Thursday, January 23, 2014

Our politics and theirs

David Hirsh has written an important post on Engage: Opposing the campaign to exclude Israelis from the global academic community. It is worth reading for resources and guidance on exactly what the title says. But I think it is also worth reading for the way it clarifies "our" politics and "our" political moment. The first point that David makes is that the boycott movement - like the wider BDS movement and in my view perhaps also the "stop the war" movement - is a symptom of the crisis of the left. This means, I think, that its growing success is not an indicator of the growing success of the left but almost of its opposite.
We live at a time when the positive creative movements for a better world are largely defeated and have been replaced, for the moment, by movements for resistance and opposition.

Supporting the boycott of Israel offers the opportunity to appear radical without having to do anything. ... The boycott doesn’t help change the situation in Palestine or in Israel but it does address the personal needs of boycotters to avoid feelings of complicity. 
Pathological narcissism 
In a recent tweet, Noga used the term "pathological narcissism" to describe anti-Israel campaigners, which I think aptly sums up what David is talking about here. Western anti-Israel politics is almost always about us, the West, and not about Israel/Palestine. David again:
For some Europeans and Americans, Israel is ‘us’ but not quite ‘us’. People think of it as “white” or “western”, they point to the support it receives from the US and Europe; yet it can be disavowed, our own “western” failings can be put onto its shoulders...

The boycotters are good at framing the boycott issue as defining who is good and who is bad. Supporters of the boycott are constructed as “pro Palestine” and opponents of the boycott as “pro Israel” – then to many people it is obvious which side one must be on, to stand with the oppressed nation not the oppressor nation, against (US) imperialism not for (US) imperialism. The conflict on our campuses seems to be between wavers of the Israeli flag and wavers of the Palestinian flag. We refuse to pick up one or the other flag and to hope for its victory; better to embrace a politics of reconciliation....
What David is criticising here is what we might call the "camp thinking" of the BDS movement, and of the wider "anti-imperialist" left of which it is part - reminiscent of the Cold War division of the world into two rival blocs, with many socialists sucked into a "second campist" position of support for the terrible Stalinist tyrannies because they were "against" the capitalist camp. 

Camp thinking
The term "camp thinking" (taken up by Paul Gilroy in his book Between Camps, an attack on “the lore of blood and bodies, and fantasies of absolute cultural identity”) was used by the 1960s German leftists Negt and Kluge. They spoke about the 1920s, as Communism shifted from a revolutionary ideology into a militarised defence of the Soviet state. They wrote:
Within this camp mentality, difference of political position, the smallest deviations from the general line, and indeed, criticism become insupportable because the autonomy is unstable and in actual fact under constant threat. What the Stalinist party organization does with individual communists who transgress or call into question these clear... demarcations (this as a rule entails avowals of loyalty to decrees and programs) corresponds to the attempt of the ruling power within the socialist camp to pledge the various parties working under specific conditions in other countries to its line of foreign and defense policy.
I think today's "anti-imperialist" left has reproduced this camp mentality. The boycott gesture is the membership test of the camp, the leap of faith one is expected to make; anti-Zionism is the cultural code by which members recognise each other.

Solidarity
The second campism of the narcissistic Western left is above all a failure of, a retreat from, real solidarity. David again:
We need to have a conversation about what solidarity is... .Solidarity begins there not here. It doesn’t answer our needs first, it relates to others first. We are interested in peace in the Middle East, not in our own political cleanliness and not in using events far away rhetorically against our own enemies at home.... Solidarity is always also a responsibility to engage and to think for ourselves. Solidarity changes ‘us’ as it changes ‘them’, it is never a slavish or a one way responsibility to ‘answer a call’ or obey those who claim to speak in the name of the oppressed....Solidarity is about relating to the reality of diversity within Israel and Palestine, not treating each as a single monolith wrapped in a flag....
Non-Jewish Jews
As well as this critique of the failure of solidarity, David also makes three important points about antisemitism. First, there is the issue of the "as a Jews", whose own narcissistic politics licenses the gentile BDS movement:
Much of the energy for the boycott campaign comes from anti-Zionist Jews. They are no different from many Jews in so much as, for understandable reasons, they are especially concerned about Jewish issues and about Israel – its crimes or its victimhood, real or imagined.

Sometimes small groups of anti-Zionist Jews are successful in exporting their own particular concern about Israeli human rights abuses into non-Jewish civil society organizations like trade unions or academic associations. This then creates an anomalous situation with respect to consistency.
Some anti-Zionist Jews today express their Jewishness primarily through their hatred of Israel, just as some other assimilated Jews feel their Jewishness primarily through an attachment to antisemitism.* These are interesting dynamics of Jewishness. But they have been allowed to drive the agenda of whole swathes of the mainstream left, who surely have better things to focus their energy on. 

The politics of vengeance
Second, there is the way that the Western anti-Israel left, both its "as a Jew" strain and its gentile majority, vicariously identifies with the damaged identities of Palestinians, arguably another form of narcissistic politics, which opens it up to damaged identity's antisemitic hate:
If you were brought up in a refugee camp under the occupation of a Jewish army, it might be understandable, though by no means inevitable, if you internalized a hostility to Jews; If you were brought up under the threat of suicide bombs, and missiles with hostile Arab neighbours, it might be understandable, though by no means inevitable, if you were to internalize a hostility to Arabs. But we, in our comfortable academic lives do not have such reasons or excuses to embrace a politics of violence, exclusion or racism.
Locating antisemitism
Third, he makes a point which I have tried to make a few times on this blog: that antisemitism, like all racisms, should not be seen as a thoughtcrime, is not about intent, is not a feature of "antisemites" - but rather should be seen as a social fact, in its effects, as words or stories or images:
antisemitism, like other racisms, does not always appear as open and conscious hatred. Often it appears as ways of thinking; often it appears as unintended effects; often it appears in rhetoric which mirrors older antisemitisms. Antisemitism is an objective social phenomenon, not simply a malicious motivation inside people’s heads. There can be antisemitism and racism which is not caused by hatred and which is not a result of an intention to discriminate.
 ***


Also read:

David Hirsh:What do the intellectuals who try to organise a boycott of Israel have in common with Dieudonné and Anelka with their Quenelle? and So how does it work, the quenelle?; Contentious Centrist: How to Promote Conversation And Preserve Academic Freedom by Boycotting Israeli Academic; Kenan Malik: Dieudonné: the Clown of the Anti Age; Jeff Weintraub: Defend academic freedom from boycotts and blacklists; Rob Marchant: Politics 2.0; Clay Claibourne: Echoes of America First in the anti-war movement.

Previous: Cosmopolitan reflections versus (inter)nationalism; Who should decide who makes a good Jew?; The manichean left; The politics of solidarity, beyond left and right; Good and bad ideas.

Update:
*This sentence edited 27 Jan. See comments below for why.

104 comments:

David said...

That's nice Bob. :-)

contested terrain said...

Q of clarification about the "camp thinking".
Are you arguing against the idea that camps exist? That, following the breakdown of the East-West block order, that global or ideological power blocs no longer exist?
Or are you arguing against the content of the "anti-imperialist" camp? (Because of the joining of right and left wing forces?) Or because of the authoritarian homogenization within them towards critics?
And, are you arguing against "camps" as such?
Are they necessarily authoritarian and homogenous? Or can they rather have emancipatory content and form? Can they be pluralistic, open, democratic, and filled with emancipatory content?
Isn't it the case that an emancipatory left praxis -- whose anti-racism includes an opposition to antisemitism -- today must not only break apart the "reactionary anti-imperialist camp", but also construct a left-progressive one?
It seems to me that an anti-"camp" position is problematic. Because, focused singularly on the "anti-imperialist" camp, it supports by default the other one. This is why you see conservative and right-wing overlap with left-wing anti-antisemitism initiatives. (And it is therefore not simply false for the "anti-imperialist" camp to pick up on this and criticize it.)
How can left critics of antisemitism avoid becoming part of the status quo camp? Grow and link the anti-antisemitism groupings, and break off (potentially) emancipatory sections within both camps to build a third one? Food four thought.
Yours,
Contested Terrain

bob said...

CT-
Very good and important questions. Both Gilroy and Negt & Kluge take off from the Communist Manifesto: "Society as a whole is more and more splitting up into two great hostile camps, into two great classes directly facing each other — Bourgeoisie and Proletariat." Negt & Kluge endorse this. But they argue that outside a revolutionary moment, the camp mentality is disconnected from the real experiences of most proletarians. "Today [1970s] the Communist parties are no longer required as auxiliaries against counterrevolution, but to maintain legitimation, to neutralize the critical public sphere of their own camp."

In my view, in the Cold War years it made sense to think of the world split into rival camps, geopolitically, i.e. the camps were real. But the Stalinist camp, while against the free market camp, was of course not in any real sense anti-capitalist or pro-proletarian. Hence the wrongness of the Second Campist position of many leftists: support the enemy of our enemies. And hence the correct position then was the Third Camp: neither Washington nor Moscow.

Calling for a Third Camp has a danger of creating a new kind of camp mentality, squashing a diverse oppositional public sphere again.

And a Third Camp position is hard to take consistently, when sometimes lesser evils are so much lesser - hence the constant temptation of Third Campists to cheerlead the anti-totalitarian West (the Shachtman line) or to critically support some nicer version of Stalinism (the "Pabloite" line - supporting Tito, Castro, Chavez, etc).

Does this Third Camp analysis work in the post-Cold War world? Today, it seems to me, the world is multi- rather than bi-polar geopolitically. The American-led free market camp is faced by a range of counter-powers, around Moscow, Beijing, the Gulf states, perhaps even Brazil and Iran, as well as global Islam. So, the "anti-imperialist" analysis of reality is now totally wrong, let alone the Second Campist conclusion from it, to support the new enemies of the West who are even more distant from any pro-emancipatory agenda than Soviet Russia ever was. So I think something like a Third Camp position (in Egypt they talk about a "Third Square", against both Morsi and Sisi) is needed now too.

Attacking just one or another camp without, as you say, trying to grapple with what it might mean to build something like a Third Camp (while avoiding the development of a camp mentality) means that the Shachtman/Pablo temptations are harder to resist, and all sorts of convergences and unholy alliances are likely.

I guess this means we need to fight on lots of fronts at once: build a critique of what's wrong with "anti-imperialism" at the same time as critiquing Islamophobic, civilizationist and probably also Zionist ideologies. I think David Hirsh's post makes some steps towards setting out how we can do this.

It seems hubristic and premature now to think we are at a place where we can build a really meaningful Third Camp, but we can catch glimpses of it everywhere: in the recent bursts of strike action in the engineering sector in Iran, in the regrouping of secular fighters resisting both Assad and Al-Qaeda in Syria, in the protestors on the streets of Cairo this week against both the military regime and the Muslim Brotherhood.

contested terrain said...

Thanks for the clarification. A couple thoughts.
First, I don't know exactly what it meant by the "critical public sphere". But I think of the processes by which "second camp" actors break themselves loose from the "first camp" and became -- against their own intentions -- part of a passive revolutionary process in restoring a (sometimes recalibrated) first camp.
At the risk of stretching the categories too far, I think of the autonomous movements' unintentional support for the state's retreat from public service provision, as one example.
N. Fraser discusses this problem with second wave feminism, it's attempt to break free from gendered labor and family structures, and the destruction of the Fordist welfare regime, expansion of labor time, etc. as a result. This happens in Occupy as well, with some claiming "we've got this" and letting the state off the hook for its responsibility to provide basic material needs in the time of deep crisis.
Hence, it is one thing to *envision* links between potential "third camp" actors. But what prevents them from being reincorporated, even without their active support for such processes? It seems to me like that's what happens when "third camp" proposals are imagined. A sacrifice of a certain terrain, and a negative shift in the relation of forces against them.
I guess a clarification would be helpful, if you could provide one. Does a "third camp" mean an "autonomous" camp? Or can it exist within and across other "camps"? "Where" should it be built? Outside of the other "camps", or across and within them, to the degree that that is possible? Is the process of building a "third camp" one of building purely external structures, narratives, etc.? Or does it involve shifting the balance of forces and the narratives within "second" and "first camps" towards a different constellation of forces, different imaginary, etc?
As you yourself recognized, these are *no* homogenous blocs. It seems to me like every attempt to form a "third" bloc has meant sacrificing structural and symbolic power, and as a result, simply losing. (In a nutshell, this is the history of the anti-german/anti-national movements in Germany.) Then the question of strategy and compromise emerge. Curious what you think.

newcentrist said...

Please point towards any contemporary examples (not historical) of conservative antisemitism. Far-right does not equal conservative just as far-left does not equal liberal (using the American meaning). I understand why CT (and perhaps even you, Bob) want to lump conservatives and the far-right together. I imagine you have no other choice, given your politics. But it is a tremendous error in political judgment. In the realm of theory and action liberals and conservatives share more in common than liberals and the far-left or conservatives and the far-right. This may assist in understanding why it was so easy for communists and syndicalists (far-left) to embrace fascism.

There never was a Third Camp with any political potency. The Third Camp was only relevant to the participants. Life, unfortunately, forces us to take sides even when we do not want to. And we often have to make a choice among competing bad options.

These examples are not politically inspiring:

"secular fighters resisting both Assad and Al-Qaeda in Syria, in the protestors on the streets of Cairo this week against both the military regime and the Muslim Brotherhood."

They are personally inspiring. I would like them to win. But both of us know these groupings are going to be crushed by their larger and better organized adversaries. To always lose is not a noble thing, let alone a good one. But this, to me, seems the (death) wish of the libertarian/utopian left. Fight "The Good Fight", and lose.

bob said...

A very strong pair of responses, CT and TNC, although obviously pushing in the opposite directions. I need to think about this more, but here's a preliminary response.

1.

