The Failure of the American Jewish Establishment
May 18, 2010 9:35 AM   Subscribe

Among American Jews today, there are a great many Zionists, especially in the Orthodox world, people deeply devoted to the State of Israel. And there are a great many liberals, especially in the secular Jewish world, people deeply devoted to human rights for all people, Palestinians included. But the two groups are increasingly distinct. Particularly in the younger generations, fewer and fewer American Jewish liberals are Zionists; fewer and fewer American Jewish Zionists are liberal. One reason is that the leading institutions of American Jewry have refused to foster—indeed, have actively opposed—a Zionism that challenges Israel’s behavior in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and toward its own Arab citizens.
The Failure of the American Jewish Establishment
posted by y2karl (105 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

 
Secular liberals act liberal, secular. Surprising no one.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 9:40 AM on May 18, 2010 [3 favorites]


Most of the students, in other words, were liberals, broadly defined. They had imbibed some of the defining values of American Jewish political culture: a belief in open debate, a skepticism about military force, a commitment to human rights. And in their innocence, they did not realize that they were supposed to shed those values when it came to Israel.

That's gonna ruffle some people's feathers...
posted by Philosopher Dirtbike at 9:43 AM on May 18, 2010


Speaking personally, it doesn't matter to me that American Jewish institutions haven't fostered support for criticism of Israel. I'm critical of Israel and am not part of any Jewish establishment, and American Jewish institutions lost me in a million ways beyond their one-note approach to Zionism. And it's not even that they're doing anything wrong, specifically. They just don't speak to me, and stopped speaking to me ages ago.

Also, I don't like defining my political viewpoint around my ethnic identity, and my criticisms of Israel (and support for the people of Israel, because there is that too) are not rooted in being raised Jewish. It's not a worldview that encompasses everything that happens in my life, and frames it, and I prefer that it not be that.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:44 AM on May 18, 2010 [4 favorites]


sort of related - Noam Chomsky Denied Entry To Israel.
posted by sswiller at 9:47 AM on May 18, 2010


I should also point out that I have yet to experience a Jewish institution, with the exception of very conservative ones, that actively discourage disagreement about and criticism of Israel. But they don't really make that much room for the discussion either.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:47 AM on May 18, 2010


What's with the "hope" and "despair" tags?
posted by shiu mai baby at 9:49 AM on May 18, 2010


The "phenomenon" discussed in the article generalizes to EVERY minority that assimilates into American culture, doesn't it? Diminishing identity with the "old country" in each generation is old hat. Though in this case the country isn't even truly older, and may not actually be where there ancestry hark from, so it's even less surprising.
posted by oblio_one at 9:50 AM on May 18, 2010


I agree that it's definitely a generational experience. My liberal, well-educated, and exceptionally empathetic mother is disturbingly one-note when it comes to questioning Israel ---- you just don't. She grew up with more anti-semitism than I ever experienced, but she has some very knee-jerk ideas about Muslims and people hating Israel and Jews that wouldn't even make sense to her if they were about some other issue.
posted by Geameade at 9:50 AM on May 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


I have sometimes felt that there is an attitude that because I am Jewish, I must support Israel. I disagree. I find that attitude alienating, especially when it comes from the leaders of non-political religious communities.
posted by grouse at 9:51 AM on May 18, 2010


I'm in college, I have many friends who are Jewish and liberal on almost every single issue except for Israel, where they completely reject the idea of a 2-state solution, of Palestinian's ideas having some merit, of Israel having done any wrong, etc. Obviously not all Jewish people hold these views, but I've wondered a lot why so many young ones do and how they don't see a clash with their other beliefs - how it's being fostered. Maybe programs like Birth Right or general growing interest in heritage?
posted by Solon and Thanks at 9:51 AM on May 18, 2010 [7 favorites]


The "phenomenon" discussed in the article generalizes to EVERY minority that assimilates into American culture, doesn't it? Diminishing identity with the "old country" in each generation is old hat.

Israel is hardly the "old" country...
posted by Philosopher Dirtbike at 9:55 AM on May 18, 2010 [6 favorites]


it's definitely a generational experience

When I was a kid, I was shocked by Vanessa Redgrave arguing for Palestinian rights. Anti-semitism was the only explanation I could have even imagined.

Now I have no more sympathy for Israel than I do for China.
posted by Joe Beese at 9:59 AM on May 18, 2010


When I worked for Hadassah, the Women's Zionist Organization, I was impressed at how many of my very Orthodox co-workers were also very liberal. The most hawkish conservative person in my department (whom I once overheard lamenting that it was too bad that we couldn't just kidnap Palestinian babies and raise them in Israel, "so they wouldn't grow up hating us.") was also the least Orthodox.

The permutations differed wildly from department to department; as a gentile I played it extremely safe and keep my mouth shut. The organization is Zionist through and through, but everyone has different reasons for being there. Some are humanitarians who want to help build hospitals (Hadassah's medical facilities aid people in the region regardless of their religion). Some just want to do whatever they can to protect and support Israel. Some are just collecting a paycheck. Jews are every bit as splintered as their Christian counterparts, but I have seen a fundamental unity among them that Christians don't even aspire to, and it's pretty awe-inspiring.
posted by hermitosis at 10:00 AM on May 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


There are indeed many very religious, very conservative Jews who aren't big fans of the state of Israel. For example.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:01 AM on May 18, 2010


Smear job on Peter Beinart in three...two....one...
posted by Xoebe at 10:05 AM on May 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


As somebody who grew up in a Jewish household but having little to no connection with religiosity in my adult life, I can relate to this article. I am a fairly outspoken liberal wing-nut, but the Israel issue is one I have always stayed away from.

There may have been a time when I would have considered myself a supporter of Israel, but that ship has long sailed. Yet, even while I believe that Israel has acted harshly, cruelly and with a sort of grim determination, I can't denounce the country entirely. And whenever I hear a debate over Israel, I can't help but raise my antenna for anti-Semitic coding.

There are many, many reasons for this, and it has made me to become critical of nationalism and religious intolerance. I am trying to rid myself of the notion that there is an 'us' and a 'them,' but that is the crux (forgive the metaphor) of being a Jew.
posted by sswiller at 10:09 AM on May 18, 2010 [7 favorites]


Interesting article. Thanks for posting it.

It's not just a generational thing for [American] Jews either.

I'm British and non-Jewish and the narrative of my childhood about Israel - plucky Israelis on the brink of disaster overcome aggressive Arabs by force of ingenuity and grit - is being unpicked by modern historians and certainly isn't true now.
posted by MuffinMan at 10:14 AM on May 18, 2010


This is an excellent piece, and is about as clear an articulation of how I feel these days as a liberal Zionist. Trapped between rejectionists on the left and immoral, destructive and unrealistic rightists. Feeling that a peace that preserves Israel and raises Palestine has never been further away but is still possible if only this that and the other but my God how has it slipped away so many times -- is deeply uncomfortable.

