I thought this recent development regarding IAK might be relevant to this roundtable discussion. If Americans Knew posted this article by Ron Unz to their blog and also tweeted it. The article accuses religious Jews of Satan worship among other things, and it only gets worse the farther down you scroll: https://israelpalestinenews.org/unz-review-american-pravda-oddities-of-the-jewish-religion/
And the IAK tweet in question: https://twitter.com/ifamericansknew/status/1021151391635537920
Notice that at the bottom of the article IAK includes links to several Kevin MacDonald articles as well. I was surprised at how much further out this goes than Weir's typical questionable stuff. Maybe she has given up pretending not to be antisemitic at this point? Not sure, but IAK doesn't seem to be hiding it anymore. I heard about this because Ali Abunimah called it out on Twitter, and, of course, IAK supporters pounced on him and accused him of "dividing the movement," being a "gatekeeper," and even of being "compromised" because, as an IAK supporter argues, EI is "funded by George Soros."
Here's one of Ali's twitter statements about the IAK post: https://twitter.com/AliAbunimah/status/1022496548989665281
Anyway, I thought this development might be relevant to this older discussion.
Hi to Annie, and take care everyone!
Thanks for the Lowkey video, Annie. He's awesome and says it all! (And even though we have disagreed, I am sincerely thankful for your hard work moderating, Annie, but I think you know that).
A couple of last points I want to emphasize because I think they have been misunderstood. One, I am NOT Jewish. I am more conscious of anti-Jewish stereotypes than most other non-Jews because I happen to have studied antisemitic discourse. In my experience, most American non-Jews are ignorant of many antisemitic stereotypes because, despite the ADL's constant focus on it, real antisemitism has not been a significant problem in the US for many years. Most antisemitic stereotypes I have heard from other activists (which is NOT common) are, I think, repeated out of ignorance rather than real Jew-hatred.
Two, surely there are some Palestinians who have developed antisemitic attitudes as a result of their horrific and ongoing oppression at the hands of the Jewish state, especially when their only encounters with Jews are with Jewish military and police brutality, Jewish prison guards, Jewish bombs, etc.--daily oppression and humiliation at the hands of Jews with little positive contact with Jews. I can understand that. Like some others have mentioned, I would also compare this more with anti-Americanism (as a result of our occupations and military actions around the world) than with real, classical antisemitism (though this kind of resentment can also incorporate classical and Protocols-based tropes and conspiracy theories too--like in the Hamas charter--just as anti-Americanism also incorporates conspiracy theories). I have even talked with a couple of Palestinian Hamas members, and have heard and read interviews with Hamas and Islamic Jihad leaders that do not sound antisemitic at all to me. Palestinians are a people living under military occupation and oppressive Zionist policies. And like other oppressed people around the world, it is completely understandable that some of them would develop resentment against their oppressors. In my opinion, most Palestinians are NOT antisemitic.
The dozens of Palestinians I know, none of whom I have heard express antisemitic attitudes, are mostly Americans or West Bank residents and activists. And most of these Palestinians also have many Jewish activist friends (so they know that not all Jews support oppressive Zionist policies).
I think white non-Jewish allies of Palestinians do need to be especially conscious of our words, though, because we are the ones called to sometimes justify our focus on the issue of Palestinian oppression. As you all know, there are many legitimate reasons to focus on this topic and join the Palestinian call for solidarity. White allies shouldn't be in this fight for the wrong reasons, though, and we should try not to let awareness of the horrific oppression faced by Palestinians make us too resentful in a way that becomes counterproductive to the cause of justice. (And I'm NOT saying this is necessarily the case for Weir).
And I am not trying to argue that Weir is antisemitic in her heart. I don't claim to know what is in someone's heart or head. I am not trying to be the thought police. No one here is. I have argued that some of her work sometimes SOUNDS antisemitic (especially the organ harvesting article and the beginning of her book) based on they WAY she discusses things--her topic choices, arguments, and language use (along with her tacitly condoning silence in certain interviews). She may very well not be antisemitic in her heart. But she could at least try harder not to sound antisemitic.
I have said it before, but I'll say it one last time: The main issue, for me, is that as activists in a position to publicly represent the Palestinian cause, I think we should take care to be aware of antisemitic stereotypes and language and try to avoid publicly expressing them--to stay morally consistent with Palestinians' stated antiracist principles and avoid tarnishing the credibility of the movement as a whole--and, by extension, the credibility of Palestinians.
I don't think there's much more I can say on this, and commenting here, though a real learning experience and even enjoyable at times, has taken up more time than I have to spare. I have said more than enough about antisemitism, so now I will go back to my work and focusing on speaking out against anti-black racism, Islamophobia, and Zionist discrimination against Palestinians.
Best to you all.
Hey guys, I missed you all the past couple of days. Did you miss me? ☺
We are almost up to 1000 comments!