There's a slippage, or maybe double slippage, in the Marxist tradition's use of the concept of the "camp". The first sense of camp, as in the Communist Manifesto quote above, is the class in itself as a camp. Shachtman extended this when he spoke about the Third Camp. He didn't mean that his insignificant current was the Third Camp: he meant the working class was. Between and against the geopolitical interests of the market capitalists and the Stalinists was the global proletariat. The global proletariat had no objective interest in either side winning the Cold War; it had its own objective interests, its own projects to pursue.

But the first slippage is from the class to the idea of a camp in the sense that Shachtman's current would be described as a Third Camp. This is the sense in which we can talk about needing to build a Third Camp today, whether autonomous or not. But is this substituionalism, as with the Leninists: the party somehow mystically standing in for the class?

Then the next slippage is between this sort of camp, and the kind of camp that Negt and Kluge are talking about when they talk about "camp mentality" - their exemplar being the KPD in the 1920s: highly militarised, disciplined, flag-waving in the sense that David Hirsh talks about in the Engage post.

bob said...

2. Negt & Kluge's entire book, I am pleasantly shocked to see, is online: http://monoskop.org/images/1/11/Negt_Oskar_Kluge_Alexander_Public_Sphere_and_Experience_Toward_an_Analysis_of_the_Bourgeois_and_Proletarian_Public_Sphere.pdf

By critical public sphere, they're talking about a space in which different ideas, different positions, different projects contentiously, argumentatively, but civilly, jostle for space. As Engels puts it, it's a space defined by freedom of movement. They talk about a proletarian public sphere, sharing some features of Habermas' bourgeois public sphere, but without its genteel etiquette.

3.

CT, when you talk about any potential third camp (in the sense of an alternative, anti-totalitarian radical tradition) being in danger of reincorporation, I think I agree. In fighting "anti-imperialism", the danger is propping up military adventures and socially reactionary governments, or of defending an Israel that often acts unjustly? I guess this is what I think of as "Harryism", a decent left too willing to compromise with an indecent right.

4.

Where should the camp be built? Actually, I think you probably phrase my view well: "across and within" existing camps, and "shifting the balance of forces and the narratives within "second" and "first camps" towards a different constellation of forces, different imaginary". I think that's kind of what the project of this blog is, if that's not too pretentious a thing to say.

bob said...

5.

I don't think CT or David Hirsh spoke about conservative antisemitism. They both, in different ways, talk about conservative anti-antisemitism, and the extent to which our anti-antisemitism is different from it. That is, they both, especially David, explicitly recognise that conservatives tend to "own" anti-antisemitism at the moment, because so much of the left has dropped it.

I recognise centre-right conservatives as my allies on some specific questions - as well as the antisemitism issue, they often have a view of geopolitics that is closer to mine than most leftists, for example.

But I think we can also see nutty thought among centrists. Among the most horrible anti-Israel wackos in British politics are David Ward and Jenny Tonge, of the ultra-centrist Liberal Democrats. Eric Cantor has spoken about antisemitism in the GOP, and I don't think he was just talking about its right fringe. Didn't some Virginia Republican make some dodgy Jew joke recently? And wasn't it a Republican who made that "Jew me down" comment last year? The British Conservative Party sits in coalition in the European parliament with heavily antisemitic Eastern European parties, and doesn't seem bothered. Two or three years ago there were resignations from the Oxford University Conservative Association over antisemitism. A Tory MP has been in trouble recently for dressing as a SS officer. A very senior Tory, Nicholas Soames made some comment about a Jewish businessman using a phrase like "their kind stick together".

On the other hand, it's true syndicalists and Baader Meinhof supporters and all sorts of other leftists have been drawn to fascism. But many, many more leftists (and especially libertarian leftists) have been completely immune from fascism. I don't buy the "opposite extremes meet" idea.

bob said...

6.

Finally, this: "To always lose is not a noble thing, let alone a good one." This is very true, and I don't really have an answer to it.

The starting point of my post is that BDS is a symptom of the crisis of the left. Here in the English-speaking world, my political position has been on the losing side for a long time, and is losing worse than ever now. But what can I do about it? Take up a different position so I can be on the winning side?

Similarly, the good guys in the Middle East might get crushed by the Assads and Sisis or by al-Qaeda and its like - but that's not going to make me take a gamble on Assad and Sisi or on al-Qaeda instead.

bob said...

Before I go to bed, two more topics that folks have raised on Twitter about this post:

1. Does the Engage position give too much away to the Israel-haters in always declaring itself as pro-peace, as pro-Palestinian, as if we need to demonstrate we're the Good Jews and not the Bad Jews?

2. Is my claim that "many... assimilated Jews feel their Jewishness solely through an attachment to antisemitism" justified?

bob said...

Before I go to bed, two more topics that folks have raised on Twitter about this post:

1. Does the Engage position give too much away to the Israel-haters in always declaring itself as pro-peace, as pro-Palestinian, as if we need to demonstrate we're the Good Jews and not the Bad Jews?

2. Is my claim that "many... assimilated Jews feel their Jewishness solely through an attachment to antisemitism" justified?

newcentrist said...

I was responding to this:

"This is why you see conservative and right-wing overlap with left-wing anti-antisemitism initiatives."

Which as I pointed out is simply not reflective of the current political situation. Conservative movements and parties used to be filled with Jew haters but this has changed over time. It is important to be informed by the past rather than burdened by it.

new centrist said...


I know you do not buy into the opposite extremes meet idea. As a caring and thoughtful person it might lead you to reassess your political position. But as I have mentioned many times before, "your left" (and at one time mine as well) is gone. It will never return. It was a product of a unique time and place.

There were lots of leftist intellectuals who embraced fascism, including in libertine France. Heard of the Cercle Proudhon?
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cercle_Proudhon

"Democracy is the greatest error of the past century. If one wishes to live, if one wishes to work, if one wishes in social life to possess the greatest human guarantees for production and culture, if one wishes to preserve and increase the moral, intellectual and material capital of civilisation, it is absolutely necessary to destroy all democratic institutions."

bob said...

TNC, I think you've misread CT's comment: "This is why you see conservative and right-wing overlap with left-wing anti-antisemitism initiatives." Did you see the double anti? He's saying left-wing initiatives against antisemitism (Engage, the anti-Germans, Harry's Place, Denis MacShane, maybe me) can overlap with right-wing initiatives against antisemitism (the Zionist Federation, CiFWatch, Stand With Us, Phyllis Chessler).

--

On Cercle Proudhon etc: Yes of course I recognise a strong historical antisemitic and fascist-leaning strain within anarchism, and within the wider far left. It's one of the things that this blog, and the Contested Terrain blog, have been all about rooting out and campaigning against.

But my response is, first, that there has also been a strong historical rejection and critique of this within the anarchist movement (Kropotkin, Rudolf Rocker, etc) and, second, that the most centrist of people have also been tempted towards antisemitism and even fascism: no political tradition is free of it.

bob said...

"your left" (and at one time mine as well) is gone. It will never return. It was a product of a unique time and place.

Yes, that's true. But personally I remain convinced that the substance of the critique of actually existing capitalism made within the socialist and anarchist traditions is still right. While I no longer have a home on the left, I see no reason to give up the positions which I continue to see as right, just because I share them with some people I don't like. The bankruptcy of the actually existing left is not a reason to take up the positions of liberals or conservatives, however congenial they might be. Besides, while there is no longer any large-scale movement with which I identify with, the internet has shown me that is a constituency, however scattered and beleaguered, for the sort of politics where I do feel at home. My challenge, I suppose, the question raised by CT, is what it would take for these scattered fragments to cohere, even if just a little more.

newcentrist said...

Thanks for the correction. I did miss that double-anti, twice (or more). Whoooooops...

Which centrists (conservative or liberal) became fascists?

flyingrodent said...

...there is the way that the Western anti-Israel left, both its "as a Jew" strain and its gentile majority...

I've tried and failed to see any difference between this whole "As a Jew" thing and either "Uncle Tom" or "House Negro".

All seem to imply shameful subservience at best, and certainly some kind of fucked-up ethnoreligious treason. The entire "As a Jew" idea appears to dictate precisely what Jewish people should and shouldn't think or behave, implying that people who think otherwise to you are somehow traitorous or otherwise disgusting. The historical echoes here are crystal clear.

Quite why this usage has caught on uncritically among certain foreign policy enthusiasts is mystifying to me, since it appears to be a rehabilitation of a particularly nasty ethnic slur that had thankfully fallen from common usage.

(By the way, I've seen this defended by folk saying things like "Oh, but these awful fucking AsaJews actually exist and blah blah blah", apparently in the belief that this renders the insult harmless fun. I'll anticipate this by pointing out that it doesn't).

bob said...

Centrists turned fascists: OK, so not so many centrists have turned fascists, even though there have been many antisemitic centrists. But wasn't Mosley a centrist before he was a fascist, with the New Party, his first party, positioned as kind of radical centrist - prefiguring the later common fascist and centrist obsession with the Third Way (a cousin of the Third Camp)? Seymour Martin Lipset uses the term "radical centrism" to describe European fascism of the Mussolini variety. Distributism is an ideology that has been called centrist by some, fascist by others.

bob said...

Oh, but these awful fucking AsaJews actually exist and...

First, I am not 100% sure that the terms "Uncle Tom" and "House Negro" are necessarily racist, although they contain a dubious notion of racial loyalty. The terms "self-hating Jew" and the appalling "kapo" carry something of the same meaning as those terms, and I guess I find them very offensive but not necessarily racist.

AsAJew is something else, because noone is claiming they are self-hating or treacherous. Rather, the term is used of those who make a big deal of their Jewishness in prefacing their anti-Zionism. So, they play the identity politics card, but claim their position is the authentically Jewish one.

Anti-anti-Zionists hate AsAJews so much because AsAJews give legitimacy in the eyes of non-Jews to ideas that are actually very uncommon among Jews. There's also an issue of positioning themselves as the Good Jews, the Exceptional Jews, as Arendt put it: the exceptions that prove the rule. And thirdly many people find something distasteful in people whose strong sense of ethnic identity and ethnic pride is solely defined negatively, by hatred of Israel.

I half-share those issues with "certain foreign policy enthusiasts" (nice euphemism). Myself, I am suspicious of all versions of standpoint epistemology ("as a POC", "as a trans woman" or, as I heard a member of Socialist Organiser say at an NUS conference ca.1990 "speaking as a lesbian and gay man") whether used to justify positions of which I disapprove or not.

SarahABUK said...

Flying Rodent - I avoid those expressions. I correspond with a Muslim (virtual) friend who likes to draw parallels between those who might be termed as-a-Jews and Quilliam-aligned Muslims. It's quite a bracing correspondence.

Flesh said...

"many... assimilated Jews feel their Jewishness solely through an attachment to antisemitism"

I want to pick up on this because I think it is a perception with far-reaching implications. I'd say that a preoccupation with antisemitism is often the most enduring bit of a Jewish background, but 'attachment' - in the sense of enjoyment of being a victim - really? I think this kind of shroud-sniffing would be pretty perverted - it would have quite wide-ranging negative consequences, which I'd think deserved more than a passing mention.

But I can't think of a single example.

Found the rest of the piece illuminating.




flyingrodent said...

First, I am not 100% sure that the terms "Uncle Tom" and "House Negro" are necessarily racist

Neither am I, but it should be entirely obvious that they're fucking horrible slurs to be chucking at people, for reasons that are surely too obvious to require demonstration.

The terms "self-hating Jew" and the appalling "kapo" carry something of the same meaning as those terms, and I guess I find them very offensive but not necessarily racist.

These terms all mean the same thing, and it's not a coincidence that the people most fond of using them tend also to be horrendous human beings who have exceptionally nasty opinions on all manner of issues.

Rather, the term is used of those who make a big deal of their Jewishness in prefacing their anti-Zionism.

This isn't right. It seems to me that some Jewish people who think the Israelis generally look like a bunch of hard-right belligerent mentalists determined to thwart a Palestinian state at all costs believe that, if they preface their acknowledgement of this obvious and undeniable reality by noting their shared religious background, they might immunise themselves against utterly fraudulent accusations of racism.

As demonstrated here however, they're wrong about that, because of some bizarre coalescing consensus among gung-ho bombs-away Israel fans that Jews generally should all be Decent war enthusiasts like you are, and that those who disagree are basically immoral.

I suggest that this newfound habit of labelling these people as Uncle Toms for disagreeing with your Likud Are Boiling-With-Hate Mental But Hey-Ho, Shit Kind Of Happens And That mentality is unjust, unfair and suspiciously convenient.

There's also an issue of positioning themselves as the Good Jews, the Exceptional Jews, as Arendt put it

I'm surprised you raise Arendt in this context. She had some very, very harsh words for the Commie Israel enthusiasts of the fifties and sixties, so God knows what she'd make of the extreme rightists that run the place these days.

I half-share those issues with "certain foreign policy enthusiasts" (nice euphemism).

There's no need for the "nice euphemism". I'm all over the internet under this name basically telling everyone how much I dislike your* politics, which I constantly describe as hopelessly insane sectarian horseshit mingled with wowserist magical thinking, allied with a very alarming form of extreme militarism and wearing a very unconvincing cloak of humanitarianism.

This has squarely nothing to do with anyone's ethnoreligious background and everything to do with the fact that I think you're a bunch of lunatics who push highly toxic politics in the service of an extremely belligerent ideology that has had significant and hideous real-world effects.

None of which is nice to say to strangers, but you know, I didn't call you fascist apologists for psychotic violence or any of the terms that you tend to dole out to your political enemies, even though most of your political enemies are entirely imaginary and your own attitude to creative violence is significantly more enthusiastic than mine.

*You collectively as bullshitting war-fans, not you individually.

SarahABUK said...

