Anti-Semitism and Subordination Part II: The Myth of Jewish Hyper-Power

A guest-series by David Schraub of The Debate Link
PRIOR POSTS IN THE SERIES:
“We Cannot Live Without Our Lives” Either

In the first post in this series, I talked about why I thought it was important to look at anti-Semitism from a critical perspective, and sketched the outlines of the assumptions and methodologies from which I’m making my claims. This post was originally supposed to Post #3, but for a variety of reasons I decided to flip it with the 2nd post. It looks at the hyperpowerful Jew and how that fits into contemporary discourse about Jewish institutions.

One thing that became clear in the last post was the need to clarify what the project of this series is. It is not “my thoughts on Gaza: anti-Semitism is the real issue.” That would be absurd: anti-Semitism cannot be removed from Gaza, but it is obviously not the sole or primary issue and it would be wrong to frame it such. This project is more accurately stated as “A critical account of anti-Semitism as a structural phenomenon, and how it affects the progressive community – with Gaza occasionally used as illustration.” I understand there are a lot of really important issues going down in Gaza that deserve the attention of the progressive community, and we shouldn’t ignore them. Fortunately, I’m not the only blogger in the world, so I’m confident in your ability to find that information without my aid. Likewise, I do not at all dispute that there are other issues as pertaining to the Jewish community and Israel other than anti-Semitism (someone mentioned Jewish racism. Absolutely true, absolutely appalling, needs to be condemned and excised from my community – but not the subject of this particular series). This series is about anti-Semitism.

In the pantheon of anti-Semitic stereotypes, few are more prominent than are the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. The Protocols purport to reveal the secret Jewish plot to take and maintain control of the world. Though proven to be a Czarist forgery, the Protocols still enjoy widespread currency, including in the Arab world, where it has (among other cases) made an as the linchpin of an Egyptian television series.

The myth of Jewish hyper-power flows out one of the more peculiar ways anti-Semitic oppression has historically manifested itself. The fact that Jews have often ascended to positions of wealth and influence has been used as proof positive that they cannot possibly be oppressed. But this refuses to grapple with the particularity of how anti-Semitism has historically operationalized. For a variety of historical reasons, including their long-standing diaspora status and the Christian ban on usury, Jews were disproportionately represented amongst the trading and banking classes. Because of this, many Jews were able to rise to positions of surprising power even in locations where they were heavily marginalized. The ruling classes found that Jews could be useful in this role for several reasons. One of these was that Jews could serve as a buffer between the rulers and the peasants, redirecting the ire of the working classes away from their true oppressors and onto another source (thus spawning the observation that anti-Semitism is “the socialism of fools”). The Polish nobility, for example, assigned Jews to be tax-collectors, guaranteeing them to be hated and despised (as tax-collectors generally are) by the broader populace. Many a noble found that an easy way to get himself out of debt would be to spark a well-timed pogrom against his local Jewish population – which generally included most of his creditors.

Jewish hyperpower is the idea that Jews, through their control of (I’m told) the media, entertainment, banks, and intelligentsia, can effectively manipulate the world to their own ends and stifle any criticism of their policies. It is conspiratorial: “The Jews”, as a collective entity, are working together to achieve ends favorable to “The Jews”. In effect, it renders the Jews inhuman: an undifferentiated malevolent entity, existing outside time and space, which is unbound by the strictures and rules which govern the rest of us and can do whatever it pleases.

Like the narrative of Jewish violence, the myth of Jewish hyperpower continues to have salience today. On the far-right, of course, claims about our Zionist-Occupied Government (ZOG) are rampant. Leftist extremists can make very similar claims: (now retired) Wellesley University Professor of Africana Studies Tony Martin’s book The Jewish Onslaught is replete with this sort of argument. A left-wing graduate student at Chicago told me to my face that the Jews had achieved “hegemony in the original sense of the word” over the field of Middle Eastern studies, and that the UN was likewise under the heel of the Jews through its connection to the “Rockefellers.” And a British magazine hit all of the bases (money, conspiracy, malevolent power) when it published an article entitled “A Kosher Conspiracy?” illustrated on the front cover by a gold star of David piercing the Union Jack.

When John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt wrote their book, The Israel Lobby, many of these issues came into sharp relief. First, many Jewish organizations complained it was anti-Semitic. In response, many of M&W’s defenders used this reaction as proof of their hypothesis, that it was impossible for criticism of Israel to make it through the checkpoints Jewish leaders had placed to govern discourse of their actions (the fact that the article was, in fact, published and then converted into a highly profitable book deal seems to be irrelevant).

What is the case that anti-Semitism inflects Walt & Mearsheimer’s argument? One of the seemingly trivial, but I think somewhat important, warrants for the claim was the capitalization: “The Israel Lobby” (as opposed to “The Israel lobby”), which casts it as precisely the sort of uniform and conspiratorial entity that is promulgated by the protocols. But more seriously, it’s important to remember where Walt & Mearsheimer were coming from in relation to what they were arguing. W&M were two of the most prominent members of the neo-realist school of international relations. Neo-realists believe that international relations are governed entirely by structural aspects of the international system. Domestic considerations play absolutely no role – states are “black boxes”. Yet, W&M believed that American policy towards Israel could not be explained in this way. America wasn’t behaving in a way that made sense if neo-realism was correct. Their explanation was that “The Israel Lobby” was so effective it actually managed to break the IR equivalent of the laws of physics. In other words: Jewish hyperpower strikes again. W&M’s argument would be far less objectionable if they were people who normally believed that domestic lobbying played an important role in dictating international policy. But they don’t think that. They think the opposite: that domestic lobbying never plays a role in how states behave in the global sphere. The only exception, it seems, is when the Jews start acting up.

I noted previously the resistance to the idea amongst progressives that Jews deserve even to be able to stake a claim that anti-Semitism is a true and relevant consideration that they need to pay more than pro forma attention to. The myth of Jewish hyperpower has several implications for the way in which progressives engage with the idea of anti-Semitism. First, it makes it difficult to account for the idea that Jews might be oppressed. If Jews are the paradigm of empowerment, then they can’t possibly be a subordinated class subject to critical analysis. The task of analyzing Jews becomes synonymous with analyzing the history of modern European power. So, for example, the Zionist movement is uncritically lumped in with European colonialist ambitions of the 19th and 20th century. This happens despite the fact that Jews were, by and large and as a class, excluded from the empowered classes that developed and promulgated colonialist ideology (indeed, it happens despite the fact that many Jews – including many future residents of Israel, were not European but African, Middle-Eastern, or Asian). Certainly, such discourse affected the ways in which Jews presented their case to European powers which were sources of potential aid. But it is a gross misrepresentation of the contemporary position of European Jews to assert that Zionism was or is the vanguard, rearguard, or any other sort of battalion in the European colonialist project. It is something else entirely. It might be something else entirely that’s still bad, but that’s rarely what is argued.

Second, it delegitimizes Jewish claims of being silenced. Jews are omnipresent, they have their hands (tentacles?) on all levels of power. Far from being shut down, their voice governs the debate. I don’t deny that, in America anyway, plenty of high-profile speakers will stand up to defend Israel (often times far in excess of what it deserves). But that doesn’t mean the Jewish voice is present, because non-Jews don’t think of Israel the same way Jews do and even their defenses are predicated upon different assumptions and values that don’t necessarily cohere to the actual Jewish vision about what Israel means to us and what it ought to represent. Folks talk about the way the Christian Evangelical community defends Israel. But as far as I’m concerned, their defenses are anti-Semitic too – the glee they hold at the prospect of Israel being the front-line of the “clash of civilizations” is taking pleasure in Jews dying for their cause. The dominance of the Christian narratives amongst the defenses of Israel considered acceptable in the global sphere isn’t proof of Jewish power, but Jewish irrelevancy. Our voice gets superseded by Christian speakers who claim to be speaking on our behalf, but in fact are articulating a vision of “pro-Israel” that is very hostile to Jewish interests (this is one of the reasons I find groups like AIPAC allying with such speakers to be utterly unforgivable).

But even when they themselves are making the argument, subordinated persons often phrase their claims in ways that are amenable to how the dominant caste considers what they deserve. Booker T. Washington did not believe Blacks did not deserve the franchise – indeed, he privately funded several lawsuits which sought to increase Black political inclusion. But his public speeches were circumscribed by the audience he was speaking to, which had very definite and limited views about how it would respond to arguments about improving the Black condition.

The presumption of Jewish hyperpower causes too many progressives to assume that in every social location they are waging a desperate, losing fight against the minions of AIPAC (including, as we’ve seen, in the comments of a Feministe blog post). Maybe that’s true of the US federal government – personally, I have high hopes for J Street. But noting that the USFG is too pro-Israel (or, as I’d say, pro-Israel in the all the wrong ways) doesn’t mean that’s the same issue in, say, Seattle, or the United Nations, or on a college campus. The way in which the particular areas where some Jews have some influence gets transmuted into some sort of all-encompassing horde of Mordor is a symptom of the hyperpower hypothesis.

I won’t dispute Jews have ascertained significant influence over some important levers of power (I will dispute that this is necessarily a bad thing). But I do not think it is inapt to describe it, to some degree, as a Croson problem — indeed, I think Israel itself, in a very real sense, presents many of the same problems that we found in Croson: to wit, what happens when a broadly subordinated group gains control and power in a localized area? On the one hand, this power is subject to moral restraints, and that doesn’t get waved away just because now it’s being wielded by the marginalized. But on the other hand, surely the existence of Richmond, Virginia (the Black-majority city at issue in Croson) doesn’t obviate the fact that it still exists as part of a largely racist, White supremacist whole. The discourse that we hear in the halls of the US federal government – important as it is – is not the only focal point of importance for the Israel/Palestine conflict, and certainly is not the only nomos Jews reside in or that progressives need to concern themselves with.

Third, the hyperpower myth constructs the Jew in such a way as to make it virtually impossible for progressives to even conceive of the non-European Jewish community. This is a particular problem when talking about Israel, where non-European-descended Jews (Mizrachi and Sephardic) make up a plurality of the Jewish population. I can’t count the amount of times this fact was completely ignored by blanket assertions of Israel as part of “the West”, or a “White” nation, or a residual element of European imperialism. The stories of Jews who resided prior to the establishment of Israel in the Middle East (including, yes, in Palestine or Eretz Yisrael) are systematically ignored by nearly everyone (including, it must be said, much of the Ashkenazi Jewish establishment).

Insofar as the narrative of Jewish hyperpower is tied into the broader discourse on Western imperialism and colonialism, non-European Jews present a severe problem because they complicate the folding in of Jews with the broader network of White Western oppression. Jews from North Africa or the Middle East – ancient communities that are now virtually non-existent after their mid-20th century expulsion – cannot be differentiated from Ashkenazim. Israel is just as much a product of their oppression at the hands of the states they hail from (the Arab world, Turkey, Iran, and elsewhere) as it is the mistreatment European Jews faced. Not admitting these groups’ existence is a prerequisite towards a power discourse in which Jews are always at the top – as hard as it is to describe Ashkenazi Jews that way, it’d be really difficult to make the claim about Moroccan, Iranian, or Yemeni Jews. Ironically enough, while outsiders from Israel view its operation in Gaza as stemming from a lack of concern about Arab lives, within Israel the lack of a response was being taken by the Mizrachi community (which is heavily concentrated in Israel’s south) as proof that the Ashkenazi political leaders don’t care about Arab-descended Jews. I imagine (indeed, I know, as a friend of mine from college hails from Sderot) they’d have even harsher language to direct at those who frame this as a matter of White versus POC.

The further removed Jews are from the platonic anti-ideal of the White Male Western Colonizer, the harder it is to maintain the hyperpower ideology. Consequently, the story of the Jew must be wrenched away and told as the tale of only its luckiest, choicest few. Even Jewish discourse on Zionism tends to focus far too much, in my view (and in my guilt) on the Ashkenazi experience. Certainly, non-Jewish talk tends to utterly dislocate all Jews from their personal nomos and instead make them into an ahistorical group which has no stake anywhere and exists only as a kind of idea — the apex of power. As for those Jews who can’t be forced into that box, there is no space for them in the discussion. Indeed, they have no place even to exist – they are born as and die as trespassers on the land of another. At the very least, an account of how a Jew expelled from Iraq could be said to be engaging in a “colonialist” project in Beer Sheba. Who are they colonizing on behalf of, exactly? What is the “mother country”? Or are they just pawns of the Europeans?

249 comments for “Anti-Semitism and Subordination Part II: The Myth of Jewish Hyper-Power

  1. SunlessNick
    January 15, 2009 at 10:07 pm

    In response, many of M&W’s defenders used this reaction as proof of their hypothesis, that it was impossible for criticism of Israel to make it through the checkpoints Jewish leaders had placed to govern discourse of their actions (the fact that the article was, in fact, published and then converted into a highly profitable book deal seems to be irrelevant).

    That seems to be an extraordinarily difficult realisation for some people.

    Our voice gets superseded by Christian speakers who claim to be speaking on our behalf, but in fact are articulating a vision of “pro-Israel” that is very hostile to Jewish interests

    As I remarked in the part I thread, this element of Christians (or pseudo-Christians) is also driven by an apocalyptic vision that sees Jews slaughtered by the Antichrist: in that light, their support for Israel actually reminds me of the way intended human sacrifices are wined and dined.

  2. January 15, 2009 at 10:21 pm

    Your claim seems to be that there are structural forces at work promoting and reinforcing anti-Semitism, such as there were in the Middle Ages. But the evidence that give in the latter case, the actual structural analysis of what powers benefited and how and why by promoting anti-Semitism, is what you do not even try to show in the contemporary case. The fact that claims of the influence of the pro-Israel lobby bear an extremely vague resemble to classic anti-Semitic discourse proves nothing. Many ideas bear vague resemblances to early ideas in history; that doesn’t automatically make them residual forms of those earlier ideas. And if your argument is correct, no one is more anti-Semetic than AIPAC, which is constantly and very openly discussing its influence for fund-raising purposes.

    But, just to restate: you give no evidence of a “structural” anti-Semitism anywhere today, and that vague resemblance between 19th century conspiracy theories and entirely sober arguments about the influence of particular lobby groups on US policy today is not evidence of anything, certainly not of anti-Semitism. Mearsheimer and Walt are not arguing that the US support for Israel is so mystifying that it can only be explained by a kind of supernatural Jewish Evil; they are simply rebutting the view, common to both right-wing supporters of Israel and left-critics like Chomsky et al., that US support for Israel advances American material interests. Again, this is hardly a bizarre or shocking suggestion, but your straw-man treatment of their book is typical of your procedure overall.

    And this is pretty fundamental: if non-Jews don’t get to tell Jews what anti-Semitism is, non-colonized peoples don’t get to tell colonized peoples who the colonizers “really” are. From the European Jewish point of view, there are important, indeed life-and-death distinctions between Jews and the rest of Europe. For Palestinians–and, it must be said, more or less the entirety of the previously colonized world–not so much.

  3. January 15, 2009 at 10:38 pm

    Holy shit! A comment that actually substantively engages with the argument! NS, I’m so happy right now I could burst.

    Obviously, I don’t think you’re quite right though. On the first half: I think that you’re not treating my WM argument fairly. WM’s claim does, at some level, depend on the idea that Jewish power is off-the-charts — not because of the idea itself, but because WM are neo-Realists — normally, they’d say that their own argument is an impossibility. You have to look at WM in its neo-realist context. If they were folks who generally believed that domestic lobbying could have an effect on national foreign policy, it’d be different.

    Beyond that, though, I guess you could rephrase my post as a hypothesis. I noted three realities of Jewish life (reluctance to view us as oppressed, reluctance to imagine that we’re being silenced, and the erasure of non-European Jews), and said that these would each match up well with a belief in Jewish hyperpower. The last of these I think you bite into too, I might add — both in terms of grouping Jews as a “non-colonized people” (Albert Memmi would disagree), and also assuming that the only relevant cleavage here is between “Jews and the rest of the Europe.” But the plurality of the Israeli population are Jews who are not from Europe at all. Presumably, their story as a subjugated population in the Arab World (which isn’t so much “distinguishing” them from other Arabs as it is recognizing their existence and peril as well) is of significant importance as well.

    Anyway, the point is, my argument is essentially that “ancient conception of what Jews are happens to map on very well with important elements of contemporary Jewish experience that seriously constrain us. I’m guessing, old stereotype still has legs.” Presumably, you think something else is at work as to why Jews are assumed to be definitionally amongst the empowered, regardless of their particular social position, geographical background, or how much they are allowed to speak. I’m curious what you think that is.

    But again: actual engagement. I could cry right now.

  4. misstickle
    January 15, 2009 at 10:58 pm

    re: non-sequiter -what makes you think that Jews aren’t a colonized people as well? What you call “colonialism” some Jews call “returning to our spiritual homeland”. As far as I know the Boars didn’t have ancient roots in S. Africa.The English and Spanish and French had no ancient Temples in the Americas. To ignore this pertinent fact is to ignore large part of what it means to be Jewish and that is…wait for it….yep.

  5. January 15, 2009 at 11:12 pm

    I may have been too terse: I would never deny that “the” Jewish experience is too complex to be reduced to one word, whether it’s “colonizer” or “colonized,” “oppressor” or “victim,” etc. My point is just that attending to the complexity and lived reality of Jewish lives but neglecting those of Palestinian, Arab, etc. (and, again, that “etc.” includes almost all of the post-colonial world) lives will get us nowhere. I think it was a serious mistake, both rhetorically and ethically, for you to invoke Gaza at the beginning of your first post. But I understand your overall point: Why are so many people so quick to dismiss charges of anti-Semitism? Why is it so often assumed that anti-Semitism is some quaint or colorful relic of the nineteenth century, like phrenology or pantalettes? Why are people so quick to dismiss the beliefs or perceptions of Jews, which are born of their experiences as oppressed people?

    Fair enough, but we can turn the question around: why are so many supporters of Israel so quick to dismiss the opinions of Palestinians and other formerly colonized peoples, opinions born of their experience as oppressed people? From “the,” or maybe from a series of Jewish perspectives, it’s false to refer to Zionism as neo-colonialism. From the Palestinian or Arab perspective, it’s dead-on. I don’t think either perspective can be simply dismissed.

    And yes, many Israelis did not come from Europe, but Zionism did, and I take it that that’s what the discussion of Israel is really about.

    I don’t have another explanation for the belief you mention because I’m not persuaded that it exists. Like I say, I don’t see any evidence that it does, other than the occasional crassly bigoted newspaper or magazine piece and the Larochite graduate student.

  6. January 15, 2009 at 11:14 pm

    Hey, at least we got one comment in before a bad-faith accusation of anti-Semitism. Good work, folks. I can’t imagine why anyone doesn’t want to participate in these threads.

  7. misstickle
    January 15, 2009 at 11:14 pm

    any re: hyperpower. Besides making all the powerless Jews disappear the thing about the all powerful Jew stereotype is that because it’s always part of a “secret cabal” or a giant conspiracy. What this basically means is that it’s impossible to tell the “good” Jews from the ‘Bad” Jews so we all end up getting it.
    And I think this hyper powerful stereotype is also applied to Israel as a nation. Emphasizing Israel’s military might while totally not looking at the causes of that need for a military.

  8. Rebekah
    January 15, 2009 at 11:18 pm
  9. Sylvia
    January 15, 2009 at 11:19 pm

    “Holy shit! A comment that actually substantively engages with the argument! NS, I’m so happy right now I could burst”.

    Really? Do comments like these engender further discussion David? I understand you’re not feeling very welcome and I’m sorry for that, but please try and remain open. Perhaps you don’t see someone’s response as directly related to what you intended for them to perceive, but surely comments like that just bring about hesitance if not negativity. A lot of people are interested in what you’re saying and are benefiting in one way or another (once again, even if they don’t agree with you).

  10. January 15, 2009 at 11:20 pm

    By the way, you don’t know if I’m Jewish, so you really should have allowed for the possibility that I’m “self-hating.” Then again, I realize vacant accusations like yours proceed as much from laziness as from dishonesty.

  11. January 15, 2009 at 11:22 pm

    David! you do know of course the jews run Bethesda and it’s many restaurants, allowing them to assert control over US politicians who dine there.

    and I’ll stop being silly.

    I have nothing really to argue with you about. I often feel that when people attempt to vent their frustration on things like the US’s Israel policy, some cross that fine line into the “jewish conspiracy” story.

    also Carleton misses you, as does the -40 degree windchill

  12. January 15, 2009 at 11:25 pm

    Okay, stop. Read the comment policy. Fair warning.

  13. misstickle
    January 15, 2009 at 11:27 pm

    Why bad faith? I was just trying to point out The term “colonizer” as applied to Jews is not only inaccurate but that it renders our ancient history and spiritual beliefs invisible. This does not mean I want to render the Palestinians suffering invisible -I do not.

  14. misstickle
    January 15, 2009 at 11:32 pm

    re# 10-I didn’t assume you to be Jewish or non-Jewish but for sure you don’t like the idea of non-Jews not getting to decide what is or isn’t Jew hatred.

  15. Kristin
    January 15, 2009 at 11:34 pm

    Lauren: Who are you telling to stop? Like me, non sequitur engaged in good faith. Two comments later, non-sequitur is dismissed as anti-Semitic. This happened to me about ten times in the previous thread. This despite the fact that our good guest blogger argues in Part I that this rarely–if ever–happens (that is, bad faith accusations of anti-Semitism). I’m sorry, but I’m not at all surprised by the snark.

  16. misstickle
    January 15, 2009 at 11:35 pm

    and my laziness is besides teh point-goodnight

  17. January 15, 2009 at 11:35 pm

    Quite seriously, your stupid personal attack on me is not only annoying, but reveals something important. Your claim that questioning one of the founding myths of Zionism is anti-Semitism is not just ignorant of the work of Israeli scholars like Zeev Sternhell, Avi Shlaim, Ilan Pappe, etc., but explains the recent pipe bomb attack on Sternhell. I hope that this series, concerned as it is with attempts to silence Jewish voices, will discuss this phenomenon.

  18. January 15, 2009 at 11:38 pm

    NS: You’re right about the Gaza frame. I’ve really worked hard to make it clear that this series isn’t supposed to be about Gaza. People started reading it, assumed it was about Gaza (not unreasonably, given the way the first few paragraphs of my first post were structured), and then proceeded from there. That’s why I wrote the first paragraph of this post — to try and clear that up.

    In law, there are all manner of isolated fragments of older, now abandoned legal traditions that still exist in the legal code and muck up the works, because nobody has gotten around to excising them. When I was originally asked to write for Feministe, it was supposed to be on Gaza. I started, and it very rapidly became clear to me that I didn’t have much productive to say, and the reason why was because we hadn’t settled the discursive ethos necessary before I could continue to talk. So I wrote this series instead. Unfortunately, some of the original stuff survived the editing process without being buried. I take full responsibility for it. But I’m trying to disclaim that, pretty aggressively, and I hope we can move forward.

    On the main, three things.

    1) Total agreement on the fact that Arab/Palestinians obviously have a different “take” on Zionism than do Jews, and the legitimacy of questioning why so many Jews dismiss them out of hand. I could venture some reasons as to why the latter do so, but I’m not interested in providing apologetics. Suffice to say, the interplay between the Jewish “view” of Zionism and the Arab counterview is the sort of discussion that needs to occur within a Young-esque framework wherein all participants treat each other with respect and a desire to engage.

    2) I think a lot of Zionist momentum came out of Europe. Still, the fact that non-European Jews have bought into the Zionist idea, if anything, harder than their Ashkenazi brethren means that I don’t think it can be ossified as a “European Jewish” construct anymore. It doesn’t really accord the Sephardic and Mizrachi communities any agency, and has a lot of trouble grappling with their experience in the middle east in general. I think Zionism, even to the extent that the first major exponents were European Jews, always was more Jewish than European, in the sense that it was more “connected” (in purpose and motivation) to a non-European Jew than a non-Jewish European.

    3) Okay, so maybe I put the cart before the horse. Surely you’d agree that many Jews themselves perceive the aforementioned elements of the Jewish experience. Why do you think they do so? Is it because they are paranoid and/or irrational? If you don’t think so, why shouldn’t our default position be “Jews are experiencing this — I should take that experience seriously”?

    Two comment exchanges between folks disagreeing, and no bad faith accusations. We’re rolling.

  19. January 15, 2009 at 11:40 pm

    Kristen, there is a difference between disagreeing, really disagreeing, snarking, and, frankly, being an asshole. “Vacant,” “lazy,” and “dishonest” are a personal attack against the guestblogger. Disagree! Just don’t be an asshole.

    [That’s not an official comment policy. That can be found here. :) ]

  20. Kristin
    January 15, 2009 at 11:41 pm

    Lauren: non sequitur is obviously not referring to the guest blogger, but to misstickle, the commenter.

  21. January 15, 2009 at 11:43 pm

    Kristin, even so, it’s unfair and unnecessary.

  22. January 15, 2009 at 11:46 pm

    This thread really was starting off on the right foot, too. I guess the last one did too….

    Still, at the moment I’m devoting my energies to chatting with NS, since we seem to be making a little headway.

  23. Kristin
    January 15, 2009 at 11:54 pm

    Lauren: I don’t know why I keep coming back. Based on what happened in the last post, I really do hope to see bad faith accusations of anti-Semitism called out with quite this much vigilance. Galling Galla and little light have already left. I should really be on my way now too. It’s past time.

    And David: I hope that NS is a little more patient with your sarcasm and your tone of condescension than I am prepared to be. Good luck.

  24. January 15, 2009 at 11:55 pm

    Fine, I have better things to do than be called an anti-Semite and then an asshole when I respond sharply to a baseless personal attack.

    One last point to David–I don’t think that Jews who perceive anti-Semitism are being irrational or paranoid. But I don’t see any point in continuing this.

  25. January 16, 2009 at 12:03 am

    I want to start my comment once again by affirming the value of David’s project here, because I don’t think there is enough understanding of anti-semitism on the left, of how real anti-semitic ideology can infect rhetoric, and of how not being aware of anti-semitic tropes can make your words tie into them, even unwittingly. As Naomi Klein points out in her extremely relevant article, too many people on the left are simply diving in and choosing sides without understanding the history of what they’re getting into and the history of attacking Jews for all the most wrong reasons there can be.

    I honestly don’t understand, from my own point of view, why some people are tone-deaf about this. The blatantly bigoted Protocols / ZOG conspiracy theory is one of the first I was even aware of as a child, alongside less gross stuff about black helicopters and Freemasons, as the most horrid extreme of lunatic fringe theory. I’ve actually read big chunks of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a copy I found in a musty library stack while researching conspiracy theories for an encyclopedia. I shit you not, it had a cover engraved with a picture of an evil octopus strangling the world, and revolting caricatures drawn inside it. This is vile, vile, disgusting shit and seeing it up close really hammered it home for me. (Although now that I’ve admitted to reading it, maybe Anne will show up and insist it’s proof that I’m anti-Semitic.)

    I honestly think that for the majority of rank-and-file left-wing commentators and armchair politicians, tying into those tropes is done mostly out of ignorance; they are too privileged, in this regard, to know what forms of anti-Semitism exist. Of course, that’s miles from being any kind of excuse, and it certainly doesn’t automatically excuse political science professors who write books about Israel’s influence. Worse still, there is a minority, I think even amongst the left wing despite protests from the other thread that it can’t really exist, that is consciously anti-Semitic.

    Here is the flip-side, which I am not really seeing in the original post. Part of the point of being able to recognize, call out, and repudiate anti-Semitic ideology when discussing political views is that there is actually some real power, not bigoted-fantasy-conspiracy power, that legitimately deserves questioning and critique. It is damaging to overestimate that power and tread into conspiracy fantasist land, but it is damaging to underestimate it as well, especially since many forms of power in this age tend to try and conceal or naturalize themselves. (I actually suspect influential Jews tend to be a little more upfront and transparent about this stuff than average, in part because they want to avoid the anti-semitic accusations of being shadowy power brokers, and it’s also to their credit.) But still, power deserves critique. Not disproportionate to other loci of power, which is a common complaint (that’s hard to measure…) but it still does.

    And I actually think one of the biggest victims of the confusing “how can we really, fairly critique power” haze cast by anti-semitism are, unsurprisingly, Jews themselves. In this case, specifically the diversity and plurality of Jewish voices. The ZOG-type conspiracy relies on the idea that ALL Jews are part of a shadowy network, working for their mutual evil benefit. Political differences and the diversity of denominations are erased. The sad, ironic thing is that the attempt to turn Jews into some kind of monolithic entity still goes on, and is promoted by pro-Israeli voices too. As Naomi Klein points out, lumping all Jews together, or trying to forge some kind of “Jewish consensus” that includes every Jew except those weird Jews who have some belief about the Messiah, or those radical self-hating types, is a huge disservice and a danger to Jews. So I have to kind of wonder about the project that you seem to have taken up, David, to try and define a “Zionist Jewish consensus” as well, in light of the relationship between the mythical Jewish monolith and the anti-semitism of the hyperpower.

  26. January 16, 2009 at 12:15 am

    For folks’ perusal: How Not to Be Insane When Accused of Racism Anti-Semitism. Anti-Semitism is on the table in this discussion — it’s impossible to have this discussion if we can’t say when we think something is anti-Semitic.

    That being said: I’d greatly prefer if people on all sides in these comment threads were less quick to make accusations of their interlocutors’ bad faith, evilness, lack of concern, hatred of Jews, hatred of Arabs, or any thing of the sort. Play the ball, not the person: If I think a position has anti-Semitic import, I’ll say so. But I’ll be far more cautious in calling a person that, because my default presumption is that people say what they say with good intentions and without hate in their hearts.

    I’ve said I think Kristen’s stance is “dangerously, lethally wrong”. But I’ve also said that I assume she did not come to that stance because she wishes bad things upon the Jews, or hates her Jewishness. I just think her position is wrong. Discourse can survive people thinking the other is wrong. It can’t survive people not willing to hear each other out.

    Our stance should be that of “wonder…openness to the newness and mystery of the other person…”, that is to say, not assuming that because they’re on the other side, or even of a side we imagine to be irredeemably opposed to our conceptions of justice and right, that they can be immediately dismissed as a hater or in bad-faith. And when we listen, we should do not with the aim to see “how it fits with given paradigms, but because I am open and suspend my assumptions in order to listen.” [It’s Professor Young, obviously].

  27. Kristin
    January 16, 2009 at 12:26 am

    Just feel like I should mention, David, that you’ve got me and Galling Galla confused.

  28. Ellen
    January 16, 2009 at 12:35 am

    “Holy shit! A comment that actually substantively engages with the argument! NS, I’m so happy right now I could burst.”

    Ok, I have so had it with the pompous condescention!

  29. January 16, 2009 at 12:38 am

    Apologies (sincerely). I was pulling from this statement in your post on the other thread:

    David thinks that those who disagree with him hold an opinion that is “lethal” to Jewish people. I think he supports a colonial project.

    I assumed you grouped yourself into the nexus of positions that I believe are “lethal”. If I was mistaken, I apologize. But you’re right that Galling Galla would be the more direct linkage to the point I was making.

    Point still stands. My presumption is that neither you nor Ms. Galla are cackling in a corner about how you want to visit destruction upon Jews. That belief in your good intentions doesn’t mean I don’t think the policy proposals you advocate for are really, genuinely bad, and will end up leading to the suppression of Jews. I imagine you have similar thoughts as to the likely outcome of my positional orientation (I don’t presume to know what you think of my “intentions”). This, needless to say, makes the conversation awkward. It does not have to destroy it.

  30. chingona
    January 16, 2009 at 12:47 am

    I don’t know that the point I’m about to make is the same point David is making (I’m pretty sure it’s not), but I want to defend the value of talking about anti-Semitism at this time, and part of this ties in with David’s talk of a Jewish Zionist consensus.

    In the first post, David wrote: My working definition of Zionism is quite tailored: It merely says that “The creation of Israel as a Jewish state was a good idea and it should stick around”

    This clearly was a point of huge contention in the first post, that David was trying to somehow claim “the” Jewish position. Now, Zionism has become such a loaded word that defining it at all is probably a hazardous venture, but the position that David put forward is one supported by the vast majority of American Jews. No, I don’t have polling numbers, but Jews who believe Israel should cease to exist or that having a Jewish state is in and of itself a bad thing or even Jews who openly identify as “anti-Zionist,” however they personally define that, are a tiny, tiny minority. I am NOT saying that means they are wrong – please bear with me a little longer here – and I wouldn’t say they are “misguided,” as David did. But I do think it’s wrong to say there is NO Jewish consensus, and to imply that views on Israel in the Jewish community are so diverse that holding an anti-Zionist position is a common thing.

    At this point, I want to distinguish the conversation (monologue?) going on in the mainstream media and among mainstream politicians of both parties and the conversation we’re having here and that’s going on in leftist circles. I would agree that in mainstream circles, the AIPAC position basically dominates and most unfortunately defines what you can and cannot say. And most large mainstream Jewish organizations follow in line and all the people who “speak for the Jews” follow this line. I think that a very large number (small majority? plurality? I don’t know) of American Jews, especially those who are politically left or even just liberal, are very, very troubled by a lot of Israeli policies but also troubled by what they perceive as anti-Semitism on the left. The general line has been that Jews cry anti-Semitism to shut down dialogue or criticism, but some Jews perceive anti-Semitism because there are rhetoric and tropes being used that tie into and strongly echo genuinely anti-Semitic rhetoric and tropes. Just because you know in your heart that you aren’t an anti-Semite or don’t mean X in Y way doesn’t mean that your words aren’t having that unintended effect.

    So why do the feelings of American Jews matter at a time when Palestinian children are being blown up? I think that if people on the left are more conscious of these issues, more American Jews who oppose Israeli policies but aren’t quite ready to denounce Israel as a neo-colonialist venture (or who just flat out disagree with that analysis) will feel comfortable aligning with the left. And more American Jews openly align with these positions, the more cover it provides for American politicians who want to break from the AIPAC line. And the more American Jews feel comfortable publicly criticizing Israeli policies and openly aligning with the left on these matters, the more the range of acceptable debate resembles what exists in, say, Israel. (Yes, I realize there is huge support for the campaign there, but in a more general sense, there is a broader debate there than here.) I am under no illusion that shifting the American position even a few degrees to the left will magically transform the situation. But I think it would help. And I’m an American, so I feel like I have more ability to influence my own government than a foreign government.

    I want to be clear that I am not asking anyone on the left to hide or modify their positions or concede something you don’t believe – like the legitimacy of the Israeli state – just to mollify mainstream opinion. But when discussing something like the illegitimacy of Israel, it might help to distinguish between illegitimate like the United States was founded in an illegitimate way, but it’s here now and the people living there deserve the same human rights as everyone and illegitimate like the Jews should be thrown in the sea or even illegitimate like the Jews should “go back where they came from” (which I have heard suggested several places). Because when someone says “illegitimate,” that can mean a lot of things, some of them very nasty indeed, and if I don’t know you, I don’t know which way you mean it.

  31. January 16, 2009 at 12:48 am

    “dangerously, lethally wrong”?
    Like phosphorus shelling innocent children, civilians, UN schools, UN buildings with much needed food and medical supplies?
    Some of us are thinking about all the people being slaughtered right at this very moment and don’t feel like reading some d00dz 8 bazillion word thesis.

  32. belledame222
    January 16, 2009 at 12:54 am

    What Ellen said. And how.

    Seriously, first of all, um, dude? “Lethally wrong” is, o I don’t know, dropping phosphorus and/or something else really terribly -fatal- and destructive on terrified refugees and/or food and medicine and other basic supplies meant to go to civilians and then going, “oops, our bad, even though it really wasn’t our bad, THEY WERE COMING RIGHT FOR US!! (sponsored by the UN, clearly, therefore). “Lethally wrong” is -invading the entire wrong fucking country” on account of we had a deadly terrorist attack, -too-, and what does it matter if we kill proporionately 100x more innocent civilians than were killed over here, we’re the only ones who -matter- here, dammit.

    An argument on the Internets is…well.

    I mean, I could say the hot air coming from your bloviations here (7 posts? really, -seven??- as in, -five more to go?-) is -lethal,- but it’d be a bit of a hyperbole, there.

    Oh, yeah, I’m Jewish, too. Do I get to say I think you’re full of wind, or does that make me all full of internalized anti-Semitism (which being the gentleman that you are, you might assume until -proven- otherwise that I don’t -really- have, except through y’know innuendo)? Oh, wait, right, I don’t actually give a fuck. Hey, I’ve been called a woman-hater too, and yes, I do in fact think that all those who cry out feminism, feminism, are not in fact entirely in good faith or above critique (koff PUMA koff for example). I’ll live. Too bad a lot of people won’t. But hey, pip pip jolly good fun, isn’t this an -interesting- discussion? At least for the two or three people who might actually slog through to the end.

