Commenter Profile

Total number of comments: 203 (since 2010-07-10 20:39:15)

Struggling artist type stuck in small business!

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  • 'The clash of civilizations’ theory is absolutely and completely dead
    • Aren't there all kinds of ideological (a subset of which would be theological) clashes going on in the world? Just because a conflict doesn't lead to bloodshed doesn't mean there hasn't been a clash. Suppose a wrong is enacted on a population but done through all the correct legal channels?

  • University of Hawai'i faculty responds to administration’s condemnation of ASA boycott resolution
    • It's interesting that they used the justification involving Israel being part of a group of nations which should be held to a higher standard--a "world historical club" which is mostly comprised of Western nations. There's so much "down with us," anti-Western animus in certain sectors of the academy--particularly ethnic studies. And to use this argument is to actually pay the West a compliment of sorts.

      Of course, maybe the professors didn't see the implication of the argument.

      (I agree with Avishai's sentiments, by the way.)

  • NYT obit of rabbi left out his urging Sharon: 'Very simply, wipe them out'
    • Yonah,

      There is something to what you're saying, and we should always keep in mind that people speak in a particular context and that they might have something else to say that comes across as quite different in a different context.

    • Page: 2
    • Krusty,

      It's not uncommon for people to be biased (consciously or otherwise) toward their own ethnic interests, particularly when their ethnic identity is strongly held. Let's put the shoe on the other foot: If all of the Jewish reporters/editors/advertisers/subscribers of the NYT and other major American media sources were replaced with Palestinian Americans, do you think that the reporting on this subject would be the same or different? If different, in which direction from the today's status quo: pro-Israeli or pro-Palestinian? To me, the answer is so crazy-obvious it's almost funny even to ask the question.

  • Legislative efforts to punish ASA over boycott of Israel pick up steam
    • This will probably have the effect of precipitating more boycotts. Hell hath no fury like a tenured professor scorned. . . .

  • The 'genetic truth' of Jesus's (and Hanna Rosin's) 'classically Semitic appearance,' as revealed to Jeffrey Goldberg
    • Note the piercing eyes, the confident line-of-David countenance, the dapper (but by no means worldly) tie: I'm not sure how the other Christians commenting on this site feel, but I've always imagined Jesus as someone who looks just like Jeffrey Goldberg. . . .

  • Goldberg's 'willingness to accuse everyone of anti-semitism makes it impossible to respect [him]'
    • I'm drawn to pay attention to Goldberg because (for some reason) I've come to identify him as representing the middle class/upper middle class type of Jew next door. Essentially, he's our Jewish neighbor (if we happen to live in a nice-to-swanky neighborhood--okay, given the location of my digs he wouldn't be my neighbor!!).

      He stands for what (we imagine) a lot of that "type"--Jews who are doctors, dentists, university professors, lawyers, stock brokers, accountants, etc.--believes. He's represents the educated rank-and-file backbone. He's sort of the meat-and-potatoes type Jew, or, perhaps (given today's eating trends), the organic/free range chicken breast and quinoa type Jew.

      But I once identified one of my professors (happened to be a gentile) as the classic liberal type. Naturally, being somewhat conservative, I just had to start an argument with him. That's when I realized it's never a wise idea to make an individual into a representation for an entire community.

  • Israel issues demolition orders for structures built by child-welfare group World Vision
  • George Bush set to speak to Christian End-Times group that calls for conversion of Jews
    • To assume that Christian Zionists have a core that is anti-Semitic. . . . Very questionable.

      When people of one religion seek converts from another religion--I don't see that as necessarily a hateful thing. (How one attempts to convert another--that's another question, and certainly those seeking converts sometimes can be rude and even hateful.)

      Just a guess: Are you thinking about religion in the same way that most people think about family. Yes, it is hateful (typically--barring circumstances such as abuse, etc.) if I tell you that I want your wife to leave you or if I tell you I want your brothers and sisters to turn their back on you.

      Could you be viewing Judaism as serving the function of creating a surrogate family? Hence, those seeking to convert Jews to Christianity are ripping apart family-like bonds?

  • N.Y. town fosters 'anti-Christian' hatred against Roger Ailes, says Ailes editor
  • Forward says Jewish leaders are chosen by donors and Israel activists, not the people
    • I was listening to a lecture series on the Middle Ages, and the prof mentioned the three classes or orders of society: Those who fight (the nobility--or those who defend), those who pray (priests, nuns), and those who work (everyone else). It occurred to me that in some ways American Jewish communities even today exhibit some parallels to this three order system. The wealthy seem to have a disproportionate role in American Jewish communities--at least compared to Christian communities. The power of the wealthy seem to be "harnessed" toward (what they perceive as) pro-Jewish goals (and they're there to defend or fight for those goals), whereas the power of wealthy gentiles seems to be unchecked and essentially inimical to the goals of, say, gentile Americans (of any race). It stands to reason that this would happen: That some of the strongest "forces"--blood/heritage as well as the power of wealthy men (oh, and I suppose I should mention a third force, namely, the religious mandate stemming from being the Chosen People)--would be aligned in the group which has withstood being torn apart by time and entropy longer than any other.

  • What if your friend had to die to preserve a Jewish state?
    • Elliot:

      Here's what the National WWII Museum website says on the matter:

      While most African Americans serving at the beginning of WWII were assigned to non-combat units and relegated to service duties, such as supply, maintenance, and transportation, their work behind front lines was equally vital to the war effort. Many drove for the famous “Red Ball Express,” which carried a half million tons of supplies to the advancing First and Third Armies through France. By 1945, however, troop losses virtually forced the military to begin placing more African American troops into positions as infantrymen, pilots, tankers, medics, and officers in increasing numbers.

  • An Israeli settler says Obama demands Palestine deal for Iran
  • The Russia-Syria deal: What it means and what now?
  • The interfaith ecumenical deal asylum seekers
    • I met a Jewish Israeli a few days ago, and he began talking politics. I brought up the settlements, and he defended them. I brought up the point that the Palestinians in the O.T. would never have a chance to vote. He said that that was correct--because it was too dangerous to give them the vote. I said, "Well, then really the only option you're left with is expulsion." To that he said that the Palestinians should be in Jordan.

      He said, "You know, I think we won't have any peace. Not for 100 years."

      I thought to myself, Yeah, that's probably right--at least in part because of your politics.

  • Wolf Blitzer looks for a religious state
    • I think people are being way too hard on Blitzer. The whole incident was simply funny (and awkward!).

      He was just trying to make conversation and steered things in a certain way based on some assumptions--we all do this. No big deal.

      But it was funny!

  • Wrenching drama about the occupation, 'Inch'Allah,' has been consigned to 'film festival purgatory'
  • NPR can't stop talking about Jews
    • marc,

      You may be right. I'll have to go back and read the article by the professor. I feel slightly guilty that perhaps I came across as more knowledgeable about her argument (and Unz's) than I am.

      I know that in the back-and-forth there was talk about the percentage of Jews at Harvard. And then there was talk about the percentage of Jews at different universities (both coasts). And the number that was sticking in my memory for Harvard was 10-15 percent, but maybe that was for one of the other universities that they were talking about.

      I remember at one point the prof made the argument that about 15 percent of the winners in this math/sci type contest were Jewish and so maybe I worked backwards and assumed the 15 percent number that was stuck in my head was for the Harvard student body as well.

      Basically, my memory isn't that trustworthy on this one!! :)

      But I definitely did get the sense that Unz was mixing stats--taking part of a figure from one place using one method and another part of the equation from another place using another method. It didn't seem really reliable.

      But, to be fair, perhaps I've misrepresented him.

      Perhaps what I should say is that we do need to be careful before we jump to conclusions. Unz just came out with this data. We should wait to see if it can be verified by others first before we offer any correctives.

    • Just wanted to mention: I read more on this topic, and, after reading a professor (can't remember her name now) who argued against Unz's viewpoint, I came out convinced that Unz was in the wrong and she was in the right.

      I was skeptical of her claims at first, but she won me over. I'm not Jewish, by the way, but I knew that Unz was Jewish, so I assumed he wouldn't be biased against his own ethnic group.

      But, basically, what the professor (who was also Jewish, by the way) argued was that Unz had overestimated the number of Jews at Harvard (if memory serves it's more like 10 - 15 percent and not 25 percent) and underestimated the number of Jews who had placed in certain math/science competitions. She had been researching a related topic (the divide between men and women) and so had happened to have information on the ethnicity of all of the people involved in one of the math/science competitions in question. And she determined this info by contacting the competitors directly. (Unz admits that he determined it by taking five minutes to scan down a list!)

      As I said, I started as a skeptic, but I kept an open mind and I came out thinking that she had the much stronger argument.

      I'm definitely not very knowledgeable about statistics, so maybe I've misunderstood Unz's argument (and the professor's, as well)--so please double check me. But his method for coming up with the numbers he did did seem pretty sloppy.

    • Just an addendum: I was thinking about this more driving home. . . .

      When I indicated this phenomenon Norr brought up was fairly benign, I think I had in mind stuff like the overabundance of Irish-Yiddish society and mosh pit-type pieces.

      But, "all things considered," if there's ethnic favoritism in the hiring process, that's definitely not benign.

  • 'NYT' says Irish ethnic solidarity is problematic
    • I do think in the interest of honesty I should say that, in a sense, the decision to align with individualism in contrast to an ethnic collective probably means more of a sacrifice for Jews than gentiles. Jews have 4,000 years of improbable/amazing history behind them during which thinking about themselves as a collective was (and still is today) widespread.

      I do want to be sensitive to this. I mentioned before that I, myself, can feel the tug of tribalism: It feels good to be part of a collective--to fit in for no other reason than your ethnicity (which obviously can't be changed). It's a bit like (though ultimately far from equal to) the love of God: God loves you no matter what. So it's an awesome feeling: To be loved for something you can't ever screw up. It's very close to being loved simply for being "you."

      It's rather amazing to me how many Jews have chosen individualism. I'll admit, given my conservative nature I could see myself turning my back on individualism if I were part of a group with a strong, viable collective tradition.

      But, ultimately, all of us--Jews and gentiles--face the same question: Is it a good thing to decide to care about someone more than another simply because he or she is of your ethnic group? Having a natural affinity for people who share one's own cultural background or even physical appearance (or age, etc.)--that's understandable. But the decision, unleashing the force of will, to love another more because they're of your ethnicity . . . if I adopted that approach, I certainly couldn't expect others outside my in-group to treat me as an individual (or I would be expecting far too much--expecting from others what I have no intention of reciprocating).

