Flabby Zionism

US Politics
on 55 Comments

As we all know, the Daily Beast has a new blog called Open Zion (lately changed from Zion Square) that is fostering a (circumscribed) discussion about Zionism.

Well I just came across this piece at the site that shows how limited the conversation is in American Jewish life. It is by Jay Michaelson, who is an expert on religion and morality– he studies religion, and he wrote a book about squaring gay rights with biblical teachings. And Michaelson wants to reclaim the term Zionism despite facts he acknowledges, that Israel has become a rightwing regime that continues to expand on to Palestinian lands. Here is his crescendo:

[I]s my fidelity to that term more important than building a bridge with those who have been wounded by it?

I believe in the notion of a Jewish and democratic state, for all the complexity such a juxtaposition entails.  I believe that such a state can exist without the oppression of another nation of people, and indeed that it must do so if it is to survive.  I support Israel, even when and precisely when I do not support its government’s policies.  To me, that makes me a Zionist, even if many people don’t think it does.

This is shallow, especially as he is taking up matters of belief. The issue is, Why do you as an American Jew with full minority rights believe in the necessity of preserving a Jewish state halfway across the world whose Palestinian citizens and subjects find that regime objectionable? These claims are defensible; Peter Beinart makes the defense, I don’t think persuasively. But Michaelson (who lives in a town that neighbors mine and surely enjoys similar privilege to my own) doesn’t try, he merely asserts and feels that such assertions are convincing. They’re not. They require some real introspection. This is the crisis inside American Jewry, that so many of us feel a need to sustain a project most of us haven’t even visited and whose political values utterly contradict the values on which our own democratic citizenship is based. And if you are religious, if you care about Jewish life in Israel, why does that life require statehood? (C.f. Jerry Haber. “If Israel exists as a physical refuge to ensure the survival of the Jewish people, then it has failed miserably in that respect.”) These are important issues. I’m waiting.

55 Responses

  1. pabelmont
    April 3, 2012, 10:11 am

    “The issue is, given that Israel is so oppressive, why is the theory/ideology that sustains it so important to you?”

    With respect, Phil, that is not the question — not MY question anyhow. You are asking him why he regards Israel like a drunk mother whom he must love. That is A question, but not THE question. THE question is about what to do about poor old mom (for those who so regard Israel).

    I’d ask him this: “Given the current facts and prospects, including massive Israeli intransigence, lawlessness, cruelty, and oppressiveness on so many fronts, what would you like to see happen — what is YOUR desired outcome for peace and justice — and what would you like the USA or the WORLD to DO to bring it about?”

    • justicewillprevail
      April 3, 2012, 12:03 pm

      A drunk mother? I think we are talking abusive father here. Repressed, obstinate, out of touch and time, sullen, manipulative and violent. To name a few.

      • pabelmont
        April 3, 2012, 4:59 pm

        JWP: you may have a better analogy. I was hoping to recall the useful phrase, “My country, right or wrong; my mother, drunk or sober”.

  2. Dan Crowther
    April 3, 2012, 10:48 am

    I never knew the Bill of Rights and the Constitution were designed to confer “minority rights” – I thought they just outlined what rights all men have inherently. This is the problem with calling yourself a “(fill in the blank) american” — As far as the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution are concerned (and after some important “updates”) men are men. That’s kind of an important thing, I should say.

    So important, that if you take the founding documents seriously (as I do) and also take into consideration the documents and works they were based on, one can with a straight face, and in all seriousness ask, “what the hell is an “american jew”?

    I know that there are americans who happen to be Jewish, but Ive not heard of a special american form of judaism. And the same goes for “american catholics” and the like. Its nonsense, in my opinion. The “american” in the identity cancels out the religious or ethnic affiliation.

    In other words, you don’t get to be “an american jew” — you only get to be an american, who happens to be jewish. It’s this distinction, more than anything else that grants true freedom to minorities – “american” as a political identity is probably the greatest expression of shared humanity there is, as it describes nothing about the individual, but says everything about the ideals that person shares with his/her brothers and sisters in society. I take offense at people who hyphenate their american identity, and I do so because its completely unnecessary and runs counter to what “american” is supposed to mean. People should take it more seriously, in my opinion.

    • Chu
      April 3, 2012, 12:26 pm

      Good point(s). Jewish identity one can argue is stronger than identifying with the United States to a percentage of American Jews. The wandering story and homeland is something that both right and left believe in.
      Being American is something most of us primarily identify with, but there are many Jewish-Americans that cannot separate the two. Some of the Israel Firsters in these comments are American, but their first priority is Israel. Regarding the United States, sure they believe in it, but they feel the US is not under the pressure that Israel is under. So, if they can only get those additional acres of land, one day they may be safe… so on and so forth. They’re working on their global security, and that may never be accomplished, but I’m not sure that is the point for them.
      Breaking this foreign bond to a once ideological utopia is something that their leadership in the US is unwilling to do at this point. They may want to reflect on the train wreck that’s coming, but they think it’s under control. And they’re buttressed by our Congress, so why as they say should you even care. The US is in full support of them.