Flying Rodent - I do find your comment a bit over the top. You refer to people who think "the Israelis generally look like a bunch of hard-right belligerent mentalists determined to thwart a Palestinian state at all costs" as though this was a reasonable summary of the situation. But this seems to me the mirror image of those who assert that the Palestinians are all antisemitic brutes who ought to go and live in Jordan. I think I generally only target people who are anti-zionist or non-zionist if there is some further aggravating factor in play - for example Tom Hickey saying that what has happened to Palestinians is worse than the Holocaust.

bob said...

Flesh, Rodent,
I will reply to these later - some interesting issues!

flyingrodent said...

You refer to people who think "the Israelis generally look like a bunch of hard-right belligerent mentalists determined to thwart a Palestinian state at all costs" as though this was a reasonable summary of the situation.

Not only is this "a reasonable summary of the situation", it is the situation. Many will say "Well, it's more complicated than that" but at the brass tacks of practicality, taking all of the partisan blah out of it, it is not more complicated than that.

this seems to me the mirror image of those who assert that the Palestinians are all antisemitic brutes who ought to go and live in Jordan.

And how many divisions have they? None, is the answer - twats of that type have nothing but internet waffle backing them up, numerous as they are.

For real, the current situation is that the Israelis are going to intentionally steal as much shit as they can in a deliberate policy of fucking over the Palestinians with the quiet yet total support of the world's only superpower, and folk who don't like it are going to make some sad faces and whinge, but nothing more.

This is the whole issue in a nutshell, and all the woe-is-us nonsense that fills the web to bursting point is just that - woe-is-us nonsense, existing for no other purpose than to muddy a perfectly straightforward and easily-comprehensible scenario.

Given that's my opinion on the matter, you can imagine why I'm not keen on slurs like the one we're discussing here. People should be able to describe bald facts without having to fend off insults that wouldn't look out of place in a Tarantino movie about slaves.

(Although if I'm being honest, I actually think this one is tame by comparison with Professor Norm's old habit of referring to "Pet Azzajews", which he used to chuck at Jewish people who addressed simple undeniable facts of this type. The fact that nobody smelt a rat there tells me that a lot of people who make a very big noise about rat-smelling wouldn't smell a rat if a rat was sitting on thier upper lip slapping on rat-scented aftershave).

The Contentious Centrist said...

"(Although if I'm being honest, I actually think this one is tame by comparison with Professor Norm's old habit of referring to "Pet Azzajews", which he used to chuck at Jewish people who addressed simple undeniable facts of this type. The fact that nobody smelt a rat there tells me that a lot of people who make a very big noise about rat-smelling wouldn't smell a rat if a rat was sitting on thier upper lip slapping on rat-scented aftershave). "

A poetic mixture of excitable ugliness and emetic righteousness. A giddy, sincere self-indulgence in rat metaphors. The "rat", positioned in proximity to "Jews" and in particular one gentlemanly Jew, can always be trusted to do the job.

flyingrodent said...

The "rat", positioned in proximity to "Jews" and in particular one gentlemanly Jew, can always be trusted to do the job.

This is precisely the kind of demented drivel that I'm talking about here. "Smell a rat" is one of the most commonly-understood metaphors in the English language, alongside terms like "a bit fishy" or even "something rotten in the state of Denmark", and only a maniac or a conman would even bother to extrapolate some kind of inherent villainy in it.

The Contentious Centrist said...

Yes, but you did not stop with "smell a rat", did you? Like I noted, there was a palpable relish and lip-smacking pleasure in the luscious metaphor. It's as if you just couldn't resist it. And again, the proximity of this overly-extended metaphor with the subject of Jews is at the very least... smelly.

You may want to scour the bottom of the barrel for some less loaded metaphors.

flyingrodent said...

...there was a palpable relish and lip-smacking pleasure in the luscious metaphor. It's as if you just couldn't resist it. And again, the proximity of this overly-extended metaphor with the subject of Jews is at the very least... smelly.

Absolutely deranged and nonsensical waffle containing neither truth nor merit IMO.

The Contentious Centrist said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Contentious Centrist said...

"a maniac or a conman"
"Absolutely deranged and nonsensical waffle"?

For applying a simple methodological tool of literary criticism to your hubridical text and noting the cliche, the self-salutation, the inevitable connotation invoked in the over extended use of "rat" metaphor?

Gee, with your obvious linguistic ambitions, I thought you would be thrilled at the success of your rhetorical flourishes.

"IMO" is a good first step towards some kind of self-doubt.

Was it you who mentioned Tarantino? I think you may relish this sincere monologue on Jews and rats. Tarantino sure knows how to go straight to the heart of the matter, doesn't he?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YTFdjs_QGWc

flyingrodent said...

For applying a simple methodological tool of literary criticism to your hubridical text and noting the cliche, the self-salutation, the inevitable connotation invoked in the over extended use of "rat" metaphor?

Look, I realise that you think you're landing bodyblow after bodyblow here with your incredible powers of telepathy, but seriously: you're proving my point about spurious and trolling arguments here, rather than whatever nonsense you're aiming at.

I was talking about insults that exist purely to imply some kind of ethnoreligious back-stabbing and so on. Hauling out a well-understood metaphor and using it to divine malignant racist intent via your amazing psychic powers really is pretty humourous in this context.

The Contentious Centrist said...

"I realise that you think you're landing bodyblow after bodyblow here with your incredible powers of telepathy, "

Not at all. Unlike you. I'm not so full of myself and I don't suffer from an exuberance of virtuous self-admiration. I'm just using very simple tools (acquired in LitCrit 101) to highlight the humongous bad faith exhibited in your gratuitous insult to Norm Geras's impeccable record of fairness,thoughtfulness and decency. Again, LitCrit 101: it doesn't matter what you INTENDED in your heart of hearts. What matters is what was written, how and why.

I'm also wondering if you can be trusted to know anything or to point to anything when you are immersed up to your ears in such a cesspool of loathing towards anyone who has a good word to say about Israel, or anyone who makes an argument that might be construed as being of service to the Israeli position.

Perhaps you should just stick to using straightforward language rather than resort to highly stinky metaphors about rats, when you speak about Jews you so obviously do not like. It is the choice of metaphor that trips you up, you see.

Another suggestion: Reduce the levels of invective and sarcasm. You will be heard better and then one could actually engage with the essence of your "arguments".

Have a great day, Flying Rodent.

flyingrodent said...

...the humongous bad faith exhibited in your gratuitous insult to Norm Geras's impeccable record of fairness,thoughtfulness and decency.

It really does bear repeating that it was Professor Norm who was prone to using extremely whiffy racialised insults like "Pet Azzajew", rather than me. I wouldn't say that this was particularly fair, thoughtful or decent on his part but then, I'm quite used to dealing with this "Charity for me but not for thee" mode of argument, of which the Prof himself was a great exponent.

Quite how noting that the Professor used this particularly loaded term is an "insult" to him is beyond me, since his use of it is perfectly Googleable and the meaning is very clear.

Nonetheless, let's just stop and admire a mindset that can divine all manner of racist hate in an entirely uncontroversial and familiar figure of speech, yet responds to actual slurs from people they get on with like a dog that's been shown a card trick.

the sad red earth said...

Not only is this "a reasonable summary of the situation", it is the situation. Many will say "Well, it's more complicated than that" but at the brass tacks of practicality, taking all of the partisan blah out of it, it is not more complicated than that.
....

For real, the current situation is that the Israelis are going to intentionally steal as much shit as they can in a deliberate policy of fucking over the Palestinians with the quiet yet total support of the world's only superpower, and folk who don't like it are going to make some sad faces and whinge, but nothing more.

This is the whole issue in a nutshell, and all the woe-is-us nonsense that fills the web to bursting point is just that - woe-is-us nonsense, existing for no other purpose than to muddy a perfectly straightforward and easily-comprehensible scenario.


WHY is anyone devoting a moment of time or mental energy to engaging a mind this simple and narrow?

bob said...

This is too much for me to take in in one go. Interesting that I've not posted on anything vaguely Israel-related for ages and not had that much comment action; one post on Israel in a year and the comments re-appear.

your comment... "the Israelis generally look like a bunch of hard-right belligerent mentalists determined to thwart a Palestinian state at all costs"... seems to me the mirror image of those who assert that the Palestinians are all antisemitic brutes who ought to go and live in Jordan.

To be fair, this comment is actually the mirror of "Palestinians generally Palestinians are antisemitic brutes who ought to go and live in Jordan".

However, to talk about "Israelis generally" in this way, rather than the Israeli state, is pretty obviously dodgy. When you talk about "the quiet yet total support of the world's only superpower" or about the US's wars in Iraq and elsewhere, would you call "Americans generally" bellicose imperialists? I hope not.

If you look at opinion polls of Israelis, there is a clear pro-peace majority. Tel Aviv Uni polling November 2013 60% Jewish Israelis for peace negotiations; July 2013 54% would endorse a peace agreement in a referendum (25% wouldn't). June 2013 62% for a 2-state solution. May 2013 more Israeli Jews say settlements hurt security than that they help it. October 2010 45% would dismantle settlements as part of a peace agreement.

In short, "the Israelis generally look like a bunch of hard-right belligerent mentalists determined to thwart a Palestinian state at all costs" is not anything like a reasonable description of the situation. It's not a simplification; it's a false picture. That statement may be true of most of the current Israeli cabinet, but it is emphatically not true of "Israelis generally".

More later.

bob said...

Before I go: Reduce the levels of invective and sarcasm. You will be heard better and then one could actually engage with the essence of your "arguments". I'd endorse that completely. You can't crank the volume to 11 with phrases like "belligerent mentalists" (applied to the whole population of Israel, "generally") and then accuse others of "trolling arguments"!

flyingrodent said...

However, to talk about "Israelis generally" in this way, rather than the Israeli state, is pretty obviously dodgy.

Bob, I meant "generally" as in "The Israelis usually look like etc.", by which I intended to convey, "the Israeli government usually etc.".

But this is rather odd. I wouldn't normally bother, but took exception to the "As a Jew" thing, which has always struck me as highly dodgy and definitely weird, given the well-demonstrated sensitivity on inappropriate word choices that characterise so many arguments round these parts.

Look at this thread, for instance. Saying "generally" when you mean "usually" is apparently terribly suspect, while common cliches for "thought something was wrong" are somehow awful affronts, and both are in some way far worse than, you know, a racially-charged abusive term intended to show shameful subservience and treason.

This seeming blind spot looks particularly bizarre when seen cheek by jowl with this level of immense touchiness about entirely humdrum words and phrases.

bob said...

I haven't managed to digest this thread. I see the meaning of "generally" you intended is not the one I read. Point taken. But I still think "the Israelis" is not the same as "the Israeli state" or even "Israel". I also think CC's reading of "rat" is stretching a bit.

I don't think I can tonight, but tomorrow I'll write why I think Norm/Engage are right about azzaJews.

Anonymous said...

Given what we know now about Obama's ongoing romance with Iran, I think we ought to stop bothering to answer people who talk about "the quiet yet total support of the world's only superpower".

HigionioG.

bob said...

I've googled "pet azzajew" and variants on it, and it seems that Norm used it about Howard Cooper, this article in 2011: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/belief/2011/feb/19/jews-israel-egypt-revolution-fear Cooper accused Jews of "bad faith" if they responded with fear rather than hope to the Egyptian revolution, whose depressing anniversary it was this weekend. By "bad faith", Rabbi Cooper didn't mean what most people mean by bad faith (self-deception or intentional deceptiveness), but rather literally bad practitioners of the Jewish faith. In his article he did not simply preface his criticisms of Israel (actually, the article isn't even really particularly critical of Israel) with an assertion of Jewishness to avoid being called an antisemite by those "touchy" foreign policy enthusiasts. What he was doing was saying that he knows the correct authentic Jewish way (a prophetic commitment to social justice or something). Now, he, as a Rabbi, has more right than me to say rule on the correct way of being of the Jewish faith. But I get why people don't want to be lectured in that way, and especially in the Guardian.

Norm wasn't accusing Cooper of "fucked-up, ethnoreligious treason" but of almost its opposite: a prideful claim to be the authentic voice of the real Jews. Actually, Cooper quite literally accuses the "bad faith" Jews who were afraid of the Arab Spring of ethnoreligious treason.

It seems to me that the objection to this is completely different from calling someone an "Uncle Tom" or "House Negro" or "self-hater". An "Uncle Tom", in its common usage (a usage which is very unfair to the Uncle Tom in Harriet Beecher Stowe's novel) would not make any point of his blackness, just as a "self-hater" (if self-hating Jews did actually exist, which they almost certainly don't) would not make a point of his Jewishness because he would hate it. Do you not see any difference?

Flesh said...

Don't indulge Rodent's switch from trolling to concern trolling. He's only here for a bit of fun. You'll know when he's serious about discussing this - then it will be as obvious as it's obvious now that he isn't.

Enny Sastoro said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Brian Goldfarb said...

Bob said 'Is my claim that "many... assimilated Jews feel their Jewishness solely through an attachment to antisemitism" justified?'

I realise that many comments have passed since Bob first wrote this, still...How is the concept of "assimilated Jews" to be defined? To quote the words of the Secretary of a synagogue I belonged back then "I may know all the rules [in my case, most of them], but that doesn't mean I keep them."

I belong to a synagogue, and even attend occasionally; but, I regard myself as assimilated: I don't keep kosher, I don't wear a head-covering in clement weather, outside the synagogue; I "break" the Sabbath; I can read Hebrew only just well enough to follow the service. Also but: I am a Zionist - and wouldn't see myself as pro-Palestinian (unlike David Hirsh), beyond a strong desire for two autonomous states, side-by-side, between the river and the sea; yet I criticise Israeli government policy, I demand evidence from the BDS crowd when they assert that there is genocide on the West Bank (or whatever) - funny, I never get it, and even Ran Greenstein (Israeli South African - check him out on engage) failed to respond when I challenged him on his claims for Israeli "ethnic cleansing" by contrasting it with the South African Afrikaaner 'Bantustan' policy.