      And then where would this lead us?

      How do we treat people who don't want to be individuals but instead part of strong ethnic collectives? I say we continue to treat them as individuals, even if they don't reciprocate. That's the loving thing to do. And, anyway, we stand the best chance of changing their minds in the long run once they realize we're waiting patiently.

    • Tribalism for me but not for thee, I suppose, is the attitude. The attitude at the NYT, I should clarify (not necessarily her attitude).

    • Tribalism for me but not for thee, I suppose, is the attitude.

      How about no one be tribal? Even of the inner-circles-of-caring model in which one doesn't actually hateothers . . . one just loves one's own ethnicity a wee little bit more.

  • When loving Israel is a social credential
  • Israel and the nomination of Chuck Hagel
    • Wikipedia's article "Jewish Views on Intermarriage" has this to say about the subject (and we all know that Wikipedia has the final say on any topic):

      "Attitudes

      All branches of Orthodox Judaism refuse to accept any validity or legitimacy of intermarriages.

      Conservative Judaism does not sanction intermarriage, but encourages acceptance of the non-Jewish spouse within the family, hoping that such acceptance will lead to conversion.

      Reform Judaism and Reconstructionist Judaism permit total personal autonomy in interpretation of Jewish Law, and intermarriage is not forbidden. Reform and Reconstructionist rabbis are free to take their own approach to performing marriages between a Jewish and non-Jewish partner. Many but not all seek agreement from the couple that the children will be raised as Jewish."

      However, myjewishlearning.com reports that ". . . according to a survey released in October 2000, Lieberman's comments reflect the beliefs of the majority of American Jews. In short, according to the survey, 'the Jewish taboo on mixed marriage has clearly collapsed.'

      More than half of American Jews disagree with the statement, 'It would pain me if my child married a gentile,' and 50 percent agree that 'it is racist to oppose Jewish‑gentile marriages,' according to the American Jewish Committee's 2000 Survey of American Jewish Opinion. "

      (My goyish opinion: I don't see any problem with religious Jews who have more or less traditional views of the Hebrew Bible opposing intermarriage. From their perspective, they're merely following God's commands--their motive isn't racist or hateful.

      I'd lump non-religious Jews who oppose intermarriage in the same category as gentiles who oppose inter-racial or inter-ethnic marriages. Which isn't to say that they're horrible people.

      For example, I know a Native American woman who told me her father felt uncomfortable with her marrying a white guy. It made him uncomfortable and even sad, apparently--he felt that his people were dying out. (I actually knew her father as much as I knew her. He was a very nice guy. He actually said an Indian prayer at my dad's gravestone several months after the funeral. I wasn't even there--he just went out and did it; I found out afterward. Needless to say, I was touched. --A very, very thoughtful person.)

      One thing is very clear to me: Even though I might have tribal feelings of some sort, if my child, sibling, etc., did marry someone outside of my ethnic or racial group, the only moral way to react, I believe, is with acceptance and love. And, to a large extent, that alone can be used to dictate what we should say to our family members before they get into any close relationships that might lead to marriage: If I tell my children not to out-marry, what happens to my relationship with them (and their spouses) if they go ahead and do it, anyway?

  • The claim that 'Jewish lobby' is anti-Semitic term is cynical and hypocritical -- Siegman
    • AIPAC might be an "Israeli lobby" if, on an issue of substance, it ever took a stance against the interests of Jews in Israel and in favor of the interests of the Palestinians residing there.

      It hasn't, to my knowledge.

      Hence, it's a Jewish lobby focusing on Israel (perhaps "the" Jewish lobby is incorrect--but certainly it's "a" Jewish lobby).

      (The NRA is "a gun lobby" despite the fact that not all gun owners agree with it/support it.)

  • 'Atlantic' writer provides no evidence for allegation that Harvard professor is anti-Semitic
    • Could Goldberg be behaving in the manner in he is to provoke anti-Semitism? Perhaps that's what he wants.

      (Let's not give it to him!)

  • Exile and the prophetic: Hope against hope
    • --Wait. Scratch my last request. I'm thinking it was rude. It's certainly your prerogative not to respond. I realize my initial comment is somewhat controversial, and I suppose I was growing a little nervous at having no response or no other comments to my comment.

      Also, I want to stress that in trying to elucidate some of the causes of anti-Semitism, in no way am I condoning anti-Semitism. And I'm not arguing that anti-Semitism doesn't have a life of its own--because I think it does. Looking back on history, I believe one can find a lot of anti-Semitic behavior which is only in the scantiest, most negligible way related to what Jews have done or believed.

    • Marc,

      Please, is it possible for you to answer me? As the only person commenting here (as of yet), it's doubtful that you didn't read what I wrote.

      Am I getting the silent treatment because I reached the limits of your liberalism?

      . . . Or did I just bore you to death?

    • Marc,

      A few days back you wrote about Rabbi Gordis' inner circle of caring.

      Here's what Wikipedia says about Gordis: "Daniel Gordis (born 1959) is President of the Shalem Foundation and Senior Vice President and Senior Fellow at the Shalem Center in Israel. Gordis was the founding dean of the Ziegler Rabbinical School, the first rabbinical college on the West Coast of the United States."

      So, clearly, he's not a fringe figure in contemporary Judaism.

      Eric Yoffie has said some things along the same lines. Mondoweiss quoted him as saying this: "I care about humankind, but I love my own group a bit more. I am more comfortable with them. I care more about them, just as I care more about my family than other families."

      And also this: "I am convinced, to the depth of my being, that Jewish destiny is a collective destiny. And I believe as well that the concept of the Jews being one people is a religious idea and not an ethnic, political, or cultural one. The foundations of peoplehood are not to be found in nostalgia, gastronomy, or a shared sense of vulnerability, but in the covenantal relationship between God and the Jewish people. It is the covenant at Sinai that links all Jew, including nonobservant ones, in a bond of shared responsibility..." [Italics--the part I wish to hone in on, are mine.]

      Wikipedia has this to say about Yoffie: "Eric H. Yoffie is a Reform rabbi, and past president of the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ), the congregational arm of the Reform movement in North America which represents an estimated 1.5 million Reform Jews in more than 900 synagogues across the United States and Canada. He was the unchallenged head of American Judaism’s largest denomination from 1996 to 2012."

      And this: "In 1999 The Jewish Daily Forward named Yoffie the number one Jewish leader in America."

      So, clearly, Yoffie isn't a fringe figure, either.

      I've come to believe that it's not a good idea to criticize religion per se, but I do think it's sometimes appropriate to criticize the culture of a religion--what people of a religion take to be religious (in distinction to what the religion "actually" or "really" teaches).

      A little more background to my question: In the last, say, five hundred to seven hundred years there's been a general trend toward liberalism. Yet we have leading Jewish rabbis in the 21st century pronouncing that (though they might love gentiles) they feel as Jews they should make a conscious decision to love their own people more. (These twin factors suggest that this my-group-more-love belief long pre-dates Zionism.) And: here let me note that it sounds as if the rabbis are talking about making a willful, conscious decision and not as if they're talking about merely having what could be called a natural affinity for their own people--as is surely the case with almost all people groups. ("Natural affinity": Think friends: You don't necessarily consciously decide that you like someone as a friend--you just like them. Probably for a lot of small reasons, shared experiences, same age, etc., etc.)

      So my questions to you is this: Historically (I'm thinking Europe here) could this cultural dynamic "embedded" for centuries in leading Jews' conception of Judaism (and doubtlessly, believed by many of their followers) have been a factor in the growth of anti-Semitism?

      One can see how a group of people more individualistic who didn't have the religious culture (stress on both words) of loving their own people more would be at a disadvantage in many realms when they came in contact with people who did. If you love your fellow ethnic more than me, are you more or less likely to be biased toward him?

      Why do we insist that judges recuse themselves? It's not only in cases in which they hate one party. It's also in cases in which they love one party more than the other. And I'm sure you should be able to understand why. In aggregate (as opposed to focusing on individual examples), we would expect to find a tendency: those judges who love one party of a case are likely to be biased in that party's direction. The flow of power goes toward the person who is loved.

      One can see what would happen if a small group with this religious culture gained political prominence: The machinery, resources, and power of the state would tend to flow toward their fellow ethnics and away from the majority. The state would be run in such a way so that what happened was good for the smaller group first and foremost, even in situations involving conflicts over resources.

      That's a situation which could bring about a lot of (justifiable) resentment. And, just as loving one's own group more invariably (in aggregate) leads to bias, in aggregate resentment leads to hate. And hate leads to anti-Semitism.

      What think you?

  • NPR host Siegel serves as moderator for Avigdor Lieberman at Saban gala
    • I guess money can buy a lot of things from others.

      Which is too bad for the Palestinians, but ultimately too bad for the Jews, as well.

      What happens when the power starts to flow the other way, and then blindly being against the Jews is perceived as a "good career move"?

  • Don't 'target our Israeli ally'-- Schumer warns Palestinians
    • Phil,

      I just wanted to use this article as an excuse: An excuse to say thanks--for this article and for all the hard work that you, Adam, Allison, and many others do at Mondoweiss.

      You guys have produced a really, really exceptional site. Thanks!

  • 'Up With Chris' on MSNBC features 2 Palestinians out of 4 guests -- and bankruptcy of neocon Frum's claims
    • That's not a meaningful response to the fact that they are on Palestinian land. Erakat is right. Villages have been bulldozed, farmland destroyed, the topography of the place has been transformed forever. Moreover the expectation that Palestinians would be expected to live inside former settlements, the fruits of their oppression, is obscene. Only someone with a colonial mindset like Frum would even suggest the idea in the first place.

      But I think the more important point is that it's all bullcrap. The idea that the Israelis were going to just turn over the land. Everyone knows that "possession is 9/10s of the law." This was about taking. The after-it's-over-we'll-give-back-apartments--that was a hoax, a scam all along.

  • War and the two Bible belts
    • I have an evangelical background, though I'm probably not evangelical anymore (believe in evolution, don't believe in a literal Bible though I do believe in a literal resurrection--the demarcation line for Christianity, I think).

      Evangelicals are so pro-Israel because many of them are literalists. It's that simple. The way Bromwich juxtaposes (apparently, white) evangelicals with fascists seems very ridiculous to me.

