Podhoretz leaves 92d St Y stage after saying Swarthmore Hillel deserves ‘to be spat upon’

Israel/Palestine
on 66 Comments
Podhoretz

Podhoretz

It’s happening: the split between the rightwing Israel lobby and left-center lobby has begun to widen, and last night neoconservative John Podhoretz stormed off the stage of the 92d Street Y in New York after Jeremy Ben-Ami of J Street criticized Israel’s actions as providing fodder to the boycott movement.

The incident has become notorious overnight. The panel was about “what it means to be pro-Israel” in the U.S. New York Magazine has covered the rhubarb, and I imagine the NYT will follow. Everyone is waiting for the video replay. In the meantime, some accounts.

Podhoretz admits that he laid an egg.

Ever had a bad night? I just had one. Ever lost your cool? I just did.

He says he might have wagged a finger at Jeremy Ben-Ami, from a distance:

Whatever I did, it was, to be sure, no more “threatening” than [moderator Jane] Eisner’s response, which was to put her hand up close to  me for the purposes of quieting me down. Eisner seems to think that when I spoke in objection to this gesture, which I did angrily, I was perhaps fearful she was going to attack me physically—which is the height of silliness. I was annoyed by the hostility of the crowd, one of whose number had shrieked at me, and I was troubled by Eisner’s effort to shush me.

Bottom line: I’d had a long day and I didn’t see the point in spending more of it getting booed and shushed. So I left.

Chemi Shalev at Haaretz says that tensions rose over the academic boycott measure passed yesterday by the American Studies Association, and also over what the Pew poll reveals about American Jewish distance from Israel:

The bizarre turn of events, which took even the debate-hardened audience by utter surprise, started when John Podhoretz, editor of the right-wing Commentary magazine, accused J Street leader Jeremy Ben Ami of blaming Israel for the boycott announced on Monday by the American Studies Association.

When Ben Ami protested and some in the audience reacted with boos, a petulant Podhoretz snarled, “Why don’t you also hiss”? When the audience duly hissed, an increasingly agitated Podhoretz said: “I’m not going to be villain here.” And when Jane Eisner, editor of The Forward newspaper and the evening’s moderator, tried to regain control of the conversation and gestured with her hand, Podhoretz blustered “don’t put your hand up to me like that,” took off his microphone and walked off the stage, leaving the stunned panel of Eisner, Ben Ami and American Jewish Committee Executive Director David Harris scratching their heads in puzzlement.

Shalev includes vital quotes from Ben-Ami that Podhoretz found provocative:

“We are driving people out of the community by defining who can and cannot speak, by circumscribing the debate,”Ben Ami said…

“The underlying issue continues to be whether Israel and the Palestinians will achieve a two-state solution.” Until then, he added, “we can help the Israeli policy makers understand that this wave is coming, that Israel is headed towards international isolation, towards being a pariah state, not simply because there are anti-Semites in the world – though there are and always will be – but because of Israel’s own policy of continuing occupation and way Palestinians are treated in 21st century.”

Jane Eisner at the Forward says that Podhoretz is a “rude, angry man.” Part of her account:

Throughout it all, Podhoretz was firmly, even aggressively, disagreeing with Ben-Ami, and the back-and-forth between them became a little testy. This is the hardest part of being a moderator – trying to make the split-second judgements over when to step in, and when to allow the debate to run its course.

But then we turned to an audience member’s question about the decision announced today by the American Studies Association to endorse an academic boycott of Israel. And things got harder, still.

Ironically, everyone on stage, myself included, believed that this was a hypocritical and ultimately counterproductive action.

So the consensus is safe there: BDS is wrong.

But after saying he disagreed with the ASA vote, Ben-Ami segued into talking about Israeli government policies that, in his view, make it difficult for some Americans to believe Israel really does want peace with the Palestinians.

You’re blaming the victim, cried Podhoretz. Some members of the audience became enraged, and, mystifyingly, the Commentary editor encouraged them, challenging them to boo and hiss.

And then — honestly, it’s a bit of a blur, but this is what I remember — he started wagging his finger at Ben-Ami in a manner at once threatening and condescending. That’s when I stepped in, trying to rein in the argument, using my hands (I am known to gesticulate) to try to calm him down.

Instead, Podhoretz angrily said that I raised my hand at him and stormed off the stage.

Whoa.

I am, physically, much, much smaller than John Podhoretz, so he could hardly allege that I was intending to do him harm.

Podhoretz writes a second piece. He wants to say this is a tempest in a teapot:

The tempest in a teapot continues. Chemi Shalev of Ha-aretz has a post up about my bad night last night in which he says I said “students at Swarthmore College deserve to be spat upon.” This is false, and he should correct it. I was talking about the Swarthmore Hillel’s announcement it would host anti-Zionist as well as Zionist speakers. What I said was that if you advocate anti-Zionism you are calling for the destruction of the homeland of my family. You are free to do so, and I am free to revile you and spit upon you. Like I said, I had a bad night, and this bit of hysterical rhetoric was not my finest verbal improvisation. The clear sense of the Swarthmore Hillel story was that the anti-Zionist speakers Hillel would sponsor would be creatures like the author of the year’s most disgusting book.

That’s evidently a reference to Max Blumenthal. I have proposed that Swarthmore Hillel invite Blumenthal and Susan Abulhawa to speak, to put paid to its new policy that it is an open Hillel.

Now Podhoretz has posted a transcript of his speech re Swarthmore:

“I believe that the notion that a Jewish organization should host a speaker or a group that explicitly defines itself as anti-Zionist, which is to say believes in the non-existence of the Jewish state, is a group that deserves to be considered not only anti-Israel but anti-Jewish and ultimately anti-Semitic, as the fundamental fact of Jewish existence in our time in part is the existence of the Jewish state. Wishing for its non-existence is like wishing for the forcible repatriation of 6 million people, 7 million people it’s a horror show, it’s an infamy, it’s a political outrage. And Swarthmore Hillel…is free to do so. And it will deserve to be condemned, it will deserve to be spat upon, it will deserve to have whatever monies have been contributed to it to be removed.”