Smear job on Peter Beinart in three...two....one...

"By the way, I just asked Peter Beinart if he's been called an Israel-hater or a self-hater today. His response: "Actually no one has. It's been the biggest shock -- and happiest one -- of the piece. I don't think my grandmother has read it yet, though."

Also, and it may not be intentional, but Neturei Karta really has nothing to do with this whatsoever. They are quite simply not involved in this debate in any meaningful or serious way.
posted by kosem at 10:15 AM on May 18, 2010


I'm Jewish and a liberal. I'm also a Zionist, but it annoys me that the conversation we have in the USA about Israel's rights and wrongs is far more stunted than the conversation Israelis themselves are having on the same topics. I agree with the premise - there needs to be more intellectual honesty here. We can support Israel in principle while simultaneously having room to criticize specific things that Israel does which are clearly wrong from a human rights perspective. It's not good for Israel's own development to believe that American Jews will support Israel no matter what it does.
posted by 1adam12 at 10:15 AM on May 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


ERRR, should read: about as clear an articulation of how I feel these days as a liberal Zionist as I've read
posted by kosem at 10:16 AM on May 18, 2010


Ezra Klein:
I used to write a lot more about the Israel/Palestine issue than I do today. My main conclusion from those arguments was that the real dividing line was not sympathy for the Palestinians or support for Israel, but whether you fundamentally understood Israel to be the most powerful country in the Middle East and the stronger party in the struggle with the Palestinians or whether you understood Israel to be a small and threatened nation that was locked in a war for its survival with a powerful enemy.

This disagreement often falls across generational lines. As Beinart says, young Jews do not remember Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Algeria massing forces in the run-up to the Six-Day War. They do not remember a coalition of Arab forces streaming across the Sinai on Yom Kippur in order to catch the Jewish state by surprise. Their understanding of Israel was not forged watching the weak and threatened state improbably repel the attacks of potent adversaries.

The absence of such definitional memories has contributed to a new analysis of the Israeli situation. Today, Israel is far, far, far more militarily powerful than any of its assailants. None of the region's armies would dare face the Jewish state on the battlefield, and in the event that they tried, they would be slaughtered. Further stacking the deck is America's steadfast support of Israel. Any serious threat would trigger an immediate defense by the most powerful army the world has ever known. In effect, Israel's not only the strongest power in the region, but it has the Justice League on speed dial.
posted by callmejay at 10:22 AM on May 18, 2010 [14 favorites]


Good article.

It made me think, as many things about Israel and Judaism do these days, to my birthright trip two years ago. Birthright's meant to make you feel all warm and glowy about Israel, but it only made me feel more alienated from my Jewishness. I'm only Jewish via my mother; the trip included a lot of lecturing on the dangers of interfaith marriages and how the children of Christian mothers would never be allowed to make aaliyah. The status of women at places like the Wall and generally (harassment of women allowed if the women are underdressed in certain parts of Jerusalem; it's the women, not the men, who are punished if they're attacked physically or verbally, for being "disrespectful") really nauseated me, as a woman, a liberal, and a feminist. At Tel Aviv's townhall, we were told of how the Jews have a right to be here because they were here 5,000 years ago, and that the Palestinians claims that they'd been there for generations were "worthless." As an agnostic who doesn't take the Bible literally in any sense, this didn't speak to me at all.

Most of the trip didn't. It was very difficult for me to connect that place with my Jewish ancestors--my Yiddish-speaking grandparents, whose parents came to America from Belarus and Russia. It felt like a foreign place--fascinating, but not in any way "mine." If anything, I feel less Jewish now than I once did, because I realized how unwelcome any of these sentiments were.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:23 AM on May 18, 2010 [11 favorites]


One reason is that the leading institutions of American Jewry have refused to foster—indeed, have actively opposed—a Zionism that challenges Israel’s behavior in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and toward its own Arab citizens.

A lot of secular American Jews wouldn't pay much attention to the positions of "the leading institutions of American Jewry" no matter what they are.
posted by amro at 10:23 AM on May 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


Smear job on Peter Beinart in three...two....one...

Can we wait until this actually happens before we address it? Especially as it hasn't happened in this specific thread, and comments like that can just be poison to discussion.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:26 AM on May 18, 2010 [3 favorites]


I'm only Jewish via my mother; the trip included a lot of lecturing on the dangers of interfaith marriages and how the children of Christian mothers would never be allowed to make aaliyah.
I'm a secular, liberal Jew who ended up randomly working for a mainstream Jewish educational establishment, and I came away with the belief that this is the single biggest issue facing the American Jewish community. It's bigger than Israel, even. They're actively driving away the offspring of interfaith marriages, and they can't stop Jews from intermarrying. It's a recipe for demographic disaster, and I can't understand why they refuse to see it.

Anyway, I'm at the point where I won't discuss Israel with anyone, Jewish or non-Jewish. It's depressing and unproductive in pretty much all instances.
posted by craichead at 10:30 AM on May 18, 2010


I'm a secular, liberal Jew who ended up randomly working for a mainstream Jewish educational establishment, and I came away with the belief that this is the single biggest issue facing the American Jewish community. It's bigger than Israel, even. They're actively driving away the offspring of interfaith marriages, and they can't stop Jews from intermarrying. It's a recipe for demographic disaster, and I can't understand why they refuse to see it.

Right, exactly. And according to their logic, I'm safely Jewish (as would be my children--heck, my husband's even Jewish via his mother so I didn't need to be lectured on marrying a Jew), but I still found the dogma incredibly alienating. I think that interfaith offspring recognize that they have options here; if you want to instill pride and a sense of religion in us, telling us about the evils of our Christian (or Muslim, or Wiccan) parents isn't the right way to do it.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:35 AM on May 18, 2010


The most obnoxious thing about some mainstream Jewish organizations hostility to interfaith children is that, statistically, when a member of an interfaith marriage decides to convert, they tend to convert to Judaism, and, if their children have a religious identity, it tends to be Jewish.

Jews don't proselytize. And we intermarry all the time. The least we can do is respect the fact that the result of that isn't some weird Judaism-destroying trend, but a lot of people for whom their identity as Jews is at least as important as people who were born of two Jewish parents.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:40 AM on May 18, 2010


whether you fundamentally understood Israel to be the most powerful country in the Middle East and the stronger party in the struggle with the Palestinians or whether you understood Israel to be a small and threatened nation that was locked in a war for its survival with a powerful enemy.

