I’m fed up with criticism of Israel being shouted down as anti-Semitic

I’m fed up with criticism of Israel being shouted down as anti-Semitic. Criticism of Israel is not anti-Semitic. Here’s one simple reason why: a majority of the Jewish people lives in the Diaspora.

Just because this place, this strip of land, claims to represent us all doesn’t mean it does. And just because Israel claims to be the embodiment of the Jewish people’s longing for self-determination doesn’t mean it is.

Is brainwashing school-children self-determination? Is stuffing those same kids into uniforms and plunking them down, illegally, in the Occupied Palestinian Territories self-determination? Is keeping the nation chained to a conflict opposed by a majority of Jews self-determination?

Is this the dream of the Jewish people? Is this what it means to live freely, to be masters of our own fate? Are we not self-determinate as individuals in the United States and elsewhere? Do we not live freely and securely in America and in other democratic nations?

Let me play devil’s advocate for a minute and say that criticism of Israel is indeed an attempt to delegitimize the state of Israel. But why is that anti-Semitic when most of us live in the Diaspora?

I’m not going to deny the religious link to the land. However, it’s worth pointing out that that link isn’t ours alone. This place is also sacred to Christians and Muslims (and Haifa is holy for the Baha’i, I might add).

Further, the early Zionists didn’t emphasize the religious connection. And they didn’t necessarily have their hearts set on Palestine. Other ideas were floated: Argentina, Uganda.

And not to defend Zionism because Zionism—as it has manifested itself in expulsions, massacres, and occupation, as it has manifested itself in the denial of the most basic human rights—has become indefensible. However, for argument’s sake, let’s turn to the source of it all, Theodor Herzl’s “The Jewish State”, we see: “But we shall give a home to our people.”

Nowhere is it written that this home will be only for our people. Some, including Shulamit Aloni, argue that Herzl did not seek to found a “Jewish state.” And Herzl didn’t discuss maintaining a Jewish majority here.

(That is not to say, of course, that the six million of us who live in Israel should just get up and leave. The only just solution, in my opinion, is a bi-national, democratic state). 

Back to the religious connection: when the state of Israel was established in 1948, my ultra-Orthodox great-grandmother—a woman who had herself survived pogroms and who lost family in the Holocaust—opposed the move. And while their numbers are not great, there are members of the religious community who remain opposed to the state. There are some who are also indifferent to the state—for them, their connection is to the land, regardless of the government. This accounts, of course, for the continued presence of Jews in Palestine long before Zionism existed.

Just because Israel claims to be a symbol of the Jewish people doesn’t mean we all recognize it as one. As an American-Israeli who lives in Israel, I have to say that I don’t see this country as a “Jewish state.” I see Israel as a place that is Jewish in numbers but utterly lacking a Jewish soul. 

I see a place that, by claiming to be the sole representative of the Jewish people, denies the majority’s deep connection to Judaism. I see a place—which is home to a minority and governed by a leader who caters to an even smaller minority, the settlers and American right-wingers—that has co-opted our identity and reduced it to a piece of land and a demographic struggle.

I see a place that, by claiming that the Jewish people cannot exist without this state, denies hundreds of years of Diaspora history, culture, and languages. And if that’s not anti-Semitism, I don’t know what is.

Posted in Israel/Palestine

{ 83 comments... read them below or add one }

  1. stevieb says:

    It isn’t the ‘narrative’ that delegitimize Israel, it’s the ethnic cleansing; rejectionist approach to the ‘peace process’; nukes, using WMD on civilian populations etc etc.

    Something Zionism can’t quite understand..

  2. Jim Haygood says:

    ‘I’m fed up with criticism of Israel being shouted down as anti-Semitic.’

    Today’s NYT contains a classic example from columnist Stanley Fish:

    There is, as everyone knows, an ongoing debate about whether criticism of Israel can be separated from criticism of Jews, that is, from anti-Semitism. … Israelis and their supporters will hear in any criticism of policy echoes of the diaspora, the blood-libel, the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and the Third Reich’s final solution. Those who offer the criticism can never quite be sure that their distaste for Israel’s actions with respect to the Palestinians is entirely innocent of the influence of centuries of vilification. And that seems to be where we are.

    link to opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com

    Far from ‘shouting,’ Fish masterfully plays the role of passive-aggressive emotional manipulator. While claiming that he’s just a humble ink-stained wretch observing the way things are, he casually smears Israel’s critics as un-self-aware closet racists, unwittingly influenced by the worst extremes of Naziism.

    An appropriate response in the US context is that the Establishment clause of the constitution reflects a cultural consensus that religious states are a bad idea. Fish, who stipulates that Israel ‘is, after all, the Jewish state,’ is welcome to disagree. But Americans certainly aren’t obliged to accept the alien concept of a religious state, prohibited by their own constitution. This means that they are free to criticize the laws and policies of such a foreign state without being subjected to Fish’s slimy, insidious imputations of extremism.

    • Chu says:

      and the his final ending:
      “Those who offer the criticism can never quite be sure that their distaste for Israel’s actions with respect to the Palestinians is entirely innocent of the influence of centuries of vilification. And that seems to be where we are.”

      The message you posted above, also rallies NY times readers to visualize these bad events. It’s like a sermon on paper to Jews that are not connected to the synagogue, an alarm that was pressed and no one knows who pulled it, except Stanley.
      He covered all bases and hit the crossed home plate with The Third Reich’s final solution. That was quite skillful.

  3. Mya Guarnieri writes,
    “I’m fed up with criticism of Israel being shouted down as anti-Semitic. Criticism of Israel is not anti-Semitic.”

