Monday, September 07, 2009

Anti-Semitism: A Field Guide

This came up in the comments of another post where I had labelled (now former) Obama administration "green" czar Van Jones an anti-Semite for claiming the entire history of Israel since 1948 was an "occupation" thus making Israel an illegitimate state.

Oh no(!) claimed a commentator. This is merely "criticism" of Israel! Not a statement about it's right to exist!

Nonsense. Not only is it nonsense, it is unthinking, uncritical nonsense. This can be proved by looking at the history of the region. If the intervention of the UN and other Western powers makes the existence of Israel an occupation, well why isn't Jordan, which was created by the same kind of mechanism not also an illegitimate occupation? (A Google search of the sentence "Jordan is illegitimate" returns 3 hits. "Israel is illegitimate" returns 491,000.)

Now, given the similarity in the manner of their birth, what distinguishes the primary difference in the responses to the creation of the state of Jordan versus the state of Israel? Could it be that Israel is a Jewish state while Jordan isn't? Sure seems like it to me.

It should seem like it to every thinking person.

8 comments:

INW said...

Just because Israel was established in part by ethnic cleansing does not mean it is illegitimate. The U.S. was founded in much the same way and is legitimate just as Israel is. Nonetheless, a compassionate person can have sympathy for the dispossessed. If you were empathetic, you might be able to see how from a Palestinian point of view, the occupation dates from 1948 (or from an Amerindian point of view the occupation dates from 1776 if not 1607 or 1492).

I don't know what Van Jones' positions are and I don't care, but saying that he supports pogroms is unfair. That we would be like branding Republican State Senator Kim Hendren, a candidate for one of AR's U.S. Senate seats, an Anti-Semite for saying in May of this year that he supports "family values" unlike "that Jew" Senator Charles Schumer.

I am, however, weary of being told that not supporting the Likud position on say illegal Israeli settlements in the Occupied Territories is ipso facto anti-Semitism. The reception Abraham Foxman gave Mearsheirmer and Walt's The Israel Lobby is an excellent example of branding criticism of Israel as being "anti-Semitism." So is the pressure campaign against Norman Finkelstein's tenure at DePaul. This is the new political correctness.

If you really value freedom of speech and academic freedom, let's debate the issues. Calling people an Anti-Semite is just name-calling and doing so to score cheap political points devalues the term and makes it lose its sting.

The Iconic Midwesterner said...

No, I really think you are engaging in an attempt to "define anti-Semitism" down. For example, you rather blithely call the establshement of Israel "ethnic cleansing" while the partition plan of 1947 was nothing of the sort. Yes, things took a turn for the worse, but only after the invasion of Israel in 1948 by the arab states. Also, if we are going to open all question back to 1948, why cant we question the annexation of the West Bank by Jordan in 1950? Why is that automatically legitimate (and thus any action by Israel labelled "illegal"), while any claims AGAINST Israel demand compassion, empathy and context or whatever?

I see a pattern that demands far more from Israel then from arab states. Why the double standard? Why is that the new "normal"?

As for Jones, well, i do care. If he really thinks Israel represents an illegal occupation of Palestinian lands, well, why wouldn't he support the expulsion of Jews from the area? He is stating he doesn't believe they have a right to be there in the first place. To say this is the equivalent of disgreeing about domectic politics with a person who happens to be Jewish...well, I find that odd. It was the use of the term "that Jew" that smacked of anti-Semitism in the Hendren case. As if being Jewish automoatically meant one held suspect beliefs. it was certainly meant to indicate that Jews were the "other" something foreign, alien, to be feared.

In a similar fashion, people who raise ideas that amount to a conspiracy theory about a secret Jewish cabal pulling strings "behind the scenes" well, I'm sorry, but you are going to get criticized and rightfully so.

The Iconic Midwesterner said...

This is a good example of the kind of thing I'm talking about when I say "defining anti-Semitism down".

Once again the US and Israel, not to mention the eternally feckless Europeans, have been put in a bind by the “moderate Muslim” world. Choose your poison: Do we swallow hard and go with your average, everyday, anti-Jewish, book-burning, non-Islamist bigot and his dictator patron, Hosni Mubarak, if the “moderates” promise to keep the really, serious book burning, anti-Jewish Islamist bigots—the Muslim Brothers in Egypt and the Muslim Brothers (HAMAS) in Gaza—at bay?