I actually see it as all of these things.
posted by grouse at 10:42 AM on May 18, 2010


Anyway, I'm at the point where I won't discuss Israel with anyone, Jewish or non-Jewish. It's depressing and unproductive in pretty much all instances.

Well, if anybody needs me I'll be arguing about Israel on the internet.
posted by Doublewhiskeycokenoice at 10:43 AM on May 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


I heard an interview with a Rabbi from the Hasidic Community her in New York who runs an organization of Hasidic Jews against Israel. He claimed that many in the Hasidic scene are anti Israel because it goes against the actual beliefs of the Jewish tradition, and it's forbidden in the scriptures. I was surprised by how progressive he was.
posted by Liquidwolf at 10:46 AM on May 18, 2010


I was raised Jewish (Reform) but my mother wasn't born Jewish when she had me. In the eyes of the state of Israel and most branches of Judaism I am not Jewish. Even though I went to a Hebrew school starting at age 8 where I learned Hebrew and Yiddish, even though I had a bar mitzvah, even though I stayed in Hebrew school well after my bar mitzvah and did NFTY and other Jewish extra-curriculars - I am only Jewish by Reform standards.

What troubles me most about Israel (the human rights question aside, one which I take Amnesty's side on) is that it centralizes who get's to be a Jew. For the majority of Jewish history, Judaism was in many ways decentralized and not embodied in an institution. Now we have the state of Israel that decrees who or who is not a Jew and furthermore bans all marriage between Jews and non-Jews.

So when other Jews bring up Israel and say I should support because it's my "homeland" I have to tell them that I'm probably not welcome in Israel. You could be a Muslim but if you had a Jewish mom, you're more Jewish than I am. So, if you're like me and born on the wrong side of the genetic line, Israel exists, but not for you.
posted by PostIronyIsNotaMyth at 10:46 AM on May 18, 2010 [6 favorites]


Smear job on Peter Beinart in three...two....one...

He deserves it after his behavior in the run up to the Iraq War.
posted by notyou at 10:49 AM on May 18, 2010


The notion Judaism as a race is absurd. It's set up as a false scared cow to deflect scrutiny and claim all criticism and anti-semitism. I'm pro human, not pro race.
posted by Liquidwolf at 10:51 AM on May 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


Here's my take on it. (I'm a thirtysomething formerly Orthodox, now secular, always liberal Jew. I lived in Israel for a year following high school -- the year Rabin was assassinated. By a student who went to the same school as my best friend. While I was there, terrorists blew up a restaurant I went to regularly as well as a bus that I sometimes took.)

First, the situation there is impossible. I see no way forward, no right answers. I believe that a slight majority of Israelis would support a workable two-state solution, while a minority of Palestinians would. Worse, the minority of Israelis who would always oppose such a thing are much more vocal, much more organized, and much more determined. They will always find a way to sabotage it. The minority of Palestinians who would always oppose such a thing are even worse. They commit terrorism, they try to get Israel to counterattack from within civilian areas, etc.

So there are no right answers. But there are still a lot of wrong answers. Israel's Gaza offensive accomplished nothing but the slaughter of hundreds of people. Building illegal settlements throws fuel on the fire and makes peace and a two-state solution even less likely. Banning Chomsky makes them look pathetic and totalitarian.

It's a weird situation because of the assymetric nature of it. I really believe that if Palestinians simply stopped killing Israelis, it would stop the cycle of violence. Israel's attacks, no matter how disproportionate, really are counterattacks. They are going after the terrorists, even when they callously disregard "collateral damage." No more terrorism, no more Israeli offensives.

If Israel stopped killing Palestinians, it would not stop the violence. The rockets and the bombings would continue for as long as Jews lived in Israel. The terrorists would push and push and push and deliberately try to provoke a counterattack that would maximize Palestinian civilian deaths, because that's good PR for them. So in that sense, the Palestinians are more at fault.

However, if Palestinians stopped killing Israelis, Israel would still be building more and more settlements, claiming ever more land as a permanent part of Israel, and generally making Palestinians' lives difficult. So it's not like it's totally one-sided either. Israel does wrong that is not necessary and not even aimed at reducing violence.

Meanwhile, American "Zionism" has gotten more and more unhinged (excluding J Street and the attempt to form a more liberal Zionism, which I imagine is going to be as successful as Air America was.) Equating "supporting Israel" with "going along with whatever the fuck Israel does, no matter how horrific" is ridiculous. Equating "opposing any action by Israel, ever" with "antisemitism" is disgusting and crying wolf of the worst kind. Ten percent of Jews are pretending that the other 90% are anti-Israel and somehow anti-semitic. (They also pretend that 40-50% of Israeli Jews "hate Israel.") There's a whole bunch of bullshit about Obama hating Israel that I see constantly from my still-Orthodox friends on facebook. Mix religion with politics and you get stupidity squared.

So I support Israel in the sense that I believe it has a right to exist and to defend itself. I support the U.S.'s support of Israel. I strongly oppose Israel's continuing to build illegal settlements and engage in human rights horrors. I reserve my deepest contempt, though, for the terrorists. Those who target women and children. Those who deliberate attack from the shadows of mosques and schools and hospitals, hoping that the counterattacks will kill their own people to get public opinion on their side.

I fear that Americans and Europeans are siding with the Palestinians too easily. Just because they are the underdog, it does not mean that they are in the right. They are deeply, deeply wrong, at least as wrong as the Israelis and in many ways more wrong.

We shouldn't be taking sides in this conflict. We should be trying to get the sane Israelis and the sane Palestinians to side together somehow and to take on the insane Israelis and the insane Palestinians. I don't have a lot of hope for it, and I can't really imagine it happening, but it's at least possible. Neither the right-wing Israelis nor the right-wing Palestinians have any chance of making things better, even for themselves.
posted by callmejay at 10:51 AM on May 18, 2010 [25 favorites]


Something you might find interesting about Israel, PostIronyIsNotaMyth: On Birthright trips there's a lot of socializing with young (like, 18-year-old) Israeli soldiers. In speaking to the soldiers who accompanied my group, we learned that most Israeli young people are extremely secular and non-observant. What's more, since most Judaism in Israeli is fairly Orthodox, most girls receive very little religious training and certainly aren't Bat Mitzvahed. Most of the soldiers, said, however, that they would never leave Israel because that would mean that they weren't Jewish. When I asked a female solider who'd never had a Bat Mitzvah if she thought that the religiously-observant, Reform Jewish women on the trip (who had gone to Hebrew school, been Bat Mitzvahed, were active parts of their synagogues) were less Jewish than they were, they said yes, especially if their mothers weren't Jewish. In that case, they weren't Jewish at all.