    Then you might be interested in an article I read yesterday at the IHT website, by Stanley Fish, the NYT’s official gatekeeper for higher-education affairs. In this article, entitled “What’s up with the Jews?”, Fisher – as he often does – went into a recounting of recent, allegedly anti-Semitic occurrences and then into a prolonged discussion of how “anti-Semitism” is endemic to human society and human nature. Here is his concluding paragraph:

    “And that goes double for the Jewish nation. There is, as everyone knows, an ongoing debate about whether criticism of Israel can be separated from criticism of Jews, that is, from anti-Semitism. But it may be that the figure of the Jew is so highly, and complexly, charged that attempts to detach the political/military strategy of a nation from the ancient, entrenched and multiple images of its inhabitants — this is, after all, the Jewish state — are likely to fail from either direction. Israelis and their supporters will hear, in any criticism of policy, echoes of the diaspora, the blood-libel, the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and the Third Reich’s final solution. THOSE WHO OFFER THE CRITICISM CAN NEVER BE SURE THAT THEIR DISTASTE FOR ISRAEL’S ACTIONS WITH RESPECT TO THE PALESTINIANS IS ENTIRELY INNOCENT OF THE INFLUENCE OF CENTURIES OF VILIFICATION. And that seems to be where we are.” [my emphasis added]

    Notice how Fisher ties several things together here. First, “the Jewish nation” means Jews collectively, “the Jews” – and, at the same time, Israel.

    Second, there is the progression,
    (criticism of Israel) -> (criticism of Jews) -> (anti-Semitism)

    Of particular interest is his suggestion that any criticism of Jews equates to anti-Semitism. Commenters at this website who criticize Israel or Zionists might also want to keep in mind that, by Fisher’s formula, they are probably anti-Semites but, at the very least, “can never be sure” that they are “ENTIRELY INNOCENT OF THE INFLUENCE OF CENTURIES OF VILIFICATION” of Jews.

    But what the heck, I suppose that’s the function of a gatekeeper at our “newspaper of record”.

    Here is the link:

    link to opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com

    • Mooser says:

      “ENTIRELY INNOCENT OF THE INFLUENCE OF CENTURIES OF VILIFICATION” of Jews.”

      If it’s any comfort to Mr. Fish, I’m pretty sure that my criticisms of Israel are entirely connected with the “centuries of vilification of the Jews” After all, that’s pretty much where the Zionists learned everything they know, and use as examples.

    • Sand says:

      Hmm… let’s do the check-list:

      Symptoms of Narcissistic Personality Disorder

      In order for a person to be diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) they must meet five or more of the following symptoms:

      • Has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements)
      •Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love
      •Believes that he or she is “special” and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions)
      •Requires excessive admiration
      •Has a very strong sense of entitlement, e.g., unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations
      •Is exploitative of others, e.g., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends
      •Lacks empathy, e.g., is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others [non-Jews maybe?]
      •Is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her
      •Regularly shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes

      link to psychcentral.com

      And what the heck is this bizarre “Jewish” preoccupation with the arrest of Strauss-Kahn?

      Arrest of IMF head shakes France’s Jews
      link to washingtonjewishweek.com

  4. Hu Bris says:

    “I’m not going to deny the religious link to the land. However, it’s worth pointing out that that link isn’t ours alone.”

    this is a nonsense statement – there’s no such thing as a “religious link to the land” in any sense that could justify appropriating any of that land –

    Catholics have a “religious link to the land” occupied by the Vatican in Rome – however it doesn’t entitle them to anything other than to visit the place, and not even that if the Italians or the Vatican deem them undesirable.

    Episcopalians I suppose have a “religious link to the land” of England, since they are in effect just a branch of the Anglican, Church of England, sect of Protestant Faith, however it doesn’t entitle them to anything other than to visit the place and not even that if the British Gov’t deem them undesirable.

    Since most if not all of the existing Jewish population are nothing more than descendents of converts there is nothing of any substance to support the Zionists ridiculous insistence that they are entitled to occupy anything more than the approx 7% of historic Palestine which was legally bought and occupied by Jewish people and/or zionists prior to 1947

    every other piece of land occupied by Zionists and/or jewish people in Israel has been stolen from it’s legal owners

    • RoHa says:

      I watched a lot of old films on late-night TV when I was young. As a result, I have a sentimental attachment to Manhattan. (Especially 42nd Street.)

      Does this count as a “religious link”, and if so, can I take Manhattan?

      I don’t ask for the Bronx and Staten island, too.

      • Mooser says:

        ” and if so, can I take Manhattan?
        I don’t ask for the Bronx and Staten island, too.”

        Why don’t we do it on a seasonal basis? I assume you want Autumn, right?
        Would you settle for a New York state of mind?

    • piotr says:

      I want to point out that this is a bit crazy to seriously bother with the question if Jews are halachically Jewish and if Palestinians are etc. Imagine that the Welch, after centuries in exile and on the fringes of the Island would manage to invade England and push the English into refugee camps in East Anglia and some strip next to Scotland. The Britonic ancestry of the Welch would be undisputable, while English are a relative newcomers to the land that, according to the Lady of the Lake, was and shall be forever Britonic.

      Would the Welch succeed, victors would probably convince us to the just nature of their cause. But how about now? Is English claim to England weaker than the Palestinian claim to Palestine?

      Hm. Thinking about that, English are a deeply flawed nation that cannot but sympathize with the unjust cause of Palestinians. But don’t worry: Messiah will come, and so will King Arthur.

      PS. Some geneticists claim that there is really no difference in DNA of the Welch and the English. if you were listening to folks like that, we would be reducing to wars over religion and ideology, because the ANCESTRAL RIGHTS would always be hopelessly muddled.

  5. MHughes976 says:

    I think, Mya, that we need some definitions of the key terms here. To my mind anti-Semitism is the belief that there exist people who a) can be declared objectively to be Jewish and b) have certain moral characteristics c) always deserve, because of those characteristics, a degree of mistrust.
    Many Zionists argue that non-Jews always deserve a degree of mistrust, perhaps a very strong degree, so that Jewish people cannot be confident of surviving without the protection of the Israeli State. (Maybe this protection can be exercised by political influence in the United States.) This argument is an inversion of anti-Semitism but does it actually imply anti-Semitism, as you suggest?
    I would use ‘Zionism’ to mean (I’m a 60s-style ‘record struck in a groove’ here) a claim to sole hereditary right to sovereignty over the Holy Land or some chosen subset of it. Doesn’t the term ‘diaspora’, which you use so much, itself have strong Zionist overtones? It portrays Jewish people as ‘scattered abroad’ if they are not in the Land, ie away from the one – the one and only – place where they are at home and have their rights. This seems, informally at least, to imply sole and special rights for Jewish people in the Land, ie Zionism.
    If the early Zionists really thought that Jewish people could be at home without being a permanent majority or without being firmly in control – ie in a diaspora – then they must have been proposing a huge upheaval to achieve what already existed. Surely early Zionism made more sense than that? In any event ‘territorialist’ Zionism was of no consequence after 1905.
    I’m very worried about the continuing lack of a sidebar.