I suspect that "assimilated" needs a stronger and tighter definition, because I am not and never will be part of the "as-a-Jew" crowd. Check me out on Engage.

Anonymous said...

Flying Rodent - I think you may have been a bit too specific about the spelling of "as a Jew". Norm railed against these types all the time as do a whole ragbag of racists around here, HP and Engage, but Norm only employed the "zz" spelling and the "pet" prefix once. Sadly Bob here too likes to be precise, especially when it helps him duck and dodge his way around a critical comment about his condemnation of Israel's opponents. When he relaxes the precision he can "verbal up" like the old bill on the case of an Irishman/woman back in the day but you were precise so he repaid in kind.

You also missed Bob's presumptiousness about the lack of Jewishness of Israel's Jewish detractors. Apparently Israel's Jewish supporters do (or have) a lot more Jewish stuff than Israel's Jewish detractors. And what stuff might that be? Well you'll just have to ask Bob if you can stand the inevitable twists and turns. I think he means that supporting Israel is more Jewish than opposing Israel but it would be uncharacteristically honest for Bob to admit he meant that.

And don't miss either Bob's assertion that ""AsaJews"...claim their position is *the* authentically Jewish one." The definite article is vital here. These people are usurpers. They are not saying that they are as Jewish as the next Jew. No, they are saying they are more Jewish than Hirsh, Geras, Garrard, and Uncle Bob Brockley and all. Except of course, they aren't and Bob has already claimed that mantle for his brand of authenticity. They are actually a mixed bag altogether. You were right that some, not all, use their Jewish identity to bat away the bogus allegation of anti-Jewish racism. Some want to reclaim the Jewish identity from racist war criminals and their supporters. Some want to show solidarity with non-Jews falsely accused of racism for supporting the Palestinian cause and some want Palestinians to see Jews through a lens other than the barrel of a supremacist's gun. And there are still others, too numerous and varied to categorise. But for Bob, there is only one and it's a bad one.

Anyway, you've already been subjected to the old one two. One being the false allegation of antisemitism, two being the accusation of trolling. But then there's three and four, three being Bob's pretence at accuracy and four you being banned for one and two unless you stay away for a while which I think you might do without being told.

Levi9909

Anonymous said...

"Sometimes small groups of anti-Zionist Jews are successful in exporting their own particular concern about Israeli human rights abuses into non-Jewish civil society organizations like trade unions or academic associations." Sounds rather conspiratorial. Would these be "The Elders of Anti-Zion?"

flyingrodent said...

An "Uncle Tom", in its common usage (a usage which is very unfair to the Uncle Tom in Harriet Beecher Stowe's novel) would not make any point of his blackness, just as a "self-hater" (if self-hating Jews did actually exist, which they almost certainly don't) would not make a point of his Jewishness because he would hate it. Do you not see any difference?

Not especially, no. While it's perfectly possible that I'm missing many subtleties here, I think almost anyone else who kicked off a point with this kind of thing would get both barrels from you and your mates, with no quarter given, as is strongly hinted at by some of the strained interpretations on display here.

I think that if I were to refer to a Guardian writer that I disagreed with as some variant on "the Guardian's pet Jew", I'd (rightly) get slaughtered for it. If I did that while also echoing some malignant historical slur - maybe "Gunga Din" has loosely similar connotations here - I don't think there would be any interpretive charity for that at all. I think this'd be received like Prince Harry's Nazi uniform, no matter what seemingly-reasonable points I managed to surround it with, and probably correctly.

And that's just if I, some random tosser with a blog, made these types of comments. You can imagine exactly how much sympathy there would be for some hated relativiss columnist like Milne or Bunting who made similar remarks. Deaf people would be able to hear the screams and wails.

contested terrain said...

@ New centrist.
There is little of your political remarks that I find convincing or engaging, but there is in fact something we share, which you seemed to not have picked up on. It is the question of power relations and political strategy.
A self-expressive politics is not sufficient. And sections of the left does rely on this to make itself feel better about losing. But this is just an inversion of the realists, whose actual "victories" are themselves defeats. I think Luxemburg's notion of revolutionary real politic, and Gramsci's focus on hegemony, and badly needed here.
A real or imagined, autonomous "third camp" is too weak to shift societal trajectories. The crux of my argument was based on this dilemma that these forces can not win alone. The hope of producing a trajectory away from both the "first" and "second" camps, would require -- as I wrote -- shifting parts of first and second camps around a new constellation of power. But this would be located within and across blocs, rather than wholly external to them.
This is something that the "third campists", in my broad understanding, repeatedly ignores.
I don't want to imply that a society-based, non-external, counter-hegemony strategy is easy. But it is how societal transformation takes place.
ps - of course the imaginary "third camps" BfB pointed out are in asymmetrical power struggles. An ultra left position (synonym for the external, "third camp" position?), supports these forces in fighting alone (and probably losing). A "realist" position -- as yours -- gives up on the possibility of a progressive, alternative trajectory, and supports the lesser evil. A revolutionary realpolitik asks how the progressive forces could be strengthened. How can they be linked, to both other "external", imaginary, third-camp forces, and to sections within the power bloc that would undermine it, and lead to a more progressive trajectory?

contested terrain said...

@ new centrist

"In the realm of theory and action liberals and conservatives share more in common than liberals and the far-left or conservatives and the far-right."

This statement can not be substantiated or disproved abstractly. It is a question of political conjuncture and historical context.

If it were absolutely true, the small anarchist gathering in Zuccotti Park in September 2011, would not have inspired hundreds of similar encampments country-wide, but rather remained a marginal affair. The same thing can be said about the symbolic resonance in the media.
But this was a temporary convergence of left and liberal forces (for expanded social protections and increased democratic participation), against a conservative-(neo)liberal bloc behind austerity and market discipline.
State repression (physical eviction from the squares, spying, provocation, etc.) broke this temporary alliance (along with failed political strategy of the movement). A passive liberal-conservative consensus has been delicately restored around austerity-with-a-human-face.

bob said...

Re Brian's comment on assimilated Jews:

Yes, "assimilated" is a baggy, sloppy concept. What I meant (and probably "assimilated" was the wrong word for it) is people, and I'm probably one of them, who have very little Jewish "stuff" in their lives - not religious, don't keep many Jewish practices or traditions, don't speak Jewish languages - and yet retain some sense of Jewish ethnic identity. For many such people, antisemitism keeps this sense alive more than anything positive.

But the twist is that many of these people wouldn't want to give up a sense of being Jewish, even though they don't have the inclination to do any Jewish stuff. Therefore if antisemitism stopped existing, they'd find their Jewish identity even more attenuated.

Is it possible that being attached to a Jewish identity can, for some such people, mean they are attached to antisemitism, and invested in its continued existence? It is my strong hunch that this is the case, but I can't really point to empirical evidence for it.

bob said...

Contested Terrain-

Your 09:10 comment is pretty much exactly my view, especially this: 'A self-expressive politics is not sufficient. And sections of the left does rely on this to make itself feel better about losing. But this is just an inversion of the realists, whose actual "victories" are themselves defeats.'.

Some leftists enjoy their splendid isolation, but I, even when I was at my most radical in my 20s, have always hated the ineffectiveness and marginality of being basically an extremist in the real world. That was one reason why I retreated from activism in my 30s and why I have always preferred small, local, bread and butter campaigns. But the centrist temptation - agreeing to play someone else's ball game - means giving up not just hope for change, but any sense of any kind of social transformation as a horizon of one's politics, which I'm not prepared to do.

(With lots of the comments in this thread dedicated to the semantics of particular word or to attacks on being dedicated to the semantics of particular words, I don't know if it is a bad idea to make this caveat: I wouldn't use the word "progressive" in any description of the desirable alternative trajectory, because of its long association with horrible politics.)

bob said...

Re Contested Terrain on liberalism-

I need to think about this more. When I was at my most radical, it went without saying that TNC was right on this: liberalism and conservatism were just two sides of the same market capitalist coin. There seemed to me a clear, profound break between liberalism and radicalism. I can't see the clear line any more, but part of me thinks it's still there.

contested terrain said...

BfB,
There are *lots* of people who share your experience, and your approach. Tons of self-described anarchists are doing grunt work for labor and community struggles. And this is important. They are an essential part of a project of societal transformation. But they aren't sufficient.
And in some cases, such work enables the neoliberal roll-back of remnants of the welfare state. (That's not an accusation, of course.) One might be inadvertently playing for the other team -- against one's intentions.
But I disagree with sweeping judgments on this, and I think the context, content, and power relations are critical to make assessments of this.

On liberalism. Like I said, there is overlap, and this overlap increases and decreases based on political conjunctures. In the U.S. calls to raise the minimum wage are catching on even amongst conservatives. They are being pushed by the low-wage worker mobilizations of the last years. The topic of inequality too, is being taken up by conservatives and neoliberals. So these positions move across the political spectrum. But they do so because of distinct political conjunctures, and not because of the "essence" of conservativism and liberalism, or leftist.
In some sense, "the devil is in the details." The hegemonic bloc have to make some (at least symbolic) concessions in the face of continued crisis of legitimacy, but also because the crisis of capital. A "bottom of the pyramid" strategy to get capital circulation functioning again, yet without any more redistribution than is "necessary." I just want to point out the relative flexibility of political positions within broader societal contexts, rather than maintain a static position of political essentialisms.

organic cheeseboard said...

Bob here complains in his original post that "Anti-Zionist Jews today express their Jewishness solely through their hatred of Israel".

Then in the comments complains of FlyingRodent's fairly clear discussion of 'Israelis' here he means the Israeli Govt.

So what did the initial line I quote refer to? All and any anti-Zionist Jews have NO OTHER expression of Jewishness? That's not an accurate summary of anyone's behaviour - it's a totally unsupportable claim.

You also say "many people find something distasteful in people whose strong sense of ethnic identity and ethnic pride is solely defined negatively, by hatred of Israel" - but again, with no evidence, and this is grossly unfair to almost everyone who'd fall into this 'category'. And I still can't really see a clear group of people who this would refer to anyway. As typical of Geras and his ilk, it ends up being about 3 people, barely visible in the public eye. So name names please bob. Who are you referring to, whose Jewishness consists solely of antiZionism? The only name that keeps appearing on web searches for 'asaJew' is Mary-Kay Wilmers, but how do you know about her personal and family life, and its Jewish nature or otherwise? What gives you the knowledge that these people's Jewishness is so one-note (and by association false), and the right to rule over what is and isn't an acceptable level of Jewishness?

The 'asaJew' slur is despicable, designed to render a particular political voice silent much like 'uncle tom', and shouldn't have any place in civilised discussion, not least because it never works the other way. We don't get Prof Norm and Bob here complaining when Jewish people enthusiastically advocate the actions of the Israeli govt on the basis of their ethno-religious background. If you think their views are not widespread, then say so by all means, but to use this really incredibly offensive slur is to demean your cause and also preach very much to the converted. you'll note, for instance, that even someone on the same side as you, Sarah AB, is vocally opposed to the use of the term.

An outsider looking at that term is not going to be won over - they're going to look away in disgust.

The Contentious Centrist said...

"...liberalism and conservatism were just two sides of the same market capitalist coin."

It is worse than that. Some years ago I was present at a talk with an editor of the journal "Radical Philosophy". Someone mentioned Michael Ignatieff. The guest's immediate response was: Ignatieff is the fascist face of liberalism.

bob said...

The issues that Contested Terrain raises are by far the most interesting issues in this thread, but I feel I need to clarify what I'm saying on "AsAJews", as it seems to be being spectacularly misread, and that misreading is being broadcast on other blogs.

I have no quibble with any particular spelling of the term - with or without a Z or two or whatever. I was interested in the prefixing of "pet" which Rodent said was Norm's "habit", a term he was "prone" to using. I can see that it is a more offensive amplification of the original term, so I was curious about Norm's use of it.

I didn't search really hard, but I found one use of the "pet" prefix by Norm, which was this http://normblog.typepad.com/normblog/2011/02/from-jew-to-jew.html about the Howard Cooper CiF article I linked to above.

Now, I was hopeful about the Egyptian revolution in February 2011, in much the same way that Howard Cooper was, and I was irked by the way that some pro-Israel people greeted it with fear, thinking that "our son of a bitch", the authoritarian Mubarak, was better for Israel's existential security than the wager of democracy. I'm not going to look back now, but I might even have said this, on here or on Twitter (I'm not sure if I had started tweeting then.) My view was that democracy had to be a good thing, whatever the risk. I think Norm thought something fairly similar in early 2011.

What Norm objected to in Cooper's piece, however, was not this position. It was (a) Cooper's idea that Jews have some special obligation to take a stand on this issue (an identitarian position that opens up Jews who take a different position to charges of "ethnoreligious treason", to use Rodent's phrase); and (b) the fact that Cooper chose the Guardian (or the Guardian chose Cooper) for this this lecture on Jews' "act of bad faith" if they were fearful about the Egyptian revolution's unfolding. (Note the sub-editors' subtitle: "It is an act of bad faith for Jews to respond to Egypt's revolution with fear instead of hope".)

I do NOT argue that Cooper "lacks Jewishness": as a rabbi, he surely has a better claim than me to know about Judaic ethics and he certainly does a lot more Jewish stuff than I do. But Cooper's claim that he is expressing the authentic Jewish position is pretty unequivocal: not being enthusiastic about the Egyptian revolution "reneges on the spiritual vision of our Judaic heritage... It puts us, so to speak, on the side of Pharaoh rather than Moses. In religious terms, it fails to understand that the biblical phrase that we lovingly repeat each year when we tell our own story of liberation, "Let my people go … ", is the voice of the divine, of God, of the sacred principle that freedom from oppression is the right of every people." He is quite literally accusing Jews who disagree with him of "bad (Jewish) faith". He's actually the one calling British Jews House Negroes: he saying they're Pharaoh's collaborator.

