ right to and need for autonomous territory – and a fierce advocate for Palestinian rights. When you’re criticizing Zionists, you have to be clear about which Zionists you’re talking about, and once you’ve clarified your terms, you may find that directing your criticism at militant settlers or the Kadima party is more useful anyway. Which isn’t to say that we can’t criticize Zionism as a philosophy. But criticism of Israeli policy is every bit as effective, and much less likely to feed into anti-semitic rhetoric.

Israelis are just like the Nazis!
The main reason this comparison is unproductive is that Godwin’s Law doesn’t allow for much in-depth analysis. A description of the specific crimes that the Israeli government is committing should be more than enough to constitute a call to action; anyone who’s not swayed by the facts on the ground probably isn’t worth trying to sway. And, like condemnations of “the Zionists,” comparisons of Israelis to Nazis also come directly from anti-semitic propaganda.

“Israel” is illegitimate, and doesn’t even really exist.
Lots of important work has been done on questioning the legitimacy of borders – What purpose do borders serve? Why are they enforced? Whom do they benefit? – and we need to confront the fact that Israel was established, like many other countries, largely through ethnic cleansing. In fact, ethnic cleansing is still going on in various forms. Many claim that Israeli Jews’ security would be threatened if Israelis ceased to outnumber Palestinians; however, while it’s certainly a problem that needs to be addressed, it comes as no consolation to a Palestinian refugee denied the right to return to their home.

Nevertheless, saying that Israel – along with its citizens and culture – doesn’t exist often either comes from or feeds into the idea that Jews are a people outside of history who don’t deserve a permanent home. When I see a middle-class American putting the word Israel in scare quotes, it’s very difficult to figure out if it’s because they support Palestinians’ right to the land, or because they shudder at the thought of Jews putting down roots.

Furthermore, it echoes the anti-Palestine assertion that Palestine doesn’t really exist (often supported by laughable arguments like, “It was called Judea before the Romans changed the name, so ‘Palestinians’ have no right to be there!”). The energy we spend arguing about the criteria a country must meet to be “real” could be spent combating the injustices that are occurring right now.

Jewish lobbyists have a lot of sway over the American government; the Jewish community is influencing foreign policy.

Jews are not a hive mind. As I said in a recent rant here, most American Jews vote Left, and Jewish social justice activists abound. There’s no monolithic “Jewish Community;” Jewish communities form in a wide variety of races, classes, ethnic groups, political leanings, and religious viewpoints. Judaism is a religious with four main branches and countless flavors, and Jewishness refers to a large group of loosely connected ethnicities and cultures. Organizations like AIPAC or JADL are often introduced as evidence that Jews occupy a powerful position in our government – but notice that these organizations are virtually never criticized in tandem with the many other lobbying groups present in Washington, from pharmaceuticals to church groups to car manufacturers to oil companies. The implication is always that Jewish groups have a greater influence, or a special kind of influence over American politics.

The fact is, this idea that Jews are secretly running the show is very old. Hundreds of years before the publication of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, Jews, often employed by local governments for unsavory jobs such as tax collecting, were routinely scapegoated during times of social hardship.

Of course, the assertion that Jews have “influence” is almost flattering when compared to its twisted cousin:

Israel is controlling the U.S. government; the whole reason we’re in Iraq is because of Israel.
It’s true that both Israel and Iraq are in the Middle East. However, the U.S. invaded and occupied Iraq for economic reasons, not because of some convoluted plan to strengthen Israel. When we begin to think that the most powerful nation on Earth is devoting its entire foreign policy to the whims of one other nation, then we’ve lost sight of what we’re actually fighting for.

I love Jews, but I hate Israel.
The problem with the “I love [minority]” logic should be obvious – it collapses a sprawling and diverse people into one positive stereotype, and positive stereotypes can just just as harmful as negative ones (as anyone who’s ever had to deal with “women’s intuition” or “black people’s natural rhythm” can attest). Also, what exactly does hate accomplish? How does hate legitimize your activism in a way that a desire to make lives better doesn’t? When coupled, the two assertions begin to sound like the “I love you, but…” construction – empty praise that attempts to excuse an intentionally offensive statement.

Helping Palestinians is more important than offending the Jews.
When I hear someone say this, I can’t help but wonder which Jews they mean. As I said above, Judaism and Jewishness consist of vast patchworks of distinct communities within both Israel and the Diaspora. Saying that you doesn’t care about offending anti-Palestine hawks is very different from saying that you doesn’t care about offending the protester marching beside you.

Furthermore, when you paint Jews as oversensitive and easily offended, you ignore the fact that real Jews are being targeted for real harassment and attacks. Here’s why you should care about not offending Jews: because I, a Jew, care about not offending you. Avoiding offense isn’t about walking on eggshells to make sure you’re PC; it’s about keeping your movement inclusive by recognizing that all groups are worthy of safety and respect.

And helping Palestinians and avoiding anti-semitism aren’t at odds with each other. It’s very easy to do both.

Hopefully you noticed a pattern emerging from all these statements: the broader and more vague criticism gets, the more it begins to resemble anti-semitic hate speech. So stick to the facts. The Israeli government is currently imprisoning 1.5 million people and denying them proper access to food, water, energy, and medical care. It’s building an illegal wall on other people’s homes and expanding illegal settlements at the expense of innocent civilians. It’s breaking up families by denying refugees their right of return. And it’s threatening the safety of Diaspora Jews, Israeli Jews, and Palestinians everywhere by propagating an ignorant and offensive Palestinian-equals-terrorist mindset. The more clearly we articulate the problem, the stronger our movement will become.

(Cross-posted at Modern Mitzvot)


Similar Posts (automatically generated):

131 comments for “This is what anti-semitism looks like

  1. July 9, 2008 at 3:25 am


    Jewish lobbyists have a lot of sway over the American government; the Jewish community is influencing foreign policy.

    Organizations like AIPAC or JADL are often introduced as evidence that Jews occupy a powerful position in our government – but notice that these organizations are virtually never criticized in tandem with the many other lobbying groups present in Washington, from pharmaceuticals to church groups to car manufacturers to oil companies

    Israel is controlling the U.S. government; the whole reason we’re in Iraq is because of Israel.
    It’s true that both Israel and Iraq are in the Middle East. However, the U.S. invaded and occupied Iraq for economic reasons, not because of some convoluted plan to strengthen Israel.

    It’s essentially impossible to be at all educated on the subject and not recognize that Israel is a major influence in our hawkish Middle East foreign policy. No, Israel is not the *whole* reason we are in Iraq, but it’s a substantial reason. And if we attack Iran it will be a substantial reason for that as well. Many of the Iraq War architects have strong connections to right-wing Israeli groups and have either worked directly with Bibi et al or are wacky “Christian Zionists.” It’s now taken as a given that defense of Israel is one of the fundamental tenets of our foreign policy. (Bill Richardson said exactly that during one of the debates) We openly muse about whether the US or Israel should bomb Iran, and many of our hawks don’t even distinguish between what is good for the US and good for Israel, the two are constantly conflated.

    AIPAC is one of the most influential lobbying organizations around. It is very different from pharmaceuticals and car manufactureres in that it is explictly lobbying on behalf on non-US interests. AIPAC is a lobbying group dedicated to getting the US to do what Israeli hawks want it to do for the benefit of Israel. That’s not comparable to the AARP which represents millions of American citizens. And car manufacturers and big pharma don’t heavily lobby in favor of attacking Iran – why would would group those with AIPAC is lost on me.

    Of course it’s wrong to say that it’s a “Jewish lobby” – it’s an Israel lobby. But it undeniably has strong influence on our government, which is easily observed by how often our politicians, even presidential candidates, spend time sucking up to an organization that doesn’t represent voters. It’s a lobbying group – the whole point is to influence government.

    I understand what you are trying to do here and you make some good points – yes often times “Jews” are used in place of “Israel” and the criticisms become charicaturish familiar screeds about hook-nosed bankers running the Illuminati. But at the same time accusations of anti-semetism are essentially meaningless these days – it’s nearly impossible to write negatively about Israel and not immediately be accused of hating Jews. It’s become almost a joke, to the point where if you aren’t accused of anti-semetism you’re doing something wrong.

    Some of what you hear makes you uncomfortable and it should, but I really wish you could find a better way to phrase it than talking about “what’s okay and not okay to say.” That’s Ari Fleischer speak.

    And your specific examples don’t hold up. Considering Israel illegitimate is not anti-semetic. Neither is comparing Israel to the Nazis. (Although that is quite moronic)

    Furthermore, when you paint Jews as oversensitive and easily offended…

    Again it’s nearly impossible to write anything critical of Israel and not be branded a Jew-hater. If you doubt that go read the letters for any article on Salon about Israel that is even remotely critical.

    This post really rubs me the wrong way. There is something valuable in reminding people that vague generalizations aout ethinicity and religion are not appropriate in policy discussions, but a list of what people can’t say reads like self-parody, trying to so narrowly define how people are allowed to talk about a certain subject.

  2. oogabooga
    July 9, 2008 at 3:57 am

    Let’s put it this way – criticism of specific deeds and ideas can’t be anti-semitic, because the deeds and ideas aren’t inherently Jewish. Stereotyping people who share one specific characteristic and attacking them for that characteristic is discriminatory. Same goes for every group of people.

    By the way – “I love Jews, but I hate Israel” is probably one of the nastiest statements ever. It’s the “Love the sinner, hate the sin” type of an idea, which only results in hating the sinner more than the sin itself.

    In figuring out whether a statement is discriminatory or not I help myself by changing certain words with something else. Try switching “Jew”, “Jewish”, “Israel” etc. with “black”, “Polish”, “women”, “gay” or something similar and look at the statement in that way, when they’re not hitting that close to home any more.

    As far as I’m concerned, the Israeli politics in many aspects leaves something to be desired. It’s flawed, it promotes discrimination and hatred (even of the Israelis) and is a cause of much grief in the area. But, as we all very well know, the politicians unfortunately often don’t represent the vast majority of people in their country. So it’s the politics (and, specifically, politicians) that needs to be criticised, not the people. Anyway, attacking people is the stupidest fallacy in any argument – use and ad hominem and you’ve lost before you’ve even started.

  3. Medea
    July 9, 2008 at 5:47 am

    “Zionist Hollywood” is another terrible phrase.

  4. orlando
    July 9, 2008 at 8:14 am

    I think you’re absolutely right that the broader the statement the more problematic, but do you have thoughts about how the activist can tackle this in a world where, frequently, all that is reported are soundbites?

  5. Rebecca
    July 9, 2008 at 9:36 am

    Margalis, I’d like to clear up a few points:

    1. “Christian Zionists,” correct me if I’m wrong, do not support Israel because they believe Jews should have a country or because they think it’s a legitimate state, but because it feeds into their view of the apocalypse. The sooner there’s a crisis in the Middle East, the sooner the Rapture can come and the sooner they can go to heaven and what. (For the record, some wacko ultra-religious Jews are anti-Zionist because they think that Jews shouldn’t be in the Holy Land until the Messiah brings them there.)
    2. I’d disagree that AIPAC somehow represents voters “less” than the tobacco lobby or the oil lobby. It represents many voters who support Israel, whereas the tobacco and oil lobbies arguably represent only their business interests.
    3. Part of the problem in arguing that Israel is illegitimate because Palestinians were displaced is that such criticism is not distributed equally. Those same people do not use scare quotes when talking about the United States or Australia.

    I do agree, however, that it’s a problem that criticism of Israel is automatically assumed to be anti-Semitic; it makes people lose focus both on what is actually anti-Semitic and on what is valid criticism of Israel’s policy.

    I also think it is a problem (one with which I have personal experience) that for many Jews and others, support of Israel is so closely linked with anti-Arab and anti-Muslim racism. The reasonable argument for Israel’s existence is not that Jews are somehow “better.”

  6. Thomas
    July 9, 2008 at 10:11 am

    Part of the problem in arguing that Israel is illegitimate because Palestinians were displaced is that such criticism is not distributed equally. Those same people do not use scare quotes when talking about the United States or Australia.

    Thank you. There are not too many nations that have not either displaced, slaughtered or subjugated the previous occupants of the land they are on. Yet the broad critiques of ethnonationalism, nation states or even the concept of state seem to get a much more vigorous workout when discussing Israel than when discussing … well, anything else. Colonial expansionist states like the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand at least come in for some criticism in that regard. But unless you’re a fucking Basque (who have been on that spot for so long nobody knows what their language is related to), if you’re white, you’re standing on stolen land.

    GD, one thing you didn’t mention that I have run into is the overidentification of some American Jews with the Israeli state, as distinct from the Jewish people or from the idea of an Israeli nation. I was talking with a friend, an American-born Jew in his late sixties, about the most recent war, and he said, “if I thought Israel was deliberately killing civilians for no other reason than to terrorize Arabs, I’d convert.” Leaving aside the factual claim, I called him on the identification right away: did he really think that his Judaism was contingent on believing in the legitimacy of the present Israeli state? And he did. I was shocked.

  7. DAS
    July 9, 2008 at 10:13 am

    Of course it’s wrong to say that it’s a “Jewish lobby” – it’s an Israel lobby. – Margalis

    And even that is wrong to say — it is a lobby for a specific point of view that might not even, in the long run, really be in the best interests of Israel.

    Part of the problem in arguing that Israel is illegitimate because Palestinians were displaced is that such criticism is not distributed equally. – Rebecca

    So important of a point that I had to quote it to repeat it!

    [we didn’t invade Iraq] because of some convoluted plan to strengthen Israel.

    I’m not sure all the blame for the misconception you address can be placed on anti-Zionists. In the run up to the war I can’t tell you how many times the young, neo-con wannabes I knew through Hillel felt that all of us Jews should support the war in Iraq even if we didn’t think it would be good for the US because it would be good for Israel. People who piss in the wind should stop complaining that it’s raining, in my opinion.

  8. July 9, 2008 at 10:14 am

    I should point out that in your desire to be “fair and balanced” you column comes off more like Faux News than intellectually rigorous arguments.

    First, you’ve followed the conflation a broadly diverse people and a State. The State of Israel, Godwin or not, does share many characteristics of Right-Wing Authoritarian states. But for the death-camps, 1939 Germany and Israel are, frankly, peas in a pod. Different peas, same pod. This doesn’t mean the people of Israel are like that. In fact, having actual Israeli friends, I get an impression that their government, like ours, is operated by ideologues in the press and government who prey on fear, racism and insecurities to keep the populace in line. A classic fascist modus operandi and in which we, as Americans, actually share. That is, a government that does not, in fact, represent the will of it’s people.

    As to your specific points:

    Zionism. Sorry, you’re using a niave and deliberately lame version of Zionism. From the onset, the Jewish Israeli hard-liners that were “normalized” out of their terrorist roots with the creation of the State have not respected, or followed, your niave version. The hard-liners, with Zionism, have their functional equivalent of OUR MANIFIEST DESTINY that caused us to destroy or ghettoize (reservations) the Indians (Palestinians). As David Ben Gurion, the first Prime Minister of Israel said:

    “In my heart, there was joy mixed with sadness: joy that the nations at last acknowledged that we are a nation with a state, and SADNESS that we LOST half of the country, Judea and Samaria, and, in addition, that we [would] have [in our state] 400,000 Arabs.”

    One of the newly formed State’s first programs was a pogrom against the Palestinians. As the UK leaves the region, Israel ethnically cleanses large areas of its allocated territory forcing over 1,000,000 Palestinians into refugee camps in Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. 500 Palestinian villages are depopulated and destroyed. The Israelis attack parts of the territory allocated to Palestine and clear West Jerusalem of its Arab residents. In the end, 68% of the indigenous people of Palestine have been expelled and Israel ends up with 78% of the territory after having been allocated less than 57%.

    A few days before a peace proposal is to be debated by the United Nations, the UN mediator, Count Folke Bernadotte, is assassinated by Jewish terrorists (the Stern Gang). The group that gave the order included Yitzhak Shamir (a later Israeli minister).

    And, of course, you have the atrocities committed by the Israelis against the Palestinians. One of the most notorious incidents occurs in the small Arab village of Deir Yassin, near Jerusalem, on 9-10 April 1948. The massacre is carried out by the Irgun and is designed to spread terror and panic among the Arab population of Palestine to frighten the people into fleeing their homes. The vacated land could then be confiscated for the use of Jewish colonialist settlers.

    254 people are killed. The dead include 25 pregnant women, 52 children (who are decapitated) and babies. Many bodies are mutilated, some before death. 150 women and girls who survive are stripped and placed in open cars. They are driven naked through the streets of the Jewish section of Jerusalem, where onlookers cheer. In the following days, Israeli forces use loudspeakers to warn Arabs to leave their villages or suffer the fate of Deir Yassin.

    Menachem Begin (leader of Irgun and later Prime Minister of Israel) describes what happened:

    “the Arabs fought tenaciously in defense of their homes, their women and their children.” … “The massacre was not only justified, but there would not have been a state without the victory of Deir Yassin.”