The weighty issues Podhoretz raises demonstrate why this is not a tempest in a teapot. Podhoretz’s anger at Ben-Ami is a clear sign of the shift in the lobby. The new lobby wants to criticize Israel a little in order to take on the pro-BDS crowd on the left. The neoconservatives want to spit on the left. And as for the left, we have a right to defend ourselves from Podhoretz’s misrepresentations, and more and more fora will extend that right. Suffice it to say, American Jewish life will never be the same. And, to be clear, there were no folks on the stage who experience Israeli policies, Palestinians. I wonder what liberal Jewish forum would have staged a debate on Jim Crow back in the ’60s without black leaders…

66 Responses

  1. Mike_Konrad
    December 17, 2013, 10:12 am

    BDS is the first real existential threat that Israel has had. I do not blame her supporters for fighting back with every weapon at hand.

    • Sycamores
      December 17, 2013, 10:40 am

      so Iran was never a REAL existential threat to israel. netanyahu should bomb the BDS HQ instead.

      “fighting back with every weapon at hand” the zionist latest weapon is called ‘the finger wag’

      thanks for clearing that up for me.

      • thetruthhurts
        December 17, 2013, 9:58 pm

        hey syc
        maybe netanyahoo will be able to scrape up enough money by panhandling, or collude with his aiders and abbetters in congress for a cool million of US taxes, to fly over to washington and cry in front of all his paid puppy dogs that
        “our intelligence services have confirmed without any doubt(cheney-meet the press) that iran has sent nuclear weapons to various strongholds of the anti-israel international BDS movement which is nothing more than a virulent anti-semetic terrorist organization bent on the destruction of israel.
        we must stop this threat in it’s tracks before its too late(ring a bell?) so i call on the president immediately to bomb all these strongholds.
        (rousing applause by his puppys subserviating to their paymaster)

    • lysias
      December 17, 2013, 10:44 am

      Was abolitionism an existential threat to the antebellum South?

      • JeffB
        December 17, 2013, 12:15 pm

        lysias

        Was abolitionism an existential threat to the antebellum South?

        Of course! The antislavery movement ended up dragging the south into a war where several percent of its population killed, its cities burned to the ground, the economy wrecked, it social structures permanently altered, it was under a hostile occupation that took almost 2 decades of terrorism to shake and then only partially.

        I like abolitionism but of course of it was an existential threat.

      • Ellen
        December 17, 2013, 5:15 pm

        JeffB, there you go again…

        Don’t know where or how you were educated, but the war between the states, or Civil War was not about the institution of Slavery. It was about economics and resources, as most all wars. There were forces in the South that wanted to break away from the rest of the US and a federal government. It started when militias from the State of South Carolina fired upon a federal facility in the harbour of Charleston.

        The abolitionists did not drag the South into anything. They were not even on the radar. However, it was — especially in the North — a major social issue Lincoln adopted late in the game to garner public support for the war when most were against the conflict and could not care less about holding onto the Union of States.

        Yes, the 16th and 17th century feudalistic structures of the South were put to an end as a result of the war. The South was not capable of doing it on their own. Yet the breakdown of slavery and feudalism was inevitable over time with or without war.

        No occupation of a people can ever be sustained, and all end badly. Israel will not be able to maintain its occupation to support it’s 19th century colonialism. Just as in the American South or South Africa, if Israel is to survive, the occupation and all the detris supporting it, will have to end.

      • ThorsteinVeblen2012
        December 17, 2013, 6:57 pm

        I take it you were schooled in the South.

        Slavery is an economic institution to control the cost of labor.

        Howard Zinn noted in his “People’s History” that the difference in wages between free Southern labor and slaves was minimal.

        In the “Untold History of Labor” the case is made that the civil war was sparked by the immigrants after the European revolutions of 1848. Who saw slavery as an obstacle to a living wage. The Irish may not have seen slavery as their fight but the Germans in Wisconsin did and signed up in large numbers.

        Today slavery is off shored to Pakistan, Bangladesh and Indonesia. We just don’t call it slavery. Just like we didn’t call the massacre of the Native Americans a genocide.

      • JeffB
        December 18, 2013, 6:51 am

        @Ellen

        I think you should read the Southern literature. The South was fighting for slavery quite explicitly. Your history has things somewhat backwards. After the civil war the idea of the war is completely discredited by the cost and death. So the two groups flip and use each other’s reason for fighting in the negative to justify themselves.

        Before the war:
        North: War to maintain the federal government, the union
        South: Slavery

        After the war:
        North: Against slavery
        South: States rights

    • Annie Robbins
      December 17, 2013, 11:13 am

      I do not blame her supporters for fighting back with every weapon at hand.

      the weapon being used in the example above are not effective anymore, they are overused and impotent. the very fact that Podhoretz has to stitch together his logic in this presentation:

      I believe that the notion that a Jewish organization should host a speaker or a group that explicitly defines itself as anti-Zionist, which is to say believes in the non-existence of the Jewish state, is a group that deserves to be considered not only anti-Israel but anti-Jewish and ultimately anti-Semitic, as the fundamental fact of Jewish existence in our time in part is the existence of the Jewish state. Wishing for its non-existence is like wishing for the forcible repatriation of 6 million people, 7 million people it’s a horror show, it’s an infamy, it’s a political outrage.