In the midst of trying to catch up on my other reading and research, I thought I’d pop back in to offer some responses, though I am sorry I won’t be able to respond to all the thoughtful comments that have been made in the past few days.
Just for the record, I have never known Phil to discuss the lobby in an antisemitic way. Maybe he could give Weir lessons. Anti-Zionist Jews have been part of the diaspora since the idea of Zionism began, and I don’t see anything antisemitic about anti-Zionism: http://home2.btconnect.com/tipiglen/statement.html http://www.tikkun.org/nextgen/before-mondoweiss-jewish-anti-nationalism-in-the-wake-of-the-holocaust
And, again, I also believe that the vast majority of claims of antisemitism against Israel critics and Palestinian solidarity activists are also unfounded. Even Beinart has recently called out false charges: http://www.haaretz.com/opinion/.premium-1.671930
I also completely understand that many activists are jaded by these unfounded charges and are therefore resistant to any charges of antisemitism. I understand the position of most of you, even if I disagree with you on other points.
I also don’t think Ali Abunimah’s use of “Zionists” instead of “Israelis” suggests antisemitism. (“Israelis,” after all, would also include Palestinian citizens and anti-Zionists, so in this case “Zionists” is more accurate). However, I also don’t think you can simply replace “Jew” with “Zionist” and then go on a classically antisemitic, Protocols-based rant against “Zionists” without still being antisemitic. It is like the white supremacists’ favorite conspiracy about ZOG. When they say “Zionist” it usually is just a stand-in for “Jew.” I have never heard Abunimah discuss “Zionists” using classical, medieval, or Protocols-based tropes. To me, that is the difference between Abunimah and the vast majority of Palestinian solidarity activists vs. Weir. Abunimah’s criticisms of Israel can be very harsh, but that does not make them inherently antisemitic.
But I see some of Weir’s criticisms (but not all of them; as I have said, most of her work and statements do not suggest antisemitism and are commendable) as painting Israel and Jews/Zionists in a more uniquely sinister way than the vast majority of Palestinians and Palestinian solidarity activists do. Her focus on certain topics more often suggests nefarious conspiracies, and she often paints herself as a great revealer of evil, hidden, harmful secrets about Israel and Zionists, which to me is much more suggestive of antisemitism—and thus, in my opinion, not the best way for Palestinian solidarity activists to make our case.
As I have said, these days, EVERYONE talks about the lobby. Even liberal Zionist Peter Beinart publicly discusses the influence of the lobby. Mondoweiss discusses the lobby a lot. Walt and Mearshimer, Abunimah, Judis, etc., etc.—everyone, including JVP and ETO. The lobby is not a big secret, as I have argued.
It is not the fact that Weir discusses the lobby, as many people do, but it is HOW she sometimes discusses the lobby (at least in the beginning of her book, which is the only part I have had time to read)—as a uniquely secretive, sinister, conspiratorial entity with exaggerated powers—that is where her critiques of the lobby differ from most other anti-Zionist Palestinian solidarity activists and writers.
(Phil, Abunimah, W/M, and others also don’t try to validate the medieval blood libel or give interviews to white supremacists in which they appear to condone many of the problematic views presented).
In my experience with Palestinians—both from when I was in the West Bank making my documentary and in talking with Palestinians in the US—of the dozens of Palestinians I have met and talked with, I have never met a Palestinian who sounded antisemitic to me.
I guess I am more sensitive to antisemitism than most non-Jews because I happen to have studied the history and discourse of antisemitism. I partly wrote this piece in the first place because I felt like it shouldn't be left to only Jewish activists to have to call out antisemitic discourse (which Palestinian BDS leaders have also done multiple times in the past, though, I believe, for different reasons than Danaa suggests).
I would compare it to any other minority group that has been the target of bigotry past or present: just as African Americans are more sensitive to anti-black racism than most whites, Muslims more sensitive to Islamophobia, etc., so are most Jews more sensitive to antisemitism.
And just as Islamophobia, anti-black racism, etc. all have unique characteristics and tropes associated with them in addition to all being a generalized form of bigotry, so does antisemitism (which has been around for much longer, so it has accumulated more tropes from different eras).
While I think we can ignore and fight against most unfounded charges of antisemitism from Israel's advocates, I think it is less wise to ignore claims from Jewish Palestinian solidarity activists and anti-Zionist Jews. They might be onto something there.
You may not believe me, but I have actually spent a lot more time and energy speaking out against Islamophobia and anti-black racism over the past few years than antisemitism. As I have said, these forms of bigotry are much worse in the US, partly because they are much more common, but also because (unlike with antisemitism at this point in time) they have power structures to back them up and institutionalize them. Clearly Islamophobia (and Orientalism generally) is a big problem when it comes to the issue of justice for Palestinians, and this needs to be overcome.