It all seemed very strange to me.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:54 AM on May 18, 2010


I heard an interview with a Rabbi from the Hasidic Community her in New York who runs an organization of Hasidic Jews against Israel. He claimed that many in the Hasidic scene are anti Israel because it goes against the actual beliefs of the Jewish tradition, and it's forbidden in the scriptures. I was surprised by how progressive he was.

Don't be fooled by these people. They're not progressive at all, they just happen to have ridiculously close-minded religious views that go in the opposite direction of the majority of Orthodox Jews' ridiculously close-minded religious views.
posted by callmejay at 10:55 AM on May 18, 2010 [3 favorites]


In the eyes of the state of Israel and most branches of Judaism I am not Jewish

While the Orthodox in Israel wouldn't consider you Jewish, you are eligible for the Law of Return -- you're Jewish enough for citizenship.

And, of course, Reform Judaism would see you as Jewish. Since 42 percent of America Jews are Reform, whereas only 7 percent are Orthodox and 33 percent are Conservative, you can at least comfort yourself that a majority of America Jews see you as being as Jewish as anybody, for what it's worth.

I'm in the same boat. I was adopted by Jews, but am of Irish-American parents. I was never converted and raised Reform. So there are Jews for whom I would not be seen as Jewish as all, despite never having been anything but.

Those Jews are assholes.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:59 AM on May 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


The notion Judaism as a race is absurd. It's set up as a false scared cow to deflect scrutiny and claim all criticism and anti-semitism. I'm pro human, not pro race.

Please don't do this.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:00 AM on May 18, 2010 [5 favorites]


sort of related - Noam Chomsky Denied Entry To Israel.

Also sort of related: Elvis Costello Cancels Concerts in Israel
posted by HP LaserJet P10006 at 11:07 AM on May 18, 2010



The notion Judaism as a race is absurd. It's set up as a false scared cow to deflect scrutiny and claim all criticism and anti-semitism. I'm pro human, not pro race.

Please don't do this.



What I won't do is make any more typos. I meant "sacred" not "scared", although either is good.
posted by Liquidwolf at 11:15 AM on May 18, 2010


I would ask that you also research Judaism before you comment on it. Judaism as a race is not something Jews made up so that they can accuse people of antisemitism, and it's not related to this discussion, either.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:17 AM on May 18, 2010 [10 favorites]


Also sort of related: Elvis Costello Cancels Concerts in Israel

He's an ass. He should have taken a cue from Leonard Cohen and how he didn't shy away from the situation on his visit last year:
"...all proceeds from the show will go to organizations that promote peace...Most of the money will go to the Parents Circle, a joint Israeli-Palestinian group of bereaved parents that helps families from both sides who lost loved ones in the conflict."
I'm with Israeli Sports & Culture Minister Limor Livnat on this:
“An artist who boycotts his fans in Israel is not worthy of performing in front of them,” Ms. Livnat wrote.
posted by yiftach at 11:22 AM on May 18, 2010 [2 favorites]



I would ask that you also research Judaism before you comment on it. Judaism as a race is not something Jews made up so that they can accuse people of antisemitism, and it's not related to this discussion, either.


Hmm, Ok.
posted by Liquidwolf at 11:25 AM on May 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


Haruki Murakami on accepting an award in Israel:

Any number of times after receiving notice of the award, I asked myself whether traveling to Israel at a time like this and accepting a literary prize was the proper thing to do, whether this would create the impression that I supported one side in the conflict, that I endorsed the policies of a nation that chose to unleash its overwhelming military power. This is an impression, of course, that I would not wish to give. I do not approve of any war, and I do not support any nation. Neither, of course, do I wish to see my books subjected to a boycott.

Finally, however, after careful consideration, I made up my mind to come here. One reason for my decision was that all too many people advised me not to do it. Perhaps, like many other novelists, I tend to do the exact opposite of what I am told. If people are telling me - and especially if they are warning me - "don't go there," "don't do that," I tend to want to "go there" and "do that." It's in my nature, you might say, as a novelist. Novelists are a special breed. They cannot genuinely trust anything they have not seen with their own eyes or touched with their own hands.

And that is why I am here. I chose to come here rather than stay away. I chose to see for myself rather than not to see. I chose to speak to you rather than to say nothing.

posted by Astro Zombie at 11:27 AM on May 18, 2010 [5 favorites]


In a more recent report on how to foster Zionism among America’s young, Luntz urges American Jewish groups to use the word “Arabs, not Palestinians,” since “the term ‘Palestinians’ evokes images of refugee camps, victims and oppression,” while “‘Arab’ says wealth, oil and Islam.”

I'd never realized what really bothered me about the term "Arab" until now. It's like what bothers me about the term "Asian."
posted by anniecat at 11:44 AM on May 18, 2010


This is an excellent article. Thank you very much for posting it.
Morally, American Zionism is in a downward spiral. If the leaders of groups like AIPAC and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations do not change course, they will wake up one day to find a younger, Orthodox-dominated, Zionist leadership whose naked hostility to Arabs and Palestinians scares even them, and a mass of secular American Jews who range from apathetic to appalled. Saving liberal Zionism in the United States—so that American Jews can help save liberal Zionism in Israel—is the great American Jewish challenge of our age. And it starts where Luntz’s students wanted it to start: by talking frankly about Israel’s current government, by no longer averting our eyes.
He's going to get flamed out of existence by the Right. But this absolutely needs to be said. Heck, it needs to be shouted from the rooftops.
posted by zarq at 11:45 AM on May 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yeah, that's a killer paragraph, zarq.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:57 AM on May 18, 2010


I'm with Israeli Sports & Culture Minister Limor Livnat on this:
“An artist who boycotts his fans in Israel is not worthy of performing in front of them,” Ms. Livnat wrote.


Well a lot of people, including musicians, felt boycotting apartheid South Africa during made sense, and a lot of people also think the Israeli treatment of the Palestinians is a lot like apartheid, so perhaps Costello is not boycotting "his fans" so much as making a statement about particular leaders and policies in Israel, and not really about the average Israeli citizen.
posted by HP LaserJet P10006 at 12:02 PM on May 18, 2010 [7 favorites]


I don't blame artists who choose not to play in a country out of protest of that country's policies. I like the Murakami quote, obviously, but Elvis Costello has every right to decide not to play.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:04 PM on May 18, 2010


On Israel, Jews and Leaders Often Disagree

The Answer Is Jon Stewart
posted by homunculus at 12:08 PM on May 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


Astro Zombie: "I don't blame artists who choose not to play in a country out of protest of that country's policies. I like the Murakami quote, obviously, but Elvis Costello has every right to decide not to play."