      “anti-Zionist= anti-Jewish=anti-Semitic=wishing for the forcible repatriation of 6 million people, 7 million people.”

      that simply doesn’t hold water and it reeks of desperation. ultimately it’s a strawman (and of course an ad hominem). students are just smarter than this. zionism is a political construct. one that (thus far) requires the oppression and expulsion of palestinians.

      i do believe there are many advocates of bds that would support 2SS w/2 viable states. but it’s becoming harder, dare say impossible for many (including myself) to believe israel would ever agree to a palestinian state, so what prey tell is the upside of focusing advocacy on a dead in the water plan? better to just apply pressure on equal rights for all people.

      and it’s not just extremists like podhoretz. even mj rosenberg, in a broad sweeping stroke, labeled bds advocates as ‘haters’ in a post the other day.

      i guess my point is, whether you blame or don’t blame is not the issue. the issue is ‘is that all they got’? this excuse is not a ‘weapon’ and it only acts as a defense if it scares or deters others from advocating equal rights in the land of palestine/israel. frankly, it’s not a compelling argument.

      • piotr
        December 17, 2013, 12:01 pm

        “I am, physically, much, much smaller than John Podhoretz, so he could hardly allege that I was intending to do him harm.” Eisner

        The picture of Podhoretz that illustrates the story is misleading. He is 83, an age when both physical and mental fitness may be quite diminished. If it went mano a mano, my bet would be on Eisner who is not even close to the retirement age. Podhoretz was a paranoid ranter already 60 years ago, but I imagine the nowadays these rants are rather wheezing.

        [This comment was intended to be “independent” rather than a “reply”]

      • just
        December 17, 2013, 1:42 pm

        That’s John’s daddy that is 83…..

        Equally nasty piece of work.

      • JeffB
        December 17, 2013, 12:30 pm

        @Annie

        better to just apply pressure on equal rights for all people.

        If you and BDS were just for equal rights for all people I’d be onboard with you in a second. We could be having discussions about mixing the housing, mixed schooling, some sort of affirmative action economic program. We wouldn’t be having conversations with the assumption that Israel is a country with an unhappy ethnic minority that needs assistance in assimilation. Rather than discussing them as a settler colonialist “rapist” enterprise that should be liquidated.

      • ritzl
        December 17, 2013, 5:26 pm

        @JeffB

        If you and BDS were just for equal rights for all people I’d be onboard with you in a second.

        A bit disingenuous, because this next sentence rings hollow:

        We could be having discussions about mixing the housing, mixed schooling, some sort of affirmative action economic program.

        But you could be doing that now, and you aren’t. You’re here whining that people under your military occupation want equal rights.

        Do you ever stop to think (from your own peculiar PoV) that by working to minimize the civil rights problems in Israel today, you might diminish BDS as a tactic? Heh. Instead you drone on about BDS while overlooking its causes and motivations. I can think of nothing more likely to amplify the need for BDS than for people like you to do nothing to correct the problems propelling it forward.

        Heck, just accepting that there are massive rights problems in Israel, today, would be a giant/mega step in the right direction.

        Reading your comments, I always get the feeling that you are trying to arrogate the notion that only zionist views are worth consideration (I’d be right there with you…but [you’re an idiot]…). You use kind of a “dog whisperer” calm-assertive method to do so. Problem is you’re just wrong and that method only accelerates everyone’s understanding that that is the case. Zionism in micro. Interesting, but short-lived effect.

      • Annie Robbins
        December 17, 2013, 10:42 pm

        But you could be doing that now, and you aren’t.

        exactly, he’s more interested in his strawman, pretending i said something about rapists, which i didn’t.

        Do you ever stop to think (from your own peculiar PoV) that by working to minimize the civil rights problems in Israel today, you might diminish BDS as a tactic?

        i don’t think that’s in the hasbara bag of tricks ritzl. as a rule (it seems) they don’t advocate any change of policy, iow they can only change the color of the pig’s lipstick. they primarily work exclusively in framing the narrative, just like the government they represent.

    • Citizen
      December 17, 2013, 12:24 pm

      @ Mike_Konrad
      Yes, a vehicle for the truth to get out, like BDS, is always an existential threat to deceivers bent on their own exploitation of others.

    • seafoid
      December 17, 2013, 5:45 pm

      Garlic is existential to vampires like justice is deadly for bots.

  2. bilal a
    December 17, 2013, 10:22 am

    What I said was that if you advocate anti-Zionism you are calling for the destruction of the homeland of my family. [Israel]

    America is someone else’s family’s homeland… the poor schmucks.

    • Citizen
      December 17, 2013, 12:27 pm

      Yeah, bilal a, I’m sure once upon a time, many Germans felt like you do, and, as well, many Afrikaners. Germany still exists, so does S Africa. Ain’t it tough to live in a land where there’s equal rights for all?

      • bilal a
        December 17, 2013, 10:48 pm

        italics r Poddy’s words. And the poor schmuck native and immigrant Americans have a right to self determination without being smeared , associated with Nazis/Boers, or dresden-ed/ droned for their opposition to foreign control.

    • seafoid
      December 17, 2013, 5:47 pm

      Israel is the 65 year old homeland of Judaism. What a joke.
      Where did Jews live before Israel ? Or were they invented out of nothing 100 years ago like the “so called Palestinians” ?

      • JeffB
        December 17, 2013, 7:50 pm

        @seafoid —

        Zionism took a religion and made a nation. Yes they were “invented”. So what?

      • thankgodimatheist
        December 18, 2013, 4:37 am

        “Yes they were “invented”. So what?”
        Nothing wrong with it per se but being invented with the specific purpose to take over someone Else’s homeland is an abomination.

      • Ellen
        December 18, 2013, 6:30 am

        right, Zionism hijacked a religon and invented a “nation.” You say “so what?” Very telling, JeffB.

        So the lap dogs in the US Congress must stop singing love to the pretend nation, stop pouring money and resources into the endless black hole, stop supporting the settlements and the slow annialation of a people.

        So it is not sustainable in the present form. The price of the Zionist fantasy is to high and growing.

      • JeffB
        December 18, 2013, 6:54 am

        @Ellen —

        It might be hard for the “lap dogs” in the US congress to object too strongly to the process of nation forming since the American nation is quite obviously stitched together from various other national groups based on a shared ideology. You may object to that process, but Americans do not.