    People are dying. Most of them, right now, are -not- the Israelis. It’s just how it is. Everything else is gravy. But mostly: It isn’t about you and your identity crisis. And, really: SEVEN posts? Who -are- you, anyway?

    and why not have guest posts from at -least- someone actually -over there-, one way or the other? at least if it’s going to be a fucking multivolume saga?

    P.S. You’re kind of a dick. As a certified woman on a feminist blog (TM), I get to say that. It’s true and all.

  33. January 16, 2009 at 12:57 am

    AUGH! Lauren, Jill, whomever: that last (34) is not repeat NOT piny, that was me logging in from the same computer that piny was last using and forgot to change the autofill.

    Sorry, piny…

  34. January 16, 2009 at 1:03 am

    ah, well, guess it amounted to an attack against the guestblogger, anyway, so perhaps won’t see the light of day. Okies.

    I repeat, though, slightly more temperately: I’m Jewish, and I really resent the implication that if I don’t agree with the guest blogger or any other defense of Israel, I’m self-loathing or at least self-deluded (although, we’ll be gracious and give dissenters the benefit of the doubt of not -really- wanting to see an -end- to all Jews, ourselves presumably included in some cases; thanks, really).

    Seriously: is there a polite way, then, to register my extreme lack of being impressed with this particular guest blogger? Why are seven parts to this necessary? And why is this dude getting to be so (as several people have noted now, not just the raving anti-Semities) incredibly condescending? on a feminist blog, yet, to women who’re regular posters? I mean, I kind of hate myself for playing that card, but as long as we’re playing this game anyway.

    and cosigning what Drakyn said. A lot.

  35. January 16, 2009 at 1:07 am

    Our stance should be that of “wonder…openness to the newness and mystery of the other person…”,

    I think I just threw up in my mouth a little.

    Seriously, you go right ahead and…openly wonder. I’m going to have an Advil.

  36. January 16, 2009 at 1:13 am

    Also what Holly said in 25.

    And yeah, if it were marketed as a seven part piece on anti-Semitism in progressive circles and elsewhere, you know…but, as I’m understanding it, it wasn’t. Isn’t. And no, using the horror unfolding in Gaza as a jumping off point while saying it’s really -about- Gaza, no, really, is just…no.

  37. January 16, 2009 at 1:14 am

    –sorry, strike that last. Gah. I’m going to bed.

  38. January 16, 2009 at 1:15 am

    @35, and everyone else pushing the condescension vibe:

    I’m Jewish, and I really resent the implication that if I don’t agree with the guest blogger or any other defense of Israel, I’m self-loathing or at least self-deluded (although, we’ll be gracious and give dissenters the benefit of the doubt of not -really- wanting to see an -end- to all Jews, ourselves presumably included in some cases; thanks, really).

    Give me a hint. Seriously, give me a clue as to how I can say “I find the position that you’re taking to be wrong in a really serious way” without it being somehow objectionable. First folks were saying that I thought they were “self-hating” — that my disagreement stemmed from a belief that they wanted Jews to die. So I reiterated that, no, I don’t think you are, I just think you’re wrong. Now, that’s rendererd inadmissible as being condescending.

    What I’m gathering is that folks are objecting to other people saying they disagree, and then projecting onto that a bunch of other adjectives (“I’m being called an Anti-Semite/Racist/Bigoted/Arab hater/Ignorant/Naive”) because objecting to mere disagreement is kind of absurd.

  39. January 16, 2009 at 1:16 am

    Actually, no, David. I (somehow) didn’t realize how provincial and uninformed this discussion would be. Questioning the traditional founding myth or narrative of Zionism is not considered controversial or even surprising in Europe and, yes, Israel. There is an entire school of Israeli historians who have been doing this for a generation (and, as I noted above, have been the target of real, physical violence for it). So when someone accuses me of anti-Semitism for referring in passing to an idea quite commonplace in the work of Israeli historians, it is not “insane” for me to be annoyed (but, hey, good work promoting that stigma on mental illness). It just means that I realize this isn’t a conversation worth having.

  40. chingona
    January 16, 2009 at 1:23 am

    Well, deluded and misguided have pretty strong connotations. I think you’re wrong in a really serious way is a much more neutral formulation.

  41. January 16, 2009 at 1:28 am

    …just, no: something about all this is really reminding me of PUMA (among others’) tactics. Look; there’s such a thing as context. I am not as one with the suffering of all the women in the world -even though, yes-, there are women suffering terribly -as women-; not only have I not had enforced clitoredectomy, burqa, etc., but as a white, American, able-bodied, yadda etc. woman in a society that currently–not perfectly, and not irreversibly, believe me, I understand this–*relatively* afford me a fair amount of power. Not as -much- as a man in the same demographics, no.

    But. If the discussion starts off being about O I don’t know, Margaret Thatcher’s policies having wreaked havoc on working class immigrant communities (I am pulling this entirely out of my ass as a ‘real’ example), it isn’t appropriate to start off nominally talking about said devastation and then revealing that actually your purpose is to talk about how no one -really- wants to talk about -misogyny-, which can mean anything from said terrible abuses to “hey, I don’t like what you’re saying and I don’t know if you’re a man or a woman from your login,” well–

    I wouldn’t deny the reality of anti-Semitism, believe me. I recognize that as a comfortable third or fourth generation assimilated U.S. Jew, there’s a shitload I take for granted that many of my not so distant relatives probably didn’t. I do take that on board.

    At the same time, for that very reason–comfortable assimilated yadda–I have a really hard time with the position that no really, if we don’t support whatever position or Israeli government action or whatever else it is, we’re effectively saying “c’mon back, Nazis! woot pogroms!” on account of our position is at least as, if not more, precarious than those of, I don’t know, people currently being -bombed out of their homes and lives in Palestine.-

    I also say this as an American who was in New York during 9/11, obviously am not “pro-terrorist” (thanks), and still think, um, yeah, we way the fuck overreacted, and, in the case of Iraq, were -lethally wrong.- And still are, and probably will be for the forseeable future. Not just because ultimately, it’s going to bite us in the ass, IS. Because it’s -morally indefensible.-

    Why do I hate America so much? Why do I hate the Jews so much? Why do I hate women so much?

    Just hateful, I guess.

  42. January 16, 2009 at 1:29 am

    “I find the position that you’re taking to be wrong in a really serious way”

    Gee, I understood -that- just fine, oddly.

  43. Ellen
    January 16, 2009 at 1:36 am

    what does that last post have to do with you being condescending?

  44. Ellen
    January 16, 2009 at 1:37 am

    his last post, 4 people were posting at the same time.

  45. January 16, 2009 at 1:38 am

    So why do the feelings of American Jews matter at a time when Palestinian children are being blown up? I think that if people on the left are more conscious of these issues, more American Jews who oppose Israeli policies but aren’t quite ready to denounce Israel as a neo-colonialist venture (or who just flat out disagree with that analysis) will feel comfortable aligning with the left.

    Um. Maybe. But honestly…I’m a bit cynical. I think being more aware of anti-Semitism within progressive circles is worthwhile for its own sake; but, well, seeing as how both neocons and theocons have seized on Israel as its shield for pretty much anything they want to do Over There, complete with accusations of anti-Semitism from a number of people I’d -really- rather not have on my side (many of them good Christians), I’m not overly optimistic.

    Look, the meme is that Israel is Good; Israel is Our Friend; and the Jews, well, we’re the Chosen People innit? We like that, in the U.S. we can relate, these days, especially. Shining City upon a hill and all. Not that easy to get past, really. Sure, the occasional Israel=Nazi Germany sign waving protestor doesn’t exactly -help- (most of whom ime tend to be Jewish), but…yeah, no, I don’t think this is the most pressing issue when it comes to the level where anything actually gets accomplished. Sorry, I don’t. Look at the line all the major U.S. politicians take. How many rabidly pro-Palestinians can -you- name? That actually have any power?

  46. Morningstar
    January 16, 2009 at 1:52 am

    dave, i think this is a better post than your last. it’s a difficult topic to articulate for sure, but IMO it is very important.

    so with that said, and with the hopes of having an honest dialogue i want to bring this up:

    given the enormous baggage surrounding the concept of jews in power there has been a tendency to simply say that jews do not have power in certain fields. even worse, any suggestion of that is, in fact, anti-semitic. there was an column by joel stein in the LAT a couple weeks ago where he expressed dismay at the overwhelming majority of americans who do not recognize jewish power in hollywood:

    http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/commentary/la-oe-stein19-2008dec19,0,4676183.column

    he goes through the list of top production companies, agencies and directors etc and basically proclaims that jews really do run hollywood and there’s nothing wrong with saying that.

    i think there is definitely a potent danger from jumping from that statement and then concluding that jews conspire together and seek to rule over gentiles or whatever other crap gets thrown around, but let’s go further in this discussion a bit.

    there is also a pretty substantial representation of jews within government – i believe there are at least a dozen jewish senators and i think about 30 in the HoR. that’s really substantial when you consider the proportion of jews in america and you compare this representation with other minority groups like blacks.

    and there have been jews who have held prominent positions in presidential cabinets, the CIA, homeland security, etc etc etc. but here’s the rub, and here’s why it gets extremely difficult to talk about this:

    most american jews are extremely conservative when it comes to israel. in fact, many times, poll after poll shows american jews more conservative than their counterparts within israel. and the jewish voice that is represented within the government tends to be extremely pro-israel/hardcore zionist. so i’m genuinely curious:

    how do you talk about this powerful voice without being anti-semite? or are my underlining assumptions just wrong?

  47. Morningstar
    January 16, 2009 at 2:02 am

    i meant “without sounding anti-semitic” in my previous post (still in the mod que for those at home)

  48. Kristen (The J one)
    January 16, 2009 at 2:21 am

    Belle,

    Re: Thatcher

    Have I mentioned lately that you’re awesome?

    YES…THAT.

  49. January 16, 2009 at 2:23 am

    Okay — I’ve been on the verge of tears all day, and I’m pretty confident I’ve not been the only one. So far, the primary export of the series has been commenters (on either “side”) ranging on the continuum from “upset” to “infuriated”. This is not what I wanted to happen. I assume it’s not what anyone wanted to happen.

    I hope that some folk, in spite of all that, still have hopes that these threads and posts could give us something more than that. Not agreement, but perhaps some greater understanding. I assume that because I assume that’s why most people are coming back to the comments — not out of a desire to watch other people tear each other apart, but in the hope that something good will emerge out of it. Even amidst the worst moments in these threads, there have been brief fragments of great things. People complimenting other posters for putting into words an inchoate sense they’d been trying to for some time. Folks complimenting others for raising points they thought valid, even when they didn’t agree. Short bursts of genuine engagement and back-and-forth, working to get someplace better. I like that. That’s why I started writing in the first place.

    So. We have a series that is still in progress about anti-Semitism, and I want it to stay about anti-Semitism. What needs to happen so that the discussion this series engenders is one where people leave happy, or at least in an emotional state not best described as “wrecked”?

    Here’s some of what I’ve been culling from y’all; feel free to add more:

    1) This series should not be cast as a reaction to, frame of, explanation of, or really have all that much to do with Gaza. That it even was presented that way to begin with was an unfortunate occurrence, stemming from the events I described @18. I mentioned that one of the posts in the series was going to heavily rely on Gaza as an illustrating example. It was the one originally slated to go as #2 (the one I switched wit this post) I am willing to pull that post entirely, as a gesture of good faith, because I don’t think in the context that these last few posts have emerged it will accomplish anything useful.

    If you nonetheless think that this series is irrevocably tainted by the “original sin” of the Gaza frame, that’s your prerogative, and I understand if you don’t feel like continuing with the posts any more. But I don’t know what is being added by flagellating me over a point I’ve already conceded, several times.

    2) Presumption of good-faith. There are some deep seated disagreements here. Our presumption (rebuttable, obviously) should be that folks presenting opinions aren’t doing so as haters — of Arabs, of Palestinians, of Jews, of anti-Zionist Jews, of philo-Zionist Jews, of anyone; as trolls, or otherwise trying to close down discussion rather than enhance it. And of course, we ourselves should try to frame our posts in ways that invite further discussion rather than close it off. This is something that’s going to have to be enforced by the moderators — the free for all approach is getting us badly derailed. We can think people are wrong; we shouldn’t think they’re bad people.

    What else?

  50. Tara
    January 16, 2009 at 2:40 am

    I’m so glad to see this series. So so so glad.

    I know I’m biased, but I’d like to think I’m not more biased than anyone else. I don’t know what’s getting filtered out in moderation, but it does NOT seem to me that there’s some overwhelming number of comments calling anybody at all anti-semitic, self-hating, etc. There are some more problematic posts but making them stand in for the mainstream when there are actually not very many does sort of feel like putting words in my mouth.

    I am a Zionist. I believe that a state with Jewish self rule is a good thing. I’m glad it’s here and I think it was far far far too long in coming.

    Don’t tell me I hate Palestinians.

    Don’t tell me I don’t care about Palestinian lives.

    Don’t tell me I’m a neo-European colonialist.

    Don’t tell me who you think I am based on your assumptions about what kinds of people (Jews) think that Jewish self rule in Eretz Israel is an inherently good thing (which is different than saying that it justifies… anything in particular at all).

    Don’t tell me that you have Jewish friends who think this that and the other thing (I’m unlikely to decide that your Jewish friends have somehow more or less authentically ‘Jewish’ views than mine), and please stand on your own opinion and judgment.

    Don’t assume that I don’t know that there are Jews who hold opinions all over and up and down the political spectrum (on Israel and pretty much everything else).

    Don’t assume that I’ll call you an anti-semite if you disagree me. Please!

    Also please don’t assume that I’m ignorant, paranoid, stupid, or manipulative, if I do call someone or something anti-semitic.

    Don’t tell me that, in your opinion, the Holocaust is too far away to be an important part of my conscious and subconscious being in the world.

    Don’t tell me that my people doesn’t have a historic practical and spiritual homeland relationship to Eretz Israel. (How many years of exile and oppression does it take until one can assert that a a people is no longer dispossessed but strange and foreign?)

    Don’t pretend like everything I’ve written above tells you everything (or anything much at all) about my political opinions.

    Also don’t pretend that everything I’ve written here makes it impossible to meet me in conversation. It doesn’t. I’m just a person, not a Movement or a Tank or an Army.

    If you want to talk with me, don’t condemn me and close the conversation because I say something that sounds imperfect, tone deaf, incomplete, or rude. If you want to talk with me, accept that everything I have to say might not come out in exactly the form that’s most conducive to you easily hearing it.

    And if you don’t walk to talk to me, please don’t pretend that it’s anything to do with feminism. Because I have some friends who are feminists, and they don’t think… ha! because your values are not more authentically feminist than mine and if your vision of feminism shuts its ears to my voice, I’m not going to tell you that there’s no room for me in the feminist project for me. This is not a project that you can push me out of. I believe I can position myself smack dab in the centre (who am I kidding, on the radical edge) of feminism with all of me, all of me as a Jew and as a woman and as a Zionist.

  51. January 16, 2009 at 3:40 am

    Belledame, speaking as a Jew who has frequently disagreed with David in arguments about antisemitism, I really don’t think David is saying that if we disagree with him, we’re self-hating Jews.

    And yes, starting the first post by talking about Gaza was a horrible blunder — but one he’s backed off from a few times now.

  52. January 16, 2009 at 4:19 am

    David, although I take your point about the diversity of Jews in Israel. However, I’ve certainly seen many Israelis claim that Ashkenazis have power in Israel out of proportion to their numbers. If this is so, would it change your analysis at all?

    The presumption of Jewish hyperpower causes too many progressives to assume that in every social location they are waging a desperate, losing fight against the minions of AIPAC (including, as we’ve seen, in the comments of a Feministe blog post). Maybe that’s true of the US federal government – personally, I have high hopes for J Street. But noting that the USFG is too pro-Israel (or, as I’d say, pro-Israel in the all the wrong ways) doesn’t mean that’s the same issue in, say, Seattle, or the United Nations, or on a college campus. The way in which the particular areas where some Jews have some influence gets transmuted into some sort of all-encompassing horde of Mordor is a symptom of the hyperpower hypothesis.

    I think this is a very good point. But I think it’s relevant the one place where AIPAC’s views absolutely dominate, is also by far the single most important place (if you’re an American concerned with US foreign policy). If our frustration seems a little outsized, that reflects the outsized importance of the one institution that AIPAC-type views utterly dominate.

  53. January 16, 2009 at 6:46 am

    David, I also think you are being very unfair to WM’s book: “They think the opposite: that domestic lobbying never plays a role in how states behave in the global sphere. The only exception, it seems, is when the Jews start acting up.”
    Actually they state in the book that the Cuban lobby and Greek lobby both have had enourmous influence as well over American foriegn policy – Why else would we be maintaining the embargo against Cuba long after the Cold War?

    Yes the myth of Jewish hyperpower, especially with crap like Protocols is very damaging. But an attempt to explain the overwhelming support for Israel even when it undermines our national security /interests, and does not match the views of the electorate. Check out the Rasmussen poll: To whether the Jewish state should be taking military action against militants in the Gaza Strip, its was 44% with, 41% against, with 15% unsure. A majority of Democrats are against. Yet I believe only four members of the house House voted against ameasure endorsing the action, and all leadership, Democratic and Republican have declared support for Israel’s actions. How to explain this disconnect? WM’s book was an attempt, and to categorize it along with some crap about rabbis drinking blood is silly.

    As for colonialism: I think a good analogy here is Liberia. When the freed American blacks set up a country, it was in the narrative of returning to the homeland. However, in the eyes of the Africans living there, these foriegners were colonists, who subjugated them and set up institutions to keep themselves in power. In Palestine, the returning Jews may have had their claims of homeland, but to the Palestinians living there for centuries these were foriegners come to dipossess and subjugate them, something that can be seen not only in the West bank and Gaza, but with the Palestinian Israelis as well.

  54. January 16, 2009 at 7:00 am

    nonsequitir’s questioning whether or not there are “structural forces at work promoting and reinforcing anti-Semitism, such as there were in the Middle Ages” needs to be taken on more substantively, I think. Not that I am in a position to do it, but I think it’s worth noting a couple of things:

    1. While there is not now a broadly institutionalized antisemitism in the US in the way that there was as recently as the 1930s, the very fact that the institutionalization was so recent implies that the underlying structure of beliefs that made the institutionalization possible are still in place. An interesting book to read, though I read it a long time ago and it is in storage, so I can’t refer to it in any meaningful way is Anti-Semitism in America, by Leonard Dinnerstein. (I think I have the title and author correct; if not, the last name certainly is correct, and the word anti-semitism is certainly in the title.)

    2. David’s focus seems to be more on structures of rhetoric than on structures of actual practice (though the publishing of a book, or even a newspaper article, is, of course, a practice). By “actual practice,” I mean overt discrimination. Focusing on rhetorical structures is tricky, because it is always possible to ask “where is the real harm?” especially when “real harm” quite reasonably takes as its measure the discrimination practiced against other groups, like Arabs, women, African-Americans, etc. One group that definitely benefits from the keeping (however subtle) rhetorical structures of antisemitism in place, especially myths about Jewish power, are the non-Jews (I don’t know if, but I assume, they are mostly Christian) who control most of the levers of real power in this country. Please note: I am not alleging some well-organized Gentile conspiracy (Christian or otherwise); I am merely pointing out that there are those who benefit in a structural way from the antisemitic rhetoric of Jewish hyperpower.

  55. SA
    January 16, 2009 at 7:36 am

    But. If the discussion starts off being about O I don’t know, Margaret Thatcher’s policies having wreaked havoc on working class immigrant communities (I am pulling this entirely out of my ass as a ‘real’ example), it isn’t appropriate to start off nominally talking about said devastation and then revealing that actually your purpose is to talk about how no one -really- wants to talk about -misogyny-, which can mean anything from said terrible abuses to “hey, I don’t like what you’re saying and I don’t know if you’re a man or a woman from your login,” well–

    I totally agree. Yes, you’ve said this isn’t about Gaza. But you haven’t apologized for using the deaths of large numbers of fellow human beings as a springboard for something else. And you should.

    On an unrelated note, I’d like to see you talk about how ant-Semitism impacts on Jews right now in contexts other than debating Israel. Not that ithe discourse about Israel isn’t EXTREMELY important, but it seems like i the only contexts Anti-Semitism are discussed in are discussing historical anti-Semitism and discussing Israel. There is so much other stuff that needs to be talked about. Are you bringing it up anywhere else in the series?

  56. SA
    January 16, 2009 at 7:45 am

    David’s focus seems to be more on structures of rhetoric than on structures of actual practice (though the publishing of a book, or even a newspaper article, is, of course, a practice). By “actual practice,” I mean overt discrimination. Focusing on rhetorical structures is tricky, because it is always possible to ask “where is the real harm?” especially when “real harm” quite reasonably takes as its measure the discrimination practiced against other groups, like Arabs, women, African-Americans, etc. One group that definitely benefits from the keeping (however subtle) rhetorical structures of antisemitism in place, especially myths about Jewish power, are the non-Jews (I don’t know if, but I assume, they are mostly Christian) who control most of the levers of real power in this country. Please note: I am not alleging some well-organized Gentile conspiracy (Christian or otherwise); I am merely pointing out that there are those who benefit in a structural way from the antisemitic rhetoric of Jewish hyperpower.

    Ok, my first comment here is still in the moderation queue as I type this, but yes, I would really like to see him move beyond rhetoric to the impact that the rhetoric has.

  57. January 16, 2009 at 8:56 am

    David wrote: So, for example, the Zionist movement is uncritically lumped in with European colonialist ambitions of the 19th and 20th century. … Certainly, such discourse affected the ways in which Jews presented their case to European powers which were sources of potential aid. But it is a gross misrepresentation of the contemporary position of European Jews to assert that Zionism was or is the vanguard, rearguard, or any other sort of battalion in the European colonialist project

    You are correct, here. Zionists appealed to European colonial tendencies to gain support for their project, to their shame. This is one reason so many radical and even conservative Jews opposed and still oppose Zionism. The colonizing classes of Europe supported Israel because THEY saw it as an extension of their own practices. This is similar to Christian fundamentalist support for Israel as Daisy made clear in the Part 1. These groups do not have the benefit of the Jewish people as a goal or even a remote concern.

    You mention this in passing as if it were a minor detail, but I think it deserves more discussion. Zionists have a history and continue in many ways to seek support from powerful groups that have no real interest in benefiting the lives of Jews.

    How do we deal with this problem? How do we support Jews who have, imo, a much more ethical politics?

    Sorry if this is off-topic on this thread. I can save it for later if you are planning to discuss this in one of your upcoming threads.

  58. Kristin
    January 16, 2009 at 9:07 am

    “I totally agree. Yes, you’ve said this isn’t about Gaza. But you haven’t apologized for using the deaths of large numbers of fellow human beings as a springboard for something else. And you should.”

    Yes, this. In any case, though, I’m curious, why didn’t you just write about what you were asked to write about? Oh, well…

    *applause at everything Belle said*

  59. January 16, 2009 at 9:13 am

    I live in France, and recently we’ve had a whole pull-the-alarm crisis going on about how more anti-semitic acts have been committed recently.
    So here I’d say that anti-semtism is still very much recognised.
    On the other hand, we have a whole different history ; it’s changing, but France is still heavily shamed by what happened during WWII-and so it should be.

    But there is still some stigma attached to criticizing Israel’s actions, in which case accusations of anti-semitism flow forth freely, which, rightly, infuriates whole swathes of the population.

    There is a very real fear of the Gaza conflict spilling out onto our politics, mainly because it has happened time and time before (and is happening right now, with the recent violent clashes during pro Israel or pro Palestine demonstrations) which stems mainly from the discrimination against arabs and blacks who in turn take out their anger on a smaller minority who they see as favoured.
    Which, in France at least, they are ; it’s far easier to be Jewish in France than to be Arab, although I’m not saying it’s without a whole different set of problems.
    But anti-semitism is taken far more seriously than “ordinary” racism.
    By-product of our history, of course.

    Sorry if this doesn’t quite fit in the discussion, but there go my two cents.

  60. January 16, 2009 at 9:24 am

    This project is more accurately stated as “A critical account of anti-Semitism as a structural phenomenon, and how it affects the progressive community – with Gaza occasionally used as illustration.”

    I’m sorry, but given what is happening to Palestinians in Gaza right now, using Gaza as an occasional illustration for a conversation about anti-Semitism right now just seems utterly blind and utterly disrespectful. I can’t even get past that statement to engage with anything else here.

    Edited to say: OK, it’s probably unfair of me to say that and then disregard any progress that’s been made in the comments (and there has been some made.) But David, while I appreciate you making it clear that you’re not actually trying to write about Gaza, it’s still troublesome to see a statement of intent to use a full-scale, ongoing humanitarian crisis as a mere illustration for a discussion of someone else’s oppression. A statement like that is really hard to get past, for me at least.

  61. Morningstar
    January 16, 2009 at 9:39 am

    “I am a Zionist. I believe that a state with Jewish self rule is a good thing. I’m glad it’s here and I think it was far far far too long in coming.

    Don’t tell me I hate Palestinians.

    Don’t tell me I don’t care about Palestinian lives.

    Don’t tell me I’m a neo-European colonialist. ”

    we have every right to say that the zionist ideology does not care about palestinian lives, because quite frankly, it doesn’t care about palestinian lives. at least, it doesn’t care about palestinians as equal humans.

    palestinian ties to the land are dismissed, the land is considered to have been either empty/barren or taken over by arab “settlers” and there is the ethnocentric insistence that jews must have majority of their state.

    so no, i don’t buy your victimhood here.

  62. A previously discomfited reader
    January 16, 2009 at 10:04 am

    Also from Naomi Klein’s article:

    It’s easy for social justice activists to tell themselves that since Jews already have such powerful defenders in Washington and Jerusalem, anti-Semitism is one battle they don’t need to fight. This is a deadly error. It is precisely because anti-Semitism is used by the likes of Sharon that the fight against it must be reclaimed.

    When anti-Semitism is no longer treated as Jewish business, to be taken care of by Israel and the Zionist lobby, Sharon will be robbed of his most effective weapon in the indefensible and increasingly brutal occupation.

  63. January 16, 2009 at 10:11 am

    Morningstar:

    we have every right to say that the zionist ideology does not care about palestinian lives, because quite frankly, it doesn’t care about palestinian lives. at least, it doesn’t care about palestinians as equal humans.

    This is not fair. However accurate this might be in describing the policies of the Israeli government, Zionism is not and never was a monolithic movement. There were committed Zionists–in the sense of believing that the Jews needed a nation (and note I said needed) because of how they were treated in Europe who were horrified at the thought of disenfranchising the Palestinians; there were Zionists settlers who went and tried everything they could not to disenfranchise or otherwise exploit the Palestinians who were already living on the land; and there are more examples. That an exploitive and oppressive and colonial Zionism won out over other currents within the movement does not mean that those other currents are not still present in the beliefs of people who call themselves Zionists.

    Indeed, in my own experience, it is more accurate to talk about Zionisms–if we are talking about the movement both as a current social, cultural and political entity and a historical movement. That they all have in common the belief that the Jews are a nation and should have a state does not mean that they all necessarily (though some certainly do) dismiss the Palestinians in the way that you are talking about.

  64. January 16, 2009 at 10:40 am

    David, I just want to say that I’m learning a lot from your series, and I’m sure many others are too. I’m someone who identifies very “pro-Palestinian” when discussing conflicts and resolutions in Israel. But I’ve always been concerned that, for some Palestine sympathizing friends of mine, there are undercurrents of anti-Jew suspicion and dismissal. I’m relieved to read such a thoughtful dissection of modern anti-Semitism.

    It’s disappointing that the comments threads have been bicker-y. I personally find your posts to be a great jumping off point for a discussion that is quite detailed, argument-based, even academic (in the best sense). I’m remaining pretty quiet and a “listener” on the thread, but know that I’m reading all your posts in great detail. You are right, there are some commenters who are really engaging your arguments and assumptions, and I hope all the interested readers can focus on that.

    I really REALLY appreciate seeing this on Feministe! The guest blogging, and hell, regular blogging here is seriously top notch. Thank you for bringing us such a diversity of voices! Rock on Feministe folks.

  65. January 16, 2009 at 11:31 am

    AUGH! Lauren, Jill, whomever: that last (34) is not repeat NOT piny, that was me logging in from the same computer that piny was last using and forgot to change the autofill.

    Changed it from piny to your username to reduce confusion . . .

  66. January 16, 2009 at 11:33 am

    Orientalista: I think the Liberia analogy is quite intriguing (in a good way). I think we can agree that the motivators and practice behind Liberia were qualitatively different than those which motivated other colonial endeavors (even granting, as per Raven, that they appealed to “traditional” colonialist mindsets in order to drum up support for outsiders). That doesn’t mean it’s immune from criticism, of course, but I think few of us would argue that Liberia was “wrong” in the same way we’d argue that stock European colonial project were wrong (wherein my objection to viewing Israel as an extension of European colonialism falls into — even if it was bad, it was bad in a different and unique way).

    One thing that makes Liberia and Israel different as “colonial” projects is the lack of a true “mother country”. When I think of colonialism, I think of Group A from location X going from its homeland to location Y, in order to expand the power, prestige, security (whatever) of X. So Germans establish a German colony in East Africa for Germany, and the French colonize Quebec for France, and the Jews colonize Israel for…Jewland? The colonization argument becomes harder to sustain when the purported colonizer doesn’t have a motherland they can be said to have been colonizing on behalf of. The irrevocably “foreign” status of the Jew prior to the establishment of Israel means (like the American Black) she would always be in a colonized state from moment one. Saying she shouldn’t have a state isn’t taking a stand against colonialism — it’s merely an expression about which groups we consider it “okay” to be colonized (presumably because they are in the status quo) and which ones it is not okay.

    Amp: The non-Ashkenazi Jewish plurality in Israel is definitely in a somewhat marginalized state compared to the Ashkenazi majority, and they have a lot of grievances over being ignored by the Ashkenazi powers-that-be. For example, when Israel was not responding to Gazan rocket fire, the Mizrachi community (heavily concentrated in Israel’s south) was taking it as yet another instance of the lack of concern for their security from the White Ashkenazi leadership. In general, those people who came to Israel to flee Arab oppression have — I’m guessing — a rather different outlook on this whole debate than the largely Eurocentric debate going on here (myself, as an Ashkenazi Jew, included).

    RJM: I’m a little confused over where we draw the line between “rhetoric” and “practice” (as I take it you are as well, saying that publishing a newspaper article is “practice”). Milan Kundera once remarked about that “basic, pervasive evil … [of] a parade of people marching by with raised fists and shouting identical syllables in unison,” and I imagine Jews would sympathize with that more than most. Is a march (attended and fronted by a Dutch MP) in which the participants shout “Hamas, Hamas, Jews to the Gas!” “rhetoric” or “practice”? Calls to boycott Jewish businesses in Italy? How about grafitti in Turkey saying “We will kill you” on the door of a synagogue, and on the wall of a Jewish-owned store: “Do not buy from here, since this shop is owned by a Jew.” “Jews and Armenians are not allowed but dogs are allowed”?

    If you really want to say anti-Semitism in “practice”, then I think ganders at events like Durban I (which was massively exclusionary towards Jews of all backgrounds), or the UNHRC (refusal to examine anti-Semitic violence in any context whatsoever), or really the UN writ large (more human rights actions directed at Israel over the past five years than any other country, including Sudan and Congo [#s 2 and 3] combined), are probably your best bet.

  67. chingona
    January 16, 2009 at 11:57 am

    Look at the line all the major U.S. politicians take. How many rabidly pro-Palestinians can -you- name? That actually have any power?

    That’s actually my point, which I think you misunderstood. I agree that anti-Semitism should be addressed for its own sake, as well, but the reason I think it’s valid to talk about this now, is that to the extent that anti-Semitism is not called out on the left, it only plays into AIPAC’s hands. See the Naomi Klein quote above. Several people on the first thread said they used to go to peace rallies and basically stopped going because of what they perceived as the anti-Semitism. You say you haven’t seen that. Maybe they’re being over-sensitive or maybe it’s actually different/worse where they live. I’m not arguing that if people stop comparing Israel to Nazi Germany or make sure the Israel Lobby argument doesn’t devolve into a “Jews control everything” argument, you magically and overnight change the terms of the debate in this country. That would be ridiculously naive. But I think it’s a step in the right direction. I think calling out anti-Semitism on the left is a necessary step toward opening up the terms of debate so that there can be openly pro-Palestinian politicians in this country.

  68. January 16, 2009 at 12:01 pm

    “I think calling out anti-Semitism on the left is a necessary step toward opening up the terms of debate so that there can be openly pro-Palestinian politicians in this country.”

    YES!

  69. January 16, 2009 at 12:12 pm

    David, I’m also relieved to see this series. It’s too bad the comments became so bitter so quickly… I also found it interesting that your “So happy I could cry” comments were thought of as being condescending. I wonder if there’s a cultural mistranslation there – it didn’t seem at all condescending to me, just part of the usual drama in everyday conversations in my community; if I had commented with a critical response, I would have even found it comforting. But I can see how it could be misread.

  70. January 16, 2009 at 12:15 pm

    For those who want a pro-Jewish, anti-Zionist view of the situation in the Middle East, I highly recommend Joel Kovel’s Overcoming Zionism.

    He has an article online called Zionism’s Bad Conscience, in which he discusses the question: “How have the Jews, immemorially associated with suffering and high moral purpose, become identified with a nation-state loathed around the world for its oppressiveness toward a subjugated indigenous people?”

    I had the pleasure of meeting Kovel last year and listened as he addressed the anti-semitism of audience members while arguing against Zionism. He defines Israel as imperialist rather than colonialist.

    On a side note, a great example of the massive ignorance of Judaism (or Islam, Buddhism, traditional Catholics), consider the employee appreciation dinner I attended held by the Anoka County (Minnesota) Commissioners on a Friday during lent about 15 years ago. The chosen entre? Roast Pork!

    We Minnesotans can be pretty clueless at times.

  71. A previously discomfited reader
    January 16, 2009 at 12:18 pm

    “I think calling out anti-Semitism on the left is a necessary step toward opening up the terms of debate so that there can be openly pro-Palestinian politicians in this country.”

    YES! YES YES YES YES

    and if you think there’s no antisemitism on the left, open your eyes.

  72. January 16, 2009 at 12:21 pm

    I really can’t post or read a whole lot today because of work (sorry to disappoint your hope for frantic fire extinguishing, shah8, really kind of you) but I wanted to respond to a few things that I found thought-provoking.

    First, as for the UN’s responses and similar “why so much attention on Israel.” I think any disproportionate attention calls for some examination: why is Israel targeted by more human rights actions? The answer you’re suggesting is that it has to do with anti-semitism, and I don’t think that can be ruled out as an influence. But there’s undoubtedly more going on as well. Some human rights crises don’t get more attention than other human rights crises just because people think they are worse, or that the perpetrators are more evil. Part of it may be prejudice, part of it may be political maneuvering, part of it may be PR, part of it may be the perception of where pressure can actually make a difference or effect change. Obviously the prejudice part can’t be justified, but there also may be some good reasons why Israel is in the spotlight. If there’s a chance that the Israeli government can be persuaded to act in ways that are less harmful (harmful to itself in the long run, even, but more directly harmful to the people it’s killing) then to that extent–and no more–it is a good thing that Israel is receiving attentino. By contrast, Hamas is considered a terrorist organization and not even recognized as a government; that’s a much more reviled status than “a government that you send protests to.”

    Second, the history of anti-semitism in the US. This stuff is fascinating and it bears more investigation and education. I don’t think a lot of people even realize that Henry Ford was a raging anti-Semite. It’s also worth looking at how these beliefs have evolved over time; some anti-semitic strains of thought have filtered into academia, and other more “populist” anti-semitic organizations, especially white supremacist groups, have shifted in recent decades towards what they see as “an even bigger threat” to the sovereignty of white protestant americans — immigrants from Latin America. I think it’s worth looking at the overlap in rhetoric, how targets have shifted over time, and where there are opportunities for solidarity against the more virulent and “common sense” forms of hatred that don’t just infect the academy, but the public square.

    Third, Zionism and comparison with other nation-states. I am glad that Richard Jeffrey Newman posted about Zionism not being a monolith, but I also wonder how much those other variants have been totally eclipsed by what became actualized, real and not theoretical, as “Zionism in practice” in Israel, where all those hopes of other Zionists about not disenfranchising and displacing and oppressing the inhabitants of Palestine (including the Mizrachi!) were basically dashed. What’s the status of those beliefs now? I think some of the ideological descendants of those ideas would be pretty staunchly against what Israel has become, no?

