SPEAK! Listening Party in Long Beach, CA!

Remember that awesome CD that’s out right now? The spoken word collection that features the work of BFP, Black Amazon, Little Light, and so many others? The one that combines personal history and movement making in truly inspiring ways? If you live in or around Long Beach, CA and haven’t heard it yet, now’s your chance! On Sunday, June 14th, Petit Poussin, Christine, and I will be hosting a listening party from 2-5. As we listen to the CD, you’ll be able to participate in discussion and respond by making your own media, whether it’s visual art, handwritten text, a zine, blogging or twittering, or whatever combination of the above you can come up with. Afterwards, we’ll sit down to a potluck dinner. CDs will be available for sale – remember that all proceeds go towards getting single mothers to the Allied Media Conference next month.

Address available upon RSVP. A quick warning for people with allergies: a friendly medium-haired cat will be present.

RSVP to modernmitzvot at yahoo com or ppoussin at gmail com!

Bernie Madoff and anti-Semitism

The Boston Review issued a survey recently, and surprise, many blame the Jews for the financial crisis:

In order to assess explicit prejudice toward Jews, we directly asked respondents “How much to blame were the Jews for the financial crisis?” with responses falling under five categories: a great deal, a lot, a moderate amount, a little, not at all. Among non-Jewish respondents, a strikingly high 24.6 percent of Americans blamed “the Jews” a moderate amount or more, and 38.4 percent attributed at least some level of blame to the group.

While the article seems to mostly discuss Bernie Madoff and his standing among non-Jews, there is something here we can’t ignore: when something goes wrong economically in a country, it’s Jews who are to blame. The media going to lengths to point out Madoff’s being one of us, with all the baggage that carries, is not actually helping us at all.

I have to confess that I was not surprised about the breakdown between Democrats and Republicans; Republicans and especially the Christian Zionists are certainly not friends of ours, and Democrats may not actually be left-wing, but it’s not surprising to me that at least those nominally left-wing surveyed tended to blame us.

Anyway, the bottom line here is this: in the United States we have enjoyed mostly benevolent interactions unprecedented in our history, but even here when things go bad it could be bad for us. It can and does happen anywhere.

What do we do? We get punished from people when we don’t engage with them and stick to ourselves, and leave ourselves vulnerable when we do and things like this happen.

While I’m going to find a cite for this later, along these lines, 2008 was an all-time high for the province of Alberta in reported anti-Semitic incidents.

Birkat Hachamah on Colbert!

Funny Colbert clip (via The Black Jewish Experience):

(Seems like I’m never able to embed Comedy Central videos…) http://www.colbertnation.com/the-colbert-report-videos/224061/april-08-2009/birkat-hachama—stephen-frees-his-jews

So, uh, quick poll – how many of you knew that, when the Jews came out, they’d be 100% white (looking) men?

Because either I should start telling fortunes for a living, or the kyriarchy is pretty predictable.

Waltz With Bashir Animator Takes On Gaza

Via JVoices:

(Cross-posted on Alas, A Blog.)

This is not my community.

Two Israeli ad campaigns in recent years: “Israel: No one belongs here more than you” (“you” being the white middle-class American tourist) and “Israel: Not What You See in the News!” (paraphrased)

Number of Gazans dead today: at least 200.

If you can’t figure out why this is unacceptable – if you insist on an eye-for-an-eye mentality, in which one Israeli eye is worth an infinite number of Palestinian eyes – then quite frankly, you’re a privileged fuck with no concept of how violence is perpetuated or what the phrase “human rights” actually means. (And will I delete your odious, bigoted comment? You bet.)

EDIT: Matt points out the problem with my use of the phrase “an eye for an eye.” More explanation here.

(Cross-posted at Alas, A Blog.)

Where’s Our Vocabulary?

I’m sure many of you have seen this Onion article:

Area Man Saddened To Realize Short Jewish Women With An Interest In Theater His Type

CHICAGO—While reminiscing about his romantic past Monday, area resident David Simms was shocked and a little saddened to realize that short women belonging to the Jewish faith and possessing an active interest in the world of theater have always been, and will always be, his type.