I see antisemitism in this case as a problem for the messaging of the movement for Palestinian rights, though I also think it is consistent with antiracist principles to also oppose antisemitism—and I don’t think it is necessary or ethical to promote antisemitism in order to fight for justice for Palestinians.
*One further question for the group re: Weir: How do you all explain why Weir’s book, Against Our Better Judgment, is so highly correlated with clearly antisemitic texts on Amazon’s “Customers Who Bought” section—whereas other critiques of the lobby, like Walt and Mearshimer’s The Israel Lobby and Judis’s book are not? (You can try this yourself). Why do you think there is such a difference there? Her choice of interview platforms? Something about the way she discusses the lobby that is different from others? Or some other explanations?
I am honestly asking for you guys’ opinion on this last question. I have given up trying to persuade you all to see it my way long ago. I tried, but I had to admit defeat on the second or third day. You all are a tough crowd and have certainly kept me on my toes. ☺
We really are on the same team, though. Maybe we are just playing different positions. (And I promise to not make anymore ageist jokes or generalizations—sorry again).
I am interested in your thoughts on this, though, because most of you clearly are very intelligent, well read, and have thought about this a lot, and I have honestly benefited from your input.
One thing I have learned is that years of false and manipulative charges of antisemitism against Palestinians and their supporters have served to weaken the concept even more than I realized. (I agree with Finkelstein on this).
True, it is totally understandable that many activists are jaded by the frequent boy-who-cried-wolf charges of antisemitism against Palestinian solidarity activists. I have discussed that before, including in my piece. It is an unfortunate side-effect of Israel advocates' overplaying of that hand and thus weakening the concept. (Not to mention how Israel claims to represent and speak for all Jews is another problem).
But I agree with you that that doesn't thus mean that there is no such a thing as real antisemitism and that we wouldn't all benefit from being able to recognize it and avoid it.
And, yes, Jews are generally a privileged group in the US--and obviously in Israel. So some people think that therefore antisemitism just doesn't matter anymore. I have argued why I think it does matter in my Roundtable piece, which I know you have commented on: http://mondoweiss.net/2015/08/roundtable-palestinian-solidarity
I often return to something a Palestinian nonviolence activist named Ali Abu Awwad said in our documentary: "My enemy is not the Jewish people. My enemy is Jewish fear." https://vimeo.com/29984961
Jewish fear motivates Zionism. Why do Zionists think they need a "Jewish state"? Most of them think it is a necessary safe haven from something. . . I can't remember. . . that thing that people keep debating whether it exists. . . Hitler was pretty into it. . . Oh, yeah, that's right: ANTISEMITISM!
It may be be a warped, abused, and usually these days unfounded fear that is manipulated and indoctrinated by Israeli politicians and the lobby, etc. to maintain support for Israel. But to many Jews in Israel and the diaspora, the fear itself is still real even if real antisemitism is much more rare. And there is a very real and not that distant history to back up this fear.
Without recognizing this fear and addressing it more effectively, the struggle for Palestinian rights will be much harder.
And I certainly don't think Weir addresses it very well at all.
In fact, I am starting to wonder if Weir isn't a Zionist agent directed to stoke fears of antisemitism. It plays right into the hands of the lobby and Israel apologists after all. Legitimate criticism of the lobby is weakened and deflected when some people choose to discuss it in an antisemitic way. And when you can associated the BDS movement with claims of the blood libel, even better. I think Weir must be on the ADL's payroll. Ha, ha :)
Sorry, Kris, but the links didn't take me directly to their comments. Are you referring to the recent comment (by Danaa, I think) that the Weir issue is one of (disingenuous) Liberal/Left Zionists vs. real Palestinian Freedom fighters?
If so, a major point that everyone still seems to be missing and no one has yet directly addressed in that thread to my knowledge is a point I also made in my original piece: that PALESTINIAN BDS leaders, including Abunimah, Barghouti, and many others very forcefully and publicly disavowed Atzmon and don't want anything to do with him because of his antisemitic rhetoric: http://mondoweiss.net/2012/03/palestinian-and-palestine-solidarity-activists-issue-critique-and-condemnation-of-gilad-atzmon
Are they part of the Liberal/Left Zionist faction that is against Palestinian freedom too? Is the BDS movement itself a tool of Israel designed and directed to undermine the real Palestinian solidarity movement, to which Weir, and apparently most of the MW commenters, belong?
You all can disagree with that decision if you want, but if I have to choose, I am going with the Palestinian leaders of BDS.
Universal antiracism includes opposing antisemitism.
And it still sounds like many of the commenters still need to figure out what antisemitism is exactly because while it is like other forms of racism and bigotry, like all specific forms of bigotry, it also has unique characteristics about which several commenters seem to be ignorant, not care, or even actually believe.
I happen to think that it benefits Palestinian solidarity activists to be able to distinguish.
Someday hopefully you guys will get it.