Why won't anyone say they're a bigot?

In what is, essentially, the last straw for me with Adbusters magazine (see my letter regarding the August 2003 issue), editor Kalle Lasn has written an inflammatory piece in the latest issue, entitled “Why won’t anyone say they are Jewish?”, which flogs the Jewish neo-con cabal theory to death. Accompanying the article is a list of influential neo-cons with black spots next to the names of those who are Jewish, though, you know, you’d think yellow stars would be more apropos, no?
Lasn writes,

Drawing attention to the Jewishness of the neocons is a tricky game. Anyone who does so can count on automatically being smeared as an anti-Semite. But the point is not that Jews (who make up less than 2 percent of the American population) have a monolithic perspective. Indeed, American Jews overwhelmingly vote Democrat and many of them disagree strongly with Ariel Sharon’s policies and Bush’s aggression in Iraq. The point is simply that the neocons seem to have a special affinity for Israel that influences their political thinking and consequently American foreign policy in the Middle East.

Yeah, and? Your point is? What?
As one reader remarked, “This article seemed to be on the verge of making a point, but I can’t tell what it is. It certainly isn’t what I expected from AdBusters.”
You know, in Communist Russia, a fair number of Communist Party members were Jewish as well, some who had Zionist leanings. Following on Lasn’s line of reasoning, the Communists decided to outlaw Judaism and kill off all their Jews in order to solve this “problem” of dual allegiance.
Too gruesome for you Kalle? Okay, I’ve got an idea—how ’bout we just ban all Jews from holding government positions. That way, you know, we can make sure they never manipulate American foreign policy in favor of Israel.
Oh, right, that was called The Nuremberg Laws.
Snap out of it, Lasn. You’re being an asshole. You’d think an Estonian who grew up in a German refugee camp would know better than this.

7 thoughts on “Why won't anyone say they're a bigot?

  1. I thought about it a little and I have some more comments.
    It’s obvious to pretty much all of us that criticizing Israel’s policies isn’t necessarily anti-Semitic. To people who know me well, it’s even obvious that criticizing Zionism and its drive to create and preserve a Jewish state doesn’t have to be anti-Semitic, insofar as it is clear that many Jewish people engage in this sort of criticism. Many articles have been written, correctly in my opinion, about the inappropriateness of the way conservatives and the American Jewish establishment (by “establishment” I mean the groups that are always quoted in the newspapers as being “Jewish leaders,” like Abe Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League, though I as a Jew have no clue who these people are or who decided they were “Jewish leaders”) often uses anti-Semitism as a rhetorical weapon against criticism of Israel. It’s a silencing technique that is meant to intimidate people who are unfamiliar with the issues involved in the Middle East and who don’t necessarily understand that when they criticize Israeli policies, that they are aligning themselves with a long tradition of Jewish and even Israeli dissent as well as with the Palestinian people and their struggle.
    But Lasn’s article? Putting black dots next to Jews’ names?
    What. the. fuck.
    First of all, this kind of article belongs to a long and storied tradition of Europeans playing the “let’s find the Jews” game. Obviously, European Jews aren’t necessarily easy to distinguish from proper white people, which is why most persecution schemes have involved making Jews wear some form of identification, like a yellow star. Making a list of neo-cons and black-dotting the Jews is like a sleazy retread of European paranoia: “Hey, everybody! Look at all them powerful Jews! Did you know there were that many? Holy shit! We better keep a close eye on them!”
    The article itself acknowledges that “American Jews overwhelmingly vote Democrat and many of them disagree strongly with Ariel Sharon?s policies and Bush?s aggression in Iraq.” This is an admission that it simply doesn’t matter what someone’s religious or ethnic background is. Obviously, everyone else on that list isn’t Jewish and yet shares pretty much the same opinions. If anything, the fact that most Jews AREN’T neocons probably says more about “Jewishness” than anything else. But still, Lasn has decided that the Jewishness of these neo-cons is “an issue” that needs to be “tackled head on.” What is the point here? What the heck is he trying to say?
    I have rejected the claims, prominently featured recently in U.S. News and World Report as elsewhere, that the world is seeing a rising tide of antisemitism at this moment. That’s because I distinguish sharply between antisemitism and anti-Zionism, and I don’t believe, for example, that attacks by poor French Muslims on French Jews would happen if Israel and the Palestinians reached a political deal. Violence that fluctuates with a political situation, moving up or down depending on the actions people take, is by definition not rooted in hatred or fear of Jews as such, which doesn’t care what people do and hates them no matter what. To me that disqualifies it as antisemitism. I have also rejected the notion that “antisemitism has moved from the far right to the far left,” which is another way of saying that leftist anti-Zionists or even just those sympathetic to the Palestinians hate Jews and attempting to discredit their arguments. But Lasn’s editorial, while I cannot say it is like much I have read elsewhere, does not help me out very much with rejecting these claims. I find this kind of thing really, really frustrating.
    Okay, that’s about it. I’ve run out of steam, I guess.