    • GuiltyFeat says:

      Dude it’s nice that you have your own definitions of these things, but I’m not sure how useful they are.

      Anti-semitism is simply an irrational hatred (fear, distrust, etc.) of Jews where a Jew is anyone who says they’re a Jew regardless of what anyone else thinks. If you feel differently about someone when they say they’re a Jew, then you’re a bit of an anti-semite.

      Zionism is a more complicated animal. There is political Zionism and there is religious Zionism and a lot more besides. Political Zionism dates back to Herzl and the idea that Jews who had been demonstrably persecuted in every land in which they lived would benefit from coming together and establishing a state for Jews. Religious Zionism is much older and deals with the religious yearning to return to the land of Israel from which the Jews were exiled by God. It’s about returning to God who cast out the Jews into the diaspora as a punishment. Zion represents God’s forgiveness and the ingathering of the exiles is the precursor to the messianic age.

      My personal brand of Zionism is probably more religious than political, inasmuch as I am thrilled to have returned to the land of Israel and to bring up my children here. That thrill would not change based on what government had sovereignty over what geographical location. I don’t need to live in every part of the biblical land of Israel (it would physically impossible for me to do so) and I don’t care about political borders. If it came to it, I wouldn’t even care about a one state solution where Jews were a minority as long as I could live here as an orthodox Jew in peace.

      Clearly there are Political Zionists who don’t agree with me. Nevertheless despite my disdain for the political drawing of borders, I am concerned that living in a country without a Jewish majority would not afford me the religious freedoms I currently enjoy. I have lived in such a country for half my life. I did not feel free.

      I understand that some consider that supremacist, but I do not consider Jews superior in any way. I do not believe the way I choose to live and worship is better than anyone else’s. I do consider it different and I would like to live in a country where my different culture and my different way of doing things is celebrated as the norm rather than sidelined as a minority pursuit.

      • Mooser says:

        “Dude it’s nice that you have your own definitions of these things, but I’m not sure how useful they are.”

        ROTFLMSJAO! No, Guilty Feat, I think I might safely conclude that you have definitions which are much more useful to you. In fact, I might even be tempted to think that the usefulness of the definitions are your entire criteria for inclusion in the Zionist lexicon.

        • Mooser says:

          Just like that glaring contradiction in your last paragraph: “I do not consider Jews superior in any way.” followed in the same goddam paragraph by: “I would like to live in a country where my different culture and my different way of doing things is celebrated as the norm rather than sidelined as a minority pursuit.”

          Cause their ain’t nothing like a minority (especially a religious one) which wants to control things, and is willing to use violence to do it, to define “equality”.
          And about the arrogant presumption that the world owes you this privilege and the hypocrisy which goes with it, I will say nothing. Now.

      • Keith says:

        GUILTYFEAT- “…Jews who had been demonstrably persecuted in every land in which they lived ….”

        Are you a historian? Have you delved extensively into the Jews in medieval society to ascertain the circumstances, and their relationship to the surrounding gentile community, to the nobility versus the peasantry? Or are you simply basing your assertion on the received wisdom of Jewish mythology taken on faith? Is this persecution the result of specific circumstances, or is there some inherent Gentile evilness at work?

        From what I can tell, you are relatively privileged. Yet, you self-righteously embrace an image of victim-hood, which, in fact, is a defining characteristic of Zionism. The Jews are always the victims regardless of the objective facts of the matter. How convenient for the conscience. The white man’s burden is light as a feather when it is kosher.

        • Mooser says:

          I never thought I would see the day that a Jew would have a hard time accepting the fact that we are a minority, and strive to emulate the “established churches” of the Christians. I always thought all I was entitled to as a Jew was a lack of persecution and freedom to practice.

          Jeez, I really gotta wonder which “religious freedoms” Guilty Feat was denied in England? Wouldn’t they let you bake your Matzohs the way you bloody well please?

        • Mooser says:

          “Yet, you self-righteously embrace an image of victim-hood, which, in fact, is a defining characteristic of Zionism.”

          Oh, I don’t know if that is always true, but a victim-hood scenario is one of the classic come-ons for a con man. Can’t we just say that Guilty Feat puts a lot of his true personality into his religion and politics?

        • mikeo says:

          I’m from the UK and GF’s griping about “religious freedom” is nonsense. The UK is basically a secular nation yet it has a far greater degree of religious freedoms – FOR ALL FAITHS – than Israel which is focused on Judaism and has far less separation of church and state than the UK.

          What he’s actually complaining about is living in a multicultural democracy instead of a religiously-focused ethnocracy where HIS PARTICULAR FAITH is the pre-eminent one.

          “I would like to live in a country where my different culture and my different way of doing things is celebrated as the norm rather than sidelined as a minority pursuit.”

          There’s nothing wrong with that but it is dishonest to paint the UK as in some way especially intolerant of Judaism or Jews. The intolerance of difference here is largely on GF’s side.

        • GuiltyFeat says:

          Mike, I grew up in London, the son of two immigrants whose accents were a source of comedy and still are among their friends and neighbours. I was educated privately at a CofE school from the age of 7 to 18. I went to university in a college where I was one of only 2 Jews in my year and I worked in London before leaving.

          I don’t know how old you are but I remember a time when shops were not allowed to open on Sundays and then only for a few hours. At school I stood while 1400 boys sang hymns. I learned the words to the Lord’s prayer. As a scout I saluted the Union Jack made up of three crosses representing three Christian saints.

          I was compelled by law to take Easter and Xmas as holidays and forced to use vacation days to celebrate my own faith. I was also a subject of the Queen, by accident of birth, so that my head of state was also Supreme Governor of the Church of England.

          Contrary to what you think of me, I celebrate multiculturalism and a complete separation of church and state. As much as your life in England may seem to be that way, mine wasn’t.