        As for the endless black hole. Israel is comparatively cheap. Several wars for Saudi Arabia have been expensive.

  3. pabelmont
    December 17, 2013, 10:29 am

    Ben Ami is hypocritical — saying that BDS is wrong (what’s he mean there — wrong for those who practice it? wrong for the Palestinians who proposed it? or does he merely mean he himself wishes it would go away? not going to work? what does “work” mean here?) and then saying it has come about due to what Israel DOES.

    Podhoretz doesn’t like BDS. seems he hates it or fear it. Also hates free discussion among Jews on the topic of Israel, Jews breaking (what he wishes to define as) “ranks” by talking BDS, talking to Palestinians, etc.

    OK, why doesn’t he just “come out” as a totalitarian in favor of “thought police” and “speech police” for Jews in America ? Hissy-fits are not argument.

    What’s being pro-Israel mean in America? What a stupid question! why ask it? All it does is get people bollixed up, so that if they wish to say, as many do, “I am pro-Israel”, they then get accused of lying if they also favor putting pressure on Israel.

    Nuts to the whole discussion. How about a better one: What does it mean to be pro-human-rights in America for Jews?

    • marc b.
      December 17, 2013, 11:08 am

      podhoretz is not a totalitarian in the 20th century sense. he’s not even that sophisticated; he is a lumbering, race-obsessed, patriarchal narcissist. just like Goldenberg (or Dylan, as taxi illustrated) his ideology is bound up in ‘genes’ and bodily fluids and some Ben-Gurion inspired graphic novelized version of the old testament. he attempted to correct himself, or the impression he created, with a bit of mealy mouthed self deprecation, but I’d be willing to bet that unless he slinks off into obscurity, we are going to be treated to more than a few podhoretz tantrums in the near future. it’s an all or nothing game for his ilk, and if Israel-Palestine does become completely inhospitable for jews, with the exception of a few hardy zealots, it will be the fault of podhoretz not the ASA or a few hillel apostates.

      PS can you imagine the outcry if an Iranian suggested spitting on Netanyahu for his repeated threats to launch military attacks on Iran? podhoretz really is a piece of work.

      • Citizen
        December 17, 2013, 12:32 pm

        What? Say it isn’t so! Israel’s PM has actually repeatedly threatened Iran with military attacks? Nobody I know, knows this. They all know Israel has been threatened repeatedly by Iran. Poor Podhoretz, he’s such a handsome victim–how can you not sympathize and empathize with him? I mean, the Iranians are so ugly (except the Persian Jews in US who have their own reality tv show), while everybody knows the Israeli Jews are so sexy–even Golda Meir!

      • JeffB
        December 17, 2013, 7:54 pm

        @Citizen —

        You are a sane person.

        Assume that Iran offered Israel a peace treaty. Included was a promise to stop funding Hezbollah on the condition that Israel stop aiding the MEK, PKK… and full diplomatic relations. Do you have any doubt they would accept?

        Assume that Israel offered Iran a peace treaty. Included was a promise to stop funding MEK, PKK… on the condition that Iran stop aiding the Hezbollah and full diplomatic relations. Further there were obvious reasons to believe this would help relations with the USA. Do you have any doubt they would reject it?

        Can we at least on this clear cut an issue not blame Israel?

      • Sumud
        December 18, 2013, 9:43 am

        Assume that Iran offered Israel a peace treaty.

        It’s call the Arab Peace Initiative and Israel has been busy ignoring it for a decade now. Not only has every country in the Arab League signed on for it, but every nation in the OIC – more than 50 – including Iran.

      • a blah chick
        December 17, 2013, 7:47 pm

        “…Ben-Gurion inspired graphic novelized version of the old testament.”

        I am totally stealing that!

    • bilal a
      December 17, 2013, 10:52 pm

      What about the non Jews, why is there a defacto if not dejure ban on speech critical of Israel for the poor schmuck 98%? And when is 92nd st Y going to desegregate its seminars on the topic?

  4. lysias
    December 17, 2013, 10:43 am

    Was wishing for Algerian independence an infamy and a political outrage? Because that independence in the end led to the forcible repatriation of some one million pieds noirs.

    Of course, someone who wished for the independence of Algeria in the 1950’s did not necessarily wish for the expulsion of the pieds noirs, any more than wishing for the end of Israel’s status as a Jewish state now means wishing for the forcible expulsion of the Jews of Israel.

    There is one difference. We know that the pieds noirs eventually did have to leave Algeria. That outcome is not yet inevitable in Israel/Palestine. Indeed, a South African type ending is still possible.

    • JeffB
      December 17, 2013, 4:23 pm

      @lysias —

      There is no France from which the Israelis came. Israel goes down, it goes down hard. Right now the world is having a similar conversation about North Korea because of the purges and the possibility that this far less advanced nuclear regime might lose control on the ground. With Israel, with their military capacity in a situation of desperation fighting for survival. What do you think that would look like?

      I can paint a pretty brutal picture of what a country with powerful convention forces, tons of biological weapons and ICBMs going down hard would likely look like. Just picture, Israel post fall. Imagine for a moment even one division (10,000 IDF soldiers) marching with a few ICBMs along with some heavy equipment fighting their way into a city, slaughtering / cleansing the civilians in the city and getting 150k of their population to a good food and water supply. Now imagine there are 20 of those groups all at the same time all scattering and all desperate. That’s picture is the equivalent to of what the ancient world meant by barbarian invasions and they were terrifying to settled populations. Good warriors with nothing to lose and the certainty of death for them and the people they guard if they lost the battle. You think Israel is a threat now? That picture IMHO is why the Arab regimes, even though they detest Israel don’t see want to see it go down hard anymore. They have to live on the peninsula after the fall of Israel.

