There is one last important point to be made about Armin Rosen’s attack on this site and me in The Atlantic, and it concerns my (Jewish, white) privilege in talking about the Israel/Palestine issue.
The article has garnered two responses by leading writers at the publication–Robert Wright and James Fallows–that have pushed back hard at Rosen. Andrew Sullivan has also given Wright’s piece his nod of approval. And I deeply appreciate the pushback over what was an unfounded smear.
But it is important to ask the question: would high-profile journalists push back the same if the target of the “anti-Semitism” smear was someone who was not Jewish or white? If the target was a Palestinian or an Arab? Well, the record is not good on this. Ali Abunimah first made this point on Twitter, and Benjamin Doherty followed up with a good post at the Electronic Intifada.
Doherty points to the crazy charges that were leveled at people involved with the PennBDS student conference earlier this year. The situations are not analogous, but when a professor at the University of Pennsylvania published an article calling Omar Barghouti’s book on the boycott movement “Mein Kampf,” there was no prominent condemnation. The silence came, as Doherty notes, after Sullivan pledged to “back” anyone weighing in on Israel/Palestine who was smeared. PennBDS supporters emailed Sullivan, but there was no response.
The larger point being made is that Palestinian voices are excluded from the mainstream debate on an issue that principally concerns them, while Jewish and Israeli voices are much more prominent. I think this is apparent to anyone who looks carefully at mainstream media coverage of Israel/Palestine and who they talk to and leave out. So as much as I appreciate the defense from Sullivan, Wright and Fallows–even though they don’t fully agree with us–you don’t see this sort of response in cases in which Palestinian voices have been marginalized. And that’s something we should all work to change. Challenging the racism in our media conversation on this issue is an integral step towards opening up the larger mainstream debate on Israel.