Of course he does, but taking the tack Cohen did would arguably have done more good for more people in the long run in terms of the conflict AND increased Costello's cachet in the region and beyond.
posted by yiftach at 12:15 PM on May 18, 2010


I don't think I would have made the decision Costello did, and agree with you, but neither can I fault him for his decision. Each artist must navigate this through their own conscience.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:22 PM on May 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


Carlo Strenger nails my position: Jewish liberals from all nations, unite
posted by yiftach at 12:29 PM on May 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


sort of related - Noam Chomsky Denied Entry To Israel.

Also sort of related: Shin Bet deports Spain's most famous clown upon arrival in Israel
posted by homunculus at 12:56 PM on May 18, 2010


Personally, I preferred this editorial on the clown incident: Has anyone ever heard of a supporter or benefactor of the most extremist of settlers being deported?.
posted by zarq at 1:02 PM on May 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


I can't wait until I'm famous enough to get invited to Israel so I can turn it down.
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 1:11 PM on May 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


sort of related - Noam Chomsky Denied Entry To Israel.

Nitpick: He was denied entry to the West Bank by Israel, which isn't the same thing as being denied entry to Israel. Entry into the West Bank is governed by the Defense Ministry. Entry into Israel is governed by Immigration and Customs, whose rules are far less strict.

I've posted a link to the Tikun Olam blog in previous I/P threads. I believe it's well worth following.
posted by zarq at 1:15 PM on May 18, 2010


Follow the demographics. From the article:
Because they marry earlier, intermarry less, and have more children, Orthodox Jews are growing rapidly as a share of the American Jewish population. According to a 2006 American Jewish Committee (AJC) survey, while Orthodox Jews make up only 12 percent of American Jewry over the age of sixty, they constitute 34 percent between the ages of eighteen and twenty-four.
WP:
In contrast to the ongoing trends of assimilation, some communities within American Jewry, such as Orthodox Jews, have significantly higher birth rates and lower intermarriage rates, and are growing rapidly. The proportion of Jewish synagogue members who were Orthodox rose from 11% in 1971 to 21% in 2000, while the overall Jewish community declined in number. [49] In 2000, there were 360,000 so-called "ultra-orthodox" (Haredi) Jews in USA (7.2%).[50] The figure for 2006 is estimated at 468,000 (9.4%).[50]

And in Israel: Percent of non-working Haredi men tripled in space of 30 years.
The number of elementary school pupils in the Arab education system has risen 33% in the same period, and in ultra-Orthodox schools the increase was 51%. As of 2008, because of these demographic changes, 48% of all elementary school children were either Arab or Haredi.

"In order for these elementary schoolers to be integrated into the labor market, they must receive an education appropriate to the needs of a modern economy," said Ben-David. "But the situation in Israel is such that the level of elementary education in basic subjects is lower than in the West, and among these two groups it is much lower."
posted by psyche7 at 1:37 PM on May 18, 2010


Can we wait until this actually happens before we address it?

Please don't do this...

I would ask that you also research Judaism before you comment on it. Judaism as a race is not something Jews made up so that they can accuse people of antisemitism, and it's not related to this discussion, either...


Ditto, ditto, ditto--amen, amen, amen.

Anyway, I'm at the point where I won't discuss Israel with anyone, Jewish or non-Jewish.

I have been walking on decalcified hummingbird eggshells for a long, long time now, myself. I am not Jewish but, pardon the cliche, my closest friends are, more often than not, and I have bit my tongue many a time while listening to regurgitated talking point after regurgitated talking point regarding the extremity of Chomsky, the perfidy of Arafat and *groan* 'facts upon the ground'. And an opportunity to mention never missing an opportunity to miss an opportunity is never missed.

And then again I have heard the same people express the most insightful clear eyed heartfelt soul searching comments to the contrary. It can be most bemusing and faith restorative all at the same time.

As for What's with the "hope" and "despair" tags ?

To paraphrase Jimi Hendrix, Excuse me, while I roll my eyes.
posted by y2karl at 2:00 PM on May 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


I have been walking on decalcified hummingbird eggshells for a long, long time now, myself. I am not Jewish but, pardon the cliche, my closest friends are, more often than not, and I have bit my tongue many a time while listening to regurgitated talking point after regurgitated talking point regarding the extremity of Chomsky, the perfidy of Arafat and *groan* 'facts upon the ground'. And an opportunity to mention never missing an opportunity to miss an opportunity is never missed.

That sounds familiar. My wife and I have been uninvited to certain gatherings at a friend's house, because he, his wife and most of their friends are Orthodox and we don't have much tolerance for their intolerance.
posted by zarq at 2:28 PM on May 18, 2010


Love him or hate him or both, but Eli Valley nailed this one a long time ago...
posted by greatgefilte at 2:53 PM on May 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


Goldberg and Beinart are having a discussion over at the Goldblog about this.
posted by kosem at 2:56 PM on May 18, 2010


Yesterday's Tablet interview with Beinart.
posted by kosem at 3:03 PM on May 18, 2010


In the eyes of the state of Israel and most branches of Judaism I am not Jewish. . .

My (American, Jewish, Liberal) grandmother had a nice formulation for who is Jewish and who is not: "When the next pogrom comes, will they come for you? Then you're a Jew." (Note that it was "when", not "if".)

By this formulation, you are almost certainly Jewish. Welcome.
posted by The Bellman at 3:31 PM on May 18, 2010 [8 favorites]


My (American, Jewish, Liberal) grandmother had a nice formulation for who is Jewish and who is not: "When the next pogrom comes, will they come for you? Then you're a Jew." (Note that it was "when", not "if".)

By the thinking this way, one surrenders his or her fundamental human concern -- identification -- to the mob. This socialized lumping together into arbitrary categories is a crime against the individual and to accept it is the equivalent of acquiescing to gold stars and segregated toilets.
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 4:34 PM on May 18, 2010


a crime against the individual and to accept it is the equivalent of acquiescing to gold stars and segregated toilets

I see.
posted by kosem at 4:54 PM on May 18, 2010


I'll be sure to let Bubbe know.
posted by kosem at 4:55 PM on May 18, 2010 [4 favorites]


This socialized lumping together into arbitrary categories is a crime against the individual and to accept it is the equivalent of acquiescing to gold stars and segregated toilets.

As opposed to denial of social status within a group based on equally arbitrary categories?
posted by zarq at 5:01 PM on May 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


By the thinking this way, one surrenders his or her fundamental human concern -- identification -- to the mob. This socialized lumping together into arbitrary categories is a crime against the individual and to accept it is the equivalent of acquiescing to gold stars and segregated toilets.