      You paint your picture.

      Now the nice thing, I don’t see a chance of that happening. Israel has never been stronger.

  5. pabelmont
    December 17, 2013, 10:56 am

    NY Mag: “all agreed the ASA vote was “a hypocritical and ultimately counterproductive action.” But then Ben-Ami “segued into talking about Israeli government policies that, in his view, make it difficult for some Americans to believe Israel really does want peace with the Palestinians.””

    I love how they all agreed (agreed to say, that is) that the ASA boycott is “hypocritical and ultimately counterproductive”. Now that seems to indicate that at the level of feelings all these fine, upstanding, honorable FoI don’t like the boycott and the social action that brought it about and the notice being taken of it, and all that. No=one would expect them to LIKE it. But how can they MEAN it?

    If it means anything, it means [1] they are accusing the ASA folks of lying — quite an unpleasant assertion, but that’s what “hypocritical” means — and [2] that the boycott will slow the motion toward human rights and peace (as if it could be any slower).

    Well, as to slowing things down, unfortunately, these fine, upstanding, and honorable folks who listen closely to things that go on in Israel may know something important: they may know that Israel will double down on human rights violations and stalling peace as a result of the ASA boycott and other BDS actions. Presumably immediately. How THAT will play out “ultimately” is anyone’s guess. Their guess is that “ultimately” Israel apartheid will prevail — forever I guess. And BDS will be forgotten by history.

    S’what they’re saying. Hoping. Or are they merely staying among the faithful, keeping in orderly ranks?

    • JeffB
      December 17, 2013, 1:42 pm

      @pabelmont

      Hypocritical, “behaving in a way that suggests one has higher standards or more noble beliefs than is the case.” Yes that’s what they are accusing them of. They are saying that they don’t believe the ASA is genuinely upset about Israel’s human rights violations but is rather pretending to be upset because they have other political objectives.

      In particular you have a group using language like “occupation of Palestinian lands”. Most ASA scholars in most contexts don’t believe that racial groups are entitled to the permanent possession of lands. They don’t agree with the Klan that say Jews or Blacks shouldn’t be moving into white Christian neighborhoods. Rather in most context the ASA supports a notion of non-discrimination where all people should have the rights to reside anywhere in their country. In the case of Israel they don’t support that. In the case of Israel they adopt the Klan’s position that there should be racially exclusive neighborhoods, based on previous historical residency. What could be more hypocritical for an anti-racist organization like the ASA than endorsing a genetic test for residency? And let me cut off the objection, I fully understand that’s the UN’s position as well.

      The BDS position is ultimately based on an incoherent mixture of Ba’ath ideology and mainstream western humanism. Demand (1) of the BDS defines the Jews as foreign colonizers. That demand comes from the notion that European Jews are an enemy of the future pan-arabic socialism because after all they aren’t even Arabs. That’s an unfixable genetic problem. Now it is weird that the Arab fascism of the 1930s has become fashionable among American leftists. Now mix you demand (2) of the BDS is in the language of western human rights law. Michel Aflaq would reject the language of liberty that demand (2) promotes.

      Normally the ASA would reject fascist considerations. They would reject the idea that Jews are genetically diseased and therefore not able to be part of the nation. They would reject that sort of anti-colonial language and instead would exist in the world of western humanitarian values. They wouldn’t side with fascism.

      I’m not sure what’s complex here. If they were just calling for national self determination, i.e. the J-Street position then fine. If they were just calling for equal rights for all, then they would really consistent with their normative views. But they aren’t they are using the language of Arab fascist parties.

      Why wouldn’t that be hypocritical? What else would you call it? This is ultimately the problem with the BDS position, it tries to appeal broadly by mixing irreconcilable ideologies.

      • pabelmont
        December 17, 2013, 3:27 pm

        JeffB — not sure I get your drift, other than it suggests (to me at least) I was mistaken — or hypocritical.

        Still, where Israel has prevented the refugees (exiles) from 1948 and 1967 from returning to their own country (that is, to the country from which they were displaced, even iof there was an intervening change of government), how is it NOT a matter of human rights for ASA adn others to demand that the refugees/exiles be allowed to return?

        And so forth, for the other instances of Israeli apartheid.

        I haven’t read the WORDS of the ASA resolution (and the supporting documentation) with a fine-tooth comb, as it were. But what supporters of the boycott wrote seemed in line with concerns for Palestinian human rights.

      • JeffB
        December 17, 2013, 3:58 pm

        @pabelmont

        JeffB — not sure I get your drift, other than it suggests (to me at least) I was mistaken — or hypocritical.

        You had asked how once could accuse the ASA of hypocrisy and I gave a fairly long defense of it.

        Still, where Israel has prevented the refugees (exiles) from 1948 and 1967 from returning to their own country (that is, to the country from which they were displaced, even iof there was an intervening change of government), how is it NOT a matter of human rights for ASA adn others to demand that the refugees/exiles be allowed to return?

        I didn’t get into BDS demand 3. I don’t know the ASA’s position on other refugee populations. In general I suspect though they are more in favor of permanent resettlement in most situations. Let’s take the Sudanese refugees in Israel. On Mondoweiss people weren’t arguing that Israel is depriving the Sudanese refugees of their human rights by not sending them back to die in a civil war. Rather they were advocating for permanent resettlement in Israel. And that’s the norm among most Western humanists. They accept that humans migrate. They welcome it. And they want states to offer permanent resettlement and not discriminate against their ethnic minorities. So typically the ASA would be angry at Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Iraq for not resettling people of Palestinian descent.

        Let’s put this in an American context. Should the United States have blocked England from trying to make Ireland more Catholic by making our Irish population uncomfortable and anxious to return to Ireland? Or did we handle things in mostly the right way? I suspect the ASA if anything would think we should have been more generous to Irish immigrants not less.