I can appreciate why, as a matter of national security, Bibi and the Israeli’s will go with Mubarak and the non-Islamist, anti-Jewish bigots, rather than the Islamists. And I can understand why the folks over at Foggy Bottom might have to play nice with Mubarak, at least officially. But could we be spared, please, all this talk about “moderate Islam.” Maybe there are a few moderate Muslims in the Middle East, but where are they? Where are the Muslim intellectuals and religious leaders in the Arab world denouncing the candidacy of this book burning anti-Jewish bigot? Is that too much to ask?


Sadly, these days, it does seem to be too much to ask.

INW said...

You completely ignore my comments about the reception the ADL's Abraham Foxman gave Mearsheirmer and Walt's The Israel Lobby and the pressure campaign against Norman Finkelstein's tenure at DePaul. Typical.

Moreover, the expansion of existing settlements on the Occupied Territories as well as the building of new settlements there is active ethnic cleansing and illegal to boot. I wonder how many times the "liberal media" in this country reports those facts. Haaretz does as well as many European newspapers. So much for your claims of anti-Semitism.

The Iconic Midwesterner said...

Moreover, the expansion of existing settlements on the Occupied Territories as well as the building of new settlements there is active ethnic cleansing and illegal to boot. I wonder how many times the "liberal media" in this country reports those facts.

Well, let's see.

From CNN we have:

This, this, and this.

Wall Street Journal
Washington Post
Oh, here is one for you, Voice of America
New York Times
AP
LA Times
Bloomberg

Hell, they are even talking about it in the Dubuque Telegraph Herald

So the idea that the media is trying to "hide" these stories is demonstrably false.

As for Finkelstein, well I only know what I read on the internet. All I can say is I would urge DePaul to strictly follow their own procedures on such matters, and if they were indeed not followed that is wrong. However, a private university is free to have their own standards when it comes to tenure decisions. As best Finkelstein is an irritant likely to embarrass the reputation of the University (as happened when Finkelstein withdrew charges of ghost-writing and plagiarism against Dershwitz after he threatened to sue for libel, or would have happened after he was expelled from Israel because of his links to Hezbollah.)

I did like this quote about the work of Finkelstein:

It is filled with precisely the kind of shrill hyperbole that Finkelstein rightly deplores in much of the current media hype over the Holocaust; it is brimming with the same indifference to historical facts, inner contradictions, strident politics and dubious contextualizations; and it oozes with the same smug sense of moral and intellectual superiority... Like any conspiracy theory, it contains several grains of truth; and like any such theory, it is both irrational and insidious.

Oooh! Were do I sign up for more of that!!??

Finkelstein can, of course, write whatever he wants. And he has certainly made his entire career by being an academic bully, but he has no inherent right to tenure at a given institution. He would probably be better served by going to an institution more open to his views and his style of "hey, look at me! I'm a radical!" scholarship ...like NYU perhaps.

(Also, hearing he is a protege of Chomsky doesn't really inspire confidence in his intellectual acumen.)

to be continued.... (too long)

The Iconic Midwesterner said...

And why shouldn't Foxman be allowed to write a rebuttal to the "Israel Lobby" exactly? How is that wrong? Foxman's book was praised by Publisher's Weekly, Dennis Ross (Clinton's Middle East coordinator and now an advisor to Mrs. Clinton), Charles Hill (Distinguished Fellow in International Security Studies, Yale University) and many others. How is his criticizing something wrong?

I'm not saying you have to agree with Foxman (I've not read his work so I'm not sure *I* agree with him), but you are giving the impression there is something wrong with the mere existence of his work.

(BTW I did refer to the Israel Lobby in my earlier response...what did you think this-

In a similar fashion, people who raise ideas that amount to a conspiracy theory about a secret Jewish cabal pulling strings "behind the scenes" well, I'm sorry, but you are going to get criticized and rightfully so. -
Was referring to?

The Iconic Midwesterner said...

Oh, and before you continue to claim that DePaul was acting on behest of some Jewish pressure, may I remind you of the case of Professor Thomas Klocek?

DePaul University administrators suspended Professor Thomas Klocek without a hearing after he engaged in an out-of-class argument with pro-Palestinian students at a student activities fair. When the students complained that they were offended by Klocek, he was denied the rights that DePaul guarantees to professors accused of wrongdoing and immediately suspended. Statements from DePaul administrators indicate that Klocek was disciplined because of his harsh criticism of the students' viewpoint, despite DePaul's stated commitments to free speech and academic freedom. Klocek received a letter confirming his punishment of suspension with pay and further stating that he would be able to teach only one class the following semester, which would be subject to observation.

I will refrain from saying it was "typical" that you didn't make a note of the Klocek case because,

A) I dont know what your "typical" is, and

B) Maybe you never heard of it.

The Iconic Midwesterner said...

Oops, forgot the link for the Klocek case.