One can see where it comes from, though. Apparently there was no "Jewish" population more thoroughly assimilated than that in Germany before the Third Reich. There were a lot of Germans who had a Jewish great-grandparent or similar but had never, for a moment, considered themselves to be Jewish. It didn't do them much good, if I recall correctly.
posted by acb at 5:07 PM on May 18, 2010


esprit, I . . . I got nothing. If you mean that comment sincerely, I don't even know where to start.
posted by The Bellman at 5:36 PM on May 18, 2010


As opposed to denial of social status within a group based on equally arbitrary categories

How does "social status within a group" fit with the original comment at all? What we're talking about is the suggestion that it is useful to allow a part of society to put you in a group based on... your desired subjugation.

This is not a group in which you have any "social status." And, the response to this is not acceptance. The answer is rejecting both this group and any group that is not freely selected by the individual.

I can see that it's hard for people to do this though. It's easy to ally with the other victims of the same racism, but doing that reinforces the oppressor's false "racial dichotomy." It's harder, but wiser, I think to ally with those who are against these "identity injustices", like racism and sexism. In this way, you stand a chance of transforming your oppressor-- because instead of reinforcing his racial dichotomy, you are introducing a new, more accurate dichotomy where they are on the side of selfishly (or stupidly) oppressing the individual and you are not.
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 5:37 PM on May 18, 2010


One can see where it comes from, though. Apparently there was no "Jewish" population more thoroughly assimilated than that in Germany before the Third Reich. There were a lot of Germans who had a Jewish great-grandparent or similar but had never, for a moment, considered themselves to be Jewish. It didn't do them much good, if I recall correctly.

That's a really good point.

I do not think that the error was theirs, even though they disproportionately suffered for it. In my eyes, all genocides are human tragedies (which belong to everyone), and the principle culprit is neither the victim nor the oppressor, but the human failure of having seen things out of focus -- simplistically believing that there's an us and them.

If you agree, then the question is how you make the oppressor recognize your humanity. I don't know if this question has one answer. However, my intuition is that if we are trying to convince others of our humanity, we should not accept anything dehumanizing -- like segregated toilets and gold stars. Nor should we band together to menace our oppressor and justify his oppression. Maybe Gandhi's satyagraha would not have "worked" in Germany, but the underlying principles ring true to me.
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 5:55 PM on May 18, 2010


"your desired subjugation" -> "their desire to subjugate you."
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 6:06 PM on May 18, 2010


Obviously not all Jewish people hold these views, but I've wondered a lot why so many young ones do and how they don't see a clash with their other beliefs...

It's called "cognitive dissonance," and when you're young you have a lot more energy to sustain it.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 6:15 PM on May 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


"We shouldn't be taking sides in this conflict."

I'm all for cooler heads prevailing, but speaking as an American this is a ridiculous cop-out. Support or loathe the government of Israel (I'm in the latter camp), but we prop it up with US tax dollars. It's impossible to claim a position of dispassion or neutrality or objectivity when you're paying for the bombs, tanks, and bullets that murder innocent Palestinian civilians on a nearly daily basis.

So if you're cool with that, I guess you can take the supposed high-road of "calm and serious" discourse on this one. Bully for you.
posted by bardic at 9:04 PM on May 18, 2010


Hulk destroy television anti-semites! Hulk listen to right wing radio and not feel dirty! Cartoonist Eli Valley, who publishes in the Forward, has been there before.
posted by zaelic at 4:17 AM on May 19, 2010


what are the gold stars? you've lost me.
posted by miss tea at 4:24 AM on May 19, 2010


Dang, I didn't see that first Eli Valley post! Sorry.
posted by zaelic at 4:30 AM on May 19, 2010


Miss Tea, it's a reference to the identification "badges" Jews were forced to wear by the Germans during the Holocaust. See: Holocaust Badges
posted by zarq at 6:01 AM on May 19, 2010


Esprit, I was describing the Jewish tradition of matrilinial descent, albeit obliquely. The idea that one cannot possibly be considered automatically Jewish no matter their level of observance is an arbitrary, self-imposed (social) parameter.

I agree with you, of course, that we should reject the mantle of victimhood when it is imposed by others. Perhaps this is a trite point, but I would argue that we also do harm to ourselves by limiting our definition of who a Jew is, as we do by allowing others to define us by their "standards."
posted by zarq at 6:18 AM on May 19, 2010


By matrilinial descent, Elvis was a Jew, which I think would have surprised him.
posted by Astro Zombie at 6:23 AM on May 19, 2010


thanks zarq. I thought that might be it but it seemed such a tasteless (and off the wall) reference I hoped perhaps esprit meant something else.

maybe I am misunderstanding the argument but he is suggesting that calling oneself a Jew is akin to racial classification and restrictions as practiced by the Nazis?
posted by miss tea at 6:28 AM on May 19, 2010


I can't speak for esprit, but my impression is that he meant that we Jews shouldn't allow others to dictate their (racist, oppressive, antisemitic) ideas of who we should and shouldn't be.

In other words, when we say "if the Nazis would have rounded you up and sent you to a camp because they believed you were Jewish, so you're a Jew," we are accepting the Nazis determination of who was and was not Jewish, rather establishing it ourselves.
posted by zarq at 7:30 AM on May 19, 2010


By the way, I do think esprit is making a very valuable point. Since the Holocaust, Jewish culture has become intertwined with a sort of victimhood ethos, and I think it's important for us as a people to diminish and eventually break that. I commented about it a little here.
posted by zarq at 7:35 AM on May 19, 2010


By matrilinial descent, Elvis was a Jew, which I think would have surprised him.

Ironically, Neil Diamond used to be known as "The Jewish Elvis." :D
posted by zarq at 7:40 AM on May 19, 2010


Obviously, determining who is and isn't a Jew is tricky, and it's not like there is one central official who can give the "is/is not a Jew" final stamp of acceptance/rejection, although some would like to claim that.

I tend to have a pretty inclusive definition. Cary Grant thought he was Jewish, and I'm gonna go ahead and take his word on it, even though there's no real evidence. Marilyn Monroe converted, as did Sammy Davis Jr. Neither were demonstratively really committed to a Jewish identity over any length of time, and so they're in sort of a gray zone for me. I'm a Jew, despite being an Irishman; Elvis wasn't, not really, despite having matrilineal claims. If antisemites identified you as a Jew and persecuted you, and you have your own Jewish identity as well, I'll accept you. If you were persecuted and are bewildered because you don't think you're a Jew at all, I'll take your word that you're not a Jew and they're crazy.
posted by Astro Zombie at 7:41 AM on May 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


Ironically, Neil Diamond used to be known as "The Jewish Elvis."