And on this issue, and even more on the Israel issue, the Finchley Reform rabbi is almost certainly in a minority within Anglo-Jewry. Which kind of matters, because it means he is saying most British Jews are bad Jews - and saying it in the Guardian rather than in a Jewish outlet like, say, the Jewish Quarterly.

bob said...

In my view, there is no single valid or legitimate "good faith" way of being Jewish or claiming Jewishness. I am the last person to claim the right to pass judgement on this. I like the idea of reclaiming Jewishness from Zionism: I like Jewdas and Souciant and Jewish Socialist and Jewdayo (have a look at the links in the "Funny, You Don't Look Jewish" section of my blogroll, up and to the left). But I dislike anyone trying to deny other Jews their right to call themselves Jewish or accusing them of "bad faith" Jewishness. That's my problem with AsAJews.

bob said...

I meant to pick up on Rodent's Arendt comment too, but I'm out of juice. http://brockley.blogspot.co.uk/search?q=arendt

organic cheeseboard said...

But as numerous commenters on here have said, and I'll say again, by using the term you are doing exactly the same thing you're accusing these anonymous people of doing. You say: "I dislike anyone trying to deny other Jews their right to call themselves Jewish or accusing them of "bad faith" Jewishness" yet you're doing the exact same thing - claiming, with on evidence, that the only way these people manifest their ethnoreligious background is through antiZionism, and as a result dnying that their experiences are authentic and worth listening to. By using this unpleasant slur, you are directly trying to deny these people's link to their background, and in a specific attempt to shut down debate on one side - again, to repeat, you seemingly have no problem with 'AsaJews' who are strongly supportive of the actions of the Israeli Govt. you certainly don't include them in your definition.

Also - this Howard Cooper you're talking about (someone I'd never heard of, but hey, he's seemingly the only 'AsaJew' you're willing to actually name directly) - it's hardly unheard of for a religious leader to claim that theirs is the true version of their faith. People of all faiths do it all the time. Yet Geras and yourself only seem to notice when it happens in one political direction.

bob said...

I should not have said "Anti-Zionist Jews today express their Jewishness solely through their hatred of Israel". I should have said "some" or "many" anti-Zionist Jews. Many anti-Zionist Jews express their Jewishness in many ways. If Cooper is an anti-Zionist (I am not sure he is) then clearly he also expresses his Jewishness in all sorts of other ways too. Clearly, Jewish Socialist or Jewdas express their Jewishness in all sorts of ways, and actively work to build a secular Jewish culture outside Zionism's orbit.

And even those anti-Zionists who I'm thinking of, I probably should not say "solely through their hatred of Israel" but rather "primarily through". I will amend the original post.

I pick up on Cooper not because he exemplifies this, but because he is the one person I could see identified as a "pet azzaJew" by Norm.

Who else do I have in mind? In the "as a Jew" category, Engage's tag of that name includes people like Ran Greenstein when he said "As a Jew, my concern is with what the state that claims to represent me is doing in my name.” I have in mind someone more like Jacqueline Rose, some of whose work I admire, or Richard Sliverstein, whose blog I used to link to because I liked the Jewish music he played. I'm thinking of the way they place Israel and Palestine at the centre of their politics, even though it is surely nowhere near the most important issue in the world, and always write about it making a big deal of being Jewish.

I know very little about Mary-Kay Wilmers (who said "as a Jew, especially as a Jew," you can't justify Israel's policies, and "My people have a responsibility" to denounce Israel): but it seems to me that the LRB under her editorship publishes enormous amounts on Israel/Palestine compared to anywhere else outside North London, and very little on any other Jewish topic unless written about by Jacqueline Rose or Judith Butler. So, she does seem a good candidate.

Here's the long essay Norm wrote with Eve Garrard, worth re-reading in this context: http://normblog.typepad.com/normblog/2007/02/just_because_yo.html

contested terrain said...

BfB,
Clarification on expressive politics. My critique could be *falsely* interpreted as rejecting expressive politics as such. My view couldn't be farther from such a position. I just meant to put expressive politics in its place, in relation to other critical aspects of political strategy. Expressive politics is an attempt to intervene in the symbolic or discursive order. It's a performative act against hegemonic, or even, counter-hegemonic symbolic norms. This is crucial to politics and political strategy (and is not just part of counter-hegemonic politics, but also of hegemonic ones). It´s just that some people tend to reduce politics to this expressive aspect, and forget that the point is to change societal relations, which is not simply reducible to a set of ideas, but has to do with practical, material relations and institutions.

organic cheeseboard said...

Not got much time to reply here though there's a lot more to say - firstly, thank you for amending the original post, though the fact that these kinds of unjustifiable sweeping statements came so easily is a demonstration of a problem with this kind of term and again a reason why it should not be used at all.

It's good to see some examples but, again, I fail to see how any of them are any different from the myriad Jewish Britons/Americans/whoever who position Israel/Palestine at the forefront of their political worldview in the 'other direction' - i.e. when they are strongly supportive of the actions of the state of Israel.* I'm sure you'd say this is unjustifiable too, yet somehow they get off a lot more lightly from Prof Norm and his chums.

Surely the formulation should be exactly the same for pro-Israel advocates, yet it isn't; we never saw Prof Norm getting huffy about Zach Braff or Adam Sandler basing their praise for Israel on their ethno-religious background (these are not brilliant examples but still). Surely that's just as bad, just as essentializing, just as sweeping, just as manipulative?

Maybe not, in your eyes. But if it's this sense of these 'asaJews' not being very representative of Jewish opinion, that's surely part of the point for their using the construction - that they're seeking to demonstrate that there is dissent on the issue. I fail to see how throwing this word around is going to help the cause in demonstrating that their opinions are not as widely-held as they make out; but in any case, what solutions are you suggesting? That they simply not mention their heritage when discussing matters to do with Israel/Palestine? OK, but the 'other side' should surely desist from this as well, or else be labelled in the same manner. If it's a question of proportion, then every single op-ed on Israel/Palestine should come with a statistical breakdown of British Jewish opinion on the topic. The whole point of the construction is to demonstrate dissent, though, and so it will keep being used.

*part of my problem with all of this is that we inevitably talk about there being 'two directions', as if one has to pick sides. I think the Israeli govt and the PA, along with Hamas, are collectively a bunch of fuckers.

Brian Goldfarb said...

Re Bob's response to me: I think I agree. I quite often remark that if Jews asa collectivity had been ignored once the Roman Empire diaspora had taken place, I suspect that we'd have disappeared as an identifiable group, ethnic or otherwise.

Pity the antisemites didn't or don't) know any better.

levi9909 said...

Bob - Whether you say some or all or solely or primarily, the presumption is the same. You are claiming to know people's cultures, their innermost feelings about themselves, their ways of living and their habits of mind as well as denying them their right to their Jewish identity. At the same time, as Organic Cheeseboard says, you have no issues with the Jewish identity of Israel's supporters, yourself included.

And how do you rank, "the most important issue[s] in the world"? For many of us, racist rule is the most important issue in the world and the State of Israel's existence is predicated on racist rule like no other state. There were always worse human rights abuses throughout the entire period of apartheid South Africa's existence and yet the formalised apartheid system was held to be a priority over all other human rights abuses in Africa.

As Israel's existence is predicated on an existential threat to non-Jews so many Jews now identify with Israel as if a threat to it is a threat to them, hence the frequent bogus allegation of antisemitism and the hurling around of such crude epithets as "self-hater", "kapo" and "As-a-Jew".

But regarding this slippage from all to some, let's not forget you also claimed that anti-zionist Jews "claim their position is the authentically Jewish one". Now you know, that as far as secularists go, it is zionists who make this claim. Maybe you have another single name to put to this presumption but you know that in general terms it was as bogus as everything else you said.

Fact is Bob, thanks to Flying Rodent and Organic Cheeseboard, you've been shown up for the unthinking racist charlatan that you are.

organic cheeseboard said...

I wouldn't call him a racist, or necessarily anyone else using this phrase a racist.

But I do think the phrase is extremely offensive, has clearly racist overtones, is specifically designed to silence people whose views are 'unpalatable', and and has no place in civilised discussion - and I do find it shocking that it's used so wilfully by people like Bob and Prof Norm (RIP).

To reiterate my earlier point, the fact that Engage, for instance, seem so happy to use this term comes close to invalidating that campaign per se. Once a campaign starts to engage in incredibly offensive mudslinging of this kind, based on a simply distaste for another side of an argument, it really does lose most of its force, as well as losing a lot of potential friends too.

bob said...

Levi's comments are so ridiculous they'd be laughable if it weren't for the fact that some people take them seriously. I'll add "unthinking racist charlatan" to "neocon", "al-Qaeda enabler", "Muslim-lover", "Zionazi", "national security anarchist", "Spart" and all the other things I've been called on the internet. Anyone who thinks there is any calculus by which Israel is the most important issue in the world clearly has some kind of issues, especially at a time when next door Assad has murdered over 100,000 people, including thousands of Palestinians.

Organic Cheeseboard makes some more important points. First, this is absolutely right and worth repeating again and again: "part of my problem with all of this is that we inevitably talk about there being 'two directions', as if one has to pick sides." Actually, David Hirsh's original post said something not so dissimilar, if in more liberal terms: "We refuse to pick up one or the other flag and to hope for its victory; better to embrace a politics of reconciliation". This was the point about "camp thinking" which is far more worth working through than the semantics of "azzaJewism".

I do see why people (including Sarah) would see the latter as a problematic phrase. Clearly, a phrase like "pet Jew" (if someone were to use it by itself) would be offensive in the same way "Uncle Tom" is. The term "kapo" is similarly horrible, and made more offensive by the Holocaust trivialisation it implies. (I spent some time a couple years back at Richard Millett's blog trying to argue that it was the language of racist scum, and have not visited his site since then as a result of the preponderance of racist scum in the comment threads.)

However, I think "asajew" does name something completely different: not "ethnoreligious treason" but an alternative kind of ethnic absolutism. Maybe we need a better name for it, one that doesn't turn people of a priori, but it does name a real phenomenon.

(Worth noting how frequently terms like "Uncle Tom" are used within black political discourse: the NAACP head recently called a black Republican senator "a ventriloquist's dummy for the Tea Party". Larry Elder wrote last week about being called an Uncle Tom. The black "social justice" activist Ronald Jackson recently called Dinesh D'Souza "the right-wing's favorite Uncle Tom". (Jackson once said: "By the way, 99% of folks overly concerned with the use of therm 'Uncle Tom' - are Uncle Toms".) Possibly Flying Rodent has blogged angrily about this too.

The language used within the British Muslim public sphere for people such as Maajid Nawaz, Nimko Ali or Leyla Hussein is also pretty extreme. Read this piece by Amjad Khan http://www.leftfootforward.org/2014/01/the-illiberal-democrats/. Khan is probably called an Uncle Tom by some just for writing in Left Foot Forward. Again, possibly Flying Rodent has written angrily about that sort of language too.)

Finally, for what it's worth, I get angry when some Zionists try to claim that Israel-critics are treacherous to the Jewish people. For example, I thought that the right-wing bullying of Brian Klug over his Berlin speech in the Autumn was disgusting, and I believe I tweeted about that.

organic cheeseboard said...

Maybe we need a better name for it, one that doesn't turn people of a priori, but it does name a real phenomenon.

there are no maybes about it. To use the term is to demonstrate one's own total partiality in the debate, and its offensiveness is so high I still don't understand why you think it's even vaguely acceptable.

The instances of Kapo or 'uncle Tom' you cite (bearing in mind that an entire paragraph you write there, on British Muslims, with absolutely no examples of its actually being used - the usual term is 'bounty bar', in fact) are abhorrent, just as abhorrent as using the phrase 'asaJew'. Yet on numerous occasions on this thread you've simply avoided admitting that the term is abhorrent, instead deciding to talk about other terms you find abhorrent. You still won't let it go, and I cannot understand why.

As I've said before, it'd be slightly more tolerable is you ever used it to describe someone who uses their ethnoreligious background as an excuse to strongly advocate for the actions of the Israeli government. But you don't. You only ever use it to lambast anti-Zionists and to suggest that their Jewishness is not authentic, based on absolutely no evidence. You might think they're unrepresentative of the general British Jewish population, but again, as I've said, that's why they use the construction - to demonstrate dissent.

To follow this up with:

I get angry when some Zionists try to claim that Israel-critics are treacherous to the Jewish people

is ridiculous. The term 'asaJew' is designed to claim inauthenticity and thus treachery. If that kind of thing angers you so much, you wouldn't use this horrible word. But you do, and you clearly stil think it's ok.

I'll repeat - stop using it. It is not ok.

And sorry, but this from Hirsh:

We refuse to pick up one or the other flag and to hope for its victory; better to embrace a politics of reconciliation"

is bollocks, since his use of the term 'asaJew' demonstrates his total lack of desire to reconcile with certain people.

bob said...

Organic-

I am not going to go over again why I think you and Rodent are wrong about the meaning of AsAJew as used by Norm and Engage - that it doesn't accuse the AsAJews of treachery - because all I'll do is say the same thing again.

Hirsh is not talking about reconciliation between Zionists and anti-Zionists; he's talking about reconciliation between Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs. There's no reason to want to reconcile with everyone: I don't want to reconcile with Gilad Atzmon. Hence, I don't mind if I "demonstrate [my] own total partiality in the debate". The "debate" here is different from the conflict in Israel/Palestine.

In the Muslim context, I don't know if the phrase Uncle Tom is used. (Although lefties use it on Muslims' behalf. Here's Paul Demarty in the Weekly Worker: "Quilliam can dispel, for a moment, the stench of the Uncle Tom that hangs around it.") But have you seen the signatories to the change.org petition against Nawaz: "Many of us have had enough of the Quilliam Foundation and the kufr that they propagate in the name of Islam." "Maajid is a disgrace and should never be allowed to masquerade as a Muslim politician ever again." "no self-respecting Muslim would do such a thing." "I'm totally discusted and offended by the arrogance and ignorance of this so called Muslim." I presume Jews sans Frontieres and Flying Rodent have been posting angrily about this sort of accusation of ethnoreligious treason.