    • American
      April 3, 2012, 1:17 pm

      I take offense at people who hyphenate their american identity, and I do so because its completely unnecessary “…Dan

      So do I. I despise the “hyphening”. I think it was created by politics for the purpose of “niche pandering” Easier for politicians to gather votes by pandering to niches with promised favors than by putting forth positions that are for the ‘common good’. The only place I use “Jewish’ Americans is on this blog because of the subject. I refuse to call blacks ‘African’ -Americans.

    • Charon
      April 3, 2012, 3:34 pm

      I agree with Dan. That goes for everybody IMO. I remember watching an interview years ago with some entertainer who happened to be black (I don’t recall who it was), and the interviewer offended him by calling him African-American. He said “I am an American, I am not an African citizen, I have never been to Africa” or something like that. I used to work with a guy with Haitian ancestry who said the same thing pertaining to Haiti. Might have been for a different reason, because Haiti is in the Americas. He also said that Hispaniola always had black natives among the Taíno natives, doubting the post-Colombian imported African slaves in favor of native Haitian slaves. Claims it is historical revisionism to support the whole European ‘discovery’ narrative.

      I also agree that people should take this more seriously. Putting a label on ‘American’ is PC, but some people might question one’s loyalty. Questioning loyalty is not PC, it’s taboo. Why? People don’t go around saying “Italian-American” or “American Italian” for the most part. They are American with Italian ancestry. American is a nation/citizenship level. Ethnic/religious identity should come underneath, not along side it. Along side it technically should imply dual-loyalty. Not that I’m questioning loyalties here.

  3. eljay
    April 3, 2012, 10:52 am

    >> I believe in the notion of a Jewish and democratic state, for all the complexity such a juxtaposition entails. I believe that such a state can exist without the oppression of another nation of people …

    How, Mr. Michaelson? How can a religion-supremacist Jewish state – a state of and for Jews, in which Jews are more equal than the non-Jewish minorities – be a democratic and, presumably, egalitarian state of and for all of its Jewish and non-Jewish citizens?

    • Don
      April 3, 2012, 5:45 pm

      Hi Eljay. In answer to your question…its complex.

      • eljay
        April 3, 2012, 6:29 pm

        >> In answer to your question…its complex.

        Let me guess – it has something to do with all that juxtaposition, right? ;-)

  4. FreddyV
    April 3, 2012, 11:09 am

    I’m mulling the Zionist project around in my head lately. I think it’s fair to say (although not without exception), that Antisemitism or any racism is simply intolerable in western society. The ‘Antisemitism’ that Jews have suffered since WWII has been largely related to what Israel has done, rather than an outright irrational hatred of Judaism and it’s not something most societies would be prepared to have on their doorsteps, despite the Hasbara claiming that Israel is the only safe place for Jews. It’s the least safe place.

    I think this is evidenced by the fact that over 50% of the world’s Jews live outside Israel by choice.

    Another factor to consider: Mizrahi Jews (Arab Jews) make up the largest demographic of Jews in Israel. Many were refugees from Arab States who were expelled or displaced over a period of 30 years between 1948 and the ’70′s. How many would have continued to live outside Israel if those Arab states didn’t expel them because of Israel’s policies and the resulting difficulties whilst in their homelands?

    US military aid keeps the wheels on the cart and the occupation in full swing. What if US funding stopped?

    My point is this: You have a nation that oppresses 50% of the people that live under it’s jurisdiction. Over 50% of the people that the nation was created for don’t want to live there and over 60% who do are refugees who may not have moved there in the first place.

    Precisely who or what is this nation for? It seems it’s just some retarded remnant of a colonialist ideology that has been shoehorned into two of the three monotheistic faiths creating a superstitious belief of ‘support or be damned’ But it’s doing no one any good whatsoever. Not just the Palestinians, but the Israelis, worldwide Jewry and Christianity are being bent around to accommodate this crude distortion and all are suffering for what precisely? It just doesn’t make sense.

    • Chu
      April 3, 2012, 1:06 pm

      Avoiding religious sub-components, think of it as a varied ethnic group that was persecuted in the previous centuries inside all of Europe that made a choice to establish a utopia away from the oppressors- calling it Israel. These new journeymen could make a new home by throwing out the native inhabitants, to establish their utopia. But as the growth of the state continued, they lacked a plan to overtake the inhabitants and found that they would not leave, because there will was much stronger than they has assumed. The irony was that they created the same oppressive conditions to the native people that were brought upon them for centuries. But they could not understand their dilemma, because their story was too unique to themselves and for the greater world to comprehend.

      • FreddyV
        April 3, 2012, 2:43 pm

        @Chu:

        ‘But as the growth of the state continued, they lacked a plan to overtake the inhabitants and found that they would not leave, because there will was much stronger than they has assumed. The irony was that they created the same oppressive conditions to the native people that were brought upon them for centuries.’

        Sheer poetry.

        The whole post is excellent. Many ideologies fail in their bearing out and I think you’ve hit it on the head. I don’t think it would be a stretch to say that Zionists have known for years of their failure, but think they can keep stringing out the lie ad infinum to maintain their ideology.