“God, how did I never notice it before?” said Simms, taken aback by his unexpected discovery. “Rachel, Sarah, Devorah—Miss Katzenberg, the weekend director at the Israeli Arts Center—it’s all so obvious now.”

“Squat, theatergoing Jews,” added Simms, shaking his head in confused wonder. “I’m totally into squat, theatergoing Jews.”

Okay, there’s enough offensive stuff in here to warrant a whole other blog post – the humor in the article is all based on presenting Jewishness, shortness, and (implied) fatness as undesirable – but that’s not what caught my eye. Notice the wording in the first paragraph:

hile reminiscing about his romantic past Monday, area resident David Simms was shocked and a little saddened to realize that short women belonging to the Jewish faith and possessing an active interest in the world of theater have always been, and will always be, his type.

So Jewishness is clearly a matter of religion, right? Not ethnicity, race, or culture? Hmm. Take a look at these snippets from the rest of the article:

“I always just thought I liked brunettes, or was, you know, a ‘breasts’ man…. I’m going to fall madly in love and raise a beautiful family with a short, curly-haired theater buff….” As long as his date is at least half-Jewish, appreciates some form of live performance, and can be picked up off the ground with relative ease, Simms said, he would be willing to see where things go.

Despite the article’s initial implication that a Jewish identity is based solely on faith, it goes on to describe Jewishness in physical and genetic terms. Simply put, the article can’t help but contradict itself.

I bring this up because this exact contradiction has been around for decades and decades. Jews and non-Jews constantly fluctuate between religious and ethnic terms to describe Jewish identity – very often, as in this case, in the same publication. Hell, whenever I try to talk about my half-Jewish identity, or describe anti-Semitism in the context of broader systems of oppression, I can’t help but resort to terms like “biracial” and “racism,” even while I maintain that Jewishness isn’t a race. It’s not the fault of individual writers; the blame lies with an astonishingly limited vocabulary to describe our identity. Do I call myself “biethnic?” What elegant variation should this writer have come up with besides “belonging to the Jewish faith?” (The article uses “Jewish persuasion” later on, which is just as bad.) “Jewish culture,” maybe? I have a feeling that readers would have been mildly confused by that – and then gone off pick up a bagel and the latest Philip Roth novel.

(Also, I should note that I think “tiny, artsy” Jews are hot. Just sayin‘.)

(Cross-posted at Alas, A Blog.)

Converting for the Jokes

Via Heeb – Seinfeld in Yiddish:

I’ll have you know, you insensitive bastards, that my Jewish father IS a dentist. Where’s the intersectionality!?

High Stakes and Flat Debates

From the L.A. Times (thanks to Tom for the link):

The Shoah is woven, to varying degrees, into almost all of Israel’s political arguments; over time, we have taken the Shoah from its position of sanctity and turned it into an instrument of common and even trite politics. It represents a past that is present, maintained, monitored, heard and represented. Our dead do not rest in peace. They are busy, active, always a part of our sad lives.

Of course, memory is essential to any nation’s mental health. The Shoah must always have an important place in the nation’s memorial mosaic. But the way things are done today — the absolute monopoly and the dominance of the Shoah on every aspect of our lives — transforms this holy memory into a ridiculous sacrilege and converts piercing pain into hollowness and kitsch. As time passes, the deeper we are stuck in our Auschwitz past, the more difficult it becomes to be free of it.

What does the primacy of the Shoah mean in terms of our politics and policy? For one thing, it becomes virtually impossible to find a conversation carried out with reason, patience, self-control or restraint. Take Iran as an example. With regard to Iran, as with any other security matter that has potentially existential consequences, we have no thoughts at all — only instincts and trauma-driven impulses. Who has ever heard of alternative approaches to the Iranian issue, of strategic arguments underlying the passionate emotions, the old fears and violent rhetoric?