I meant to pick up on the issue of "demonstrating dissent" but I'll have to save that for later.

One other thing, I find the use of the term "ethnoreligious" to talk about Jews quite irritating, but that's also for later.

organic cheeseboard said...

I presume Jews sans Frontieres and Flying Rodent have been posting angrily about this sort of accusation of ethnoreligious treason.

They can fight their own battles so I won't claim to speak for them. But again, you're simply avoiding the main issue here, by turning to stuff like anonymous comments on obscure petitions* instead of your own decision to continue to endorse the use of a grossly offensive term.

you say:

all I'll do is say the same thing again.

But you've not really responded to the central problem here - that you use this slur to criticse people on one side of a debate playing up their Jewish background, but not on the other side. There's no getting away from it - when you and Hirsh use it and when Geras used it, you only ever directed it one way. On this very thread you claim that it's specifically designed to demonstrate that the person is not an 'authentic' Jew, because of their 'unnatural' focus on Israel; yet when it goes the other way, you don't seem to mind.

I'll put it more blunbtly. It's a term designed to demean people whose (already marginal) voices you want to marginalise further - to paint them as obsessive and somehow not quite authentic enough.

They obviously annoy you, otherwise you wouldn't use the phrase 'fucking asaJew' so casually. Fair enough. But the term is offensive, offputting to others, and leaes you looking petty and meanspirited at best, and racist at worst.

So I'll repeat - stop using it. You yourself have said 'we might want to come up with a better term' - yes, you really should.

*just as a note, while Kufar or whatever it is is obviously a very offensive term, this idea of the 'so called Muslim' isn't quite as cut and dried. Many Muslims, including some of my friends, consider it an innate betrayal of one of the core beliefs in Islam to represent Mohammad pictorially and to do it is to, effectively, demonstrate that you're going against the religion's teachings. I think this is stupid, and obviously Nawaz disagrees. But it's not the same thing as calling him an uncle Tom or coconut, or Kufar - it's the equivalent of, I dunno, a Protestant saying that a Catholic is a 'so-called Christian'.

flyingrodent said...

The point I was making wasn't that I thought Bob was a racist, so much as a hypocrite.

Now to my mind, calling a human being a "hypocrite" is a bit like getting on at him/her for breathing or speaking, since it's pretty much our universal state. Even the noblest among us can be full of shit on our favourite issues.

Nonetheless, I raise this specifically in the context of people being really very, very sensitive indeed about some forms of signalling in phrases and terms, to the point of quite often issuing extremely fiery denunciations based on their own interpretations. See also, "Smell a rat", above.

Frankly, Bob can go around calling everyone he likes AsaJews and while I won't respect it or find it edifying, I'm not going to pitch up on his doorstep with a banner and a megaphone.

That said, I am quite willing to point out the obvious racist connotations that phrases of that ilk have and to also have a bit of a chuckle watching people bending over backwards to pretend that it somehow belongs in a wholly different and benign class of insults.

bob said...

On the term AsAJew:

"You only ever use it to lambast anti-Zionists... when you... use it... you only ever directed it one way... I'll repeat - stop using it. It is not ok."

I might be wrong, but this post was the first time I can recall using it, and I put it in scarequotes. It is not a regular part of my vocabulary. Yet the first time I use it, I get two blogposts devoted to me at JsF, twice my normal number of readers, and the longest comment thread I've had since I last wrote about Israel over a year ago.

"On this very thread you claim that it's specifically designed to demonstrate that the person is not an 'authentic' Jew"

Where do I do that?

The Contentious Centrist said...

Perhaps we can compromise to substitute for "Asajew" Howard Jacobson's much more pertinent term "Ashamed Jew":
“Every other Wednesday, except for festivals and High Holy-days, an anti-Zionist group called ASHamed Jews meets in an upstairs room in the Groucho Club in Soho to dissociate itself from Israel, urge the boycotting of Israeli goods, and otherwise demonstrate a humanity in which they consider Jews who are not ASHamed to be deficient. ASHamed Jews came about as a consequence of the famous Jewish media philosopher Sam Finkler’s avowal of his own shame on Desert Island Discs.”
“My Jewishness has always been a source of pride and solace to me,” he told Radio Four’s listeners, not quite candidly, “but in the matter of the dispossession of the Palestinians I am, as a Jew, profoundly ashamed.”
“Profoundly self-regarding,” you mean, was his wife’s response. But then she wasn’t Jewish and so couldn’t understand just how ashamed in his Jewishness an ashamed Jew could be.”
Jerry Seinfeld once tackled the anguish of the asajew in this episode:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mV7m6IIN_tI

I'm not at all trying to introduce any levity here. Comedy and irony however, can be very useful when trying to unravel knotty issues such as: Is the term "asajew" offensive? Whatley's spontaneous response to the accusation that he is making offensive jokes about Jews is telling: I'm a Jew. I'm allowed to tell offensive jokes about my people. Why is that, I don't quite understand. But Jerry seems to accept that there is something of an immunity conferred upon an antisemitic joke when the speaker is a Jew.
So, Invocation of Jewishness as a means of exemption from the conventional responsibility to avoid speaking mockingly about other Jews.
Furthermore:
Those who ponderously and righteously speak "as Jews" seem to expect that their opinions will carry a certain extra authority. It is not anybody's opinion, which can be easily dismissed or rebutted as irrational, hypocritical or, God forbid, carrying antisemitic overtones. "Speaking as a Jew" can be classified as an appeal to authority, a special pleading for knowing better because of some attribute the speaker thinks gives him that extra credibility when opining about matters in which Jews are implicated. The appeal to authority is one of the formal rhetorical fallacies:
"Argument from authority is a fallacy of defective induction, where it is argued that a statement is correct because the statement is made by a person or source that is commonly regarded as authoritative. The most general structure of this argument is:
This is a fallacy because the truth or falsity of a claim is not related to the authority of the claimant
On the other hand, arguments from authority are an important part of informal logic. Since we cannot have expert knowledge of many subjects, we often rely on the judgments of those who do. There is no fallacy involved in simply arguing that the assertion made by an authority is true. The fallacy only arises when it is claimed or implied that the authority is infallible in principle and can hence be exempted from criticism”.

The Contentious Centrist said...

Continued:

So, when a person makes an opinion, prefacing it with "as a Jew" it is clear that the speaker considers this qualification “as a Jew” important not only to mention but to emphasize, and expects his mere “Jewishness” to provide him with immunity from criticism that challenges his opinion. That person is twice wrong: first, because there is nothing in being Jewish, per se, that makes any one opinion more valuable or credible (in political contexts, that is. Of course when it comes to the nuances of how to keep food warm on a Sabbath to comply with Jewish law, it makes sense that a Jew would likely know more about it than a non-Jew, and that an orthodox Jew would know more about it than a secular Jew, etc.). Secondly, the “as a Jew” qualification is doubly fallacious because it wants to bestow on non-authority the status of an authority.
The presumption of greater authority based on the speaker’s being something or another in his or her own eyes, is one of those rhetorical fallacies ridiculed by many thinkers over the ages. For example, Montaigne:
“THERE IS another sort of glory, which is the having too good an opinion of our own worth. ’Tis an inconsiderate affection with which we flatter ourselves, and that represents us to ourselves other than we truly are: like the passion of love, that lends beauties and graces to the object, and makes those who are caught by it, with a depraved and corrupt judgment, consider the thing which they love other and more perfect than it is. [-]They whom fortune (call it good or ill) has made to pass their lives in some eminent degree, may by their public actions manifest what they are; but they whom she has only employed in the crowd, and of whom nobody will say a word unless they speak themselves, are to be excused if they take the boldness to speak of themselves to such as are interested to know them.”
There is nothing morally or ethically wrong in ridiculing a fallacy. The “As a Jew” appellation is simply a biting way of doing that, of puncturing the bluster and self-importance of those who would invoke it in the service of their political opinion.
There is a wrinkle to this, however. That calling someone “asaJew” might be a form of another rhetorical fallacy, what we call “ad hominem”. But that would be of a much lesser import than what is being claimed by the good defenders of Jewish purity on this thread.

flyingrodent said...

It is not a regular part of my vocabulary. Yet the first time I use it, I get two blogposts devoted to me at JsF, twice my normal number of readers, and the longest comment thread I've had since I last wrote about Israel over a year ago.

To be fair, this is my fault, because I happened past your post not long after rereading an old post of mine where the issue came up but I didn't take it up with anyone directly.

levi9909 said...

Bob - on any given day there are worse things going on in the world than anything Israel does. That was the same with apartheid South Africa but anti-racists still concentrated their energies on ending apartheid. You see, whilst other states do bad things Israel is essentially a bad thing. Whatever the outcome of the war in Syria it is possible for a Syrian state to be at peace with itself, its people and its neighbours and still be a Syrian state. Israel does not even claim to exist for the people it rules, and that's without even considering the occupation. It claims to exist for the world's Jews. As long as it defines itself that way it will be a serial human rights abuser. So the issue with Syria today, as appalling as it is, is behavioural. The issue with Israel is existential. And that's without getting into all the support it gets from political establishments and media throughout the west and the culture of intellectual dishonesty, racism and bullying that goes on within our community.

Regarding "racist charlatan", what I'm saying isn't so far from what Organic Cheeseboard said. He is saying that you said an offensive thing with racist overtones and that you sought to justify it with assertions about people that you cannot possibly know. Cutting to the chase, what are most racist charlatans on the internet if not people who say offensive racist things and assert things they don't know?

I like National Security Anarchist. NSA. Weren't you just a tad curmudgeonly about the Snowden revelations? But al Qaeda enabler? Shit, that's the kind of thing you reserve for Chomsky. Certainly it doesn't compare to "racist charlatan". Enabling al Qaeda takes some doing, anyone can be a racist charlatan.

Re two postings of mine, I often post about Flying Rodent, sometimes just to frame a comment he made elsewhere

SarahABUK said...

I found the 'as-a-Jew' concept very helpful when trying to understand the position taken by Loonwatch, an American blog with an agenda similar to Islamophobia Watch (but with comments).

It might at first seem that Loonwatch's distrust of figures like the very reform-minded Canadian Muslim Tarek Fatah means that they have rather extreme, or at least conservative, views. But their problem with Tarek Fatah is more to do with the fact he seems (in their view) to address a non-Muslim audience with a view to seeking approval. This is a tricky issue - and I loathe the expression 'native informant' - but I do actually understand the issue with Fatah. Following him on Twitter is just a little like following Robert Spencer. There are other Muslims who just as reformist (like Raquel Saraswati) who take a different approach.

With antizionists, too, the distinctions are not just to do with objective positions but with rhetoric. I have recently been having a friendly correspondence with someone from JFJFP who is, to put it no more strongly, ambivalent about the founding of Israel, and the blogger with whom I correspond most voluminously (far more than with anyone at Harry's Place) supports the one state solution.

However, although these two seem able to accept that reasonable people may disagree even on these very emotive issues, so many anti-zionists only seem to want to abuse or sneer at those with different views.

flyingrodent said...

Perhaps we can compromise to substitute for "Asajew" Howard Jacobson's much more pertinent term "Ashamed Jew"...

Well we could try, but what would be the point?

This is all oddly reminiscent of the scene in Clerks 2 where one of the characters angrily explains to another that no, he can't "reclaim" the racist term "porch monkey", because the sole reason why that term exists is to demean and disparage black people.

Whether you prefer the tamer "ashamed Jew" or something fantastically ludicrous like "kapo", there's really not much distinction as far as I can see. These terms all essentially mean the same thing; they all exist solely to demean the people they're flung at, and the only serious difference I can detect between them is the severity of the insult, rather than the basic content.

It's not the word choice that's problematic. It's that the concept itself is completely fucked-up, as even a moment's musing on how an equal and opposite insult would be received would demonstrate.

bob said...

Here's a great (and rather Arendtian) quote from Judith Butler: "Called by an injurious name, I come into social being and because I have certain inevitable attachment to my existence, […] I am led to embrace the terms that injure me because they constitute me socially."

Personally, I find the term "ashamed Jew" not much dissimilar to "self-hating Jew" and so a poor substitute. The difference is Jacobson's analysis of the psychic dimension of this, the self-regard (the pathological narcissism, to use Noga's phrase), which seems to me perceptive - but then I'm told I shouldn't make statements about what other people think inside. Jacobson's claimthat the "ASHamed Jews" see the Jews who are not ashamed as deficient in humanity is getting there - but if we look at the Cooper example, it is their deficiency in Jewishness rather than in humanity that Cooper is claiming, so the Cooper position alleges a double treason: the "ethnoreligious" one against Judaic values, and the humanly one.

To me, I'll repeat, "as a Jew" as Norm used it is different from what what most people would hear with "ashamed". The exemption plea and the appeal to authority that you mention, CC, are part of it. I can see why that is analogous to Sarah's example of Tarek Fateh, whose crime is what Jews might call ""a shande fun dem goyim", acting disgracefully in front of the gentiles, which explains the particular vehemence of some Zionist Jews towards these Jewish anti-Zionists. It is of course proper for Jewish anti-Zionists, as with reforming Muslims, to express their dissidence and assert the existence of a space of dissent within their identity. For me, though, and I think for Norm, it is the lecturing at Jews (albeit in front of non-Jews, on Radio 4 or in the Guardian) that is the particular offence of the Coopers and Roses.

bob said...

I have been thinking overnight about the issue of why not equal anger against the Zionist Jews who lecture at Jews and accuse non-Zionist Jews of "ethnoreligious treason". This is important, as it is the issue of consistency which Hirsh raises in relation to selective boycotts.