        I think the ASA is being hypocritical on BDS demand 3 as well. The idea of using hundreds of thousands of civilians as a political pawns to achieve idealogical aims when acting against their interests is not something they would generally support. Michel Aflaq would have no problem with it, but the ASA typically would.

        I haven’t read the WORDS of the ASA resolution (and the supporting documentation) with a fine-tooth comb, as it were. But what supporters of the boycott wrote seemed in line with concerns for Palestinian human rights.

        No they aren’t. There are rights and concepts in the BDS that are not part of human rights discourse as they are understood in the west. There are human rights as understood by Arab Fascism. They are close. But you see the problem on the Mandela thread as well. His theme, to the Afrikaners, people who were just as “colonial” as the Jews in Israel are “we are one people, in one nation”. That is typical western humanitarian values. “We are a people, you are a disease called Zionism that attacked our country” is 1930s Arab Fascism. And the ASA normally wouldn’t support it.

        I don’t think it is at all wrong to accuse them of hypocrisy. Certainly their moral voice on every other issue has to be weakened. Because the ASA with this action no longer supports human rights as understood in by western humanism.

  6. Shmuel
    December 17, 2013, 11:00 am

    Podhoretz: destruction … non-existence … forcible repatriation … horror show … infamy … outrage … revile … spit … creatures … disgusting

    Judith Butler (in Jewishness and the Critique of Zionism):

    How did it become historically possible for the precepts of classical liberalism to be equated with terrorism and genocide in the beginning of the twenty-first century?

    • marc b.
      December 17, 2013, 11:21 am

      with all due respect to butler, shmuel, this isn’t a 21 century phenomenon. thousands of pages have been written about the misimpression of liberalism from its inception. Richard Seymour wrote a clunky, but mostly accurate, deconstruction of Western Liberalism, and one or two Frankfurt Schoolers did good, but flawed, work criticizing the Enlightenment and its secular humanism.

      I am too lazy/busy to try to give the condensed version, so this will have to do for now:

      link to theguardian.com

      • Shmuel
        December 17, 2013, 11:52 am

        marc,

        I guess I didn’t provide enough context for Butler’s statement, but she refers specifically to discrimination on the basis of race, religion or ethnicity, as practised by Israel. At the beginning of the 21st-century, it is indeed a historical curiosity that such classical liberal values as non-discriminatory citizenship should be equated with terrorism and genocide, Frankfurt School notwithstanding.

        The fact is that they are, and quite successfully, but it is important to point out the Zionist/Israeli anomaly – if only to expose it as a pretence of a pretence.

      • marc b.
        December 17, 2013, 2:02 pm

        but, shmuel, the ‘Frankfort School’. I thought that would’ve been enough to clinch my argument. in any event, i’ll stand by my original point, that ‘discrimination on the basis of race, religion or ethnicity’ is not a uniquely Israeli program, even in the 21st century, even among ostensibly liberal democracies.

      • Shmuel
        December 17, 2013, 2:11 pm

        i’ll stand by my original point, that ‘discrimination on the basis of race, religion or ethnicity’ is not a uniquely Israeli program, even in the 21st century, even among ostensibly liberal democracies.

        I’ll accept your original point and even agree with it, but insist that Israel is still an anomaly. We are speaking on different levels and in shorthand, not disagreeing.

  7. American
    December 17, 2013, 11:03 am

    ‘Ironically, everyone on stage, myself included, believed that this (BDS) was a hypocritical and ultimately counterproductive action.”…Eisner

    Evidently they dont understand that most people plain dont care what they believe.
    And people are tired of telling them ‘why we no longer care’ what they think.
    They’ve been told for 65 years to stop what they’re doing.

    • OlegR
      December 18, 2013, 5:39 am

      /Evidently they dont understand that most people /
      Most people around these parts …

  8. Citizen
    December 17, 2013, 12:02 pm

    RE: “And then — honestly, it’s a bit of a blur, but this is what I remember — he started wagging his finger at Ben-Ami in a manner at once threatening and condescending. That’s when I stepped in, trying to rein in the argument, using my hands (I am known to gesticulate) to try to calm him down.

    Instead, Podhoretz angrily said that I raised my hand at him and stormed off the stage.

    Whoa.

    I am, physically, much, much smaller than John Podhoretz, so he could hardly allege that I was intending to do him harm.”

    Zionists, Israel regime itself, always deal with literally peaceful confrontation by being, acting “at once threatening and condescending.”

    Then they claim to be the victim, even when they are much more powerful that those they victimize (AIPAC-Israel v Palestinians), just like Podhoretz to the smaller, female moderator from the Forward.

    Yep, there’s a regular absurdly paranoid pattern. Zionists are insane, and no matter how powerful they actually are, they always perceive they are the tiny victim. (Hence Max B’s title Goliath, as distinguished from the biblical Goliath).

    We cannot support a state with nukes and a US guarantee of not acknowledging those nukes and simultaneously committing itself to making sure Israel always has the best conventional weapons (both US policies thus guaranteeing the continued arms race in the ME).

  9. Citizen
    December 17, 2013, 12:09 pm

    Podhoretz physically reminds me of Pork Pig. The difference is that Porky was trying to protect his garden from Bugs Bunny’s theft and ruin of same, while Israel is trying to play both roles.

  10. Krauss
    December 17, 2013, 12:19 pm

    Mearsheimer talked about “The New Afrikaaners” and the Righteous Jews. And in the center between them, he placed the moderate middle. I guess Ben-Ami is part of that, if you think supporting Apartheid under the guise of liberalism is “moderate”.

    Nevertheless, Mearsheimer’s clumsy categories seem to have more than a bit of validity to them as time passes on. We know who the New Afrikaaners will be, and Podhoretz is one of them.

    But Podhoretz isn’t the main issue. The question is: will the left confront those who portray themselves as liberal; Ben-Ami, Beinart and others. This is what Max Blumenthal has done better than anybody, by mainly focusing on Israel proper in his book, thereby demolishing the “after 67 it all went downhill” myth.