    This also raises the question of nation-states in general, which I REALLY think should be addressed here, and not hand-waved away by saying “well, you don’t question the idea of other nation-states.” Actually, I think a lot of us do feel like all nation-states should be questioned. Like a lot of other institutional systems — gender, criminal justice, work — we may have to live with it and find our way through it with a minimum of death and degradation, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take opportunities to question the legitimacy. And by all means, let other nation-states come into question too. Someone earlier compared Israel to the United States — is the USA an illegitimate project, founded by people fleeing religious persecution who then displaced and killed the people who were here already? Absolutely. I don’t consider the US any more legitimate than Israel, but as has been said many times already, that doesn’t mean I think the best scenario is for Israelis or Americans to be slaughtered or forced out of their homes. At the same time, I cannot feel too personally offended or outraged if Native American activists were to say “all colonizers should go back where they came from, your presence here is unjust.” It makes sense. I have no right to be living where I am; this land was seized or bamboozled from the tribes that owned it. I don’t “belong” to any group that has a real homeland anyway; wherever I live, I live at the sufferance or, or over the dead bodies of, people who were already there. Likewise, I support the principles behind the Lakota secession from the US, putting aside the problem of representation of the Lakota for a hot second, and I am definitely not on the side of the US when it comes to things like the massacre at Wounded Knee.

  73. January 16, 2009 at 12:29 pm

    As for Hamas, I’d like to know what people think of the point made by Avi Shlaim and others that Israel has been playing off Fatah and Hamas against each other, supporting one and then the other, to try and divide-and-conquer, or force things towards a puppet government of some sort. We’ve seen the US and the Soviet Union try to do this kind of thing many times in the past, and it always comes back to bite the larger powers in the ass — in Israel’s case, much more directly than the cold war superpowers, which could sit safely far away. But still, I don’t think Israel’s hands are clean in this regard.

  74. shah8
    January 16, 2009 at 12:32 pm

    I just wish that discussions of antisemitism can go to the topics that hurt the people I know instead of Israel, Israel, Israel all the friggin’ time. I also think that sundry issues *are* seperable from Zionism issues (at least for the sake of discussion)–you know, things like employment discrimination, genetic rights, and vandalism–the like. So I want to read interesting stuff that doesn’t involve Israel, at least some of the time, you know?

    It doesn’t help that I have absolutely no reason to trust in the good faith of the writer.

    p.s. No, seriously…the Olmert quote belongs in any discussion about jewish hyperpower!

  75. January 16, 2009 at 12:55 pm

    First off, I’m so, so glad people are finding the Naomi Klein article useful. (And I’d like to respond, quickly, to Kristin’s assertion that “What you say Naomi Klein says there is not actually what she says in that piece.” If you took away a different message from that article, it’s because it’s multilayered, not because I’m lying or mistaken. Let’s please stay away from an argument that consists of “My reading is right and yours is wrong.” My point was that the problems of anti-Semitism and Israeli aggression are deeply connected, and her essay illustrates that point very nicely.)

    David, this:

    But as far as I’m concerned, their defenses are anti-Semitic too – the glee they hold at the prospect of Israel being the front-line of the “clash of civilizations” is taking pleasure in Jews dying for their cause. The dominance of the Christian narratives amongst the defenses of Israel considered acceptable in the global sphere isn’t proof of Jewish power, but Jewish irrelevancy.

    was an eye-opener. Thanks.

    Finally, let me just say that, in a pair of comment threads that have contained multitudes of angry, sarcastic remarks on all sides (I include myself in this), it really sucks that when David matches the tenor of the conversation, no one considers the possibility that he might be just as hurt and frustrated as everyone else – no, he’s pompous and condescending. Fuck that.

  76. chingona
    January 16, 2009 at 1:06 pm

    Some human rights crises don’t get more attention than other human rights crises just because people think they are worse, or that the perpetrators are more evil. Part of it may be prejudice, part of it may be political maneuvering, part of it may be PR, part of it may be the perception of where pressure can actually make a difference or effect change.

    I think this is important. Certainly, the motivations of the Arab countries in condemning Israel but not condemning Sudan are suspect. But I think there are a lot of people (I’m one of them) who think Israel ought to be better and could be better and hope it is more subject to pressure than Sudan.

    I think it’s valid to say that there ought to be more attention on Congo and Sudan and question why that is, but if it comes off as just trying deflect attention from Israel, that’s more problematic. Just because someone else is worse doesn’t make what they’re doing okay.

    At the same time, I cannot feel too personally offended or outraged if Native American activists were to say “all colonizers should go back where they came from, your presence here is unjust.”

    I feel the same way, but it’s really easy for me to say that when the Tohono O’odham aren’t sending missles into Tucson. I say this not to invalidate your point, but just to point out that it’s a lot easier for Americans to be very nonchalant on this point because we are absolutely never going to be accountable in any substantive way for what we’ve done.

  77. Natalie
    January 16, 2009 at 1:09 pm

    I’m happy to see this series, although I haven’t waded through the comments on part way, and I’m getting the impression I don’t want to.

    I’m a non-Jewish, non-Arab American doing my MA in Middle East history in Israel, and I have a hard time getting people to understand that I consider the following to be equally true of myself:

    1. I love Israel, and am happy it exists and happy I live here.
    2. I think what’s happening is Gaza is terrible and morally wrong.

    Believing either of these things strongly doesn’t mean I the other one is a lie.

    I think David is correct in noting the anti-semitism of the left. I often wonder why people who don’t seem terribly well-informed about Israel have such strong opinions while ignoring similar problems elsewhere in the world. (And this is not a slam on Feministe commenters, rather I refer to some unpleasant real life incidents.)

    My cowardly way of avoiding having a big fight about it is to not use the word “anti-semitism” but rather to talk around it saying something like, “I find it curious that you care so much about this one issue at the expense of others, and I wonder if there might be some reasons for that.”

    At the same time, Israel’s policy do need critique because they are in a position of power over Palestinians (though I agree Jews are not in a position of power over the world) and I don’t think thoughtful critique is ever out of place.

    I guess what I’m saying is that the more informed a person is on the subject, the less likely I am to think there’s some other basis for their opinion.

  78. January 16, 2009 at 1:17 pm

    I am writing quickly, but two brief things

  79. January 16, 2009 at 1:22 pm

    Sorry, I posted that last fragment accidentally. Could the moderators please clean it up? Thanks. Anyway, as I said, I am writing quickly:

    1. David: When I said you were focusing on rhetoric, I was referring to the fact that you have pretty much seemed to be focusing on structures of ways of speaking antisemitism rather than analyzing actual events. Not that you have not mentioned events, but your energy seems to have been devoted to establishing that there is a rhetoric of antisemitism rather than taking concrete examples and using them to make points. (Don’t know if that’s clear.)

    2. Holly: I think Zionism as embodied in the policies of the Israeli government has, in practice, eclipsed other ways of expressing Zionism so that the Israeli government’s policies have become synonymous with Zionism. That’s one reason why I think it’s important to remember Zionism is not monolithic, even within Israel. In the same way that we do not assume the policies of the US government represent what all people in the US feel about, say, capitalism, even those who are capitalist.

    I will try to get back read these comments more closely later.

  80. January 16, 2009 at 1:23 pm

    This also raises the question of nation-states in general, which I REALLY think should be addressed here, and not hand-waved away by saying “well, you don’t question the idea of other nation-states.” Actually, I think a lot of us do feel like all nation-states should be questioned.

    See, I really agree that nation-states need to be questioned. But I feel like – in my own very limited experience – the questioning of nation-states seems to occur most often in conversations about Israel (or even Jews in general, as this post wasn’t focused on Israel). Why is that? Why doesn’t it seem to come up as often in conversations about the US? (Note: I don’t always read comment threads, so I could be totally wrong on this. It’s also possible that I’m tuned into it more when it’s about my ethnic group.) I suppose one answer is that Israel, being one of the newest nation-states, is illustrating for us aspects of statehood that are rendered invisible by history; for example, it’s impossible now to really see the heyday of the genocide against Native Americans, but Palestinians are dying right now. So the topic naturally comes up.

    But surely we can agree that it’s a situation – that is, states only seem to be questioned when we’re talking about the Jewish state – that can sound anti-Semitic to many Jews. I’m now kind of on a tangent, but I think this is a crucial distinction we need to make in discussions of anti-Semitism: are you an anti-Semite, or did you say something that might sound anti-Semitic? I’m glad David linked to my post on Amptoons at #26 (and I apologize for the ableist title – that was sloppy and insensitive of me).

  81. Eva
    January 16, 2009 at 1:30 pm

    But that is, as non sequitor said upthread, making colonialism all about the colonizer, and not at all accounting for the experience of being colonized. For the palestinians, or any one of the indigenous ethnic groups in Liberia the historical nuance of the situation does nothing to appease the fact that they suddenly became a lesser status people in their own homeland, that they were disenfranchised, displaced, and violently controlled by a western backed outside power. On that end, it is the same suffering, and the same experience, and it gets us nowhere trying to dismiss that suffering by using another group’s suffering to erase it. (Which is not, I get, the ultimate point of your series, but does seem to be the point of this particular distinction you make.) If I go out and shoot an innocent man because another man raped me, I may or may not be a more sympathetic criminal, but is the man I shot any less in need of medical attention? Is it any less important that I be disarmed before i shoot him again?

    And– and perhaps you’ll address alter why you feel this is different for the Jewish community as you understand it– but as a black American, I’d feel much more “irrevocably foreign,” in pretty much any part of Africa than i would in the country where I was born and raised (and yes, called a nigger and discriminated against.) This is my home. To presume that because hundreds of years ago my ancestors lived in a place that was then complicated with its own internal ethnic divisions and conflicts, and has since undergone hundreds of years of its own cultural and political shifts and changes and remains complicated to the point that I can’t even tell you who is in power at any given moment in the majority of East African countries, I should understand that place better than the place where I live and can trace my family back for six generations through oral history seems flatly absurd. I just really do not understand this line of thinking.

  82. Sylvia
    January 16, 2009 at 1:32 pm

    “Finally, let me just say that, in a pair of comment threads that have contained multitudes of angry, sarcastic remarks on all sides (I include myself in this), it really sucks that when David matches the tenor of the conversation, no one considers the possibility that he might be just as hurt and frustrated as everyone else – no, he’s pompous and condescending. Fuck that.”

    I don’t agree. Firstly, I think a lot people that are listening to the backs and forths can see the hurt and frustration from a lot of the people posting. Furthermore, I think “angry” and “sarcastic” are two different things. Were I to exhibit initial anger I feel like with time, I may very well respond to reason. In other words, there’s room for change. (I know this is subject to interpretation, and so this is just my opinion.)

    But once condescension is FELT or PERCEIVED by the listener, it impunes the motives of the speaker and as such the listeners have less reason to trust and more importantly, continue listening. I understand David is probably hurt and confused and frustrated. Not only is this subject matter personal, it’s also his piece of intellectual offering- one that is being criticized and/or reveiwed which makes him even more sensitive.

    A positive response (which I give David credit for doing *now*) is to check your pride at the door once THE LISTENER is telling you they feel mocked/offended/ignored/etc and continue engaging those who are willing to listen- even through the pain, anger and frustration. By doing so, that doesn’t mean that his intentions were to do so (offend/ignore/etc)- it simply means that was the response that was garnered (and obviously not desired). At that point, you can either continue in the same vein and/or shift your language in a way that allows you to speak freely and still be cognizant of what the listener is receiving (which again is what I see David now doing.)

  83. Eva
    January 16, 2009 at 1:38 pm

    I can only speak for myself, but I think part of the problem here is that it’s easier to say what should stop happening, than what should start happening. This is an ongoing issue with leftism in general, and not unique to Israel, but what is somewhat unique about the situation is that what’s being called for is not intervention, but lack of intervention, the idea being if the U.S stopped interfering with Israel, funding it, providing it with weapons, and holding it up as a shining example, a more natural and balanced peace process might evolve.

    I am horrified by Darfur, but I don’t know who to call on to fix it. the intervention of US military forces, or UN troops, especially in places where there are large numbers of very vulnerable people of color, tends to result in more, not less, rape and slaughter and displacement. Until this is no longer so (and I don’t know how we make it so, since so many of these issues seem endemic to militarism), I cannot in good conscience call for intervention. I can call for countries to stop providing weapons in the Sudan, and I can call on the violence to stop, but who can i call on to enforce that?

    Whereas with Israel, my government allegedly represents me, and I can tell them to stop providing weapons to a country that bombs schools and UN food storage facilities and shoots at feeling civilians in my name, instead of telling them to go into a country where these things are already happening, and where U.S troops would probably do more of the same.

  84. Eva
    January 16, 2009 at 1:54 pm

    Sorry, I seem to be screwing up the quote function today. My comment at 81 was intended in response to David’s at 66, and my last comment, (83 now) was in response to chingona at 76.

  85. January 16, 2009 at 2:21 pm

    Eva @81: I understand why this mode of thinking might not make sense to you, insofar as you would feel more foreign and alienated in Africa than you do in America (because you were born here, and grew up here, and trace your history to here). Undoubtedly, many Jews who had no interest in moving to Israel had roughly similar thought processes. But many Jews equally clearly did not concur. They did feel more at home in Israel than in their “homes” in Germany or Russia or Iraq or Tunisia. They considered the status quo to be the colonial situation — they considered themselves a colonized people forced to live in a foreign territory under the hostile rule of others:

    The colonized were generally a people, reduced to impotence, but a compact and obvious mass—a majority. What then could become of the Jewish people, scattered in a thousand fragments across the globe, not even able to understand each other in a common language? I am sorry to have to point out once again our sociologists’ lack of imagination, one which leads them furthermore into a systematic error in their evaluation of reality. They can only conceive of peoples and nations on the basis of the completed models which they have before their eyes: the great European nations. The result is that no one has the right to conceive of a new type, either in the present or in the future. The same objection had served against the colonized: how dared they claim a national liberation for nonexistent nations?

    From Albert Memmi, The Liberation of the Jew at 287-88.

    When you frame this discussion as shifting the bounds from the sentiments of the colonized to the colonizer, you’re rejecting the claim of the Jew that their status was as colonized too, because it doesn’t fit into the larger “frame” of “colonized” as you understand it. The problem is that turns the particular nature of Jewish oppression into an argument against recognizing it. Palestinians obviously feel colonized as well, but that’s means we’re in the realm of mutual oppressions bumping into each other.

    The other interesting thing I’d be curious to interrogate is how the continued presence of a never-exiled Jewish community in Eretz Yisrael/Palestine affects the analysis of “colonialism” hinged on the idea of Jews as foreign to Israel. If Jews are only “allowed” to move in spaces that are “Jewish” (i.e., where they are not “foreign” to), why couldn’t the Jewish communities outside of Israel say, “hey: I want to move from Jewish community Germany to Jewish community Palestine, because I think I’ll be better off there”? Is the Jewish population of Palestine “capped” at its 18th century population, and any increase from Jewish immigration “colonial”? Or are Jews allowed to move to other Jewish communities only so long as they do not do so in sufficient numbers to hold political power (in other words, the “cap” on Jewish immigration is whatever number small enough to mean Jews are always subordinated!)?

    The complaint, in other words, can’t be that “Jews are living in Israel, and they’re not from there”, because Jews have always lived in Israel. It seems to be instead “Jews lived in Israel, and more Jews decided they wanted to come and had the temerity to actually try and form a political majority.”

  86. Tara
    January 16, 2009 at 2:26 pm

    And– and perhaps you’ll address alter why you feel this is different for the Jewish community as you understand it– but as a black American, I’d feel much more “irrevocably foreign,” in pretty much any part of Africa than i would in the country where I was born and raised (and yes, called a nigger and discriminated against.) This is my home. To presume that because hundreds of years ago my ancestors lived in a place that was then complicated with its own internal ethnic divisions and conflicts, and has since undergone hundreds of years of its own cultural and political shifts and changes and remains complicated to the point that I can’t even tell you who is in power at any given moment in the majority of East African countries, I should understand that place better than the place where I live and can trace my family back for six generations through oral history seems flatly absurd. I just really do not understand this line of thinking.

    I appreciate that you’re doing your best to approach the subject using your own experiences and frame of reference. I think this falls under the heading of, at some level, everything is comparable, and also nothing is. My problem here is that I don’t feel like I know enough about the history of the black American narrative about Africa to answer the question the way you posed it. I don’t know how ‘this is different,’ I only know how this is. (I only know within my own perspective/framework/reference/standpoint etc etc). But I’m pretty sure that the fact that as a black American you would feel that Africa is a foreign place to you even though it’s important in terms of historical origins has absolutely nothing to say about the way that Jews feel and have felt that Israel is not a foreign place. It’s different group stories and identities, different histories, different on so many levels.

    I guess you didn’t mean it this way, but part of what I heard in your paragraph sounded to me like, ‘despite some points of similarity, I can’t relate to Jewish relationships with Israel, and that makes its authenticity and validity suspect to me, “absurd”.’ That sounds close minded to an experience different than your own.

  87. Kristin
    January 16, 2009 at 2:35 pm

    Julie: Thanks for clarifying. I thought you were making a completely different point there.

  88. misstickle
    January 16, 2009 at 2:44 pm

    re: Eva comment 81. I think another analogy would be imagining that you are a Muslim. Even if you were born and raised in the USA and converted and even if you had red hair and freckles and came from Montana. If you are a practicing Muslim then Mecca is your Holy Land and if you go there you will feel connected. Also imagine if Christians were in control of Mecca and not letting you live there and worship freely even if they were born and raised in Saudi Arabia, there would be more to it than the “native” aspect.
    Re: other comments
    I think another part of the problem is that oppressions clash. For instance a POC may see me as “white” whereas I see myself first and foremost as a “Jew”. I don’t want to say that someone else’s perspective is ‘wrong” however I also don’t want another person to “define ME”.
    SO too with colonialism or imperialist or any other terms used to describe Israel. I don’t want to dismiss the experience of the native Muslims there but I also don’t want the Jewish narrative dismissed.

  89. shah8
    January 16, 2009 at 2:46 pm

    Ooooh ferchr…

    David,

    You don’t just end the sentence “realm of mutual oppressions bumping into each other.” It really smacks of an effort to wipe away the meaning of consequences. Too Bad, So Sad, Jews have to oppress Palestinians because they themselves are oppressed!

    You really do like this tactic of ignoring who has the power to do what, don’t you?

    So let’s take this the unpacking just a little further…If Jews had to have Israel because of the Western AntiSemitism, then isn’t it unnecessary to punish Palestinians for our sins? Shouldn’t Jewish people make it a focus at reforming Western governments?

    Or are you saying that Israel’s acceptance of all those Jewish people did reform the attitudes of Western governments by removing the Dreyfuses of the world and that we should take a less hostile attitude to ethnic cleansing?

    Oh, and Eva? Polite as they are here, many pro-Israel people are extremely hostile to the idea of comparing Israel to Liberia even though that comparison is apt! or at least in how the movement was formed and discussed. Tho’ I’ve not heard the you don’t know where you’re from, so you can’t possible know answer before. Saaaaay, are you calling us bastards–not that I have a problem with that…

  90. shah8
    January 16, 2009 at 2:57 pm

    One of the themes of this thread that I wish to amplify is that there was never a singular Zionism, well, at least until the 80s or so…

    In the very beginning, one of the big strands was just about buying property in Israel proper and living there and there were all kinds of ideas about how to cohabitate with the muslim people who lived there.

    Even after Israel formed, there were several viable strands of Zionism. The whole thing has just sagged into a settler dynamic not different from UK’s issues with American settlers, or the settlers in Northern Ireland, or the Pied Noirs of Algeria.

    Right now. Everything in Israel is about three things, settlers, water, and weaponry. They can afford to care about these things because we in the US, Germany, and others gives them lots of cash and opportunities to buy sophisticated weapons, often as a enabler of domestic corruption.

  91. Kristin
    January 16, 2009 at 2:59 pm

    “Why doesn’t it seem to come up as often in conversations about the US?”

    Also, Julie, I agree that it should, yes. I don’t think it does come up as often because such a vast percentage of our native populations were wiped out as a result of the European settlers. But we should we critical of our own founding myths as well (critical of the teaching of the Thanksgiving myth, etc.). I completely agree with this.

    I think there is a large focus on Israel by the left in the US partly because mainstream media outlets and US politicians are so uncritical of Israel. There is a sense that the narrative from the perspectives of Palestinians is being left out, at least in the dominant US discourse (I would probably not make the same claim about Europe). So, the left takes up that discourse. My experience of the left, though, is that it is equally concerned with US abuses of power.

    Also, I think the Naomi Klein article is a valuable one. Thanks to those who posted it here. I tend to agree with her that… Well, look, Sharon was not–and Olmert is not–very helpful in terms of dispelling anti-Semitic views worldwide, and it’s true that their discourses should not be the ones that define the terms of the debate. I completely agree with that. And while I am skeptical that this is the kind of structural problem that David outlines, I’ve never suggested that anti-Semitism is not a real problem. I’m more open to hearing about it from voices that are not as hawkish as the guest blogger strikes me, but… Well, that’s me.

    Essentially, though, it’s hard for me to be sympathetic to someone who started out thinking that using Gaza as a jumping off point was a good way to discuss his own experiences of anti-Semitism. That move seems gratuitously self-interested at best–and morally reprehensible at worst. And although I know that others have already touched on this–and don’t want to continue belaboring the point, I just… It leads me to doubt that this person is writing in good faith. I mean, what kind of person would ever use war crimes as a jumping off point for personal reflection? After looking over David’s personal blogging about this, moreover, I get the sense that we are being prosyletized here more than anything else, and I don’t like it. Is the author’s goal to “change hearts and minds” or to have a dialogue? I’m leaning toward the latter.

  92. Eva
    January 16, 2009 at 2:59 pm

    But they didn’t form a political majority, they formed their own state, and formed it as a specifically Jewish state

    When I wondered if the question would be addressed alter, I did not so much mean for it to be addressed in direct relation to black Americans or my own experience, only to ask what this connection to an imagined homeland means in the present, for those people who believe, as David says he does, that a Jewish state is important. I was responding directly to his assertion that like Jews, blacks in the western diaspora are “irrevocably foreign,” which was his response to comparisons between Israel and Liberia. obviously some different dynamic is at work, as Black nationalism, even at its height, never managed to convince large numbers of black Americans to “repatriate,” and actually focused a lot on self-sufficiency within the U.S, not on leaving it. I just don’t understand what that difference is, and there may be unique elements to the Jewish experience that i am not aware of, so I’m asking. Asking incredulously, but asking, nonetheless. because my first impulse when someone tells me Isreal is their home because Jews lived there a thousand years ago is to laugh hysterically at such a ridiculous argument, but in the spirit of this post, I am trying to ask myself whether this is a fair response, or whether it negates some historical reality of Jewish oppression.

    And this is where the explanation goes from something i don’t understand to something I find problematic. Religion should never be a justification for policy, I don’t care whose religion it is. On that basis, what’s to keep the Christians from showing up one day and going umm, screw all y’all, Jesus was born here, and it’s ours now, get out? I am dubious of religion in general, I am extra dubious of it being sued to justify anything that would be unjustifiable absent religion.

  93. Kristin
    January 16, 2009 at 3:11 pm

    David: Well, you asked about the condescension. You come to a feminist blog with a seven part series in mind, and you’ve yet to expound on its feminist relevance. In this series, you include segments of what reads like an academic paper, and… Dude… While it ain’t like I don’t understand the words (I’m an academic myself.), I don’t, as Drakyn said, come to blogs to read excerpts from some person’s thesis. People have in some cases asked for clarification that you have ignored or refused. You act surprised that people get annoyed when told that their questions will be answered in parts III, V, and VII or whatever–instead of just engaging people where they are. You respond in an extremely condescending and dismissive manner to several women who are regular commenters in this community–and are surprised to see people get upset by that on a feminist blog. You wanted a hint? Your first comments in this post: “ZOMG real engagement!” What did you think the rest of us had been doing all that time? That’s insulting. Then… You express utter surprise when a number of Jews get angry with you for suggesting that their anti-Zionist views are “dangerously lethal” for Jews. In the context of *speaking to other Jews,* you–the expert here on anti-Semitism–have NO IDEA why this is insulting. Well… It’s just… The people who are “dangerously lethal” to Jews? They kind of killed six million of them in Europe in the 1940’s. You cannot get around the fact that a number of people are hearing this history echoed in your words. And if you think that these Jews have political views favorable to another Holocaust, then of course it makes sense that this is offensive. Why the need to call the people who disagree with you “lethal,” ffs? Can’t you register your own strong disagreement in any other way? And if you *must* retain this view, you might at least do us the courtesy of explaining WHY you would ever level such a charge at them. Ultimately, though, just don’t freaking come to a feminist blog and then talk down to all the women on it who don’t agree with you.

  94. Kristin
    January 16, 2009 at 3:18 pm

    clarification about this. It should have read:

    Is the author’s goal to “change hearts and minds” or to have a dialogue? I’m leaning toward the former.

  95. January 16, 2009 at 3:28 pm

    I actually think Memmi’s point also gets to RJN’s request for a “practice” of anti-Semitic structuring. When thinking about who is “colonized”, we have a particular image or model in our head — first of European nation-states, then of the “classic” anti-colonialist movements which tried to create similar rights for their own people. Jewish experience didn’t really fit into either category, because — though we identified as a nation, we were dispersed and not geographically concentrated in any one place. But rather than saying “hey, this model doesn’t include Jewish experience — we should expand the model”, instead we say “hey, Jewish experience doesn’t fit inside the model, ergo, it wasn’t a ‘colonized’ existence”. Insofar as international structures operate along that assumption of who is colonized and who is not in making decisions of resource-allocation, media attention, interventions, etc., that’s anti-Semitic practice.

    Eva: I think that a critical element is that Jews never lost this sense of connected-nationhood, even when in diaspora, and even across cultural and national boundaries, and (this is important) including to the continued Jewish community that never was kicked out of Israel in the first place. So the continuing consciousness/connection which you say African-Americans lacked, was present for us — and it existed independently of any “religious” links (Zionism started as a primarily secular movement).

    But I think the theme you’re hitting (which you make explicit in your blanket statement about finding religious-based acts problematic) illustrates another area of anti-Semitic structure. Any political or social claim made by Jews qua Jews is going to be characterized as “religious”, thus “sectarian”, thus impermissible. Of course, religious claimants (not just Jews) would respond that their claims are no more “particular” than their secular peers — that the latter claims itself to be a neutral baseline upon which anyone can agree does not make it so (Michael W. McConnell makes this point on behalf of Christians, Abraham Joshua Heschel has made it for Jews). Any claim Jews make as Jews — even if it is the very basic “we want a state where we know Jews can go to and be welcomed when other places oppress them” — gets tagged as theocratic.

  96. January 16, 2009 at 3:29 pm

    This claim that David has made more than once (as has at least one commenter) really needs to be addressed. He’s said that continual presence of a Jewish community in Palestine over the years justified, at least in part, the immigration to/colonization of Palestine by Zionist (and other) Jewish settlers. The claim being made here is that there is a trans-historical essence of Jewishness which is more important than all of the local, contingent and heterogeneous instantiations of Jewish identity and experience, and that this transhistorical essence gives Jews the world over the right to “return” to Palestine. In other words, because there have been some Palestinian Jews in that area since Biblical times, Jews from Russia, Germany, the US, etc. have a right to settle there in the twentieth century.

    This is, at best, an extremely debatable claim. To suggest that anyone who challenges it is being anti-Semitic is, to put it mildly, intellectually dishonest. Simply claiming membership in an oppressed group does not make all of your statements immune to criticism. When Kool Mo Dee said that AIDS was a government conspiracy to kill black people, no one was obliged to take that view seriously, or to refrain from criticizing the anti-scientific thrust of his comment.

    But even if we grant this point, that the presence of some particular, specific group of Jews in Palestine grants a right to all Jews everywhere to return there, that does not prove the legitimacy of a racial/religious Jewish state. To claim that it does is to claim that this right somehow trumps the rights of those already living there, that this supposed “right of return” obliterates or erases the rights of those already living there (and as people have noted, not all the early Zionists wanted such a thing). At most it grants these “returning” Jews a right to immigrate, and an obligation to work out a peaceful coexistence with the native inhabitants.

    I’m surprised no one is challenging these points.

  97. January 16, 2009 at 3:37 pm

    And by the way, the Palestinian Jews were vehemently anti-Zionist, so much so that some of them had to prevented at gunpoint from surrendering their area of Jerusalem to the Jordanian army in 1948.

  98. January 16, 2009 at 3:44 pm

    non sequitur @ 96: Well said!

  99. chingona
    January 16, 2009 at 3:50 pm

    what’s to keep the Christians from showing up one day and going umm, screw all y’all, Jesus was born here, and it’s ours now, get out?

    Well, cause Jesus was Jewish, for one thing. And being Jewish is both a religious and an ethnic identity, and Zionism really was a secular nationalist movement. Where religion comes in, I think, is that Judaism is full of references to Jerusalem and Israel and returning. Everything is seeped in it – the idea that at some point everyone will return and everything will be great. This is relevant not to justify anything in and of itself, but to answer why the idea of returning to Israel maybe had more resonance for Jews than returning to Africa had for blacks.

    as a black American, I’d feel much more “irrevocably foreign,” in pretty much any part of Africa than i would in the country where I was born and raised (and yes, called a nigger and discriminated against.) This is my home.

    I think it’s interesting though that there was a fairly substantial Back to Africa movement, separate from the founding of Liberia, in the late 19th century and early 20th century in the United States – basically the same time period that Zionism is developing and gaining traction – and also a time period where whatever promise Reconstruction might have held for black civil rights is dead as dead and the level of horrific violence and legally enforced discrimination against blacks was at its height. I don’t know a ton about this movement, but I suspect a similar combination of hopelessness at every improving your lot in your “home” country and very romantic ideas about ethnic nationalism drove the thinking here. The idea that you would be displacing people who already lived there just didn’t really factor into their thinking. If the situation in the United States had gotten worse – with lynchings leading to internment and internment leading to executions on a mass scale – you might have seen a different trajectory for the Back to Africa movement.

    I don’t think you would see a movement like either Zionism or Back to Africa or the Liberian venture arise in response to oppression today, if we were starting from scratch. They may not be colonial in the same way as the English colonizing America, but those movements aren’t possible without a colonial mindset.

  100. January 16, 2009 at 3:53 pm

    Any political or social claim made by Jews qua Jews is going to be characterized as “religious”, thus “sectarian”, thus impermissible.

    I don’t think necessarily needs to be true. I don’t think it is THAT hard for any reasonable person to distinguish between religious claims made by or about Jews, i.e. “our religion tells us that we must return to and live in a certain place” or “religion says that NO Jews should be living in Israel until the Messiah returns” and non-religious claims made by or about Jews as a continuous population of people with a specific history, i.e. “Jews have been oppressed and persecuted for thousands of years, and deserve to be safe and free of anti-semitic prejudice and stereotypes.” I don’t think the latter description and claim requires any prior assumptions about anything religious, positive or negative, to stand on its own. You can be an atheist and still believe that, a Buddhist, etc. Of course, this continuous population is bound together by religion, but that does not make “history” and “religion” into the same subject, even though there’s plenty of religion in history.

    Of course, religious claimants (not just Jews) would respond that their claims are no more “particular” than their secular peers — that the latter claims itself to be a neutral baseline upon which anyone can agree does not make it so (Michael W. McConnell makes this point on behalf of Christians, Abraham Joshua Heschel has made it for Jews).

    I find this kind of argument extremely pernicious when it’s made by Christian dominionists bent on destroying the line between church and state, or teaching creationism in schools, and I find it pernicious here. “Secularism” is not a religion; it is another sphere entirely. It isn’t based on religious claims about the universe. It’s possible for some people to psychologically TURN scientism into their own brand of religion, but that doesn’t mean “science” is a religion. It’s a totally different method with different kinds of validity and applicability. The same is true, in a less hard-facts kind of way, of secular policy-making.

    Also, what non sequitur just said, especially the part about anti-Zionist Palestinian Jews.

  101. exholt
    January 16, 2009 at 3:54 pm

    Insofar as the narrative of Jewish hyperpower is tied into the broader discourse on Western imperialism and colonialism, non-European Jews present a severe problem because they complicate the folding in of Jews with the broader network of White Western oppression.

    I’d be wary of using this line of reasoning as it is quite similar to arguments used by Japanese right-wing apologia literature to justify their nation’s horrifically brutal colonialist legacy over large swaths of the Asian continent and various Pacific islands and to deflect comparisons between what their nation did in its imperialist heyday and European colonialism……despite the fact Imperial Japan substantially modeled their colonialist policies on Western European lines.

    Though Imperial Japan wasn’t a considered a Western society by other Westerners or by a sizable portion of the Japanese ruling elite, their colonialist legacy was a part of the Western imperial colonialist legacy notwithstanding vehement denials and attempted diversions from the Japanese colonialist apologists and some of their Western allies/dupes*.

    To this day, that literature still attempts to portray what was colonialism modeled on Western European imperialist lines as Imperial Japan’s effort to first eliminate Western European/US colonialization attempts on its own territory, colonize others in the name of “preemptive self-defense”(Yamagata Doctrine), and in the course of expanding that colonialism across the rest of the Asian continent/Pacific islands…..dress it up as a liberation effort to toss out Western European/US colonialists on behalf of their “Asian/Pacific Island brothers”.

    What this obfuscating propagandist rhetoric masked was the fact that what Imperial Japan was really doing was to join the Western European Colonialist club and as subsequent historical events showed, to supplant them as colonizers on the Asian continent and the Pacific Islands.

    Considering all of this, I don’t think we can justifiably blame the victims of Japan’s brutal colonialism for holding bitter/angry/hateful feelings towards Japan and the Japanese people and/or having little sympathy for their wartime sufferings.** Especially when various Japanese groups on both the right and the left have used those very sufferings to uncritically portray Japan as a big victim of WWII….and in the process…..erasing Japan’s colonialist legacy which led up to that war and more importantly, the sufferings of its Asian/Pacific Islander victims. It also doesn’t help matters when many members of the Japanese right-wing….including many prominent government bureaucrats/politicians in Japan including the current*** and some past Japanese prime ministers have made statements sympathetic to those who have attempted to whitewash Japan’s colonialist legacy.

    * Including some right-wing Americans who favor Japanese rearmament/abolishment of Article 9 and some progressive-left-wing activists who decry the US atomic-bombing attacks while revealing ignorance of or forgetting/ignoring Imperial Japan’s aggressive brutal colonialist legacy which played a part in leading up to those attacks.

    ** In partial reply to many Westerners I’ve encountered who made various statements on this theme…including an Ashkenazi spokesman for an anti-Genocide/discrimination organization who was brought in to speak to my high school’s Genocide Studies class. While his points on anti-japanese stereotyping is well-taken, I didn’t appreciate his implying that any bitter/angry criticisms about Japan’s colonialist legacy was a sign that someone was a “Japan-basher”…..something which was quite silencing to many of us whose parents and family suffered the effects of Imperial Japan’s brutal colonialist rampage/occupation.

    *** Recently released records also revealed his family employed enslaved Allied POWs in their coal mine in Japan. Based on my studies, I would not be surprised if it was revealed his family’s mine also employed slave labor from Imperial Japan’s colonial territories.

  102. January 16, 2009 at 3:56 pm

    Two related suggestions I would make for future posts–first, give us a clearer idea of what the “privilege” is you’re describing, and how precisely Jews are disadvantaged. I don’t have a bunch of quantitative data in front of me, but I’m assuming that as a group Jews do fairly well in terms of education, income, etc. I also don’t think that “gentile privilege” really works. Jew-Gentile is the distinction Jews make, not that one Christians do. So is it white privilege? If so, what’s the evidence that Jews are not considered white, by themselves and everyone else. Is it Christian privilege? If so, how does that work?

    I may have misunderstood what you had in mind when you used the word “structural,” but I was expecting something like this. Let’s just do a very crude quasi-Marxist analysis of the current wave of anti-immigrant hysteria. Capital needs cheap labor, which it can get from illegal immigrants. But once these immigrants have a foothold, they’ll start to push for more rights, even citizenship, in which case they won’t be such cheap labor anymore. So the screedbots go into action, railing against the menace of illegal immigration, and a perpetual series of government raids are used to ensure that a permanent, settled and so somewhat more secure and politically effective illegal immigrant population does not develop.