      Speaking for myself:

      Do I feel that race should be incidental to my identity? Yes. Do I feel that I should vote my race? No. Switching to cultures: Do I feel that all cultures are equal at producing stable, successful polities? No. Can cultures change? Yes, but it doesn't happen overnight. Do I feel that we have something worth protecting here in America that could be destabilized with mass immigration? Yes. Do I plan to treat all Americans as my brothers--regardless of whether my idea about immigration is implemented or not and regardless of whether we're destabilized or not? Yes.

      Also: If it's so wrong to say that American culture--which certainly has been influenced strongly by European culture--may be better than another culture . . . (presumably because we can't say one culture is better than another) . . . then please get on Phil's case for saying that Jewish culture is bookish--which is clearly a dogwhistle of some kind--the kind that explains why Jews do very well in academia and other intellectual areas (very well = do better--GET IT?).

      Because we can't have a world in which it's verboten to say that one culture is better than another . . . except we can say however discreetly that Jewish culture might be the exception to that rule. That's insane/totally Jewish supremacist. It's one way or the other: either no culture is better than another or there are all kinds of success-producing differences among the cultures of the world. The latter seems extremely plausible to me. Cultural progressives such as Betsy will claim the former--and then often (--not saying Betsy herself would do this) peacock around the room, what with their exceptional virtue. (And what could their ulterior motive be? Aren't they white? And aren't they arguing not on behalf of their own interests? Surely they must be correct--their disinterested virtue proves the case!)

      About that last part--about cultural progressives not serving their own interests--recently I came up with an explanation regarding how their seemingly other-oriented politics actually serves their own direct, greedy/grubby interests. (Can't you tell I'm proud of myself? My turn to peacock.) Here it is (read/weep): link to cognitiveparfait.wordpress.com

      David Bromwich: "The Bible Belt in America, with its mystique of a chosen race on chosen land, bears a close resemblance to the settler belt in Israel. Both evangelical orthodoxies are driven by a profound hostility to the secular society that nourished them."

      Mystique of a chosen race on chosen land? If you're talking manifest destiny--that was in the 1800s, and pretty much ALL white Americans felt that way--perhaps a small minority dissenting. Actually, pretty much all of Europe felt that way about empire and colonization. But it's doubtful that other cultures wouldn't have felt the same way had they the power to achieve dominance over other cultures at that time.

  • 'Daily Beast' crank against intermarriage pushes regime change in Iran on the side
    • Here's another example: I read about a rabbi who went to lengths to find a way around the law prohibiting the use of certain devices on the Sabbath--he was trying to make it easier for a handicapped Jewish man who was a member of his synagogue (or something like that).

      Ultimately, he just couldn't find a way to bend the rules--although he really tried.

      To me, this rabbi seemed to be a good person. But I suppose I could have concluded that he was evil--who but an evil person would suggest that a handicapped person not be able to use technology which made his life more convenient?

      I could have used an example involving fundamentalist Christians, as well.

      I'm not saying that I agree with their take on the Bible. And, yes, there's a point at which people's religious beliefs are simply too damaging to all of society or to a segment of society for me to allow without some kind of political pushback or opposition.

      I don't think this issue is one of them.

      I do find it interesting that our society tends to turn a blind eye to the no intermarriage idea even when it comes to secular Jews.

      I could go so far as to understand how religious Jews might want secular Jews not to intermarry--and I even would consider this non-racist--since from the perspective of religious Jews what they're doing is still simply following a commandment from God.

      A little more on the intermarriage thing: I think a lot of people are tribal. I admit that I have a tribal side to my personality--one that I try to keep in check. I read someone on this site write about how she simply couldn't understand tribalism--that her own outlook was so completely different she simply couldn't relate.

      I think this type of person is in the minority--though many of us with a tribal side try to keep that under wraps and not really talk about it.

      An example: I'm an American, but the last Olympics I found myself rooting for an athlete from the country which is closest to my own heritage--even though he was competing against a well-known American. And this despite the fact that I don't speak his language and have only visited his country once. And despite the fact that I really don't know much about his culture.

      Now, if my brain waves could have actually influenced the outcome, I would either have changed my mind or turned off the set so as not to influence the outcome--because my loyalty is really to the U.S. But, hey, as long as it's just a benign ethnic fantasy . . . why not? (He lost, by the way!)

      Some people may think I'm weird, but I suspect a lot of people have these strange, seemingly irrational ethnic feelings--at least every now and then.

      I can understand tribalism--even from the inside out.

      But I think it's best to reject it. Sure, different ethnicities don't always get along, and so the thinking might be: Why not just each have our own little area--no outsiders allowed, no intermarriage.

      Okay, so far so good. But here's the next issue: What do you do with those people who, for whatever reason, don't play by the rules? Do you shun them? Ostracize them? Ostracize their mixed-race/ethnicity kids?

      None of that is loving, and that's why I'm not opposed to intermarriage--even though I do have tribal feelings sometimes.

    • We generally give people some slack when it comes to their religious beliefs--even if we don't hold those beliefs. If a person's religion is Judaism and they believe that God commanded them not to intermarry--then that's their religious belief. I don't think such a belief is racist for the simple reason that for the devout person it's simply about what God says.

      But a lot of Jews aren't religious or, if they are, they don't believe in God as a giver of divine command. It would seem that these people would have to justify their being against intermarriage through rationality. And wouldn't it be the case, then, that all other races could make use of those reasons--assuming they exist? (Which I don't.)

  • In 'The Nation,' Birnbaum says Netanyahu has exposed Jews to dual loyalty charge (and Dennis Ross is an Israeli agent)
    • Let's hope there's a revolution in understanding each other--so that people from all groups (Christians, Jews, Muslims, whites, blacks, etc., etc.) can feel it's okay to come out of their shells and vote independently on any and every issue under the sun--the goal of the vote being to further what's in the best interests of all of us instead of "my group."

  • Why does Goldberg inject Holocaust into Netanyahu's calculations? (To play us)
  • California State Assembly passes resolution equating criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism
    • I'm totally opposed to hate speech laws. And I view the move by the ADL to step into the anti-bullying movement as ominous--we all know where they're going to try to take that one. . . .

  • Ettinger: Judith Butler represents a humanistic Judaism that must be highly valued for our times
  • Israel's secret Iran meeting between security officials and Rabbi who wants to 'annihilate' Arabs
    • This next comment isn't really on point, but, what the heck (not the first time I've done this!):

      The Passion of Christ. I haven't really studied this film, so I don't feel confident saying that it did or did not have anti-Semitic elements in it. (After Gibson's rant, I can see why people might assume it would.) However, my impression of the film after seeing it when it first came out (before the rant) was that it wasn't anti-Semitic. Okay, okay, I'll admit that there was a tiny half second there when I was mad at the Jews--but only in the way that I was mad at the English after seeing Braveheart. (Those #!!## English!)

      But I remember reading various reviews about the film. I believe it was Leon Wieseltier at the New Republic who argued that the film was a clear example of visual anti-Semitism (he didn't use exactly that phrase, but it was something like that) because of the gold on the rabbis' garments. So I guess the formula was gold = money = Jews = anti-Semitism.

      But take a look at Rabbi Ovadia Yosef! Gold! That anti-Semite!

      (I should note here in the interest of being ecumenical that the garments of Christian and Muslim clergy are often just as if not more showy and garish.)

      One other matter: Could it be possible that the ADL had a file on Gibson and knew he was anti-Semitic long before the film or his outburst? (Apparently, they kept files on hundred in California for many years. Also, it's easy to believe that Gibson might have made a similar outburst at, say, a Hollywood party which pre-dated the film.) Hence, when word of his filming of the Passion came out the ADL was ready to condemn it as anti-Semitic. So, in other words, their judgment was based on what they knew about Gibson and not on, say, the script or the film alone.

      This is only speculation on my part; I can't say I know what happened one way or the other.

  • The 'Muslim insiders' of the War on Terror
    • Okay, I want to apologize. I had a flash of anger and wrote before editing myself.

      But here's my objection:

      What is being liberal? Clearly, being liberal is about being generous and having a mindset/a willingness to sacrifice--at least a little.

      Do you really think I should have nothing to fear about Islam as it's currently practiced by many when in Muslim-dominated lands Christians are getting murdered?

      That's very . . . very conservative of you to think that way. So my challenge to you is to look at things from (what would be, relative to your perspective) a truly liberal way.

      And, hey, I'll admit I do have fears about the institutional Jewish community: Because I think it's fairly obvious that many Jewish leaders are, in fact, putting their interests over the interests of all Americans. They're behaving in a conservative fashion. They're behaving tribally.

    • Okay, Theodore, but when all is said and done: What about Christian persecution at the hands of Muslims? WHAT ABOUT THAT????!!!!!!

      Do you think I'm going to let you get away without explaining that to all of us.

      Tell me: What is a blasphemy law?

      And: What would happen to me if I tried to convert a Muslim to Christianity in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan?

      And: Are you really so brazen as to try to spin this into your imperial/colonial explanation which covers all the sins of "your people"?

  • What if an American politician came out for preserving a Christian majority?
    • At one time I indicated that the state of Israel shouldn't be a Jewish state; it should be a state of all of its citizens.

      I've been thinking about that notion a little, and (though I know I won't be popular for saying this in this forum), I think I've changed my mind.

      I really don't care if a state is labelled a Jewish state (or a Christian state or a Muslim state) so long as it treats its citizens as equals.

      One of the counterobjects: Minorities can't be equal if for no other reason that the state is identified with a religion to which they don't belong.

      I think this is an overly-precise objection. Yes, technically, it's true. But why sweat the details? If I go to Saudi Arabia to live and the majority of people there want to call it Muslim, but they nevertheless allow me to worship freely, to evangelize openly (as long as I'm not being seriously pesky), to serve in any capacity (other than as a figurehead king)--why should I care?

      Heck, I'd even join in with the festivities. Go king! --What a great guy! (Or whatever one says to benevolent kings at extravagant, over-the-top birthday celebrations--I realize I'm not being very creative here--never been to one myself.)

      As far as the "demographic problem": If there's minimal animus between groups, demographics really don't matter. If there's more than minimal animus, I do think changes in demographics can cause problems. Seems obvious to me.

      I have no idea what one does about that, though, by the way, but I'd hope that in this day and age of overpopulation both competing groups stay at zero population growth. I can't see really taking any action against population growth for one group. Constantly talking about "them" having too many kids isn't very neighborly. (Although perhaps if a state tried to control the population of all its citizens--that might be better. But how without coercion? Don't know. Serious sex ed? But what if one group had objections to that? Back to square one.)

      Leftism is a secular religion; their "inspiring narrative" (and, as one well-known Jewish man once observed: "Man does not live by bread alone") is a worldly utopia ushered in by absolute equality.