    I doubt you knew that. In that not only did it happen, but it was ISRAEL that made it happen. I didn’t know that until the mid-1980’s when I really got into the history of Israel, not the crap we get in the media, but the full history. When I saw most of the conflict was provoked through harassment and intolerance, or even directly started, by Isreal, I knew I was supporting a morally bankrupt State. Thus, I withdrew my financial support and have never stood up for Israel since. Just as I would not stand up for apartheid South Africa, which practiced the same policies and Israel and was, frankly, denounced by America for their bigotry and inhuman treatment of their ethnic (non-white) groups.

    Anyway, your watered-down version of Zionism is, bluntly, bullshit. It is as bad as any genocidal colonial empire/state could ever dream. Atrocities. Unjustified warfare. Naked land grabs. The murder of women, children, infants and an apartheid, fascist state along the lines South Africa and pre-Death-Camp Nazi Germany.

    So, really, before you piddle with Zionism, get a full and deep history of the middle east. There are two sides to this tragedy. We know what Israel has suffered. We see it all the time. But rare is the American who knows what the Palestinians have suffered. Or has even a slight clue to the full story.

    Frankly, the mid-East is a brutal cluster-fuck of bad intentions and one-sided reporting coupled with your high-horse and naivety. And while I’d love to rip the rest of your hopeless post, I don’t have time for the rest. Kid to the doctors this morning. But, really, your post is hopelessly niave and one-sided.

  9. shah8
    July 9, 2008 at 10:14 am

    1) There are many very nasty pro israeli trolls out there in the intertubes. It’s hard to have a discussion like this without importing the likes of SLC from Matt Y’s blog. Speaking of Yglesias, why does he have such repellent trolls anyways?

    2) Israel functions as a Rhodesian project. Always has, always will. Therefore, it will crumble as soon as the impetus and resources behind neocolonialist extraction diminishes. It has never been a very self-sufficient country.

    3) The jewish experience in trying for a better Israel or at least an Israel less racist towards Palestinians parallels that of many places, including the US. Those trolls that you see out there harranguing tolerant talk serves a role. They prevent any kind of normalizing, rational dialogue such that most people hear the extremist dialogues.

    4) I think the blog writer is severely overestimating the sympathy that she might get from the educated here. The post sounds just a tad too much like entitled, but superficially liberal whites of the era when they talk about slavery, or Jim Crow and all that. A “lets be FAIR here”, with the normative being the current unfair situation, but with acknoledgment that its bad, and we can fix things around the fringes.

  10. July 9, 2008 at 10:19 am

    No, the reasonable argument for Israel’s existence is not that Jews are somehow better. But that’s not an argument I’ve seen anywhere except as a strawman.

    I disagree that it’s terribly difficult to criticize Israel without being called an antisemite, even. I’ve seen too many people say that when they’re accusing Jews of controlling America to take it seriously. That sort of antisemitic conspiracism isn’t “criticizing Israel.”

    Your comment, Margalis, really rubs me the wrong way.

  11. Joe
    July 9, 2008 at 10:22 am

    Rebecca hits on a key point:

    Part of the problem in arguing that Israel is illegitimate because Palestinians were displaced is that such criticism is not distributed equally. Those same people do not use scare quotes when talking about the United States or Australia.

    When you single out Israel for something that nearly every country in the world is equally guilty of, it smacks of antisemitism.

  12. Kathygnome
    July 9, 2008 at 10:23 am

    I guess I see this mostly as a straw man argument.

    Most people who are critical of Israel don’t call Israel “the Zionist state” or say that it’s “like the nazis” instead they talk about Israel as a state that is inherently racial and racist in nature and that systematically oppresses the Palestinians. Most people don’t say that Israel as a concept is illegitimate, they say that Israel’s current borders by virtue of conquest in war are not legitimate.

    And if one doesn’t think that the Israeli lobby has huge and critical influence over our middle east policy, one simply aren’t paying attention. And a lobby for the interests of a foreign power is inherently different from the AARP or another lobby that is concerned with domestic interests.

  13. Josh Spinks
    July 9, 2008 at 10:29 am

    I think that Israel and Palestine often, during an argument, become implicitly emblematic of entire political ideologies. So, if the Palestinians aren’t more oppressed than the Jews, then left-wing politicss are somehow not as valid as right-wing politics.

  14. DAS
    July 9, 2008 at 10:31 am

    Can I add another beef I have? Some people on the left refuse to see Zionism except through the lens of colonialism. While Zionism does certainly have colonialist roots and branches, Zionists do not necessarily see themselves as colonialists and the fundamental ideology of Zionism is about something other than colonialism.

    One of the most attractive features of left-leaning analyses is how the left is so good at understanding the effects of privilege and otherness. For example, if I were to say (in the context of talking about an American), “this person”, the image many would have is of a white, Christian, middle-class male. Anything else would be an “other”. Zionism is ideology that we Jews should have a state of our own that way we are not “other”.

    At some level, while perhaps misguided, this is very much a matter of taking a very liberal analysis of “the Jewish problem” and, rather than cursing the darkness, lighting a candle — if we are “rootless” and always “others”, well then, why not have a state of our own?

    Of course, from a Jewish point of view (c.f. Rebecca’s comment about the ultra-Orthodox, but in the past, at the other “extreme” Reform Jews felt this way as well, albeit using a different terminology and much more “liberal” and “modern” world view) we Jews are an “am ha-kodesh” (a separate people) not just another “goy” (nation) — that we Jews are always among the “other” is not a bug, but a feature of our mission as Jews — which mission lasts until the days of the Messiah (and anyway, remember, the Messiah, the annointed one, is a political leader: until we have that kind of leadership, how could a Jewish state survive in the Levant, which has always been a contentious region?). And heck, ain’t cursing the darkness a lot more fun than actually going to the bother of lighting a candle?

    But there is indeed a blindspot amongst many liberals. That many liberals — and our political beliefs are all about empathy — somehow lack empathy for Jews (deemed automatically as privileged in spite of our history and our continued otherness even in a society that is very, very good for us) does indeed tend to make us Jews wonder about what the difference is and whether it is anti-Semitic. Even some of us Jews who are not Zionists per se sometimes wonder about this lack of empathy toward certain positions that many Jews hold.

  15. FreddyBak
    July 9, 2008 at 10:37 am

    Girl Detective,

    Oy. On the one had, I applaud your efforts to bring this up. But quite frankly this is really just a tiny and timid start to the argument. The amount of anti-Semitism on the left is astounding. And if it were any other form of bigotry that we were discussing, this blog post would be much more defiant and much less apologetic sounding. Characterizing a statement that Israel is just like the Nazis as “unproductive” or that Zionists (which, if you look at polls are the vast majority of Jews around the world) being murderers as being a “completely valid argument” “at first glance” actually got my tear ducts working. It takes me back to a time when there was a Jewish Ghetto mentality that resulted in being taken advantage of and culminated in the Holocaust. The formation of Israel has changed all of that, but apparantly not if you want to be liked by your radical friends. I suggest telling your radical friends to go read a book instead of explaining to them what is obvious from after some cursory reading of valid sources about Nazis or Zionism. Otherwise, you are lending credibility to their anti-Semitic ignoarnce. These aren’t the type of people you want to have around. Nothing personal beacause I sort of see what you are trying to do here, but the tone of this post is pretty depressing.

    -Leo

  16. FreddyBak
    July 9, 2008 at 10:41 am

    Quickly, I read this post as saying to anti-Semites”I could see why you would hate Jews and think we are the cause of all of the Earth’s problems. But we are not ALL bad. Please don’t hate us.” I realize that is probably not what you mean to say. I would simply say “fuck you” and not engage anti-Semites or those ignorant enough to believe things like Israel = Nazi or Zionist = murder.

  17. DAS
    July 9, 2008 at 10:45 am

    a state that is inherently racial and racist in nature and that systematically oppresses the Palestinians. Most people don’t say that Israel as a concept is illegitimate, they say that Israel’s current borders by virtue of conquest in war are not legitimate. – kathygnome

    Except that Israel obtained those borders by virtue of conquest in a war in which it was attacked — and generally, in history, when you win a war you didn’t even start, you get to keep the territory. And many states are racial in nature.

    While the systematic oppression of the Palestinians is wrong, at some level the Palestinians are oppressed because they were forced into refugee camps, etc., by Arab states, during a period when massive population transfers were the norm and necessary, e.g., to create the very state of Israel. If a Palestinian state were created then, how different would things be? Or even if Palestinians were absorbed into Arab nations even as well as Israel absorbed the Mizrachi Jews (the treatment of whom by Israel was still problematic), how different would things be?

    Israel has not done right by its handling of the occupied territories, its treatment of Palestinians etc. But to say that Israel can and ought to exist means that it does have to do certain things that we might not like just to enforce its borders and maintain its society.

    Is Israel racialist for wanting to maintain such a society? Perhaps (and it can be faulted that the Zionists use the same definition of Judaism as the Nazis did … which to me is indicative of something wrong with Zionism as an ideology — but this is not the Zionists=Nazis comparison you usually hear). But how is what the Israelis want any different than what anyone else wants — to live in a place where you have the “default identity” and are not “the other”?

    Why should other peoples have this privilege and not us Jews? There are good religious reasons for this (and there are also some very frightening religious reasons for this — pace my Jewish friends who think we can ignore the theological agenda of certain right wing Christians because Israel “needs all the friends it can get” — didn’t your mother tell you to be careful about whom you befriend? — Christian anti-semitism is still alas alive and well), but when people who’s mindset is not religious start claiming this, we Jews start to wonder what that reason is?

  18. arielariel
    July 9, 2008 at 10:52 am

    I agree with many of the critiques above; props especially to Moses and Margalis.

    One thing that hasn’t been raised: the way in which we are encouraged to elide anti-Israel critique and anti-Jewish sentiment. Even in this post — about anti-Jewish sentiment! — most of the big points are intimately connected to Israel. Anti-semitism is a huge issue and one that needs addressing in ways that have NOTHING TO DO with Israel. Why does Israel, once again, dominate the discussion about what it is to be Jewish? Why is it assumed that a discussion about anti-Semitism actually needs to talk primarily about the ways in which people dialogue around Israel?

    I don’t think comparing the Israelis to the Nazis is anti-Semitic. It might be anti-Israeli but I refuse to accept that these two things are identical. The fact that that probably marks me as some sort of logic-free yahoo in the common culture is part of the larger problem; as long as Israel is equated with all Jews everywhere, it will be impossible to critique it without posts like this circulating and instruction guides on how to couch these critiques in softer, gentler terms so as to not offend a people that are, despite a long history of oppression and terror, acting a lot like, well, Nazis.

  19. DAS
    July 9, 2008 at 10:52 am

    if you’re white, you’re standing on stolen land. – Thomas

    You are likely to be doing so even if you are not white. Even the Palestinian Arabs are not native to Israel/Palestine. There were Jews/Hebrews there before them and before the Jews various Phonoecian groups.

    Of course, part of being a Progressive is that we realize that just because everyone did bad things in the past doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to raise standards in the here and now. But we Progressives do need to realize that what’s done is done and to say that one country is wrong to exist for doing such things when, at the same time, other countries did the same thing and benefit from those actions to this very day (e.g. the peace made in Europe by kicking out Germanic minorities from Eastern and Central Europe and all but completely assimilating them in Western Europe outside of the “official” Germanic nations) is rank hypocrisy.

  20. Rebecca
    July 9, 2008 at 10:56 am

    Matt: I, too, have never seen the argument made directly that Israel should exist because Jews are better. However, that is an undercurrent through not a little pro-Israel and anti-Arab/Muslim thought.

    shah8: there are also a great many nasty anti-Israel trolls.

  21. exholt
    July 9, 2008 at 11:00 am

    I’ve noticed that, when the topic of Israel and Palestine comes up in liberal and radical circles, discussions often have a tendency to dissolve into arguments over which criticisms of Israel are valid and which are anti-semitic.

    Several friends of mine who studied Near East/Middle East Studies as undergrad/grad students have also noticed how bitterly rancorous along similar lines.

    One Orthodox Jewish high school classmate in a topflight PhD program in this field got so fed up with Pro-Israeli and Pro-Palestinian professors constantly insisting their views are the definitively correct ones and browbeating him and his classmates in classes and at conferences that he ended up dropping out of the program altogether. From what he and his friend studying in another department told me….instead of learning the scholarship, methodology, and research skills he will need to contribute new scholarship to the field, he ended up getting the browbeating sit-down shut-up type indoctrination one expects from political indoctrination camps set up by totalitarian regimes.

  22. Rebecca
    July 9, 2008 at 11:06 am

    Moses: Are you kind of missing the point or what? This post is not about Israeli atrocities, of which there have been many. It’s about where criticism of Israel as a state crosses the line into hatred for Jews. No one is disputing that Israel commits atrocities, but that does not diminish the problem of anti-Semitism in criticism of Israel, and it looks like you are trying to derail the post.

  23. July 9, 2008 at 11:22 am

    Rebecca, I’ve never seen the argument made indirectly that Jews deserve a state because we’re better. I can point to plenty of anti-Arab racism, but not that kind of chauvanism. Even if there were, there is an argument for the creation of Israel that you elided by picking on supposed Jewish chauvanism.

  24. Emily
    July 9, 2008 at 11:25 am

    I think that part of the reason this is so difficult, for lefty jews at least, is the balance between privilege and lack of privilege. I think that we, as jews, are aware of ourselves as a vulnerable minority, and therefore are (reasonably) sensitive to attacks on our “group.”

    But with respect to the issue of Israeli/Palestinian relations, jews are in a position of privilege – no question. And one thing that we generally expect in discourse with a person in a position of privilege is that they not take general attacks personally. I think it’s on the Feminism 101 and Privilege 101 blogs – if it’s not about you, it’s not about you, don’t get all offended about it.

    I think it is at least in part this tension that makes dialogue on this issue difficult. Discussion and dialogue ALWAYS involves some negative generalizations about the privileged group, with the understanding that it is not necessarily true of all members of the group. Jewish identity is especially tricky in this regard because it is totally inconsistent whether it is a marker of privilege or a marker of oppression. In the context of Israel/Palestine, it’s a marker of privilege, but in pretty much every other situation one can be in, it’s a vulnerability to oppression. This makes it that much harder to overlook generalizations made by Palestinian identified people, because they are interwoven into a context in which being jewish is a source of oppression, not privilege.

    Anyway, I don’t know if I’m making any sense; maybe someone out there can say it better?

  25. Rebecca
    July 9, 2008 at 11:34 am

    Matt, I’m speaking from personal experience. Also, the oft-repeated argument that “Jews made the desert bloom and have all this technology,” which is true and admirable but not justification as such for a state, and which is implicitly contrasted with uneducated, do-nothing Arabs.

    Elided an argument for the creation of Israel, how so?

  26. FreddyBak
    July 9, 2008 at 11:35 am

    arielariel,

    Israel cannot be separated from a discussion about Jews, Judaism or what it is to be Jewish. Israel is an aboslutley fundamental part of all 3, at least to huge number (probably a majority) of Jews. Can you talk about the French without discussing France?

  27. DAS
    July 9, 2008 at 11:36 am

    I’ve never seen the argument made indirectly that Jews deserve a state because we’re better. – Matt

    The indirect argument is that, in the case where nationhood is a zero sum game (there can’t be both an Israeli and Palestinian state on the same territory, and it’ll be hard to set up boundaries allowing for two states with enforceable borders — at the very least, there would end up being a split amongst the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza akin to that between Pakistan and Bangladesh), it is Israel that should get to exist as a Jewish state and not Palestine because Israel is more deserving of existing. To many that would seem an argument that “Jews are better”.

  28. July 9, 2008 at 11:37 am

    arielariel, comparing Israelis to Nazis is only not anti-Semitic if there’s an understanding that the term “Israeli” doesn’t refer only to Jews and that you must also mean, for example, Armenians and Christian Arabs.

    Of course, you couldn’t possibly expect me to believe that anyone has ever used that term in exactly the way I described, so frankly it doesn’t hold any water with me.

  29. DAS
    July 9, 2008 at 11:44 am

    Can you talk about the French without discussing France? – FreddyBak

    That presupposes a definition of Judaism that I don’t think most Jews would actually accept in any other context outside of discussions of Israel (and historically this definition of Judaism is foreign to Judaism — although the Nazis used it). Remember Judaism distinguishes “Am Yisrael” as not “Goy Yisrael”. The French are a nation whose state is France. Israel is an “am” and, historically within Judaism the idea that we should be just a mere “goy” would have been abhorrent (and it was so until Medinat Yisrael actually existed amongst the Reform for whom the comparison would not be “can you talk about the French without discussing France?” but rather “can you talk about the Anglican Communion without discussing England?”; and it still is so amongst some the Aish Ha-Haredi and the Naturei Karta).