    Who benefits? Capital. What does it get? Cheap labor. How? Hysteria about immigration which fuels government action that is highly beneficial to capital. Who is being oppressed or exploited? The immigrants. Why? Because they lack the legal means (citizenship) and the financial resources (not all immigrants, even illegal immigrants, are treated this way) to protect themselves.

    These are the sorts of questions that I think an analysis of anti-Semitism needs to answer. Mostly what we’re getting is anecdotes about some guy from ANSWER at a rally in 2003. Not entirely, but I don’t see enough evidence or precision to understand how this is helping to identify and/or combat anti-Semitism, in left-wing circles or elsewhere.

  103. chingona
    January 16, 2009 at 4:04 pm

    Because of what got said while I was writing my last comment, I want to stress that my last comment is meant just as historical context/explanation, not trying to justify a particular course of action.

  104. shah8
    January 16, 2009 at 4:10 pm

    Oh, I could have addressed that, and there is plenty more in my arsenal, actually.

    But allow me to complement what non sequitur by pointing out that David is acting as if there was a jewish Caliphate during the diaspora. Puting aside the whole Khazar thing, there was never a focus on Israel as a Jewish place in most of jewish history. Much of what was Zionism was simply an outgrowth in nationalism as Germany was unified, Belgium became independent, and other countries like Russia has a growing awareness of its citizens of being some kind of “Russian”. Jews from Al Andalus are pretty different from jews from Egypt and they are radically different than Eastern European jews, and none of these people thought of all jews as a single nation.

    Many Sephardic Jews lost much (including their lives) because of Israel’s formation in the Post WWII years. That Israel was there to accept immigration does not alter the fact that in many cases, the mere fact that Israel existed caused the need for people who have lived in places for anywheres from 600 to 2500 years had to leave all at once.

  105. chingona
    January 16, 2009 at 4:13 pm

    Regarding non sequitor at 102, what does the United States get out of its relationship with Israel, other than Jewish votes in Florida and New York? Is it just this Christian Zionist Armageddon business or are there concrete benefits to the U.S.? It’s a lot easier to see how we are hurt by our relationship with Israel, but I think there has be something more to it than effective lobbying. Is there political benefit to letting people think it’s just cause the Jews control everything, obscuring what the real relationship is? Or not?

    I’m also having trouble with the idea that anti-Semitism is structural, probably because that’s just not how I’ve experienced it. I’ve been called names a time or two or stereotyped in this or that way, but most people think I’m white, I’ve never not gotten a job because of being Jewish, and if people react at all, it’s usually just with curiosity.

  106. Laura
    January 16, 2009 at 4:14 pm

    When thinking about who is “colonized”, we have a particular image or model in our head — first of European nation-states, then of the “classic” anti-colonialist movements which tried to create similar rights for their own people. Jewish experience didn’t really fit into either category, because — though we identified as a nation, we were dispersed and not geographically concentrated in any one place. But rather than saying “hey, this model doesn’t include Jewish experience — we should expand the model”, instead we say “hey, Jewish experience doesn’t fit inside the model, ergo, it wasn’t a ‘colonized’ existence”.

    Does it have to be fitted inside this particular model? I tend to think of exile/diaspora as possible consequences of colonisation, but the experience of the exiles/people in diaspora is different from that of those who remain in the same place but are ruled over in that place by a colonising power.

    My suspicion is that those who are colonised and remain “at home” have a different experience from those who, as a result of the actions of a colonial power are sent into exile, have to leave behind their “home”, and who, wherever they settle, feel somehow alien from both the place and, often, the other people, in the place where they end up.

    The two groups may end up having quite ambivalent feelings about each other, too. Both have suffered as a result of colonialism, and both share the same national a national identity, but the experience of being a community in exile (and oppressed as a minority within a community which is at “home” and sees the exiles as aliens) is likely to have been different from the experience of the group which had to live at “home” but under the direct rule of the colonial power that invaded their home. As time passes, the two groups may develop different ideas about the “home” and the group that’s been in exile for a while may idealise the “home” or may not realise what changes have occurred, or not understand the complex relationships that have grown up among the group(s) that live there. Those who remain “at home,” on the other hand, may not understand the different oppressions experienced by the exiles, and their yearning for the lost “home.”

  107. January 16, 2009 at 4:26 pm

    David @ 95:

    “But I think the theme you’re hitting (which you make explicit in your blanket statement about finding religious-based acts problematic) illustrates another area of anti-Semitic structure. Any political or social claim made by Jews qua Jews is going to be characterized as “religious”, thus “sectarian”, thus impermissible.”

    I don’t understand–saying that religious identity as such is illegitimate, or ruling out religion as a motive for political action, is somehow anti-Semitic?

  108. January 16, 2009 at 4:29 pm

    I feel the same way, but it’s really easy for me to say that when the Tohono O’odham aren’t sending missles into Tucson. I say this not to invalidate your point, but just to point out that it’s a lot easier for Americans to be very nonchalant on this point because we are absolutely never going to be accountable in any substantive way for what we’ve done.

    You are absolutely right about this, of course. I think Julie was right when she said:

    I suppose one answer is that Israel, being one of the newest nation-states, is illustrating for us aspects of statehood that are rendered invisible by history; for example, it’s impossible now to really see the heyday of the genocide against Native Americans, but Palestinians are dying right now. So the topic naturally comes up.

    I think the topic DID come up when the Lakota declared independence, and I did blog about it and say they were right and that the US is fundamentally illegitimate, and I said it again just now. But the Lakota declaration was considered a joke by most nations and most media outlets. The Israel-Palestine conflicts, on the other hand, are presented as a tragedy in progress, a situation that COULD potentially be resolved, and like Julie says, the process of nation-state formation (and the erasure of lives and homes that it involves) is on display with all the surround-sound effect of modern media and Internet.

    I would go so far as to say that many people with a liberal political consciousness have a deep memory of guilt over the way their own nations were founded (say, the United States) or colonized other areas, and that this is being taken out on Israel, since there is no accountability possible for any of the injustices of hundreds of years ago. Unfortunately, none of that makes Israeli imperialism (Joel Kovel is right that it’s a better word) right or moral.

    I also want to talk about this, from upstream a ways, since it gets back to the original topic:

    But surely we can agree that it’s a situation – that is, states only seem to be questioned when we’re talking about the Jewish state – that can sound anti-Semitic to many Jews. I’m now kind of on a tangent, but I think this is a crucial distinction we need to make in discussions of anti-Semitism: are you an anti-Semite, or did you say something that might sound anti-Semitic? I’m glad David linked to my post on Amptoons at #26 (and I apologize for the ableist title – that was sloppy and insensitive of me).

    There are anti-semites, who hold and maintain beliefs that justify prejudice against Jews, or simply are prejudiced. And then there are people who “sound anti-semitic” even though what they’re saying doesn’t necessarily entail any kind of prejudice against Jews — it just has the signs of anti-semitism, or is a dog-whistle. There is a difficult problem here, which is that a “false negative,” where you let someone’s comment slide, may be allowing anti-semitism to persist and spread, but a “false positive” may result in quashing discourse or marginalizing valuable points of view — and false positives may ALSO help promote anti-semitism in a roundabout way. The thing is, a lot of the “signs of anti-semitism” are like a celtic cross. Why a celtic cross? Unfortunately, a lot of aryan supremacists in some areas of the US have adopted celtic symbolism as a “ethnic pride” mask for their beliefs, to the extent that it’s sometimes used as a dogwhistle. This is especially bad because there are some people who wear of have tattoos celtic crosses who are not white supremacists at all.

    The situation with discussing ideas about Israel is a little more complicated, because some ideas can be pointed out as also being part of a broad historical current that fosters and encourages anti-Semitism. For instance, critiques of Jewish power. It’s very easy for those to be folded into ZOG narratives, but this doesn’t mean that critiques of Jewish power are automatically anti-semitic, even though they may SOUND anti-semitic. The only solutions to this are 1) avoid sound bites, 2) people who want to say these things need to educate themselves about the history of anti-semitism so that they do not stumble into this trap, or are clear about their intentions, and 3) people who say things like “scratch the surface someone who opposes israel and you’ll find a jew-hater at the core” really need to give it a rest, because this is the kind of stuff that just spreads myths of monolithic jewish opinion and anti-semitism that helps hardline Israeli regimes, as Naomi Klein points out.

  109. Tara
    January 16, 2009 at 4:50 pm

    That Israel was there to accept immigration does not alter the fact that in many cases, the mere fact that Israel existed caused the need for people who have lived in places for anywheres from 600 to 2500 years had to leave all at once.

    I don’t really understand what you are bringing this point to signify. The implication I read is that the creation of Israel somehow justifies or exonerates the fact that life was made unlivable for Jews in neighboring countries. By saying that it was the “mere fact of Israel’s existence,” you are discounting the role, perhaps even the existence, that Arabic anti-Jewish feeling played in the expulsions and oppressions, and asserting that it’s reasonable and just that they would act oppressively towards Jews living in their own countries because of the actions of Jews living somewhere else. That doesn’t seem tenable in a liberal, anti-bigotry worldview.

  110. chingona
    January 16, 2009 at 4:55 pm

    Many Sephardic Jews lost much (including their lives) because of Israel’s formation in the Post WWII years. That Israel was there to accept immigration does not alter the fact that in many cases, the mere fact that Israel existed caused the need for people who have lived in places for anywheres from 600 to 2500 years had to leave all at once.

    If there was no sense of Jews as Jews, why were domestic Jewish populations in the Arab world punished for the actions of European Jews in founding Israel? David may be overstating the case for an overarching Jewish identity, but are you understating it?

  111. Tara
    January 16, 2009 at 4:58 pm

    You respond in an extremely condescending and dismissive manner to several women who are regular commenters in this community… “ZOMG real engagement!” … You express utter surprise when a number of Jews get angry with you for suggesting that their anti-Zionist views are “dangerously lethal” for Jews. …Can’t you register your own strong disagreement in any other way?… And if you *must* retain this view, you might at least do us the courtesy of explaining WHY you would ever level such a charge at them. Ultimately, though, just don’t freaking come to a feminist blog and then talk down to all the women on it who don’t agree with you.

    This reads to me like, ‘if you want me to listen to you, adhere to my standards of civility and use language I am comfortable with.’ Haven’t we been over this?

    Finding David’s writing patronizing, condescending, and insulting, is a subjective evaluation that you are more than entitled to. So is feeling like it diminishes respect for you.

    I feel that the presence of this series makes me feel more accepted as a feminist Zionist Jew who doesn’t necessarily agree with every other feminist/Zionist/Jew, and the comments that impugn David’s intentions, language, and decorum diminish that feeling.

    And I’m not ready to concede that your evaluation and feelings are more important than mine.

  112. shah8
    January 16, 2009 at 5:05 pm

    I brought it up to shift aside the centrality of Israel in the Jewish experience some. I also want to expand the idea of the damage the Israel did beyond just the Palestinians.

    One of the things that really bugs me is how fixed an idea of the anti-semitism of muslims are, when by any real stretch of the imagination (beyond the whole arab question as far as antisemitism is concerned), muslim nation have been far less anti-semitic than christian ones.

    It doesn’t really make it right that there were these anti-jewish riots all over the Arab world (some people believe that Israel incited some of them in Iraq, but there’s no real evidence either way) in the late 40s and early 50s. However, that *was* a consequence of events in Palestine as Israel was being formed.

  113. shah8
    January 16, 2009 at 5:12 pm

    chingona

    No sense of jews all over the world as jews of a nation, among jewish people

    Not how other people viewed jewish people. People who want to persecute some minority generally do not care to find the right person. You know, like how innocent Sikhs are treated as terrorists even though they are neither arab or muslim.

  114. January 16, 2009 at 5:12 pm

    “by any real stretch of the imagination (beyond the whole arab question as far as antisemitism is concerned), muslim nation have been far less anti-semitic than christian ones.”

    Yes, but that’s not just setting the bar low, that’s digging a three-foot deep ditch and dropping the bar into it.

  115. January 16, 2009 at 5:17 pm

    I think David is correct in noting the anti-semitism of the left. I often wonder why people who don’t seem terribly well-informed about Israel have such strong opinions while ignoring similar problems elsewhere in the world. […]

    My cowardly way of avoiding having a big fight about it is to not use the word “anti-semitism” but rather to talk around it saying something like, “I find it curious that you care so much about this one issue at the expense of others, and I wonder if there might be some reasons for that.”

    For all Americans, I think there are good reasons to focus more on criticism of Israel’s actions, then criticism of the acts of countries that are objectively worse than Israel.

    1) The USA is more responsible for what Israel does, because we provide Israel with such extraordinary levels of support — in terms of weapons, money, and diplomatic cover.

    2) Because of our support for Israel, the USA is perceived internationally as sharing responsibility for Israel’s actions. This means that what Israel does has practical effect on how Americans are perceived, and in how other countries respond to the US.

    Speaking for myself, I’ve got a personal reason to pay more attention to Israel: I was taught from childhood to see myself as connected to Israel, because I’m Jewish.

    * * *

    Kristin, changing people’s minds and having a dialoge aren’t mutually exclusive goals.

    As I understand it, David made it clear to Lauren what he had written before it began being posted here; if Lauren feels that it belongs on Feministe, then that’s good enough for me.

    I think, however, that Lauren may simply see Feministe’s scope as broader than you see it as.

  116. chingona
    January 16, 2009 at 5:27 pm

    Speaking of Christian anti-Semitism (and just plain old fascism), check out Rick Warren here, telling Christians to follow Jesus like the Germans followed Hitler. Sure, sure, he calls Hitler evil, but he had the right model for world domination:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GRctKSeyQ-s&e

  117. shah8
    January 16, 2009 at 5:37 pm

    Even so, I still think that this is an important point to make, chingona

    Plenty of repression in muslim lands, but no massive versions of string ’em up and take what they got like I’ve read about in Germany or Spain in the 14th and 15th century.

    To me, one of the truly sickening things about WWII events is how Polish people were so damn eager to kill off jews from Poland and Hungary even while the Nazis were interested in killing off Poles. So yes, this is a kind of a dump-the-bar-in-the-Mariana-Trench low.

    I also think that it’s important to stress that these Sephardi (and of course, Mizrahi) Jews not only lost everything but the clothes on their backs, they are still second class citizens in Israel. Of course, they weren’t even citizens in the muslim lands, but Israel really could do better, and has a responsibility to do better for them.

  118. January 16, 2009 at 5:56 pm

    Holly:

    I don’t think necessarily needs to be true. I don’t think it is THAT hard for any reasonable person to distinguish between religious claims made by or about Jews, i.e. “our religion tells us that we must return to and live in a certain place” or “religion says that NO Jews should be living in Israel until the Messiah returns” and non-religious claims made by or about Jews as a continuous population of people with a specific history, i.e. “Jews have been oppressed and persecuted for thousands of years, and deserve to be safe and free of anti-semitic prejudice and stereotypes.”

    I think it’s a lot harder than you imagine, and the work I’ve done on domestic anti-Semitism as implicated in American Church/State jurisprudence (David Schraub, When Separation Doesn’t work: The Religion Clause as an Anti-Subordination Principle, 5 Dartmouth L.J. 145 (2007), http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=979224) I think might illustrate that. Two examples:

    1) Political unit that is majority Christian elects to have a single, guaranteed day off from work for all people, and chooses Sunday for that date, on the grounds that Sunday is the most popular day off (why is that? I think we know). Jewish merchant, who already closes on Saturday due to religious obligations, asks to thus be exempted from the Sunday closing rule. Should his claim be accepted, or is it a sectarian request? See Braunfield v. Brown, 366 U.S. 599 (1961). Does it matter if the shop is explicitly aimed at Jews, and if the state has statutorily granted exceptions to certain classes of mercantile activity? See Gallagher v. Crown Kosher Super Market, 366 U.S. 617 (1961).

    2) A group of ultra-religious orthodox Jews settle together in a small town in New York, which they incorporate as the village of Kiryas Joel. The town is 100% comprised of members of the Satmar Hasidic sect, and all families elect to send their children to private, religious academies. Some children, however, are physically or mentally disabled, and are entitled to certain federal educational benefits and support. Originally, the public teachers who would provide these benefits simply came to the private religious schools, but this was held unconstitutional as a violation of the first amendment (sound?). So then the disabled students enrolled in the local mainstream public schools, only to be immediately withdrawn after experiencing “panic, fear, and trauma”.

    Kiryas Joel petitions the NY state legislature (and the legislature agrees) to establish a separate, secular school district wholly within the bounds of the village of Kiryas Joel for the sole purpose of providing the federally guaranteed educational benefits to disabled children. NY educational bodies sue, alleging that this is a benefit being distributed on grounds of religion and religious difference, to a community defined by its religious difference from the majority. First amendment violation? See Board of Ed. of Kiryas Joel v. Grumet, 512 U.S. 687 (1994).

  119. Tara
    January 16, 2009 at 6:06 pm

    I don’t understand–saying that religious identity as such is illegitimate, or ruling out religion as a motive for political action, is somehow anti-Semitic?

    This is only speaking for myself, nobody else.

    I think it’s already been discussed and in theory is well known that Jews as a group don’t really fit into the categories of groups that are generally (rightly or wrongly) recognized. It is very problematic when people do not take this into account and instead exploit this non-conformity of Jews to any one such slot and contort Jews/Judaism into whatever category works best for their agenda.

    So in a time and place where it was intellectually acceptable to discriminate based on ethnicity, people focus on Jews as an ethnicity. Where it was/is intellectually acceptable to discriminate based on religion because everybody knows that the right religion is Christianity or Islam, people focus on Jews as Christ-killers or infidels.

    So in a time and place where it is intellectually acceptable to discriminate against religion as a guiding value/motive for political action, when someone focuses on Jews as religionists, or on the religiously motivated aspects of Zionism – to the diminishment/exclusion of all its other aspects and the aspects of its supporters – it does feel a bit like we’re in a shell game and just can’t win.

    (n.b., I think it’s extremely highly critically appropriate to be super critical of religion as a guiding value/motive for political action).

    And I can imagine that it’s frustrating – like what do you mean that here’s another ‘dog-whistle’, as Holly called it, to anti-semitism. It’s like you can’t turn around without tripping over another historical manifestation of anti-semitism that continues to have resonance and trigger sensitivity today. I can imagine how that’s frustrating.

    But that’s not our fault!

    The truth is that over thousands of years of regionally, intellectually, religiously, and otherwise diverse anti-semitism, anti-semitism really is deeply enmeshed pretty much all over our (western/eastern/mideastern/religious/secular/intellectual) heritage, and there just is a lot of shit to avoid stepping into.

    And I don’t buy that this is a distraction from the bigotry facing women/Muslims/Palestinians, etc. Bigotry is intersectional, the same bigoted cultural structures and memes that did and do affect Jews are easily turned onto any marginalized group, pitting the oppressions and needs of marginalized peoples against each other brings everybody down, and fighting any bigotry fights all of it.

  120. Kristen (The J one)
    January 16, 2009 at 6:12 pm

    David,

    If I were to parse out what I think is part of liberal anti-semitism, I think I’d point mainly to 5 things (some of which have been at least alluded to by others):

    1) Some liberals are atheists. As an atheist I get incredibly uncomfortable with the religious justification I sometimes hear for the existence of Israel. Many a bad act has occurred in the name of religion (often to the detriment of Jews). Particularly living in what is essentially (much to my own horror) a Christian nation, my spidey sense goes off when I hear the words God or destined and any political act. To be honest, I’m not sure this is a bad thing. I don’t think in discussions of Israel’s actions, religion should be a justification. But the problem comes when liberals hear this justification and then shut their ears to any subsequent discussion or can’t get passed it.

    2) AIPAC as you noted has allied itself with some of the most bigotted, hate-filled parts of the religious right to achieve their goals. The problem here is that too many people think that AIPAC=Israel=Jews which is idiotic to say the least.

    3) As you mentioned, the fundies have supported Israel to forward their own religious goals. This disgusts me in a way I cannot express. But then most things the fundies do make me want to vomit. One of the comments I made in Cara’s original thread on the Gaza issue was that I am uncomfortable with the US involvement in Israel specifically because it feels as if the US is trying to spark Armageddon. Thus our interest is tainted by Christian ideology. We can’t be independent arbiters when we are clearly pursuing our own agenda. The problem here is a knee jerk reaction that whatever the fundies are after…liberals should go in the completely opposite direction.

    4) Related to (2) and (3) is what feels to me as the US’s irrational policy towards defending and arming Israel. It feels like no matter what Israel does the US government will support and condone their actions. Further, it doesn’t feel as if doing otherwise is even on the table. Unfortunately, rather than directing that frustration at the bad actors (politicians and the fundies) that frustration is wrongly directed at the Jewish community as a whole.

    5) Most problematic…and the reason why liberals typically in the US allow this anti-semitism to persist…is the erroneous assumption of “passing privilege”. I think that many liberals think that people are Jewish a pretty much at a glance indistinguishable from “white”. I’m sure there is some passing privilege for certain people. But I think liberals tend to over estimate the benefits of passing privilege. I think this idea of passing privilege tends to be come all tangled up with the idea that there are at least some “non-token” Jews that have positions of power. Thus, leading to the incorrect assumption that Jews are not oppressed in the Western world.

    Anyway, those are my thoughts on the specific issue. I’m not married to any of them…they’re just my observations.

  121. chingona
    January 16, 2009 at 6:14 pm

    I think you’re responding to non sequiter, not me, but okay.

    I’m speaking here about something I don’t have really expert knowledge of, but it seems to me that what happened to the Sephardic Jews after the founding of Israel just ended up reinforcing this whole idea that Jews aren’t safe anywhere but in a Jewish state. A previously safe situation turned deadly quickly. My own father, who is not generally paranoid or reactionary, believes it is possible the Jews could be persecuted in America some day, that just because our situation is safe now doesn’t mean we can count on it. I don’t feel that way myself, and perhaps it’s tangential to the whole discussion, but I think that’s another reason American Jews feel invested in Israel.

  122. January 16, 2009 at 6:16 pm

    David @ 118: You are being unnecessarily cryptic. Why not lay the argument out?

  123. January 16, 2009 at 6:19 pm

    I don’t think those examples are all that hard either, David; there is clearly a “religious argument” and a “non-religious argument” side to both that can be disentangled. Maybe this is easier for me because I am not religious (not even in scientism or materialism, really) so it’s like I see everything without the religious overtones? They don’t mean anything to me.

    #1 is a problem that dates back very far into the uglier history of Christian domination over the US; the original selection of Sunday was done without much thought for people of other faiths, and is already a violation of secularity of government. Even if you accept the argument that “well we had to pick some day, and the majority preferred sunday,” it’s clear that some people’s freedom of religion is impinged upon by a state ruling while others are not, so accomodation needs to be made in order that everyone be treated fairly and no law is made with respect to religion.

    #2 is a little more complicated, but for starters, public schools must remain secular and government money should not be given to non-secular schools. This has been clearly established in law for decades\, despite conservative efforts to overturn it. I think the real complicated question that should be investigated is why the orthodox students experienced “panic, fear, and trauma” in public schools, and why steps were not taken to find them public education that met their needs and kept them safe and healthy — short of creating a special school district only for Kiryas Joel. I think the question here revolves around cultural differences and integration into the public education system; there are many communities within the United States where children suffer in mainstream public education because of various kinds of language and cultural differences. At the same time, the petition put forth by Kiryas Joel cannot be applied fairly across all the communities that experience this; very few of them have their own village, for one thing, and the result would be more schools than is probably feasible. There are other potential solutions that could create an educational environment that is respectful and nourishing to cultural differences, but create a public good, instead of a school district for the benefit of only one group. If the real issue was that Kiryas Joel wanted to remain segregated and separate, then I think unfortunately the answer is that if they choose not to participate in the public system, then they must forego the benefits, just like anyone who sends their children to private school. There are certainly ways for private schools to provide the same kinds of educational benefits and support for disabled children, without taxpayer dollars; they can raise tuition.

    Neither of those have to be religious issues, even if people try to paint them that way. One is about the state NOT being allowed to make a law favoring one religion over another, and the necessary remedy; the other one is actually about choosing to opt-out of public benefits and whether public education can adequately serve the needs of communities with cultural differences.

    I sincerely believe that the same analysis is necessary when you’re talking about Zionism or Israel’s politics. Religious claims have no real validity as far as I’m concerned, except insofar as secular government should not favor one over the other. Like someone else said, what prevents some other more powerful religious group from claiming that their religion gives them an even more important or ancient claim? There’s no basis in secular reality and there doesn’t need to be, for religion. God told me to do it. However, for most of these religious claims there’s some other kind of non-religious argument that can be put forth as well.

  124. chingona
    January 16, 2009 at 6:19 pm

    That last was directed at shah8 at 117

  125. January 16, 2009 at 6:24 pm

    So in a time and place where it is intellectually acceptable to discriminate against religion as a guiding value/motive for political action, when someone focuses on Jews as religionists, or on the religiously motivated aspects of Zionism – to the diminishment/exclusion of all its other aspects and the aspects of its supporters – it does feel a bit like we’re in a shell game and just can’t win.

    But here’s the thing — targeting Jews exclusively as “religionists” is bullshit and ignores a slew of other important facts about Jews. It should be called out as such. It doesn’t matter if a community, a group of people, a population is tied together by religious or ethnic ties or some combination of both. It’s still possible to point to that population, in a way that has nothing to do with religion, and say — these people are being hunted to death and deserve relief and safety. If anything, bringing in religion as a justification is not only morally suspect from the point of view of secular policy-making, but also attracts bigots who bigotry operates on the grounds of religious hatred, and is ANOTHER dog-whistle to people who (rightly) oppose religious domination of government as has been happening for a long time in many countries, including the US.

  126. January 16, 2009 at 6:24 pm

    It may be true that at some point someone or other had used anti-religious sentiments as a cover for anti-Semitism. But we jump from that to there being something inherently (or “structurally,” as David claimed) anti-Semitic about arguments against religious motivations for political action? That means that it’s anti-Semitic to criticize Christian fundamentalists for basing their political views on religion, because the same argument could be applied to religious Jews, and that would be anti-Semitism. That may well be the worst argument I’ve ever heard.

    Again, I’m seeing nothing here that is of any use, analytically or practically, in identifying anti-Semitism. The fact that someone once used a particular argument for anti-Semitic purposes does not make that argument, or arguments that very, very vaguely resemble it, anti-Semitic. Plenty of Christian sects have been persecuted at different times and places (including the present); why is it then legitimate to criticize Christians for religiously motivated political action, but not Jews?

  127. January 16, 2009 at 6:28 pm

    My own father, who is not generally paranoid or reactionary, believes it is possible the Jews could be persecuted in America some day, that just because our situation is safe now doesn’t mean we can count on it.

    Here’s what I don’t understand about your father’s fear: does he believe that holing up all the Jews in Israel with a whole bunch of guns and tanks would actually be safer? If America went broadly, publicly anti-Semitic to the point where it was rampant, tolerated or encouraged, you can bet Israel would not be safe. It might even get nuked. It’s kind of like saying that crime could rise, so the safest thing to do is make sure you have a lot of loaded guns in the closet so you can protect yourself and not rely on anyone else. Statistically, those guns are more likely to kill you or your kids. This is one of those basic things about “feelings of security.” Being a survivalist with 200 lbs. of canned food, a stack of ammo, and a bunker in the forest does not actually make anyone “safe.”

    Looking from the outside, it seems to me like the diaspora, painful though it may be, along with other traits like open conversion, intellectual evolution and diversification, and matrilinear rules, have made Judaism a much more resilient survivor meme than more recent developments.

  128. January 16, 2009 at 6:37 pm

    “Being a survivalist with 200 lbs. of canned food, a stack of ammo, and a bunker in the forest does not actually make anyone ‘safe.'”

    No, but having a stack of canned food and 200 lbs. of ammo does.

  129. January 16, 2009 at 6:52 pm
  130. chingona
    January 16, 2009 at 6:55 pm

    It’s been a very long time since he said this, but I think he means like what happened to the Japanese-Americans in WWII or to Muslims/Arabs now, not like the Holocaust, where the Germans were seeking out Jews every where they could find them.

    But yes, he would feel like being in a majority Jewish country would be safer. I don’t know why this seems weird to you. Being in the majority is comfortable. Being in the minority is not. Sure, it’s tribalism, but it’s a pretty widespread human trait to feel like you are safer with “your own kind.” You do something a little unfair here, and I want to call it out. You make it seem that because he feels Israel may be safer for American Jews some day, he’s some sort of militant. He’s less left than I am on Israel, but he thinks the occupation cannot stand and favors a two-state solution with a real, viable Palestinian state. He believes that if Israel doesn’t recognize Palestinian human rights, it will never have peace. I think there is this assumption that making one kind of argument MUST mean you are also making all these other kinds of arguments, and I don’t think that’s fair.

  131. Kristin
    January 16, 2009 at 7:02 pm

    David: I have a question about your argument in the post here. What are you suggesting is “structural” about anti-Semitism in the contemporary United States? It’s clear that you have your Political Science lingo down, so I’m sure that you understand what it means to argue that something is structural. That is, it operates throughout institutions and structures–and can happen independently of the good or bad intentions of individuals who operate within various societal structures. That is, it’s not about the choices of individuals. Not really. People who are not at at all anti-Semitic could perform an anti-Semitic *act* just by virtue of operating within this kind of structural constraint. It would seem to me that–if you want to make a claim about the structural nature of any of this–this is where your argument should go. But it doesn’t.

    This makes me very unclear about your actual argument here. If you were making an argument about the structural nature of this form of oppression, it would not make sense to focus so much on the manifestations of anti-Semitism that you find in individuals. I mean, if it is really a structural problem as you suggest, your focus on the individual seems misplaced. Why aren’t you deconstructing societal institutions instead? In fact, most of your discussion centers upon things that you have heard individuals say–and their roots in historical tropes and things like the Protocols of Zion. Why? And why would you be urging individuals to reflect on a structural problem? Wouldn’t it make more sense to undermine the structures that you see as problematic instead?

    I wonder if you’re substituting some kind of idea having to do with social entrenchment for structuralism here? Why not just call it something that you believe is “deeply rooted in the social and intellectual histories of the West” and then move to historicize it? You confuse your purpose in using structuralist language. Either that, or you are not being completely clear about what your purpose is. It would be useful to clarify this, I think, beyond, “Wait for it in Part VII.”

  132. Kristin
    January 16, 2009 at 7:07 pm

    “I think that many liberals think that people are Jewish a pretty much at a glance indistinguishable from “white”.”

    Kristen J: I take your point about passing, but many Jews are of European descent–and are white and identify as such.

  133. chingona
    January 16, 2009 at 7:09 pm

    Perhaps for context, I should also add that I think the Holocaust looms much larger for Jews of my father’s generation. The idea that if their parents or grandparents hadn’t come to the U.S., they themselves would be dead. The one cousin from the entire extended family being all that was left of those who stayed. It was just very visceral for them. In that context, as non sequitor said, sure having a supply of canned food and a bunch of ammo is preferible. Also, his personal experience of Israel is from the 1970s. The security situation was different, and he felt uncomfortable with the treatment of the Palestinians or with what he could see was the different conditions in Arab and Jewish towns, but a lot of things that have happened since hadn’t happened yet.

  134. January 16, 2009 at 7:12 pm

    Holly@127: Sure, if America decides “hey, let’s exterminate all the Jews in the world”, Israel isn’t going to do much good. But that’s not the only way anti-Semitism might (or is most likely to) manifest. Maybe America features an outbreak of anti-Semitic pogroms, that the state is unable or unwilling to suppress. Maybe the state starts passing discriminatory legislation, or private sector norms develop in a discriminatory fashion. In these cases, having Israel around is a very good safety valve for anti-Semitic oppression, simply because in that event we have someplace safe to flee to. Basically, in any situation where the oppression is likely to stay geographically confined, either because the oppressors are uninterested or unable to take it global, Israel serves a function.

    Holly@123: In the first example, the position you laid out has been not just rejected by the high court, it’s been rejected on the grounds that it would violate separation of Church and State. In Estate of Thornton v. Caldor, 472 U.S. 703 (1985), the Supreme Court held that a statutory scheme which guaranteed every person at least one day off per week, and further guaranteed that people who had a religious obligation to take a day off would get that day, violated separation of church and state. This was after Brown and Gallagher which (as you might have guessed) held that a Sunday closing law could be enforced against Jews even when the state exempts other groups from its purview.

    But, while I don’t disagree that the selection of Sunday as the day of rest was done without much care towards other groups, I disagree that it was any worse than the alternatives. Selecting Sunday is bad for non-Christians, like Jews (and some Christian sects too). Selecting Saturday would be bad for Christians. Selecting Wednesday might be nice for some other group, but would be bad for Jews and Christians. These harms are irreducible.

    Meanwhile, on the Kiryas Joel case. First, I think you wave away the legitimacy of separatist politics a bit too easily — if you haven’t yet read Robert Cover’s path-breaking article Nomos and Narrative, 97 Harv. L. Rev. 4 (1983), one of the key touchstones in post-modern legal thought, I can’t recommend it highly enough.

    Second, I don’t think it actually gets us anywhere to say “groups which don’t buy into the public school system don’t deserve any benefits”. The educational benefits these kids were entitled to exist regardless of whether they go to public or private school — it just can’t be a sectarian private school. Religious groups would argue they’re being singled out for disadvantage compared to their irreligious peers. The first amendment prohibits advantaging religious bodies vis-a-vis each other (and towards non-religion), but it also prohibits disadvantaging them compared to secular groups (Rosenberger v. University of Virginia, 515 U.S. 819 (1995)). Moreover, it’s simply not true to say we won’t accord any state benefits to private or sectarian actors: if the religious academy was burning down, we’d send the municipal fire department. What makes it different to send a sign language translator compared to a paramedic?

    Third, the “solution” you seem to be giving is tautological. We’ll fix the problem of Jewish kids being excluded and marginalized in schools by making it inclusive and tolerant. If it were that easy, we’d be there by now. The whole reason the separatist politics is necessary is because that sort of stuff hasn’t yet been figured out, and it’s unreasonable to ask us to keep biting (or taking) bullets while the non-Jewish community tries to figure out how to make things work. This is the subject of a lot of my reasoning behind establishing Israel: folks keep talking about alternatives like multi-ethnic liberal democracies or enlightenment liberalism as protective of Jews, but the protection has never gotten beyond theoretical. Enlightenment liberalism already promised Jews protection and failed miserably.

  135. chingona
    January 16, 2009 at 7:17 pm

    And I want to apologize because I think I’m really veering off-topic. I was responding to things people said and kind of went somewhere it wasn’t my intention to go. Maybe this isn’t useful at all.

  136. Kristin
    January 16, 2009 at 7:24 pm

    “I don’t think you would see a movement like either Zionism or Back to Africa or the Liberian venture arise in response to oppression today, if we were starting from scratch.”

    Liberia is a pretty good example, though not, I think, one that serves your line of argumentation. To be clear, Liberia *is* very much seen as a colonial project in Liberia among those who are not among the Americo-Liberian ruling classes. It is also viewed in this way among scholars of African history and politics. This movement, like Zionism, was supported by many whites of European descent. In the American context, these whites were neither opposed to colonialism nor to drastically reducing the Black population in the US. It was no kind of grassroots movement about–or by–dispossessed Blacks. Instead, it was a colonial venture that began in 1816 under the auspices of a a white-led organization called the American Colonization Society (this organization was supported by some whites abolitionists who feared that Blacks could never be safe in the US, but was spearheaded by former slave owners who feared violence and revolt.). What I think makes this a good example is the parallel between Christian Right supporters of Zionism (who are by no means supporters of Jewish liberation) and white American racists who sought to reduce the Black US population.

  137. chingona
    January 16, 2009 at 7:27 pm

    I’m a little uncomfortable putting the separatism of the ultra-Orthodox, which I see as parallel to the home schooling movement among evangelical Christians, on the same plane as more broad-based discrimination. The reason they want to be separate is that they think they stand a better chance keeping their kids in the fold if they don’t know what’s out there. I’m not sure I consider that a civil rights issue in the same way as other issues.

  138. Kristin
    January 16, 2009 at 7:27 pm

    also a good parallel wrt what I said @ 136: the close intellectual proximity of the Back to Africa movement to Western/European colonial enterprises.

  139. chingona
    January 16, 2009 at 7:31 pm

    Kristin, what line of argumentation am I making?

    When I talk about Back to Africa, I’m talking about Marcus Garvey, who I’m not intimately familiar with, but who I’m pretty sure is separate and distinct from the colonization of Liberia, and who I don’t think was closely allied with white allies. If I’m wrong, I’m wrong, but I think you think I’m making an argument that I’m not. (For example, I agree that Zionism found favor with European governments because it seemed like a solution to their Jewish problem.)