      Hence, the idea that there might be genuine conflicts of interests between groups which can't be easily resolved by referencing "the law" or (even better) "international law" must be swept under the rug.

      (However, let me hasten to admit that, from a practical standpoint, the left's approach to conflict management--to get the dominant side to sacrifice--often works very well. --And I mean that sincerely. So odd . . . that zany, artsy, otherworldly leftists come up with ideas which, practically speaking, often--though not always--work very well.)

      I'd like to see Israel remain a state with a majority Jewish population (regardless of its status as a "Jewish state"). But I'd also like to see the Arabs there treated better. And I'd hope that within the borders of Israel one side doesn't increase in population faster than the other.

      Also, if Israel's going to call itself a Jewish state, can't it at least have some nobility that lead wild and debauched lives? (Much more interesting than Netanyahu with his conservative suit and combover.)

      Okay, I now submit myself to be pummeled! (I'm already saying, "Ouch!" to myself!)

  • 'Commentary' slams me for struggling with the elite issue
    • Jews tend to be high achievers--in that sense they could be called elite. There's nothing wrong with that and certainly they don't have to apologize for it, although they shouldn't flaunt their high achievements (--and typically I don't think they do, by the way, which in my mind is very impressive).

      I'd like to see the day when we don't freak out when someone merely notes (in a non-racist way) that, say, culture X is above or below the average.

      For example, when reports came out about students from some minority groups getting suspended in high school at higher rates than whites, someone just had to open his mouth and blame white prejudice. --As if the typical overweight, out of shape school disciplinarian is ready to lunge from his chair, spill his bag of goodies--jellybeans or perhaps a gooey maple bar--all over the dingy tiled hallway, and go hustling after underachieving minorities and then going through all the extra labor to write them up for misbehavior but then inexplicably let other, overachieving minority groups off the hook. (Picture our disciplinarian noting the misbehavior from overachieving minority but then shaking his head: Nah, I'll let that one go. Cue the maple bar. Damn that's good.)

      We don't have to throw a group's underachievements at its face--far from it. But neither do we have to blame a group which happens to do better at something--whether that group is comprised of Jews, blacks, Asians, Hispanics, whites, etc.

      Adults, rise up and take your places on planet earth. Kick the overgrown children running this insane asylum OUT!

  • Sam Harris, uncovered
    • Let me just end my part by saying that I enjoyed having this conversation. Maybe this subject (or one related to it) will come up again in another article and we can extend our ideas and thoughts on this matter further!

    • When I was writing about God not having an obligation to provide proof of God's own existence to us, I had some idea on the tip of my tongue--I started to explain--it had to do with turning God into simply a fact which would then be of little importance to us. But I admit I didn't expand on this idea very well, and so I'll definitely admit that I was unsuccessful at answering the question about why God doesn't show himself to us in a way which puts questions of his existence to rest. (And now, it seems, what I was thinking about completely slipped from my grasp.)

      There is another explanation I've thought about, but it's more complicated than the one I had in mind above (which, as I indicated, fell out of my mind). And it involves the problem of evil--which doesn't seem as if it would be related to the not-empirically-verifiable issue. (You can tell I was thinking about the problem-of-evil in my post above when--seemingly for no reason and out of the blue--I brought it up.)

      Start with the problem of evil. How to reconcile the existence of evil and imperfection in the world to a three-omni God.

      Answer the problem of evil in this way: A perfect God would create an expansive creation with many different types of creation within it. Not creating beings who suffer pain or are imperfect means leaving on the table an entire class of creation. In this case, creation would not be as expansive as it otherwise could be. (By the way, this argument was put forth by Leibniz, from what I understand.)

      So a perfect creation has to have evil in it for the sake of the beings who would not otherwise be brought into existence. (You and I, for example, would not be here were it not for this world with imperfections in it. "Not true! If I didn't have zits as a teenager and had a slightly higher paying job I'd still be me, wouldn't I?" Your perfect double would not still be you. In the same way that a clone of you--cleaned up of genetic problems and inhabiting an ideal environment at every step of the way--would not be you.)

      If belief in God in this pain-filled world didn't require us to push and hope and want God and God's love (if belief in God were empirically verifiable) then we would quickly move to the next natural step: demanding that God in the here and now end our pain and suffering. We would expect God to do this. And we would be appalled if he didn't. But because God couldn't do this (without negating the very classes of creation he had sought to create), God would have to refuse to grant us our requests.

      There would be no "distance" between God and the pain and suffering he was allowing in the world for the sake of our creation. And given the psychology we possess (and also given how we develop from infancy onward), we humans could never bring ourselves to love God if this were the case. In fact, we'd more likely hate God and consider God the source of evil--to conclude that God was evil. Also, what would be the point of living in this world? What would we be doing with our time?

      The push for God, the desperation for God, helps create the love for God, the need for God. Hence God must remain not empirically verifiable in this world.

      I suppose God could create beings with an entirely different psychology than ours. But those beings' psychology might be lacking in vibrancy or have some other problem. Perhaps God just finds our psychology more interesting than the psychology of other beings he could have created.

    • Woody: What God would I pick: Tell me what God you feel would be best. What do you feel?

      eljay: Well, we do know that God would be all-loving--or else why would we consider some powerful being God? And we do know that God would create a perfect creation--if it were imperfect how would God be God? So we can know some things about God and attempt to figure out what God might do.

      God's creation would be expansive. An example: Bach: We resurrect him and ask him to create one more piece of music. He comes up with a telephone jingle. We push him back into the grave. Sorry--must not have been Bach. Bach wouldn't do telephone jingles if he had one shot at coming up with another piece of music (even if it were the best jingle ever). So God's creation would be expansive. It would have to be maximally all-inclusive. And this is why God's creation has to include (on a "trees level"--as opposed to a forest level) imperfections in it. No imperfections on a tree level = a creation that isn't expansive. A creation that isn't optimally expansive = an incomplete creation = an imperfect creation, counter-intuitively enough.

      Climbing into God's perspective is difficult because our perspective is so much smaller. Create a universe? Stop! That's enough! That's way more than I can imagine. (I can't even create a decent pop song!) So I might not take the next step: Is universe X expansive enough? I don't ask about "expansivity" because we're already talking creation of universes and so I don't even think to do it. But I need to.

      So we can know some things about God. Certainly not everything. Perhaps not even very much. But we can surmise some things.

    • Let me preface this by saying that I don't have many answers, and I don't want to come across as if I do. I'll try my best on this one, though.

      Doubt is integral to faith, paradoxically enough, so there won't ever be the type of empirically-based assurance of God's existence.

      Instead of thinking about things from a human-centered perspective (I'm perched on a fence looking at disbelief and then belief and asking for evidence for God's existence before I move) try thinking about things from a God-centered perspective. Why would God be obligated to show proof of God's existence to us? And what would we humans do with such proof? Probably take it and then do our own thing after that--ignoring God. God becomes just a thing that we know exists. Is there a watch on your arm? Yes, there is. Is there a gray table in your house. No, there's not. It would make no difference if this didn't involve our emotions.

      (I'll try to continue this later. I don't mean to be glib but I'm at work and I need to go right NOW!!)

    • Go with the best one you can imagine. God would be the best.

    • I prefer dealing with arguments which have a "specificity" to them, for lack of a better word. It seemed to me that Hitchens and Harris both tended toward woolly, all-over-the-place arguments which involved arguing against religion because it was bad or, in other areas of their work, arguing against religion because it was just "weird" or not empirically verifiable. (I don't know what to make of the not-empirically-verifiable argument. It seems that we're being asked to look at the argument pro/con God's existence in an entirely abstract way instead of responding emotionally to our life situations--and the latter could have been what God intended--bypassing the entire "What should I believe?" state to the "Your innermost being is looking /wanting to believe--so just believe" state.)

      The existence of evil . . . now that's an argument I can sink my teeth into.

      I actually thought Harris was better than Hitchens. (Didn't read all of either one, though.)

  • A debate about the two-state-solution with Norman Finkelstein
    • What if any possible two-state-solution state that is left for the Palestinians simply falls below a minimal threshold of acceptability?

      I agree that a one-state solution is impossible. The vast majority of Israelis will never go for it.

      When someone is being stubborn and making a course of action "impossible," the question must be asked: When should this impossible be confronted? When should one not settle for the other alternative left on the table? When should one stand one's ground and insist that the impossible become possible, despite all the foreseeable and unforeseeable risks.

      I hope a two-state solution works out. I'd like to ask Finkelstein: If it doesn't (because of expanding settlements), what then? Which is worse for you, a world which is attempting to force Israel to include the Palestinians in one state or a world in which the Palestinians are kept without equal rights indefinitely or a world in which a new round of expulsions occur?

  • A look at who is running Mark Kirk's office in his absence
    • I've continually been thinking about what this "Jewish" thing all means. . . . That basic question: What is it?

      It seems that, at least for many in the organized Jewish community, being Jewish is loving other Jews and showing love for Jews by actively helping or aiding the Jewish community.

      "Ten years ago, we watched the explosion of the second Intifida – we prayed for the safety of three Israeli soldiers kidnapped on the Lebanese border – and our parents trembled as we prepared to set out for Israel or college campuses to face unknown danger and persecution."

      Or:

      "Take with you what you learned at the Academy – and together, build a life filled with Torah, chesed, yiddishkeit and an undying commitment to the safety and security of the State of Israel.

      But the intensity of the love and commitment that some have for their fellow ethnics begs the question: Okay, they love there fellow Jews, but do they love the gentiles around them as much as they should? Why are we second best?

      If I have two brothers but I proclaim that I love one more (and here I'm not simply talking about natural affinity but rather a will to love one more), is the brother I love less really a brother at all?

      And for those who don't like this question being asked: Would you really, really be able to respect me if I didn't ask it?

  • American Zionist responses to Tel Aviv riots-- largely indifferent, but some outrage
    • From Arthur Hertzberg's The Jews in America

      "Very early in the story of Jews in America, those who wanted to exclude them had kept saying that admitting Jews meant opening the doors to such outlandish people as Turks and Muslims. The objectors were correct. Jews succeeded only when America became an untidy jumble of ethnic identities, ideological factions, and economic interests. The fight of Jews for total equality could not be won in confrontation with a solid majority; the victory could occur only when power was widely dispersed among many, very different 'factions.'"

      An interesting quote, no? Perhaps Jewish leaders and activists were into immigration more for themselves than for the immigrants per se.