    I am continuously puzzled how Zionism has become, in certain circles, the sine qua non of a religious Jewish identity (rather than the antithesis) as well as how, in certain circles, a refusal to even see Zionism as other than a colonialist project (which refusal we even see in this discussion thread, which kinda makes Girl Detective’s point, doesn’t it?) is the sine qua non of left-leaning thought. I understand how empathy toward the Palestinian cause would be … but how is it that anti-Zionism is the sine qua non of left-leaning thought (according to some)?

  30. Rebecca
    July 9, 2008 at 11:45 am

    Whoa there, FreddyBak. Yes it can. Judaism = religion. Jews = people of a certain religion(/race). Israel = country. Israeli = nationality. Israel is important to Jews, but it’s not the be-all, end-all in discussions of Judaism. Nowhere near.

  31. July 9, 2008 at 11:49 am

    I hate, HATE, HATE the Israeli government, but I don’t hate Israelis.

    Just like that I’m very anti-USA government, but I don’t hate Americans.

    Does that make any sense?

    Why do people always slump Israel with Jews? It’s stupid. It’s like slumping India with Hindus just because it’s a Hindu dominated nation (and I’m Indian Muslim).

  32. FreddyBak
    July 9, 2008 at 11:54 am

    Rebecca, I didn’t say end all be all, just fundamental. With respect to religion, just see how many times Torah and other literature refers to Jerusalem and abou the Jewish people returning. Also, with respect to nationality/race thats a much more complex discussion than the way you present it. I will simply say that Jew = nationality also. Obviously, in a very different way than Israeli = nationality. To secular anti-semites, Jew also = race (See the Nazis). Although, of couse, it depends how you define race. There are black african jews, blonde jews, east asian, south asian jews, middle eastern jews, etc.

    But more to the point, you simply cannot discuss Jewishness in any comprehensive way without discussing Israel. MAYBE you could discuss Judaism from a strictly technical religious point of view (you are not allowed to do X, or you must do Y), but anything broader than that requires a reference to Israel.

  33. WestEndGirl
    July 9, 2008 at 12:01 pm

    Some of the posters responses to this post have actually made me feel quite ill with their dismissal of Rebecca’s perspective.

    I *know* that some criticism of Israel is anti-Semitic. I know this because when someone’s face literally contorts with hatred as they spit and rant in my face their vitriol against the Israeli state (apartheid, fascist, baby-killers, thieves etc) when they find out I’m Jewish, it’s quite clear that this is not a cool, calm piece of thought out political or social thinking! If I feel threatened or intimidated in pro-Palestinian activist space just for being Jewish, then something is clearly wrong.

    Just to be clear. I’ve heard a lot of strong criticism of the Israeli state that I totally agree with. And, even if I don’t, if it’s couched in level-headed terms and based on a desire to achieve a just settlement to this horrific issue, I respect it and know it for what it is. I know the difference. Criticism of Israel as a Jewish state is not in itself anti-Semitic, but some criticism of Israel as Jewish state by its nature and scope is.

    Rebecca has given some useful examples of this, but for a very good background on this issue I recommend http://www.engageonline.org.uk/home/ and http://www.z-word.com/

    Frankly, the attempts by some people here to dismiss Rebecca’s experience (and mine and Matt’s too evidently) and effectively say that we are not allowed to feel threatened and even scared by some of the language and behaviour on the Left against Israel and the Jews is just unacceptable.

    What other group would be requested to simply supposed to shrug off comments about being ‘innately genocidal people’ or ‘baby killers’ (which I’ve heard in so-called polite society in direct reference and conflation with Jews and NOT Israelis) with, oh, well, the Israelis are very nasty and so we obviously deserve this kind of characterisation?!?!

    The poster Moses summarises quite perfectly this slip between justifiably criticising Israeli government behaviour and anti-Semitism.

    Apparently we are supposed to take Moses’ one-sided version of the 1948 War as read. We are supposed to just accept this narrative, but ignore the other – Hebron, Jaffa and Hadassah Massacres etc etc.

    We are supposed to believe that the very worst possible stream of Zionism (Irgun/Stern gang) is the actual correct one and Rebecca is flat out wrong. I’m sure in Moses’ world, however, we should be believing the opposite and ignore the worst stream of pan-Arabism and Palestinian Nationalism as propounded by key Palestinian leader Mohammad Amin al-Husseini who proposed this draft declaration for German-Arab cooperation in 1940/1:

    “Germany and Italy recognize the right of the Arab countries to solve the question of the Jewish elements, which exist in Palestine and in the other Arab countries, as required by the national and ethnic (völkisch) interests of the Arabs, and as the Jewish question was solved in Germany and Italy”

    Yup, riiiight, Moses is taking a really even-handed view in their post when they assume the worst about one side in the conflict (the Israelis) and assumes the best about the other (Palestinians/Arabs)…..

    You know, I didn’t even want to get into the historical atrocity game about who did what and to whom first. It’s pointless and will not solve the problem of two people’s wanting to live in peace, security and with self-determination.

    But…and isn’t it always a huge but…when people like Moses and others can’t even ADMIT that SOME criticism of Israel is either intentionally anti-Semitic or uses anti-Semitic language and evocation – and which actually leads to physical attacks on Jews – and even calls this view “high-horse and naivety”, then it really makes you wonder about the motivation of the writer.

    It also makes you wonder if they also spit and snarl out similar kind of hysteric phrases towards every day Sudanese or Chinese people they come across. You see if they don’t, and only do this to Jews and Israelis…it really does suggest that there is something else going on with them.

  34. shah8
    July 9, 2008 at 12:05 pm

    I view anti-semitism and anti-zionism as seperate issues, period. I do not think that Israel contributes to the cause of anti-semitism, nor is it actually a refuge of last resort. I find the attempt at viewing anti-semitism threw the lens of israeli issues as akin to begging the question.

    General meta point: Just because jewish people are copying white patterns doesn’t make it okay. People making that argument are more or less agreeing that evil behavior is okay, if it’s socially acceptable among the top dogs.

    *Rebecca*, if there are so many nasty anti-israel trolls around, can you suggest one who is as well known as SLC?

    *DAS*, your argument about the means of israeli expansion contains many inaccuracies. Moreover, the general apartheid-type character of israeli political society isn’t really addressed. Different laws, different roads, the whole Jim Crow’s Seperate But Equal kaboodle. Why do you think they were in cahoots with South Africa for so long?

    Of course, most everyone is from everywhere else. But people generally move as a tribe and take the land with their own two fists, sometimes with some imperial assistence. Just because this is true, does not deny the fact that Israel’s formation was similar to South Africa, Rhodesia, and it does not deny the fact that state formation along these lines was recognized to be illicit at the time. It does not also deny the fact that the Sykes-Picot treaty was rather spectacularly unfair and secret to boot–with Arabs losing out. Moreover, Israel politicians as rule practiced a great deal of terrorism, as much against jewish people as otherwise. Check out what happened to Iraqi jews.

    Look, in the final estimate, I do expect to see Israel destroyed before my own return to ashes, with little or no impact to jewish people living in the rest of the world. It’s mostly a simple matter of the state being unsustainable without foreign support. It’s not like the spread of Albanians to nearby countries. Nor is it actually comparable to the US or Australesia, it’s a lot more close to the example of the Magyar invasion of Hungary, but not quite. Put simply, Israel is mostly like South Africa, or the Nicaragua of this guy:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Walker_(soldier).

    I don’t have to hate Israel to see it for what it is, and yes, I’m reasonably familiar with Israeli history. If you wanna talk 1967 or 1973, or even 1954, I’m game.

  35. Thomas
    July 9, 2008 at 12:18 pm

    Rebecca, as you can see above I agree that Judaism and the present Israeli state should not be conflated, but are you going so far as to say that Jews who leave the religion are not Jews? I sure wouldn’t. But then, I’m not a Jew and I have no dog in that fight.

  36. July 9, 2008 at 12:29 pm

    Rebecca, the argument over making the dessert bloom comes from an early Zionist hope that the Jews migrating to Palestine would be mutually beneficial to everyone. It did come from a typical European chauvanism (though it is true that the Jews brought technology with them), but it wasn’t an argument for the creation of Israel. Rather, it was an argument against xenophobia by the Levant’s inhabitants (akin to the argument that immigration helps America today). The elided argument, which I see often from Zionists and rarely addressed by others is that Jews needed a homeland because they had none. Unless I missed it, it isn’t mentioned anywhere in this conversation.

  37. Rebecca
    July 9, 2008 at 12:31 pm

    …No, that wasn’t what I was saying at all. Of course there are different opinions on what constitutes Jewishness (practice, belief, ancestry, mother’s religion) but the point I was trying to make is that Jew =/= Israeli.

  38. Rebecca
    July 9, 2008 at 12:48 pm

    Matt, I see what you mean. That [Jews need a homeland because they have none] is the argument I usually hear, and the one that makes more sense. As I said, however, I have heard the argument (I’m not being vague here, people have said this to me) that Jews “deserve the land” because they were “doing something with it,” which comes perilously close to the rationale used to evict American Indians, for example. (Also, not an argument for the creation of Israel but for its continued existence, perhaps – were you using them interchangeably?)

  39. July 9, 2008 at 12:52 pm

    I’d disagree that AIPAC somehow represents voters “less” than the tobacco lobby or the oil lobby. It represents many voters who support Israel, whereas the tobacco and oil lobbies arguably represent only their business interests.

    AIPAC is a lobbyist organization that represents a foreign country. Yes, in some way it does represent US citizens who agree with AIPAC but only indirectly. At one point AIPAC was ranked as I believe the third most powerful lobby in the US. I think if Egypt or Canada had an incrediblty powerful lobby we’d instantly recognize the absurdity of that, even though yes some US citizens might agree with those lobbies.

    I was going to write above that AIPAC was a “Israeli hawk” lobby but I changed it to “Israel lobby” because it’s mostly a distinction without a difference and has ties to the Israeli government.


    Rebecca, I’ve never seen the argument made indirectly that Jews deserve a state because we’re better. I can point to plenty of anti-Arab racism, but not that kind of chauvanism.

    A lot of Zionism and the specific notion that the Jewish homeland needs to be where it is is rooted in the belief that Jews are the chosen people and have a manifest destiny established by some higher power. There is a certain superiority built into that entire line of reasoning and Judaism itself has ethnic superiority elements to it.

    And I’d point out the obvious that that’s a critique of religion, not of an ethnic group.

  40. DAS
    July 9, 2008 at 12:54 pm

    The elided argument, which I see often from Zionists and rarely addressed by others is that Jews needed a homeland because they had none. – Matt

    And the response would be is that “why should the Jews get a homeland? Why do the Jews think they are so superior that they deserve a homeland whilst Palestinians do not?”. Of course, the counter-argument to the response is “why not the Jews? why so many other groups and not the Jews for whom history has very much shown the need for a homeland?”.

    BTW — I would say that many anti-Semitic anti-Zionists at some level do address this argument and their response is at some level “because they shudder at the thought of Jews putting down roots”, which shuddering ultimately has roots in Christian anti-Semitism. Similarly, Jews whose primary view of Judaism is religious in orientation (i.e. classical Reform Jews who rejected the idea of Jewish people-hood and tended to view Judaism as just another faith and, at the other extreme, Haredi Jews who view Judaism as living solely within the four cubits of Halacha) would reject the argument that “Jews should have a state as all the other nations have a state” because we Jews are not like the other nations but rather an “am ha-kodesh” (note the distinction between “am” and “goy”).

    Of course, there is a subtle distinction between having a “homeland” and having a “nation-state”. The need for a homeland is reactive (and ultimately what got Jews signed onto the Zionist project) — and as a reactive need really gives those who oppose Zionism a reason to be anti-anti-anti-Semites: if Israel grew out of the ashes of the Holocaust, then those who have a beef with Israel will be keen to deny the reality of the Holocaust, etc. Of course, the “Jews need a homeland” view of Israel is, in theory, perfectly compatable with Palestinian rights and indeed a “one-state solution”. The problem is — would a Palestinian majority state still in practice be a Jewish homeland (i.e. right of return for Jews, complete Jewish access to Holy Sites, etc.)?

    If it can demonstratively be so, then many of us pro-Israel types would change our orientation as we have no ideological commitment to Zionism. That the Palestinian side has not made us comfortable (for reasons discussed in this thread) and that we Jews deserve to have a certain degree of comfort (the whole point of Zionism is a reaction to Jewish “otherness”), causes real problems toward actually making progress that will help the Palestinian plight.

    By comparison, Mandela was seen as one of the more radical figures in the anti-apartheid movement, but he went out of the way to make sure that whites knew they would be comfortable in a post-apartheid South Africa. Even the Bosnian Muslims had Eastern Orthodox Bosnian Serbs fighting on their side because they made sure that it would be known that Bosnia would be a nation even for Serbs.

    The case for a Jewish homeland is very strong (even if some would deem it chauvanistic). The question then is, how would leftist critiques of the Jewish homeland as it exists, affect the very nature and function of that homeland? If acting on those critiques (even if the intended effect would only be to alleviate the very real plight of the Palestinians) would undermine the function of homeland-being by Israel, then who can blame us Jews, given our history, for viewing those critiques as anti-Semitic? And if the left is not sensative to this, doesn’t that make them, in fact, anti-Semitic? Can you imagine the left being so insensative about any other group besides Jews?

  41. APS
    July 9, 2008 at 12:56 pm

    Its strange. Its not controversial to acknowledge that societal racism and bigotry distort they way people view issues relating to certain groups. Anti black racism, for example, has infected Western Culture for hundreds of years, and to this day it influences the way people view issues that impact blacks, such affirmative action, crime, poverty, advancement, etc. And no one is really immune. Sometimes, even black people buy into the stereotypes.

    And its no different for that old bias called Anti-semitism. Its similarly plagued the world (or parts of it) for close to 2000 years. To say that it doesn’t affect the way people view issues involving Jews is beyond silly. Sure, its foolish to say all criticism of Israel is anti-semitic. And its equally moronic to deny that anti-semitic bias does in fact distort the way people view Israel, including many Jews.

    Which is to say it acts like just about any other societal, cultural or political bias, except that no one’s allowed to point it out. Unlike other cultural attituces, Anti-semitic bias is kind of like the proverbial elephant in the room. We can see it; its staring us right in the face; but we’re all supposed to politely turn our heads and pretend it doesn’t exist.

  42. July 9, 2008 at 1:10 pm

    I find the issue of Israel and Palestine to be difficult to discuss on the internet for two reasons: not everyone has the same facts (if they have any) and the subject itself is too complex and nuanced to be discussed via text only. As you said, it gets confusing when someone says they disagree with Zionists and the more sensitive of us may jump to conclusions and instead of being calm and collected, saying “that’s not what I meant”, the other person is likely to respond in kind and what was supposed to be a rational discussion of Israel and Palestine becomes a flame war. And so… I avoid it.

    I will talk about Israeli issues with my Jewish friends or my more open-minded liberal friends who aren’t going to jump on me and accuse me of something I have nothing to do with because I do support the nation-state of Israel (I just don’t support certain far-right aspects of its government, not unlike most Jews and about half of the Israeli people). It’s such a sensitive issue that normally rational people become either rampant anti-semites, or rabid Zionists. There is no middle ground, and that’s the problem. The people causing these problems WANT us to be divided into pro-Israel and anti-Israel with no middle ground, because the more divided we are on the issue the less likely we are to be paying attention to what’s actually going on and be pissed off about THAT instead of calling each other names.

    The thing that really gets me is when Jimmy Carter, the American president who has done more for Israel than any other American president, is called an anti-semite because of his book “Palestine Peace Not Apartheid”, and again for being diplomatic enough to go to Syria and try to talk the Hamas leaders into having peace talks with Israel. Which they later did… although, fat lot of good that did… oy. It’s insane. People who aren’t even remotely anti-semitic are called such because they disagree with the right wing of the Israeli government… it’s ridiculous and I can’t stand it.

    (p.s. If Israel was the reason we went to war in the Middle East, we would have invaded Iran, not Iraq. Israel has nothing to do with Iraq, tyvm. Hurrumph.)

  43. July 9, 2008 at 1:14 pm

    “It’s such a sensitive issue that normally rational people become either rampant anti-semites, or rabid Zionists.”

    I think there’s something about the representation/oppression of Jews that pushes people to see rabid Zionists where there are merely (mostly liberal) Jews.

  44. July 9, 2008 at 1:28 pm

    Norman Finkelstein, anyone? He’s a pro-Palestine, pro-peace JEWISH professor who has been kicked out by DePaul University (I think that’s the one?) for writing books and speaking out against the Israeli government. His parents (or grandparents?) have survived the Holocaust.

    Ohhh, yeah, I guess he’s sooo anti-Semitic.