The following is my response, which does not speak for David or for the late Norm. Whatever my issues with today's leftism (see original post), I remain a person of the left. I read the Guardian. I subscribe to the London Review of Books. If I buy a magazine it's the New Statesman. I am in a trade union. I work in the public sector, where most of my colleagues, if they're political, are on the liberal to left side of the spectrum. I have very few Jewish friends, and most of the Jewish friends I have are non-Zionist. The Israeli friends I have are leftist expatriates. I subscribe to Jewish Socialist and often read the Jewish Quarterly. I don't read the Jewish Chronicle. I don't read the right-wing press, hang out with Zionists or follow Israeli politics. I am rarely confronted, unless I go out of my way, with as-a-Jew Zionist pronouncements. I am confronted, regularly, with as-a-Jew anti-Zionist pronouncements. I care about the state of the left in a way I don't care about the state of Zionism or the state of the Jewish community. Right-wing Zionists being right-wing wankers is just normality, to be expected. It's the same reason I write here about George Galloway and Ken Livingstone more often than I write about Jacob Rees-Mogg and Nigel Farage, even though I acknowledge the latter are infinitely worse forces for evil in the world.

It is my hunch, and only a hunch, that some left-wing North London non-Zionist Jews experience something like the inverse of this. They live in a Jewish Chronicle world, and spend their time raging at right-wing Zionists. That's no less OK than my raging at leftists.

What's less OK is when they take that rage into a wider public world - Comment is Free, Radio 4, UCU union. I think that's what Hirsh is saying in the passage in the original post that kicked off this thread. It is one reason why Israel boycott is a major agenda item at UCU and NUJ conferences - while the genocide in Burma or Assad's slaughter or the conflict in the Central African Republic never make the agenda. My lack of consistency (in a little-read personal blog) is a mirror of the lack of consistency that has come to dominate the left's public sphere.

organic cheeseboard said...

Perhaps we can compromise to substitute for "Asajew" Howard Jacobson's much more pertinent term "Ashamed Jew"

perhaps not. The worst part of one of the worst novels I've ever had the misfortune to read. My review here:

http://aaronovitch.blogspot.co.uk/2011/01/finkler-question.html

Jacobson's thinking on the matter (all anti-Zionist Jews hate their dad LOL) would be laughable if it wasn't so embarrassing.

onwards.

calling someone “asaJew” might be a form of another rhetorical fallacy, what we call “ad hominem”.

There's no 'might' about it. it is an ad hominem.

Where do I do that?

here:

Some anti-Zionist Jews today express their Jewishness primarily through their hatred of Israel

and elsewhere too.

FR says:

this is my fault, because I happened past your post not long after rereading an old post of mine where the issue came up but I didn't take it up with anyone directly.

ditto - the phrase has been bugging me for a while but i don't have a blog so haven't had the opportunity to discuss it.

it is the lecturing at Jews (albeit in front of non-Jews, on Radio 4 or in the Guardian) that is the particular offence of the Coopers and Roses.

I'll sound like a broken record here, but i really don't understand how this is different from, say, Zach Braff advocating for Israel on the basis of his Jewishness, also for a primarily non-Jewish audience.

But you do 'sort of' address this:

Right-wing Zionists being right-wing wankers is just normality, to be expected.

Certainly for Norm, and indeed for Hirsh, 'asaJews' being wankers is the norm surely. I mean Jacobson, in his horrifically shit book, even has one of them a *literal* wanker - documenting his attempts to grow his foreskin back.

I also see absolutely on evidence for your stereotyping these people as JC-obsessed or whatever else. If anything they're almost certainly in a very similar situation to you regarding intellectual activities. Most of the prime violators are LRB contributors for instance.

What's less OK is when they take that rage into a wider public world - Comment is Free, Radio 4, UCU union.

I'm a UCU member and oppose the boycott - just wanna get that one out of the way. But I still don't see what the problem is with people wanting to have their political views aired - especially if they feel they're being unfairly represented. Why shouldn't these people write for CiF or speak on Radio 4? What's the problem with it? You've never fully said. The whole point of their citing their background in these pieces is to make it clear that they're 'bucking the trend' and not representative of all UK Jews - but that's their point - and your idea seems to be that the trend of pro-Israel advocacy should continue with no dissent, and I really can't understand it. WHY is this 'less ok'?

This is now a side note but still - for me, the reason why people focus on Israel more than, say, Assad is because the Israeli govt is a very close ally of the UK, where Assad is an enemy (not that this stopped Tony Blair having him to stay, but hey). It's natural and I think right for Britons to expect our allies to operate in a more accountable manner than our enemies. Yet Israeli crimes have in recent history been actively indulged by our government - a government that is meant to have Israel's ear. We're far more closely allied as a nation with Israel than Palestine and have regularly sided with the USA in vetoing UNSC attempts to criticise the actions of the Israeli government.

It's why I, for one, also get more upset with evidence of the UK's complicity in torture than the myriad tortures enacted by the North Korean regime.

Anonymous said...

Sarah - It's better to deal with what people are actually saying than attacking them on the combined grounds of their argument and their ethno-religious background but I think it makes a big difference that the likes of Loonwatch are defending the marginalised and a community against the mainstream whereas Bob, HP, Norm, Engage, etc, are defending the mainstream and a state against the marginalised. But whatever the position of the people essentialising largely hereditary identities, it's the implied essentialising that brings us into racist territory.

In the instance of this post though there are other issues of presumptuousness and inconsistency/hypocrisy. Maybe it's a minor example but David Hirsh seems to upload a "selfie" every time he gets his hair cut and yet it's the people he's denouncing who are narcissists.

Does no one have a moral motive for denouncing western wars and a colonial settler state?

The Contentious Centrist said...

1. The origin of Butler's quote (needless to add I rather detest Butler) is Hannah Arendt's quote:
"In a society on the whole hostile to the Jews . . . it is possible to assimilate only by assimilating to anti-Semitism also."

2. The gist of Yiddish phrase you quote whose meaning I can only guess is found in variations like: "you don't wash your dirty laundry in public" or "pas avant les domestiques". The implication is that there are some family secrets so embarrassing that they should not be aired in public but sorted out within the milieu they pertain to. Asajews pride themselves on beating this "taboo". In their eyes they are tantamount to whistleblowers for whom the principle is so much more binding than loyalty to the tribe. A noble sentiment, indeed, that explains why these Jews are considered courageous by those whom these "secrets' are best served (ex. Peter Beinart and his Open Zion fiasco). There is something quite intoxicating in it for the asajews who suddenly find themselves nearly beatified by the very society that was subtly close to them before. A thought occurs to me that this feebleness of will should act as a warning alert that perhaps those who speaks "as Jews" do not speak as Jews at all. To speak as Jews is to speak for Jews is to understand what it means to be a Jew in this world, beyond antisemitism, Zionism, etc. The Asajew adheres to historical phenomenon like the medieval Pablo Christiani rather than the Spinoza that they all fancy themselves to be. In what way? Christiani was a rabbi who converted to Catholicism when persecution of the Jews was a matter of religious and civic duty. Thereafter, he spent his time forcing Jews to listen to his sermons as they congregated in their synagogues for Sabbath. He thought converting was so much better for Jews than remaining Jews. Roughly you can compare his motivation to that of asajews who think that Jews without Israel would be so much better off because it works for them, personally. But of course as Christiani was dead wrong in his prescriptions for Jewish happiness so are these asajews. To quote Arendt again:
"The specifically Jewish humanity signified by [Jewish] worldlessness was something very beautiful...this sundering aside of all social connections, the complete open-mindedness and absence of prejudice that I experienced...One pays for liberation... this humanity... has never yet survived the hour of liberation, of freedom, by so much as minute" You see, that has also happened to us.
Gaus: You wouldn't like to undo it?
Arendt: No. I know that one has to pay a price for freedom."
3. I wish those asajews who think they embody the ethics of Spinoza or Arendt would actually make the effort to read and study them in some depth. The "inconsistencies" they will find there ought to put to shame their own undentable certainties about the right way of being a Jew, or a human being (the two are interchangeable).
When I encounter asajew or his enthusiastic non-Jewish supporter, I tend to feel like I do when I try to have a rational conversation with an ultra-orthodox Jew about military service in Israel or the place of women on a Mehadrin bus, or a devout Catholic about the idea of Christ as God: panic and claustrophobia. There is one difference, though: The latter two do not threaten my very existence as a human being. And they are so much humbler than the asajew.

The Contentious Centrist said...

4. To Rodent (and Bob): using an extensive rat metaphor when speaking with loathing about Jews, one certain Jew or Zionism cannot be dismissed as pure coincidence. Of the thousands metaphors that he could have used Rodent’s mind alighted on this one and not just inserted as “to smell a rat” but rather delighting in slathering it on beyond its mere metaphorical value. No doubt Rodent was unaware of what he was working with but as Freud tells us, nothing we say is ever purely random. I would urge Rodent to be a little more judicious in his choice of metaphors. Or perhaps, more self-aware?

The Contentious Centrist said...


"Some anti-Zionist Jews today express their Jewishness primarily through their hatred of Israel"

How is this an ad-hominem?

If I were to say that a certain review of Jacobson's book is worthless because the author is an anti-Zionist who would tear apart any novel which made fun of anti-Zionists, that would be an ad-hom. Because the politics of a writer may not be relevant to an evaluation of his literary acumen.

If I were to say that some book reviewers who are tasked with reviewing a novel which mocks anti-Zionists are likely to filter their literary acumen through that particular political prism, how is that an ad-hom?

If Judith Butler were to review Jane Austen's Pride & Prejudice and found that Elizabeth is complicit in patriarchy, I would be absolutely within my rights as a critical reader to say that her review of the novel was directly related to her own particular understanding of gender theory, because ...

Some feminist writers today express their feminism primarily through their hostility to what Jane Austen represents to them.

Is this an ad-hom?

BenSix said...

Contentious Centrist -

No doubt Rodent was unaware of what he was working with but as Freud tells us, nothing we say is ever purely random...

Of course it wasn't "random". Y'see: ol' FR was writing about suspicion and "smell a rat" is by far the most ubiquitous idiom that refers to this sense. As for "palpable relish and lip-smacking pleasure": you might not be aware of this but we have a long tradition of extending metaphors for comic effect. Have a read of Wodehouse sometime. You might enjoy it.

Honestly, whether it is a pro-Israel Conservative or a left-wing third worldist it does my head in when people scrutinise each rhetorical flourish for signs of Nazism bubbling to the surface. Judging people by their actual opinions tends to be more useful and interesting than by their informal prose but, damn, it certainly is harder when you have to think about the real world and not the potential implications of an idiom.

flyingrodent said...

Well, we appear to be going nowhere fast here so I'll wrap my contribution up:

I don't remember many complaints among lefty panickers about relativism etc. back when e.g. claims were being made that "Neocon" was a codeword for "Jew" rather than the more likely "enthusiast for extreme violence in foreign policy", or when folk were saying - entirely correctly - that terms like "ZioNazi" weren't acceptable, because they were basically highly-whiffy boo-words with very dodgy overtones.

I think we can imagine what reception any reversed version of the As a Jew insult would get, with similar connotations directed at Israel enthusiasts instead of antis.

I think there would be none of this prevarication or counter-accusation at all, and there;d be precious little of the type of "I bet you don't get all antsy about Muslims doing racism as well isn't that very suspect" guff, and so on.

I think we'd find out in no short order that anyone using such dubious slurs to describe people with our host's politics was actually a moral monster, and that any attempts that were made to do what Bob is basically doing here - saying Because I don't like these people or the things they do and say, it is thus fine to use really quite nasty boo-words about them would suddenly become despicable justification for racism.

I also think it should be very, very difficult to deny this, but I'm experienced enough in these internet squabbles to realise that loads of people will.

Because the iron rule is, fine for me but not for thee. That's hardly limited to issues like this, but it is particularly prevalent in issues like this.

...for me, the reason why people focus on Israel more than, say, Assad is because the Israeli govt is a very close ally of the UK, where Assad is an enemy.

I think it's simpler than this, OC - it's just very difficult to get a good, angry argument going over whether Assad is a bad guy, because 99% of the UK's population think he is one and won't argue the point*.

On the other hand, it's very easy indeed to get into a fight over Israel and the Palestinians because there are a lot of very belligerent enthusiasts on both sides who don't particularly care whether any points made are reasonable or insane. Thus, endless, bitter fights.

*There are some fuds who would argue, but they're a vanishingly slim section of the populace and barely worth worrying about.

The Contentious Centrist said...

"there are a lot of very belligerent enthusiasts on both sides who don't particularly care whether any points made are reasonable or insane. Thus, endless, bitter fights. "

Something tells me that Rodent is not really awake to the dramatic irony encapsulated in this statement. Which is one reason why I cannot not at all see him joining "a long tradition of extending metaphors for comic effect". Merely a mean-spirited attempt to smear a good man and a thoroughly decent and scrupulous thinker without the risk of confronting him.

Ben Six: Do you think "we" have an exclusive monopoly on comic metaphors? Your tribal naivete is quite touching. And here I thought you were such a glutton for universalism!

BenSix said...

And here I thought you were such a glutton for universalism!

You were wrong. I'm not a universalist. Might I suggest that your telepathic abilities are less sophisticated than you seem to think?

The Contentious Centrist said...

Does it really matter, bensix?

Your rush to jump in to defend Rodent's fondness for iffy metaphors suffices to understand what you are: a giddy, insolent leftist quite beside himself with sneering contempt for Israeli Jews and (inevitably) admiration for himself and his own tribe. That is all I need to know. 983348 7

I'll let you have the last word.



SarahABUK said...

I did not pick up on any problem in Flying Rodent's rat comments. On reflection I can see why this seemed problematic (I asked my husband just now what animal he associated with antisemitic tropes and he immediately said 'rats') but I still see this as an unfortunate coincidence. I don't remember Ben Six commenting much about Israel but he has addressed antisemitism on his blog.