  • Aharon Appelfeld's rage at the German language (and Arendt's need for it)
    • I was listening to some MP3s from the Teaching Co. this last year on the topic of European history (can't remember the professor, but they're usually leaders in their field). Anyway, the lecturer mentioned that when the Nazis were electioneering they found early on that talking about the Jews was not effective with the people and didn't work when it came to upping their party's numbers in the polls; instead, they found that their numbers went up when they kept matters general and criticized the Weimar government.

      Also, I bumped into a Youtube video featuring another leading historian on the Holocaust (I believe he was Jewish--he was the one who severely criticized Daniel Goldhagen's book) who indicated that up until 1941 even the top Nazi leadership was unaware of the final solution. The reason: they were counting on the Madagascar plan (shipping European Jews to Madagascar), which only fell through, apparently, in the early 1940s. So, of course, one can safely infer that the German people as a whole weren't aware of the final solution until at least 1941. And, of course, many say they were always unaware of it even after that date.

      Also, later on this year at my mom's place I happened to stumble upon a book about a man who started the foot-and-mouth painters association (Mom's a supporter of the organization)--a German man who had lost the use of both of his arms as a child. As near as I could tell, in around 1935 he was thrown in jail by the Nazis for producing art which was mildly critical of the Nazi regime. (And I believe, if memory serves me correctly, the person who came to arrest him put a gun up to his head, as well.) Throwing someone in jail for mild criticism is bad enough, but now imagine the ruthlessness that one has to have to throw someone in jail who's lost the use of his arms. After he was released, it took him a while to re-develop the use of his fine neck muscles so that he could paint once again. Again, that was approximately in 1935.

      If you put it all together, what you get is that by far most the German people as a whole did not want the Nazi Holocaust to happen. (I'm not arguing that they have no responsibility in it's having happened, I should add, simply that the responsibility they do have wasn't based on direct intentionality.) Yes, of course, there were varying degrees of anti-Semitism in Germany--but probably no more anti-Semitism there than elsewhere in Western Europe (at least until the Nazis fanned the flames after they acquired power).

      And, of course, let's not forget that there are varying degrees of anti-gentilism among Jews--as we can see from the AIPAC tapes blogged about on this site recently.

      After Hitler got elected, he consolidated his power. And then it was too late to even criticize. Criticism meant jail and later, death.

      So you'd have to have the expectation that ordinary ethnic Germans would be willing to risk their lives to try to help others (despite the probability of futility) during war time with all the craziness and deprivations and lack of good information that happen during war. Guess what? Very few people--today or in the past--Jew or gentile--have ever been willing to risk their lives in what might be a futile situation to help others who aren't close family.

      Be honest: Would you? If I'm exhibiting even a modicum of humility I have to admit that I really don't know how I'd react--in fact, I tend to think that if I were to be realistic about my level of bravery I'd probably find an excuse not to act. Again, I'm being realistic; of course I'm not proud of it. (And bear in mind that the Nazis also went after families: So you'd have to be willing to risk your family's security to help someone else outside of your family.)

  • 'NYT' fails to disclose Kershner's tie to Israeli government-linked think tank
    • When the NYT does these things, they're not just being biased against the Palestinians. They're being biased against everyone except Jews. I take offense that this paper would exhibit this kind of ethnic favoritism.

      Have they no shame?

  • An account of the Guardian's racist endorsement of the Balfour Declaration
  • 'The Crisis of Zionism' and the contradictions of Israel as a liberal democratic fantasy
  • 'Tribefest' excommunicates group of young Jews who dared to speak about ethnic discrimination
    • "Tribefest"? If memory serves didn't some of those who excommunicated Atzmon in part do so because, apparently, he describes Jewishness as tribal?

      I guess one could argue that there's tribal and then there's tribal. And we all use the word to convey a wide range of meanings. But then I have a request: Could a liberal anti-Zionist attempt to elucidate where the line is between tribal and tribal?

      Presumably the former couldn't be simply (as Atzmon might say) "a person who happens to be of Jewish descent." (And certainly Azmon would agree that such a person deserves to have a benign pride in or mild sense of attachment to his or her heritage group, along with all of the other peoples of the world.) But then what is it? (And how could even that, whatever it might look like, be reconciled with liberalism?)

  • Wall Street firm slammed the door on young Warren Buffett for religious reasons
    • Honestly, I can't remember exactly what event(s) written about in his biography made me think that, perhaps, he was (on some level) consciously sending signals that he was not anti-Semitic, not anti-black, etc. (--I suppose that's what I meant by not ethnocentric--simply not anti-other). Perhaps part of what made me suspicious, too, was simply that he struck me as the type of person who lived for achieving financial greatness--the type of person who was very canny and who would make the right moves to ensure that nothing stood in his way or could thwart him from achieving his life-goal.

      (Incidentally, I wonder if he now feels it was all worth it.)

      But allow me to say that I really have no evidence of this--it was really just a feeling. He might be super genuine. Or--as is the case with such a large percentage of all of our actions--his motives might have been mixed. In the very least, I do think he was ethnically aware--aware of the landscape of ethnic loyalties.

      Do I think of non-specific "white" Americans belonging to an ethnicity? Yeah, I suppose you're right--ethnicity doesn't seem to encompass something as wide as the white category. Interesting how our brains automatically sort things out, though. We might speak of Hispanic Americans as being part of an ethnic group here in America, and the Hispanic category is also pretty wide. (Is that because Hispanics are still a minority here?) I suppose there's some complicated rule underneath it all.

      I do think that white Americans have some things in common with one another--for starters, the fact that we're not minorities here. I find it interesting that some people freak out at the suggestion that white Americans might consider themselves a group or a subculture. (You, by the way?)

      The SPLC tends to do this, as in "What do you mean, 'white culture?'" --Which really gets my goat: It's almost a (ahem, truth be told, Jewish) preemptive strike against future Nazi aggression. Ridiculous.

      One of these days perhaps I'll see if Phil will print an essay I'm turning over in my mind about the religious beliefs of the gentile left. White is bad. If you repeat this mantra, you're altruistic. The universe will reward you: you'll drive a Jaguar (or, at worse, a late model Toyota), live in an upper-middle class neighborhood, and take excruciatingly difficult work sabbaticals in Italy.

    • I read an older biography on Buffet a while ago. Later, after reflecting on it (and perhaps some other articles I read), I recall thinking that Buffet was very "political" on the subject of ethnicity--very straight-laced and careful not to have his actions interpreted in any way as being ethnocentric. And I remember wondering if this was his genuine self or if he simply cared about getting rich so much that he wasn't taking any chances, bending over backward to come across that way.

      Perhaps it is his genuine self. But that man definitely puts riches above just about everything else.

  • Palestinian and Palestine-solidarity activists issue critique and condemnation of Gilad Atzmon
    • Individualism and tribalism exist on a continuum. So a group on the right side will always have something in common with a group to the left side. Yet, of course, there might still be important differences.

      If you were to try to design a group with a high degree of group solidarity or tribalism, one thing you might do is start with a group of people of the same ethnicity and then create a religion which would be amost exclusively practiced by that group. Religion unites disparate peoples, so having a religion which doesn't seek converts keeps the two strongest identity plates (ethnicity and religion) stacked one on top of the other, and it keeps the original people group separate and hence more unified--hence more likely to be prone toward being tribal. If you look at the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible, wasn't tribal unity the point of all the admonitions/warnings against intermarriage--even to the point that, I believe, some Jews who intermarried were killed by other Jews?

      Also: Do Jews tend to be conservative on issues which intersect with their ethnic interests? Please don't bring in abortion, etc. (Liberal Jews tend toward atheism, and so, because of that, they tend toward the pro-choice position.) I'm talking, again, about issues which intersect with Jewish interests. The answer to all but the most deluded is a very obvious yes. Why does AIPAC have a gazillion dollars to spend on what benefits Jews only in Israel/Palestine? Because AIPAC has a lot of motivated donors. Because a lot of Jews are keenly interested in policing the boundaries of their perceived interests.

      Of course, one would expect that the more tribal a group, the more likely it is to behave in a way which is conservative on matters which interesect with its perceived interests.

      Also, wouldn't we expect that the more tribal a group is the more likely it is to be able to resist the pull of assimilation? Has any group ever resisted the pull of assimilation to the extent of the Jews? 4,000 years and counting.

      And, finally, wasn't it Phil, in a previous exchange with Atzmon, saying something to this effect: [Atzmon to Weiss]: I went on to ask Weiss: “What does the word ‘Jewish’ mean for you?”

      Weiss was short and precise in his response : "My mother, my father, my grandparents, a family feeling, us-ness, in distinction to the Them."

      But also in the interview there's this: Phil: "I believe all people act out of self-interest. And Jews who define themselves at some level as Jews -- like myself for instance -- are concerned with a Jewish self-interest. Which in my case is: an end to Zionism. A theory of political life based on altruism or concern for victims purely is doomed to fail.”

      So here we see Phil exhibiting both tribal (Us, Them) and conservative (altruism . . . doomed to fail) features.

      Lastly, doesn't it stretch the bounds of plausibility to believe that prior to 1948 Jews were supposedly the most liberal of all people groups, but after 1948 Jews became a people group tending to support an expansionist Israel? How have they flipped so fast from liberal to conservative? (My explanation: when it comes to their own interests, they were always a conservative group to begin with. Tribalism is conservative. Marxism benefitted Jews in Russia/the Soviet Union, at least at first. Multiculturalism, at least in its first manifestations, was perceived as being beneficial to Jews in the diaspora. And, yes, I do think conservatism explains some of the persecution which has befallen Jews over the millenia. But also: we can live with a conservative world Jewry. Ultimately, it's their choice to live as they see fit. We gentiles have to respect that. What we can't live with is extreme over-reaction to the Other on either the gentile or Jewish side, though.)

      I know this might bother some Jews who like to fancy their group as liberal. (If you think I'm wrong, tell me why--I won't promise to change my mind, but I will promise to consider what you're saying.) Remember, I'm not talking so much about individual Jews, I'm talking about the group as a whole. And I'm talking about looking at conservatism through the prism of where one's group interests intersect.

    • "To the extent that being Jewish is tribal, how is that different from the American tribe," etc.

      Different in degree, maybe?

    • I'm not going to defend Atzmon for the simple reason that I haven't read all that much of him. (I actually bought his book, but being the lazy reader that I am, I only skimmed over it.) I do know he favors individualism, however.