  140. Kristin
    January 16, 2009 at 7:39 pm

    “In these cases, having Israel around is a very good safety valve for anti-Semitic oppression, simply because in that event we have someplace safe to flee to.”

    Having a safe place to flee to is a privilege that no other historically marginalized group has as a marginalized group. Those of us in the LGBTQ community are *already* subject to discriminatory legislation. There are Dominionists in high positions of the US government who would like to see us executed (and one national legislator from SC who would like to see us prosecuted). There are places in this country where we are not allowed to adopt children. Violence against trans women of color in this country is almost never seriously prosecuted. This is structural oppression. The possibility that it may sometime happen to Jews in the US seems unlikely at this point-and is not structural oppression. And you know? LGBTQ folk were exterminated en masse by the Nazis too. I am faced every day with tangible structural oppression, and even so, it is impossible for me to understand your conviction that this kind of thing (you mention pogroms) could be possible in the United States in your lifetime. Denying rights to Arabs and Muslims? We are already doing that. Jews? Not so much.

  141. Kristin
    January 16, 2009 at 7:42 pm

    chingona: Thanks, I misunderstood what you were saying. Marcus Garvey took up some of the intellectual tenets of the Back to Africa movement after emancipation, this is true. I think this was in the 1870’s, but this is not the origin of the Back to Africa movement.

  142. January 16, 2009 at 7:45 pm

    Holly, don’t be so quick to dismiss USain familiarity with the slaughter of Native Americans in our history. I went to high school in a town that welcomed visitors with a monument celebrating what is still the largest mass-murder in U.S. history: the hanging of 38 Sioux Indians after the 1862 uprising. Pictures at my blog post.

    Non-sequitur wrote:

    “These are the sorts of questions that I think an analysis of anti-Semitism needs to answer. Mostly what we’re getting is anecdotes about some guy from ANSWER at a rally in 2003. Not entirely, but I don’t see enough evidence or precision to understand how this is helping to identify and/or combat anti-Semitism, in left-wing circles or elsewhere.”

    I agree. David, I’m hearing more talk about actual anti-semitic activities and events from Holly and others. Is there a reason why you have written two long posts and have still not specifically described anti-semitic activities by leftists?

  143. Kristin
    January 16, 2009 at 7:45 pm

    David: The reason I bring up LGBTQ people in the US is that a lot of people have compared Nazi rhetoric about the Jewish Conspiracy to contemporary political rhetoric about the Gay Agenda. I read a book on this recently but can’t remember the title… Anyway, point being: None of us are going to be doing very well if the Dominionists ever take over every last facet of our government, but you’ll have the privilege of going to Israel. We’ll just go to camps.

  144. January 16, 2009 at 7:47 pm

    @137: But the thing is (following from Prof. Cover’s argument) I think the Satmar have the right to be separate. The Satmar Hasidim aren’t exactly beloved in the Jewish community or by me (indeed, I’m guessing they’re anti-Zionist, albeit for religious reasons). And I am willing to impose somewhat on their desired separation (insuring that they teach their kids basic educational skills and critical thought so they can evaluate their options, not violating discrimination and other liberal norms). But as a general principle? Yeah, I think separatism is legitimate political strategy — even for groups I don’t like. It’s not my strategy, but it’s one I have to affirm as legitimate.

    In his concurrence, Justice Stevens described the creation of the Kiryas Joel school district as an act which “affirmatively supports a religious sect’s interest in segregating itself and preventing its children from associating with their neighbors,” and warned that the policy “unquestionably increased the likelihood that they would remain within the fold, faithful adherents of their parents’ religious faith…. [thus] cement[ing] the attachment of young adherents to a particular faith.” Not only does this cast as sinister something very reasonable (“we don’t want to associate with our neighbors when they have made it clear they hate us”), it also boils down to finding outright harm in the increased likelihood that the Satmar will remain Satmar. That’s bad news bears for folks who care about religious freedom.

  145. shah8
    January 16, 2009 at 7:49 pm

    You know, there is an easy answer to Kiryas Joel is simply to say that the US has a pretty long history of reclusive groups interfacing with the government, like the Amish. This is, for the most part, settled law–we’ve had enough genuine kooks and charlatans try varying scams around this kind of stuff. Waivers and charter school support include such groups as well (which is why there is often resistance) The people who refuse to send their children to public schools can pay for their own services, or do without–no matter if the government offers to make resources available to everyone. You still have to show up.

  146. Kristen (The J one)
    January 16, 2009 at 7:51 pm

    Kristin @132.

    Sure. I used quotations because “white” in the context of the US kyriarchy often implies white + Christian. I mean its amazing how many times I’ve assumed to be a Christian (fucking annoying)…although its probably also the name.

  147. chingona
    January 16, 2009 at 7:55 pm

    it is impossible for me to understand your conviction that this kind of thing (you mention pogroms) could be possible in the United States in your lifetime. Denying rights to Arabs and Muslims? We are already doing that. Jews? Not so much.

    I, personally, cannot really conceive it, but the argument people like my father (and presumably David) make is that German Jews in the 1920s could not possibly have conceived of what would happen to them. They were assimilated. They were German. They were properous. They were inter-married. They were everything American Jews are today. Indeed, they were everything American Muslims were 15 years ago.

  148. January 16, 2009 at 7:57 pm

    David,

    Well, now things make a lot more sense as to why I find your politics sound in some ways on the surface (yes! let’s recognize and fight anti-semitism in the left!) and totally misguided in others. (I hope you don’t mind being called misguided either.) You believe in separatism as a solution to oppression. Feminism has tried this too, and I don’t find it any more credible.

    Ironically, I would posit that Israel is a massive testament to the failure and impossibility of separatism. My point about the USA was not just that it might declare war on Israel (unlikely) but that Israel owes its existence, military strenght, and diplomatic position in part to a very large bully standing right behind it. If the US turned “anti-semitic” in any number of ways, it would be a huge problem for Israel. No matter how good or safe it would be for the Jews, Israel can never wall itself off completely, make its neighbors go away, ignore the demands of international human rights groups, keep itself ethnically pure forever or any of that separatist fantasizing. It also points out the increasingly permeable and intextricably interconnected nature of nation-states, not just at the obvious economic levels but in so many other ways as well.

    If you are proposing separatism as an answer only as a “well, nothing else is working for now, and other solutions seem really far off” solution, then I could accept it as a more viable idea. In that case, it may be practical, but it’s still not what I would consider a “real” solution. And again, Israel is good proof of that. Furthermore, these kinds of interrim “we have nothing better than this crappy wall to protect us” solutions very often have some kind of cost — they always come at the cost of postponing or even setting back other kinds of solutions, and in some cases, they have other moral costs as well, like lots of blood.

    I also don’t entirely buy the idea that no other solutions are working. Part of the amazing thing about the diaspora is that it allows for hundreds of different kinds of experiments. They all have to operate under global anti-Semitism, but it’s a little blind to just say “look none of those other ways have worked at all, it’s time to abandon any other effort and just support Israel.” It’s as if there is no liberal multi-ethnic Democracy in existence where huge numbers of Jews fled to before and during World War II and in earlier times, where many Jews have been able to thrive, get their kids good educations, contribute immensely to the country, gain positions of influence and power, be well represented legislatively, and so on and so forth. You live there, right? What is the role of “the American experiment” as opposed to Israel? Is it all just wrapped up in the idea that “America might go bad?” Left-wing Jews have been part of the force keeping America from going bad, making more of America more cosmopolitan and less white-supremacist and less anti-Semitic, for generations. Is there really a sign that the “American experiment” is going to be MORE of a failure than the “Israel experiment?” A lot of people (including Jews) would say “Israel might go bad, in fact it already has gone bad, for many Jews — Mizrachim, and a lot of other Jews who end up as collateral damage from Israel’s policies.”

    As for sign-language teachers vs. fire departments, I think we should stop talking about court cases because it will bore the shit out of everyone else. But I believe the Lemon test has to do with whether the publically paid servant is going to be directly under the supervision of a religious authority or not. But in general, I wouldn’t be in favor of sending a sign-language instructor to a private school either; the private school ought to be required to pay for that. It’s a private school. I’m not in favor of charter school programs either; there’s enough erosion of public education as it is, and public education is a cornerstone of real democracy.

    And Sunday workday stuff, I miswrote and my “position” was very confusing as a result. I believe the court ruled that you can’t make a law protecting someone from being fired if they won’t work on their chosen religious holiday. I don’t know the exact history of “establishing Sunday as a special day” laws of various kinds, but I suspect many of them are unconstitutional in the same way. Fairness as to any religion being able to select “days off” belongs more at the level of employers, but I believe government employees also get benefits like this, which have been established in a fairly equitable and not-necessarily-religious way. However, the fact remains that Christmas is still a holiday, eccch. ;) Among any number of other christianist-government violations.

  149. January 16, 2009 at 8:03 pm

    I, personally, cannot really conceive it, but the argument people like my father (and presumably David) make is that German Jews in the 1920s could not possibly have conceived of what would happen to them. They were assimilated. They were German. They were properous. They were inter-married. They were everything American Jews are today. Indeed, they were everything American Muslims were 15 years ago.

    I wouldn’t rule this out entirely either. Crazy fascists could take over anywhere. But this is also part of the folly of relying on a nation-state for your security: any of them can go bad. And then what do you do — you have to flee. If the US went so far as to start pogroms against jews, you had better believe that a lot of the rest of us would be running for our lives as well, just as happened in Germany with all the other persecuted groups. I certainly would be running — I am not exactly in a demographic that is likely to survive any orchestrated suppression of minorities.

    I don’t see why you’d necessarily assume Israel is safe though. Israel has already shown itself to be a nation-state that can easily fall into the hands of batshit-crazy hard-line semi-fascists. Unless you are more or less just like them (and maybe some people here are, in certain respects) I don’t think you can rely on governments like that — or any government, ultimately — to be “safe.” What if Israel swung to the right and started persecuting gays? What if they start telling you who can get married and who can’t? (Oh OOOPS they already do.) Would it still be a safe place for jews to go? What if it became a more racist state and started not only trying to outlaw Muslim political parties but non-Ashkenazi parties, or socialist parties, yadda yadda? This shit can happen anywhere. Setting up a state that is predicated on ethnic or religious purity, and on violent expansion and displacement, is not a move towards safety, it’s a move away.

  150. Kristin
    January 16, 2009 at 8:08 pm

    “Setting up a state that is predicated on ethnic or religious purity, and on violent expansion and displacement, is not a move towards safety, it’s a move away.”

    *applause* Also, in the first paragraph, you more or less say what I wanted to say, but much better.

  151. January 16, 2009 at 8:08 pm

    I forgot to mention that separatism simply is not a strategy that’s available to every persecuted group, making it hard to be like “yay separatism, it’s a good idea when you are oppressed and hunted!” It tends to only be available when you are above a certain level of resources, wealth, influence, whatever. Or when, you know, you can get the state backing of a bunch of arrogant, colonial European powers who desperately want to get rid of you, and could give a shit about whoever is already living on the land they “give you.”

  152. Kristin
    January 16, 2009 at 8:15 pm

    Hey, David, I really do wish you’d answer my question about structuralism, which is the kind of engagement you thought you weren’t getting in that first thread, but… Well, anyway, it’d be nice to get a response.

  153. January 16, 2009 at 9:04 pm

    Kristin: Welcome back to the thread. I hope that — in spite of what you felt was happening in the other post — you think that this discussion might generate some useful and educational dialogue. I missed your question about structuralism though: care to repeat?

    Holly: Yes, if you’re a lot more skeptical about separatism as one legitimate political strategy amongst many (I’m obviously not personally a separatist, seeing as I live in Chicago, not Tel Aviv), that would explain a lot of the divide here. I think we need to hedge a little here and say that just because separatism (at least at the full blown “own country” scale) isn’t a viable option for every group, that means it either (a) can’t work for or (b) is illegitimate to attempt by other groups.

    For groups whose persecution has been on national or ethnic lines — or even sometimes religious lines — “separatism” in the form of nation-hood has been a relatively common and well-accepted strategy. Much of the balkanization of the latter half of the 20th century was “separatist” in a very literal sense: groups which formerly lived together under one polity deciding that wasn’t working out for them, and going their separate ways. Sometimes the break is clean (Czechoslovakia). Sometimes it’s very messy (Yugoslavia). Sometimes the break doesn’t happen and that’s messy too (Lebanon). But many ethnic/national groups have responded to their situation with a desire for nationhood. The Basque, Western Sahara, Tibet, Kurdistan … these are only a few. I think it was you who mentioned the Lakota a little while back. If they did demand to set sail from America and become separate and independent (my understanding was that the folks who were declaring independence the last time didn’t actually speak for the nation), I would support that too.

    Jews are obviously a little different, because many of them had to move to the place where said nation was to be built. But the difference isn’t insurmountable: The Memmi quote I linked to earlier notes that it is the “lack of imagination” on the part of the sociologists that they can only analogize the Jewish situation to the forms they are already aware of. In any event, the fact that Jews did come from Israel originally means we have a serious baselining problem when we try and argue that they are “coming to” rather than “returning to” the territory. At what date do we fix Jews as being in their “natural” state and all subsequent movements considered liable to be colonization? I’d nominate 100 BCE, but that’d obviously be self-serving. But no more so than setting the date at 1700 (really bad for Jews) or 1975 (really bad for Palestinians).

    This would be my structure argument too: When we use, say, 1648 (date of the Treaty of Westphalia) as the arbitrary date upon which we measure where people are from, what we’re doing is saying that the “natural” state of Jews (from which movement is deviation) is in a state of exile and dispersion. Tagged with an image of “nation” and “colonized” that requires geographical cohesion, and Jews are left out. The very building blocks of this schema of nation, empire, colony, and homeland operate at cross-purposes to Jewish experience.

    Memmi concludes the quote I excerpted by saying of the nationhood strategy for Jews “I continue to hope it is a temporary ending….” You, also, say that you could imagine possibly getting behind Israel as a temporary solution because everything else seems so far off. I identify as a pluralist, so I’m a bit more willing to allow for perpetual separate institutions to some degree, but I’m not hostile to the claim that “Israel is necessary so long as anti-Semitism is still a major problem that we haven’t figured out to resolve” (so long as it’s recognized that this describes the current state of affairs). Maybe Israel can be a “temporary ending” — but we’re not there yet.

    Finally, the diaspora does allow for laboratories of experimentation (New State Ice Co. v. Liebmann!), and that’s very valuable. But lest we get too excited, some of those experiments are likely to fail. And in that eventuality, we need to make sure the Jews have a place to go. It might screw up the experiment, but it’s probably necessary to get it past the IRB. Jews seem to see Israel as a needed security valve while the rest of the world works through these things. Even if you think (hope) it will be only a temporary role, I hope you still recognize that it is playing it.

    *Taking a break to watch sports now — be back later*

  154. Kristin
    January 16, 2009 at 9:13 pm

    David: It’s at #131, but here:

    # Kristin says:
    January 16th, 2009 at 7:02 pm – Edit

    David: I have a question about your argument in the post here. What are you suggesting is “structural” about anti-Semitism in the contemporary United States? It’s clear that you have your Political Science lingo down, so I’m sure that you understand what it means to argue that something is structural. That is, it operates throughout institutions and structures–and can happen independently of the good or bad intentions of individuals who operate within various societal structures. That is, it’s not about the choices of individuals. Not really. People who are not at at all anti-Semitic could perform an anti-Semitic *act* just by virtue of operating within this kind of structural constraint. It would seem to me that–if you want to make a claim about the structural nature of any of this–this is where your argument should go. But it doesn’t.

    This makes me very unclear about your actual argument here. If you were making an argument about the structural nature of this form of oppression, it would not make sense to focus so much on the manifestations of anti-Semitism that you find in individuals. I mean, if it is really a structural problem as you suggest, your focus on the individual seems misplaced. Why aren’t you deconstructing societal institutions instead? In fact, most of your discussion centers upon things that you have heard individuals say–and their roots in historical tropes and things like the Protocols of Zion. Why? And why would you be urging individuals to reflect on a structural problem? Wouldn’t it make more sense to undermine the structures that you see as problematic instead?

    I wonder if you’re substituting some kind of idea having to do with social entrenchment for structuralism here? Why not just call it something that you believe is “deeply rooted in the social and intellectual histories of the West” and then move to historicize it? You confuse your purpose in using structuralist language. Either that, or you are not being completely clear about what your purpose is. It would be useful to clarify this, I think, beyond, “Wait for it in Part VII.”

  155. January 16, 2009 at 10:43 pm

    Kristen: Okay, fair question. I think, though, that one can’t neatly divide out individual acts from structure, since individual acts help constitute structure. Lynchings in the Jim Crow south could be described as individual horrific acts, but they were structural insofar as they interlocked with the rest of the southern system as part of a state- and social-sponsored terrorism meant to keep Blacks in a perpetual state of fear and subjugation. In other words, the individual acts were a key building block in creating the overall structure of subordination.

    So in our case: Take what seems to be the paradigmatic example: the guy yelling “death to the Jews” at the ANSWER rally. By itself, just an anti-Semitic asshole. But as Ansel pointed out in the previous thread: Why is he comfortable? Why isn’t he run out of the rally? Meanwhile, when Jews see thousands of people, including members of parliament, marching in Amsterdam in a crowd that is chanting “Jews to the gas!” (and see such rallies replicated elsewhere), that helps create a political environment where Jews live in fear, are afraid to be Jewish in public, and are afraid to express opinions as Jews. Undoubtedly many members of the rally don’t support that sentiment — they’re just there to send the message that they think what’s going down in Gaza is really shitty. But insofar as they turn a set of cranks yelling “death to the Jews” into a huge, teeming massive crowd yelling it (or create that perception), they’re complicit in creating an anti-Semitic environment. And that then replicates itself across the system, because it sets the standard for what is considered legitimate within the progressive community. People who don’t particular care either way about making Jews comfortable or removing Jewish fear see that participating in those marches — even chanting those slogans — won’t cause them to lose status in their community.

    The other example I’ve been using and labeling explicitly as “structural” is the type of situations we characterize as “colonial” and those we consider “normal”. I don’t think Holly adopts her views about where Jews are “from” (and thus where they are foreign to) because she wants to keep Jews down. Indeed, she may not have been thinking of us at all. Nonetheless, her decision to baseline and then ossify our “home” position as being that from within the time period after exile but before return naturalizes Jewish alienation. Insofar as her views are the norm about Jew and constrain what types of claims we can make that are or are not considered legitimate — that’s structural: our argument fails because it “violates the rules of the game” — rules which we don’t accede to, but are powerless to change.

    The other reason I’ve been focusing on “extreme” cases of individual anti-Semitism, have to say, has to do with the way these threads have been playing out. You get beyond the extreme cases, and you start indicting behavior that the actual participants might have engaged in or be sympathetic to. And they don’t like being called as, or feeling like they’re being called as, anti-Semitic (self-loathing, Hamas-huggers, etc.). So I retreat to calling out behavior that I hope everyone will condemn. I really couldn’t handle the negativity in the last thread (one of the reasons I don’t generally partake in comment threads as a rule), and I’m not interested in recreating it. So my subsequent analysis is constrained by my desire to try keep people from feeling upset.

  156. January 16, 2009 at 11:42 pm

    I don’t think this is going anywhere. You’re just ducking all the difficult questions put to you, and pretending like you’re doing so to protect people’s feelings (almost seems…condescending). You still haven’t provided anything remotely like an adequate notion of what you mean by “structural” anti-Semitism, much like anything resembling an argument for its existence. And for someone supposedly so concerned about the anti-Semitic history of various concepts and arguments (a history which apparently endows those concepts and arguments with a permanent set of implications that must always be addressed before, say, the reality of Israeli oppression in the Occupied Territories), you’re awfully enamored of an extremely crude and one-dimensional essentialist notion of what constitutes “Jewishness” or “the Jews.”

  157. chingona
    January 17, 2009 at 1:20 am

    Holly, if you think separatism is illegitimate, why did you support the Lakota secession?

  158. Kristin
    January 17, 2009 at 1:36 am

    “you’re awfully enamored of an extremely crude and one-dimensional essentialist notion of what constitutes “Jewishness” or “the Jews.”

    This is also something that I find troubling here. I feel like intrinsic essences are being deployed all over the place–and this is masked by “structuralist” rhetoric which may never have been interrogated had two philosophy PhD students not entered the conversation (“Hi, non sequitur. I’m Kristin. I study postructuralist political theory, and I just glanced at your blog.”).

    David might be able to get around some of this by historicizing it a bit more, but, well… That that doesn’t happen means that some transhisotorical essence is attached to “the Jews” and all Jews everywhere are essentially associated to/connected with Israel. Because of… What exactly? Spiritual ties? Is that all? In any case, what does this do to combat anti-semitism?

  159. Kristin
    January 17, 2009 at 1:43 am

    I guess what I’m wondering in that last comment, honestly, is whether or not this kind of essentialism could be “dangerously lethal” to Jewish people?

  160. Eva
    January 17, 2009 at 1:44 am

    To very belatedly revisit my earlier comment, I once again apparently failed to properly use quote tags, which made it seem like I was arguing that the inherent existence of a Jewish state is problematic because it involves religion. My point about relgion was in direct response to misstickle’s comment about imagining one were muslim and cut off from holy land. I think it’s bad policy to argue that a scripturally based land claim, made by any religious group, is valid and should be recognized as such.

    David, I still don’t understand why you seem to posit that a people can be either colonizers or colonized, but not both. And your argument about Israel being the natural home of Jews because it was a historic homeland seems to want to have everything both ways. If we’re dating land claims back to BC, then there’s no such thing as national soveireignty. Not only can any black person in the world move back to Africa in defiance of whatever national laws regarding immigration may be in place and ake over the government, any white person can do the same, given that science indicates life began in Africa. By that logic, the brits weren’t colonizers, they were going home. Everyone will have to leave North America to go back to their origin state, and I have no idea where mostly black, but also mixed race people like me will go. It’s simply not possible to have sovereign states using pre statehood ancient ancestral origins. Of course, I’m not big on nation states and borders anyway, but if you’re going to argue that they’re inherently invalid, because everyone has the right to return to, and then control, any area of land they can conceivably claim to be “from,” then Israel doesn’t get to be the only state with the sanctity of borders that cna’t be crossed– if no one else has national sovereignty, it doesn’t either.

  161. January 17, 2009 at 3:36 am

    This has been a very thought provoking post. I am realizing just how ignorant I am/have been to the nuances of this discussion. I will definitely have to do my own homework on the issue.

    David: I am frustrated along side non sequitur that you seem to be skipping over very interesting questions/issues that have been raised. I would like to give the benefit of the doubt that you might have a life and other responsibilities and therefore could not respond to all comments. However, I see a trend of you not responding to several opposing viewpoints, while responding rather quickly to others. I also could see where you might decide that you were not going to respond to things that you found antagonizing or upsetting…but if that was the case I think you should be upfront about it.

    Also I would like to posit a different perspective then Eva’s about Black American connections to Africa (and you know all of the other places where the African Diaspora dwells)…okay except for the being bisexual part and homophobic violence, that makes me feel less comfortable. I do feel like I could repatriate to Africa or “the Caribbean” I also know some and know of more US-born Blacks who have repatriated to Ghana. Also as an Af-Am scholar (and a me)the whole line of discussion about Black American’s not understanding the relationship w/ diasporic Jews have with Israel because we don’t *know* or have not been taught that Africa is a part of us or that we have an intimiate connection to it, is ***highly*** insulting and ignorant to me. Despite misrepresentations by mainstream history there have *always* been a transmission in our culture about our motherland(s). Without this how would we explain the presence of so many African derived artifacts, oral narratives, and cultural practices–no one “retaught” us?**

    Sorry for the tangent! Back to the discussion.

    **A good discussion of this happens in African American Music edited by Mellonee V. Burnim and Portia K. Maultsby in the second chapter on Secular Folk Music in a subsection entitled “Africans in North America.” I am a musical historian so that’s where *my* sources come from. :0)

  162. Laura
    January 17, 2009 at 8:58 am

    I know it’s been said repeatedly that this post isn’t about Gaza, but it has touched on religion, religious differences, Zionism and whether or not there’s a consensus of opinion among Jews, so I thought the following might be relevant. First, from the BBC:

    Sir Gerald Kaufman, MP for Gorton in Manchester, […] who was brought up as an orthodox Jew and Zionist, told MPs: “My grandmother was ill in bed when the Nazis came to her home town .. a German soldier shot her dead in her bed.

    “My grandmother did not die to provide cover for Israeli soldiers murdering Palestinian grandmothers in Gaza.”

    “The present Israeli government ruthlessly and cynically exploit the continuing guilt from gentiles over the slaughter of Jews in the Holocaust as justification for their murder of Palestinians.” […]

    speaking to the BBC on Friday, Sir Gerald said he was standing by his comments.

    “We had an IRA bomb in Manchester which destroyed much of the centre – we didn’t send troops over to Belfast to murder 1,000 Catholics.”

    Sir Gerald said he had been a long-term supporter of Israel and has personally known many of its prime pinisters.

    But he added: “I am not going to stand by and keep silent when the Israeli troops – with a dreadful government sending them there – kill large numbers of innocent people with no useful result at the end of it all.”

    Last Sunday (11 January), as described in The Guardian:

    A group of Britain’s most prominent Jews has called on Israel to cease its military operations in Gaza immediately, warning that its actions, far from improving the country’s security, will “strengthen extremism, destabilise the region, and exacerbate tensions inside Israel”.

    Describing themselves, as “profound and passionate supporters” of Israel – and supporting its right to defend itself against the “war crime” of Hamas rocket attacks – they added that the current tactics threatened to undermine international support for Israel. […]

    the letter represents the most significant break with Israel’s tactics from a group of UK Jews.

    Prominent rabbis, academics and political figures are among the signatories, including Rabbi Dr Tony Bayfield, head of the Movement for Reform Judaism; Sir Jeremy Beecham, former chair of the Labour party; Professor Shalom Lappin of the University of London; Baroness Julia Neuberger; Rabbi Danny Rich, chief executive of Liberal Judaism; Rabbi Professor Marc Saperstein, principal of Leo Baeck rabbinical training college; and lawyer Michael Mitzman, who set up Holocaust Memorial Day Trust for the Home Office.

  163. Torill
    January 17, 2009 at 9:54 am

    David: yes, it may be that a definition of a nation worthy of its own, political state that requires a geographical proximity of its members discriminates against the “Jewish nation” and its wish for and right to its own political state. (“Nation” here used in the sense of “People”.) Anyone who accepts as legitimate the idea that states should be built on “natural” ethnic or cultural or religious groups (= each group are entitled to one state each, if they want it) – but at the same time denies Jews the right to their own state because they have not historically lived together in one particular geographical location for a very long time – can be said to be antisemitic. Absolutely, agreed. It can be argued by individuals who advocates this One Nation = One State ideology that the creation of Israel was wrong because it did not take into due consideration the rights of the Peoples already living in the region, without this being antisemitic – if these arguments are concrete, specific and historically correct as far as the honest understanding of the person advocating this view goes. But they cannot base their argument against the creation of Israel on the fact of diaspora without being (perhaps unintentionally) anti-semitic. Would you agree so far?

    But. To say that the whole notion of a Nation-state, the very idea that one “people” (no matter how one chooses to define that term, there is no one agreed upon way to do that) are intrinsically entitled to have a state of their own – is in and of itself wrong no matter which group it is that claims it – is not antisemitic, whether structural or otherwise.

    I belong to the latter group. I would say, for instance, that what happened to the Native Americans when USA was founded was wrong, of course. And many of them are no doubt suffering discrimination and marginalization in the US of today. But I do not believe that this can be rectified by them creating their own separate Nation-States (each tribe their own political state?) I think that would not only be potentially very messy, but would also create more problems than it would solve.

    As a European myself I am a bit baffled by the fact that you mention some of the recent separatist conflicts and ideas of “ethnic clensing” in Europe as a kind of argument for the founding of Israel, David – although I must admit that it is at least consistent with what seems to be your basic One Nation = One State ideology…

    In my view, what happened to former Yoguslavia was not only “messy” – it was a full blown disaster! – and also one of the best examples of how utterly devastating nationalistic ideas can be in practice. The whole thing was brougt about by an ethnic and nationalist agitation that reached back to battles and wrongs as far back as the middle ages to drum up hatred and alienation to what was earlier seen as good neighbours and fellow citizens in a shared homeland. It was nothing but horrible from beginning to end.

    One of my former collegues was a refugee from what is now called Bosnia-Hercegovina – and she hates that name and refuses to identify with it. Ethnically she is a “serb” but refuses to be identified with that either, the term has no meaning for her, never had. She lived in a community where she as an “ethnic Serb” and Greek Orthodox Crhistian had “ethnic Albanians” and Muslims as close neighbours and did not perceive this as problematic at all – her national identity was and is “Yoguslavian” where “Yoguslavia” to her represented a homeland where a multitude of ethnic and religious groups lived together with equal rights as citizens of the same state. This is the homeland she identifies with, and this is the homeland she is dislocated from, and can never return to, because it has been ripped apart by violent nationalists from all sides and therefore no longer exists. “They murdered my homeland” is her description of what happened, and in this sentence lies the whole essence of her trauma and her grief. A way of thinking that will only recognize the “ethnic” and “Nation-State” ideology as legitimate, will not in any way validate her experience or give her a language to describe what has happened to her.

    Discussions of the Tito-version of communism in Yoguslavia aside (that is so not the subject of this thread!) – I believe in the idea of a political state in the way my friend described her old homeland to be: a state that guarantees equal rights and protection to all its citizens regardless of their religion, gender, sexual orientetion or ethnic origin. I refuse to accept that this ideological stance makes me in any way an unconscious and well-meaning but misled antisemite, just because it is an ideological stance that makes the creation of the state of Israel problematic to defend.

    (And just for the record: The state of Israel is now a reality we must accept and deal with, and any kind of argumentation along the lines of its destruction to rectify the wrongs that was done to the people living in the region before its creation is – in my view – as meaningless and wrong as it would be to advocate the relocation of all “ethnic Britons” to France (what the French would think of that be damned) in order to rectify the wrongs done to the Celts back in Arthurian days…

    What the best politics will be in the current situation to guarantee the peace, freedom and security of all the different peoples in the Middle East is another discussion than the one we are trying to have in this thread – but I am the first to admit that there is no easy answer to this. )

  164. January 17, 2009 at 10:29 am

    I believe there is a lot of underestimation going on here. There are bigots AND there are many people who oppose both Zionism and anti-semitism. I live and work in a community that engages in both issues. And I’m starting to get a little pissed that we are getting so little recognition and support here.

    It’s similar to situations in rich certain radical feminists accuse other feminists of not having truly examined sexism if they choose certain actions. “Wear a dress? Obviously you haven’t examined your own oppression.” = “Oppose Zionism? You obviously haven’t understood anti-semitism.”

    That’s an unfair and dishonest tactic. Many of the people disagreeing with David are doing it from a pro-Jewish point of view. Many of us have fought and are fighting anti-Jewish actions and arguments on a daily basis. Until those people get a bigger voice, more blog time and more appreciation, the assumptions will continue to be made that we are ignorant, haven’t studied enough, don’t truly understand what’s going on.

    But that’s nothing new. I am a long-time anti-war activist and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been told I don’t understand the real world. This is something I can handle. This is something I will encounter again and again. It’s one of the many things we have to do if we want to be a part of building a better world.

    I wish I could find ways to help the rest of you who are feeling pain to know that it is temporary, there are ways of overcoming it, you can move beyond this. Keep looking, please. Take care of yourselves so you can do more and better work tomorrow.

    There are people out there who understand your pain and need comrades in this work. Don’t assume they are not there. Because you’ll miss them when they are standing right in front of you.

    David, I believe you have missed and will continue to miss important allies on these two threads. I don’t know how to convince you of that. Open your mind to the possibility and see what happens.

  165. GallingGalla
    January 17, 2009 at 11:25 am

    Ok, I said I would not be back, but I need to make this point.

    “In these cases, having Israel around is a very good safety valve for anti-Semitic oppression, simply because in that event we have someplace safe to flee to.”

    It’s not much of a safety valve for LGBT Jews. I am trans and queer, and I am aware of how hostile israeli society is to trans folk, as well as gay/lesbian/bi folk. If, G-d forbid true structural antisemitism were to develop in the US, to the extent that my life would be in danger (and yes, that is a fear in the back of my mind), I would not contemplate fleeing to israel, because my life would be in danger because I am a queer trans women.

    And I suspect that US-ian Jews of color (they do exist, Dave, I’ve met a whole bunch of Black and bi/multiracial Jews in my life) might feel the same way, knowing how Falasha and Mizrahi Jews have been treated in israel.

    Funny how you talk a lot about intersectionality and kyriarchy, but you don’t seem to understand what those terms really mean. I’ll make it simple: I am Jewish AND queer AND trans AND a woman AND white AND of Eastern European heritage AND middle-class AND a PWD AND a westerner AND a US-ian, all at the same time; a big mash of oppression and privilege. I’m not just some monolithic Jew where all these other pieces of me can be ignored. Your safety-valve statement ignores all of the other oppressions that I face, and privileges that I have, and universalizes my experience to a monolith, and I rather resent that.

    As far as whether or not antisemitism in the US is structural or not: I feel like in my life antisemitism has been an annoyance when put up against misogyny (both trans- and run-of-the-mill) and homophobia. There are antisemitic fuckwads and I’ve clashed with some of them (shall I tell you about that mormon guy in college?), but I’ve never had practical difficulties – getting a job or housing, etc – nor do I have that constant low-level fear that someone is going to bash me for breathimg while Jewish, whereas I do have that fear for breathing while trans (I’ve been physically assaulted several times for that) or breathing while female (I’ve been raped). My present long-term underemployment / unemployment has everything to do with misogyny and transphobia, and extremely little to do with antisemitism. antisemitism has been a pain in the ass to me, but misogyny and transphobia have made my life very much harder and more dangerous, precisely because misogyny and transphobia ARE structural and are integrated into every single institution of society, in ways that cause me harm EVERY SINGLE DAY.

    @ravenmn: Thank you for your comment. I’m not quite sure if you are directing the last few paragraphs to those of us who have (almost) left, but it gives me hope.

  166. chingona
    January 17, 2009 at 12:00 pm

    Everyone will have to leave North America to go back to their origin state, and I have no idea where mostly black, but also mixed race people like me will go.

    And most white people, too. Very few Americans of any color, especially after a few generations, are ethnically pure. But let me be the first to call “not it” on Belarus.

    David …

    Take what seems to be the paradigmatic example: the guy yelling “death to the Jews” at the ANSWER rally. By itself, just an anti-Semitic asshole. But as Ansel pointed out in the previous thread: Why is he comfortable? Why isn’t he run out of the rally? Meanwhile, when Jews see thousands of people, including members of parliament, marching in Amsterdam in a crowd that is chanting “Jews to the gas!” (and see such rallies replicated elsewhere), that helps create a political environment where Jews live in fear, are afraid to be Jewish in public, and are afraid to express opinions as Jews.

    I agree with your analysis of this aspect, and I’ve explained above why I consider this problematic, but Naomi Klein said it better than I could. And Holly way upthread put forward what I see as the solution or the tactic that moves us toward the solution – that people should be aware of the history of anti-Semitism and what kinds of arguments tie into anti-Semitic tropes, and when making those arguments, please be very clear about what you actually mean. And people who are pro-Israel of any stripe do need to cut out the “scratch an Israel critic and you’ll find a Jew-hater” crap. The only thing I’d add there is that if someone makes a critique of Israel and someone else critiques that critique (as in, I don’t know if comparisons to Nazi Germany are really accurate) don’t respond with “You’re calling me an anti-Semite” unless the other person actually did that.

    However ….

    I don’t think Holly adopts her views about where Jews are “from” (and thus where they are foreign to) because she wants to keep Jews down. Indeed, she may not have been thinking of us at all. Nonetheless, her decision to baseline and then ossify our “home” position as being that from within the time period after exile but before return naturalizes Jewish alienation.

    I find this line of argument really problematic. Sure, on an intellectual level, we can debate where you draw the line, but in real terms, as we’ve seen very dramatically in Israel, applying it over a 2,000 year period is a problem. And I say that as someone who feels the appeal of it on a gut level.

