This takes us into complex and extremely interesting areas of personality, power and unconscious attitudes. But I don't think you can ever compare antisemitic jokes to jokes about WASPs. Antisemitism is never trivial, because it is about the dark and sadistic side of Christianity that went unchecked for a millennium, culminating in the Holocaust. Anti-WASP jokes are simply an entertainment, greatly enjoyed by many WASPs themselves, myself included.
That doesn't mean that people can't make jokes about Jews, Jewishness and Judaism, in their own circle of close friends. But the difference all comes down to the aggression at the core of the joke. All jokes are about aggression, in one way or another. A joke about Jews that is filled with loathing or self-loathing is probably going to be antisemitic. A joke about Jews that gently pokes fun at some perceived characteristic probably won't be.
What makes such jokes extremely edgy is that in real life there is no "they," not really--there are only individuals with feelings, aspirations and reactions of their own. It is when we create a "they" to attack an entire group that the whole thing starts to feel dangerous, and can quickly become extremely negative.
But even generalized jokes can also be extremely helpful. I lived for twenty years with a German Jew who made one joke after another about WASPs, and I simply loved the dynamism of it, and the hilarity. (Because, folks, WASPs really ARE funny, and the nicer they are the funnier they can be.) The other great partner in my life was a Muslim woman who constantly made jokes about white Americans...again, I loved it, for the very same reason that I loved the Jewish worldview--because it was being lived out in a very real place, as a response to attitudes that weren't even completely understood by the people who acted them out.
Say what you will about them, jokes about ethnicity and religion are real, at least for the people who are to some extent involved in them. Can we see such jokes as narratives that illuminate our lives without hurting, and being hurt?
MW is to be congratulated for having this forum. No other website seemed willing to do so.
I have reluctantly come to the conclusion, finally, that it was necessary to put some distance between Alison Weir and the rest of the Palestinian solidarity movement. After all, JVP, SJP and the entire BDS movement are facing extremely powerful opposition on US campuses this autumn, and perhaps even violence.
What bothers me most about Weir is this:
1. When people from a coalition she belonged to approached her, she was unable to make any changes, or acknowledge that any of their points might have validity. You have to be flexible to work in coalition politics.
2. She demonstrates an extreme lack of sensitivity to the kind of rhetoric that will be most effective in winning people--especially progressives--to our point of view.
3. You can't allow yourself to be interviewed on the radio by extremists and racists. Simply by appearing on the air with them, you tend to validate their ideas.
Having said that, I do not agree with the idea, sometimes heard from JVP, that the Israel Lobby is just an extension of American empire. It is en extension of empire, to be sure, but it goes far beyond that, and is especially destructive to American democracy. It seeks to undermine America's best values, split the Democratic Party, and split American Jews; and it will consistently be in alliance with the most irrational and pathological elements of Republican Party extremism. It will never rest until it--and the Republican chicken-hawks--drag the US into war with Iran. That makes it more malevolent than even the gun lobby, and Big Pharma.
We see the special dangers very clearly in Chuck Schumer's disgusting betrayal of the Iran nuclear deal.
I have a bad feeling about this. There is what appears to be an approaching genocide against gay people in central Africa, and Canterbury (and the Archbishop thereof) are feeling appropriately pressured by it. They can't oppose homophobia in Africa too overtly, they feel, or Anglicanism will become the target of mob violence. Furthermore, Canterbury feels that US Episcopalians have been pushing the envelope on marriage equality and gay rights way too enthusiastically, again adding to their institutional worries, because it pisses off homophobes in the African governments. (In the process threatening the future of Anglicanism on that continent.)
My own sense is that the institutional Episcopalian Church in the US is about to do Canterbury a big mitzvah by orchestrating some kind of pathetic "reconciliation" with the famous (and famously corrupt) organized US Jewish community, whose leaders are today mainly fanatical religious nationalists and neocons in all but name. By doing so, the hierarchy in the US hopes to make up for all the headaches American Episcopalians have given Canterbury. They may try to accomplish this, I'm afraid, by bowing down to the Israel Lobby, whilst saying, "See, we're not all that radical." Canterbury will frame it as "reconciliation" with Judaism, whereas their abandonment of the Palestinian people will be simply one more examples of institutional religious complicity with systemic evil.
On one level there's a huge class angle to this, wherein Episcopalian leaders went to the wall on an upper middle-class white issue (marriage equality and gay rights in the US) but are about to turn their backs on issues involving non-whites (Palestinians and African gays) in the developing world. The right way for a church to handles these things would be to stop balancing issues off against each other, and stand for universal human rights for everybody, all the time. Don't hold your breath.
I knew some neo-cons, and was regularly subjected to neo-con arguments regarding the Middle East, when I was on the left. The future neo-cons were active in a caucus within the Socialist Party, then in the Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee, which was led by Michael Harrington. At the same time many of them were active in caucuses within one or more of the Trotskyist organizations. It was quite fashionable at that time to assume that one could be both a Zionist and a socialist. A fair amount has been written about the neo-cons who were in Trotskyist organizations, but they apparently didn't consider themselves Zionists until later.
I first became aware of how racist they were while listening to a conversation among several of them about the manner in which Israel was about to create "facts" on the ground with settlements. (Actually, Israel was at that time already engaged in doing so.) One of the women in this group had converted to Judaism because of all the excitement connected with the 1967 war, and the settlement project. She was engaged to a Jewish Zionist who was extremely right wing. They considered themselves socialists, and were supporters of the Labor Party in Israel, but the real emotional orientation was toward an intense and seemingly criminal kind of religious nationalism. I will never forget the look in this woman's eyes when she talked about displacing Palestinians.
They both went to the right rather quickly, and became part of the neo-con stampede into the Republican Party and its new ideological foundations.
One analysis that always made sense to me was that becoming a neo-con was part of a process of assimilation by people who found it painful to be Jews. They became good Americans by becoming Republicans, and good Israelis by becoming Likudnik--that is, Revisionist--Zionists. But they left their Jewishness behind, in their mad rush to respectability.
I was in the organized Left in the old Democratic Socialists Organizing Committee as a trade unionist in the 1960s and 1970s, and just a couple of years ago rejoined the Democratic Socialists of America. (In other words, Sanders and I belong to the same organization.) Yes, I know Sanders helped to organize the Progressive Caucus in Congress. But I won't work for Sanders, and I won't contribute a goddamn penny to his campaign. It's always been the same old story, going on almost fifty years now--we have to agree not to talk about Palestinians, and the cultural influence of Zionism and 'the Lobby' in the Democratic Party, because of the donors, and because "one has to make compromises."
Yes, indeed you do have to make compromises, and my compromise is that I won't do a damn thing for Sanders, because he won't do a damn thing in the most important struggle of our time. The struggle against the constant efforts of a right-wing Israeli state to drag the US into war, the daily fight for Palestinian human rights, and most of all, the struggle for an American foreign policy free of the bribes and corruption of AIPAC dollars--those are THE big moral and political issues of our time.
Sanders' time is past. And if social democracy can't assert itself on behalf of Palestinians, and against Israeli manipulation, maybe its time is past too.