      I would like to ask: Don't Jews frequently describe themselves as a tribe? Don't they frequently describe themselves as a people, a nation (even when they reside in other nations), a collective, and a family?

      (I didn't even think it was that controversial to describe the Jewish system as tribal--in fact, just last night I e-mailed Phil a letter in which I unselfconsciously described the Jewish system as a tribal one.)

      Please describe to me what being Jewish is, if not about being part of a distinct tribe.

  • 'Commentary' says amount of US political money coming from Jews is 'staggering'
    • I used to be shy about talking about Jewish money in the election process. But Sheldon Adelson has liberated us all.

      If politics is a public conversation or debate, then it hardly makes sense not to talk about key political players and their motives. However. . . .

      I feel shy talking about this subject, too. I think of the hurt look on, say, my Jewish doctor's face if he ever read my name attached to a letter-to-the-editor bringing up this issue. I'm so conflicted, but ultimately, No, I just can't bring myself to write such a letter.

      Perhaps I'm what's wrong with our country.

      But it does feel unbecoming to complain about some other people group's major organizations--as if the identity groups I'm associated with (evangelicals, for example) don't have plenty of problems (the wooden literalism, the sensationalism, the Creationism, etc., etc.). As if I couldn't spend my life criticizing those matters first.

      Also, there's the matter of engendering anti-Semitism. Even though my criticism would be limited to exposing what I perceive of as a problem and (perhaps) blowing off a little steam (rightly or wrongly), there could be others who take what I have to say and go much too far with it. That's a genuine concern.

      So I'm between a rock and a hard place.

      Hypothetical: Suppose Jews never existed--no such thing as a Jew. If that were the case, it's not as if I'd be content to not engage in politics. I want to take part in the public discussion. (Why? That's a good question. I wish I knew. Sometimes I dream about "going Amish"--you know, living that content little life, focusing on local matters or getting my personal life completely in order--taking the time to make the soles of my feel soft and look nice and pink again like they were when I was young, for example--and not caring about the world outside and around me in the least.) Yet it seems to be in my DNA to engage. (Even though, in some ways, I'm not a super political person by nature, not the political wonk sort of guy.)

      And people are naturally attracted to think about, criticize, or even laud those at the top levels of political power.

      So how am I not supposed to talk about Jewish money and influence when major Jewish organizations are so obviously at the top of the political power pyramid? It's like this: Not talking about the new girl who shows up to school who looks like a super model and drives a red ferrari. "Have you noticed anyone new at school lately?" "Uh, well . . . not really. . . . ."

      And then there's this war looming. And the prospect of (mostly) lower class and lower middle class Americans getting their brains/eyes/arms/legs/balls blown off and coming back never to be the same. Tears. Anguish. Pain. Suicide, even, in some cases. What about that?

  • Young activist disrupts AIPAC panel about 'Israel on Campus'
  • Consequences of an attack on Iran are no joke
    • Thank you. Thank you. Thank you for this excellent and extremely informative article.

      I had no idea that bombs not considered "nuclear bombs" dispersed radioactivity.

      All of America needs to know this.

  • Responding to commenters on recent bannings
    • A person might know about Witty's writings because he read every comment Witty wrote. Alternately, a person might have a sense of what Witty wrote because they extensively sampled his writings.

      I'll admit I don't fall into either of these categories. I suppose I've dipped in here and there and happened to read Witty here and there, so, No, I can't say that I know all about who he is or what he stands for. . . .

      Having said that, I'm saddened to hear that you're banning Witty. His tone was always polite. I never understood why people came unglued at what he was saying.

      I'll just leave it at that.

  • Dershowitz wants MJ Rosenberg fired for daring to stop Iran war push
    • I was in favor of the term "Israeli firster" because I was thinking it was referring to one who made Israel his or her first priority among typical political issues (abortion, gun control, tax reform, etc.). But if Israeli firster refers to someone who puts Israel's interests ahead of America's interests, I have to say that such an accusation probably shouldn't be made except in rare cases in which there's actually hard evidence that this has been the intention. Yes, I do think that the effect of people who are single-issue Israel is often the same as if they were consciously putting Israel's interests ahead of America's. But I don't think they are consciously doing that. In probably almost all cases, there's no intentionality. Someone like Alan Dershowitz really believes his own hype--that supporting Israel is akin to supporting the most important civil rights movement in the world right now--which is certainly something America should do (assuming it were true).

      I prefer "single-issue Israel."

  • Judge strikes down lawsuit against Olympia Co-op boycott of Israeli goods
    • I'm pro-BDS only on goods made in the settlements, so perhaps I'm not as pro-BDS as some people on this site. But I do think this ruling is good news for all of us. The Olympia Food Co-op certainly has the right to decide what products it wants to sell on its own shelves. This is a victory for freedom and against tyranny.

  • 'Christ at the Checkpoint' conference brings Evangelical leaders to Bethlehem
    • I'm so glad that this is happening. The ethical conclusions (of a substantial segment of evangelicals) result from taking in outside information and then passing it through a massively byzantine, multi-layered biblical filter to which they feel they must remain true. What pops out can be anyone's guess. But I've always felt that if evangelicals were presented with a counter-narrative AND if they were to see with their own eyes what the Palestinians are going through then many of them would be able to make the jump out of the Christian Zionist bandwagon to a place of thoughtfulness in which both sides' concerns were more equally taken into account.

  • New Republic says 'all of western civilization' could be threatened by Iran
    • To clarify my thoughts on the matter: If we don't know what to do about Iran obtaining nuclear weapons, then the default position is to not go to war.

    • I don't think a nuclear Iran would be a good thing. We can't predict the future; it's possible stopping Iran from attaining nuclear weapons would be better than doing nothing. I believe our argument shouldn't be that we know everything will be okay and that we don't at all have to be concerned about Iran. Instead, we should argue that Iraq was a disaster and that we need to resist jumping into another preemptive strike. In short, we need to be careful about getting into war. Also, we need to insist that Israel start behaving in a way so that it itself minimizes (as opposed to maximizing) conflict with its neighbors. Rolling back the settlements would be a good place to start.

  • Video: Protesters are attacked at an 'Israel Alliance' event at U of New Mexico
    • I felt that Ms. Darwish should have been allowed to speak without being interrupted. There are ways to protest an event or speaker which doesn't silence the other person. I don't know what Ms. Darwish wanted to say. The point is: How do we know, since we couldn't hear her?

  • Asher Grunis discriminates his way to the top of the Israeli Supreme Court
    • One more thing (and then I really have to get back to work): Okay, when I put my thinking cap on and attempt to see things from a Zionist perspective, here's what I come up with:

      1. The Jews need Israel to be a Jewish state because they were persecuted elsewhere for many centuries; safety justifies this action.
      2. Because of this exceptional situation Jews find themselves in, taking steps to ensure a Jewish-dominated state, particularly among hostile neighbors, might lead to some actions Jews wouldn't typically advocate for other countries, and, in fact, might even oppose.

      So, from this perspective (assuming one is a true believers in this perspective), hypocrisy isn't the right way to describe what's happening. It wouldn't be hypocritical because that's comparing apples to apples but this is apples to oranges--again, the Jewish situation just would be different and to that extent incomparable.

      Okay, okay. But could it be the case that when people see themselves as unique and exceptional and then decide that the rules are suspended for the sake of safety--could it be the case that this type of behavior creates at least some of the persecution which they seek to avoid?

      If one is too quick to declare oneself an exception to the rules . . . this is a formula for ethnic/religious tension if there ever was one.

    • I thought a little more about this article. I should have mentioned that I would be against the type of marriage in which one person of, say, country A marries a person from country B just so that the second person can gain citizenship to country A. I am against this type of thing--that's not a real marriage. If that's what this law is intended to address, then that's a completely different can of worms.

      But if we're limiting ourselves to real marriages--in which two people fall in love and really intend to build a life together--I would have to say that Grunis' ruling is draconian--and without precedent in most countries in the world, I believe.

    • “Human rights are not a prescription for national suicide,” Grunis wrote in the decision upholding the law that prevents Palestinians who marry Israelis from living with their spouses.

      Obviously, a horrible law. But there's also the hypocrisy. Because American Jews would certainly argue against this type of law here on the grounds of universal human rights. But where's the anger and outcry from the American Jewish community's leadership when a draconian law such as this is passed in the country of their "passionate attachment" (and to which they redirect 80 percent of our foreign aid)? Where's the attempt to use leverage (say, our foreign aid) to get them to change the law?

      It's looking to me as if a significant percentage of the Jewish leadership worldwide is behaving in a tribal way--while at the same time convincing non-Jews around them to adopt rules and regulations which they themselves, apparently, really wouldn't want pushed on them. Hypocrisy. And aggressive hypocrisy, at that. Not only suggesting to others to do what you wouldn't want done to yourself, but actively pushing it on others via heavily Jewish funded legal and lobbying organizations (here I'm thinking about the SPLC and its denunciations of "nativists").

  • How Sarah Schulman managed to get 'Pinkwashing' into the New York Times
    • . . . and no sense of the "Jewish politics of the Times"

      What an incredible euphemism.

      In other words, the Times is biased in favor of Jews and what's directly and materially good for them alone (while, I might add, policing American discourse for any sign of other people's ethnic biases).

      "Tribal ethics! Tribal ethics! Get your freshly printed tribal ethics hot off the presses! All the tribal ethics that's fit to print--right here in The New York Times!"

  • Organizers say pro-Israel filmmaker with controversial past deceives, disrupts Penn BDS conference (UPDATED)
    • I think they should have let him in. By now, with millions of perspectives floating around our sea of media, everyone knows that one can selectively interview and edit footage to make a conference look bad or good or whatever. He was doubtlessly at PennBDS to hatchet it up, but a movement should be able to take criticism. Let people talk all they want.

  • Both sides are wrong in the ‘Israel Firsters’ debate
    • Tangent alert! (My comment here isn't on the Israel/dual loyalty issue.)

      Part of your comment made me curious: Don't you think that there is a natural hierarchy of loyalty--family, state, country, etc.? Not to say that one should adopt, say, a "my family, right or wrong" approach. But I, myself, do make a point, in my charitable giving, to give to the community in which I live. I suppose I could get a map of the U.S. (if not the world) and throw a dart and pick that place to make my donation. (I do give another part of my overall donations to an organization which has worldwide concerns, I should add, but my little town gets proportionally way more than it should if I didn't have a local loyalty. Yet that doesn't mean I think people's lives in MyTown, U.S.A. are more valuable than those in YourTown, U.S.A.)