    But what really concerns me about what you seem to be arguing is that it sounds like you’re saying not just that people should think about why they draw the line where they draw it, but that there is something basically anti-Semitic about believing that at the end of the day, no, the Jews didn’t have a right to the land. I can’t really come up with a rational, progressive argument for why they did have a right to the land, and I don’t think your talk about Jews being a colonized people in the diaspora resolves this in the least. (And in my mind, this argument is distinct from one that says Jewish Israelis born and raised there should leave and be relocated to Montana if we love them so god damn much – as I saw argued seriously in comments at another blog. I think you could make a stronger argument that that line of thinking has some anti-Semitic elements, even if the person doesn’t think they’re thinking like that.)

    And I’ll second or tenth or whatever the question about what is structural about anti-Semitism? Who is benefiting from it? What ends is it being used to accomplish?

  167. January 17, 2009 at 1:18 pm

    I’m getting increasingly frustrated with this thread, especially at the misappropriation of things that I’ve said. Particularly this, which I find intellectually dishonest of David:

    I don’t think Holly adopts her views about where Jews are “from” (and thus where they are foreign to) because she wants to keep Jews down. Indeed, she may not have been thinking of us at all. Nonetheless, her decision to baseline and then ossify our “home” position as being that from within the time period after exile but before return naturalizes Jewish alienation.

    Come on. When did I ever “baseline” Jewish existence as being “from” the diaspora? This is ridiculous. I haven’t made any comments in this thread that imply I think we should “draw the line” in a particular historical moment to decide the property rights of Jews, in fact the idea sounds rather preposterous to me. I don’t really fancy playing the role of “well-meaning but misguided marionette of the ancient forces of anti-semitic thought,” as necessary as it may be for you to prove your thesis. Find someone else for that, since it’s not like anti-semitism is really that scarce. On top of that, what chingona said about this quote as well; is it necessary to both ask this (sort of absurdly phrased) question about when Jewish property rights should be “fixed in time” and then answer it with some kind of answer that grants Jews a homeland (where else if not Israel, of course) in order to be pro-Semitic? Come on. You’re starting to turn into a mockery of yourself.

    Every time I’ve mentioned the word “diaspora” in this thread, I did so with positive associations not because I want to stick a pin through a historical epoch like a dead butterfly, establishing it as the “normal” point for future reference. Not all compliments entail the words “don’t ever change, you’re normal and perfect the way you are,” ok? I did so because I think understanding diaspora is incredibly important to the state of human existence on this planet in the 21st century; more important than just continuing to prop up the violent establishment, expansion, and continued power of nation states. I said so not because I think diaspora is “normal” but because it is a state that a large chunk of all human beings find themselves in. There are more people than ever before who are dislocated from their historic “homeland” — refugees, political exiles, the stateless, immigrants who can’t go home for any number of economic reasons, people who are culturally cut off from their families and forebears. Some diaspora is more violent than others; none is entirely without tragedy.

    I am the child and grandchild of immigrants who “can’t go home again,” who cannot return to the places they came from. I myself cannot trust the United States as a “homeland” any more than a Jew or any other member of a historically oppressed group that might be turned on; we are in similar boats, if you want to talk about not being able to trust a nation like this one. The Jews do not have a monopoly on diaspora, but as a people, I think the Jews have been doing it long, and doing it well. Saying that doesn’t diminish the sorrow of not having a homeland. But I think it may point the way towards a future that does not depend on a homeland, for all the reasons I previously said.

    A nation-state is an understandable response. It’s an understandable thing to want, psychologically. But I question whether it truly “makes you safer,” especially in the all-too-common circumstances that nations have to be established through violence, discrimination, and the stripping of human rights from others. This isn’t just a “coincidence” of making a nation-state. It’s part and parcel. It’s part of why people like Gerald Kaufman are wondering what Israel has become, and likening it to Nazi Gemany. Of course Jews aren’t “inherently” like Nazis, that’s anti-semitism too (and David has a section on the bloodthirsty jew) but structurally? Nation states may contain inherent tendencies in that direction. Military power may. And so forth. This shouldn’t be news.

    So yeah, my point was totally just that it’s normal that Jews are “inherently from nowhere” and should wander the earth forever like lost souls on the Flying Dutchman, with no place to land. That was really what I was trying to say, thanks.</sarcasm>

    As for this:

    Holly, if you think separatism is illegitimate, why did you support the Lakota secession?

    You’re also getting me wrong, although more innocuously and partially my fault. I don’t think that separatism is illegitimate, as in “people should be prevented from doing it, it should be illegal and unrecognizable.” I wouldn’t stop anyone from creating a separatist women’s commune, I disagree with Justice Stevens’ aim of pressuring the Satmars into non-separatism. Remember that cultural separatism was the original topic here, because of the Satmars, not secession of states from each other, even though I know the word can be used for either. I don’t think “separatism,” the isolating of a group of oppressed people from everyone else in the name of safety and independence and non-pollution, is “illegitimate.” I think it’s a bad idea, I think it’s often a fantasy and an avoidance of the real problem, I don’t think it really solves anything, I don’t see it as a real viable strategy for making the world better for an oppressed group.

    Now, as for the Lakota. That’s a little different than separatism in a number of ways. For one thing, a lot of the Lakota were already segregated from everyone else by the US-mandated reservation system, going back a century and a half. For another, the proposed Lakota nation is not separatist of the Lakota people; it’s open to anyone of any race. It doesn’t propose just taking a group of Lakota (an oppressed people) and moving them somewhere that they can be away from everyone else. It takes an already segregated-by-a-higher-power group of people, keeps them where they live, and grants them political autonomy. Furthermore, the United States already agreed that they could do this, in writing, 150 years ago, as long as they had 75% of the adult male vote. (Yes, sexist.) That level of support doesn’t actually exist, as David and I both noted; but if it did, it’s hard to see how the US could get out of it without violating a treaty written by the US government.

    So this is a little different than separatism in a number of ways; it’s still the founding of a nation state (and the breaking up of a larger state, the USA, which I can’t really argue with!) and I don’t think it should be automatically applauded. The Lakota so far have said they only want to take over land owned by the US government, not private property, and are approaching the matter peacefully (unlike at Wounded Knee) which is also prudent because you know, US military. Their politics are based on tribal control and libertarianism, not state authority. But I don’t think it is safe to just automatically assume it’ll be a great nation. I’m certainly not a libertarian. I think it bears watching and keeping an eye on. But it’s far from being any kind of reality yet.

    A lot of my concerns about separatism are not inherent to the idea of separatism, but have to do with what the COSTS are, as I said before. What are the costs in not being able to pursue more engaged alternatives? What are the costs in human lives?

    I have a simple set of questions about Israel, which take as a starting point David’s “safety valve” idea:

    1. Do you believe that the idea of Israel, a nation-state controlled by Jews (and therefore not controlled by anyone else who may be living there) is the ONLY real solution to the problem of keeping Jews safe?

    2. Do you believe that actual Israel, the way it has come to exist and the way it exists now, is actually IMPROVING the safety of Jews worldwide, wherever they may live, and will continue to do so given the path that it’s on?

  168. piny
    January 17, 2009 at 1:22 pm

    At what date do we fix Jews as being in their “natural” state and all subsequent movements considered liable to be colonization? I’d nominate 100 BCE, but that’d obviously be self-serving. But no more so than setting the date at 1700 (really bad for Jews) or 1975 (really bad for Palestinians).

    Making any of these historical snapshots mutually exclusive seems to sabotage your argument about right to return. Most regions, including and especially the area we refer to as Israel, have undergone massive demographic shifts over the past two millennia—much of the world has undergone massive demographic shifts over the past two hundred years.

    Most parts of the world are inhabited by people who were not there originally, who arrived via colonialism and genocidal invasion, and whose attachment to the land has lasted long enough for that invasion to pass outside of living memory. (This typically doesn’t take long, at least on the colonizer side.) Many of those people—modern-day Australians, for example, and plenty of American pioneers—can trace their fore-arrival back to an earlier dislocation.

    I don’t think you can establish a hierarchy of origin affinity that won’t disinherit large groups of people according to the very logic that supports “right to return” in the first place. The problem is not only that x date happens to naturalize Jewish alienation, but that y date will likely do the same thing to the Palestinians. At this point, two or three generations of Israelis have been born and raised with Israel as a home, and two or three generations of Palestinians have not; does it make sense to just draw a line there?

  169. Sailorman
    January 17, 2009 at 1:36 pm

    I found NS’s post at #2 to be a pretty much textbook example of how to disagree well, without being problematic, and I am at a bit of a loss about why NS would get called out on it.

    Re the US support of Israel, I think it is impossible to discuss without a serious analysis of the MILITARY aspects of our alliance. Allies are very important in areas of the world where the US thinks (or worries) that it might need to engage in military action, and we don’t have any other allies in that area as close as israel.

    Re structural antisemitism in the U.S., I think it tends to manifest itself somewhat as a sort of structural pro-christianism, which (in the case of jews) is antisemitism on a level taht it probably quite similar to the anti-muslim, anti-hindu, and anti-anything effects. But since the history of the u.s. is one where the jewish and christian faiths have generally been viewed as the “big two” at conflict then it is difficult to unpack some pro-christian stuff from anti-semitic stuff.

  170. Kristin
    January 17, 2009 at 2:08 pm

    “There are more people than ever before who are dislocated from their historic “homeland” — refugees, political exiles, the stateless, immigrants who can’t go home for any number of economic reasons, people who are culturally cut off from their families and forebears. Some diaspora is more violent than others; none is entirely without tragedy.”

    Holly, exactly. Thanks for pointing this out. While she is not explicitly addressing the issue of Israel/Palestine, Chandra Talpade Mohanty argues in her book, Feminism without Borders, that a progressive, postcolonial feminist politics should *not* support idealized constructs of a “homeland” for precisely this reason. That is, it’s an exclusionary tactic (She is largely, I think, responding to it in White middle class feminism.), and it’s an option for hardly any marginalized groups. I think this criticism bears grappling with for anyone attempting to parse a progressive theorization of antisemitism like this.

    Not to mention that idealizing politics that hearken back to tradition often result in the kind of discrimination that Galling Galla mentions @ 166. The thing is, David, you have not answered the charge that you’re falling back on an extremely essentializing conceptualization of what “Jewishness” means. Nothing is pure, and spiritual/cultural traditions are not fixed. The idea of a Jewish homeland, while reassuring to some, is cold comfort even to some Jews who would not constitute “normalized” members of Israeli society. Galling Galla eloquently discusses the intersecting oppressions in her own life in order to explain why the existence of the state of Israel does not actually make *her* a safer person.

    Finally, David, you persist in conflating “the Jews” with the state of Israel. I looked over at your blog, where you suggest that many disagreeing with you are just here because we want to “beat up on Jews.” The only way that I can make sense of this statement–as someone who’s been here through the threads as well–is that you really are conflating critiques of the Israeli state with antisemitism and truly believe that those of us who make these criticisms are coming from a deep place of hatred for Jews (and a desire to beat them up). But you know what, David? I think you’re very seriously wrong. Mind if I suggest that you could very well be “lethally wrong”? I think this kind of conflation (Jews=the Israeli state) is an essentializing move–and one that probably exacerbates antisemitism around the globe. Do you *really* wish for you yourself and for the worldwide diaspora to be conflated with those who helm a state that is dropping white phosphorus on innocent civilians? I would not wish that on anyone–up to and including the citizens of Israel themselves. Far from being helpful for the global emancipation of Jews, I would suggest that the willful conflation of Jews/Israel has antisemitic consequences that I find very troubling.

    As a US citizen, I have thought more than a few times about what it means to be a citizen of a state that is indiscriminately killing and torturing innocent civilians in the Middle East. It’s awful. It *does* foment anti-American hatred around the world, and while I do think that we as American citizens bear some responsibility for what is done with our tax dollars, I do not wish for one moment to have anything “essential” about American policy ascribed to my being. Nor do I wish to be associated with state power, when I am thoroughly opposed to the way in which it operates here. Fine, then, I’m an American. I’m so American that none of my relatives even know where our ancestors came from beyond the fact that our white skin suggests somewhere in Europe. But US state power /= me, damnit.

  171. Kristin
    January 17, 2009 at 2:31 pm

    Not to mention, David, that you trivialize the hell out of a long history of Jews who were *actually* beaten and/or killed when you refer to these threads in that way. It reminds me, I have to say, of a certain strain of radical feminism, wherein certain women accuse those who disagree with them for “raping” them with words. I’m sure you see how trivialzing and offensive that is.

  172. chingona
    January 17, 2009 at 2:53 pm

    @ Holly. My question about the Lakota really wasn’t intended as some sort of “gotcha” and given what’s been happening in this thread, I should have clarified that. I understood you to be saying that separatism can be problematic and inadequate, but I wasn’t sure if you also believed it to be illegitimate, and really just wanted clarification of your position. I don’t really disagree with you. I think separatism is the kind of thing that seems really appealing on the surface, and it takes some additional levels of analysis to realize why it might not be the best route. That’s why it seems “normal” to me that some significant number of people would want to go that route, even as I agree that it’s problematic. In the case of my father (since I offered him up as an example), I think he would be the first to admit that as a cisgendered, straight white man, he’s unlikely to face discrimination other than based on ethnic/religious identification (maybe political views, if the U.S. went really fascist), so I think it’s easier or more natural for him to think that Israel might be a safe place for Jews (and here I mean idea of Israel more than I mean Israel in this exact moment in history).

    As for diasporas, I’ve heard some pretty convincing arguments that if it weren’t for the diaspora, the Jews would have gone the way of the Hittites. So even as it involves pain and dislocation, it’s hard for me see it as an unmitigated bad. Purely tangential – several years ago I read about a delegation from the Dalai Lama visiting Jewish community centers and day schools in the U.S. to get ideas for how to preserve culture in exile.

  173. January 17, 2009 at 4:01 pm

    Hi, Kristin; nice to meet you. Let me just add to what you said at 172: there’s another very real danger to Jews caused by what seems to be David’s attitude. Once you decide that there is only one, relatively simplistic Jewish essence, the stakes are incredibly high for defining it. You’re basically deciding who is a Jew and who isn’t, or rather, what opinions it is permissable for a Jew to hold and what opinions are not. This is why people throw grenades into Peace Now rallies, why Rabin was hot, why Zeev Sternhell was the victim of a pipe bomb attack. If anything is actually a danger to real Jewish lives, it’s the kind of militantly irrational, obscurantist and tribalistic kind of mindset David seems to be espousing.

  174. January 17, 2009 at 4:02 pm

    Oh, and by the way, setting the baseline at 1975 would actually be extremely advantageous for Palestinians. Arabs would be a near majority within Israel today if it hadn’t been for the immigration from the former Soviet Union.

  175. January 17, 2009 at 4:12 pm

    I realize I engage with Kristin at my own risk (I lack her posting skills and she quite probably has disproportionate intellectual resources to bring to bare on this discussion) . I also run the risk of being ignored b/c I’m veering back from anti-semitism, but I do come back to anti-semitism (and gaza — God, I have no self-control). Anyway, Kristen @172:

    “As a US citizen, I have thought more than a few times about what it means to be a citizen of a state that is indiscriminately killing and torturing innocent civilians in the Middle East. It’s awful. It *does* foment anti-American hatred around the world, and while I do think that we as American citizens bear some responsibility for what is done with our tax dollars, I do not wish for one moment to have anything “essential” about American policy ascribed to my being. Nor do I wish to be associated with state power, when I am thoroughly opposed to the way in which it operates here. Fine, then, I’m an American. I’m so American that none of my relatives even know where our ancestors came from beyond the fact that our white skin suggests somewhere in Europe. But US state power /= me, damnit.

    All that is true for me, and quite possible for millions of americans. maybe even a significant majority of americans. But are our enemies (the ones our state is attacking and the ones seriously disturbed by the behavior of our state) supposed to care? My mom might cry that I’m writing this, so let’s be clear about the context and the conditions: if people really thought that destroying wall street would cripple our finances and thus hinder our state’s ability to promulgate the behavior that you, and they, despise, then wouldn’t an attack on that financial system be justified, even if the people killed were actively opposed to that behavior?

    Maybe I’m taking you out of context, but I think that there’s an argument to be made that as an american, in your normal course of business, by not actually renouncing, opposing, and abandoning the United States then you are contributing to its behavior (you pay taxes, no? perhaps you have a job and by you doing it another person is free to enlist in the military or perform a job that directly contributes to US behavior?).

    Furthermore, an enemy of the United States might think that even if you’re not a legitimate target because you further the objectives of the US, at the very least, because your government should care about you, an attack upon you might encourage the government to alter its behavior to stem the attacks.

    These are extreme arguments. They excuses total war. They excuse a lot of evil. They excuse a lot of killing.

    (They are, however, arguments that I think some accuse Israel of making. But please see this NY Times article).

    They are also arguments that, I think, underlie a lot of terrorism (not guerilla warfare or freedom fighting, but outright terrorism: attacks directed at civilians who the attackers know have nothing practical to do with the behavior of the government for the purpose of getting the government to change its policies: in my mind, the british bombing yellowstone during tourist season: what possible harm is originating from yellowstone or being perpetrated by tourists?! Heck, the fact that they’re on vacation shows that they’re _not_ contributing to a war.).

    Anyway, I go through this roundabout discussion only to hear my own thoughts and conclude that I understand you to be saying that associating Jews with Israel and its policies is similar to all americans being associated with US policy. I say it’s even more tenuous, because at least as an american you have a nominal say in what the US does and can easily take steps to oppose it (tax protests, strikes, voting, running for office). As a Jew but not an Israeli I have much less influence over Israeli policy.

    BUT. Isn’t it a pretty standard anti-semitic tactic to identify jews as part of a global cabal, actively working towards one end or another? And isn’t there a pretty clearly established historical pattern of physically attacking Jews simply because they’re jews (because the jewish cabal will care about them and change its behavior; because jews, by definition, are engaging in cabal activity and are thus legitimate targets; or, more recently, because israel is a jewish state and israel will change its behavior)?

    Americans might be getting used to being shamed by America’s policies and activities, but I don’t think there’s any cultural baggage where we really feel at risk because of them. Just the opposite: we’re shocked and outraged and somewhat mystified if an american is attacked for being an american, especially if that attack happens in the United States (which happens, basically, never).

    Jews, on the other hand, are used to being attacked merely because we’re jews and because others are unhappy. Many of us project that onto israel, rightly or wrongly. I’d say that much of the rest of the world, used to attacking jews collectvely and reflexively, has found it easy to treat israel the same way (but that could be my baggage speaking).

    Given the baggage that Jews carry about this persecution, isn’t it understandable that a discussion of actual attacks on Israel and Jews and the rhetoric and rationalizations of the attackers and those covering the attacks might benefit from an analysis of anti-semitism? Is it not possible, for example, that indiscriminate bombing of Israel is motivated as much by anti-jewish sentiment as it is by anti-israeli or pro-gazan sentiment? Or isn’t it understandable that some jews might see it that way? Is it not possible that increases in anti-semitic activity are not so much provoked by Israel’s behavior as excused by it (ie, I’m not firebombing a synagogue or knocking down gravestones because I don’t like what israel is doing, but because I think people won’t call me out on it and might praise it or tolerate it as an an anti-israel, pro-palestinian activity)?

    This phenomena redounds against those who are not anti-semitic but are pro-gazan. Because once we acknowledge anti-semitism in this context, it’s all to easy to slide down the slippery slope and say that not just some anti-israeli, pro-palestinian behavior is just fig-leafed anti-semitism, but all of it is.

    So if I could distill my post down into one concise point: acknowledging anti-semitism is necessary (or maybe just helpful), but not sufficient, to constructively engaging with a non-antisemitic world to alleviate the ongoing struggles in the middle east. Of course, the world is not non-antisemitic. So maybe “acknowledging anti-semitism is helpful to constructively engaging a broad progressive coalition inclusive of Jews in a pro-palestinian effort”.

  176. January 17, 2009 at 4:33 pm

    On the subject of Jews who would not feel comfortable running to Israel in emergency (GLBT, Mizrachi, etc.): Agreement. Total agreement. This is a failing of Israel of the first order. I noted my affiliation with Shinui, which really worked against the homophobic and racist elements in Israeli culture and policy, for that precise reason: You can’t call yourself a homeland for Jews if not all Jews are allowed to or can effectively call it home. That’s a criticism of Israel I’ve long been behind hook line and sinker.

    But there are complications: I already mentioned the sentiment of Mizrachi Jews who feel that an expression of their second-class status is the fact that Israel doesn’t respond as aggressively to attacks on their communities in southern Israel from Gaza as they would to, say, an attack on a largely Ashkenazi community in Tel Aviv. They view it as devaluing their lives. Another example which effects me personally is the discriminatory status Israel accords to Jews who are not Orthodox (on matters of marriage and conversion, especially). The rule which puts these decisions in the hands of conservative religious authorities is kept around largely through an alliance of Shas (the Sephardic ultra-Orthodox list) and the Israeli Arab parties. None of which is to say that we shouldn’t oppose these claims: merely that when we talk about trying to create an Israel that is accommodating to all residents, not just Ashkenazi orthodox heterosexual men, it’s not like everybody outside that category is going to present a united front. So just kind of sweeping that statement as next bullet point on the critique of Israel, while submerging where the internal cleavages between these groups are, only gets us so far.

    Kristen, quickly: You’re trying to conflate “criticism of Israeli policies” with “criticism of Israel as a concept”. This thread has focused heavily on the latter, and very little on the former, primarily because most of the things that have been mentioned in the former category have not found any defenders, myself included. You’re trying to make it so that the only way you can truly be against Israel policy X is to be against the idea of Israel period, as a way of trying to expand the territory of “anti-Zionist”, and I reject that (hence my repeated invocations of J Street). Most Jews, though, do see the attack on Israel-as-a-concept as an attack on Jews-qua-Jews. And the metaphor I used about not having a home but right here explains why: We get abuse heaped upon us (not of the mean comments variety, but the real deal: fire-bombed synagogues and physical assaults and economic sanctions and sometimes mass murder), and then when we try and leave and say “this environment is poisonous to me — I can’t breathe here”, we’re told we have no place to go, and indeed, we have no right to go any place.

    Okay, onto this issue about diaspora. If I’m getting Holly’s position right (and I may not be), her argument runs basically like this:

    Jews have been in the diaspora, true. But this is not necessarily a bad thing, or at least, it doesn’t have to be. In the current day, either everyone (in the sense that we’ve all moved and immigrated and displaced each other over history too often to keep track of) or a goodly chunk of people (in the sense that some people are in a place they feel comfortable considering “home”, but many others do not and “can’t go home” either because they don’t have the resources or there is no home to go to) are in a diaspora situation. So, the problem of the 21st century has to be figuring out to make a diaspora life one that allows its residents full flourishing, happiness, dignity, and equality as human beings.

    Did I get that more or less right?

    As a political project, I think that sounds very good. And in a large sense, I think it makes sense to view that as our “goal” for progressive politics in the coming years. But, but, we’re not there yet. The diaspora might hold the potential for lives of mutual flourishing and dignity, but it isn’t there yet, and more importantly, we haven’t figured out how to get it there yet. You say with regards to the diaspora that you “think the Jews have been doing it long, and doing it well.” I think many Jews would disagree — they think they’ve been doing it quite poorly, hence the reason the Zionist impulse had any pull in the first place. Pain and death may be inherent parts of the creation and maintenance of the nation-state, but at the moment, they’re also inherent parts of the creation (or recreation) and maintenance of the diaspora. It’s not “incidental” there either — at least, not yet.

    So to answer your questions:

    1) Yes, at least for the foreseeable future. I’m willing to buy into Memmi’s hope that it is a “temporary ending.” I think there are costs to separation too. I think separation is a very tragic thing. The diaspora might eventually be able to provide security for Jews. But right now, it’s still poisonous, and we have a right to say “I’m out”. So Israel is necessary right now for Jews, though it may not be necessary always and for all time.

    2) Yes and no. Yes, on one very simple ground that I know Jews are noticing. All the things about American support, and financial aid, and everything else granted, Jews look at the scoreboard of the 20th century — roughly 50 years with Israel and 50 years without — and see Israel winning 1-0 in the “avoiding mass extermination” game. So long as many Jews still are viewing survival as the primary metric, Israel is going to win over no-Israel. The first step we have to take in order to make the first word in Memmi’s “temporary ending” count is getting to a situation where Jews don’t feel like this is the first thing they have to consider.

    No, in the sense that every day the occupation continues, and every day there isn’t a Palestinian state, and every day the settlements stay up and entrench themselves deeper in Palestinian territory, and every day we get further from the two-state solution, is a day closer to the day when Israel falls apart as a Jewish state before the conditions that made it necessary to come into existence have dissipated. This is, again, the J Street motivator.

    Finally: Folks keep asking me, somewhat sarcastically I gather, if it’s “okay” to tell me that they think I’m “misguided” or “wrong” or “lethally wrong”. The answer is: Yes. Of course it is. Why wouldn’t it be? You wouldn’t be disagreeing with me if you didn’t think I was somewhere on the continuum from “misguided” to “lethally wrong”.

  177. January 17, 2009 at 4:39 pm

    By way of context: at a Law Students for Reproductive Justice event a few years ago I was dumbfounded when it was made clear to me that one of these reasons the pro-choice / reproductive rights movement struggled for traction among people of color was history of forced sterilization and eugenics in america, something I knew little about and thought was just a blip on the consciousness of most people. How wrong I had been, and how challenging the task of being aware that winning people over to a cause that is just and true might require a lot of understanding and even readjusting a sense of what is just and true in light of a broader understanding of the human experience. So to those who reflexively say anti-semitism should not be uttered in the same breath as gaza, I say ‘maybe’. Events of the 1950’s have little or no relevance to a woman wanting an abortion today. Anti-semitism is of little concern to a maimed and hungry gazan child. But they’re as important to the degree that building a better world is as important as making life better for an individual.

  178. Kristin
    January 17, 2009 at 4:46 pm

    “Maybe I’m taking you out of context, but I think that there’s an argument to be made that as an american, in your normal course of business, by not actually renouncing, opposing, and abandoning the United States then you are contributing to its behavior (you pay taxes, no? perhaps you have a job and by you doing it another person is free to enlist in the military or perform a job that directly contributes to US behavior?).”

    I said this very explicitly. You must have missed that.

    Also, I don’t really engage with people who talk about the “high stakes” and terrible “risks” associated with engaging with me, you asshole. Nor with people who accuse me of being a Hamas supporter or a supporter of terrorism.

  179. January 17, 2009 at 4:55 pm

    Wow. Just wow.

    I didn’t do that, or mean to! I can see how I should have been more careful with my use of generic pronouns.

    And I meant my first few lines as a complement: I’m often over my head in these threads which is why I try and cover my ass when I post. I simply meant, and next time will say: “I may not be as versed in the norms of this community and lack as comprehensive an understanding of the issues as other posters, but here’s my 2 cents”).

    I changed ‘disagree’ to ‘engage’ because I didn’t think I was arguing with you. What you poste3d made me think. Maybe not think enough or to your liking, but damn. Asshole?!

  180. January 17, 2009 at 5:04 pm

    I re-read my post and I’m just not seeing what I said that accused you of being a supporter of terrorism or of hamas. Maybe you were just calling me an asshole for my awkward phrasing of what was meant to be a complement and the rest was directed at other posters?

  181. Laura
    January 17, 2009 at 5:22 pm

    Ben Kleinman, what do you mean by “the british bombing yellowstone during tourist season”? Is this a hypothetical example?

  182. January 17, 2009 at 5:28 pm

    Yes. As far as I know! I was trying to come up with an example that simply could be nothing other than ‘terrorism’ and didn’t involve jews, muslims, palestinians, or israelis. Something that no person could, with a straight face, say was an attack on infrastructure or personnel contributing to a war effort. That would, plain and simple, be an attack on individuals with the goal of getting the organization that cares about those individuals to change a policy (or would represent an extremely expansive view of what it meant for non-combatants to contribute to a war effort).

  183. Kristin
    January 17, 2009 at 5:36 pm

    Ben Kleinman:

    Apologies for misreading you. Also, apologies for confusing you with Sailorman, who DID say that I was a Hamas supporter.

    By way of a response. Well, okay, just a few things. Mostly, I don’t think we’re actually disagreeing about very much:

    “BUT. Isn’t it a pretty standard anti-semitic tactic to identify jews as part of a global cabal, actively working towards one end or another? And isn’t there a pretty clearly established historical pattern of physically attacking Jews simply because they’re jews (because the jewish cabal will care about them and change its behavior; because jews, by definition, are engaging in cabal activity and are thus legitimate targets; or, more recently, because israel is a jewish state and israel will change its behavior)?”

    Yes. Yes, it is. Of course it is. Who said it wasn’t? Certainly not me. And while I was not making an exact comparison here, look… I really wasn’t making an exact comparison. I was making a point about associating the essences of *people* with state policy at all.

    You said:

    “Americans might be getting used to being shamed by America’s policies and activities, but I don’t think there’s any cultural baggage where we really feel at risk because of them.”

    Oh, really? Dude… I got robbed at knifepoint and nearly driven off a cliff by a taxi driver just a few years ago by a taxi driver after I admitted to being an American citizen when I was outside the US–and trying to cross a border–just a few years ago. And this did not happen in the Arab world–or even in a place where there is widespread hostility toward the United States. No danger? Fuck that. And we can thank George W. Bush and friends for that.

    “Is it not possible, for example, that indiscriminate bombing of Israel is motivated as much by anti-jewish sentiment as it is by anti-israeli or pro-gazan sentiment? Or isn’t it understandable that some jews might see it that way?”

    Yes, I can see why Jews would see it that way, but I don’t really think it’s a reasonable assumption to make. Of *course* Gazans under occupation have anti-Israeli sentiment by virtue of their *own* oppression at the hands of Israelis. btw, Hamas is hardly the military superpower capable of indiscriminate bombing that Israel is.

    “Is it not possible that increases in anti-semitic activity are not so much provoked by Israel’s behavior as excused by it (ie, I’m not firebombing a synagogue or knocking down gravestones because I don’t like what israel is doing, but because I think people won’t call me out on it and might praise it or tolerate it as an an anti-israel, pro-palestinian activity)?”

    I suppose we might find out if Israel began following the dictates of international law and behaving like a member in good standing of the world community. At this moment, though, I can’t really see where speculations about motivation gets us? I don’t think antisemitic activity is ever justified, and I feel like I’m being baited to say something that *proves* my inner hatred for Jews or something.

    I freakin’ agree with this statement:

    “So if I could distill my post down into one concise point: acknowledging anti-semitism is necessary (or maybe just helpful), but not sufficient, to constructively engaging with a non-antisemitic world to alleviate the ongoing struggles in the middle east. Of course, the world is not non-antisemitic. So maybe “acknowledging anti-semitism is helpful to constructively engaging a broad progressive coalition inclusive of Jews in a pro-palestinian effort”.”

    I don’t think this is what David’s trying to do, though–at all. I don’t agree with his thesis about it being a structural phenomenon. I have not said that I *never* think it’s instructive to engage about antisemitism. Can’t I *just* be thoroughly unimpressed with *this particular guest blogger* without being a raving antisemite or serving as a tool of antisemitic interests?

  184. Kristin
    January 17, 2009 at 5:44 pm

    “You’re trying to make it so that the only way you can truly be against Israel policy X is to be against the idea of Israel period, as a way of trying to expand the territory of “anti-Zionist”, and I reject that (hence my repeated invocations of J Street).”

    No, actually, I was not, but thank *you* for reading a conspiratorial tone in my comment.

    “Most Jews, though, do see the attack on Israel-as-a-concept as an attack on Jews-qua-Jews.”

    Frankly, I’ve only ever heard criticisms of Israel-as-a-concept from other Jews, so… Once again, there you go trying to be an arbiter of what “most Jews” feel.

  185. Laura
    January 17, 2009 at 5:48 pm

    Is it not possible, for example, that indiscriminate bombing of Israel is motivated as much by anti-jewish sentiment as it is by anti-israeli or pro-gazan sentiment? Or isn’t it understandable that some jews might see it that way? […] So maybe “acknowledging anti-semitism is helpful to constructively engaging a broad progressive coalition inclusive of Jews in a pro-palestinian effort”

    I think that these understandable feelings are precisely why it’s important to look at the range of views held by Jews. When people like those I mentioned above (i.e. Sir Gerald Kaufman, Rabbi Dr Tony Bayfield, Sir Jeremy Beecham, Professor Shalom Lappin, Baroness Julia Neuberger, Rabbi Danny Rich, Rabbi Professor Marc Saperstein, and Michael Mitzman) raise concerns about the current Israeli actions in Gaza, there should be no reason for any other Jews to attribute these opinions to anti-semitism. That might make it easier to engage in discussion about the issue without having it undercut by the fear that everyone critiquing Israel’s current actions might be doing so because they are anti-semitic.

  186. January 17, 2009 at 5:55 pm

    Totally not engaging substantively about Gaza with you because we have some different assumptions about what’s going on and give different emphasis to facts on the ground — I think it might be a fun conversation and a good one, but it gets very Gaza specific and hey, we’re at a point of basic agreement!

    And that taxi thing, in a bit of understatement, sucks. I’m curious about this and other similar experiences people may have had. I wonder what, exactly, was going through their heads. And I also hope you’re okay!

    I just wanted to say I feel all warm and fuzzy for not being an asshole anymore. I can now go to the gym without stressing over what inscrutable thing I did on feministe that revealed my inner assholiness. Seriously :-). It’s sad how once I start posting I become emotionally invested in the responses to my posts.

  187. chingona
    January 17, 2009 at 6:12 pm

    Regarding this exchange:

    “Is it not possible, for example, that indiscriminate bombing of Israel is motivated as much by anti-jewish sentiment as it is by anti-israeli or pro-gazan sentiment? Or isn’t it understandable that some jews might see it that way?”

    Yes, I can see why Jews would see it that way, but I don’t really think it’s a reasonable assumption to make. Of *course* Gazans under occupation have anti-Israeli sentiment by virtue of their *own* oppression at the hands of Israelis. btw, Hamas is hardly the military superpower capable of indiscriminate bombing that Israel is.

    The thing is, Palestinian organizations have a history of attacking Jewish targets outside of Israel as if they were acceptable proxies for Israel. I’m not talking about the occasional molotov cocktail tossed at a synagogue. Why did Hezbollah consider a Jewish Community Center in Buenos Aires an acceptable target? The bombing there in 1994 killed 85 people and injured more than 300. While most of them were Jewish, they had fuck-all to do with Israel or Israeli policy.

  188. Kristin
    January 17, 2009 at 6:14 pm

    Ben Kleinman: Just… Well… Given the heated nature of the past two threads. It’s just… It’s a pretty standard sexist trope to call women who are angry or impassioned “scary” and/or to talk about being “scared” of engaging. Your comment about the great “risks” involved in engaging with me read *to me* like this standard sort of trope. I did not realize until you posted again that you were being sincere. The author of the OP has been talking down to women all over the place on here (in my view), so it’s been in the air. Thanks for clarifying, in any case. No hard feelings, etc., etc., but do remember you’re on a feminist blog.

  189. Ben
    January 17, 2009 at 6:21 pm

    Laura @187. Totally agree that it’s possible to have frank and critical discussions about israeli behavior. totally agree that it’s possible to condemn them as wrong and illegal. Totally agree that none of this need be done or motivated by anti-semitism. Totally agree that this is happening.

    But, it would be valuable to me (for what that’s worth) for those doing it to demonstrate the reflective process and reasoning behind their analysis in a way that explicitly account for the possibility of anti-semitism and that consists of more than ‘I’m jewish’ or ‘other jews are saying the same thing’.

    I’m not saying that’s what you’re doing! I’m really not — I haven’t read all your posts. And, frankly, even if that is what you’re doing I’m just saying it makes me uncomfortable, I’m not saying it’s wrong!

    I’m saying that it would be valuable to me, and maybe others, to hear an acknowledgment that ‘indiscriminate bombing’ in gaza is at least putatively targeting infrastructure where as ‘indiscriminate bombing’ in israel is (to the best of my knowledge) truly indiscriminate or even targeted at civilians. Actually, they could leave off the condemnation of palestinian bombing and say only the bit about israeli bombing and, as weird as it is, it would reassure me that people aren’t applying stereotypes about evil jews who don’t value the lives of non-jewish children.

    I’m not asking people to excuse israel.

    I’m not asking people to not say that the israeli blockade is an absolute evil.

    I’m accepting of the validity of an argument that israel must compromise something it thinks of as fundamental to its existence if the only way to defend that fundamental thing is to engage in behavior that we know will harm the rights of innocents.