          Why should I be forced to stay home on Sunday when it is a normal working day? Why should I be embarrassed to leave work/university/school early on Friday when I more than make up what I’ve missed.

          Why should my children be excluded from every school sporting event, every school play or trip because they are sabbath observant? Why should they be assigned meals in plastic when everyone else can eat whatever they want just because they observe the laws of kashrut.

          I imagine none of what I’m saying resonates with you, but I am not looking for understanding or empathy. I was certainly able to live a fulfilling religious life in England, it was the rest of my life that was restricted.

          I did not suggest that the UK is intolerant of Jews, but my point is that I don’t wish to be “tolerated” and expected to congratulate my fellow citizens for allowing me to be different. Does that make sense?

        • mikeo says:

          GF I do understand where you are coming from, but my background and life experiences have meant I have a developed a different viewpoint from your own.

          I was born to a mixed-race marriage (Chinese and English) and experienced many of the same frustrations with the pre-eminence of Christian custom in the UK growing up (although for different reasons as I am an atheist). I could not understand why shops were shut on Sundays, I didn’t want to sing hymns, I was jealous of my Jewish friend who didn’t have to go to RE lessons (he had a letter from his parents).

          My mum remembers moving to London in the 60′s and seeing No Blacks or Irish” on most guesthouses. My parents were refused service in markets etc on the odd occasion so I’m under no illusions about the prevalence of racism in the UK – it’s definitely there. There were no other mixed-race children in my year so I was subjected to some casual racism (chinky etc) but because of my background it was not possible to identify as “belonging” to one group or other. Therefore my identity is a universal one as a human being, I don’t deny the influences that my Chinese and English heritage have had on me but I am naturally averse to nationalistic or tribal tendencies.

          I understand your desire to surround yourself in a culture and society that you feel you belong to, but I think what is missing is an understanding that what you complain about in the UK is exactly what Israel does to non-Jews, and in my opinion it is far more pronounced than in the UK:

          “I was compelled by law to take Easter and Xmas as holidays and forced to use vacation days to celebrate my own faith. I was also a subject of the Queen, by accident of birth, so that my head of state was also Supreme Governor of the Church of England.”

          I guess I’m saying that I think “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” is one of the ideas I agree with in the Bible and I find it missing in your sentiments.

        • GuiltyFeat says:

          Mike,

          “I understand your desire to surround yourself in a culture and society that you feel you belong to, but I think what is missing is an understanding that what you complain about in the UK is exactly what Israel does to non-Jews, and in my opinion it is far more pronounced than in the UK”

          I understand that. Where would you propose that I live, so that my children can live their lives without needing to be tolerated? Under which sovereign government would I be allowed time off for Jewish religious holidays that were not deducted from my annual vacation? Where else would my company provide kosher food as the default. Where else would I get a discount on my car insurance because I don’t drive for 25 hours of every week?

          Where in the world would my children’s sabbath observance be a normal part of their school lives and not something to be “worked around”?

          I don’t want to impose upon anyone else, but I can’t imagine living anywhere else without having things imposed upon me.

          Whether you know it or not the idea of “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” is absolutely fundamental to Judaism. I believe that a Jewish state must absolutely respect the rights of all its citizens. I don’t think we’re there yet, but I believe we can get there.

          Conversely, I don’t believe that Jews in England will ever be allowed to choose between Xmas and Yom Kippur as an obligatory vacation day.

        • mikeo says:

          Fair enough, I can see why Israel is a far more suitable country for you and your children than the UK for all the reasons you list.

          Maybe you feel these inconveniences more acutely than the “average” because of your strong faith. I guess many people identify more as “socio-cultural Jews” rather than “Religious Jews”. I’m not familiar with how it works in the US regarding holidays etc but lots of Jewish contributors on this site seem to like it in the US. Do you think you would struggle with these problems there too?

          And after all, it’s not as if the UK govt isn’t doing terrible things in Iraq and Afghanistan in my name…

          Doesn’t it bother you a bit though? The awful way the Israeli govt treats the Palestinians? I’m not saying I have answers. I’m just saying if what my govt was doing in far away countries was happening on my doorstep I’d be disturbed by it, and probably looking to move away. I really feel sorry for people who aren’t so lucky to have these choices…

  6. Chu says:

    Israel is one big puzzle for the United States, as they are now the sole guardian of the Jewish people in Israel. That is the feeling I get when I hear the AIPAC speeches this week. With all this responsibility it must make senators lose sleep at night because there could be another tragedy lurking around the corner. So if you’re a senator you should pander hard to this conference, to allay their concerns in order to affirm your reelection coffers will be plenty.

    New Proposal: The United States should deliver thousands of tons of sand to the shores of northern Israel. So much sand in fact, that they can construct a new peninsula into the Mediterranean and eventually return much of the borrowed land back to Palestinians (and further compensation as well). I think it is a proposal that could work. Who wouldn’t marvel at a peninsula in the Mediterranean, right.

  7. I hope you actively respect that others feel differently than you, that Israel is important to the Jewish world, all of us.

    There are multiple definitions of anti-semitism:
    1. Hatred or willing persecution of those of Jewish blood or upbringing
    2. Hatred of those that identify as Jews (conspicuous orthodox, so “anachronistic”)
    3. Hatred of those that congregate and live as affirming Jews (Jewish community with Jewish norms, in which others are minority)
    4. Hatred of those that congregate communities of communities comprising a nation (Jewish nation with Jewish norms, in which others are minority)

    They are all a form of anti-semitism in their own right.

    And, they all provide cover for anti-semitism in other forms. For example, there are many that are genuinely anti-semitic as in hating Jews that remain Jews (not converting to Christianity for example), but express it through hatred of Israel.

    And, you are right that there is a distinction between criticism and demonization. It is worthy of discussion, not worthy of “I’m fed up with…” that also stifles discussion on the topic.

    You want others to review their thinking, but you don’t want to review yours?

    • James North says:

      Richard Witty said: ‘Once again, I fail to defend the Law of Return. I’ll try and sidetrack the discussion into “anti-Semitism,” instead of trying to justify why I, Richard Witty, have a right to instant citizenship in a place I barely know while Palestinians who were born there cannot even visit.’