      • seafoid
        April 3, 2012, 5:25 pm

        “But they could not understand their dilemma, because their story was too unique to themselves and for the greater world to comprehend.”

        And because they wrapped g-d around the whole mess and nobody stopped them. 1967 will be seen as the turning point. Messianism and the fetish for the land were the catalysts .

  5. W.Jones
    April 3, 2012, 11:13 am

    Dear Phil,

    You ask a good question. The best reason I can think of is the people’s security. That is, as Prof. J.Slater claims, the people are more secure if they have an ethnic state. And if it does make them secure, then it may be worthwhile, considering past persecution.

    However, I would very much like to read an article, or see a discussion on Mondoweiss, on whether this is really the case. That is, does having a single-ethnic state in the Holy Land actually provide more security for the people?

    Or would the people be more secure if they lived in multiethnic, tolerant states spread across the world, rather than gathered into a small space on top of, and surrounded by, another group of temporarily weaker people with whom there are hostile relations? I am not sure of the answer, but think it is an important discussion.

    • seafoid
      April 3, 2012, 5:26 pm

      Have nuclear bombs made Israelis feel more secure or have they ratcheted up the paranoia ?

      • W.Jones
        April 4, 2012, 11:02 am

        More safe, I guess. It has overwhelming military supremacy even without the nukes, but still has bad relations. How would you answer your question?

        Take for example Jordan, a US ally and a comparably western-oriented country. They really are at peace with the Israeli state, right? But it is also filled with a huge number of Palestinian refugees from the state. And can we say that the state really feels “comfort” towards this neighbor? I think the Israeli state is probably one of the most “western” oriented, but in any case the refugee problem and cultural differences seem to play a role.

        But to answer your question more directly, wouldn’t you say that military superiority has in a way made it feel safe, but it still is not comfortable. Has it always been this way, even before the 1960′s when they developed it?

        In my opinion to overcome the situation, they would need cultural exchanges, take big steps to integrate into the region and develop good, friendly relations with everyday people in the surrounding countries.

      • seafoid
        April 4, 2012, 3:25 pm

        I had a long chat with my Israeli colleague at lunch the other day. He was talking about the holiday he’s taking this week in “the Judean Desert” which is in “Judea and Samaria”. And then he brought up Iran and all the talking points. I asked him if it would make any difference if Iran had nuclear bombs. Did they make Israel any safer? He said that when Israel has its back to the wall and the enemies are massing only the bomb has credibility. It was also the bomb that enabled the settlement project to flourish. It is no substitute for diplomacy and bridge building. But they chose the bomb, didn’t they ? All the while listening to the words of Ben Gurion/Gruen – it doesn’t matter what the goys say, just what the Jews do.
        And here we are in 2012.
        Israel is in a real hole.

  6. seafoid
    April 3, 2012, 11:16 am

    “I believe in the notion of a Jewish and democratic state”

    It would be a nice thing.

    I’d like to see a Jewish state of the future run on the basis of the rule of law and equality for all its citizens, where everyone within the borders were granted citizenship.

    • RoHa
      April 3, 2012, 8:08 pm

      “I’d like to see a Jewish state of the future run on the basis of the rule of law and equality for all its citizens, where everyone within the borders were granted citizenship.”

      In what sense would such a state be “Jewish”?

      • seafoid
        April 4, 2012, 4:59 am

        In the sense that it has a large concentration of Jews and Saturday is the day the shops are closed and Passover is an official holiday (along with Eid etc) .

      • RoHa
        April 4, 2012, 9:13 pm

        So not very. That would be “Jewish” in custom, but not in official proclamation. Seems O.K. to me.

  7. DICKERSON3870
    April 3, 2012, 11:29 am

    RE: “This is the crisis inside American Jewry, that so many of us feel a need to sustain a project most of us haven’t even visited and whose political values utterly contradict the values on which our own democratic citizenship is based.” ~ Weiss

    MY RHETORICAL QUESTION: Aren’t you treading on very thin ice, Phil?

    SEE – Granting No Quarter: A Call for the Disavowal of the Racism and Antisemitism of Gilad Atzmon ~ by Palestinian and Palestine-solidarity activists, 3/13/12
    (excerpt)…Atzmon’s politics rest on one main overriding assertion that serves as springboard for vicious attacks on anyone who disagrees with his obsession with “Jewishness”. He claims that all Jewish politics is “tribal,” and essentially, Zionist. Zionism, to Atzmon, is not a settler-colonial project, but a trans-historical “Jewish” one, part and parcel of defining one’s self as a Jew. . .
    SOURCE – link to uspcn.org

    • DICKERSON3870
      April 3, 2012, 11:30 am

      P.S. I WONDER IF WHAT WEISS/BEINART/ATZMON ARE SAYING IS REALLY DIFFERENT FROM THIS: Israel’s Defense Chief OK’s Hundreds of Israeli Deaths, By Ira Chernus, CommonDreams.org, 11/11/11