    Still, within the Israel lobby, these shifts are inevitable as it becomes impossible to maintain omertá any longer.

    • larick
      December 20, 2013, 1:27 am

      You’ve hit the nail on the head. The Zionists have managed to repress every dissenting voice from every Jewish organization for 60 years, and people like Jewish Voice for Peace and other advocates of BDS have pierced their perimeter. Once the question of Equality for all humans in Israel is before the American people they are doomed – and they know it. That’s why they explode and panic. 15 years ago I was summarily drummed out of an executive position in a national Jewish organization for merely the occupation: Boom! Gone. They have held the dyke until the leaks multiplied. Netanyahu himself said, “physical security is not as serious a threat as de-legitimization”, because you cannot run a Settler State legitimately- and everyone there knows it. If you read Max Blumenthal’s book you will see Israel hurtling toward full fascism. The wheels are coming off.

      • JeffB
        December 20, 2013, 10:00 am

        @larick —

        If you had an executive position 15 years ago then you are at least my age. Which means you remember the Jewish community during the Lebanon invasion. They were unhappy about the human rights abuses, but they didn’t turn on Israel completely.

        When full equality is put before the Jewish community they are going to be torn between their belief in democracy and their desire for a state that protects Jews. They aren’t going to turn on Israel. The same way that Americans can be disappointed in the NSA spying program, and oppose it without siding with Al-Qaeda.

        Jews are still going to want strong guarantees that things like the Law or Return be preserved. Also full equality means things like the prohibitions that exist on Jewish religious rites in areas of the old city disappear. If there are negotiations in that direction they will likely come to understand that neither side wants an American style religious structure. Since they are liberal and don’t believe in cultural imperialism….

  11. Citizen
    December 17, 2013, 12:21 pm

    RE: “Ironically, everyone on stage, myself included, believed that this was a hypocritical and ultimately counterproductive action.

    So the consensus is safe there: BDS is wrong.:

    Exactly! Thanks Phil, for catching this logical deduction and exposing it.

    • piotr
      December 17, 2013, 9:17 pm

      In some sense, Podhoretz thinks much more clearly than liberals who shared that stage. If BDS is a thoughtcrime, what is the sense in coddling the heretics who invite speakers who may poison the minds of young impressionable Jews and thus imperil their redemption. BDS is wrong not because is “hypocritical”, presumably by choosing vile means for a good cause, but because the cause is wrong, the cause of bestowing rights upon pseudo-people who invented themselves 100 years ago for no other reason except anti-Semitic spite.

      By the way of contrast, the liberal cause is hopelessly muddled. Israel is good, even adorable, but it could be even better. But why only Israel should be even better? Jewish values — whatever they are? Sensitivities of the new generation — why not work on de-sensitizing those brats, like by protecting them from the exposure to obnoxious speakers? And from the other side, the preferred tool of the liberals to foster the change for better — timid kwetching — is hardly inspiring or confidence building.

  12. W.Jones
    December 17, 2013, 12:30 pm

    Chemi Shalev… says I said “students at Swarthmore College deserve to be spat upon.” This is false… I was talking about Swarthmore Hillel’s announcement it would host anti-Zionist… speakers. What I said was that if you advocate anti-Zionism… I am free to revile you and spit upon you.

    Now Podhoretz has posted a transcript of his speech re Swarthmore:
    …Swarthmore Hillel…is free to do so. And it will deserve to be condemned, it will deserve to be spat upon

  13. pabelmont
    December 17, 2013, 1:00 pm

    Denial is a wonderful human trait, sometimes also useful rather than merely stupid.

    Most people are in denial about CLIMATE CHANGE by which I mean that they are [1] not really worried and [2] waiting for someone else to start doing something to avert the very, very worst (because, although they don’t know it, being in denial and all, it’s already far too late to avoid the quite, quite bad).

    These ZIO-BOTS (Podhoretz et al.) seem to think there will still be a “there” there (in Greater Israel) to comfort someone — in the sweet bye and bye — if they can just forestall the (as they see it) DISASTER of BDS and other pressures on Israel to change.

    (We) pro-Palestine folks seem to think there is something of great value to be gained by forcing Israel to abandon apartheid.

    But what space will there be for human-kind on earth if the increasingly believable horrible predictions come true? Neither Israelis nor Palestinians not Americans nor Eskimos will survive (or will not survive as we know survival).

    Who will play Bach and Beethoven when it is all over?

    Maybe it would a good move for the Palestinian and Israeli universities to get together (and not boycott each other) in a conference to DESCRIBE and SEEK TO AVOID the very, very worst of climate change. That would be a nice joint project — in the interests of all mankind.

    • larick
      December 20, 2013, 1:43 am

      Israel and Israelis in the main don’t give a rat’s behind for humanity- and they will tell you that. Their indoctrination is so thorough that the whole of “humanity” hates Jews and therefore Jews/Israelis will take land and kill Arabs- that’s 60%+ of younger people in polls. When they take high school kids by the tens of thousands to Poland to visit the camps they’re telling them, “any violence you do to ‘Arabs’ is justified” …”We are victims unless we attack and take regardless. There are many exceptions and many really wonderful and conscientious Israelis, but life is becoming unbearable for them and they’re coming to LA or Berlin. Sad! Israeli Universities are part of the ongoing ethnic cleansing; weapons, security systems, demographic Jewish domination, etc. Ilan Pappe and others published the true history of ’48, for example: death threats and left the country….Only outside pressure will change Israel. Settler States do not modify unless forced to.

      • JeffB
        December 20, 2013, 9:16 am

        @larick —

        If your premise is that Israelis are a bit paranoid and thus they justify violence… why wouldn’t carrots work better than sticks? For example after Oslo there was a bit of an opening and decrease in tension which shifted Israel left on security policy. Why wouldn’t you advocate a repeat of that process? Why play into the narrative of world oppression by increasing it, rather than contradict the narrative?