    I am really just saying that I get uncomfortable when I hear those arguments made or endorsed in the absence of an explanation of how they were reached and an understanding that the palestinian government could compromise on principles fundamental to it and end the suffering of innocents just as easily. Do I ask for similar acknowledgments of alternative views in all situations? Actually, I sometimes do. But I think in cases involving Israel there’s historical baggage that makes me want to know I can engage in a debate in good faith and will not discover that I’m fighting an underlying assumption that Jews are out for palestinian blood and bent on global domination.

  190. Ben
    January 17, 2009 at 6:31 pm

    Kristin @190. I respect/fear/acknowledge your prowess on this blog and your incisive and sharp way of disarming a ‘foe’ (to wit — my assholeness) in the same way that martial artists bow to each other and boxers bump gloves. My general attitude towards internet posts is to not make assumptions about the identity of the poster from their log-in name, and that’s particularly true here. I think, had your name been ‘poster123’, I would have written the same thing. But we’ll never know. As you say — pretty strong subconscious forces might be at work.

    I admit I didn’t give any thought to the choice of words and that was bad form — perhaps in much the same way that I’m arguing it’s bad form to talk about Israeli behavior with Jewish progressives without acknowledging anti-semitism? You might not lose all of your audience, but you might lose some, and you might get stuck in the weeds for a while with others. :-)

  191. Kristin
    January 17, 2009 at 6:47 pm

    “perhaps in much the same way that I’m arguing it’s bad form to talk about Israeli behavior with Jewish progressives without acknowledging anti-semitism?”

    But who has not acknowledged the existence of antisemitism?

    “I’m saying that it would be valuable to me, and maybe others, to hear an acknowledgment that ‘indiscriminate bombing’ in gaza is at least putatively targeting infrastructure where as ‘indiscriminate bombing’ in israel is (to the best of my knowledge) truly indiscriminate or even targeted at civilians.”

    Yes, the Hamas bombing is targeting infrastructure. Given the massive military disparities between the two sides, though, I fail to understand why this acknowledgement is necessary in order for you to believe that you’re not talking to someone who believes stereotypes about “evil jews who don’t value the lives of non-jewish children.” I am more worried about Gaza because “far more Gazans have died* in this war. I feel responsible for that because my tax dollars help to fund it, and *that’s* why I’m so much more concerned. I mean, jesus, my government already names Hamas as a terrorist organization. Whom have you seen defending Hamas on here?

    What in the world has anyone said that might make you think it’s because there’s so much antisemitism here on this blog? I have said over and over that I do not conflate Jews with the state of Israel as I think David does (And that David does this, I think, is… Well, I think this kind of conflation–Jews=Israel–exacerbates antisemitism throughout the world.). I don’t even conflate *Israelis* with the power that their state wields. You know? I’m worried about the disparities in power, and I don’t like the fact that my government sponsors these kinds of human rights abuses.

    Dude… My grandfather is a freemason. Our kind are kind of covered in the Protocols of the Elders of Zion too. It’s not like I’m unaware or drawing on any of these tropes–not in the least.

  192. January 17, 2009 at 6:48 pm

    Ben wrote: “I’m saying that it would be valuable to me, and maybe others, to hear an acknowledgment that ‘indiscriminate bombing’ in gaza is at least putatively targeting infrastructure where as ‘indiscriminate bombing’ in israel is (to the best of my knowledge) truly indiscriminate or even targeted at civilians.”

    It may be of value if you were talking with people who support one kind of imperialist war as opposed to another kind. By and large, however, feministe has not been a pro-war blog. It’s also not particularly pro-state, as I’ve learned from reading these threads. Or pro-bombing in a way that chooses to call one form of bombing better than another form.

    That’s the problem with misunderstanding your audience.

  193. January 17, 2009 at 6:56 pm

    Jews have been in the diaspora, true. But this is not necessarily a bad thing, or at least, it doesn’t have to be. In the current day, either everyone (in the sense that we’ve all moved and immigrated and displaced each other over history too often to keep track of) or a goodly chunk of people (in the sense that some people are in a place they feel comfortable considering “home”, but many others do not and “can’t go home” either because they don’t have the resources or there is no home to go to) are in a diaspora situation. So, the problem of the 21st century has to be figuring out to make a diaspora life one that allows its residents full flourishing, happiness, dignity, and equality as human beings.

    Did I get that more or less right?

    Yes, thank you — you did. Because I feel that my life and my family and community are in many ways part of an overall “insecure and nationless” universe, I also feel like it’s important to look at the positive side of being exiles, exiles at heart, and not just try to escape that condition. Not just run for a reassuring form of shelter where we wholeheartedly cheerlead for “our” nation-state (could there really be such a thing as “our” or is likely to be a scam at some level?) in exchange for putative protection. I think we differ a little in that respect, even though as I understand it, your whole life has been a diaspora life too, and you are not running to go live in Israel.

    As a political project, I think that sounds very good. And in a large sense, I think it makes sense to view that as our “goal” for progressive politics in the coming years. But, but, we’re not there yet. The diaspora might hold the potential for lives of mutual flourishing and dignity, but it isn’t there yet, and more importantly, we haven’t figured out how to get it there yet.

    This is where I disagree with you. We are there, right now. And at the same time we are not. You’re looking at it in a rather binary and monolithic way: either we’ve figured out how to make diaspora work and it can work, or we haven’t yet and it doesn’t work. Of course this doesn’t capture reality. There are some lives in diaspora that are wonderful, flourishing happy lives. I feel incredibly fortunate to have all the privileges that I do have — education, a roof over my head, food to eat, a job where I can be creative and use my mind, friends, family, love, and some measure of political equality that I’ve been able to wrest, in solidarity with my community and other oppressed communities, from the state whose shadow we live under. I am grateful for all of this. I think it’s a success of diaspora. That doesn’t mean that “living without a national homeland” is a solved problem or that it’s always good for everyone. Of course not. But many people do “have it good.” I am one of them. Maybe you are as well. This is part of why I mentioned “the American experiment” before as one way that Jews have coped with the pain and dislocation of diaspora. Is that a failure, something that hasn’t worked or we haven’t figured out how to make it work? Is the light not switched on there?

    The flip-side, of course, is that you can hardly call nation-building an unqualified success either. It also comes at the cost of many OTHER people’s lives, who are being stomped on in the process of building a nation that isn’t theirs and is never intended to be theirs. And I still don’t understand why you would support one solution over the other, especially since like you mention, you still live here.

    Generally speaking, of course I would support and project that an endangered community needs in the short term in order to survive and be safe, even if it does not help with what I see as real long-term goals. This happens all the time, in every political arena where have to balance the goals of liberation against the need for survival right now. But I think the cost always has to be weighed: the things you do for survival now, how much do they set back the long-term goals? Furthermore, are you willing to kill others, to take away their liberty, just so that you can pursue one strategy that might allow you survive and have yours? Even if there might be another way? This is a fundamental moral problem.

    I also note that your answer to question #2 doesn’t seem to be about the physical safety of Jews worldwide. It sounds like you are talking about the psychological state of people — the feeling that “Israel is there.” But look — if the actual, material safety of someone is endangered, isn’t anything that “gives them a feeling of safety” actually pernicious?

  194. Laura
    January 17, 2009 at 7:11 pm

    I am really just saying that I get uncomfortable when I hear those arguments made or endorsed in the absence of an explanation of how they were reached […] I think in cases involving Israel there’s historical baggage that makes me want to know I can engage in a debate in good faith and will not discover that I’m fighting an underlying assumption that Jews are out for palestinian blood and bent on global domination.

    Ben, I can assure you that (a) I do not believe either side is “bent on global domination” and (b) I don’t think any of the parties engaged in military action is “out for blood” in the sense that their primary aim is to kill innocent civilians, including children. What I do I think is that, on both sides of this conflict, there are some people who are prepared to use military force and that the amount of force used seems to end up causing civilian deaths on both sides in ways which I find horrifying and consider to be contrary to international law.

    Terrorists, obviously, are breaking the law. They may not be “out for” the blood of innocent civilians i.e. this is not their primary aim, but they think that killing civilians is justifiable in certain circumstances. As you said in post 177,

    “an enemy of the United States might think that even if you’re not a legitimate target because you further the objectives of the US, at the very least, because your government should care about you, an attack upon you might encourage the government to alter its behavior to stem the attacks.”

    In a situation such as the one you describe, the primary aim of the terrorist isn’t to kill civilians (i.e. they’re not killing civilians just for the fun of killing civilians), but they’d see that as a legitimate method to achieve their political ends.

    Some states use excessive force and cause harm to civilian populations in ways which suggest that although they are not “out for” the blood of innocent civilians, they are not taking all steps possible to keep civilian casualties to an absolute minimum. I, perhaps naively, still have an expectation that signatories to the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War should take especial care to abide by that convention, regardless of whether or not the other side is breaking the law.

  195. January 17, 2009 at 10:41 pm

    David wrote

    The diaspora might eventually be able to provide security for Jews. But right now, it’s still poisonous, and we have a right to say “I’m out”. So Israel is necessary right now for Jews, though it may not be necessary always and for all time.

    I wonder, David, if you have thought about how close this is to the “fifth column” canard that has so often been used against Jews. I also wonder how much you have thought about the tremendous privilege the ability to say this represents, and I mean privilege in the same sense that we say white or male or gentile privilege. I am well aware of the history behind the idea within the Jewish community that we cannot be truly at home anywhere but in Israel, and I am aware that there have been places where the Jews have been given no choice but not to feel at home; but there is also something to be said for our fighting to claim the place that is/should be ours and committing to that fight without hedging our bets in ways that disenfranchise others; and no matter how you cut it, not matter how subtly and validly you parse Jewish history to distinguish Zionism from other nationalisms, the inescapabe result of of the Zionist project has been and continues to be be the disenfranchisement of the Palestinians.

  196. January 17, 2009 at 10:42 pm

    I would have said more, but I am at a computer that is not working well. I wlil continue this comment later.

  197. January 17, 2009 at 11:12 pm

    Holly: Thank you for your kind response.

    This is where I disagree with you. We are there, right now. And at the same time we are not. You’re looking at it in a rather binary and monolithic way: either we’ve figured out how to make diaspora work and it can work, or we haven’t yet and it doesn’t work. Of course this doesn’t capture reality. There are some lives in diaspora that are wonderful, flourishing happy lives. I feel incredibly fortunate to have all the privileges that I do have — education, a roof over my head, food to eat, a job where I can be creative and use my mind, friends, family, love, and some measure of political equality that I’ve been able to wrest, in solidarity with my community and other oppressed communities, from the state whose shadow we live under. I am grateful for all of this. I think it’s a success of diaspora.

    There are indeed, some happy people in the diaspora. And some very unhappy. It’s a continuum, as I’m sure you’ll agree. The fact that the diaspora is, in fact, working for some people doesn’t mean that it’s working for everyone, or even that the maneuvers which make it work for some are the same levers we need to pull to make it work for all.

    I feel a lot of alienation in America, as a Jew. Nonetheless, I feel like this is my home and I’m happy enough here so that I’m willing to make my stand here. Not everyone agrees with me. Some people disagree because they’re a lot less alienated (as Jews). Some disagree because they’re a lot more alienated — so much more so that they can’t take it anymore, and have to leave.

    But one of the reasons I feel like I can stay here is precisely because if I had to — if I absolutely had to — I could set sail for distant shores. Not everyone who is in struggle has that option, and it’s one I’m grateful for, but it gives me the courage to stand here and fight. I don’t think the project of making the diaspora “work” — improving it and perfecting it — is incompatible with having an escape route. My favorite figure in American history (and one I find very tragic), W.E.B. Du Bois, spent his entire life trying to make “diaspora” work. But at the end, “I am departing America, and I have not set a date for return.” And he didn’t.

    Israel does provide psychological benefits to Jews (including — in the wake of a Holocaust — a huge statement that simply said “we are not dead, and we are not broken”). But the ability to go there is far and away the trump card. The US is fine now, but it might not always be, and there is really no reason to assume it will always be (not to mention, that even if it is nice domestic Jews, that it will extend open arms to Jews fleeing from elsewhere). Israel’s law of return is very broad — it protects not just Jews, but people who might be Jews or whose Jewishness is disputed, and people who descend from Jews and might be targeted anyway (there was a really bizarre article a few years ago about rising anti-Semitism in Israel amongst the Russian immigrant community, made up largely of people descended from Jews who don’t identify at all, in fact hate Jews, came for the economic opportunities, but still were covered under the law of return). Even America can’t promise that — or at the very least, it isn’t close to promising that yet.

    My girlfriend is in town this weekend, and I’m sure she’s going to put the kibbush on any more participation by me in these discussions (she worries about me). Instead, we’ll spend the weekend staring dotingly at each other. Take care everyone, and may everyone — here, in Israel, in Palestine, and around the world — find the peace, happiness, security, and contentment that is their due as human beings.

  198. Kristin
    January 17, 2009 at 11:55 pm

    THIS, yes:

    “I also wonder how much you have thought about the tremendous privilege the ability to say this represents, and I mean privilege in the same sense that we say white or male or gentile privilege.”

    I said something like this way upthread. I hope it’ll be answered this time around.

  199. Serena
    January 18, 2009 at 12:43 am

    To Shah8:
    The anti-Jewish riots all over the world that *were* as you say, a consequence of the events in Palestine is an idea disconnected from the long history of Jews as dhimmi. (My perspective is as an American who has Christian family from the Middle East.) There were pogroms against Jews long before (hundreds of years) the formation of Israel. A dispute between a Jew and a Muslim could result in the death of the Jew or even a violent attack on his entire community. (primary and secondary sources confirm this.) Additionally, why were people so quick to turn on Jews who had been living in “Muslim” lands for hundreds or thousands of years? Not all (some say not many) of them were “Zionists” and many did not plan on leaving thier homelands. Dramatic responses suggest that the Jews were always considered the “not to be trusted” disposable “other” regardless of their long history as native “eastern” peoples. This history, often left out of the “everything was fine before Israel came along” argument, is pivotal. People are quick to say that Muslims are more anti-Semitic than “everyone else”. However, when some leaders in North Africa welcomed Hitler to their shores, many Muslims saved the lives of their Jewish neighbors. At the same time, I see in my Christian family the emotional and psychological consequences of the dhimmi culture.

  200. Eva
    January 18, 2009 at 1:18 am

    Richard,
    I’ve been trying to think of a way to ask the same question without sounding like I’m invoking the anti-Semitic stereotype of Jewish arrogance. I understand the need to create safe spaces within a diaspora. I understand having fear in spite of them. I have recently moved to a part of the country where people regularly make Obama death jokes and spray paint racist graffiti, and I, as a visibly brown person, sometimes fear for my safety and become suspicious of even the kind and welcoming people I meet. But most oppressed groups do have to find a way to live with their oppressors. Years after the Rwandan genocide, the hutus and tutsis are still living together, and are making some effort to address past wrongs. After apartheid, and sometimes indiscriminate violence by the ANC, south Africa is working (albeit imperfectly) to heal some of those wounds. Black people live in countries they were brought to as slaves, or in the countries of their former colonizers. Other people have already brought up the queer community, and other groups that are persecuted nearly everywhere. So I guess when I hear someone passionately argue that anti-semitism means that Jews must have a safe space in which to escape, I do hear it as an argument that Jews are more special and unique than any other oppressed group in the world, and I don’t know how to distinguish the fair part of the question from the anti-Semitic statements about Jews thinking they’re better than everyone, statements I call people on when I hear them.

    David,
    I’m respecting your desire to not have your personal blog become an uncomfortable place for you, and I am truly sorry that this conversation has taken such a toll on you, but it strikes me that you may be misunderstanding one of the complaints about the series in a way that makes you feel much more attacked and vulnerable as a Jewish person than anyone making the complaint intended. I think what’s at issue is not that you chose to talk about anti-semitism in a progressive space, but that you were asked to speak about Gaza, and chose to write about anti-semitism instead. I can see why you were invited to guest post on the crisis—I did read your blog, and while I disagree with a lot of what you believe, I do think you had an interesting perspective on Gaza and Zionism, and I did learn something from it, and I do believe that your ultimate desire, like mine, is to see less loss of life. But imagine the reverse—you invite someone to guest post on your blog, and ask them to write about anti-Semitism, in the wake of an escalation of anti-Semitic behavior and hate crimes, and instead, they respond with a 20 page paper on Gaza. Would it not seem like an inherently argumentative and dismissive move, even if the two things are intimately related? I know the decision to run the series anyway was the editors’, but I don’t imagine it would have gone over well or satisfied you had they refused to run your series on anti-semitism, either. I know you volunteered the information, and backtracked from the Gaza frame completely, so I don’t want to attack you over it, but I do want to ask you to see some of those attacks, or anger about the series itself, as being about something other than the refusal of feministe commenters to discuss anti-semitism.

    Gogojogo,
    I know there are people who repatriate to Ghana, and people who feel very connected to Africa as a motherland, and I don’t mean to be dismissive of their experiences. But currently 40% of the world’s Jewish population lives in Israel, and black populations have never left diaspora countries in those numbers, or joined back to Africa movements en masse. And while I think Africa has always had a special relationship with even US based black nationalism, it’s always struck me as strangely colonial. In some cases, black Americans appropriate this very essentialized idea of Africa that has more to do with creating an identity as a black American than really understanding Africa’s history and politics. (ie, making up Kwanzaa, and calling it an African Holiday). When the nation of Islam called for an independent black state, they called for it to be on US soil. Perhaps this is a result of solidarity with colonized people, and an understanding of who “owed” black Americans a state, but it also speaks to a particular sense of where home is, and where it isn’t, even among radical separatists. I know a lot of black Americans who’ve gone to Africa and been greeted as long lost kin, and others who have been called “the foreigner,” or “the white person.” It varies from country to country, and time period to time period. Ultimately, my objection was mostly to Davis framing the issue in such a way that black Americans were defined as permanently foreign within the US.

  201. Torill
    January 18, 2009 at 7:46 am

    Ben: Is it not possible that increases in anti-semitic activity are not so much provoked by Israel’s behavior as excused by it (ie, I’m not firebombing a synagogue or knocking down gravestones because I don’t like what israel is doing, but because I think people won’t call me out on it and might praise it or tolerate it as an an anti-israel, pro-palestinian activity)?

    I think you are right to some degree – increase in anti-semitic behaviour during the current crisis is both a result of the belief among some that “finally people will understand what we have said all along about the Jews” (I know for a fact, for instance, that neo-nazis have come to anti-Isreali demonstrations in my country and done their best to turn them violent,) and a result of the usual demonizing of your enemy, using the current behaviour of the Israeli government as proof that Jews must be second-rate, bloodthirsty people, without reaching back to any old anti-semitic “evidence”. I mean, these kinds of people would do the same to any people whose goverment they are against.

    Both these two forms of anti-semitism – the old and the new – must be addressed and spoken out against no matter where they pop up. No question about that.

    David: and then when we try and leave and say “this environment is poisonous to me — I can’t breathe here”, we’re told we have no place to go, and indeed, we have no right to go any place.

    I think this is a very unfair image of the anti-zionists here David. Do you really, truly, seriously believe that the people on this thread or elsewhere who are against the concept of a state for Jews only, are in fact telling Jews that they have no right to flee if they are persecuted, but must stay and die? After all, what people here state that they are against, is a nation-state built on the idea of purity of its people, whether this purity is in respect to “ethnicity”, “religion”, “heritance” or other things – it is not in any “I hate all Jews, so fuck that state” way. And historically, you can’t even say that before Israel, Jews had no place to flee. During Holocaust, Jews fled both to the United States and to Sweden for instance, and were given protection there. We need to understand what it was that made states open their borders to fleeing Jews during WWII to understand what it will take to make this world a safer place for refugees of all kinds. This is a pressing, important challenge right now.

    I believe the founding of a pure “one people” state as a solution to genuine oppression and persecution is wrong for two reasons.

    First – if you believe this is a viable option, something even *necessary* if you are a minority living somewhere where things may get worse and you may be persecuted again – then it is impossible to maintain the idea that this should be an option available for Jews only. After all, Jews are not the only ones persecuted or discriminated against on this earth.

    But the implication of this idea is bloody – horrible in fact. If every other discriminated against group or refugee community should take this up as their preferred policy, and start forcing their own nation-building projects onto some unwilling “natives” somewhere they felt they had the right to do it regardless of what those living their might think, the result would be endless wars and bloodshed all over the place. After all, there are very few, if any, “emtpy places” left on the surface of this earth. As if we didn’t have enough of bloody wars with nationalistic overtones already, or endless discussions of ethnicity and “land rights” and how far back you need to be able to count your ancestors in a place to have an equal right to citizenship there. A truly bleak future.

    Second, less strategic and more of a core principle: I believe the origins of the : “One nation = One State” solution, the kinds of sentiments this idea rests on, to be exactly at the root of the problem of anti-semtism, or of any discrimiation or persecution of human beings – because it is these very sentiments that allows you to see someone else, a fellow human being, as foreign to “us”. The very reason why people fleeing from persecution or discrimination may be met with closed borders and the message: you are not welcome here because you are not one of “us” – you do not belong. Go back to where you came from. They are shooting at you there? Well, too bad for you. Not “our” problem.

    The only way to make the world safer for all persecuted people – to ensure that they will indeed have a place to flee in times of need – is to continue to work against all kinds of restrictions in immigration and refugee laws, constantly address all kinds of legislations against people of a certain race, ethnisity or religion to be allowed to enter your country. And the way to do this, is to challenge the very idea that any political state should have the right to remain “pure” in any sense of the word. Be reserved for one ethnicity or religion or race only. Instead, we have to continue to fight for an idea of “state” that means an “administrative region” where every citizen have equal rights, regardless of their “origin”. Because the very idea that “origin” should be a valid way of judging or classifying people with regards to rights *is* the root of the problem in the first place.

    This is a battle going on right now, and a very important one too. Of course, we haven’t yet totally overcome that concept of the “foreign” that threatens the “purity” (that word may not be used, but will often underlie resistance to immigration or asylum seekers) of our “own” people/nation. All dislocated people are certainly not living in happy peace and prosperity in the west today, agreed – but I do not agree that there is absolutely no progress in this respect over the last decades, and that we don’t know what to do to continue the fight. And I very seriously believe that creating one independent state each to every oppressed group, no matter how temporary those states were meant to be, is not just a pause in our work until we have found better strategies – it is a real set back, a way of giving up the fight. Because it means embracing the very ideas that are at the core of the problem in the first place.

  202. Tania
    January 18, 2009 at 8:30 am

    Dear David,

    I was going to send this as a separate email, but after reading the “Going Forward, Going Backward” entry on The Debate Link, in which you addressed people’s support of you and their fear of stepping into this particular ring, I decided to do it this way. THANK YOU for writing this, for your measured, well-expressed opinions, and your continuing to express them and engage people in the face of ad hominem and anti-Semitic attacks. Your posts have given me the strength to keep reading what has been one of my favorite blogs, where in recent days I have not felt welcome even as a reader. I am a part-Sephardic part-Israeli-American leftist who doesn’t think criticism of Israeli policies, past or current, or support of Palestinians, is at all incompatible with the belief in Israel’s right to exist in safety. I have been lonely in recent days, to say the least, both due to the amount of vitriol I see on various favorite feminist/leftist blogs, and also because someone like me is not supposed to exist in most mainstream oversimplified depictions of the situation. Your posts, and some of the responses to them (both the ones that make me immensely grateful that there ARE people like me out there, and the ones where people of opposing viewpoints expressed some willingness to understand other viewpoints), give me the strength to continue reading and engaging in dialogue. I was worried that you’d stop this series, and am glad you’ll continue on a once-a-week basis. I look forward to the next installment.

  203. Kristin
    January 18, 2009 at 11:41 am

    “However, when some leaders in North Africa welcomed Hitler to their shores, many Muslims saved the lives of their Jewish neighbors.”

    Not *all* leaders in North Africa did this either, it bears remembering. I’m seeing a lot of generalizing statements on here about how horrific North African leaders have been to their Jewish populations. It is true that there is–and has long been–discrimination. Nevertheless, you are correct that only *some* North African leaders welcomed Hitler to their shores. When Morocco was under French colonial rule–and France was occupied by Nazi Germany–it’s worth remembering that the king of Morocco then refused to turn over lists of the Moroccan Jewish population to the Nazi regime, saying as a deflection, “There are no Jews here, only Moroccans.”

  204. Kristin
    January 18, 2009 at 11:59 am

    *nodding along with everything Eva said @ 203 and Torill @ 204*

    In particular, Eva, thanks for pointing this out:

    “In some cases, black Americans appropriate this very essentialized idea of Africa that has more to do with creating an identity as a black American than really understanding Africa’s history and politics.”

    It makes me furious when I see the Back to Africa movement compared to Israel in such a facile way.

  205. chingona
    January 18, 2009 at 12:17 pm

    Eva, I don’t really want to contest your overall point, but I did want to say something about what you seem to be getting out of this statistic:

    But currently 40% of the world’s Jewish population lives in Israel, and black populations have never left diaspora countries in those numbers, or joined back to Africa movements en masse.

    I think this is apples and oranges. The 40 percent really doesn’t reflect the overwhelming desire of Jews to live in Israel, in my opinion. Prior to the establishment of Israel as a state, Europe was emptied of Jews. More Jews were murdered in the Holocaust than live in Israel today. So by getting rid of a huge percentage of the world’s Jews, whoever is left automatically becomes a bigger percentage of the total. Then, after the establishment of the state of Israel, life became intolerable for most Jews in the Arab world, and Israel was there not just to take them but also facilitating their departure. Everyone has acknowledged the right of persecuted people to flee, and you have Israel providing the means to flee and a place to go. So the Arab world becomes emptied of Jews, not really by the choice of Arab Jews. The only other place where there is a significant Jewish population is the United States. Holly has discussed how good Jews have it in the U.S. And guess what? American Jews are not departing en masse for Israel. The vast majority of American Jews, even those who identify with Israel, are perfectly fine with just visiting and have no desire to move there permanently.

    Looking at the American black experience, I would point out that at the height of lynchings in the 1920s and 1930s, Southern blacks did depart en masse for the North. I understand this isn’t the same as setting up your own country, which is why I’m not really arguing your overall point about whether that’s “fair.” But Arab Jews didn’t work to establish Israel. They took advantage of a pre-existing safety valve when things became intolerable, which isn’t that different from what Southern blacks did.

  206. chingona
    January 18, 2009 at 12:35 pm

    Kristin, I know you are a regular here, and I’m not, but I have a request, with all due respect. You have complained about being misread and called a Hamas-lover, etc. But you have been really quick to misread a lot of other people participating in this thread and assume the worst in their arguments. I did not compare Back to Africa to Israel in a facile way. I compared the ideas behind both as a product of a particular time and place. And Serena did not make broad sweeping generalizations about North Africans. She said the situation of Jews in the Arab world was more tenuous than some have acknowledged.

  207. shah8
    January 18, 2009 at 12:59 pm

    I have never thought that the situation was anything other than tenuous for jews in North Africa and in other muslim lands. Otherwise, the establishment of Israel wouldn’t have the effect it did.

    I do want to say, however, that most politicised minorities have this kind of tenuous existence where they must flee at some random point and return, if they do return, to nothing at all. Jews have never been alone in this regard anywheres, never without the likes of the Romany or the Coptic…

  208. Tara
    January 18, 2009 at 2:48 pm

    The argument that Jews’ struggles for our own freedom, liberation, and prosperity are somehow inappropriate because other groups are on other paths, with different/worse options, just does not make sense. We don’t live in a one size fits all world. At the same time that I acknowledge that as long as anybody is oppressed, no one is really free, I also don’t think that anybody has some kind of moral obligation to defer their own struggle for an improved life.

    Some times that has costs that do fall on other marginalized groups. Like a woman who manages to support herself and her kids in a job that actively perpetuates racism/sexism/oppression, like say advertising or policing or soldiering. I’m not going to call that woman a traitor.

    The idea that Jews are only entitled to whatever the most oppressed/marginalized group can have is just weird. What? Why? Is there some reason that *we* have to wait at the bottom and fight to address everybody else’s struggles *instead of* our own?

    I’m not saying that we don’t need to talk about the costs to other groups, but the assumption that any costs or differences at all are delegitimizing is bizarre.

  209. January 18, 2009 at 2:59 pm

    Eva @ 203: I do not think it is at all antisemitic to ask the question that I asked, even in balder terms than I asked it. The fact is that there is in the Jewish community, especially among conservative and orthodox Jews (my initial Jewish education was, from what I can gather, very similar to David’s) a very strong sense of Jewish exceptionalism that is perhaps not unlike the American exceptionalism you sometimes (and in the past 8 years all too often) hear expressed in this country. I do not mean to deny that there are aspects of the Jewish experience of oppression that are unique to Jews, nor would I want to dismiss out of hand the possibility that there might be significant differences of kind–and not merely of degree or emphasis–between the oppression of the Jews and, say, that of Blacks. Nonetheless, to suggest that, because Jews were oppressed in a particular way, that we deserve a solution that is unavailable to other oppressed groups, especially when that solution has the practical result of disenfranchising/oppressing someone else, is an arrogance that needs to be called out and called for what it is, exceptionalism of the most offensive kind. What would, I think, make the calling out antisemitic would be framing it along the lines of, “Well of course the Jews would ask for such a thing, you know how they are.

    That said, I want to acknowledge a contradiction within myself: I am not immune to the fear that motivates David and others like him to hold on to the existence of the State of Israel as a safe haven in the event it is needed. First, it is difficult to have grown up with the kind of Jewish education he and I share and not feel it, especiall because so much that education (at least when I went through it, and I am guessing I am probably 10 or more years older than David) is designed precisely to cultivate that fear. Second, my own personal experiences of antisemitism drove home to me a long time ago just how quickly the safety of the Jews in the United States could be undermined–and with the Holocaust still so recent in history, it is difficult not to connect that realization about antisemitism here to the possibility of another Holocaust, even if I grant that a Holocaust happening here is far less probable than it was in Germany in the 1930s and 40s. So that, even while I criticize the idea that Israel is necessary as a safe haven for Jews, I would be lying if I did not say that part of me feels grateful that Israel is there “just in case.” I would hope that, if push came to shove, I would have the courage of my convictions (and this is something I am hoping to write about on my own blog later today, if I get the chance) and choose against the privilege that is mine because Israel exists, but the contradiction is in me nonetheless–and, I imagine, in a lot of other Jews as well, and I want to acknowledge it.

    There is something else that just occurred to me: I think it is very important to distinguish between the Zionism that is Jewish nationalism that people like David and I grew up with and that Zionist Jews outside of Israel embrace and the Zionism that is Jewish-Israeli nationalism of Israeli-Jews–whether they were born there or emigrated there. It is one thing to call Israel a Jewish homeland from afar; it is quite something else to call Israel–and this is a very awkward phrase–“my Jewish homeland” because it is indeed your home country. I don’t mean to suggest that one is necessarily less problematic than the other, but I think we need to acknowledge that they are different as interior experiences and therefore can lead to different external results, and I recognize that those different results can be good, bad or indifferent. It just seems to me that when discussions like this happen Israel as its own nation, with its own identity, its own native population (by which I mean people who were born Israeli), etc. becomes invisible because we end up seeing Israel through the lens of Zionism as it is defined and promulgated outside of Israel. And that is not fair to the experience of Israelis, whatever their position is on the occupation.

  210. January 18, 2009 at 3:13 pm

    Tara wrote:

    The argument that Jews’ struggles for our own freedom, liberation, and prosperity are somehow inappropriate because other groups are on other paths, with different/worse options, just does not make sense. We don’t live in a one size fits all world. At the same time that I acknowledge that as long as anybody is oppressed, no one is really free, I also don’t think that anybody has some kind of moral obligation to defer their own struggle for an improved life.

    [and then later]

    The idea that Jews are only entitled to whatever the most oppressed/marginalized group can have is just weird. What? Why? Is there some reason that *we* have to wait at the bottom and fight to address everybody else’s struggles *instead of* our own?

    I never said either of these things, but our struggle for freedom, liberation and prosperity–if we live outside the United States–does not require the existence of the State of Israel, and so not to acknowledge that the existence of Israel, precisely because it disenfranchised the Palestinians, provides us with a privilege that other oppressed groups do not have, is to me the height of arrogance, no differently than a white woman who refuses to acknowledge white privilege, even when it stares her right in the face, is expressing the height of arrogance. I want to emphasize here that I am talking specifically about Jews who live outside of Israel. I think that, as I said in my previous comment, that when we start to talk about Israeli Jews, this question becomes more complex.

  211. January 18, 2009 at 3:26 pm

    Tara @ 210: Israel/Zionism did not simply make due with a larger system in whcih it was forced to work; it created a whole new situation of oppression. The analogy of a woman working a job just to support herself and her kids doesn’t work. It’s more like someone who rises from poverty by creating a new, extremely exploitative industry. And all of this on the assumption, which I and I think several others in this thread reject, that “the Jews” are some kind of simple monolith or unity, so that analogies with individuals work at all.

  212. Eva
    January 18, 2009 at 3:31 pm

    “The argument that Jews’ struggles for our own freedom, liberation, and prosperity are somehow inappropriate because other groups are on other paths, with different/worse options, just does not make sense. We don’t live in a one size fits all world. At the same time that I acknowledge that as long as anybody is oppressed, no one is really free, I also don’t think that anybody has some kind of moral obligation to defer their own struggle for an improved life.”

    Tara,
    I think the argument is that it is not, in fact a struggle for freedom, but that’s already been laid out pretty clearly, and if you disagree, you disagree. And I don’t think the point is even that Jews do supposedly have it better than other oppressed groups—in fact a lot of posters have been praising the concept of diaspora, and of fighting prejudice where you are, and citing its positive effects when compared to the nationalist ethnically pure state solution. What I’m objecting to is the argument that the existence of anti-semitism is in and of itself justification for Zionism. It does strike me as very very entitled to point to anger about a blog post as proof that Jews need their own state. My intellectual reaction is that it fails the moral imperative tests, because, as others have pointed out, it’s impossible as a universal solution to oppression, and in fact creates more of I, both in practice and by promoting the theory that there are certain essential kinds of people and they can’t mix without incident. My gut level personal reaction when someone points to a blog posts as evidence that the environment is toxic for them, but they’re being told they have no home to return to, is and, so? Where was I supposed to go when the other first graders called me a nigger and told me black kids couldn’t sit at the lunch table? Where I am supposed to go when every other comment on aol is about violent n—ers? Obviously, when you have a mass extermination situation, there is a need for a space, but there’s no need for it to be an ethnically pure space—borders should be open to any group facing that level of violence. People are mean to me and I don’t have my own country to go to get away from them just doesn’t strike me as a legitimate gripe. And as a woman, there’s nowhere in the world I can walk alone at night without being at least conscious of some threat to my safety, whether or not I’m with “my” people, so the whole idea of safety through ethnic purity seems laughable on its face. It also strikes me as really weird, because the people who have been angriest at David on most of these threads, perhaps because he’s essentialized their identities and purported to represent them, have been Jewish. If he’s physically ill over their comments, I can’t especially imagine him feeling at home in a Jewish space with, say, belledame, gallinggala, and littlelight.

    David,
    DuBois is also one of my favorite historical figures, but I find the end of his life very depressing—his writings from that period, in comparison with his earlier work, strike me as somewhat bitter, hopeless, and defeated. It’s understandable that he would feel that way, but he strikes me as a tragic figure, someone who gave so much to a movement and got so little in return that it ultimately broke him. And I think it’s interesting to think about DuBois in this context, because if he had a blind spot, it was, his occasional tendency to essentialize or overgeneralize from his own experience. One of his major missteps, for example, and one that led to his seeming out of touch in comparison with Garvey, was praising Jamaica as a country where blacks were able to freely govern. He didn’t understand Jamaica’s colorism, and the way in which being mixed race meant something different there than it did in the U.S, and so he saw black people running a black country, instead of light skinned people ruling a darker populace. (And Garvey, in turn, saw an upper class light skinned black leadership in the U.S, and declared them out of touch without understanding where the conditions in the U.S that created that were and were not like the conditions in the Caribbean.) Even in the age of Pan-Africanism, diaspora had made the experience of blackness culturally and historically specific.

  213. January 18, 2009 at 4:02 pm

    First, I second everything Torill said at 204–except we have to note that most Western countries had a disgraceful record when it came to accepting Jewish refugees during the ’30s and ’40s. Not everyone was as extreme as Canada, whose foreign minister said, “Regarding Jewish refugees from Europe immigrating to Canada, none is too many,” but most weren’t far from that (including the US and UK). In fact, I seem to remember reading something about how Hitler would taunt the Allies by offering to send all of the Jews in concentration camps to them if they were worried about them.