      • Mooser says:

        Gosh, James, do you realise how little RAM it would take to set up “Wittylator” sidebar? I bet it wouldn’t even slow the system down as much as the “recent comments” software.

        • James North says:

          Mooser: You are right. With a 100-word vocabulary — “self-governing Jews,” “mutual humanization” — we could cover all his bases. But I find the single quotation mark technique — which I learned from Richard himself — is essential in getting to the “jist” (sic) of what he really means.

        • Mooser says:

          I was the one who advised Witty to use single quote marks for made-up quotes. I was just trying to prevent violent emesis, as I usually read Mondo after breakfast.

        • Jim Haygood says:

          Mooser,

          For some time I’ve suspected that the ‘Richard Witty’ persona is a Turing machine — a bot, that is. Evidently its programmers sought to mimic human behavior by introducing ‘fuzzy logic’ (going a bit overboard in that respect, obviously) and a habit of changing the subject, as a not-very-good human listener would do.

          But technology has moved on. Out of respect for other participants, I call on the developers to upgrade to ‘RW 2.0,’ or else withdraw this outdated autoposting app. Thanks in advance.

        • libra says:

          As a matter of interest, has anyone other than Phil actually met or claimed to have met Richard?

        • Mooser says:

          “For some time I’ve suspected that the ‘Richard Witty’ persona is a Turing machine — a bot, that is.”

          Wow, Witty’s a Turing machine, and most of the others are Tourettes machines.

        • Mooser says:

          And I think Guilty Feat is trying to turn into a Slurpee dispenser lately.

    • Woody Tanaka says:

      Witty,

      The problem isn’t the definitions of antisemitism (although of your 3 and 4, to the extent they are restatements of 1 and 2, they are antisemitism, to the extent they mean something else, you are being overbroad), but in its application. That is the point. Someone can hate a specific Jew, be disgusted by the anachronistic practices of orthodox Jews, criticize a Jewish community, and be defiantly opposed to Israel and its actions and have not a single antisemitic bone is his body.

      To think otherwise is to close your mind to the reality of the human experience, to purpetuate the problem which Mya is highlighting, and to act in bigotry against that other person.

      • The question deserves consideration, rather than dismissal is the point.

        Are you willing to look within yourself, willing to consider redefining what IS anti-semitism?

        Racism is important to review in oneself. Most that think of themselves as “not racist in the slightest”, bear attitudes and patterns that are in fact racist in some manner.

        • James North says:

          Richard Witty said: ‘I continue to deflect. I would rather tendentiously dissect anti-Semitism than defend the Law of Return — even though the law is still at the heart of Zionism.’

        • Woody Tanaka says:

          “The question deserves consideration, rather than dismissal is the point.”

          But “consideration” and “dismissal” are not opposites. One considers and then reaches a conclusion. One of those conclusions is “dismissal.” Whether that is the correct conclusion is another question. Here, I’ve considered your position and dismissed it because I believe it is wrong. If you think my conclusion is incorrect, then spell out why. Saying that “the point” is to spur “condsideration” is a cop out.

          “Are you willing to look within yourself, willing to consider redefining what IS anti-semitism?”

          That almost literally a meaningless statement. The definition of antisemitism does not lie within me, it is external to me. So why would I look within to redifine it?? To do so is idiocy.

          Now, if you are asking me if I am willing to look within myself and consider whether I am an antisemite, my answer would be that sure, I’ve considered whether I have bigotry of all kinds on my different occasions. I find that I simply do not have that type of bigoted personality, and to the extent necessary I work hard to extinguish any bigoted thoughts that might pop up. I have strong feelings, but attempt to base them on merits.

          The question you need to ask is whether you are willing to look within yourself and consider whether you have been consciously or subconsiously disregarding or rejecting valid criticism of Israel and/or Zionism as antisemitism so that you do not have to consider the merits of something which threatens your ego.

          “Racism is important to review in oneself. Most that think of themselves as ‘not racist in the slightest’, bear attitudes and patterns that are in fact racist in some manner.”

          Interesting statement. I would suggest you review your own thoughts and determine whether you use this excuse — that even people who aren’t racist actually are racists, to some degree — to deflect criticism of Israel and Zionism and, thereby, protect your ego from having to consider things which do/might threaten it.

        • eljay says:

          >> Most that think of themselves as “not racist in the slightest”, bear attitudes and patterns that are in fact racist in some manner.

          Yes, you do.

      • Donald says:

        “Racism is important to review in oneself. ”

        This message, if stated each day by Richard Witty, will satisfy your minimum daily requirements for irony as established by the American Medical Association. Do not take if suffering from high blood pressure or if you lack a sense of humor. Excessive posting by Richard Witty can cause logorrhea, moral outrage, and existential despair. Replies can induce vomiting, diarrhea, heart palpitations and a general state of depression over the state of a world with people like this imagining they are humanists.

        And for God’s sake, do not taunt Richard Witty

    • Don says:

      Richard, what on earth would I do without you to cheer me up on so regular a basis. Let us now review your concept of “thinking”…

      “They are all a form of anti-semitism in their own right. And, they all provide cover for anti-semitism in other forms.”

      Or more precisely…”forms of anti-semitism…provide cover for anti-semitism in other forms”.

      Thanks so much for clarifying this issue!

      • Donald says:

        You guys (and this includes the person who has shortened my name and made off with it, along with the bulk of my opinions) are missing the subtle beauty of Witty’s argument. He starts off with three undoubted cases of anti-semitism. He then introduces a fourth, which is really anti-Zionism, and he doesn’t make a distinction between anti-actually-existing Zionism and anti-Zionism in any form whatsoever. That’s because he wants to confuse the issue. But not all anti-Zionism is the same. For instance, I think the Judah Magnes form of Zionism is fine–if I were Jewish I might be an adherent. There would be something appealing about living in the land of the Bible. Where actually-existing Zionism goes wrong is in seeing the people already living there as some sort of obstacle to be overcome one way or the other. Even the peaceful method of buying them out is a subtle form of anti-Arab racism if the idea is to get rid of them. But I don’t think the Judah Magnes form of Zionism called for that.