Few people in Israel are willing to try to perceive reality through a different set of conceptual lenses other than those of extermination and defensive isolation. Few are willing to try on the glasses of understanding and of hope for dialogue. Instead, the question is always: Is a second Shoah on the way?

I’m trying to get my hands on a copy of Avraham Burg’s The Holocaust is Over; We Must Rise From Its Ashes so that I can review it, but damn if the publisher and all the libraries aren’t making it difficult.

I wanted to write about this weeks ago: I was appalled, during the presidential and VP debates, at the number of times the candidates brought up the Holocaust – specifically in terms of not wanting a second one. What is a Jewish tragedy doing at the forefront of Gentile politics? It’s not out of a sincere concern for Jewish well-being, I can tell you that (although I’m sure the conspiracy theorists were jumping up and down at the unveiling of yet another Jewish World-Takeover). No, the Holocaust serves as a way to squelch debate and control people – Jews and non-Jews alike – through fear. If we don’t support Israel, there’ll be a second Holocaust. If we try diplomacy with Iran, there’ll be a second Holocaust. If we don’t give the American and Israeli governments free reign to do what they want in Palestine, Iraq, and… well, anywhere in the Middle East, then that second Holocaust is right around the corner! And as Burg says, the higher the stakes are, the flatter the debate becomes. It’s impossible to have a realistic discussion about foreign or domestic policy when the question is Holocaust or No Holocaust. (I’ll take the No Holocaust, please!)

And that kind of rhetoric, when repeated by American government officials for a mostly non-Jewish audience, has a nasty side effect. Let’s say the US and Israel both went to war with Iran for, supposedly, the express purpose of avoiding a second Holocaust. All we’re trying to do, each government insisted, is avoid a second Holocaust. Let’s say the war went badly. Which outcry do you think would be louder here in the US: “We’re losing a lot of troops, but at least we’re helping the Jews!” or “The Jews made us do it! Israel is controlling the world!” I don’t know if McCain and Palin were aware of this during the debates, but framing Iran as a Jewish problem only sets us up to take the blame if things go wrong.

(But Julie, what about AIPAC? Yes, AIPAC has a lot of influence, but this isn’t a matter of a cabal of Jews strongarming the most powerful nation on Earth into doing what they say. Rather, as with any other powerful lobbying group, AIPAC’s goals are in line with those of elected officials: in this case, the creation of Middle Eastern populations who are accommodating to Western interests.)

Consider this an addendum to my disturbing realization the other day.

News Bites

The Free Gaza Movement is returning to Gaza aboard a new ship, the SS Dignity. I received an email earlier this evening saying that the they were about an hour and a half away from the place where they expected the Israeli Navy to stop, attack, or board them. I haven’t heard anything since then, but I’m not going to get worried yet.

A quick note on one of their email updates:

Several times over the past week, people had said that Israel was looking for the Free Gaza, asking port authorities where it was and when we were going. So today was another triumph for the human spirit.

I don’t doubt that Israeli officials were nosing around the port, just as I wouldn’t doubt that American officials would do the exact same thing. But it makes me very nervous that the Free Gaza movement refers to Israel as an inhuman monolithic entity. “Israeli officials/agents/spies/whatever were looking for the Free Gaza” implies that these were specific people deployed by the Israeli government. “Israel was looking for the Free Gaza” dehumanizes Jews. I know that using a country’s name to refer to its government is pretty standard, as in “I don’t like the U.S.’s Middle East policy,” but that language paints a very different picture when you’re talking about the actions of specific people.

Still, though, let’s hope for the best.

**

Will the Wall Street crisis spur anti-Semitism? I missed this article when it first came out, but JTA reports on the anti-Semitic SNL sketch:

As of Tuesday morning, the clip had been pulled from the show’s Web site, but not due to concerns about Jewish sensibility. “Upon review, we caught certain elements in the sketch that didn’t meet our standards,” NBC said in a statement. The network said the Sandlers had called to complain about the clip, and the tagline “People who should be shot” was removed, along with a reference to “corrupt activities.”