  14. MHughes976
    December 17, 2013, 1:04 pm

    I just want to deny the proposition that objecting to Zionism, ie believing that the status claimed for Jewish people in Palestine is unjustifiable, is ‘like’ wanting to transfer a population. The two ideas are not alike at all: they do not refer to the same subjects or apply the same predicates nor express the same spirit. The word ‘repatriation’ is interesting in a Freudian sort of way, suggesting that the people concerned really belong somewhere else.

  15. just
    December 17, 2013, 1:50 pm

    Methinks that Podman is orally fixated.

    link to mondoweiss.net

    Not sure why the 92nd St. Y wants his potty mouth or visage there……….he’s got serious anger issues. (rotflmao)

    • a blah chick
      December 17, 2013, 7:41 pm

      Now, now, let’s cut the guy some slack. He did have Midge Decter for a mother.

      • just
        December 18, 2013, 5:04 am

        true. The apple did not fall far from the tree.

  16. kpfeldman
    December 17, 2013, 4:20 pm

    “I wonder what liberal Jewish forum would have staged a debate on Jim Crow back in the ’60s without black leaders…”

    See “Liberalism and the Negro: A Round-table Discussion,” March 1964, Commentary Magazine. Sidney Hook, Nathan Glazer, Gunnar Myrdal, and James Baldwin, with Norman Podhoretz moderating.

  17. W.Jones
    December 17, 2013, 5:09 pm

    It sounds like Podhoretz could not handle Ben Ami talking critically about the State’s policies in the context of BDS, and this is what ratcheted up the tension.

    A comment on the New Republic talking about how the Y’s events are shown 2 days after they occur on TVs in other cities. Maybe you can see it at one of the showings.

  18. just
    December 17, 2013, 7:22 pm

    More sticks in the eye/provocation from Israel:

    “For decades, the religious Jews who bucked a rabbinic ban and visited a Muslim holy site in Jerusalem where the ancient Jewish temple once stood were seen by many as a fanatic fringe.

    But their cause is gaining support among both mainstream religious Jews and Israel’s government. Jewish visits to the politically-sensitive compound are on the rise, and key Israeli lawmakers are lobbying to end a ban on Jewish prayer there.

    The matter reached the highest of official levels this month when Israel asked Jordan, which administers Muslim religious affairs at the site, to consider allowing limited Jewish worship there, according to a Jordanian official.

    The visits have unnerved Muslim authorities, who fear that Israel is quietly trying to upset a fragile status quo and encroach upon the site. Similar tensions in the past have boiled over into deadly violence.”

    link to abcnews.go.com

    • a blah chick
      December 17, 2013, 7:45 pm

      This had been coming for quite some time. These rightwing nutjobs cannot abide the fact that there is ANY space made available for the untermensch

  19. Citizen
    December 18, 2013, 12:15 am

    Democrats in Congress just killed the subsequent proposed part of America’s 2014 budget that would have stopped a cut to the COLA of retired veterans, such as all the young men who were maimed in Afghanistan and Iraq so they had to take early retirement-disability pay. Initial cut is $7 Billion. Nobody considered leaving that COLA intact and, instead, cutting out 2 years of free cash to Israel. Instead, Obama added a quarter billion cash to Israel’s annual direct $3+ Billion take to help with things like Iron Dome. Shows who’s important. I’d like to see a mailer go out to every veteran’s family pointing this out. It would even be nice if US news reported it to the public. Hey, maybe those American NGOs that are charities for IDF soldiers could fork over the money to help out our own permanently maimed American soldiers?

  20. yonah fredman
    December 18, 2013, 12:21 am

    It is reasonable to object to the goals of BDS, insofar as BDS wishes to redress the exile of the Palestinians, but takes little account (no account) of what the results might be if the right of return were implemented. Given the current state of affairs in: Iraq, Syria and Egypt, why should anyone assume that the results desired by the BDS movement would result in a fair and impartial and nonviolent reconciled state of affairs, when those three major Arab countries are riven by violence, particularly sectarian violence. Why would supporters of the Jewish Israeli population wish to see a devolution to a Hamas government dictating policy in Israel Palestine, which could quite conceivably see anti Jewish violence in the new state which would mirror the anti Copt violence in Egypt, the anti Shiite violence in Iraq or the anti Sunni violence in Syria?

    Yes, Podhoretz is clumsy. But no, his worries about what Israel will look like if the “democracy” touted by BDS gets put into effect are not baseless. There may be a path from the current tense to a calm reconciliation between Palestinians and israelis. Certainly Netanyahu, Lieberman and Bennett are not aiming for a calm reconciliation and this problem: the current leadership of Israel and its direction, causes Ben Ami to emphasize the need for change. But tearing down the current regime would not automatically result in reconciliation. Given the state of affairs in Syria, Egypt and Iraq, those who truly favor reconciliation should scoff (not spit) at the goals of the BDS movement, for it has little to say about why their resultant Israel/Palestine would look like a reconciled ideal rather than the mess of the three countries that I have mentioned.

    • larick
      December 20, 2013, 1:53 am

      When you have a proto-fascist Israel enforcing a deliberate policy of literally emiserating the lives of millions of Palestinians to make them leave and take their land -house by demolished house- the regime needs tearing down. Enough excuses and appeals to fear; that is what is so intolerable about Israel other than its extreme violence toward its people, unless Palestinians aren’t people. Every Israeli national institution is governed by Zionist principles which demand Jewish control and dispossession of Palestinians (“Nishul”). You cannot expect the world to tolerate “Us over here and them over there” in completely oppressive inequality of rights. The principle is wrong and won’t be corrected until there is one country with equal rights – regardless of what is happening in Egypt or Syria. It won’t work because it is Fascism and it must change. The more Israelis hide from that fact the more people will suffer.

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