        So if a person doesn’t think Jews should be allowed to move into the Holy Land even if they are willing to live in peace with the Palestinians already there, then yes, that form of anti-Zionism is anti-semitic.

        • Mooser says:

          “and this includes the person who has shortened my name and made off with it, along with the bulk of my opinions”

          Some people have all the luck. It’s like my stuff is engraved in granite, damn it.

        • Donald,
          The distinction between political Zionism and cultural Zionism is the definition of “nation”, and then state.

          If you accept Israel as Israel, then you are a Zionist.

          And, yes you can be critical of policies and parties that articulate those policies, and the philosophical underpinnings of those, and still be a Zionist.

          You generalize yourself in implying EVER that support for liberal Zionism is equivalent to support for likud Zionism. They are distinct, but in the arena of criticizing policies and ideas, not in the arena of demonization of a people’s free national association.

          For what its worth, there is so much ridicule of religious adherents here, that to claim that the first three are assumed, is a failure to see.

    • Antidote says:

      I hope you actively respect that others feel differently than you, that Palestine is important to the Muslim world, all of us.

      There are multiple definitions of anti-Islamism:
      1. Hatred or willing persecution of Arabs, or those of Muslim faith or upbringing
      2. Hatred of those that identify as Muslims (conspicuous fundamentalist, so “anachronistic”)
      3. Hatred of those that congregate and live as affirming Muslims (Muslim community with Muslim norms, in which others are minority)
      4. Hatred of those that congregate communities of communities comprising a nation (Muslim nation with Muslim norms, in which others are minority)

      They are all a form of anti-Islamism in their own right.

      And, they all provide cover for Islamophopia in other forms. For example, there are many that are genuinely anti-Islam as in hating Muslims that remain Muslims (not converting to Christianity or atheism/secularism for example), but express it through hatred of Iran.

      And, you are right that there is a distinction between criticism and demonization. It is worthy of discussion, not worthy of “I’m fed up with…” that also stifles discussion on the topic.

      You want others to review their thinking, but you don’t want to review yours?

      • Antidote says:

        sorry, that post went astray. Was meant in reply to RW, rephrasing his post above

        • MHughes976 says:

          Would you call feelings that involve serious moral objection to the behaviour of certain people (any people) by the name of ‘hatred’?
          Would you call any belief that another belief is anachronistic a form of hatred? Surely most of us regard some beliefs (not all of us would point to the same ones, of course) as anachronistic or discredited but that does not mean that we have fierce emotions about them.
          It must be possible to object to the way that certain groups, following their norms, treat either their own members or outsiders. I wouldn’t like to call this kind objection, in ordinary circumstances, by the name of hatred: it may be very moderate and reasoned.
          If you do use the word ‘hatred’ for all these things then it would follow that some hatreds are fully justified and that not hating would be morally wrong.
          Well, some things and some ways of life may be really, really hateful and it may be impossible not to cherish some hatreds. If the people who do these hateful things belong to a certain group, the Xs, does it even then follow that you are an anti-Xist? I would still say not – it’s what they do, not what they are, that makes you angry.

  8. tellmeall says:

    Article is great in context of being written by a Isr. who sees the light, I guess it is a process, but of course is suffused with the culture as in US.

    When the light of racism is clicked ON we can start to deal with wrongs ‘we’ as a nation, are responsible for. In my case perhaps I should be focused on the first nation’s people that were targeted, imprisoned, ethnically cleansed, etc.
    But my light flashed on through occupation & collective punishment; I will always see the world through the Palestinian lens.

    Is it good for Palestinians/Palestine? Palestine is the core of personal awakening. I’ve heard the other side’s view my entire life and frankly I’ve been deceived too many times to take anyone’s word on faith, actions will be my focus.

  9. bijou says:

    The notion that criticism of Israel = anti-Semitism is so logically flawed it’s almost laughable.

    Is criticism of a government’s policies or a state’s policies a smear of its entire people? Of course not. If I am critical of American policy, that doesn’t meant that I am anti-American.

    By the same token, those who are critical of Israeli state policy are not ‘anti-Israeli.’ Oops I forgot, there is no Israeli nation, so I must mean they are not anti-Jewish (except, um, 20% of the citizenry AREN’T Jewish). But wait, don’t more Jews live outside Israel than live outside it? So what’s up with that?

    Finally, isn’t “anti-Jewish’ the same as ‘anti-Semitic?’ Hmmm – but wait, the Arabs are Semites too!

    So I get it – those who are critical of Israeli government policy are anti-all Jews in Israel and outside it, as well as being anti all Arabs in Israel and outside it too!

    ***
    Frankly, the whole flawed notion that criticism of Israel = anti-Semitism is the fault of the state for defining itself as “the Jewish state” in the first place. You can’t have it both ways – Judaism can’t be both a worldwide religion and a geographically specific nationality at the same time. You elected nationality as the primary self-definition, so live with the consequences. People who are critical of the policies of the Jewish State are not smearing every person in the world who practices the Jewish faith.

    • Mooser says:

      “Judaism can’t be both a worldwide religion and a geographically specific nationality at the same time. You elected nationality as the primary self-definition, so live with the consequences.”

      Bingo. Contestant has rung bell, and is entitled to cigar or coco-nut!

    • Chu says:

      great points.

    • marc b. says:

      Judaism can’t be both a worldwide religion and a geographically specific nationality at the same time.

      that’s part and parcel of the whole shape shifting exercise. the ‘regulars’ to this site can’t even agree upon a definition of what constitutes jewish identity, with each definition straining to simultaneously include and exclude bits of religion, race, culture, ethnicity, nationalism, or, more crudely achievement as a measure of ‘jewishness’, where a jewish relative three generations back is evidence of the ‘jewishness’ of high achievers, while someone else’s mongrel pedigree is proof of ‘non-jewishness’ when the individual is an embarassment to ‘jews’, or, worse, to israel. this schizophrenic exercise certainly explains the state of mind of some.

      • Mooser says:

        “the ‘regulars’ to this site can’t even agree upon a definition of what constitutes jewish identity”

        Thank God, at least some of the good stuff about being Jewish remains.

