I think there’s a problem with intemperate (and sometimes worse than intemperate) comments at Mondoweiss. It is enough of a problem I think it could drive away well-intentioned liberals who need to hear this blog’s message. If they visit the wrong thread and see certain comments they are likely to think “This blog is populated by nuts or worse” and go elsewhere before they give the place a chance. By the way, I’m not Jewish and I mean well-intentioned liberals of any or no faith. I know a fair number of Christians who would be instantly disgusted at the least whiff of anti-semitism or even what they might think is anti-semitism but isn’t. The latter problem has to be overcome with persuasion, but the former problem is solved by just being sensitive, knowing how something might sound and not saying it. Yes, sensitive. The goal is supposed to be peace and justice, reconciliation, all that good stuff. If we can have that in a blog comment section anything is possible. I might even try it.
(Oh, and I’m not giving advice to those who supported the Gaza War. Good luck defending that with sensitivity.)
Here’s a list of the sort of unhelpful comments likely to give people uncomplimentary ideas about this place:
1. A suggestion that Israel be nuked or might be nuked by the US. Completely insane. Anyone who visited and thought that was representative of a large fraction of the commentariat would think he or she had entered a lunatic asylum. It isn’t, but it would be good not to see such a thing suggested even once.
2 A suggestion that Israel be made to behave via a conventional war. This suggestion has been made by a few people outraged over Israeli violence, with the idea that Israel needs to be coerced into doing the right thing, but it seems more than a little odd at a website pushing for peace and justice. (I exclude a no-fly no-rocket zone proposal for Gaza and Israel, which seems reasonable if politically impossible). A large scale conventional war involving Israel would have wildly unpredictable consequences, most of them probably bad, and the one that is certain is that a lot of people would die. Wars do that. Anyway, Israel has nukes, which adds to that unpredictable consequence problem and gives this idea that final extra push needed to place it in the “completely insane” category. Besides, people in the peace and justice crowd don’t like to see their would-be allies advocating war. One can see their point.
3. Any suggestion that some sort of Jewish writing or behavior created the Nazis. At best this just seems wrong. Perhaps some Jews joined in the almost ubiquitous anti-semitism of Western culture before WWII and said deplorable things. By all means condemn any who did, but it doesn’t explain Nazi fanaticism. There’s a giant chasm here. At worst there’s an occasional suggestion that Jewish behavior actually provoked the Germans and led to the Holocaust. I haven’t seen that in a while and the poster, probably not coincidentally, seems to have been banned later on. We’re way over in anti-semitism territory here–the boundary is pretty far off in the distance. Such comments should be deleted immediately and the thread sown with salt.
4. Any generalization about “Jews”. Any general comment about any ethnic group is most likely stupid and anyway, anyone talking this way sounds like he should be wearing a sheet. Most people here avoid it. Good. Also, maybe a website devoted to exposing the injustices committed by Israel might not be the best venue for discussing Jewish history and culture in general. One probably wouldn’t go visit a blog devoted to denouncing Islamic terrorism with much hope for a fair-minded discussion of Islam without any spillover from the threads discussing the ideologies of various terrorist organizations. But Phil is interested in the sociology of Jews in America and fair-minded discussion is possible, even in a (God help us) blog comment section. (Personally, I’d rather read a nice mainstream book or books on the Jewish history, when I get around to it. Suggestions are welcome. One person has made one already.)
5 Any hint that because anti-semitism isn’t the problem it once was, it isn’t a serious problem. This is wrong. People are still attacked even in this country for being Jewish. It’s happening now: hate crimes in New York area. You don’t need a Hitler to have a problem with bigotry–individual nuts without government support can still be dangerous. And one form of bigotry feeds others.
6. Finally, we can be rather hostile to liberal Zionists even when they are in agreement about Israel’s crimes. I’m not sure that it matters if someone thinks there could have been an alternate history where Israel could have been formed without injustice to the Palestinians if they agree that what actually has happened was unjust. There will be serious debates over one state vs. two state solutions, but in the end it is the Palestinians who have to decide what sort of solution they should go for.