  45. Rebecca
    July 9, 2008 at 1:36 pm

    Velma, it’s not that all criticism of Israel is anti-Semitic. It’s that criticism of Israel not always, but sometimes/often, crosses over into or masks anti-Semitism.

    I haven’t read Finkelstein, but I don’t think it’s right for the university to kick him out if all he did was speak [politely and rationally] against the Israeli government. If nothing else, that does seem fascist. (Before anyone jumps down my throat on this, I would say the same if a professor was kicked out for speaking in favor of Israel, against or for the actions of the American government, etc.)

  46. Rebecca
    July 9, 2008 at 1:37 pm

    Matt, I see what you mean. That [Jews need a homeland because they have none] is the argument I usually hear, and the one that makes more sense. As I said, however, I have heard the argument (I’m not being vague here, people have said this to me) that Jews “deserve the land” because they were “doing something with it,” which comes perilously close to the rationale used to evict American Indians, for example. (Also, not an argument for the creation of Israel but for its continued existence, perhaps – were you using them interchangeably?)

  47. Joe
    July 9, 2008 at 1:44 pm

    Judaism = religion. Jews = people of a certain religion(/race). Israel = country. Israeli = nationality.

    Rebecca, your distinctions are far from obvious. Yes, Judaism is a religion but it’s also an ethnicity, a nationality, and a culture. Indeed, traditional Jewish texts speak to a distinct Jewish Nation, not merely people who happen to adhere to particular religious doctrine.

    Yes, Israel is a political entity, but it’s also the historic, cultural, & religious homeland of the Jewish people.

    Or, as FreddyBak said, you can’t talk about France without talking about the French.

  48. July 9, 2008 at 1:51 pm

    Yes, Judaism is a religion but it’s also an ethnicity, a nationality, and a culture.

    I’ve always been curious why Judaism has been considered an ethnicity, nationality and even race, whereas other religions like Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism, are not.

    Why and how did this happen?

  49. Rebecca
    July 9, 2008 at 2:12 pm

    Joe, you’re right – I grouped culture with religion and ethnicity with race, and that was stupid of me. However, I would still argue that Jewish is not a nationality because Judaism is not a nation in the modern, political sense. Am, the word you translate as “nation,” means “people,” since at the time those texts were written the two were often indistinguishable.

    Israel is also the home of Christians and Muslims. To ignore this is wilfully foolish.

    I never argued that one should discuss Israel without discussing the Jews; such would also be really idiotic. FreddyBak’s argument was that you cannot discuss Jews or Judaism without discussing Israel, which is not true at all.

  50. Rebecca
    July 9, 2008 at 2:17 pm

    (Cf. Theological Dictionarygoy and am are often used interchangeably, but goy is used more often in terms of political/territorial affiliation, while am refers to blood ties and community. So, not a nation in the modern sense.)

  51. Rebecca
    July 9, 2008 at 2:18 pm

    Sorry, looks like my preceding comment awaits moderation, comment I just posted is in reference to something I said there.

  52. Thomas
    July 9, 2008 at 2:20 pm

    Joe and FreddyBak, it is possible to address any dispersed people separate from their homeland. I am a diaspora Scot. There are Scottish-Americans, Scottish-Canadians, Scottish-Australians and Scottish-New Zealanders, and ethnic Scots in many other countries around the world. One does not need to talk about Scotland to talk about me or my identity. In fact, in most diasporas, the diaspora has its own distinct pieces of culture or cultures: Pizza and pasta as an entre are Italian-American, not Italian. Tartan Day is a Scottish Diaspora holiday, not a Scottish holiday. Green beer on St. Patrick’s Day and celtic punk are Irish-American, not Irish. I am not French, and I don’t know if the French feel it is impossible to talk about France without talking about the French, but I am pretty sure that not every Frenchwoman or man agrees with everything the French state does, and I am sure that criticism of French policy is not ipso facto criticism of the French people. Nor do I agree with everything the Scottish Executive does (when it does anything), nor is criticism of Scottish policy criticism of me.

  53. DAS
    July 9, 2008 at 2:34 pm

    I’ve always been curious why Judaism has been considered an ethnicity, nationality and even race, whereas other religions like Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism, are not. – VELMA SABINA!!!

    (Pre-)classically religion was bound up with nationality and culture. Even today Hinduism is very much associated with India and India, whilst a secular, multi-religious state with Hinduism. Also many states have national churches in which religion is very much bound with nationality: in some cases the difference between, e.g. a Croat and a Serb is bound up between both religion and ethnos. Back in the day, of course, each nation had their gods and the belief in a nation’s gods was part of being a member of that society.

    Christianity and Islam very much change all that in that they are “universal” religions claiming to be true for everyone and not just about worshiping a national pantheon. Judaism (and the other faiths that evolved in the same era that the Israelite faith became what we know today as Judaism) represent a kind of intermediary between the old view of religion as being a parcel of national identity and religion as indepedent of national identity. Of course, in many areas, e.g. of Europe, the default identity was Christian (or other non-Jewish), whence the desire for a place where the default identity would be Jewish.

    Pace Rebacca, IIRC, the Bible rarely actually refers to the “goy ha-Israel” or the “goy ha-Judah” but rather the “am yisrael” and this distinction, AFAIK, is considered to be significant by many Jewish thinkers. Remember we call the non-Jews, goyim? The view that we Jews are somehow separate from the nations but also that Judaism does not constitute a nation does reflect, I would think, Judaism being at this intermediate stage between a national and universal faith.

  54. DAS
    July 9, 2008 at 2:44 pm

    A lot of Zionism and the specific notion that the Jewish homeland needs to be where it is is rooted in the belief that Jews are the chosen people and have a manifest destiny established by some higher power. There is a certain superiority built into that entire line of reasoning and Judaism itself has ethnic superiority elements to it. – Margalis

    I think you misinterpret the Jewish doctrine of being chosen. Moreover, while certain Zionist factions (which are ascendent right now) do view Jewish chosen-ness the way you describe it and Zionism the way you describe it, Zionism per se is actually anti-thetical to the notion of Jewish chosenness — Zionism = the idea that Jews ought to have a homeland just like everyone else where Jewish is the normal identity while Jewish-chosenness = the idea that we Jews are not like everyone else and being Jewish is never a normal identity.

    As to the location is Israel — the “Zionism is anti-Palestinian because they chose to displace the Palestinians when they considered settling in other locations but rejected that” argument is another thing that raises red flags for many of us Jews. Where else would you put a Jewish state? If the Zionists, being secularists, decided “we just need a Jewish homeland, but we don’t care where it is” and decided to settle in West Bumbleland, everyone would be all upset about those poor, displaced West Bumblelandians. So it seems that the “why did they have to put Israel in Palestine of all places” argument (while it arises rather naturally from the “a land without a people for a people without a land” argument for Zionism — anyway, what is the real documentation that the land wasn’t empty except for a very small Arab population? Do y’all think Mark Twain was some sort of biased, pro-colonialist observer or something?) sometimes seems to be an awfully bad faith argument.

  55. Thomas
    July 9, 2008 at 2:58 pm

    Christianity and Islam very much change all that

    Once again, Saul of Tarsus, Roman lawyer, is one of history’s great villains.

  56. Bitter Scribe
    July 9, 2008 at 3:01 pm

    I’ve never understood why some Jewish people get so indignant when anyone points out that American Jews have exerted influence in the U.S. on behalf of Israel. Of course they have. That’s their perfect right, guaranteed by the First Amendment (“petition for redress of grievances”), and they’re just one of many religious, ethnic and/or political groups that do so. To take just one example: I’m of Greek descent, and U.S. policy has tilted toward Greece over the years solely because of the influence of Greek-Americans. (And the Greeks have behaved like a bunch of spoiled, ungrateful brats toward the U.S. many times, but that’s another story.)

  57. shah8
    July 9, 2008 at 3:02 pm

    Here’s a couple of links about another people with no “homeland”…

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marcus_Garvey

    http://gseweb.harvard.edu/~t656_web/peace/Articles_Spring_2003/Harris_John_Liberia.htm

    It’s really strange how so many Zions were about convincing people to being dumped off at some god-forsaken shore, so as to resolve ethnic tensions in the more developed world.

    In any event, you do not see Liberia as a focus in talking about racism against black people in the US, do you? Not even during the times when it was doing well during the middle part of the 20th century.

    A couple more points.
    Israel *is* a colonialist enterprise. Pretending that it isn’t will not assist the debate, and is a good way to deny a fair hearing to pro Palestinian perspective.

    I understand if people are worried about antisemitism, but I submit that leftists have alot more to fear from pro-israeli hawks than the average ethnic jew has to fear from leftist. Juan Cole, Jimmy Carter, many pro-Arab guys in the State Department, and more who runs the gamut of professions have been intimidated or blackballed for saying true things about the israel-palestine debate. Of course, *actual antisemites*, well, those guys don’t get punished too often.

  58. Ofneverwherelse
    July 9, 2008 at 3:09 pm

    I think the reason that many discussions involving anti-antisemitism turn into, “Is Israel good / bad?” is because there is both significant residual antisemitism as well as significant erroneous claims of antisemitism that do in many ways silence critique of Israel. Its not that they are one in the same, but that they have been constructed as such by those few Israeli / Jewish / American leaders, who place a lot of weight on a strong, confrontational and totalitarian Israel that does oppress Palestinians. Sort of how Neo-con and Neo-liberal mean the same thing. They have managed to seize the language of the debate, making alternative and productive discourses much more difficult. By participating in this debate, we are doing little to confront antisemitism and less to actually influence Israel’s genocidal policies.

    Two other notes on language.

    Semitic is a word that includes in its definitions Arabs, palestinians, and other ethnicities in the region. Similar to Iberian, or Eastern European. I find it interesting that prejudice against arabs is not called antisemitism as well and that that aspect of the definition has been dropped in modern discourse. I think it is another example of seizing language to control the discussion of ideas. This is not a conspiracy of any sort but sound / devious tactics, used by a small minority of people who have a specific agenda, again think of neo-con / neo-liberal economics.

    Lastly, the critique of Israel as acting like the Nazis, is not inherently invalid, but I think serves best as a tool for shock. There are more apt descriptions that do not carry the same ideological weight, that can shift the debate in unnecessary and unintended directons. That being said, however, not too long ago there was the instance of the Israeli politician using the word “shoah” to describe the campaign against the Palestinians. I am not Jewish and do not speak Hebrew, but after some research, and please do not let this stand if this is incorrect, but I found “shoah” translates literally to “big disaster”, and is often used to describe the holocaust, to the point where its connotation is irrevocably linked to the holocaust.

    So in conclusion while I think criticism of Israel is extremely important and brushed under the rug a lot of the time, I think real open and healthy discussions of antisemitism are as well. This may be an unintended consequence of the linking of these two distinct but related concepts by those who seek to silence criticism of Israel, or for some other cause I can’t determine. Unfortunately, as I have less experience with this debate than with the neo-con analogy, I am less able to disentangle these concepts in a coherent way on a public forum.

  59. tster
    July 9, 2008 at 3:15 pm

    Velma Sabina:

    I think the reason that Judaism is often grouped as an ethnicity/culture is because one of the main messages of the Old Testament seems to be about kinship and a chosen people who are chosen based on their ancestry to settle the land of Israel. They are called Israelites because they’re named after one guy –Jacob — who gets renamed Israel after some kind of wrestling match. Israel was promised to Abraham, and then Abraham’s descendants, even though they’d never lived in Israel, get to inherit it because of a promise God made to their ancestor who they’d never met (and it seems like God doesn’t even like the actual Israelites in the bible, and has a personal rapport only with Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, and Moses.)

    You can argue about whether we want to take the Old Testament as central to Jewish identity or not anymore (and in practice and mindset, even religious Jews resemble Jews of the Talmudic era, circa 200 CE more than they do biblical Israelites), but it’s not hard to see how this conflation of ethnicity/culture/peoplehood/religion can occur. And it’s also not hard to see how the idea of Israel as central to Jewish identity could occur, since the first five books are basically a long build-up to the big climax of settling the land of Israel. If you want to argue that israel is not central to Jewish identity, you have to restructure at least some of the 2000 years of interpretation of central Jewish texts, or just argue that those texts are no longer central to Jewish identity.

  60. roses
    July 9, 2008 at 3:40 pm

    I’ve never understood why some Jewish people get so indignant when anyone points out that American Jews have exerted influence in the U.S. on behalf of Israel.

    Well for one thing, the people pointing it out are usually saying it’s a bad thing (see the very first reply to this post). For another, it plays into the historical anit-semitic idea that Jews are dangerous because they secretly control the government (and the media, banking institutions, etc.) And, you know, the reasons Girl Detective explained in her post.

  61. WestEndGirl
    July 9, 2008 at 3:40 pm

    Ofneverwherelse, re:
    “Semitic is a word that includes in its definitions Arabs, palestinians, and other ethnicities in the region….I find it interesting that prejudice against arabs is not called antisemitism as well and that that aspect of the definition has been dropped in modern discourse. I think it is another example of seizing language to control the discussion of ideas. This is not a conspiracy of any sort but sound / devious tactics, used by a small minority of people who have a specific agenda, again think of neo-con / neo-liberal economics.”

    Oh dear me. Seizing language to control the discussion of ideas by devious people who have a specific agenda…? You are kidding right?!

    Anti-Semitism is just the historic term used for a hundred plus years which was coined by Wilhelm Marr in Germany in the 1870s to replace the term Judenhass (Jew hate) as a way of explaining away an irrationalist position (hatred based on religious grounds) and justifying it in modern (and supposedly rationalist) ‘scientific’ terms based on race.

    No mystery, no drama, no deviousness, just an historic turn of phrase. Hey call, it Jew-hatred for all I care, but please spare me the disingenuousness.

  62. DAS
    July 9, 2008 at 3:53 pm

    In any event, you do not see Liberia as a focus in talking about racism against black people in the US, do you? Not even during the times when it was doing well during the middle part of the 20th century. – shah8

    This raises some very interesting questions: what about the indigenous inhabitants of Liberia? What happened to them? No doubt some were displaced. We don’t hear of their plight so much. What are the differences between this case and the case of Israel that make such differences in how things are portrayed and viewed by, e.g., the left?

    Israel *is* a colonialist enterprise. Pretending that it isn’t will not assist the debate

    Of course it is. But it is not just a colonialist enterprise. It is very disturbing to many of us Jews that somehow Israel is only seen as a colonialist enterprise … when those on the left are somehow able to muster empathy for everyone’s position except for that of many Jews.

    OTOH, isn’t Palestine also a colonialist enterprise? It isn’t as if Arabs are the indigenous people of much of the Levant …

    *

    tster … of course the land of Israel is central to Jewish identity. But it is only recently that the state of Israel has become central to the Jewish identity (in many quarters). Not all of us feel that is a good thing — since Israel is not guided by the divinely inspired leadership of Moschiach (who has not yet come), Israel will make mistakes and anyway we Jews — or at least “the Zionist entity” will be blamed (c.f. the Song of the Suffering Servant) for whatever goes wrong no matter who really is responsible for, e.g. the situation Palestinians find themselves in (it wasn’t Israel who forced Palestinians to remain in those camps in the first place).

    To argue that the state of Israel is central to Jewish identity is simply wrong (one of the few areas where I disagree with the Conservative/Masorti movement — which btw, is being foolish with respect to Israel anyway — Masorti needs to say to the religious powers that be in Israel — “you don’t recognize what we do as Judaism, we don’t recognize you as the Jewish state — we stop all tours to Israel … no more tourist dollars … we join up with Neturei Karta and give ’em mainstream legitimacy and provide cover for anti-Zionists to affect America’s policy on Israel, etc.” … that’s only fair play, but that’s another topic of discussion). But to argue that the land of Israel is somehow not central enough to Jewish identity that they coulda put the Zionist state anywhere (but I guess they chose to put it in Israel because they wanted to kick out Palestinians from their land for fun and colonialist profit, is that the argument?) is also wrong (and not a constructive, good faith argument as I point out above).

  63. July 9, 2008 at 3:56 pm

    Or, as FreddyBak said, you can’t talk about France without talking about the French.

    Not a great analogy. You can talk about the Serbs without talking about me, even though I’m partly ethnically Serbian. It’s awfully hard to talk about Israel without talking about Israelis, but “Israeli” is not synonymous with “Jew,” or the other way around. To say so not only discounts the reality that a lot of Jewish people live — Jewish people who don’t identify with Israel, of which there are many — but also erases the non-Jews who are nonetheless Israeli.

  64. Ofneverwherelse
    July 9, 2008 at 4:13 pm

    It was not disingeuousness WestEndGirl, but a lack of education on the subject which I will freely acknowledge, my apologies. I was not intending to make a claim that was shading the truth or presenting a flawed argument, but an idea I had and was examining. I have no intention of sparring with you over this as I recognize that many people have more knowledge on this as I do and looking through your previous post, I suspect you are one of those people.