Even more ironically, some have called Elvis the gentile Neil Diamond.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 8:03 AM on May 19, 2010


Elvis wasn't, not really, despite having matrilineal claims.

But he was a shabbos goy, which counts for something, I should hope. And, from checking Google to make sure, I see that Brack Obama and Colin Powell were, too.
posted by y2karl at 10:01 AM on May 19, 2010


zarq: In other words, when we say "if the Nazis would have rounded you up and sent you to a camp because they believed you were Jewish, so you're a Jew," we are accepting the Nazis determination of who was and was not Jewish, rather establishing it ourselves.

Yeah, that's exactly what I was trying to say. It also lets others decide what it means to be Jewish (or Irish, or male, or female, or gay, or straight, etc.)
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 10:14 AM on May 19, 2010


bardic: ""We shouldn't be taking sides in this conflict."

I'm all for cooler heads prevailing, but speaking as an American this is a ridiculous cop-out.


It's not a cop-out, it's a bad idea that (with all due respect) callmejay contradicted in his very next sentence - we SHOULD take the side of the "sane" on both sides of the conflict and try to promote rational, realistic peace efforts that have even a small chance of bringing closer to fulfillment the two-state solution.

Support or loathe the government of Israel (I'm in the latter camp), but we prop it up with US tax dollars. It's impossible to claim a position of dispassion or neutrality or objectivity when you're paying for the bombs, tanks, and bullets that murder innocent Palestinian civilians on a nearly daily basis.

So if you're cool with that, I guess you can take the supposed high-road of "calm and serious" discourse on this one. Bully for you.
"

And the $400 million a year (PDF Congressional Research Service report) of US assistance to the Palestinians is what? Yes, I'm sure not a penny of it has paid for rockets, mortars, or bullets that have been used to murder innocent Israeli civilians, or to "compensate" the families of suicide bombers who've "martyred" themselves on Israel's streets and buses, or just to pay for a new Mercedes for a Palestinian official who didn't have enough in his garage.

The Israeli government does a lot of things wrong (look! I'm a Jewish liberal, I just criticized the Israeli government, and nothing happened!). The big difference is that the goings on in Israel are orders of magnitude more transparent than in the Palestinian Authority, so corruption can be dealt with (and often is) and unpopular decisions can be openly criticized and sometimes reversed without fear of the critic being jailed or worse.

I am not dispassionate about this, obviously. I am on the side of the people who are really trying to achieve a resolution to this conflict, be they inside or outside government. This is more than an academic or theoretical issue for me. I was born in Israel, I have family there, and I want my kids to be able to go and at least visit, if not live there. And I certainly want Israel as a state, Israelis as a people, and Jews everywhere, to have a relationship with Israel that isn't based on the conflict.
posted by yiftach at 2:32 PM on May 19, 2010


>To paraphrase Jimi Hendrix, Excuse me, while I roll my eyes.

y2karl, it just seemed a little facile and editorial, and not terribly useful in terms of indexing the site. But whatever. To paraphrase John Lennon, whatever gets you through your post.
posted by shiu mai baby at 8:02 AM on May 20, 2010


I'm in college, I have many friends who are Jewish and liberal on almost every single issue except for Israel, where they completely reject the idea of a 2-state solution, of Palestinian's ideas having some merit, of Israel having done any wrong, etc.

Well, they're clearly wrongthinkers, and you've put your finger on it: it's because they're Jews. I don't know why they want to be in college at all if they're going to go around having wrong opinions. You need to explain to them that it is their duty to be a sort of personified apology for the State of Israel, much as their ancestors were personified apologies for the killers of Christ.
posted by Joe in Australia at 8:20 AM on May 20, 2010


y2karl, it just seemed a little facile and editorial...

Editorial, perhaps, but facile, no. Facile suggests ease. I suppose that those two words are probably of little help in indexing but on the topic of Israel/Palestine, as in the shorthand commonly used here, that is one where I have felt so little hope and so much despair for so long. I did not add them out of lighthearted whimsy.
posted by y2karl at 9:30 AM on May 20, 2010


thanks zarq. I thought that might be it but it seemed such a tasteless (and off the wall) reference I hoped perhaps esprit meant something else.

How is it "off the wall"? Are gold stars not the perfect real-life metaphor for mob-imposed identification?

It doesn't make sense to call something "off the wall" at a point before you're able to make sense of someone's point.
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 2:07 PM on May 20, 2010


on the topic of Israel/Palestine [...] I have felt so little hope and so much despair for so long.

Why? Why this one in particular? Do you feel hope and despair about, say, the division of Cyprus or the various ongoing civil wars along the edges of India, Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan? Why does this one demand your attention to the extent that you can feel such deep emotions about it? I'm not trying to be snarky, I really want to know why people are so obsessed with I/P.

To put this into context, here's a relevant Wikipedia page: Ongoing Conflicts. I think I'm pretty good on international affairs but there are many here I hadn't heard of. I'm probably not alone in this - I bet there are a bunch of people in this very thread who couldn't find the Maghreb or Kashmir on a map, to say nothing of Ogaden or Balochistan. So why is it that everyone knows all the details of the I/P conflict, even down to the number of apartments (1600) that allegedly ruined plans for peace? I don't think it's hatred of Jews; there would be more productive ways to express it. It certainly isn't love for the Palestinians - nobody pays attention to Palestinians in Syria or Jordan, whose lives are frankly crap. So what is it about I/P?
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:13 PM on May 20, 2010


How is it "off the wall"?

Because it's emotionally divorced from the felt reality of wearing a gold star, or seeing one's parents or grandparents wearing one.

Are gold stars not the perfect real-life metaphor

It's just not a metaphor. I'm not sure how else to put it. Nothing is like or the same as pinning a yellow Jude or any of the other Nazi markers to your chest. And so that, and not the possibly rational point you were trying to make, is about the size of it.

Better in this case to say what maybe it is that you actually mean. Which as I understand it is: "Don't accept the identity with which the oppressors have saddled you." That's a fair point, as far as it goes. But what you wrote -- if not what you meant -- was outrageous, and I ask you to think about why that might be. And it isn't because we didn't understand the subtlety or because you aren't allowed to speak about identity politics or about Jews.
posted by kosem at 8:33 PM on May 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


To put this into context, here's a relevant Wikipedia page: Ongoing Conflicts. I think I'm pretty good on international affairs but there are many here I hadn't heard of. I'm probably not alone in this - I bet there are a bunch of people in this very thread who couldn't find the Maghreb or Kashmir on a map, to say nothing of Ogaden or Balochistan. So why is it that everyone knows all the details of the I/P conflict, even down to the number of apartments (1600) that allegedly ruined plans for peace? I don't think it's hatred of Jews; there would be more productive ways to express it. It certainly isn't love for the Palestinians - nobody pays attention to Palestinians in Syria or Jordan, whose lives are frankly crap. So what is it about I/P?