Regardless of whether the writers intended to paint Jews as responsible for the crisis, the skit is almost sure to aggravate a growing concern: that Jews ultimately could find themselves blamed for the nation’s financial meltdown.

“Look at how they are portraying these people who are staying up late in the capitol to pass this 700 billion dollar bailout,” wrote one commenter on a forum of the Vanguard News Network. “They’re makin it look like they’re ‘workin hard’, ‘takin action’, ‘reaching a solution’ … Yeah, they are probably sittin around eating crumpets while the Jews are driving away with truck loads of hundred dollar bills.”

Another commenter on the site wrote that “jew monsters” are seeking to bankrupt the entire planet.

“It’s really more like vampires sucking a corpse dry,” wrote the commenter, identified on the site as Sgruber. “Jews are destroyers. They aren’t after their own long-range advantage. Long-range they want the earth plunged into a Dark Ages of endless poverty. This is why the jews must be killed. They are rats eating the grain and the brain of the world.”

I especially love the people who come leave anti-Semitic comments on Jewish websites. Tell me more, O Enlightened One.

Also, a Jewish man and his nephew were beaten in Paris. Police are ruling out the possibility of a hate crime because some of the attackers were Jewish. However, it’s important to note that the attackers were using anti-Semitic slurs. Racism that comes out after you become angry at someone is still racism. Racism against members of your own group is still racism. If that sentiment is lurking somewhere in your brain, it doesn’t really make a difference when or how it happens to come out.

Finally, Marisa on JVoices explains why boycotts of Israeli musicians aren’t a very effective means of ending the occupation:

First of all, the orchestra is not exactly “state sponsored.” Unfortunately, as we know, the Israeli government spends plenty of money on providing soldiers to guard illegal settlements in Palestine and financial incentives to Jews who want to live there. They spend billions on the most disgustingly unnecessary welfare system in the world, allowing the fathers of Haredi families with 17 children to study full-time at yeshivas while their wives take in mending. [Note: The Heretic at Jewcy has his own take on this.] And they give money to all kinds of projects which further destroy the land and any chance of peace.

Unfortunately, what they don’t do is willingly support culture. The orchestra would not be able to survive on what the State of Israel gives them. The orchestra survives like many American cultural organizations – through donations. And their American tour has been entirely paid for by the American Friends of the JSO. A boycott of the orchestra has no financial impact on Israel whatsoever.

There are also a number of left-wing activists in the orchestra, who stand at checkpoints and pick olives and teach music to Palestinian children. This shouldn’t come as a surprise; artists have a tendency to care about human rights, and to express that care through their art.

Let’s say I sold the foreign publishing rights to my novel. (Ha!) Let’s say I traveled to Europe for my book tour and was greeted by Iraq war protesters outside each bookstore I visited. I myself was protesting the Iraq war months before our troops moved in. How exactly would those protesters enact change by protesting my fiction?

I’m fully in favor of boycotting goods that directly support West Bank settlers and the Gaza blockade – not to mention pulling federal aid in order to reverse settlement expansion. But organizing against the livelihoods of individual people (and we’re not talking about mega-corporate billionaires here) is where boycotts and protests stop making sense.

Utne Honors Brownfemipower and Jessica Hoffman

Via La Alma de Fuego…:

Brave New Feminists
brownfemipower, blogger, writer
Jessica Hoffmann, writer, coeditor of Make/shift

These two women, whose writings consistently challenge the aims and issues of feminism, are the addled movement’s best hope. Their personal-and-political essays light up the blogosphere, forcing discussions about why issues that aren’t typically considered “feminist”—immigration, incarceration, police brutality—ought to be. For this they are often (sometimes nastily) criticized, but for those who haven’t lost hope in the social-justice promise of feminism, their work is transformational.

Read the rest of their write-up – along with descriptions of 48 other visionaries – here.

Rock on!

(Cross-posted at Alas, a Blog.)

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