  10. iamuglow says:

    The test will be how ‘we’ react to the next Helen Thomas….should we be so lucky to get that chance again.

    I believe it was this time last year, Helen Thomas spoke out for Palestenians…

    of course what she said was almost universally condemmed..everyone jumped on her….the anti-semite label and all that…even I found myself falling for the hype and not fully supporting her in public…recently she was going to be at the Move over Aipac meeting and the same sort label was pinned on her so she withdrew from that….

    In her interviews since then, its clear IMO she knows the score. She was an influential person speaking the truth about Palestine. That was deemed so dangerous that within days her 60 year career was destoryed. Very few people publically stood with her. Very few defended her. No mainstream movement embraced her. Looking back, IMO that shows how far we have to go against the false flag of ‘anti-semitism’.

  11. Mooser says:

    “I see a place—which is home to a minority and governed by a leader who caters to an even smaller minority, the settlers and American right-wingers—that has co-opted our identity and reduced it to a piece of land and a demographic struggle.”

    Sure, and without that awful minority, you would have your “Jewish Democracy”?
    I must say, Mya, you are making a real struggle towards a personal excuse.

    • Mooser says:

      I mean, you are telling me there could be an Israel without the very people who made Israel and keep it going?
      Would you like to tell me what the essential difference is between the people, your “minority” who are ruining Israel, and the actions and beliefs and actions of Israel’s founders and founding organisations?
      And BTW, what do you plan you do with the IDF?

      Now Mya, try saying the words “one state” and see if you don’t immediately start scanning the real estate section of the Miami Times.

      • Mooser says:

        “The only just solution, in my opinion, is a bi-national, democratic state.

        Ah, I didn’t read the parentheses. See you in Miami.

  12. Mooser says:

    Funny isn’t it, how Israelis can criticise Zionism and Israel by calling it “anti-Semitism”, there is something there. Don’t they know any other criticism?

  13. Bumblebye says:

    I’ve met one (just one) person who was an openly avowed anti-semite. She was a grandchild of Ukrainian immigrants who had bred into their children and grandchildren a hatred of all Jews anywhere at any time, which is completely irrational. But she was proud to be an anti-semite.

  14. American says:

    Anti semitism is so tired and worn out.
    Who is it useful to anyway?…only the zionistas and the Stormfront crowd.
    The zionazis want to Jews be given extra points for being Jewish, the Stormfronters want to subtract points for being Jewish.
    Not any difference there that I can see.

    • Chu says:

      But it’s not a zero sum game. While anti-semitism can be real, it’s a bludgeon for criticism, and thus helps the cause. Stormfronters are not building an illegal outposts, last time I checked.

  15. Anti-semitism remains a relevant concern, including in the form of anti-Zionism.

    Mya described “I’m fed up with CRITICISM of Israel being shouted down as anti-Semitic”.

    I agree with that. Nothing should be shouted down, that is suppression of free expression and prohibiting people from hearing.

    The identification of potential anti-semitism, including in the forms that activists on the left and left/right seek to deflect, is important. It is a component of free speech, and political consciousness.

    Is anti-Zionism anti-Semitism? In some respects it ALWAYS is. Is criticism of Israeli policies anti-semitism? No.

    • James North says:

      Richard Witty said: ‘I’m still avoiding talking about the Law of Return — which even I privately admit is a racist anti-Palestinian measure. The Law of Return is not an Israeli “policy,” but right at the heart of Israel’s existence. But the more I can distract people with “anti-Semitism” the better I feel.’

    • Woody Tanaka says:

      “I agree with that. Nothing should be shouted down, that is suppression of free expression and prohibiting people from hearing.”

      Falsely accusing another of antisemitism is as suppresive of speech as is shouting them down; more so, even, because the threat of false accusations of antisemitism chills speech before it is even made.

      “Is anti-Zionism anti-Semitism? In some respects it ALWAYS is.”

      No, this is where you are absolutely wrong. The fact that one does not believe in a particular political ideology (which is what Zionism is) does not mean that that objections constitutes a hatred of Jews. (which is what antisemitism is.)

      That is not to say that anti-Zionism cannot be antisemitic; it clearly can. But there are a myriad of reasons one can have in opposing Zionism, some base, some proper. But by saying that anti-Zionism is always in some respect antisemitic, you are refusing to look at the anti-Zionist as an individual and determine if the basis of the anti-Zionism is antisemitic or not. Instead, you lump him together with the antisemite and dismiss the whole group based on what that antisemite believes.

      You make an error similar to that which the racist and the antisemite makes when you make a blanket statement like you did.

    • Mooser says:

      Mr. North, your Witty-lator seems to be adjusted a little different from mine. I get ‘because somebody, somewhere, may be criticising Israel from an anti-Semitic basis, it’s all right to kill and oppress Palestinians, especially if this murder and oppression is convenient for Israel.’

  16. yourstruly says:

    What’s antisemtic is the Zionist settler settler israel, its having been created out of land stolen from another (the palestinian) people, the ethnic cleansing and religio-supremacy that followed. Antisemitic because of the worldwide anger and hatred generated by the perpetrators of these injustrices, anger which the settler entity claims is directed not only at Jewish settlers in Palestine but at Jews everywhere. A neat slight of hand, what with Israel having declared itself the Jewish homeland, ready and willing to swallow up the entire Jewish diaspora, “if only they’d come here.” Except now more and more Jews are saying “Not In My Name.” Doing so not only because of the crimess and the injustices (as if these aren’t reason enough) that the Jewish settlers have committed against the Palestinians, but for reasons of self-protection – to avoid being dragged down (glub-glub-glub) with the settlers, when the moment comes that the rest of the world (U.S. included) no longer can suffer the shame of standing by while the Palestinians are treated as if they’re Native Americans in the days of the Wild West – “Hey, they claim to be Jews, but they & their Zionist entity got nothing whatsoever to do with us Jewish anti-Zionists. As a matter of fact we’ve been active in the struggle for a free, free Palestine.” So get angry at Israel and its supporters, no matter who they are. They’ve earned it – for what they’re doing to Palestine.

    And history will record that when Jews throughout the world rose up on the side of justice for Palestine. the settler entity’s (not its people’s) days were numbered.