I suspect there are at least three reasons.

1) Some people (myself included here,) think Israel should do better than to commit human rights violations against (or simply oppress,) another population. For heaven's sake, Israel was formed in the wake of the Holocaust as a refuge for the victim of an attempted genocide. They need to hold themselves to a higher standard because they are intimately aware of what it was like to be the victims of oppression.

2) Americans have funded Israel monetarily, militarily and with material support (food, etc.,) for ~60 years. The money is a statement of approval for state policies which negatively affect the Palestinians.

1) Antisemitism probably influences at least some criticism. Some people really do believe Jews are evil, and any questionable act committed by Israel reinforces that belief. That said, AntiZionism or AntiIsrael statement does not automatically equal antisemitism.
posted by zarq at 11:07 PM on May 20, 2010


Er...that should be: 1, 2, 3. Not 1, 2, 1. :P
posted by zarq at 11:08 PM on May 20, 2010


1) [...] They need to hold themselves to a higher standard because they are intimately aware of what it was like to be the victims of oppression.

This is a classic double standard: you're saying that Israel deserves to be punished for things which you would excuse in other countries. In fact it's even worse than that - you're saying that they deserve to be punished because they're victims! Furthermore, are they the only victims you hold to a higher standard? What about China - do you hold it to a higher standard because of its suffering under Japanese occupation? Or Liberia, founded as a homeland for freed American slaves?

2) Americans have funded Israel monetarily, militarily and with material support (food, etc.,) for ~60 years. The money is a statement of approval for state policies which negatively affect the Palestinians.

Even if that were to justify US interest in Israel's activities, it wouldn't explain similar scrutiny from other countries. But in fact the US funds lots of places to a greater or lesser extent, and you don't see nearly the same level of interest in, say, Egypt, which gets roughly as much as Israel. Can you name an opposition politician in Egypt? A prisoner of conscience? The last bit of foreign news from Egypt that I clearly recall was when it started constructing an underground wall along its border with Gaza - something tangentially relevant to Israel, which probably accounts for the international interest in it.

Here's a link to USAID's expenditure in various countries. It doesn't list Israel, probably because most of that aid is actually military in nature. But let's stipulate that Israel gets around three billion a year or so, which is probably roughly correct. Do you think Kenya gets about a sixth of the attention that Israel does? How about Jordan? Can you identify the nature of US interests in Zambia, or name a major political figure from there? I can't. On the other hand, lots of people in the USA who follow world affairs can identify the precise number and location of a proposed residential development near Jerusalem.
posted by Joe in Australia at 8:07 AM on May 22, 2010


This is a classic double standard: you're saying that Israel deserves to be punished for things which you would excuse in other countries.

No, that's not what I'm saying. You're reading something into my comment that I did not say or imply. Go back and read what I said again, please.

You know, you can always ask me to clarify anything I have said that you do not understand (or in this case, that you think is hypocritical.) I really am happy to do so.

I'm saying the Israelis should know better. This absolutely does not mean I would excuse human rights violations if they were committed by other countries. I don't excuse Israel's either. It does mean that I expect Israel not to commit them precisely because their founding citizens were victims themselves and therefore know what it's like to be oppressed.

In fact it's even worse than that - you're saying that they deserve to be punished because they're victims!

I am? Where did I say that?

That is not a rhetorical question.

Furthermore, are they the only victims you hold to a higher standard?

No.

I have spoken about this on Metafilter before. This particular conflict means something to me personally. Members of my family fought for Israel's independence. I have an uncle who died in the Six Day War. Another uncle who died in the King David Hotel bombing. I have relatives now living in Tel Aviv. My wife has relatives who live on a kibbutz and in Jerusalem. I have friends who made Aliyah. I have family who fought for America against the Germans in WWII in the US Army and US Army Air Corps. Family members who were at Auschwitz. I'm an observant Conservative Jew. Israel's continued existence is important to me both as a Jew and as someone whose relatives fought to free our people from oppression.

So yes, not only do I feel I have the right to speak about Israel and the Palestinians, but it's an issue that's more important to me personally than say, Liberia. And yes, I do contribute to threads about human rights violations in other countries.

The argument that I should somehow be paying greater or equal attention to more meaningful problems elsewhere in the world other than Israel's is ridiculous to me.

If you want to question my motives in contributing to a conversation that's fine. But you'd really be better off asking why I'm doing so rather than defensively accusing me of hypocrisy.
posted by zarq at 9:12 AM on May 26, 2010


I have an uncle and a cousin who died in the Six Day War, actually. But who's counting? :P
posted by zarq at 9:13 AM on May 26, 2010


It does mean that I expect Israel not to commit them precisely because their founding citizens were victims themselves and therefore know what it's like to be oppressed.
That seems a little psychologically tone-deaf, though. If you knew viscerally that the rest of the world would sit back and do nothing while you and your family were slaughtered, and if you or your very close relatives had actually had the experience of watching your friends and family be so slaughtered, do you think that would make you feel sympathy for your perceived enemies, or do you think it would make you think that you'd better do whatever necessary to protect you and yours?
posted by craichead at 9:51 AM on May 26, 2010


ETA: sorry. Should have read the rest of your comment before I posted. I understand why you and I would care more about Israel than about other countries. But that doesn't explain why everyone else does. It's one thing to hold yourself to a higher standard. But it's a completely different thing when everyone else holds you to a higher standard, too.
posted by craichead at 9:53 AM on May 26, 2010


That seems a little psychologically tone-deaf, though. If you knew viscerally that the rest of the world would sit back and do nothing while you and your family were slaughtered, and if you or your very close relatives had actually had the experience of watching your friends and family be so slaughtered, do you think that would make you feel sympathy for your perceived enemies, or do you think it would make you think that you'd better do whatever necessary to protect you and yours?

The latter. I understand the psychology underlying their foreign policy decisions.

But one can uphold human rights conventions without having the slightest bit of sympathy or trust for one's enemies. Counter-terrorism doesn't have to violate human rights in order to be effective. Also, disproportionate military responses have repeatedly proven counterproductive.
posted by zarq at 10:04 AM on May 26, 2010


Sure. I'm not excusing Israel's actions. Nobody's feelings justify human rights abuses. I'm just saying that there's a pretty strong psychological and, from their perspective, moral counterweight to the thing where you feel sympathy for the oppressed because you have experienced oppression.
posted by craichead at 10:09 AM on May 26, 2010


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