      (excerpt). . . An essential motive of Zionism from its beginning was a fierce desire to end the centuries of Jewish weakness, to show the world that Jews would no longer be pushed around, that they’d fight back and prove themselves tougher than their enemies. There was more to Zionism than that. But the “pride through strength” piece came to dominate the whole project. Hence the massive Israeli military machine with its nuclear arsenal.
      But you can’t prove that you’re stronger than your enemies unless you’ve also got enemies — or at least believe you’ve got enemies — to fight against. So there has to be a myth of Israel’s insecurity, fueled by an image of vicious anti-semites lurking somewhere out there, for Zionism to work. Since the 1979 Iranian revolution, Iran has gradually risen to the top of Israel oh-so-necessary enemies list. Iranophobia is rampant in Israel, as one Israeli scholar writes, because “Israel needs an existential threat.”
      Anyone who has grown up in Israel, or in the U.S. Jewish community (as I did), and paid attention knows all this. . .

      ENTIRE COMMENTARY – link to commondreams.org
      ALSO SEE – Iranophobia: The Panic of the Hegemons, by Ira Chernus, Tikkun Magazine, November/December 2010
      LINK – link to tikkun.org

    • Don
      April 3, 2012, 5:53 pm

      I keep reading bits and pieces of Atzmon’s articles. I have listened to a few interviews. Could the people who trash him, including Palestinians, provide evidence for what they say about him? That evidence may very well exist…but I haven’t seen it yet.

      • Keith
        April 3, 2012, 7:12 pm

        DON- “That evidence may very well exist…but I haven’t seen it yet.”

        The “evidence” consists mostly of out of context quotes involving intemperate language used to basically misrepresent Atzmon. Unfortunately, he has in the past been needlessly provocative for whatever reason. Actually, he differentiates between those who consider their “Jewishness” (however defined) as but a part of their overall identity versus those who put their “Jewish-ness” as their primary focus. The difference between an American who is Jewish versus a Jew living in the US. His views are somewhat close to Israel Shahak who considered Zionism as a retrograde form of Classical Judaism, an attempt to avoid the enlightenment and assimilation.

  8. Annie Robbins
    April 3, 2012, 1:09 pm

    I believe in the notion of a Jewish and democratic state, for all the complexity such a juxtaposition entails.

    funny, i just noted some juxtaposition here.

    i am sure it is just a coincidence the 2 posts went up at one right after the other in the line up today (maybe not!) but we’ve got two house overtaken in hebron. one the military is violently evicting the palestinians and activists supporting them (video) and the other about a stand off between settlers and the military deadline and eviction order where netanyahu steps in and puts a hold on it.

    it’s apartheid….

    • Eva Smagacz
      April 3, 2012, 4:30 pm

      Noticed the same thing. The word irony is too weak to describe it.

    • Hostage
      April 3, 2012, 6:43 pm

      I believe in the notion of a Jewish and democratic state, for all the complexity such a juxtaposition entails.

      That’s all the talk about democracy has ever been: a notion that the UN insisted the Zionists mention in their Declaration of Independence and adopt into their laws and Constitution. They’ve never gotten beyond the stage of simply paying lip service to the idea.

      • lysias
        April 4, 2012, 5:16 pm

        Stalin’s Soviet constitution paid a lot of lip service to all sorts of liberal ideals. They even had elections, of a sort.

  9. Sin Nombre
    April 3, 2012, 1:32 pm

    Dan Crowther wrote:

    “I never knew the Bill of Rights and the Constitution were designed to confer ‘minority rights’ – I thought they just outlined what rights all men have inherently. This is the problem with calling yourself a “(fill in the blank) american” — As far as the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution are concerned (and after some important ‘updates’) men are men. That’s kind of an important thing, I should say.”

    Yes, and now we’re seeing some of the damage caused by the New Left in pushing that poisonous little idea that one’s “real” identity wasn’t national but instead was something else (racial, ethnic, religious, etc.) that, at the very least, needed to be hyphenated/appended to one’s description as an American to advertise that same was—again at the very least—just as important as that Americanism if not in fact much moreso.

    Rather funny then (in an unfunny way) seeing all the Lefties/Progressives here trying to put this toothpaste of theirs back in the tube essentially. On the one hand tell everyone that who they *really* are and who they *really* owe their allegiance to is their co-ethnics/racial members/religion sharers. And on the other then tell ‘em to stop fighting for same and regard everyone else as equals.

    Nice bit of incoherence there….

    • Woody Tanaka
      April 3, 2012, 2:21 pm

      “Yes, and now we’re seeing some of the damage caused by the New Left in pushing that poisonous little idea that one’s ‘real’ identity wasn’t national but instead was something else (racial, ethnic, religious, etc.) that, at the very least, needed to be hyphenated/appended to one’s description as an American to advertise that same was—again at the very least—just as important as that Americanism if not in fact much moreso. ”

      You completely missed the point. The notion that the recognition of ethnic/relgious/gender/sexual orientation, etc. identity is not about “real identity”, but of real Americanness. It is a reaction to the right-wing notion — which was just about universal in the culture just a few decades ago — that to be an “American” was to be a white, protestant, heterosexual male of Northern European descent. It goes hand in glove with the fight to “regard everyone… as equals” because it is a statement of equality in reaction to the fact of inequal treatment.