    David, it’s too bad you’re feeling so upset by all this, but the internets are a rough place. The Feministe bloggers are routinely subjec to threats of sexual violence just for running a feminist blog, and going on (especially in this space) about how upset you are by the criticism of your posts doesn’t make you seem less sheltered and self-absorbed. I’m not saying this to be a prick (honestly), just to encourage you to reflect more on the rhetorical figure you’re cutting. I really think that the sharply critical tone of many of the comments here is based on that, not on an attitude of, “Anti-Semitism? How dare you, sir!”

    I think there are other reasons for the anger besides “anti-Semitism” or irrationality. This is a blog where essentialist notions of gender, race, sexuality, etc. are routinely held up for ridicule or simply dismissed with one line of snark. Clearly people here know how these arguments work, or why it’s highly dubious to treat particular cultural/political identities as eternal rather than as historically constituted and inherent unstable, so it’s odd to see these sorts of arguments or concepts suddenly invoked here with a straight face (and regular readers probably aren’t inclined to be especially patient with this).

    Probably more importantly, many people here are used to seeing any criticism of Israel instantly shut down or silenced with (often quite furious) charges of anti-Semitism. I personally more or less gave up on trying to have rational discussions about the Middle East in this country some years ago, but when we entered the second week of a US-funded war machine killing civilians, with the major US politicians and media outlets jerking off to it, even my cynical resignation had reached its limits. So many people here are, I think, inclined to see this as just another attempt to delegitimate criticisms of Israel by saying they’re anti-Semitic, even if this attempt is more reasoned and less knee-jerky. And, I have to say, I’m still not seeing the evidence of anti-Semitism, structural or otherwise, at least not on the same level as attempts to silence critics of Israeli policy or Zionism. You have, for instance, the Campus Watch goons going around reporting professors whose syllabi, in their oh-so-enlightened opinions, are not sufficiently pro-Zionism. You have successful attempts to block the hiring of Juan Cole, simply because he runs a blog that criticizes Israeli policy and acurately reports public opinion in the Arab world, and the successful campaigns against granting tenure to Norman Finkelstein. Where are the comparable acts of intimidation directed at defenders of Israel?

    Don’t get me wrong, I do believe there’s anti-Semitism out there, witting and unwitting. I think that any talk of “‘Jewish’ power” is inherent anti-Semitic, since it implies that all Jews are somehow involved in the power of a few. Even if the 1,000 most important people in the United States (government, media, whatever) were Jewish, that would only be a small part of the total population of Jews in the US, to say nothing of the rest of the world. To suggest, even unintentionally, that all or even most Jews are somehow collaborating with these thousand, or are somehow included in their power and influence, does seem to me anti-Semitic. But all of your examples involve criticism of Israeli policy and/or Zionist ideology, which is bound to raise some hackles.

  214. Tara
    January 18, 2009 at 5:07 pm

    Eva,
    I’m not sure where the ethnic purity thing is coming from. Israel was never meant to be ethnically ‘pure.’ The laws of return were created in response to persecution based on ethnicity, so they’re also based on ethnicity. But there is no requirement to be either ethnically or religiously Jewish to immigrate to Israel.

    What I’m objecting to is the the existence of anti-semitism is in and of itself justification for Zionism

    I don’t really understand this. The existence of persecution is commonly accepted to be a justification for granting asylum. If that’s a good enough reason to grant asylum, but there’s nowhere in the world where a certain persecuted population can get asylum, it’s not obvious to me how there’s not a moral basis for creating a space where they can get asylum.

    Plus I’m not really certain before whom you think Zionism needs to be justified, or to put that differently, who in the world do you think would have the moral power to ‘approve’ of Zionism?

    My intellectual reaction is that it fails the moral imperative tests, because, as others have pointed out, it’s impossible as a universal solution to oppression, and in fact creates more of I, both in practice and by promoting the theory that there are certain essential kinds of people and they can’t mix without incident.

    I don’t really think we can judge responses to oppression by their universal applicability. That kind of erases the real world practical differences among oppressions and the possibility that different actions really are appropriate in different situations, and in different times. As for people not being able to mix without incident, I see it more as historically contingent. Divorce doesn’t mean that people can’t sustain committed relationships and identity based programming, whether it’s social, political, or national, doesn’t mean that we will never achieve a society where equity does not entail recognition of difference.

    Where was I supposed to go when the other first graders called me a nigger and told me black kids couldn’t sit at the lunch table? Where I am supposed to go when every other comment on aol is about violent n—ers?

    Should I learn from your experiences to understand that we should frown on the creation of safe spaces for marginalized groups? It kind of sounds like you’re saying that because there was no place for you to go, no one should have a place to go. I would want to learn the opposite lesson. There was no place for you to go, and that should never happen, and if part of the way of getting there is creating spaces with certain base rules, like that black people will always be welcome there and anti black racism will not be tolerated, that should be supported, even if those spaces are not perfectly inclusive themselves. Because some kids having a place to go is better than no kids having a place to go.

    It also strikes me as really weird, because the people who have been angriest at David on most of these threads, perhaps because he’s essentialized their identities and purported to represent them, have been Jewish. If he’s physically ill over their comments, I can’t especially imagine him feeling at home in a Jewish space with, say, belledame, gallinggala, and littlelight.

    I don’t want to speak for anybody else.

    When I discuss Zionism with other Jews, it *is* different than discussing it with non Jews. I can feel ill and angry at them and still feel at home *as a Jew* even if not at home in every other way. When I go to Israel, I can feel safe there *as a Jew*, even if not necessarily as a feminist/progressive/egalitarian Jew. Depending on where I’m coming from, that difference can be amazing and liberating, even if it still falls far short of my ideal.

    Maybe that’s because I’m a third generation holocaust survivor and second generation refugee. Maybe that’s because I am involved in Jewish learning and communities. Maybe it’s because I’m a white colored ashkenazi Jew with American speech patterns and accent who could likely pass. So what? It’s not essentializing to say that I don’t think I’m the only Jew who feels this way, even if it is generalizing, or to say that it is legitimate for this shared (even if not universally) feeling to have a practical impact on the world. IF we *don’t* require Jews to act as a hive mind with universal agreement before any action at all is legitimate.

    This idea that there shouldn’t be a Jewish state at all unless every marginalized group can have a safe space, and definitely not unless that state can be free of all racism and oppression in ever form and equally safe and good for every kind of opinion, bodied, religious, political, etc Jew and non Jew is not fair. It makes the perfect the enemy of the good and it asks a Jewish state to achieve something that no state has yet, in order to ‘earn’ the right to be ‘justified’ among other states.

  215. January 18, 2009 at 6:03 pm

    “The existence of persecution is commonly accepted to be a justification for granting asylum.”

    Asylum, yes. The creation of an ethnically-defined settler state that disenfranchises and dislocates the native population, no.

  216. Eva
    January 18, 2009 at 6:16 pm

    “Should I learn from your experiences to understand that we should frown on the creation of safe spaces for marginalized groups? It kind of sounds like you’re saying that because there was no place for you to go, no one should have a place to go. I would want to learn the opposite lesson. There was no place for you to go, and that should never happen, and if part of the way of getting there is creating spaces with certain base rules, like that black people will always be welcome there and anti black racism will not be tolerated, that should be supported, even if those spaces are not perfectly inclusive themselves. Because some kids having a place to go is better than no kids having a place to go. ”
    There wasn’t a place for me to go *away*, so my mother and I went back to the school and reported the bullying and threatened lawsuits and the lunch monitor made damn sure I could sit with my classmates, and I realized that most of the other kids were afraid of one kid who was a bully, whose absent father was a white supremacist, and who had, since his father’s absence, been emulating the speech he’d heard from him. I made friends. Years later I went to one of their high school graduation parties and enountered the bully who called me a nigger, who was drunkenly crying because his best friend– another black kid– was leaving for college. Obviously this is a micro example, and it’s playground level racism, not genocide. But it strikes me that the struggle we all consider ourselves a part of, the one to have it to be safe to be a human being, is rarely won by sectioning ourselves off and trying to make our distinctions absolute. I think it’s important to distinguish between flight as a matter of survival, and flight as a matter of avoiding discomfort, because discomfort is, unfortunately, a fact of being marginalized, and we only lessen that by fighting those who would marginalize us. That’s my ideologial issue, and we can disagree on that, because this need for a homeland (as an idea– not, in the case of Jews presently living in Israel, as a place that is, in fact, home), is just something I will never understand. But, I’m upset that my lack of sympathy for the view that Jews should have their own country is construed by some as inherently anti-semitic. Nobody else has their own country, and I believe it would be horrible for everyone if they did, so I’m not holding any special hostility toward Israel that I don’t hold toward nationalism, militarized states, and essentialism in general.

  217. Tara
    January 18, 2009 at 7:37 pm

    Nobody else has their own country

    What?

    British people have their own country. You have to show British descent or go through immigration procedures to live there.

    Japanese people have their own country. You have to show Japanese descent or go through immigration procedures to live there. etc.

    People from the Francophonie get privileged immigration routes to Quebec. People from the Commonwealth get privileged immigration routes (at least for working and scholarships) to the UK.

    There are Lutheran countries and Anglican countries and Catholic countries and Muslim countries.

    Lots and lots of people have their own countries.

    There wasn’t a place for me to go *away*, so my mother and I went back to the school and reported the bullying and threatened lawsuits

    Not everyone has mothers, or mothers who speak the same language as the school. That’s no reason for you not to benefit by the ability of your mother to be active in your school life. Conversely, if there had been a place for you to go away to, I wouldn’t blame you or your mother for a second for making that choice. As a person facing bigotry, you’re not under an obligation to educate or change your persecutors for the benefit of others, or even for your own benefit.

    the struggle we all consider ourselves a part of, the one to have it to be safe to be a human being, is rarely won by sectioning ourselves off and trying to make our distinctions absolute.

    It seems to me that you’re under a misconception about the nature of Israeli citizenship and immigration.

    You can immigrate to Israel in multiple ways. One way is through showing Jewish heritage. Like how you can show Canadian heritage and get a Canadian passport. Another way is to marry an Israeli. Like marrying an American. Another way is to apply for refugee status or asylum. In the absence of those factors, you can apply on the strengths of the contributions you could make as a citizen. Like to apply for immigration to Quebec/Canada, you accumulate points based on your education, assets, health, and French and English literacy.

    It’s only for the first category that ethnic heritage plays a role. And that’s 100% comparable to other countries. I can get Hungarian citizenship by showing Hungarian descent, even if that is through a grandparent who left when she was four and doesn’t speak a word of the language and is totally assimilated into another country. I can get Israeli citizenship by showing Jewish descent.

    There are many Israelis not of Jewish descent. Not having Jewish ancestors is not a bar against Israeli citizenship.

  218. chingona
    January 18, 2009 at 8:00 pm

    So that, even while I criticize the idea that Israel is necessary as a safe haven for Jews, I would be lying if I did not say that part of me feels grateful that Israel is there “just in case.”

    Thanks for saying this. I think I feel similarly – feeling one way on an emotional level and another way on an intellectual level.

    It just seems to me that when discussions like this happen Israel as its own nation, with its own identity, its own native population (by which I mean people who were born Israeli), etc. becomes invisible because we end up seeing Israel through the lens of Zionism as it is defined and promulgated outside of Israel. And that is not fair to the experience of Israelis, whatever their position is on the occupation.

    I think this is really important, too. I don’t see any way around acknowledging that a grave injustice was done to the Palestinians in the way Israel was founded. But I get really uncomfortable when people start with the colonial aspects of that and then extrapolate that to say or imply that Israeli Jews today are somehow inherently foreign to the land they were born and raised in. I understand that’s just one aspect of the point you were making, but it’s one way I frequently see that notion play out.

  219. chingona
    January 18, 2009 at 9:39 pm

    That’s my ideologial issue, and we can disagree on that, because this need for a homeland (as an idea– not, in the case of Jews presently living in Israel, as a place that is, in fact, home), is just something I will never understand. But, I’m upset that my lack of sympathy for the view that Jews should have their own country is construed by some as inherently anti-semitic.

    So here’s a question for anyone still participating. Is agreement on this issue the price of admission, so to speak, to being on the right side of this issue, from a leftist or progressive or Jewish perspective?

    If I can pick one thing where the discussion completely breaks down, it’s on this issue. There are a lot of progressive Jews – Jews who are opposed to the Occupation and appalled and sickened at the bombing in Gaza and who want the U.S.’s relationship with Israel to change – who still feel, at a very core level, that the oppression and violence suffered by the Jews is so exceptional as to merit the Jews having a country of their own. I’m coming at this from my own perspective and own bias, so it often seems to me that explicitly anti-Zionist leftists don’t want anything to do with these people unless they concede that the very idea of Israel is illegitimate. And they can’t bring themselves to say that or balk because they aren’t sure what, exactly, they are being asked to concede (for example, are they being asked to say that Israeli Jews should “go back where they came from”?) And it seems to me that from the other side, they feel that these progressive but in some way Zionist Jews want them to concede that at least the idea of Israel is a good or valid one. And they can’t do that.

    But (and here I assume most of those participating in the discussion are American), if we agree that we want a change in Israeli policy and we agree that we want a change in American policy toward Israel, a policy that asks Israel to make concessions and recognizes the human rights of Palestinians, do we need to persuade each other on the whole “idea of Israel” or can we agree to disagree?

    And here is a way in which Richard has a very good point about the way we tend to make Israel as a reality invisible. Israelis and Palestinians have been reckoning, for better or worse and often for worse, with the fallout of Israel’s founding since 1948. Ultimately, it’s up to the people over there to figure out what they can live with – one, multi-ethnic, multi-confessional state or two, ethnically based states or neither and a continuation of the present situation – and what comforts the ideological preferences of those of us on the outside really doesn’t have much to do with it.

    So if we what we think we can influence is our own government’s position toward Israel and the Palestinians, why do we need to put each other to these purity tests?

  220. Izzy
    January 18, 2009 at 10:43 pm

    Kristin, GallingGalla, little light and Eva are my HOMEGIRLS. non_sequitur is my homeboy…

    Do not leave.

  221. Kristin
    January 18, 2009 at 10:58 pm

    I just wanted to note that I have really appreciated the contributions from non sequitur and Richard Jeffrey Newman on this thread. I’ve learned a lot from each of you, and I’d love to see one of you write a guest post.

    chinonga: I was not directly referring to you or anyone specific wrt the Back to Africa comparisons. The comparison has appeared more than once on this thread (I do not by now even remember who made them.). I did find it facile each time. As someone who has lived extensively in a sub-Saharan African country, I find ignorant, generalizing statements about the history of the African-American struggle and its relationship to sub-Saharan Africa a bit vexing. It’s hard to draw comparisons at all, and it happens a lot–*a lot*–when it comes to Africa. Just saying.

  222. January 18, 2009 at 11:38 pm

    Kristin,

    Thanks for the kind words!

  223. Sylvia
    January 19, 2009 at 2:42 am

    Chingona- very well stated. I have absolutely no idea but I think the same thoughts every time I hear “Palestinians/Israelis will not concede the other exists legitimately.”

    Richard Newman, NonSequitor, Eva and Tara- please stay on or as Kristin said, write a Post- I’d be most curious to hear your thoughts. This has been very enlightening and might I add, even life-altering.

  224. Laura
    January 19, 2009 at 5:00 am

    “British people have their own country. You have to show British descent or go through immigration procedures to live there.”

    Well, yes, but “British” isn’t a description of an ethnic identity. To quote from Wikipedia, “The United Kingdom is a unitary state consisting of four countries: England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.” Northern Ireland’s had “The Troubles” due to very sharp differences of opinion about whether it should actually be in the UK or not (and that’s putting it mildly) and there are many in Scotland and Wales who want these countries to be independent states again. Going back before the time when Wales and Scotland were separate from England (and even that’s simplifying matters a lot), there have been many waves of immigration. When the Romans arrived, there were already many different tribes living in what’s now the UK. The Picts in what’s now Scotland seem to have merged with the Gaels, the Anglo-Saxons arrived in what’s now England, as did the Vikings, who mainly settled in what’s now the north and east of England but also established a very strong presence in Orkney and Shetland, then there was the Norman invasion of England. Gaelic, Welsh and Scots are separate languages from English. So even without other kinds of immigration which have happened subsequently, I’m not sure it’s really possible to think of “the British” as a group of people forming a single ethnic group with a single national identity and “our own” country.

    “So here’s a question for anyone still participating. Is agreement on this issue the price of admission, so to speak, to being on the right side of this issue, from a leftist or progressive or Jewish perspective?”

    Speaking for myself (and I wouldn’t feel at all comfortable trying to speak for anyone else), I don’t see how there can be a “price of admission” seeing as none of these are homogeneous (or mutually exclusive) groups with identical views on the issue.

    do we need to persuade each other on the whole “idea of Israel” or can we agree to disagree?

    And here is a way in which Richard has a very good point about the way we tend to make Israel as a reality invisible. Israelis and Palestinians have been reckoning, for better or worse and often for worse, with the fallout of Israel’s founding since 1948. Ultimately, it’s up to the people over there to figure out what they can live with – one, multi-ethnic, multi-confessional state or two, ethnically based states or neither and a continuation of the present situation – and what comforts the ideological preferences of those of us on the outside really doesn’t have much to do with it.

    Again, I can only speak for myself. Although discussing the past and how it’s shaped the present is very important, and even though the past continues to affect the present, even if we did all come to the conclusion that one particular event shouldn’t have happened or shouldn’t have happened in quite the manner in which it happened, we can’t change the past. So we’re all obliged to deal with the realities of the situation as it is at present. And, as you say, not all of us are having to deal with that present in the same way. So yes, I’d agree that ultimately it has to be up to “the people over there to figure out what they can live with” because they’re the ones most directly affected. I also think that the rest of us should be doing our best to support one or both sides in ways which are more likely to lead to peaceful outcomes which provide security and well being for both sides.

  225. Torill
    January 19, 2009 at 6:10 am

    Tara: who in the world do you think would have the moral power to ‘approve’ of Zionism?

    The Palestinians. Meaning, everyone who lived in the area that is now Israel, regardless of their ethnicity or religion. There were Jews too among those living in the area who did not agree with the founding of Israel as a Jewish state.

    You know, to me, this is what lies at the core of this discussion. The land the Zionists wanted to claim as their Jewish homeland was not empty. Someone lived there already. That’s what makes Zionist claims into nationalistic claims that I cannot support no matter who it is that makes these claims. In the words of non sequitur above: Asylum, yes. The creation of an ethnically-defined settler state that disenfranchises and dislocates the native population, no.

    To me it is nothing short of absurd that Zionists claim a “right of return” for all Jews the world over, qua Jews, based on a 2000 year old claim to the land, regardless of whether the Jews in question have any kind of actual ancestorial claim to that place. (Which, after 2000 years would be impossible for anyone to claim anyway. After that long a period, with all the migration that has happened in the world since then, I bet even I could find some link to people who lived in Palestine that long ago if it was possible to track my “family tree” that far back.) While at the same time, Palestinians who were driven out of their homes only 60 years ago, and can prove their claims with contracts and front door keys, are not granted any “right of return”, because they are not Jewish. I cannot approve of this kind of ideology, and I wouldn’t if it was happening anywhere else in the world either. I am not against it because it is “Jewish”. That would have been anti-semitism, certainly.

    It makes the perfect the enemy of the good and it asks a Jewish state to achieve something that no state has yet, in order to ‘earn’ the right to be ‘justified’ among other states.

    This is not what I am doing. I do not ask the state of Israel to achieve anything that I am not also asking of any other state on this earth. I have tried to say on this thread that I think the idea of “One people = One state” is wrong, no matter who it is that advocates it, because it has at its core a relationship to some basic ideas that form the very foundation of racism and discrimination. The very idea that “we” are something essentially special and separate from everyone else, and should have the right to remain “pure” and safe from the influence of the likes of “you”, so we should form our own state, have our own space, where we can make sure that “you” are kept away from “us” or at least kept in the minority and under “our” control, is, because of its real world consequences, a very bad idea. It doesn’t matter how “we” are construed, it doesn’t have to be based on “blood” or “race” for it to be wrong and for me to be against it, no matter where in the world this kind of ideology is made to be the basis of an actual, political state. I am vehemently against this kind of idea when it pops up in my own (Nordic) country too, and it does, sadly, yes. The whole idea that “foreign”, or “non-western” immigration in itself will threaten our “identity” as a “people” and must therefore be kept at a minimum is wrong wrong wrong and I willl fight it as long as I breathe. (This is very different from saying that immigrants must be loyal to our democratic constitution to be allowed to live here, or that we cannot accept more immigration than this area will be able to support economically. Those are valid opinions, but the claims that we must protect our “culture” or our “heritance” are not. )

    Tara: British people have their own country. (…) There are Lutheran countries and Anglican countries and Catholic countries and Muslim countries.

    Are there any countries where you will be given automatic right of immigration and settlement if you can prove that you or your parents are Lutheran? Or Catholic? If it is I have not heard of it – but if it exists I would say that policy was wrong, yes. And do you think it is a good idea that a state should proclaim itself to be “Muslim”, as opposed to an individual or a group of people? I don’t. My country has a “state religion” too, and I am vehemently against that idea I can tell you. It is also debated and contested here, and it seems like the much overdue separation of state and religion will happen in the near future. I am going to break out all the champagne the day that happens.

    I don’t think you can compare “British people” with “Jewish people”. To be “British” means nothing more than “living within the borders of the British state”. And within the British state live a multitude of peoples -nations if you will – with a mulititude of “origins”. Jewish too. The fact that you have white supremacist idiots and other racist idiots in Britain who want to reserve the term “British” for only white people, or people who can claim ancestry back to Arthurian days, or only Protestants, or any other such nonsense, is another story. They are very, very wrong too and must be fought, continuously.

    I think saying “Jewish” and “British” are the “same” defies any meaningful description of what it means to be a Jew, and I would have thought a majority of Jews would feel that way too. Just as I think a majority of American Jews feel that being “American” and being “Jewish” is not the same thing, and to belong to those two categories (as they of course should have every right to do!) have very different meanings for them.

    Perhaps the most dangerous aspect of saying that the “Jewish People” and the “British People” are at the same level of “People”, each with their own state, is that the British government could use exactly that argument against the Jews in their country and say “you have no place here because you have your own country, go there”. Neither you nor I want that to happen.

  226. Torill
    January 19, 2009 at 7:31 am

    I don’t know if anyone will keep coming back here to read this thread anymore – but I still feel I owe it to everyone who has participated to clarify a few things. Especially to those of you who declare yourselves as Zionists.

    First – I am grateful to non sequitur above for pointing out that I may have sounded unduly dismissive with regards to the very real plight of the Jews who tried to flee Nazi Germany in one of my former posts above. I do not wish to be seen as someone trying to hide or diminish the fact that desperate Jews met closed borders, a shocking lack of interest in or sympathy with their plight, and even, most shameful of all, co-operation with the Nazis in their rounding up of the Jews by the authorities in occupied countries, not aways at gunpoint either. There were many others than the Nazis who got blood on their hands in those days, both states and individuals, no question about it. I am against Zionism as a principle, and I have tried to explain why, and maintain that my reasons are not anti-semitic – but I do understand how the experience of the horror that is Holocaust and the lack of enough safe havens then makes many Jews feel that the state of Israel is a good idea, even necessary for them to feel safe in the world now. I am not holding it against any individual if they move there after experiences of real oppression, and I don’t think the Jews who live there today are all evil monsters. This probably needs to be said clearly in this context by anyone who declares themselves to be anti-Zionist.

    What I wanted to do in my post above, was to point out that there were exceptions, and that if we want to make the world a safer place for the persecuted, present or future, we need to study the dynamics that made some places safe for Jews and others not during the Holocaust. What was it that made almost the entire population of Denmark co-operate in the effort of helping their Jews to a safe haven in Sweden, when the majority of the population in other occupied countries did no such thing? And what made the government of Sweden decide to open their borders for the Danish Jews at that point? I am not for one second willing to accpet any kind of explanation along the lines of an “innate” goodness in the “Danish People” – that would be a racist notion in itself! If we can put any such ideas aside and instead look at the circumstances and forces that made this rescue operation possible, we may be able to recognise and strengthen those same forces today. And identify and strengthen those forces are what we need to do to avoid future holocausts. This was the point I wanted to make. I am sorry if I worded it clumsily and perhaps offensively in my post above.

    And second, and perhaps more important in this context: I do not, not in any way and under any circumstance, advocate a violent “dismantling” of the Israeli state of today, and a “sending them back where they came from” policy towards the Israeli Jews. They now have their real, actual homes within the borders of that state, and do not necessarily have any place to “go back to” that would welcome them. This kind of “solution” will only lead to more blood, more suffering, and only continue the endless transportation of suffering and wrongdoing from one group of people to another. Peace and Justice will not rise from such a policy, and I am against it, firmly. That, of course, has not been clear from anything I have written before.

    Also, to be crystal clear: I do consider the Palestinians to have an independent right to fight their occupants, as any people have the right to do. I do not support Israel when they say: we will only negotiate with you if you stop any vioence against us first. The violence against Israel stems from occupation, and that has to be recognised by the Isreali government.

    But – and this but is very important – I do not believe that the Palestinians – any more than any other people or state around the world – have the right to fight with any means. Targeting civilians, whether this is done by suicide bombers or rockets, is wrong. And I do consider any wishes and plans among some Palestinians to create a radical Islamic state to be wrong, because I believe a radical Islamic state is always a bad idea, no matter where it pops up or who it is that wants to create it. Anything the Palestinians do is not autmatically “good” just because the Palestinians are doing it.

  227. Torill
    January 19, 2009 at 10:03 am

    I do not believe that the Palestinians – any more than any other people or state around the world – have the right to fight with any means.

    That was me getting to tired to check properly before posting. It should have been, of course:

    I do not believe that the Palestinians – any more than any other people or state around the world – have the right to fight with every means.

    As it ended up in the posted version, this paragraph must have seemed to be severely contradicting what I had said only a few paragraphs before, of course. Sorry.

  228. January 19, 2009 at 3:13 pm

    Just thought, in the event anyone still has the energy for this topic right now, that I have begun a series of posts in response to the discussion David has started, posted on my blog and on Alas.

  229. January 19, 2009 at 3:15 pm

    Sylvia:

    I have only just now seen your invitation to guest post–and Kristin’s as well: I did not read your complimentary post carefully enough. Thanks! I’d be interested.

  230. January 19, 2009 at 4:01 pm

    Kristin, Izzy and Sylvia: thanks for the kind words.

    chonga: I would tend to share Torill’s reservations about the idea of a people, be they the Jews or anyone, needing or wanting their own state. Besides the very good ethical objections Torill raised, I think it also relies on the view that a people can only or can best express themselves through a state, and I think that’s fairly questionable (though very common in the nineteenth century). That being said, if Israel had been founded on an empty island somewhere, I wouldn’t have nearly as much of a problem with it. I might still object to it in principle, but I don’t think it would be nearly as pressing a problem.

    I think one reason discussions might tend to get bogged down on that point is that most of the time, when the question of the “legitimacy” of the state of Israel arises, it’s more or less stated as something like, “So, if you’re critical of Zionism as an ideology, that must mean you want to throw the Jews into the sea.” I’m not saying that you’re doing this, at all; I think it’s clear you’re not. But in my experience, this question is usually used as a way to try to equate criticism of Zionism as an ideology with hostility to the lives of Israelis.

    And by the way, being critical of Zionism doesn’t mean that I think the Palestinians would have been given a state or any kind of autonomy by the Arab powers of the day, or that if they had, that it would have been an especially progressive society. Likewise, I don’t think that those Jews who fled to Palestine to escape Nazi genocide did something “wrong,” as if they were supposed to stay in Europe and be murdered simply because there were valid objections to Jewish settlement in Palestine. The fact is that, as so often in history, there simply were no pure or wholly good choices. The problem I have is with ignoring this and insisting instead that Jewish settlement of Palestine, including by upper middle class American Jews who have never experienced anything remotely similar to what European Jews experienced before and during the Holocaust, is entirely justified because they believe the ideology of Zionism; you simply can’t believe this without buying into the “land without a people” business.

    I also agree that Israelis now have their own cultural identity (speaking Hebrew, etc.), and that they should not be forcibly sent “back” to anywhere. I think the reason to criticize Zionism is not because that criticism somehow wipes away the reality of Israeli society now, but because of the way that it’s used to justify monstrously repressive policies by the Israeli government (and US support for those policies). That being said, it has to noted that many observers think that if it weren’t for the “threat” of the Arab world to unite Israeli society, it would have exploded into civil war years ago, largely due to the divisions between Israelis who are secular and those who are religious zealots.

    And Torill, I didn’t think you were being dismissive of the persecution suffered by the Jews in the ’30s and ’40s. There’s just a tendency to act like the Allies were the heroes in that situation, and continental Europe the villains, and the reality is somewhat less edifying. The heroes in that story tend to be individuals, not governments (though as you note, there were exceptions).

  231. chingona
    January 19, 2009 at 4:53 pm

    I think saying “Jewish” and “British” are the “same” defies any meaningful description of what it means to be a Jew, and I would have thought a majority of Jews would feel that way too. Just as I think a majority of American Jews feel that being “American” and being “Jewish” is not the same thing, and to belong to those two categories (as they of course should have every right to do!) have very different meanings for them.

    They’re not the “same” and they do have different meanings for me and probably for most American Jews. But saying “Jewish” isn’t the same as saying “Lutheran,” either. It’s like both, and it’s like neither. It’s its own thing. Sometimes it seems like people who aren’t Jewish want to push us into whichever box best fits the argument that they’re trying to make at any particular time, instead of just accepting that it’s its own thing. When I’m outside the United States, and someone asks me “what are you?” I say “American.” But if I’m inside the United States, I would answer the same question by saying “Jewish,” where another American might say “Irish” or “Swedish” or “Korean.”

    Let me emphasize this part of what you wrote: I would have thought a majority of Jews would feel that way too. Well, you would have thought, but you might have thought wrong. If a significant percentage of Jews see Jewishness as something similar to or analogous to, if not actually “the same as” nationality, are they wrong? How will we decide?

    I have no problem with people saying they see a fundamental problem organizing states around ethnic/religious identity. Several people have made the case very well here for why they don’t think it’s a good idea (and I want to thank you for your generally very thoughtful posts, because I’m sure I’m coming off as testy here). But when someone says, “Jewish isn’t a nationality” as if that magically settles it once and for all, it’s really annoying, and all I can hear is “gotcha,” like the person thinks they’re very clever, when really they’re not. I don’t think arguments against Zionism are convincingly advanced by just trying to redefine on behalf of Jews what it means to them to be Jewish, any more than arguments for it are convincingly advanced by over-essentializing what it means.

  232. chingona
    January 19, 2009 at 4:56 pm

    ps – Richard’s post at Alas is very good. And there are several other good ones on this topic over there.

  233. January 19, 2009 at 5:21 pm

    By the way, chingona, I misspelled your name in my comment above. Sorry about that.

  234. Kristin
    January 19, 2009 at 7:22 pm

    Richard’s post over at Alas is very good. Looks like he’ll be doing a series as well.

    Richard: I’m a regular here, but not one of the moderators. I’d email Lauren if you’re interested in guest-posting. I know that Lauren and Holly are both interested in finding other people to write on the topic here.

  235. chingona
    January 19, 2009 at 7:27 pm

    That’s okay, happens all the time, though the way you spelled it sounds pretty gross if you say it out loud. I won’t take it personally.

    I hope I’m not coming off as more Zionist than I am in these posts. (If it’s not clear by now, the ideas of Zionism used to have a lot of emotional resonance for me, even as I could not really defend them intellectually, and I’ve finally just given up and decided that no, it probably wasn’t a good idea and definitely wasn’t executed in the right way.)

    I think one reason discussions might tend to get bogged down on that point is that most of the time, when the question of the “legitimacy” of the state of Israel arises, it’s more or less stated as something like, “So, if you’re critical of Zionism as an ideology, that must mean you want to throw the Jews into the sea.”

    Exactly. But I think there is a corollary, along the lines of “You defend Zionism as an ideolgogy. You must be cheering the bombing in Gaza,” and depending on the make-up of a particular community, you get more of one or more of the other. I think the former probably is more common, but I don’t like the latter either. And I’m wondering if we can scrap both these lines of attack. But probably anyone still participating at this point isn’t really saying anything quite that crude, so …

  236. Torill
    January 20, 2009 at 8:37 am

    Thank you for your kind words, non sequitur. I have not read you as particularly testy – but if you were, you would probably be more entitled to it when discussing this topic than me as a non-Jew.

    Actually, I “would think” (and yes, of course, that is only me thinking and I may be wrong, always) that many Jews around the world will indeed identify with a “Jewish Nation”, and not necessarily be “wrong” in doing so either, as long as we see a “nation”/”people” as not the same thing as a “state”.

    I think one of our problems here is exactly how to sort out and define words like “nation” and “people” – not to mention “ethnicity” or “culture” which in themselves are very tricky and elusive words, open to abuse by any racist idiot on this planet! Any categorization of groups of people will be wrong in some contexts and inaccurate in most, and always open to abuse by a various of agendas…

    So since context is adamant here: I protested against comparing “British” and “Jewish” by saying that I see these two categories as not on the same level of “people”, in a context where it was said that “The British” have their own country. There *are* those who want to define “British” as an ethnicity, certianly, as a specific “people” originating on the British Isles – or at least having roots there dating from right after the Norman invasion. As opposed to descendants of later immigrants, from the old British Empire or elsewhere. In some contexts this may be meaningful and perhaps not even racist or bad. And defined on this level, you can compare a “British” people to a “Jewish” people if “Jewish” is not taken to define a religious group. But if you define it this way, you cannot say that “The British” have their own country. The “British” defined as a “people” live in a state – The United Kingdom – that does not consist of people of British origin only. They have to share their country with a multitude of other “peoples”, from a mulititude of other “origins”. Some who define themselves as “British” are not willing to do that, and fight for a “pure” Britain (- or, rather, a “pure” England, it seems is the idea, Scotland and Wales be damned, flying the “pure” English flag (red cross on white) and all). Lets hope they never win…

    This is why I think you cannot – as I read Tara trying to do – compare the British immigrant laws where everyone with a connection to the British Isles or the countries of the old British Empire, now called the Commonwealth, has the right to a British passport – with the “right of return” for all Jews to Israel. No matter how wide you define “Jews” – all kinds of ethnicities etc. (Will a Jew that has converted to Catholisism be granted “right of return” by the way? This is not meant to be a rethoric question, because I really don’t know the answer, but would like to) – it does not compare to the policies of the UK. Because Israel denies the Palestinian refugees a “right of return” no matter how very very real and recent their connection to Israeli land is, because they are non- Jews. This is not comparable to the British immigration laws.

    All that said – I think Tara is right when she says the Jews are not the only people who have created their “own” country. Just recently the Serbs and Croats did just that when they participated in tearing the old Yugoslavia apart, and created Serbia and Bosnia-Hercegovinia for themselves instead. The “One People = One State” ideology is not dead in the world by a long shot, and it wasn’t invented by the Jews.

  237. Tara
    January 21, 2009 at 1:15 pm

    (Will a Jew that has converted to Catholisism be granted “right of return” by the way? This is not meant to be a rethoric question, because I really don’t know the answer, but would like to)

    Yes, a Jew that converted to anything is still eligible to immigrate to Israel. The standard is based on Hitler’s definition of a Jew, with the idea, if I understand correctly, that your own personal approach to your Jewish/religious identity may not matter a whole lot as to whether or not you’re subject to persecution as a Jew. The Jewish religious definition of Jewish requires conversion to Judaism or a Jewish mother. So the two are completely unrelated.

  238. Tara
    January 21, 2009 at 1:16 pm

    (Hitler’s definition being – anyone with at least one Jewish grandparent)

  239. January 22, 2009 at 2:28 pm

    I am posting this in the comments of both of David Schraub’s posts:

    I just want to let people who might still be interested know that there’s a very interesting conversation going on about some of the issues David was trying to raise at my blog.

    I also want to invite people over this post: Maybe We Should Share Our Stories of antisemitism on Alas.

  240. January 24, 2009 at 10:46 pm

    I hope this series is to continue. Clearly it is controversial but I have been really interested in the topic and seeing where it was all leading.

  241. B.BarNavi
    February 8, 2009 at 2:42 pm

    *sigh* Walt and Mearshimer have repeatedly said that the behavior of the Israel lobby is no different than that of the “China Lobby”, or arguably the Cuba lobby (esp. since the collapse of the USSR). In all cases a domestic lobbying interest is steering U.S. policy in a manner that doesn’t directly benefit U.S. interests. You cannot accuse them of singling out Jews.

Comments are closed.