    However I would appreciate if you didn’t muddle my language in your retort. I did not say nor did I mean “devious people” as you implied, and took care with my words to be sure I clearly described that tacitc as devious, again referencing the neo-con / neo-liberal siezure that has nothing to do with race. However, your comment appears to either ignore or disregard that, which I find frustrating.

    If you seek to continue the dialogue with me I’d prefer to do so over email and not on the forums and can be reached at ofneverwherelse@gmail.com

  65. Rebecca
    July 9, 2008 at 4:17 pm

    DAS: You are correct in saying that am is used in preference to goy when referring to Israel. That was actually the point I was trying to make in response to Joe – “Jewish Nation” isn’t a nation in the modern sense, but partly a theological concept and partly just a term for the Jewish people. Ta very much, in fact, for making a lot of the points I was trying to make better than I could.

    Margalis: The attitude I refer to, that “Jews are better so we should have the land,” is not related, I don’t think, to the biblical doctrine. (Whether or not that’s an ethnic superiority thing I’ll let DAS discuss with you.) It comes from modern sources – the amount of technology that Jews have brought to Israel, how Jews have succeeded in advanced fields in other countries, and how Palestinians suicide-bomb Israel. (However, it overlooks the effects of imperialism and economics, which, er, are important.)

    (There’s a joke that says “God told us we were chosen, he never said for what!”)

    shah8: No, I can’t point out one as well known as SLC. Does it matter?
    Also, Liberia is not the only country in the world that is majority black.

    WestEndGirl: Thanks for your defense of me. I’m not sure it’s deserved. I seem to have ended up arguing a position I don’t usually argue; when I talked about my personal experience, I was referring to my conversations with, for example, my mother, who if you speak to her it’s quite obvious that she thinks Israel deserves to exist because Jews are superior to Arabs and Muslims (whom she does not know to distinguish). I think the point you made about feeling excluded as a pro-Palestinian activist for being Jewish is excellent.

    FreddyBak: I still disagree. Obviously the land of Israel has historical ties to the Jewish religion and features in the Bible, but discussion of Judaism or even of the biblical Israel requires no discussion of Israel as a modern state. Jews are historically in a diaspora, and Jewish culture and religious practice in whatever country a Jew finds herself are independent of her politics relative to Israel.

  66. Joe
    July 9, 2008 at 4:18 pm

    but “Israeli” is not synonymous with “Jew,”

    I didn’t mean to suggest that the terms are literally synonymous, but as many commenters have pointed out, they’re essentially related and are often used as codes for each other (this is true of both sides). It’s easy to see how antisemitism sneaks into “anti-Israel” rhetoric that way.

  67. July 9, 2008 at 4:23 pm

    I’ll jump into this in more depth after work, but quickies…

    Velma: Finkelstein wasn’t “kicked out” of DePaul, he was denied tenure. It happens in academia.

    Ofnever: The “shoah” issue was the subject of a long thread on this site (one which ended up covering many issues relevant to this thread), but here’s the short hand: “Shoah” translates to “disaster.” “Ha-Shoah” is “the disaster” (“ha-” being the prefix meaning “the”). The Holocaust is known idiomatically as “ha-Shoah” as it is, to Jews, the disaster. And in English idiom, “the Shoah” works the same way.

    English speakers would only use Shoah in the context of the Holocaust, but would also always append “ha-” or “the” to it. But to a native Hebrew speaker, “Shoah” is simply the word for disaster — it is not intrinsically linked to the Holocaust (particularly without the “Ha-” prefix). So the context it was used by that government official, it was clearly not a genocide threat or reference, but a typical military threat of escalation in the face of more violence. Not flowers and candy, as I wrote, but pretty standard fare in a conflict.

  68. Ofneverwherelse
    July 9, 2008 at 4:36 pm

    Thank you for the clarification David.

  69. July 9, 2008 at 4:58 pm


    Moreover, while certain Zionist factions (which are ascendent right now) do view Jewish chosen-ness the way you describe it and Zionism the way you describe it, Zionism per se is actually anti-thetical to the notion of Jewish chosenness — Zionism = the idea that Jews ought to have a homeland just like everyone else where Jewish is the normal identity while Jewish-chosenness = the idea that we Jews are not like everyone else and being Jewish is never a normal identity.

    Who exactly is “everyone else”?

    The idea that every group needs, deserves and has a homeland seems rather absurd. And the idea that that homeland should be ethnically homegenous is rather disturbing. A “normal identity” based on ethnicity? That sounds like something Lou Dobbs would say.

    Personally I don’t have a place on earth I consider my “homeland” and that sort of tribalist thinking is foreign to me. I don’t have a homeland, I have an apartment.

  70. miwome
    July 9, 2008 at 5:17 pm

    @Margalis: Israel, or Israel’s interests, as perceived by some politicians, are in fact influential in many policy circles. This, however, has nothing to do with some kind of Jewish conspiracy or influence; rather, it reflects old alliances and relationships of mutual benefit. That the people in the Israeli policy establishment who participate in this are Jewish does not translate that all Jews have influence.

    A close and sometimes damaging alliance between parts of our government and Israel is not the same thing as extensive Jewish influence over our government. There are strong reasons why our government would want to be allied with Israel that do not include brainwashing (nuclear power in the region, political and cultural Western sympathies–especially back when the alliance began, before the rise of Qatar and other potential allies), and Israel =/= all Jews.

  71. Chaz
    July 9, 2008 at 5:17 pm

    Rebecca,

    “Also, Liberia is not the only country in the world that is majority black.”

    Sorry I’ve just been reading (I don’t have the intellectual guns to add anything to the Israel conversation).

    However, this comment strikes me as so problematic. Just because the culture and nationality of blacks in the Diaspora was stolen by force I don’t think we should relegate discussions of Liberia to just another “dark” country. Africa, the continent, like Europe, the continent, has many nations of people who happen to be darker, just as Europe is a collection of individual nations that are lighter.

    The crime of the African Diaspora is that we blacks of the removal are now without the knowledge of our nationalities, languages, and histories. Please don’t refer to an African country as just another “black” country. Africa is a diverse continent not just a bastion of black people.

  72. exholt
    July 9, 2008 at 5:25 pm

    I’ve noticed that, when the topic of Israel and Palestine comes up in liberal and radical circles, discussions often have a tendency to dissolve into arguments over which criticisms of Israel are valid and which are anti-semitic.

    Thankfully a frank discussion hashing out such issues is taking place at my grad campus. As rancorous as such arguments tend to get, it is far better than what happened at my undergrad where any and all arguments decrying how criticisms of Israel and its policies can become antisemitic often results in the arguer being denounced as an “oppressive Pro-Zionist apologist” by the majority of progressive radical-left oriented student body. Effectively shuts down and silences any discussion of such issues. :roll:

  73. shah8
    July 9, 2008 at 5:33 pm

    Rebecca

    I did not point you towards a history of Liberia because it was a majority black country.

    I pointed you towards Liberia because it followed very close to the exact same path as Israel with Israel’s 1980 still up ahead (I figure the Russians to do it instead of the Palestinians).

    Exact same motivations, exact same aspirations, same pushing native populations off long term land and exploiting them…everything. Liberia went wrong in the much the same way that Israel went wrong, if anything Liberia was an inherently more successful project.

  74. The Girl Detective
    July 9, 2008 at 5:50 pm

    A quick response from work:

    Freddybak (in response to your first comment) – I agree that people who sincerely subscribe to anti-semitism can’t be reasoned with. My intent here was to try and reach out to leftists who may be repeating rhetoric without realizing where it comes from or what stereotypes it might feed into.

    Orlando – I don’t know.

    On Jews versus Israelis versus the religion versus the ethnicity – Israeli culture is very distinct from many Diaspora cultures, so it doesn’t make much sense to use Israel as a reference point for every Jew’s identity. Furthermore, over the course of Jewish history, cultures have arisen around the religion, so that Jews who aren’t religious (like me) still have a definite sense of community even if they don’t go to synagogue. As an Ashkenazi Jew, I happen to come out of what’s called Yiddishkeit (think klezmer bands, the Yiddish language, bagels, and Isaac Bashevis Singer). There are many other subcultures, too.

  75. FreddyBak
    July 9, 2008 at 6:11 pm

    Jill,

    What i meant to write is “You can’t talk about the French without talking about France.” I accidentally switched France and the French. Now, there has been some disagreement with either version that statement using Scots as an analogy. Which is all well and good. And I’m sure you have plenty of Jewish friends who don’t identify with Israel. But I woudl say the VAST majority of individuals to whom their Jewish Heritage/Judaism is important very much idenitify with Israel to the point where their identity cannot be discussed without referencing Israel. For instance, Serbia is a place and you are partly ethnically Serbian. So it seems it would be difficult to talk about your ethnicity without citing Serbia. Becuase, at least as I understand it, Serbs are people who come from Serbia. I realize there is much more to it, maybe a racial element (depending on who you ask – I’m from Russia but not ethnically RUssian so I have a cursory familiarity with Slavic identities and many do see themselves as a race). But, again, its hard to talk about Serb identity without discussing Serbia. Similarly, its difficult for the majority of Jews to discuss their identity without discussing Israel. Yet, of course, many diaspora Jews and diaspora Serbs disagree strongly with Serbian and Israeli Policy. Many Serbian citizens and Israeli citizens do as well. But that doesn’t mean their identity can be removed from those countries.

  76. Rebecca
    July 9, 2008 at 6:42 pm

    Chaz: That comment was in response to shah8, who said,

    “It’s really strange how so many Zions were about convincing people to being dumped off at some god-forsaken shore, so as to resolve ethnic tensions in the more developed world.

    In any event, you do not see Liberia as a focus in talking about racism against black people in the US, do you? Not even during the times when it was doing well during the middle part of the 20th century.”

    I’m sorry to have been offensive.

    shah8: On the other hand, you explicitly bring up racism against black people in a thread where we’re talking about anti-Semitism against Jewish people. I figured you meant it as a parallel, and Israel is the only majority-Jewish country, which is why I mentioned it as it is a “focus” for ant-Semitism.

    I did find the comparison interesting and relevant, though.

  77. shah8
    July 9, 2008 at 6:57 pm

    Well, this book didn’t do any wonders for William, but…

    http://www.amazon.com/Racism-History-George-M-Fredrickson/dp/0691116520/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1215643886&sr=1-1

    The thesis rather clearly traces racism from antisemitism.

    In any event, racism and anti-semitism aren’t actually different things. They only look different because jews (at least the ashkenasi ones) are considered white these days. They didn’t use to be…

  78. exholt
    July 9, 2008 at 7:03 pm

    Shah8,

    Out of curiosity, have you looked through http://www.amazon.com/Toward-Final-Solution-History-European/dp/0865274282/ref=sr_1_8?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1215644460&sr=8-8

    This was one of the books I used in an undergrad German history class.

  79. Mandolin
    July 9, 2008 at 7:30 pm

    This is one of the better attempts I’ve seen to wrestle with Israel and anti-semitism in blog form. Thanks, Girl Detective.

  80. shah8
    July 9, 2008 at 7:36 pm

    Nope…european antisemitism isn’t really something I read alot about in books, really. Only in biographies, like Five Germanies I have known…Oppenheimer and Einstein’s biographies, stuff like that. Plus what I’ve picked up in college, when various classes tackled sociobiology of the late 1800’s.

  81. Pingback: The Debate Link
  82. Rebecca
    July 9, 2008 at 11:15 pm

    FreddyBak @ 76: “its difficult for the majority of Jews to discuss their identity without discussing Israel”

    Could we get a citation on that, please? It’s hard for me to believe, considering how many other elements there are to Judaism.

  83. July 10, 2008 at 1:24 am

    great GREAT post rebecca. excellent points.

    shalom

  84. carson
    July 10, 2008 at 2:32 am

    Um, Freddyback @ 76, I think you’re confusing ethnicity and religion and nation. “Jewish” has become an ethnic identity, but it is first and foremost a religious one – that can be adopted by conversion or shed by rejection. Furthermore, the idea that there’s a place associated with certain ethnically related individuals is a 20th century concept and Jews have been a troubling group for Europeans from the beginning of such nationalist impulses (cf Marx “On the Jewish Question”) precisely *because* as a disaporic population, Jews didn’t have a “homeland” or a place in the geopolitical order that was grounded by physical territory. Israel is an attempt (among other things) to create that nationalist homeland. But nationalism is incredibly problematic and hugely detrimental precisely because (again among other things) associating the state with an ethnicity makes people invisible or a permanent political Other. (Another question: How would Jill discuss her “Serbian identity” prior to the mid-1990s, if discussing “Serbia” is unavoidable in doing so?) Nobody reasonably blames Americans of German descent for the Holocaust – and nobody should blame American Jews for the atrocities committed by Jewish people in Palestine in the 1920s and 1930s. That said, the continuing political and financial support shown Israel by American Jews who cloak such support under a claim of religious solidarity is morally outrageous and one of the more troubling things for many Jews (myself included) who define themselves as Jews almost entirely independently of Israel and agree that Israel is on the shitlist of countries but find it difficult to find organized communities of Jews who do not take such a stance on Israel (and who, in many cases, censor those who are critical or seek to give space for Palestinian voices in synagogues, etc.)

  85. July 10, 2008 at 4:49 am

    “Part of the problem in arguing that Israel is illegitimate because Palestinians were displaced is that such criticism is not distributed equally. Those same people do not use scare quotes when talking about the United States or Australia.”

    Yet in the United States, Australia, and many other countries started on colonialist projects like Israel, the “natives” have eventually able to gain citizenship and rights within the country. While it could be argued that the decimation of native populations in the US and Australia made this right-granting easier, as it ensured that indigineous people did not have a large enough bloc to wrest power from the descendents of the colonizers, in South Africa blacks finally were included as full citizens despite being the majority.

    Obviously the US and Australia are far from exemplary, and the situation of indigineous people continues to be horrible, but at the very least they are now considered citizens of the states and have access to channels previously denied to them.

    Thus why can’t Israel progress along the same lines? Most countries have shameful histories in their founding, but there’s no reason to continue to exclude and oppress. A one-state solution, with Palestinians and Israelis as full citizens. This, of course, is rejected by a majority of Israelis as it would mean an end to the Jewish nature of the state, which exposes the racist nature of Israeli.

    Change “Palestinian” with “Mexican” and “Israel” with “America” and you will find comparison to right-wing American rants against Mexican immigration to the States, in that the Mexicans will overwhelm and change the nature of the country with regards to culture, language, religion (read Samuel Huntington’s article about his predicted negative effects of Latin, mostly Mexican immigration).

    Girl Detective, I don’t doubt that you’ve been the target of anti-semitism before, or that some people use criticisms of Zionism to criticize Jews or as a codeword for Jewish. However, Zionism is a political movement and it is legitimate to criticize it on those grounds. In Syria, how often have people told me that they are “against Zionism, not Jews”? Is this anti-semitism? Outside of the Israeli context, Zionism can also be critized, for example on the view that is based on outdated 20th-century ideas of ethnic nationalism, rather than the post-nationalist model, as Tony Judt at NYU claims.

  86. Mandolin
    July 10, 2008 at 5:13 am

    “Could we get a citation on that, please? It’s hard for me to believe, considering how many other elements there are to Judaism.”

    Amazing how many of us on this thread appear to feel we’re in what FreddyBak assures us is the minority.

  87. DAS
    July 10, 2008 at 10:02 am

    in South Africa blacks finally were included as full citizens despite being the majority. – Orientalista

    I see you anticipated the standard objection to the comparison with Australia and the US granting full rights, but South Africa is also different. The outcome of a “one state solution” in Israel/Palestine would probably look more like Rhodesia->Zimbabwe than South Africa. And at some point the morality and appropriateness of an action must consider the likely outcomes.

  88. DAS
    July 10, 2008 at 10:37 am

    The idea that every group needs, deserves and has a homeland seems rather absurd. And the idea that that homeland should be ethnically homegenous is rather disturbing. A “normal identity” based on ethnicity? That sounds like something Lou Dobbs would say. – margalis

    But the same argument could be made about the Palestinian cause. Why should there be a Palestinian state (and the result of having a “one-state solution” would be a de facto Palestinian state)?

    For that matter, why not allow the various Germanic diaspora groups of Europe to return to their places of origin and reject the notion of the various nation-states of Middle Europe?

    As any good person of the left will point out, even in a society such as the US which (while far from perfect) does a quite respectable job of accepting minority groups, the “normal identity” of an American is “white, Christian male”. Israel need not be religiously homogeneous for it to remain a Zionist state — only remain a Jewish majority state. But if it no longer has a Jewish majority, then there is no state in which it is “normal to be Jewish”. Whether or not such a state should exist is, in fact, debatable (even within the Judaism) … but no matter what the left might say, states will always exist where it is “normal” to be a white Christian, etc. And “the one-state solution” would result in a state where it is “normal” to be a Palestinian Arab, but at the cost of a state where it is normal to be Jewish.