      As an example, I would proudly describe myself as an atheist American, because there are millions of people in the USA would would be willing to assert that if I don’t believe in their god, that I’m not “really” an American and that I should leave. And this is just the latest in the long line of such nonsense.

      Perhaps you’ve never considered it, but your vision — that to be “American” is to all be in this together, mutually endorsing our shared and common rights — is only possible because of the work in destroying the previous paradigm, and fighting the fights to say that Irish-Americans are, in fact, fully American. And Jewish-Americans are, in fact, fully American. And African-Americans are, in fact, fully American. And Mexican-Americans are, in fact, fully American. And Asian Americans are, in fact, fully American. And gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered Americans are, in fact, fully American. And so on and so on.

      We’re still fighting the fight when it comes to some, like Muslim-Americans and Arab-Americans, who, sadly, are seen by bigots and losers as not being Americans.

      You’re attitude doesn’t help.

      • Dan Crowther
        April 3, 2012, 3:30 pm

        Lets get a few things clear(er)

        The Irish and Jews joined labor unions and weren’t afraid to be called “socialists” they went out and took control over their lives in meaningful ways – thats #1

        #2 — When I look at old footage of civil rights protests, I see signs that say, ” I AM A MAN” — not a black man, not a african american man, just “i am a man”

        #3 The Chicano movement was also labor based and was about economic rights, not about creating a new identity

        #4 The fat liberals who cheered on civil rights, when all it was going to mean was black folks becoming a democratic party voting bloc had very little to say about King’s post civil rights work: Union Organizing and Strike Coordination. He was at a strike, organizing when he got killed. Crickets from the liberals.

        So, what to do when its not socially acceptable to be a socialist or affiliated with Labor? You create identity politics. Its a liberal capitalist society creation. And its one of the most full of shit creations I can think of. Identity politics is for cowards who dont want to say they are anti-capitalist, OR its for the upper crust of these identity groups that know they can make a killing off “their” group(s) — We have way too much evidence of this for me to get into it.

        If the conventional wisdom on the definition of “american” was once “white male from northern europe etc” – the reaction of everyone else (taking on a hyphen) only reinforces that definition. If “we hold these truths to be self evident” no one should have to defend their “americaness” and thats the point.

      • Woody Tanaka
        April 3, 2012, 5:15 pm

        First, the idea that “identity politics” does not include economic status is wrong. The dynamic is often different, (such as the moneyed classes often used majority racial identity (especially in the South) to prevent the coalescence of the white and minority poor — Christianity plays the same role today in keeping people from voting against their economic interests), but the bigotry and the economic plights often reinforce each other.

        And, yes, the Irish and the Jews went out and took control of their lives. They are also two of the biggest hypenated American groups out there. Go to the New Jersey shore some time and you’ll see more Irish and Israeli flags flying on people’s houses than you will American flags.

        Second, you cite “I AM A MAN” posters. But that was the point. At that time, the larger society would not make that simple statement, (hence the slur, “boy”) because of the bigotry I mentioned earlier. It was a statement that said, in essence, “you do not get to immasculate me because of my race.” In similar fashion, the term “African-American” is a way of saying, “you do not get to strip from me my national identity because of my race.”

        You state, “we hold these truths to be self evident” but fail to note that the following phrase “that all men are created equal” was often specifically argued (and not just by cranks and societal detritus) that the word “men” in that statement literally mean “white men.” That thinking is why the simple statement “I am a man” meant more than you give it credit for. It was a statement demanding a change in the way the members of the society thought about each other, on all levels.

        Now, your emphasis on economics is well worth considering, but unless someone calling themselves is saying that as a {whatever}-American, I am superior to the others, or I will not work with any but my own people, that simply does not preclude economic improvement for working folks. The fact is that Americans, for reasons stupid and profound, have an inability to think rationally about economic issues and, as a consequence, are their own worst enemies when it comes to their economic and political systems. But that’s not a consequence of having pride in ancestry and demanding that others respect you notwithstanding your differences.

        Yes, there are those who have capitalized on identity politics, like all politics. Hell, you can make the case that those who have are small potatoes compared to those who have take advantage of other politics.

        “If the conventional wisdom on the definition of ‘american’ was once ‘white male from northern europe etc’ – the reaction of everyone else (taking on a hyphen) only reinforces that definition. ”

        No, it’s explicitly saying that one can be something other than a white northern-european heterosexual protestant and still be an American because, as a result of raising of people’s awareness on this issue, “American” is no longer limited to just one small part of the people.

        “no one should have to defend their ‘americaness’ and thats the point.”

        And no one is. They are stating, in an in-your-face manner, that simply because they are gay, female, Muslim, Irish, whatever, they will not let that alter the fact that they are Americans. It is a statement of pride, not a defense.

      • Don
        April 3, 2012, 6:03 pm

        Puuhleease…it has been a long time since someone called me wop or dago, but its’ not like I don’t remember. So when I described myself as an Italian American, it was in response to precisely what Woody describes. (and no complaints about the wop and dago thing…tinker toys compared to what other ethnics have experienced).