    • yourstruly says:

      numbered, as well, for all living beings*

      based on?

      the u. s. -backed settler entitity’s crimes against palestinians being the underlying cause of not only the p/i but all the other conflicts in the mideast & southwestl asia too. Just because the recently assassinated osama bin laden isn’t with us no more doesn’t mean he was wrong when he dubbed israel (along with the u. s. of a.) the world’s co-chief evildoers. Even worse, were it not for our government’s israel first*( policies, the u. s. might not have even been on obl’s evildoer hit list. Alas, one can only replay the past sixty-three years in one’s dreams. so we’ll never know what might have been, had there never been a Zionist-settler experiment in Palestine. Not that we won’t be learning worthwhile things, cause we have to – If, that is, we’re to bring about a free and just palestine + troops out now – just as starters, whereupon, won’t it be up to us, the what sort of world?

      *because perpetual war + global warming = doomsday, and time running out

      **as per the obvious subservience of america’s supposed leaders to the israeli pm. Proof, wasn’t it, that the tail sometimes does wag the dog?

      • yourstruly says:

        the first line should have been -

        numbered too, if there isn’t a just and free palestine*

        • yourstruly says:

          double oops & por fin, -

          numbered for all living beings, if there isn’t a just and free palestine

        • Again,
          As Jews determined themselves to self-govern as Jews in Israel, to demonize Israel (to declare in any way that Israel does not have that right to self-govern), is to express a form of anti-semitism.

          It is a Pandora’s box. If you state, yes, that is right. I accept that I bear some anti-semitic sentiments, some prejudicial sentiments (even directed towards a community that I am part of in ways), then you have the personal choice of either doing something about it, or rationalizing it further.

          The statement is not meant to justify specific policies in the slightest.

          It definitely is meant to call out the basis of dissent, to distinguish racist approaches to “universal justice” as distinct from rational and considerate ones.

          If you read my blogpost yesterday, you’ll note that I also had a negative reaction to the Netanyahu campaign and interjection into the American electoral campaign.

          Criticism of policies is most often not anti-semitic. Demonization of the community is.

        • James North says:

          Richard Witty said:

          If you read my blogpost yesterday, you’ll note that I also had a negative reaction to the Netanyahu campaign

          ‘I’ve commented nearly 10,000 times on Mondoweiss, but I continue to segregate any criticism of Israel to my own tiny website. I’m partly trying to drum up traffic. But also, I don’t want to muddy my role here as self-appointed defender of Israel.
          ‘I know I’m violating the spirit of give-and-take that characterizes Mondoweiss by making readers go to my own site. But I don’t care.’

        • yourstruly says:

          “as Jews determined themselves to self-govern as Jews in Israel?

          and during the days of apartheid South Africa was it also anti-white to have said that white South-Africans had no right to “determine themselves to self-govern South Africa? No? Then why is it antisemitic to “demonize” Israel for similar apartheid practices? What’s special about these Jewish occupiers that international law doesn’t apply to them? Oh, don’t touch us because the Holocaust gives us special rights to occupy another people’s homeland? Kind of self-serving isn’t that? Meanwhile, the rest of the world is supposed to stand by as the Palestinians are set up to take the fall for what the 3rd Reich (not the Palestinians) did to European Jews, no matter that the mideast conflict leads to ww iii, and that perpetual war + global warming = dooomsday? So it’s the settler entity’s actions + the rest of the world’s standing by that’s the ultimate expression of not only antisemitism (because doomsday will not pass over Jews) but anti-all life on earth. Which makes israel & its supporters the ultimate antisemites, the antizionists, on the other hand, on the side not only of Jews but all humankind.

        • Here my voice is a dissenting one. The groupthink and rancor hide the whole. This is partisan, a club.

          On my own blog, I convey the mix of my impressions, some incorporating what I learn here.

  17. Pixel says:

    You go, girl!

  18. RoHa says:

    I really don’t give a hoot whether my or anyone else’s criticism of Israel is motivated by overt or “subconcious” anti-Semitism.

    Israel is evil in conception, evil in creation, and evil in conduct.

    That evil is not diminished one whit by the motives of the person declaring it.

  19. Djinn says:

    So if a person doesn’t think Jews should be allowed to move into the Holy Land even if they are willing to live in peace with the Palestinians already there, then yes, that form of anti-Zionism is anti-semitic.

    No it’s not. They should be allowed to live there on the same basis that I would be allowed to live in the US. If the laws of the people already there allow me to. Even if I sign iron clad agreements to be nice to all US citizens I’m not entitled to be there just because I want to. Same goes for historic Palestinr being Jewish is not enough. Just like being Catholic doesn’t get you free citizenship in Italy or being Muslim isn’t a means to automatic citizenship.

  20. Djinn says:

    And the rest of that post:

    …Just like being Catholic doesn’t get you free citizenship in Italy or being Muslim isn’t a means to automatic citizenship in Saudi. It’s particularly galling to expect people to support any and all Jewish migration when there are MILLIONS who were driven off the land prevented from returning.

    Would you consider it Islamophobic (for example) to object to a large number of Muslims moving to the US on mass, in numbers so high they became an overnight majority against the wishes of those already there? Even if they promised to live in peace? Considering the outrage over the building of the odd Mosque somehow I doubt that’d fly. Why should it fly for Jews and Jews alone?

  21. Mooser says:

    “(That is not to say, of course, that the six million of us who live in Israel should just get up and leave. The only just solution, in my opinion, is a bi-national, democratic state).”

    I can’t wait for Mya’s next post, in which she tells us what she is willing to give up, and what she thinks Israel should give up, and what compromises Zionism should make, to achieve this bi-national, democratic state.

  22. Mooser says:

    “There are some who are also indifferent to the state—for them, their connection is to the land, regardless of the government.”

    So Mya, you are in favor of the settlers? Sure sounds like it, what with their religious attachment to the land, and their indifference to the government.

  23. Mooser says:

    “As an American-Israeli who lives in Israel”

    Gosh, what an amazing synthesis of identities and ethics which are so contradictory! Pretty much direct opposites, as far as I can see. I smell self-dealing and special pleading, and it stinks.