    So if your goal is to eliminate states with a “Lou Dobbs” concept of statehood, trading a Jewish state for a Palestinian Arab state hardly serves that goal, now does it? If you are anti-nationalistic, why single out Zionism and support a similar / self-consciously mirror-image (to the point of trying to equate Zionism with Nazism) nationalistic cause?

    OTOH, what are the guarantees that a Palestinian majority will even fully extend religious tolerance to us Jews (and continue Israel’s role as a site of return for Jews, who are still persecuted … pace Orientalista’s comment about Syria, I’m sure any Jew living in Syria would be persecuted as a “Zionist” just as in many places in Europe they persecuted Jews, not for being Jewish, but for being “Communists” no matter what politics said Jews actually had)?

    *

    Of course the other assumption here is that the Palestinians are the native population. They are not — it’s just that at one point, the sparsely populated Southern Levant was more Arab than anything else. And since many of those Arabs (contra Zionist propaganda, albeit propaganda rooted in Biblical Prophecy, about “it takes a Jew to work the land in Israel”) were able to farm the land, they ended up being differentiated from — and then when they fled their homes due to the creation of Israel rejected by (c.f. Oklahoma! or the story of Cain and Abel) — the generally herding-based Arab culture.

    The native population of the land was either slowly but surely ethnically cleansed a long, long time ago (if you believe the Bible literally) or their bourgeoisie (the actual, literal meaning of Canaanite is pretty much bourgeois) was deposed in a violent peasant revolution aided and abetted by wandering Habiru and the Habiru, together with the surviving peasants formed a new culture.

    OTOH, if we don’t believe in any form of nation-state, why the emphasis on nativity anyway?

    *

    Funny that Moses should mention the horrific events at Deir Yassin as if they were an anomally. Alas, they were not. Indeed, Arab riots at various points had resulted in the deaths of many Jews and Jews were kicked out of the Arab world at the same time Palestinian Arabs were driven from Israel (at the same time a lot of people were driven from a lot of places). The “double standard” we Jews keep pointing out is how somehow Israel is blamed 100% for the plight of the Palestinians yet nobody cares about any of the other groups. Of course, in part, that’s because most of the other refugee groups of the late 1940s were successfully repatriated. But then shouldn’t a large part of the blame be on the Arab world for not getting with the program and repatriating refugees?

    Wrong-doings by people should be condemned — it is not anti-Semitic to condemn Deir Yassin. It is anti-Semitic to say “look at what those Zionists did at Deir Yassin: see, it just shows you that you can’t trust ‘those people’ with any sort of power and they should remain rootless” … especially when similar attrocities at the same time period are ignored. And if the argument is “those other attrocities haven’t had the lasting effects on our world” … well, then, shouldn’t we blame those parties responsible for perpetuating the negative effects of past attrocities? I.e. the Arab nations who herded Palestinians into refugee camp as if they were cattle to be pawns in a larger war to eliminate “the Jewish state” from the otherwise solidly Arab (and Arabs, of course, are not a native people to all of the middle east) Middle East?

    *

    BTW — I suspect FreddyBak is right … most Jews do have a very deep attachment to Israel (which is, IMHO, problematic — there are sources in Jewish thought which would say such an attachment is very wrong, but sources which say such an attachment is indeed the sine qua non of Judaism). Because Judaism still maintains some very old, pre-universalistic notions of religiosity, it’s very hard to separate religion from ethnicity in Judaism. And yes people can convert to Judaism (technically though, once you are a Jew, we always consider you a Jew … we just consider you to be an “apostate”) … but so can people establish citizenship in a nation-state.

  89. DAS
    July 10, 2008 at 10:41 am

    Amazing how many of us on this thread appear to feel we’re in what FreddyBak assures us is the minority. – Mandolin

    A thread on a site that bills itself as “in defense of the sanctimonius women’s studies set” is likely to have a biased sampling of even a group as liberal and academically oriented as we Jews are. I would be surprised if Jews who feel as we do would be a minority of posters on this site, but we certainly are a minority within the larger Jewish community (except maybe, maybe still in certain quarters of the Reform and Jewish Renewal communities as well as certainly on the other end of the spectrum in the Aish Ha-Haredi and Neturei Karta communities).

  90. shah8
    July 10, 2008 at 10:45 am

    So you believe the Palestinians would ruin everything if they got just a bit of power?

    Conveeeeeenient…

    and pretty wrong.

  91. The Girl Detective
    July 10, 2008 at 12:29 pm

    ““Jewish” has become an ethnic identity, but it is first and foremost a religious one….”

    Ugh, could we please not do this? I think maybe we all should get the word DECENTER tattooed on our foreheads.

    As for how many Jews identify with Israel, I’m with Mandolin and Rebecca – some sort of statistic would be nice, since I’m having a very hard time believing it. I’ve never heard a member of my family talk about it, for instance.

  92. juju
    July 10, 2008 at 1:05 pm

    I really appreciate the basic thrust of this post as I have too often found myself horrified at the level of anti-Semitism accepted in some progressive circles. I just wish there was a way to address this issue in its own right without it becoming a discussion of Israeli/Palestinian politics.

  93. Rebecca
    July 10, 2008 at 1:11 pm

    My personal politics are, partly, thus: While I think that Jews wanting a state where they are normal and majority is reasonable, I don’t think it’s reasonable to enforce it by disenfranchising people of other ethnicities or religions. And I do understand the worry that a Palestinian majority (or, I should say, a government controlled by Palestinian radicals) will not enfranchise Jews – I’m not really sure of my opinions on steps to prevent that from happening, but I don’t think that you can oppress people just to remain in the majority for theoretical reasons.

    gabe: The Girl Detective gets the credit for the post, not me. :)

  94. July 10, 2008 at 3:04 pm

    Change “Palestinian” with “Mexican” and “Israel” with “America” and you will find comparison to right-wing American rants against Mexican immigration to the States, in that the Mexicans will overwhelm and change the nature of the country with regards to culture, language, religion (read Samuel Huntington’s article about his predicted negative effects of Latin, mostly Mexican immigration).

    That’s fascinating, because I’ve often thought that if you change Jew with “Mexican” (or “Latino”) and “Arabs” with “Americans”, you get a pretty startling parallel between right-wing racist anti-immigrant rhetoric, and left-wing anti-zionist “anti-colonialist” rhetoric. Watch:

    “The [Jews/Latinos], who lived in [Israel/the American southwest] but were violently kicked out, were accused of [colonization/colonization] when they moved back in to escape horrific oppression in [Europe, Africa, and the Middle East/the Caribbean and North and South America]. The people who advocated closing the borders to them were utterly indifferent to the fact that their policies would directly lead to [Jewish/Latino] deaths and thus represents a prima facia human rights violation, which extends from a similar indifference to [Jewish/Latino] bodies. In both cases, concepts of “ownership” were deployed hypocritically to deny the claim of one group and sanction the other, and in both cases cultural domination was cited as a justification even though the amount of territory in question was [the size of Vancouver Island/several states].”

    I have, and continue to assert, that anti-Zionism is fundamentally a colonialist ideology in this sense in that it wants to preserve gentile domination over Jews, is adamantly and totalistically opposed to Jewish autonomy and self-determination, and manifests itself in denial of Jewish experience and history. By conquering the terrain of our history, it strips Jews of our own past and gives it to others, then exiles us from it as (perennial) outsiders.

    There’s a reason why Franz Fanon and Albert Memmi were pals….

  95. shah8
    July 10, 2008 at 3:21 pm

    There’s just no going anywheres with this…

    I mean, I read DAS’s comments and David Schraub’s comments, and I just…sort of break in my head somewheres. I wuz going to say…do either of you guys realize just how mangled your logic is? Or how transparently derived from sophistry your posts are? Then I realize, when people write posts that are essentially “shut the f* up about Israel, you’re cooperating with EVIL”, then well, you shut up. No point in further discussion.

    I swear, it’s like I stumbled into a room full of Birchers exclaming on the rightness and justness of American Exceptionalism. This is why I normally avoid any thread with Israel in it. Maybe it’s more sane here in the feminist blogosphere, but…

  96. July 10, 2008 at 3:22 pm

    On that last comment, “Arabs” should be replaced with “Arab world” — that was an error on my part on two levels: 1) because the analogical parallel is to region, not peoples, and 2) because the type of anti-zionist discourse I’m indicting is neither exclusive to nor exhaustive of Arab political views.

  97. July 10, 2008 at 3:36 pm

    @David Schraub: Um, what? I’ve been not touching this thread with a ten foot pole, but I just saw this comment in the moderation queue and needed to response. I think your analogy of Jewish people and Israel to Mexican/Latino people and the U.S. southwest is invalid. Mexicans and Latinos immigrating to the U.S. southwest aren’t trying to set up a Mexican state there; they’re not trying to privilege themselves above non-Mexican people in the region in discriminatory ways; they don’t have tremendous military or financial support from the U.S. or any other nation in their endeavors to return to their prior lands; they’re not building walls and barriers to keep out non-Mexican people. In fact, the walls and barriers are being built to keep Mexicans out of the land that was once by right theirs.

    If any analogy is to be made between Israel and the U.S. southwest, I think the most accurate one would be to compare Mexicans to Palestinians, not Jewish Israelis. Yes, anti-Semitism is a real and continuing problem. Yes, Jewish people have been a historically oppressed group. However, in the specific paradigm of Israel, Jews are not the oppressed group.

    As an anti-Zionist, I certainly do not support “gentile domination over Jews,” nor am I opposed to Jewish autonomy and self-determination. I would not be opposed to a situation that ensured that Jewish people could freely return to Palestine/Israel without fear of persecution, oppression, or exclusion; unfortunately, the state of Israel as it exists goes far beyond that, and what I do not support is the privileging of that right of Jewish people at the sake of the rights, homes, and lives of Palestinian people. How that can be interpreted as colonialist ideology, I have no clue.

  98. APS
    July 10, 2008 at 4:30 pm

    India and Pakistan have been fighting ever since they were separated into different states around the same time as Israel. Should we fuse them back into one state? Would that solve anything? Should we force Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia and Kosovo back into one state as well? Of course not, this would only mean more bloodshed.

    But somehow, this is the seen as a plausible solution for Israel – to make the Jews another ethnic/religious minority in an Arab state.

    So, its fair to ask then, what is it like to be an ethnic or religious minority in an Arab State? What is the state of tolerance in the Arab world today? Well, we can see the genocide of Black Africans in Sudan, that’s a good example. Or maybe the oppression of Coptic Christians in Egypt. Or the gassing of Kurds in Iraq. Or massive slaughter between Shiites and Sunnis and Vice Versa in places like Iraq, and Lebanon (with some Chrisitians thrown in), and the list goes on. Indeed the “one state” solution is the solution for those who would like to see Jews slaughtered and oppressed like the Black Darfurians, the Kurds, and the other minorities in Arab lands.

  99. July 10, 2008 at 5:42 pm

    As an anti-Zionist, I certainly do not support “gentile domination over Jews,” nor am I opposed to Jewish autonomy and self-determination.

    Well gosh, that’s good enough for me. I’ll just ignore my people’s entire history of being systematically dominated and oppressed, because you SAY you’re not one of the bad guys.

    Even if I had any reason to trust you (and I don’t), you have no way of either personally overthrowing the gentile-dominated global power structure which subordinates Jews, or in a position to give us an alternative system of autonomy and self-determination in absence of Israel (that being a contradiction — if you decide the structure, by definition it is neither autonomous nor self-determined). And since I don’t subscribe to the view that (now borrowing from Kimberle Williams Crenshaw) anti-semitism can be dismissed “by proclamation alone”, the statement that you, personally, don’t want to see me dominated means very little.

    You say “I do not support is the privileging of that right of Jewish people at the sake of the rights, homes, and lives of Palestinian people,” but the anti-Zionist alternative does not take seriously the rights, homes, and lives of Jews and never has, because the alternatives it has provided never provided the security and autonomy that Israel did as a haven from anti-Semitic oppression (instead maintaining the status quo of Jews existing in a gentile dominated sphere and state, or at best, the “liberal” enlightenment tradition that was the precise ideology that failed us in the Holocaust). If you want to just identify yourself as a partisan here — that you value their lives more than mine — that’s fine (or at least honest). But you can’t take that position and seriously present yourself either as someone who is a friend of the Jewish people’s quest for liberation, or by extension, an ally to the liberation of all peoples.

  100. July 10, 2008 at 5:58 pm

    Guess you didn’t care to address my contention of your Mexican/Israeli analogy?

    I’ll just ignore my people’s entire history of being systematically dominated and oppressed

    Did I ask you to do that? Nope. In fact, I acknowledged that history in my post. What I would asking you to acknowledge is that both privilege and oppression are complex things and aren’t mutually exclusive. Jewish people are and have historically been oppressed, but that doesn’t erase their privilege in some situations. Israel is most definitely a situation in which Jewish people enjoy tremendous privilege and, in fact, contribute to the oppression of others.

    Perhaps the problem is that I labeled myself “anti-Zionist.” I use the term to indicate that I do not support the state of Israel as a Jewish state in which non-Jewish people, specifically Palestinians, are stripped of their rights and violently oppressed. As a non-Jewish person, I adopted that label and that understanding from Jewish friends who identify themselves as anti-Zionist and certainly do not view anti-Zionism as equaling anti-Semitism.

    If you want to just identify yourself as a partisan here — that you value their lives more than mine — that’s fine (or at least honest). But you can’t take that position and seriously present yourself either as someone who is a friend of the Jewish people’s quest for liberation, or by extension, an ally to the liberation of all peoples.

    By whose determination can I not claim to be anti-Zionist (by the definition I describe above) yet also anti-Jewish oppression? Yours? That view is contradicted by the many anti-Zionist pro-Palestinian Jews who share my beliefs and from whom I take cues in fighting against anti-Semitism while simultaneously supporting Palestinian people.

    And since I don’t subscribe to the view that (now borrowing from Kimberle Williams Crenshaw) anti-semitism can be dismissed “by proclamation alone”, the statement that you, personally, don’t want to see me dominated means very little.

    Putting aside the fact that Kimberle Williams Crenshaw wasn’t talking about Israel when she said that, yeah, I can’t dismiss anti-Semitism by proclamation alone. Luckily, I don’t. That may not be comforting to you, but I really don’t feel compelled to earn your particular approval on that matter.

  101. shah8
    July 10, 2008 at 6:11 pm

    Jack, seriously, David just told you the shut the hell up. He’s not going to do anything but gnash and grind teeth on metaphorical limbs until you give up.

    The big flashy red sign here is when the troops arrives and starts talking about how disadvantaged those poor jews would be if suffrage was given to those darkies. The prevalence of africa metaphors isn’t an accident, from the very first mention of “This place will become Zimbabwe!”. Which is why I talk about Birchers. Democracy is worth so much less than being considered an European, first world Country…

  102. justsomedude
    July 10, 2008 at 6:23 pm

    This was the gist of a recent conversation I had with an “anti-zionist”.

    Anti-Zionist: “The Jews have no claim to Israel. They left so long ago that they lost any claim to the land, which now rightly belongs to Palestinians”

    Me: “They didn’t leave. They were forcibly expelled by the Romans”

    AZ: “It doesn’t matter. What matters is that you can’t claim ownership of land you haven’t lived in for 2000 years. Things change and you can’t push people off land just because your ancestors lived there long ago”.

    Me: “How long do the Israelis have to keep the Palestinians out before they lose the right to the land?”

    AZ: “The land belongs to the Palestinians no matter how long they have been forced to remain as refugees. The Palestinians will never lose their right to the land.”

    Me: “Interesting”.

  103. DAS
    July 10, 2008 at 6:40 pm

    The prevalence of africa metaphors isn’t an accident, from the very first mention of “This place will become Zimbabwe!”. – shah8

    Speaking as the one who first mentioned Zimbabwe (oh …. wait a minute, I wasn’t — you mentioned “Rhodesia” … so who’s using the Africa metaphors again?), I would like to point out that it was in response to another Africa metaphor commonly used by anti-Zionists: i.e. with apartheid.

    While I know some Zionists would disagree with me, I’m not ideologically Zionist. AFAIC, if a one-state solution would look like South Africa post-apartheid, then I’d be more than happy with it (provided that state did continue to serve as a Jewish place of refuge and allow Jewish access to Jewish Holy Sites). However, where is the evidence that a one-state solution would look like South Africa and not Zimbabwe?

    It’s quite a left-thinking thing to be against any sort of nationalism or against the notion that a single group should be “normal” in a society at the exclusion of others. But if all evidence points to an outcome from a proposed, supposedly left-thinking solution wherein you simply exchange one group being the “normal” group for another … then that solution is rather illiberal, isn’t it?