        But it was the white protestant (conservatives) who thought…and still think…they are the only true Americans…that are the source of the problem (if it is a problem).

        But to be much less nice than Woody…to find yet another phenomenon (harmless in my opinion) to “blame”on leftists strikes me as typical conservative mush-thought. Typical conservative lack of thought.

        With all due respect (I guess) Dan, your post above strikes me as nearly incoherent as anything Richard Witty used to say. (the second to last paragraph makes so little sense it is positively awe inspiring.)

      • Hostage
        April 3, 2012, 7:16 pm

        The Irish and Jews joined labor unions and weren’t afraid to be called “socialists”

        I have to agree with Woody. The Irish and Jews who joined the international labor movement, or the Comintern and Socialist Internationale weren’t overly concerned with their American-ness or with displaying any kind of nationalist loyalty. They were united in an international struggle for equality and fair and humane conditions of life for all men, women, and children. Trade guilds were notorious for discriminating against outsiders and racial minorities. The international movement never succeeded on its own in overcoming America’s fondness for protectionism, i.e. “separate but equal” opportunities for advancement.

      • Dan Crowther
        April 3, 2012, 7:50 pm

        I’ll leave Don’c comment aside

        “If the conventional wisdom on the definition of ‘american’ was once ‘white male from northern europe etc’ – the reaction of everyone else (taking on a hyphen) only reinforces that definition. ”

        No, it’s explicitly saying that one can be something other than a white northern-european heterosexual protestant and still be an American because, as a result of raising of people’s awareness on this issue, “American” is no longer limited to just one small part of the people.

        “no one should have to defend their ‘americaness’ and thats the point.”

        And no one is. They are stating, in an in-your-face manner, that simply because they are gay, female, Muslim, Irish, whatever, they will not let that alter the fact that they are Americans. It is a statement of pride, not a defense.
        ———————————————————–

        So, before we continue talking past each other, I should make clear (and woody is well aware of this) that Im no right winger or frustrated white dude who thinks his country is being taken away and so on.

        It’s not a statement of pride, Woody. It is a defense. Now, I understand full well that people consider it a statement of pride – but it isn’t. It doesnt make sense to identify – a permanent status- within the context of an ephemeral economic construct. Why focus your energy on combating the arbitrary “conventional wisdom” of what american means? My thing is, I would be much more interested in hitting those white folks in the wallet, than creating alternative identities and focusing on that stuff. The “Man” is not threatened at all by identity politics, my opinion is that if we want to change anything, the “Man” is going to have to feel threatened. How do we make the Man feel threatened? You know – non participation, civil disobedience, work place organizing, boycotts, strikes and so on.

        My most basic point: All those folks with the “in your face” would be MUCH better served organizing on economic grounds to get their views across – and they would dovetail with other “groups” with like minded interests. I say this all the time to friends of mine who are gay, “if you guys really wanted to get gay marriage etc all over the country in straight away – make your “gay” protests restaurant waitstaff strikes (and go from there).” Gay men (for example) could shut down entire municipalities. And its like this across the board; dont make your demands in the street, pleading with people to “understand and accept” you; hit em in the wallet. At least in my opinion.

      • Dan Crowther
        April 3, 2012, 7:53 pm

        They were united in an international struggle for equality and fair and humane conditions of life for all men, women, and children.

        Well Hostage, I guess you agree with me too, because this was my point.

      • Dan Crowther
        April 3, 2012, 8:55 pm

        Second, you cite “I AM A MAN” posters. But that was the point. At that time, the larger society would not make that simple statement, (hence the slur, “boy”) because of the bigotry I mentioned earlier. It was a statement that said, in essence, “you do not get to immasculate me because of my race.” In similar fashion, the term “African-American” is a way of saying, “you do not get to strip from me my national identity because of my race.”
        ————————————————-
        In alot of cases, those posters were placards, worn on picket lines.

        I dont understand the statement about “african american.” the black people in america who descend from slaves have a waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay better claim to “american” and really, America than most any of us. What a horror that society continues to stick the knife in with further description and categorization.

      • Woody Tanaka
        April 4, 2012, 9:48 am

        “I’ll leave Don’c comment aside”

        You shouldn’t. It demonstrates exactly the thinking that generated the respect for one’s ethnic identity in the larger American community.

        “It’s not a statement of pride, Woody. It is a defense.”

        I’ve never known anyone who hyphenated who didn’t do it as a point of ethnic pride.

        “It doesnt make sense to identify – a permanent status- within the context of an ephemeral economic construct.”

        But you are demonstrating, in my opinion, the problem of “if all you’ve got is a hammer, all the world’s problems look like nails.” You are very strong on the economic aspect of society, but not all grievances (and certainly not all grievances stemming from systemic bigotry, is economic in nature.

