Does anyone have a good strategy…

…for dealing with anti-Semitism that disguises itself as criticism of AIPAC and the ADL?

You know the shit I’m talking about. Those really shifty references to “Jewish money” and “Jewish lobbyists” and “the powerful Israel lobby” and “the Jewish right wing.” I’ve noticed that people are always careful not to make any blatant claims about “all” Jews; they usually just stick to things like, “I don’t have a problem with Jews in general but don’t you think it’s interesting that the Israel lobby is so powerful? No, of course the Jews aren’t controlling the American government, but why is the American government doing whatever Israel wants it to? All politicians have to get the approval of the right wing Jewish lobby. I’m just saying we all need to think about this, you know? Anti-Semitism sucks but, you know, I’m just saying. Here’s a link to an article that proves me right.”

How do you call them out on this? What facts do you bring up? What myths do you refute? What strategies have you found effective? (I realize that some people aren’t worth arguing with, but when these types of comments are out there on blogs and such, I want there to be a record of dissent and refutation.)

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14 Responses

  1. I don’t think anyone has ever come up with a “good” strategy for combating thinly veiled bigotry of any kind. That’s why so much of oppression theory has focused on the need to listen to the oppressed more carefully. But people don’t view Jews as oppressed – because we’re all wealthy, white and secretly pulling the strings that make others talk. Given that the discussion you point to, Jack, is at a site like Feministe, it’s amazing how few allies there are around. So, I don’t know about good strategies. Just do your best and don’t lose hope.

  2. Sure, *some* Jews hold policy positions that I find distasteful. And like every other bloc, they have lobbyists. Pointing out only the Jewish ones suggests your problem isn’t with their positions but their religion.

    “I don’t have a problem with Christians/women/feminists in general, you know, but isn’t it interesting how many of them have a problem with Jewish organizations?”

  3. i just sit back and watch as you school them. i do that as i have no idea how to combat such blatant ignorance. so you do the hard work, and i cheer in my head for how rad you are.

  4. Anti-Semitism is part and parcel of the radical Old Left. It goes all the way back to Marx, Bakunin and Proudhon and continues from there. Europe, the birthplace of the Old Left, is seeped in anti-Jewish thought and ideology. Europeans are the progenitors of classical anti-Semitism. So we are dealing with something that is very old and incredibly hard to combat.

    Anti-Zionism became an intrinsic part of radical left ideology when the New Left came on the scene in the 1960s. This anti-Zionism was fostered by a Third Worldist orientation that viewed Israel as a colonial state backed by imperialist powers.

    In contrast to radical leftists, social democrats and liberals have been much more open to Zionism as a complex and multi-faceted ideology and are much more critical of anti-Semitism. I can work with these folks. But trying to convince the radical left that Jewish people are anything but white oppressors engaged in Middle Eastern colonialism and apartheid is a big waste of time. They don’t know our history beyond some vague notions of the Holocaust and they really don’t care about us.

    When we were victims of pogroms and genocide, we were good guys. When we have power and succeed, we are evil. It really is that simple to these people.

    See:
    David Cesarani’s, “The Jews and the Left/ The Left and the Jews (Labour Friends of Israel, 2004)”. It used to be available as a PDF online but I was not able to locate it this morning.

    You can also check out my much less erudite posts “Leaving the Left: Anti-Zionism, Anti-Semitism and Jewish Response” at my blog. Here is Part One:
    http://newcentrist.wordpress.com/2008/06/20/leaving-the-radical-left-anti-zionism-anti-semitism-and-jewish-response-part-1/

  5. but marx was culturally jewish. did he become a self hating jew? having read a fair bit of marx i havent encountered any noticeable anti-semitism, but maybe my lenses werent on.

    and to be jewish doesnt mean one must be a zionist. to say the current politics of israel are problematic does not make one an anti-semite or any less jewish. to blame the problems of israel, and the problems of radical zionism on ALL jews is to be anti-semetic. equating judaism and zionism only fuels the fire of the anti-semites in the left.

    in my opinion anyway, i bow to the expertise of the girl detective and brown shoes if ive mispoken.

  6. Read Marx “On the Jewish Question” and then get back to me.

    Of course I realize their are non-Zionist Jews. I used to be one myself.

    I never said criticism of Israel or Zionism is anti-Semitic. I am critical of Israel.

    Anti-Zionism is another matter. To adhere to an ideology based on the denial of self-determination for a single people, the Jewish people, is anti-Semitic in intent if not in deed.

  7. I like the distinction between non-Zionism and anti-Zionism. I hadn’t known about that.

    One thing I’ve been wrestling with is the question of whether Zionism always has to center on Israel. A lot of people reject Zionism altogether because of the displacement of Palestinians – but in rejecting mass population upheaval, are they also forced to reject our right to self-determination? Can we uncouple Zionism from Israel? And is the whole question moot, now that Israel’s established and has its own population?