    Moreover, it’s exactly the kind of thinking that constitutes the popular parody of liberal thought — that we liberals are not after progressive justice but after a form of tribal revenge. “Group A is privileged over group B? Well, let’s turn the tables and privilege Group B.” That parody liberal thinking sometimes seems to motivate a lot of so-called left wing rhetoric (and a lot of antipathy to the left) but it (to use Talmudic language) represents the back of left-leaning thought, not its face.

  104. DAS
    July 10, 2008 at 6:43 pm

    BTW, shah8 … speaking as someone who’s wife and daughter are very, very much Jewish and far less melanically challenged then myself, Jews and “those darkies” are not mutually exclusive categories. Is their racism within the Jewish community and within Israel? Alas, yes. But to reflexively view what’s going on in Israel as purely a function of skin color is rather problematic in and of itself, don’t you think?

  105. passingthru
    July 10, 2008 at 6:54 pm

    “Democracy is worth so much less than being considered an European, first world Country…”

    By all means, blame Israel for the refusal of the Palestinians to abide by democratic principles. It’s a lot easier to say that it’s all the fault of The Occupation than to acknowledge that Hamas is a bunch of thugs that has succeeded a bunch of thugs, whose only way is force, and whose goal is the ultimate destruction of Israel. They don’t want to live peacefully side-by-side. They want to replace Israel. Just read the Hamas charter.

    Our struggle against the Jews is very great and very serious. It needs all sincere efforts. It is a step that inevitably should be followed by other steps. The Movement is but one squadron that should be supported by more and more squadrons from this vast Arab and Islamic world, until the enemy is vanquished and Allah’s victory is realised.

    Yeah, there’s your one-state solution, right there. The one where Jews disappear.

    Girl Detective doesn’t even see the irony in this post. Every single example she cited of anti-Semitism vs. anti-Zionism can be found in the comments here, from the very first one that refuses to acknowledge there is anti-Semitism in criticism of Israel.

    This is one reason why I no longer consider myself a liberal. If the Republicans can ever get over their attitudes on homosexuals and abortion, they’d pick up a whole host of people who are sick of the naked Jew-hatred that has become so public on the left. Anti-war protests are filled with anti-Semitic imagery and signs. Rabbi Michael Lerner is refused the right to speak at an ANSWER rally, because he isn’t anti-Israel enough for them. James Moran accuses American Jews of causing the war in Iraq, and he suffers no ill effects. Obama’s pastor of 20 years regularly demonizes Jews and Israel, and the left shrugs it off. Jimmy Carter writes a book filled with lies and distortions about Israel, and has the nerve to go around saying that you simply can’t criticize Israel in America. No, but you can write a best-selling book about it and go on a world lecture tour, picking up more millions from the Arabs who fund your Carter Center.

    I’d like to take back my vote for Carter, but hey, no takebacks in politics.

    Considering Israel illegitimate is not anti-semetic. Neither is comparing Israel to the Nazis. (Although that is quite moronic)

    In the first comment. The FIRST comment. No, there’s nothing wrong with comparing the state that was born out of the ashes of what survived the Nazi Holocaust, and the state the murdered the six million. Because Israel is just like Nazi Germany. Except that it’s actually quite the opposite. The Palestinians are not in death camps, have not been murdered by the millions, and are currently negotiating for their own state. But yeah, there’s no anti-Semitism in trying to make the survivors and children of the Nazi Holocaust out to be just like the Nazis.

    I rest my case.

  106. WestEndGirl
    July 10, 2008 at 7:13 pm

    @Shah8

    Please give it a rest re: this “talking about how disadvantaged those poor jews would be if suffrage was given to those darkies”. That is both hugely offensive and inaccurate. For a start just over half of Israeli Jews are from Middle East and North African countries. And another good portion of Israeli Jews are from Ethiopia, India etc. So asserting that ‘white’ Israelis are just denying suffrage to “darkies” is really just pathetic. And that’s not even taking into account that the 20% of Israelis who are of Arab, Druze, Beduin, Circassian etc origin who have suffrage. So just cut it out.

    There’s plenty to criticise the various Israeli governments for in their ongoing dispute with Palestinians/Arabs without the need to make false claims.

    Anyhoo, @Jack re: this

    “Perhaps the problem is that I labeled myself “anti-Zionist.” I use the term to indicate that I do not support the state of Israel as a Jewish state in which non-Jewish people, specifically Palestinians, are stripped of their rights and violently oppressed.”

    >> Jack, based on what you’ve written, I’d like an answer to this simple question: do you believe that the state of Israel should have been founded in 1948?

    I ask this simple question because the scenario you frame where “non-Jewish people, specifically Palestinians, are stripped of their rights and violently oppressed” has occurred as a result of a series of historical actions between the Yishuv and latterly Israelis and the Arab/Palestinian leadership in the area of Southern Syria/Mandate of Palestine from the 19th century onwards.

    Zionism in and of itself did not require and for the most part did not desire to see non-Jews stripped of their rights and violently oppressed. That is why there are thriving communities for Druze, Bahais, minority Christians and Christian and Muslim Arabs all living quite happily with full rights in Israel proper. The Jewish state as a Jewish state within the Green Line, which most people consider to be its legal boundary, does not do what you have asserted.

    Therefore your self-described explanation for why you call yourself an anti-Zionist is clearly based on a false premise.

    There are tragic and terrible things going on in the West Bank and Gaza impacting in disastrous and negative ways on the Palestinians who live there, but that is because they are living in occupied/disputed/quasi-annexed territory (which of course should be given up as part of a peace settlement to form a viable Palestinian state, just to clarify my position). But the situation there has very little to do with Israel being a Jewish state, it is to do with a specific ideology, territory, resources and security issues – exactly the same way when there is any conflict between two parties over the same patch of land and exactly the same way with other occupation scenarios from Northern Ireland to Western Sahara. The settler movement is an expression of a political/religious ideology and is not synonymous with Zionism or Israel as a Jewish state. Just the same way that the Ulstermen were an expression of a political/religious ideology and not synonymous with UK nationalism.

    I believe that both peoples need their own homelands – self-determination and autonomy for both parties. Israel and Palestine, side by side. Anti-Zionism on the other hand means denying Jews that right to self-determination and autonomy in their own homeland, simple as that.

    That’s why I ask you the simple question. Because if you say no, then your position is not actually about securing rights for Palestinians in the here and now as you state (which I am an ardent advocate of), it’s actually more about denying the rights of the Israelis, their narrative, history and experience.

    And I’m really not sure, when things are framed in that way, just exactly why that’s any better than those on the extreme Zionist right who seek to deny the rights of the Palestinians to their narrative, history and experience. I feel sick when I hear them say there are no such people as Palestinians. But I feel similarly sick, when I hear people try to explain away the Israelis as people as well.

  107. July 10, 2008 at 7:29 pm

    Joe

    Part of the problem in arguing that Israel is illegitimate because Palestinians were displaced is that such criticism is not distributed equally. Those same people do not use scare quotes when talking about the United States or Australia.

    When you single out Israel for something that nearly every country in the world is equally guilty of, it smacks of antisemitism.

    I don’t think it’s quite as easy as “Oh but everyone had colonialism.” First of all the foundation of Israel wasn’t colonialism. They weren’t there for resources and they weren’t claiming land for an already existing country, they skipped the whole colonialism and went straight to forming a new country. Second of all it wasn’t the 1700’s or 1800’s, it was 1948. You know, just after we fought an enormous world war to prevent people from trying to take over land that wasn’t there’s. The truth is, the only reason it was acceptable at the time is because they weren’t taking land away from white people to form this new country. The whole reason the British were more than happy to help the Zionists out is because they didn’t want the Jews in their country.

    I don’t feel this is particularly helpful to the issue though. If they are harping on this without acknowledging the fact that after fifty years the solution is not to remove Israel their true intentions are probably questionable.

    Das

    Except that Israel obtained those borders by virtue of conquest in a war in which it was attacked — and generally, in history, when you win a war you didn’t even start, you get to keep the territory. And many states are racial in nature.

    Now if Palestine had started the war this would be valid. But they didn’t. Egypt, Syria, and Jordan are the one that started militarizing, and then Israel launched a pre-emptive strike. Palestine didn’t do anything. It’s like Brazil and the USA get involved in a war so the USA annexes Mexico and starts taking their rights away. Herein lies one of the major problems, almost every extremist group likes to say they are “helping Palestine” so they have excuses to escalate the violence and the only way Israel thinks to deal with it is to continue tightening up on Palestine.

    Jewish people who don’t identify with Israel, of which there are many

    I think that this becomes more and more important. I live in a very Jewish area, and speaking with those who do identify as Jewish of my generation, they really don’t feel much for Israel. They are more likely to criticize it than anything else and basically none of them feel any solidarity with the country, the only exceptions to this are really only within the ultra orthodox groups. This is also why I think those that are anti-Israel policy and those who are truly anti-semite are quite easy to distinguish, the later will not admit that not all Jews agree with “Zionism.”

  108. shah8
    July 10, 2008 at 8:14 pm

    WestEndGirl…

    I was talking about the bircher sentiments of some of the posters here.

    Now, if you want to talk about racism inside of the Israeli state…

    This would merely be the first link
    http://www.greenleft.org.au/2006/666/6774

    and I can easily show that Israel is an apartheid state, with much public support from europeanized jews for privileges accorded to them at the expense of all the other jews, and especially at the expense of non-jews.

    But I won’t, because now’ve we’ve gotten into the irrational phase of the typical israel thread on the nets.

  109. shah8
    July 10, 2008 at 8:18 pm

    boy, but when I google for this stuff, I *do* see some of the original point by “The Girl Detective”…

    *whew!* there really is a load of anti-semites that harp on Israel as a means to persue their attitudes.

  110. Rebecca
    July 10, 2008 at 8:28 pm

    Hypatia: You can’t be suggesting that Israel’s founding is worse than taking over lands and enslaving their people in order to get at their gold or rubber or diamonds or what have you?

  111. DAS
    July 10, 2008 at 8:32 pm

    Now if Palestine had started the war this would be valid. But they didn’t. Egypt, Syria, and Jordan are the one that started militarizing, and then Israel launched a pre-emptive strike. Palestine didn’t do anything. – hypatia

    FWIW and I dunno how it affects either of our sides of the argument at hand, it didn’t do anything because it didn’t exist as a country. Those lands were occupied by Egypt and Jordan at the time.

    I live in a very Jewish area, and speaking with those who do identify as Jewish of my generation, they really don’t feel much for Israel. They are more likely to criticize it than anything else and basically none of them feel any solidarity with the country, the only exceptions to this are really only within the ultra orthodox groups. – hypatia

    I am curious as to what you mean by “identify as Jewish”. Ironically, considering the secularist origins of Zionism, most Jews who actually are religiously involved, while not so pro-Israeli as the Zionist camp would like, are still reasonably attached to Israel to the point of viewing existential threats against Israel (and the Zionist camp is very good at being alarmists so that all threats are viewed that way) as threats indirectly against the Jewish people as a whole and hence against them.

    Your statement that “ultra-orthodox groups” are the ones showing solidarity with Israel suggests that your perspective on who “Jewish youth” are might be different than where I am coming from (and I assume FreddyBak is coming from) as it indicates that you are in a different place on the spectrum of Jewish religious identity that you would find Orthodox groups that are pro-Israel to be “ultra-Orthodox”.

    Chabad is, IIRC, pretty pro-Israel, but I’m not even sure if I’d count them as “ultra-orthodox” (I assume you do). Certainly Modern and Centrist Orthodoxy (which also tend pro-Israel) are not “ultra-orthodox” from my perspective as a Conservative/Masorti Jew (albeit one who disagrees with that movement on issues relating to Israel — which I guess suggests that Israel is less than central to my Jewish identity that I choose to affiliate with a movement with which I have disagreements vis-a-vis Zionism) but maybe from your perspective they are?

    To me ultra-Orthodox = Agudas Yisroel (which is de facto pro-Israel — and responsible for some of the worst, IMHO as a liberal Jew, religious bigotry within Israel — but whose philosophical view toward Zionism mirrors my own) or = Aish Ha-Haredi / Neturai Karta (who are militantly anti-Zionist). I.e. ultra-Orthodox = not pro-Israel.

    *

    WestEndGirl, the thing is that if Israel is a legitimate state, then it should be allowed to defend its borders, etc. like a legitimate state can so do. A lot of what Israel does is, while distasteful, reasonably within the realm of what is otherwise condoned in state-craft. To single out Israel in this regard is not necessarily anti-Semitic (an argument could be made that we Jews should hold Israel, as the Jewish state, to a higher standard as part of our being “the chosen people”), but it often is.

    Anyway, the fact is that if you buy the Zionist narrative, it is a huge compromise for Jews to give up the West Bank (Gaza, not so much) which is historically part of the Jewish homeland. If you buy the Palestinian narrative, it’s a huge compromise for the Palestinians not to have a 100% right of return. Obviously some sort of compromise must be reached, even though for either side to even sit at the table is a compromise. The question is why the left buys the Palestinian narrative but refuses to view the Zionist narrative through anything but a lens of colonialism. This seems to many of us Jews to indicate anti-Semitism, as has been so thoroughly and wonderfully discussed here.

  112. WestEndGirl
    July 10, 2008 at 8:49 pm

    Shah8

    The only person on here who’s being irrational is you. There are Jewish people here – including me, the archetypal left-winger – telling you what their take on Zionism, Israel, anti-Semitism is. But no, us Jews we’re not allowed to say, this is our narrative, our history, our intrepretation, our experience. Nope, you and Jack, get to tell us what Zionism is, and what a Jewish state is, and what it should be allowed to be…

    Apparently you can *show* me stuff via google. What can you *show* exactly? Something that proves your point, but discards that which doesn’t?

    Seriously but, have you actually been to Israel? You do realise that Israelis and Jews are real live human beings, not kind of some political philosophy case study for you to apply your remote theories to right? Europeanized Jews? You know that’s not even a terminology I’ve ever heard a Jewish person use – what right do you have to set the terms of our identity?

    I am a mixed Jew – half Ashkenazi and half Mizrahi – who has lived in Israel for long periods of time. My personal experience, and not a webpage result, was that I was afforded no more or less help with bureaucracy. No more or no less access to the education I wanted. No more or no less access to the property I wanted to rent. Etc etc etc etc.

    But you know what, you’re just going to ignore the fact that my Mizrahi family in Israel are hugely successful in their jobs and their lives. You’re just going to ignore the fact that they wouldn’t agree with any of your assertions vis-a-vis their privileges or lack of. Nope, you just get to pronounced away, without personal experience, meddling in other people’s lives just to satisfy your urge to prove you are right. Well done you.

    Yep, we’re the irrational ones indeed, having the affront to use our own pesky personal experience to disagree with your views. How very dare we indeed….

  113. July 10, 2008 at 9:52 pm

    It’s good that you started to see what GD’s been saying all along after 100+ replies, shah8! I’m so excited for you!

  114. shah8
    July 10, 2008 at 10:01 pm

    You do realize that you are but one voice among many?

    That plenty of people say many things other than what you have said?

    In what way, given that the closest I’ve ever been to Israel is Cairo, should I privilege your voice more than others?

    I’ve never heard of mizrahi jews before now, so I checked out Wiki…
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mizrahi_Jews
    Seems like an interesting wiki…urge everyone to check it out!

    I am, actually, personally aware of how some ashkenazi jews treat sephardic jews like dirt. Your relations might be successful, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they are typical.

    In any event, do you know what the architypical left-winger is? One that believes that every human soul has a voice in the society that involves it. My beef with Zionism instantly goes away if seperate roads, seperate water, high walls for seperate lands, and all the other acroutments of forced apartheid and distinct class system based on just how european you are. If you don’t believe that the Palestinians should be allowed to have suffrage (either in a viable state, or as part of Israel), and that the resources of the state should be available to all without consideration of precisely where one is from, then you aren’t a leftist, at least when it comes to Israel.

    And oh, yes, if we leave the Palestinians and Israeli arabs of various sorts out of this, and further, you believe that Israel does not have rather harsh barriers to certain jews, then I have a bridge I want to sell you.

  115. July 10, 2008 at 10:04 pm

    Jack: I agree with you that Israel is primarily in an state of privilege vis-a-vis Palestinians (though I wish you’d take seriously your own putative position that the dynamics of privilege are complex here — the “privilege” also includes having rockets dropped on your house and many in the international community saying its justified), but you don’t seem to grasp that as a non-Jew, you’re in a position of power and privilege over me as a Jew — even when the topic is Israel. The existence of Israel doesn’t eliminate anti-Semitism (you agree with that), but that means that the globalized subordination of Jews which is the primary justification for Israel can’t be exiled from conversations about the topic either.

    So when you engage in this discourse by saying “your rendition of your own history is flawed — use mine instead”, recognize that’s coming from a privileged position that you should be self-critical towards. My indictment of your practice is not that you deny the theoretical existance of anti-Semitism in history or today, it’s that you don’t see it in places that I and many other Jews have historically and contemporaneously experienced it. It’s no defense to say that you see anti-Semitism some times, and it’s arrogant to assert that it’s only anti-Semitism when non-Jews concede that it is. We have the right to name our own reality.