  2. To people who know me well, it’s even obvious that criticizing Zionism and its drive to create and preserve a Jewish state doesn’t have to be anti-Semitic, insofar as it is clear that many Jewish people engage in this sort of criticism.
    Criticizing Jews for wanting to exercise their right to self-determination is, indeed, not necessarily antisemitic. But that’s not because Jews do or don’t do it; it’s because of the content of the criticism itself. As in, whether it’s because one is asserting that Jews aren’t really a people (antisemitic? you decide), or because one is asserting that nation-states are a dumb idea (antisemitic? uh, no), etc.
    But I’ve beaten this to death and should really shut up about it. [Ducks, covers.] Sam, the gory details are here.

  3. Well, right. The point is that even defining Zionism as the desire of Jews “to exercise their right to self-determination” participates in a certain kind of 19th-century modernist nationalist discourse. My contestation of that discourse has nothing to do with whether I like Jews or not. If I think every other nationalism is valid, then maybe there’s an issue. If I think no nationalisms are valid, there’s no issue. Hmm, since you’re probably likely to agree with that, I’ll throw in an extra comment. Zionism happens to be a nationalism that was specifically realized at the expense of another people, as opposed to, say, Algerian nationalism. That’s one reason it often comes in for special criticism from Jews and Palestinians (who have the most cause to be specially concerned with it) as well as others.

  4. my latest comment on the adbusters debate:
    All of this is predicated on the notion that the Jews involved in policy planning for the defense department were manipulating the administration in order to go to war against Iraq on Israel’s behalf. However, consider the fact that the US has continually asked Israel not to defend itself against its aggressors–particularly Iraq, which, during the first Gulf War, lobbed missiles into Tel Aviv. Or, how about all the times in the last three years that the Bush administration has asked Sharon not to retaliate against Palestinian militants. Mind you, the people in charge of the defense department then are the same individuals in charge now. Honestly, what country would stand by and allow itself to be attacked, particularly if, for its own strategic purposes, it was bent on the invasion of the country attacking it? Thus, all of this quickly translates into horseshit. The alleged Zionist allegiances of the neoconservatives are wholly irrelevant because, as we can see, it is not Israel which has benefitted from the invasion of Iraq, but rather the non-Jewish neocon bigwigs like Dick Cheney, whose company Halliburton is reaping all the rewards of reconstruction contracts. Israel has gained nothing from this but ire. Well, that and the fact that Saddam Hussein can no longer give $10,000 gifts to the families of suicide bombers. (Oh, the wretchedness! How dare they wish for his empire’s demise!) Considering that a larger number of prominent neocons are non-Jewish, and considering the interest of evangelical Christians in so-called Christian Zionism (if only to see Jesus return so that he may slaughter all of the Jews), isn’t it just as probable to suggest that there is a Christian conspiracy, moreso than a Jewish one? Jews don’t go out of their way to make Jews look bad…but non-Jews sure do.

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