        ‘The ‘Man’ is not threatened at all by identity politics, my opinion is that if we want to change anything, the ‘Man’ is going to have to feel threatened. ”
        The “Man” isn’t now, because of the battles that were won in the 1940s through today, many of them economic, but not all of them. The fact that the Republic party skews so insanely towards white, heterosexual, middle-class men is a symptom of that threat that identity politics has generated, (if a Counter-Reformation is evidence of a Reformation.)

        “My most basic point: All those folks with the “in your face” would be MUCH better served organizing on economic grounds to get their views across – and they would dovetail with other “groups” with like minded interests.”

        The problem is that they are not economically homogeneous anymore, stemming from the success in the non-economic areas (or, at least areas not directly economic. There’s certainly economic benefit to, say, a Jewish grandson whose grandparents successfully fought against the societal norms which excluded Jews in decades past, even if they fought those exclusions purely on principle.) Like I said before, Americans — especially the American poor — often vote against their economic interests. But there are many causes of that. Taking pride in the fact that one is of Japanese descent or Hawaiian or of Italian descent, if is a factor at all, is one so small that it is negligible.

      • Woody Tanaka
        April 4, 2012, 10:04 am

        “In alot of cases, those posters were placards, worn on picket lines.

        Yes, because economics was one area in which the prevailing systemic bigotry and racism was manifest. But it is also true that African-Americans on the picket lines faced different challenges than did, for example, the Irish-American protester, even if some of their challengers coincided. The value of identity politics is to highlight those differences.

        “I dont understand the statement about ‘african american.’ the black people in america who descend from slaves have a waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay better claim to ‘american’ and really, America than most any of us.”

        But what does “American” mean, so that you can even make that assertion?? (And to short circuit — this is exactly the fight; what does the word mean?) Historically, “American” has been defined as including in it, “whiteness.” In that context, your assertion could has no meaning. How could a black man be more entitled to a word that means “a certain class of white people”? The fight which we term ethnic politics was over exactly the question of what “American” means (or, in a less poetic fashion, what are the rights and reasonable demands which can be made under the law, Constitution and societal norms by a particular person, and can they be denied them based on invidious discrimination.)

        “What a horror that society continues to stick the knife in with further description and categorization.”

        From all of the conversations I’ve had with African Americans, not once did any of them ever express that they felt horror in their self-appellation of black American or African American. In fact, I recall with amusement Justice Marshall’s insistence at his retirement press conference that he was “Afro-American.” (As against, ironically, “African American” which was then coming into vogue.) This was not a man who was seeking to defend anything; he was long past having to prove or defend himself to any man. But he was proud of who he was.

      • Dan Crowther
        April 4, 2012, 1:16 pm

        Woody, per usual you make a lot of good points. And I think that if we were having this conversation face to face, and I was able to better fully express my thoughts, we would largely agree.

        Living where i live (in roxbury mass) i get upset and down right angry at the situation that continues to confront minorities in the US, and black people in particular. And I do view some of identity politics (especially as it pertains to black folks) as a clever way to feign progress in a social setting.

        I do agree with some of what Don said (not the calling me an idiot part) and I do agree that white protestant conservatives do think that way. My point is to say: F Those People. We should be doing like the Europeans do, holding anti-racism, anti-nativist rallies and such and making direct challenges to them. Americans always run in fear from white conservatives, I dont understand this. But it should be clear, these people do not have monopoly on “American” and, I still hold that the best way to combat this perceived monopoly is for everyone else to simply say “I am an American” and leave it at that. Let the white conservatives come up with some hyphenization that will make it clear to everyone that they live in a self created mental ghetto.

        The Black American struggle is a different thing though, from what we see among the ID politickers now – and its inextricably linked to economics – I doubt highly that black guys in the south really gave a F about what white folks thought of them, pretty sure they knew. They wanted economic rights first and foremost. Like I said above, the white liberals were with King and Co. on the marches for civil rights, but were largely absent from his organizing of strikes and boycotts post civil rights – which underscores my point: You will be allowed to identify as you like, but if you take it a step further and work for economic freedom etc. you will get killed. Just like King, just like Malcolm, just like the (communist) black panthers.

        Just one more thing, and as Ive said, you make a lot of good points: ID politics does limit the scope that one views society through, especially in a capitalist society such as ours. I personally think that a asian american plumber has very little in common with an asian american hedge fund manager (socially speaking)- but within this construct, the plumber is forced into the same societal category as the hedge fund manager, and is also “forced” to view the hedge fund manager’s position as a “asian american acheivement” even though the hedge fund guy might be making deals that will F the plumber (say by investing in some big plumbing outsourcing business). And we’ve seen this with other groups over and over.

      • Hostage
        April 4, 2012, 4:55 pm

        Well Hostage, I guess you agree with me too, because this was my point.

        You said: “I never knew the Bill of Rights and the Constitution were designed to confer “minority rights” – I thought they just outlined what rights all men have inherently.”

        Prior to the adoption of the 14th Amendment, neither the Constitution nor the Bill of Rights ever attempted to outline any rights that all men have inherently, e.g. no person descended from an American slave had ever been a US citizen for Article III purposes. See Scott v. Sandford – 60 U.S. 393 (1856) link to supreme.justia.com

        Despite the fact that slaves were men, the Constitution acknowledged the practice. The 5th Amendment recognized a slave owner’s secured interest and guaranteed that they could not be deprived of their property without due process of law.