    When you write this

    I do not support the state of Israel as a Jewish state in which non-Jewish people, specifically Palestinians, are stripped of their rights and violently oppressed.

    as the manifestation of your “anti-Zionism”, I’m left rolling my eyes. Why? Because I don’t consider Zionism, conceptually, to be “the creation of a Jewish state in Israel where non-Jewish people, specifically Palestinians, are stripped of their rights and violently oppressed.” I agree that opposing the oppression and violence against Palestinians is really important, but I don’t think that makes you anti-Zionist, because there is nothing inherent in Zionism that requires violent oppression of Palestinians — we can really just stop that definition after “Israel”. Here’s the example of the denial: when Jews say (and by and large they do — most Jews support the creation of a Palestinian state) “we oppose the status quo in which Palestinians are stateless”, yet nevertheless call themselves Zionist, don’t turn around and define our own liberation agenda for us as inherently oppressive. The slip you make here — tieing together “creating Jewish state in Israel” and “oppressing Palestinians” — is ridiculously reactionary. It forces opposition to the Jewish liberation project by making it definitionally imperialist; hence, if we want to oppose imperialism, we must oppose the Jewish effort at statehood.

    My definition of Zionism, borrowed from Phoebe Maltz, is simple: “it was a good idea to create a Jewish state in Israel, and it should stick around (as a Jewish state).” That’s compatible with the creation of a Palestinian state (indeed, I’d say it realistically requires it). If you’re calling yourself “anti-Zionist”, rather than “anti-leaving-certain-groups-stateless-unless-they’re-Jews” (or anti-certain-sucky-Israeli-policies), that’s what you need to argue against. And in making that argument against (that we shouldn’t have created a Jewish state in Israel, and having made the mistake we should try and get rid of it), you need to be attentive to Jewish experience and vulnerability when under gentile domination — a history which can’t be waved away by assurances that this time y’all will play nice.

  116. shah8
    July 10, 2008 at 10:12 pm

    Brown Shoes… A mis-google. If one does racism+Israel+christians…

    Well, you get sites like Rense.com popping up just a little too often. As well as sites call jewishracism.com which are apparently a platform for people to trash jews.
    /me shrugs…

    Found my way to stuff about christian arabs like I intended. Learned a little more about the world today.

    As far as being irrational…I have little patience for willful stupidity. My opinions simply aren’t from me just going to some odd website. I am, believe it or not, reasonably familiar with Israel, its politics, history, and culture. I may not know it like a native, but you know, for a time, I was a pretty regular reader of Ha’aretz. I have interacted with israelis, in person and on the web. I have actually read a few book by israelis about the state of their nation (certainly plenty about their wars!). I check out Tikkun every once in a while. I’m brash when I’m confident. And I am confident, because the mass of not-especially-contestable-evidence weighs on my side of the intellectual arguments. I’ll leave it to you guys to regret ever voting for Jimmy Carter, simply because he wrote it like he saw it.

  117. Rockit
    July 10, 2008 at 10:32 pm

    Is anti-semitism present in much left-wing discussion of the Israel/Palestine situation? Yes, as someone mentioned above it’s been inherent in much of the posts above, particularly in regard to comparisons with other states.

    1.) With respect to the USA, Australia, etc. histories, Israel is different in the sense that Israeli settlers didn’t set out explicitly to commit genocide against an indigenous population, partly out of an extreme presumption of racial superiority, in order to claim their land and to ‘convert’ them to their religion and culture while keeping the survivors around as essentially a slave/servant caste.

    2.) As for Israel/South Africa, as someone who grew up in Apartheid South Africa, I can tell you there is a world of difference between a country where it is enshrined in law that citizenship (including use of public services including medical care and education right across the board) is based on a hierachy of races, the bottom of which should be denied any inherent rights whatsoever, and what is happening in Israel right now, however horrible it is.

    3.) How anyone can look at the Israeli Jews/Nazis comparison as anything but grossly, explicitly anti-semitic is beyond me. Perhaps you can see why the largescale use of those kind of lazy and inaccurate comparisons toward Israel – and let’s be honest, when the people who make those comparisons talk about ‘Israel’, they aren’t referring to the Muslim or Christian population – above other, far more brutal states naturally make Jews feel as if they’re being targeted.

    I should make it clear that like a majority of Jews my age I strongly disagree with the Israeli government’s policies in Israel right now as well as the political direction the country is moving in, however I will never apologise for believing the state of Israel has a right to exist (preferably alongside an independent Palestinian state). Unfortunately, many pro-Palestinian activists see the dissolution of Israel as a desired endpoint which makes it very difficult to get on the same side as them. That’s the same catch-22 the Israeli government is facing – every time they attack civilian areas to kill a terrorist leader or construct a wall across the west bank they’re doing it because they feel it’s crucial to not only the defense but the survival of the country itself. But every time they act in that way, they’re not only terrorizing the Palestinian population but they’re also heightening the threat toward themselves.

  118. topanga
    July 11, 2008 at 1:16 am

    Not to be a Debbie Downer or anything…

    In the matter of Israel, et al. v Palestine, et al., there is no good answer and, I am sorry to say, there will never be a good answer. So here’s an idea: why don’t all of us all make a pact to stop killing each other? Give peace a chance and all the hype? Pinky-swear to be BFFs and hold hands while singing campfire songs?

    Yeah. I guess not, huh?

  119. DAS
    July 11, 2008 at 9:27 am

    But no, us Jews we’re not allowed to say, this is our narrative, our history, our intrepretation, our experience. Nope, you and Jack, get to tell us what Zionism is, and what a Jewish state is, and what it should be allowed to be… – WestEndGirl

    Bingo! This is exactly what turns many Jews off from the left-leaning thought to which we otherwise would subscribe. Somehow everyone’s narrative is valid except for the narrative of us Jews. As David Schraum points out, the anti-Zionist left, even as they offer cogent critiques of privilege, takes a position that reeks of privilege and denial of any sense of equality to the Jewish narrative. This smacks of anti-Semitism and is why, even if they cannot articulate it in these terms precisely, many Jews view the left as anti-Semitic.

    Except it isn’t just we Jews that at least perceive ourselves as having our narratives excluded by the left. If you look at where liberal politics should be winning but are not, it’s because people feel that the left manages to incorporate everyone’s narrative but their own. Some of what is going on is deliberate distortions of left wing thought by reactionary forces as well as those with a compulsive need to be on the left-center of the Overton window even as their point of view really is the right center, but some of the damage is indeed done by those on the left who are privileged enough that they feel they can define who is privileged and accept or ignore narratives accordingly.

    Until those on the left, who make such cogent critiques of, e.g. white, male upper-class Christian privilege, can see their own privileges and stop excluding the narratives of the underprivileged because said leftists have deemed one or other such groups as “privileged” (or even better transcend the binary “privileged or not privileged … or maybe a bit of both” quasi-Marxist thinking that should by now be as out of date as the nationalisms the left claims to oppose … even as they support agendas that are de facto nationalistic!), the left will continue to alienate many already alienated souls who, by all rights, should be amongst the liberal base.

  120. July 11, 2008 at 10:55 am

    But no, us Jews we’re not allowed to say, this is our narrative, our history, our intrepretation, our experience. Nope, you and Jack, get to tell us what Zionism is, and what a Jewish state is, and what it should be allowed to be…

    So somehow, being anti-Zionist/opposing the state of Israel as it exists is telling Jews, in general, that you’re not allowed to have your narrative, history, interpretation, or experience? That’s a really huge leap, especially because Jewish narrative, history, and experience are by no means monolithic.

    I’m actually thinking that I need to step back from this conversation. Admittedly, activism around Palestine and Israel is not my personal focus, nor is Palestinian or Israeli history my area of expertise. Interestingly, most if not all of the pro-Palestinian/anti-Israeli/anti-occupation activism that I’ve come into contact with has come from my Jewish friends, from whom I’ve learned most of what I know about this stuff. Many of them belong to the organization Jews Against the Occupation, so I thought to look at their website for some help in this conversation. I’ll leave you with information from that site, words that represent a different set of Jewish narratives and experiences, ones that acknowledges the complex dynamics of power, privilege, and oppression at play in this issue and do not privilege the rights of Jewish Israelis people over and to the detriment of the rights of Palestinians.

    In their mission statement, they have a section entitled “Anti-Semitism vs. Critiques of Israel” in which they state:

    Judaism is a cultural and religious identity, which must not be equated with Zionism, a political movement. Criticism of the state of Israel, its policies, or the idea of a Jewish state does not by itself constitute anti-Semitism. Dismissing critics of Israel or of Zionism as “anti-Semitic” is a means of stifling debate and masking the impact of the occupation.

    They also have a section on their site completely devoted to the question “Is it Anti-Semitic to be Anti-Zionist?”, with viewpoints from different anti-occupation Jewish activists. In one of the pieces, Hadas Their, who identifies as “a Jew, as someone who was born in Israel and has family living today in Jerusalem,” says:

    And for those of us who are active in the pro-Palestine movement, the onslaught of attacks claiming that we’re all anti-Semites has reached a fever pitch.

    From Ariel Sharon, who accused anyone who demanded an investigation of Israel’s war crimes in Jenin of committing anti-Semitic “blood libel,” all the way to liberal newspapers like the Voice which ran an article by Alissa Solomon that accused pro-Palestine activists as “tipping towards hate.”

    All these accusations attempt to cover the real story of Israel’s continued aggression and occupation; they deflect criticism from Israel’s actions by attacking the critics.

    Anti-Semitism does exist. It exists in the Arab world, just as it does elsewhere in the world, including among racists who support Israel because they hate Arabs even more than Jews. But there’s no necessary correlation between opposing the racism, occupation and repression of Israel and anti-Semitism. And there’s absolutely no contradiction at all between opposing anti-Semitism and opposing the political project of Zionism—that is, the construction and defense of a Jewish state on stolen land in Palestine.

    And I’ll leave you at that, since I honestly don’t think I have more to offer a conversation that doesn’t seem to be terribly constructive at this point.

  121. July 11, 2008 at 12:08 pm

    Yes, Jack. We already noticed you said you have Jewish friends.

  122. July 11, 2008 at 12:44 pm

    I’m not trying to say that I’m immune from anti-Semitism because I have Jewish friends, or even that I’m right simply because I share some of their beliefs on this issue. I’m explaining where my education and politics have come from on this issue, in the face of some who seem determined to accuse anyone who is not Jewish of either being anti-Semitic in their opposition to Israel or as attempting to silence or ignore Jewish experience and narrative.

    So you can leave a snide, pointless remark, or you can respond to the substance of what I posted. Your choice!

  123. July 11, 2008 at 1:06 pm

    Jack, I think the substance of your remark is exactly what David was writing about. Why he refers to anti-Zionism as colonialism. You keep bringing up your Jewish friends, but it strikes me as a demand to conform to your notion of what a good Jew should be.

  124. July 12, 2008 at 12:19 am

    Hypatia: You can’t be suggesting that Israel’s founding is worse than taking over lands and enslaving their people in order to get at their gold or rubber or diamonds or what have you?

    Considering I didn’t say that, it would be the wrong thing to take away from that comment. The point was they aren’t comparable incidences and you don’t get to absolve one because the other happened.

    Now if Palestine had started the war this would be valid. But they didn’t. Egypt, Syria, and Jordan are the one that started militarizing, and then Israel launched a pre-emptive strike. Palestine didn’t do anything. – hypatia

    FWIW and I dunno how it affects either of our sides of the argument at hand, it didn’t do anything because it didn’t exist as a country. Those lands were occupied by Egypt and Jordan at the time.

    I think the key word there is occupied, the people of Palestine have been the pawns in middle of a an ideological war that has seen their land and their safety flipped from one side to the other.

    I am curious as to what you mean by “identify as Jewish”. Ironically, considering the secularist origins of Zionism, most Jews who actually are religiously involved, while not so pro-Israeli as the Zionist camp would like, are still reasonably attached to Israel to the point of viewing existential threats against Israel (and the Zionist camp is very good at being alarmists so that all threats are viewed that way) as threats indirectly against the Jewish people as a whole and hence against them.

    Your statement that “ultra-orthodox groups” are the ones showing solidarity with Israel suggests that your perspective on who “Jewish youth” are might be different than where I am coming from (and I assume FreddyBak is coming from) as it indicates that you are in a different place on the spectrum of Jewish religious identity that you would find Orthodox groups that are pro-Israel to be “ultra-Orthodox”.

    When speaking about “identifying as Jewish” I mean people who choose to actively participate in the religion, not just those who are Jewish by birth or ethnicity. Now they certainly don’t want to see Israel blown up or extremist on TV screaming “Death to the Jews!” Many have some relative or another living there, but very few of them would actively support the Israeli government actions. Part of this has to do with the fact that in reality most of these people are very well established here and don’t see a point in trying to “fight” for a Jewish ‘homeland’ when they are really quite happy in North America.

    Quite honestly those I term “ultra-orthodox”, are those who not only follow the orthodox teaching but will also try very strongly to keep out any varying opinion even from within their own group, and go through great pains to segregate themselves. In my area there are very few groups that fall under that category but those that do are very pro-Israeli government to the point that they think Israel should do more to remove the Palestinians so that they may have a true Jewish homeland.

  125. Mel
    July 12, 2008 at 11:22 am

    I’m Israeli, I’ve never lived anywhere else and I’ve been around for two Intifada’s, the first Iraq war in which Scuds flew over my house, and the Second War in Lebanon in which I served on the home front.
    I’ve lost friends due to bomb attacks and I’ve seen Palestinians dance in the streets after a “successful” (i.e. fatal) attack.

    That being said, I’m active in the anti-Occupation movement, I’ve been called an Arab-lover, an Arab-fucker, a traitor, a self-hating Jew, an anti-Zionist and a lot of other bad things as well, simply because I believe my country (which I love and would not and cannot call another place home) does things badly and for the wrong reasons.
    I go to University with Palestinians with Israeli citizenship, I’ve planted olive trees with Palestinians in the Occupied Territories and I’ve marched with Palestinians rallying against the separation wall. I go to University with Israelis from Sderot and the kibbutizim around Gaza, I’ve sat in solidarity with demonstrating against the gov. for the total neglect they show towards its citizens (and are in fact keeping them hostage in their own homes).

    Fact, I live in luxury while another people, living just a few km away from me live in standards the UN considers “Third World”. Fact, the building and expansion of settlements in the West Bank and the building of the so-called “security” fence is illegal.

    Another fact, anti-Zionism isn’t Antisemitism though it is often conflated because it is easy to clump together a country whose policies are racist, fascist and inhumane.

    I’ve never experienced Antisemitism myself, because I am a part of the ruling class and race in my country, but there was a reason my family immigrated to this country and that was so that they wouldn’t need to go through that kind of prejudice.
    Israel exists because of the Holocaust, to say otherwise is to ignore history, to say that certain anti-Zionist or anti-Israel remarks aren’t Antisemitism is to ignore reality… ditto though, if you can really justify everything Israel does in the name of “security” because, if you’ve been to the wall and the fence, or seen the rubble of a torn down house, or visited Sderot and seen the abandonment by the government of it’s people and how it’s all the Arabs fault because they don’t want peace, one would rethink the validity of the policies Israel puts forth.

    I, btw, have yet to see Israel show any motivation towards lasting peace.
    And don’t talk to me about Oslo or the Disengagement plan from Gaza.

    I know I came late in the game and didn’t really touch that much on this really, really well written blog entry, but I just had to put in my two shekels (a Shnekel as they say ’round these parts).

  126. Rebecca
    July 13, 2008 at 8:52 pm

    Hypatia, I’m not “absolving” Israel of blame because other countries started or expanded under similar circumstances. On the contrary – I condemn Israel for its oppressive actions, but as I stated above, people use them to deny that Israel is a country, while not doing the same for other [non-Jewish] countries such as Australia.

    I also find your analysis of pro-Israel sentiment among Jews problematic. You assume a lot. Some people support the Israeli government’s actions because they don’t know their full extent or see Palestinians at fault or think that the end – a Jewish state or a democracy in that region – justifies the means. Going by the people I know, the preservation of a Jewish homeland is not just a little side issue because we’re very comfortable here. In addition, your link between the politics you describe and Judaism as a religion as opposed to an ethnicity seems somewhat arbitrary. You also, might I add, are completely ignoring non-Israeli Jews outside of North America.

  127. July 23, 2008 at 5:44 pm

    How about this: without religion, this article would not exist. You can secularize the argument all you want, but if some people didn’t think a patch of land in the desert was significant because the creator of the universe did X, Y and Z there, they could just re-settle in Wyoming or Southern California… you know, like detectivegirl.

Comments are closed.