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).