      Inherent in the notion of a country is the idea that resources aren't shared equally with those outside the country, right? Sure, this can go to far--and it can lead to theft, aggression, etc., toward the other, but I'm inclined to believe that there exists a happy medium--wherein each country looks to its own citizens' needs first but, concomitantly, also seeks to spend some of its resources on the good of the entire planet. Obviously there's a lot of room for disagreement regarding where to strike the balancing line--when a country is being too stingy or too extravagantly generous with its resources, etc.

      One of the reasons I'm opposed to any more immigration to America is that I think American citizens are being hurt more than helped right now by immigration, and I think we're in a tight spot--with a lot of our fellow countrypeople out of work, jobs shipped overseas, etc--supply and demand--lots of laborers means low pay for those who labor. Yet I mention this to some people, and the vibe I get from them is this: "How immoral! You're only thinking of your own!" Well, I am thinking of my fellow citizens first, I'll admit it. But that's not immoral, at least not by my calculation.

    • The important thing for me doesn't have to do with characterizing someone as dually loyal; I'd just like the ordinary people out there to know that certain talking heads out there revolve a lot of politics around what's good for Israel--and we need take that into account when we're judging their stories. (In the same way we should take someone's pro-Palestinian perspective into account when we judge his or her stories).

  • Alumni donor threats and more Nazi analogies as the world awaits Penn BDS conference
    • This battle is quite dramatic. On the one side, you've got the artsy left, using their particular set of abilities, their hardcore activists raining down chants, slogans, and cooler-than-thou speakers on their opponents like a steady stream of elfin arrows (those activists!--they never stop--check out Occupy Wallstreet--they're still out there!). On the other side, you've got the organized, dead-serious tribalist machine maxing out its own particular set of abilities--cohesion, establishment prestige, "the Dersh" (if somewhat grizzled with age still spry when it comes to a fight). This is really epic. What can I say?: It's like The Lord of the Rings, in real life.

      It's sad but also funny, in a weird way, that this is even happening. C'mon, Israel--pull your head out of the ground! Roll back the settlements and give the Palestinians a decent state!

  • Why Christian Zionism is nothing short of outright heresy
  • 'Israel Firster' gets at an inconvenient truth
    • I agree that what Arendt wrote in 1944 was startlingly visionary.

      Also, regarding "Israel firster": One way to think about this term is that it simply refers to someone who is single issue politically, and that single issue is Israel. I wrote a while back that when I was young I was single issue pro-life. Other people are single issue flat tax or single issue unions, etc.

      The idea that it's somehow impossible that someone could pick as their single issue a nation outside of the United States as opposed to a social/cultural issue such as one side or the other of the abortion debate is ridiculous. Of course people can be single issue Israel. And, definitely, we should be able to talk about it--because it's actually a real phenomenon.

      I bristle at these complicated rules of political etiquette some would impose on us which have the effect of excluding ordinary people from taking part in the public conversation: "What, you didn't know you can't use 'Israel firster'? Go home! Shows how much you need to keep your trap closed!"

      I don't think so. "Israel firster" is reasonable. We should use it.

  • 'NYT' and 'Haaretz' and world opinion are now greatest threat to Israel, Netanyahu reportedly said
    • I wondered about this myself.

      At least in the U.S., Israel was one of the prime beneficiaries of the alternate, Matrix-like reality far too much of the mainstream media presented us.

  • Adelson is giving Gingrich $5 million because of fear of Ron Paul -- Chris Matthews
    • Phil,

      Just wanted to say thanks for reporting on this. Wealthy people have far too much say in our political system, and I think this is a great example of that.

      Again, a big thanks!

  • The trespassing Jew
    • I really liked this part:

      I walk a lot through the woods around here and I end up trespassing now and then, in the spirit of Robert Frost. Once when I came down that ravine, he drove up to me when I was out on the road and sort of confronted me in an unstraightforward manner.

      The spirit of Robert Frost and also the part about being "confronted" in an "unstraightforward" manner--that says so much with so few words. Niiicccee!!! It takes me places.

  • Kampeas: Jewish neocons are more than 2 degrees removed from Bush's decision to invade Iraq
    • You don't have to delve too deeply in neocon writings (and we could even limit those writings to pre-9-1-1 writings) to realize that the neocons pretty much revolved their world around what they perceived was good for the Jews and Israel.

      I was young when I first stumbled onto Commentary. As a "persecuted" Christian conservative type on campus with an unconscious bias toward the Jews and against the Palestinians (whom, oddly, I visualized as squatters), I welcomed the magazine when I first began reading.

      Actually, truth be told, I wasn't all that interested in middle east politics--mostly, it was their other conservative political stances. Wow! Conservative intellectuals--that's just what conservatives need!

      Even though at the time I was naive on issues surrounding ethnic/religious identity (having been raised in a home in which ethnic topics were never spoken about), even I--as supremely naive as I was--figured out within a few years that the neocons were all about what was good for Israel.

      (In fact, I remember once when I was at the university library--this was before the internet was widely popular and we still read at libraries!--and I was thumbing through Commentary. I literally looked up from the magazine and pushed it away from me, thinking: "Hey! All they care about is Israel!")

      Kampeas writes about anti-Semitism and myths: "Jews act only to advance their own interests. They do and they don't -- it's wildly complicated -- but not more than any other special interest in an American polity that is highly susceptible to special interest pressure."

      Just as Kampeas says that this is wildly complicated, I should note that my own feelings here are wildly complicated, as well. To be truthful, at the time I pushed Commentary away from me I wasn't so upset that the neocons were single issue, I was upset with them that they weren't my single issue.

      I was (and still am) pro-life, but back in my early adulthood I was much more single issue on that subject than I am today. (My view on the subject today is here: link to cognitiveparfait.wordpress.com ) So my reaction to them taking such die-hard pro-Israel positions was something like: "But that means they'll relegate the pro-life issue to a low priority!" (I believe this occurred to me when I read an article in Commentary which expressed support for Giuliani; strong on Israel, not pro-life.)

      Today, I think I realize that many Americans don't share my viewpoint and that for social conservatives to obsess about winning on one issue puts other important issues in jeopardy. For example, social conservatives tried to win by rolling into bed with economic conservatives (I'm certainly not the first to note this, and I don't think it was super-intentional--it was just a matter of turning where you can find friends). But economic conservatives (btw, I'm visualizing WASPS here but really I mean to simply not blame any one ethnic group for this) were always craftier than we social conservatives--throwing us a bone here and there while they sponged up all the lucre from America's middle and working classes.

      So Kampeas is correct that a lot of groups push issues that are important to them.

      However, I do think that there is a correlation between the "groupiness" of a group and the extent to which its members become animated to push for what's in their own group's interests. And, of course, is there a group that values it's own sense of being a group more than the Jews?

      Is believing this anti-Semitic? A toxic myth? I don't think so, but the "complicated truth" is that a person who values peace who nonetheless comes to this conclusion is in a "complicated" situation. Publicize this fact and generate unwanted anti-Semitism. Be quiet about this fact and then watch a thin strata of animated, group-driven individuals (like the neocons) push for policies which disproportionately benefit their group (as they see it) but not others. Which generates unwanted anti-Semitism, as well.

      Jews and gentiles: We'll both be here as long as there's an earth. I know if we tone done the worst in each group we'll get along well together. Can we do that?

  • Muslims ban Christmas and rape white women, in latest Latma satire
    • Phan,

      Thanks for your reply. I can't address all of the points you bring up, so I've picked two.

      First point:

      I've mentioned once before on this site that compared to many of the people on this site I seem to be less "bookish." I probably do read more than the average person, but I've never been an inveterate bookworm type, despite knowing that with that bookworm personality comes certain advantages--there's a lot that can be learned from books, I'll admit.

      However, there's a lot that can be learned by "looking around" for yourself, as well. Why is that "book types" like many of the people on this site (possibly you) can't deal with anecdotal information? It is a type of information. I would submit that many research projects leading to books, reports, printed material, etc. are led by people who have no intent to come to the truth.

      Also, many people are unwilling to publish their true feelings on a matter, but if you buttonhole them at a bus stop, or sit down with them at a coffee shop, they might open up to you. (And, additionally, one has the advantage of assessing their honesty based on non-verbal cues, which are difficult--although not impossible--to disguise.)

      Academic people = book people = equate what's in books with truth = tendency to equate what they see with garbage or in the least value-less data.

      But what you see is a "primary document," if you will. In line with the idea that you assemble truth by touching many different parts of the elephant, anecdotal information has a place. Also, I did verify the hearsay information I had been exposed to by asking two Japanese nationals about the situation.

      (Other generalizations about the Japanese--they tend to be more collectivist than the West. Would you disagree with this, as well? --By the way, I think Japan has a very "cool" culture, so by labeling them as relatively collectivist I'm by no means denigrating them.)

      Second point:

      Regarding blasphemy laws. I should make clear that I'm not saying that Islamic-majority countries will invariably lead to blasphemy laws, nor am I arguing that in the future Islamic-majority countries won't be able to banish such laws.

      Blasphemy laws worry me. I suspect that they worry most Christians who actually still have a genuine connection to their faith (as opposed to merely cultural Christians or deists who masquerade as Christian clergy for the sake of 401Ks, etc.). I don't think it's unreasonable to be worried about this. No, I don't know that blasphemy laws won't be replicated if Muslims gain majority political power in a previously Christian country. But why do I have to know (as in Know) before I become concerned?

      You disconnect the people in Islamic-majority countries with blasphemy laws from the laws themselves--as if there's no connection. I suspect that such laws have at least a fair amount of popular support. Why would leaders of Islamic-majority countries maintain such laws on the books if the laws undermined their popularity with their own people?

      You could argue that the laws are only popular with their religious leaders. But then how did the people pick such religious leaders? And why don't they pick better ones?

      You could argue it's a divide and conquer strategy, but in some countries in question here Christians are such a small minority there's no point in dividing and conquering the populace--the populace already is Islamic to a high degree.

      I'll note that anti-blasphemy laws used to be common in Christian Europe. In Geneva in the 1500s, John Calvin put Michael Servetus to death for publicizing his disbelief in the Trinity.

      To argue that two populations of "little people," underneath all their rulers' laws, really both have the same view of blasphemy laws is implicity to argue that two groups separated by geography and historically contingent events somehow have evolved in lockstep with one another (and have done so for ever and always--for centuries), which is even more implausible than arguing that at any given time the two groups in question are the same with regard to what the little people want.