        The scope of application of the 14th Amendment is strictly limited to those persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to its jurisdiction. So it doesn’t apply to Haitian or Cuban boat people. The international labor movement concerned itself with women and children. The US Constitution still doesn’t explicitly protect internationally recognized rights of children or women.

      • Dan Crowther
        April 4, 2012, 8:04 pm

        Selective qouting from hostage

        my full passage makes clear i am not ignorant of the 14th amendment – thanks for the lesson though

      • Woody Tanaka
        April 5, 2012, 5:50 pm

        Dan, I have no doubt that you are right that we probably agree on much more than we disagree. I think that what I hear from you is an “instead” — minorities should concentrate on the economics instead of the identity stuff. I would posit, however, that is should be an “addition to,” if you get my drift.

        And while an Asian American plumber may not have a lot in common economically with an Asian American hedge fund manager, it wasn’t that long a go that they both Japanese would have been shipped off to Tule Lake or Manzanar.

        Some said “I am a man” some said “I am an American”:
        link to en.wikipedia.org

      • Dan Crowther
        April 6, 2012, 8:51 am

        In addition to. yes. recognizing the supremacy of import in the former :)

        my man….

  10. piotr
    April 3, 2012, 1:40 pm

    “but I’ve not heard of a special american form of judaism. ”

    I think that there can be two reasons: (a) not being an American you do not know “special forms” that exists almost only in America, or (b) being an American you do not know what forms of Judaism originate from America.

    • Dan Crowther
      April 3, 2012, 2:31 pm

      Oh OK Piotr – so now theres a “american” judaism? Sort of like a lot of the evangelicals have “americanized” christianity? Give me a break. When people start to “nationalize” religions or their associated traditions, I call BS. You don’t get to do that.

      This is what happens when we let dickhead German monks decide for themselves what they like and don’t like about their religions – it becomes a free for all. And if you have to keep on inventing new “forms” of religions that are thousands of years old to keep pace with your new environs and “the times” – why not just give it up? it obviously doesnt mean much, if your gonna keep tweaking it to fit your present reality…..

      • piotr
        April 4, 2012, 11:24 pm

        American peculiarity is that people who do not believe in God still bother to have specialized religions for such as they. In Europe they would not bother. So in America there exists those marvelously inclusive churches and synagogues.

  11. piotr
    April 3, 2012, 2:13 pm

    About the point of the thread: I think that “flabby Zionism” is gratuitously insulting. I am proposing to make a distinction between piano Zionism and Zionism forte. Forte Zionists can have their own disputes like is it a good idea to throw Palestinians to the see to feed the fish, or a misuse of IDF resources and not worthy serious consideration. Zionism piano (sotto voce?) dwells on human rights, achievements, amazing tapestry etc. Zionism piano observes that boisterous and rambunctious Israeli democracy is definetely to be admired. but it could be even more perfect. Zionism forte acknowledges that, alas, the spirit of democracy is not fumigated away. But “we are working on it”.

  12. eljay
    April 3, 2012, 2:47 pm

    >> Zionism piano observes that boisterous and rambunctious Israeli democracy is definetely to be admired.

    Regardless of its volume, the Zionism I keep reading about advocates not for an “Israeli democracy” – a nation of and for all Israelis equally – but for a religion-supremacist “Jewish state” democracy, one in which Jews are and will always be more equal than non-Jews. I don’t consider that to be admirable.

  13. Daniel Rich
    April 3, 2012, 6:52 pm

    I’m against theft, even if I steal from you…

  14. Keith
    April 3, 2012, 7:36 pm

    “I believe in the notion of a Jewish and democratic state, for all the complexity such a juxtaposition entails.”

    Jeez, Phil, you say this guy is an expert on religion and morality? Then is one to assume that he is either delusional or a bald faced liar? The religious Jews in Israel are not liberal Reformed Jews. They are mostly Orthodox fundamentalists, a throwback to Classical Judaism where the Talmudic ideology absolutely forbade anything remotely resembling democracy for non-Jews in the “Holly Land.” There are a lot of Talmudic instructions concerning Goyim in the Land of Israel which absolutely require discrimination. So, while liberal American Jews can talk endlessly about Jewish and democratic (a contradiction even in secular terms), surely they must be aware that the religious Jews of Israel would never tolerate such a thing. Look what happened to Yitzhak Rabin for making even a small compromise.

  15. kalithea
    April 3, 2012, 11:45 pm

    I’m so tired of Jewish Americans’ hypocrisy and their repetitive purging. Zion Square, Open Zion…it still stinks! Oh go live in Apartheid Israel and shut up already!

  16. Justice Please
    April 4, 2012, 5:53 am

    “I believe in the notion of a Jewish and democratic state, for all the complexity such a juxtaposition entails. I believe that such a state can exist without the oppression of another nation of people”

    Yeah such a state can exist, but not on land where other people live! Put it in the arctic, if you want a “Jewish and democratic” state.

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