The Contentious Centrist said...

Commenting on one of Bob's threads about Israel always ends up in this kind of fiasco; there is always a certain kind of extra large and stinky spitball reserved for a Zionist* followed by the usual mitigations.

* An Israeli Jew, no more no less

bob said...

Sarah and I (although she’s much nicer and more thoughtful than me) are often accused, by both our friends and our enemies, of being too nice, too polite, or too generous to people that don’t deserve it, or simply of sitting on the fence. When we (especially me) attempt to caveat and qualify our positions, we are accused of twisting and turning, of slipperiness and dissembling. Those are probably all character flaws, so Organic Cheeseboard may be insulted rather than complimented when I thank her/him for her/his mode of argument here, showing that it is possible to be robust and rigorous and contentious without resorting to personal insult.

Almost all the rest of us in thread (including myself) have been personally insulting to others in the thread, some more extravagantly than others. While some of these insults may have been accurate (the ones I made obviously were), it’s clearly not conducive to meaningful and productive debate.

Some people are obviously not interested in coming to any kind of reasoned conclusion, but engage in argument for sheer fun or with destructive intent. And anyone who sees their interlocutor as an incorrigible racist (charlatan or otherwise) is right to have destructive intent and should keep at least a barge pole length away from the discussion. (Indulging alleged racists with reasoned argument is precisely why Sarah and I are told off by our friends.)

But for me personally the issues raised in this thread matter, and are worth reasoning out (and I’ve modified my original position as a result of Organic Cheeseboard’s and Flesh’s interventions). And if they’re worth reasoning out, they must be worth the effort at civility. So, if this thread continues: a plea for civility.

Probably the thread has run its natural course, but there are a couple of things I still want to think through…

bob said...

So:
”I also see absolutely on evidence for your stereotyping these people as JC-obsessed or whatever else. If anything they're almost certainly in a very similar situation to you regarding intellectual activities. Most of the prime violators are LRB contributors for instance. “
I don’t think they’re JC-obsessed; I said my hunch was they live in a JC world. Maybe you’re right and my hunch is wrong. But Cooper is actually a rabbi in Finchley and I’m willing to bet cash money that the Klugs and Roses hang out with a lot more Jews than I do. I presume that people that go to Jews for Justice for Palestinians meetings are mostly Jewish. I’m fairly sure that if you mapped the addresses of Independent Jewish Voices signatories and Jewish LRB contributors you’d not find many SE postcodes. (Possibly if I lived in their world, I’d feel more like them: Tony Lerman is understandably embittered by his experiences as a communal activist, for example.)

I concede, though, that there’s nothing wrong with wanting to have their views aired in their union or in a liberal newspaper. My question remains, though: why is the Guardian or UCU so keen to listen? Why should their obsession take up so much space in the general left-wing public sphere?

The argument that Israel is somehow closer to home and therefore a more appropriate target for our anger is a stronger one, and the North Korea torture example is a good one. But I still think Israel gets a lot of anger and attention that other of our close allies don’t get. The Commonwealth, headed by our own Queen and (I think) mostly funded by British taxes, is currently chaired by Mahinda Rajapaksa, probably guilty of war crimes against Tamils that dwarf Israeli war crimes in the parallel period. Turkey is a close ally of ours – it is a NATO member, we are its second biggest trade partner, we have supported its EU accession – and yet, apart from the glamour of Gezi Square, the British left ignores the systematic denial of key collective rights to Turkey’s ethnic and national minorities as well as recent intense repression of internal democracy. The biggest recipients of UK aid are Pakistan and Ethiopia (both among the US top aid recipients) and Nigeria. Of these, Pakistan is a state that, like Israel, is founded on ethnoreligious exclusion and continues to systematically discriminate against non-Muslims and to deny ethnic minorities such as Balochistan any real self-determination. Ethiopia’s treatment of its indigenous people – the violent “villagisation” programme – compares unfavourably with Israel’s treatment of the Bedouin; its repression of its Muslim population is also systemic. Nigeria cannot be seen as systemically racist, but the level of human rights abuses there are shocking, including the state persecution of homosexuals. None of these outrages get any mention at UCU congresses. So I think something other than being a UK ally is behind the unique heat Israel gets.

bob said...

calling someone “asaJew” might be a form of another rhetorical fallacy, what we call “ad hominem”
I don’t think it is.

If you say someone’s argument is wrong because they are Jewish that’s ad hom. But the “asaJew” accusation is not about the Jewishness of the speaker but about the content and form of actual their argument, and specifically about the prefacing of it with the words “As a Jew”.

Organic Cheeseboard said “On this very thread you claim that [the term “asaJew”]’s specifically designed to demonstrate that the person is not an 'authentic' Jew” (Note the quote marks around “authentic’.) I asked where I do that and s/he said here: “ Some anti-Zionist Jews today express their Jewishness primarily through their hatred of Israel” (Note I also made a parallel claim, that other attenuated Jews invest in antisemitism as the primary way of expressing their Jewishness). Is that the same thing? It really doesn’t look like it to me. I don’t think I’ve made any claim on what is authentically Jewish or not; negative attachment to Israel, fighting antisemitism or fighting Jewish injustice may well be authentically Jewish. What I’m drawing attention to is the way the “speaking as a Jew” claim (Mary Kay Wilmer: Jews have a unique responsibility etc; Howard Cooper: these are the true Judaic values and those who don’t follow them are bad faith Jews) is a claim about what’s authentically Jewish. Isn’t this clear?

bob said...

Gosh, I just read the whole of the Butler sentence I quoted second hand: "Called by an injurious name, I come into social being, and because I have a certain inevitable attachment to my existence, because a certain narcissism takes hold of any term that confers existence, I am led to embrace the terms that injure me because they constitute me socially."

Narcissism again, as well as attachment.

The Contentious Centrist said...

"... and I’m willing to bet cash money that the Klugs and Roses hang out with a lot more Jews than I do."

Reminds me of another Seinfeld moment when George, who feels he might be accused of racism, goes to an unusual amount of trouble to find an African-American to take to lunch. Sometime friendship evolves around a mutual interest and sometimes it evolves around a mutual narcissistic need. The latter can be called the fig-leafing anomaly.

Arendt's ruminations about the parvenu may also be instructive here.

levi9909 said...

Organic Cheeseboard - I read your review of Finkler Question. I wish I'd read it before I read the book. I still would have read the book for the same reason I read Atzmon's stupid book but I would have noticed things in Jacabson's book that I didn't notice before.

Do you actually blog anywhere these days?

organic cheeseboard said...

Nah, I just comment here and there, usually on Rodent's place but on a few other places too, Bensix's for one. I was only ever really an AaroWatch commenter too, that was my only above the line post.

Brian Goldfarb said...

Tell me Levi9909, are you still connected with "Jews sans frontieres An Anti-Zionist blog - browsing the media"? From the nature of your comments, I guess so.

We've tangled before, and just like back then, you still don't answer direct questions that demand evidence.

No change there, then.

levi9909 said...

Brian, yes I do still blog at Jews sans frontieres.

I only remember you from Engage and for some years now whenever I have tried to answer a question put to me at Engage, David Hirsh (I presume) has deleted or at least prevented my answer. Dr Hirsh appears to have a policy of only allowing one dissenter per thread and even then he often deletes their responses without letting other contributors know what he's done.

Jim Denham's done the same on his blog but I don't remember you from there.

What questions do you have in mind from the past and what question/s did I miss here? I'm usually happy to answer questions but I have a very short concentration span and a tendency to skim so maybe I missed something here.

So what are the questions, caller?

In the meantime, apologies to anyone who feels I didn't answer a question they put to me.
So, what are the questions, caller?

bob said...

This is a comment from The Contentious Centrist that got lost in my spam list:

I noticed that I was the topic of conversation on Levi's terribly enlightening blog. I left a comment in response, not wishing to let a good opportunity for expressing my contentiousness go to waste. But since it is unlikely to be published, levi not being exactly a liberal blogger or suffering much opposition, I am posting it here as well. One reason is that I really like the Aramaic saying I'm quoting and am always happy for a chance to use it for the edification of anti-Zionistas, non-Zionistas, fascistas and just any old garden variety bigots:

"[A]n empty cookie jar" would be a very succinct and apt formulation of everything Gert, if only it contained a cent coin in it. I'm thinking of the Aramaic saying: Istera balegina kish kish karia"* which would then almost manage to convey the incandescent intelligence of the author of this felicitous phrase.

(*One coin in an empty jar makes a lot of noise)

In visiting these blogs on the folded space end of any political position, I am always amazed at how time stands still there, no growth, no progress, no thinking, the same old obsessions dressed in Tratuffian language. As Jane Austen described this stagnant state: "an affectation and a sameness to disgust and weary".

disillusionedmarxist said...

Hi mate that's a very interesting post. Personally I have big problems with the BDS movement, the biggest one of course is the fact that it completely ignores the role of the working class. It seems to take a view of Israel which is similar to what the SWP took of it basically saying that the working class of Israel because they were dependent on the state were never going to be broken away from that state and didn't have a hope of being progressive, they used examples such as the Histadrut not allowing Arab trade unionists etc. By basically treating all Israelis in this way, and not making distinctions between the bourgeoisie and proletariat, you can already see how this is gonna be problematic. In addition the BDS movement calls for sanctions, petitioning the ruling class of the EU and the USA to put this on Israel. Let's be honest, who do sanctions hurt the most, they plainly don't hurt the ruling class (think about sanctions on Iraq in the 1990s). Let's think of the countries that they are applied to, for example North Korea, Belarus. Have the dictators of these states been persuaded to change their ways, and in these cases, has anything positive happened to their opponents apart from destitution, political repression and death. NO. Leaving aside the whole question surrounding anti-semitism for now I think the politics are quite reactionary and top-down, it's basically asking corporations and states to do things like divest from Israel, as if asking them to do so, would make them any less scummy. Let's say a company like Sodastream, if it didn't have operations in Israel would they magically become ethical? no.
Likewise a lot of campaigning currently centres around G4S and the fact that they work in Israel. What about the work that they do here, detaining refugees, being involved in deaths in custody, their role in policing the DWP and benefit system, and so on. If this company was to divest from Israel would that make everything about them all right? You can see how politically problematic these notions are I think. The other one is the fact that on the British left anyway, there is an obsession with this issue, and the obvious double standards are easy for the Israeli state and its apologists to point out. For example, are there calls for boycotts divestments and sanctions on Ukraine now that neo-Nazis have got their claws into the state? I don't think so, what about China. Nah, didn't think so. To an extent Israel is an easy target. As you say, BDS etc often seems to be more about the people over here than about Israel and Palestine. It becomes a form of identity politics and there's something a bit unsettling, about seeing Jewish people pledging to "hold themselves accountable" over the actions of a state they have no control over. However I must be fair and say that either you, or one of the commenters on your blog, said at one point about how people speak "as Jews" when they hold opinions that aren't agreed with by most of the Jewish people. I don't have much time for a lot of people in, for example JFJFP, but I would say that there would be nothing wrong with holding a different opinion to the majority of Jews (for example radical leftist politics is a minority view to be fair) or anyone else for that matter. And Jews are famous for disagreeing with each other anyway :) However it is quite annoying when the political arguments of many of these people, essentially boil down to finger-wagging guilt trips, and the idea that as Jews we "should have learnt" something from being persecuted. This is ridiculous. Why should we have learnt anything? Victims of persecution often turn to reactionary politics as a result of material conditions or as a result of that persecution.
Zionists would argue that they did learn something from all of the persecution, they would argue that they learnt about the need to have a state and defend themselves, so this line of thought is unlikely to convince anyone except the BDS lobby.

disillusionedmarxist said...

Ok, so I've now had time to read the comment thread. Suffice to say that I don't think that epithets like asajew etc are that helpful frankly. There are lots of people who don't agree with what Israel is doing myself included. I think for some people, because of various reasons, the idea of feeling properly ashamed of our religion does happen, especially when Zionist organizations are sometimes promoted within the community uncritically.

I was involved in the Palestine solidarity campaign for a couple of years and I would say that feeling ashamed and personally responsible, was probably one of the reasons I got involved. But, it is not a healthy reason, and mindless self flagellation is not a particularly helpful political path.

I would say that there are loads of people within the Jewish community who are disgusted by Israel's actions or at the least are deeply disturbed by them, but they won't get involved in groups like JfJfP or any boycott campaigns, why, because they don't want fuck all to do with those people, because they are quite happy to line up with antisemitic scum or the likes of neturei karta because of their own middle class guilt. Because they're happy to say that antisemitism isn't a thing, because they've never experienced it, or if they have it's not affected their life in any significant way. Like one of the things that annoyed me about PSC when I was a member, there was no attempt to engage with the Jewish community, no attempt to explain why what they were doing wasn't racist, and added to that the tolerance of antisemitic views within the organization, not deliberately, but because people (myself included) wanted to give them the benefit of the doubt or pretend it didn't happen because the rest of what they were doing was something that we agreed with.

That doesn't mean to say that everything that PSC etc say about Palestine and Israel is untrue and to be honest I'm equally disturbed by the likes of Stand With Us etc trying to censor debates within the Jewish community, as I am the BDS lobby. But these people feed off of each other, like the Israeli state apologists would never get the support they do were it not for these ideologies, were it not possible to go on any anti Israeli demonstration and hear antisemitic views. But people need to know it's all right to be a Jew and disagree with Israeli government policies, I don't see how the BDS movement and co are helping do that

Unlike most of the people on this thread, I'm a somewhat observant Jew, I go to synagogue, I have a lot of Jewish mates, would I bring them to a demonstration against Israel even if we both agreed with it, would I fuck, I don't want to be lectured to by people who have little to no contact with people like me, and be subjected to hearing antisemitic abuse that nobody challenges effectively

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