      Though I'm sure you think my view is elitist and "superior-ist," in a way, your view seems extremely elitist: the idea that people who move here will immediately drop their ideas about right and wrong and transform themselves into people just like ourselves. Did it ever occur to you that others are happy with themselves and don't want to change?

      I'll at least grant others as having pride in their own views, even if I disagree with those views.

      Last thing: I have no problem with non-whites talking about white supremacism. When I asked about Vietnamese supremacism I wasn't really reacting to your critique per se, but instead, I suppose, to my sense that in America in general there's just so much talk about white supremacism it seems a little crazy to me--as if whites are exclusively the problem. We're all "the problem," in my view!

    • My issue with this entire article is that it presumes that people groups are exactly identical in all important characteristics. Sure, Mr. Nguyen would probably allow for "boutique" differences--Italians talk with their hands, Jews--so funny!, those inscrutable Chinese, etc., etc., But what if--what if--two people groups did, in fact, exhibit differences in crime levels?

      Under what set of naturalistic assumptions (stress on naturalistic as opposed to supernatural, fantastical, leftist-wishful-thinking-because-I-no-longer-believe-in-God-but-I'm-scared-to-death-of-the-abyss, etc.) would it be impossible for two people groups/cultures to have different crime levels (--and allow me to add to the hypothetical that the people group with the higher crime level can't blame that high level on the people group with the lower crime level)?

      Take the Japanese culture. I spoke to two people from Japan a few years back and asked them about a report I heard concerning people losing wallets in sprawling Tokyo. I had heard that if you lose your wallet there, you have a good chance of getting it back. The women confirmed to me that this was the case. Not so in many other large, urban areas. Not so in New York. Definitely not so in some other big cities.

      Also, it's known that Japanese have ultra-low crime rates. S0 wouldn't it follow that if people from a culture with high crime rates immigrated by the millions into Japan that the Japanese might experience a crime wave? Unless you think that crime patterns in the immigrating group will simply vanish overnight (right as they pass over the border line), you'd have to admit that the Japanese would have some legitimate gripes about immigration.

      So why can't the same be said about Western culture? For the record, I haven't studied Muslim crime rates, so I'm not speaking about that issue here. My point is that why are Westerners always putting their own culture on the very bottom of the pile--as if every other culture must be better than our own in all important aspects (or else we're racists).

      Also, I'm curious why Mr. Nguyen doesn't write about his own heritage group. You talk about classic white supremacist thinking--why don't you tell us a little about classic Vietnamese supremacist thinking? Or is there such a thing, in your opinion?

      By the way, Christianity Today has an article on blasphemy laws in majority Islamic societies. See link to christianitytoday.com

      So why wouldn't Christians have issues with mass Islamic immigration? --It's not implausible to think that if Muslims became a majority the same kind of blasphemy laws could be set up in previously Christian-majority countries.

  • Ron Paul and the left
    • Lizzy,

      Thanks for the article. I was hoping that Ron Paul's newsletters were published within a very short period of time--say one or two months--because in my mind it would be much more plausible for him to claim that he was unaware of the contents in that case. (I worked for a politician briefly, and though I was just a low-level employee even I could tell that higher level staffers, and not the pol himself, did almost all of his writing, despite the fact that the man was very bright.)

      I'm really, really hoping he can still pull out a plausible explanation, but I'm extremely skeptical that that can happen now.

      I understand the point that many of the commentators are making regarding how his saving us from war with Iran makes up for any of his shortcomings, but my own feeling is that if he can't come up with a plausible explanation his presidency would too greatly divide our country along racial lines, and I couldn't vote for him.

      Although I suppose if I knew for sure in advance that we would go to war if Obama or Romney or Gingrich won, then that might change things for me. Hundreds of thousands dead is much worse than past racist comments not written by a man who also has disavowed them.

      For me (I'm thinking as I'm writing, can't you tell?), I'm going to have to try to determine the likelihood of any other person dragging us to war. If it's really high, I guess I'll vote for Paul. If it's low, I won't vote for Paul. If it's in between, . . . ????

      (Knowing my luck, it'll be in between!)

  • BDS comes to Penn
    • American high schools teach that diversity is our greatest strength. Literally, I once read a sign prominently posted above the entrance to a high school: "Diversity is our greatest strength."

      I actually have some issues with that pronouncement given how ubiquitous fighting between various ethnic groups has been historically, and given how that often creates societies which are anything but strong (think Iraq). But to the extent that American liberals have pushed this proposition, I can't think how they also can reconcile it with the idea of Israel being a demographically Jewish-dominated state much less with an official "Jewish state." (Even I wouldn't support the latter position, incidentally, since it seems to relegate 20 percent of the Israeli population to second-class citizenship.)

      I'm looking for consistency. (I only support a limited BDS, by the way--BDS of products made in the Occupied Territories.)

      If one has issues with multiculturalism, then one can argue that having a state with two ethnic groups of approximately equal demographic strength might not be such a great thing. But if one doesn't express any concerns about multiculturalism (and, typically, American liberals act very cavalier/carefree about the subject), then how can one possibly support an expansionist Israel which even treats the Palestinians within its own borders (to say nothing of those in the Occupied Territories) in a way which many commentators have likened to Jim Crow?

      You write, "If there are American liberals who hold Israel to a different or special standard . . . ."

      If?

      Almost everyone in the mainstream liberal establishment does that. Why do politicians from both sides of the aisle seek to outbid each other with offers to ship truckloads of our money (80 percent of our foreign aid budget) over to Israel? I mean, I think we're too broke at this point to offer aid to anyone at all at, but if we could offer aid, it seems to me that people living in countries experiencing famine, for example (think of children starving to death, their bellies hanging out), deserve the aid much more than Israel--an expansionist state (which provokes payback by those states around it) and whose people have a first-class standard of living.

    • She is a renowned moral philosopher who’s written about multiculturalism and democracy – corrosive ideas if you’re a modern-day Zionist.

      Of course, the get-around for many American liberals is to be pro-multiculturalism here on our shores, but then view the "Jewish state" as some kind of exception. And then not talk about the two subjects at the same time. . . .

  • Two critiques of Norman Finkelstein
    • I just have to say: I just spent 45 minutes writing something, but then I erased it because I gave it to a friend to read and she said it had a "mean spirit" about it. "And you're not a mean-spirited type of person."

      Damn!

      And I'm so nice I won't even hint about whether it was mean-spirited toward the one-state or the two-state solution!

  • Obama's rabbi sidekick is opposed to 'too many Arabs' in Israel
  • Lobbyist privately calls on journalists to hector Schumer & Pelosi about 'anti-Semites' at Democratic thinktank
    • Quote from above: . . . those who accuse pro-Israel Americans of having ‘dual loyalties’ or being ‘Israel-Firsters’ – to shape the minds of future generations of Democrats,” Block writes. “These are the words of anti-Semites, not Democratic political players.”

      I think people should have some evidence before they accuse people of having ulterior motives. It would be horrible if our country descended to a state in which people were accused of holding certain positions simply because they were Jewish.

      At the same time, it is a reality that some people in our society will make decisions on the basis of illegitimate, ulterior motives. We can't simply ignore this.

      For me, when it's okay to call someone on ulterior motivations all depends on the degree of evidence available. Recently, on the basis of what I feel is some fairly strong evidence, I accused the SPLC of having a pro-Jewish bias. Mark Potok wrote back that "your claim does give off a certain political odor." Of course, he was referring to me being an anti-Semite.

      Some people are trying to convolute this issue: Is it impossible for a Jew to act on tribal loyalty? Or is it just the case that in a particular instance he or she is not? I get the feeling that people such as Block and Potok tend to kneejerk-side with the former position--which is a very, very conservative reaction (relative to their own interests) when you think about it.

  • Letters to The New York Times and letters to The Rhodesia Herald
    • Of course, there's the hypocrisy factor, as well. Because hasn't it been the NYT which fastidiously reports on every whiff of non-PC compliance here in the U.S.?

      But with Israel, suddenly even very straightforward, outright offenses against the ethical become "complicated."

  • The earlier me
    • I know now, that all the anti-racist pedagogy and curricula I have written, the speaking I have done on issues of systemic oppression, white privilege, leading diversity groups, joining groups to hone my own leadership skills, developing my career as a teacher activist, and ultimately, thinking and talking about what it means to stand in solidarity with Palestinians, will never take away my Zionist years.

      I think you're being too hard on yourself. You didn't know any better. You can't blame yourself for that!

  • Who's on top in VF piece-- 'Tom Buchanan' Winkelvosses or 'lifelong elite' Zuckerberg?
    • By the way, just to clarify, I was generalizing about Phil's article above. In other words, generalizing from that specific example to the entire set of examples of people not criticizing in an equal-opportunity way. I don't believe that the left-liberals who play games (the people I mentioned above in paragraph three) are led by any particular group--I'm talking about ALL of them, regardless of their ethnicity/religion/background, etc.

      And, yes, it pretty much goes without saying that a lot of people on the right aren't the type to sacrifice personally, either. Didn't bring that up because it's pretty obvious!

    • A lot of people aren't willing to call bias when they see it. People structure their criticism so that they themselves come out looking good, as opposed to being a fair, equal-opportunity critic.

      For example, I recently read about how horribly Koreans suffered under Japanese occupation during the first half of the twentieth century. Yet South Korea (bracketing the north here--most of its problems stem from communism) is doing fantastic. Of course, whenever any countries or people groups who experienced western colonialism happen to do poorly (socioeconomically) despite lengthy periods of self rule, it's still all Europeans' fault. Western crimes committed in the past mean that from here on out all of their problems are all our fault.

      I'd love to check the tax returns of left-liberals who play this game. I'd bet a lot they're personally complete misers. But when it comes to collective giving (or blaming their own society), you won't find a more "generous" group of people anywhere.

      How many poor scholars have become tenured for just this reason? How many of them have padded 401-Ks all the while proclaiming their allegiance with the poverty-stricken people of the world?

      Sacrifice.

  • Welcome to the new Mondoweiss
  • ESPN and NYT should be ashamed for tiptoeing around rape at heart of Penn State outrage
    • Thanks, Phil, for this article. I'm not very in to football, but I admit I felt a little uncomfortable over the firing of the iconic Paterno (probably more because he was 84 than because he was an icon, truth be told). His only possible excuse would be if he didn't somehow get all the information and the assistant coach conveyed it to him as less than what it was--which was rape. But that seems unlikely.

      You really put the facts out in the right manner. Someone witnessed a rape, did nothing at the time, and then nothing happened later. Shameful.

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