  8. Are you saying ” can we believe that Israel has a right to exist where it is and still object to the displacement of the Palestinians?” Sure. I believe it. I don’t know whether to call myself a Zionist or not – that’s one of the many things I’m wrestling with now. But I do believe it’s possible to criticize the policies of the Israeli government and even the way in which the state was created and still hold that the Jewish state has a right to exist.

  9. read the marx essay, and still juggling my thoughts about in my brain re: marx as an anti-semite. in ways i feel like the essay was just more of marx opposition to all religion, but he did cross lines into areas that are problematic too. i need to read more before i draw a conclusion.

    as to TGD on whether Zionism must center on Israel, my fiance and i have been talking about that basic question alot lately. obviously the jewish people have a right to freedom safety and peace as all people do, but what ways could this have been accomplished without displacing others. what ways would the world need to change before we saw a world without borders where people could settle where they please, where to relocate to jerusalem for religious reasons wasnt any more problematic than relocating to seattle for employment.

    i am uncomfortable with the idea of any state based around religion, but i worry about the ways jewish culture is being dissapeared in diaspora. sometimes when i think about all of this it feels like when i was a little kid and i would think about the universe and well, what happens at the edge of the universe? what lies beyond? how does something infinite work.

    how do we continue jewish culture, how do we ensure that jewish peoples are safe? how do we do all this without displacing other people? i mean, its not like we could give the jewish people some barely populated US state like nebraska and call it Israel. it wouldnt be Israel any more than my dog is a cat.

  10. Agree with Jay on the one point – the right of Israel to exist and criticizing the displacement of Palestinians or the atrocious situation in Gaza are not mutually exclusive – I’d argue the first point more than any other makes me a Zionist, and I think I’d like to reclaim the label of Zionist from the sorts of people who think Israel seems to be beyond criticism (curiously enough, the most vocal of these people don’t seem to be Jewish at all).

  11. i like that, reclaiming the label of Zionist, especially since it is often used as code by anti-semites for Jews in general. like just responding back to them “yeah, i’m a zionist, and what?”

    becos if you think about it, what is so damn wrong about believing that Jewish peoples deserve a home and safe haven? certainly the situation hasnt been ideally handled, but that doesnt mean Israel is the problem overall.

    afterall, i would very much like to go to the wailing wall in my lifetime, even before i converted to Judaism i felt the spiritual pull of that place. in order to go there without risking harm i need a safe and peaceful Israel and a safe and peaceful Palestine. when i look at it from that angle, i do have a personal stake in Israel remaining where it is and retaining peace.

    i swear the blogosphere makes my brain work far harder than any schooling ever has.

  12. becos if you think about it, what is so damn wrong about believing that Jewish peoples deserve a home and safe haven?

    This argument is like someone who responds to criticism of Conservatism by saying “what is so damn wrong about believing that we should have small government and maximize freedom?” There’s nothing necessarily wrong with that.. But in the current political context, just as “conservative” refers to a lot more than my example admits, “zionist” refers to a lot more than your argument admits.

  13. This argument is like someone who responds to criticism of Conservatism by saying “what is so damn wrong about believing that we should have small government and maximize freedom?” There’s nothing necessarily wrong with that.. But in the current political context, just as “conservative” refers to a lot more than my example admits, “zionist” refers to a lot more than your argument admits.

    well, obviously, but in the context of the conversation, i was under the impression there was talk of trying to bring the term back to what it actually meant. i’m a filthy pinko utopian socialist and i want freedom for everyone and a world without borders, but i dont think people of jewish faith should be attacked for thinking israel is a nice idea theoretically despite it not working out in any sort of positive way as currently implemented. joe liebermann doesn’t at all speak for or represent me, i don’t donate to aipac and never will, and as a lifelong pacifist i am opposed to all and any violence.

    all the sudden i feel like im trying to do exactly what this post was about, especially since everything i said about peace for israel AND palestine was ignored, as was my statement about not even being comfortable with the idea of a state based around any religion. im a humanistic jewish convert! i dont even believe in g-d! im also not certain how my agreeing with a previous comment made me the one who had to defend all use of zionist ever. my catholic lineage makes me want to go flog myself and put on a hair shirt now.

  14. whoa, ampersand, i just followed the link to your blog and i feel like a gigantic dick. sorry for jumping up your shit right then, its been a really really long weekend.

    really, the talk of reclaiming “zionist” reminds me of the libertarians from outside of the US who pop up on any blog that mentions libertarianism to point out that the US idea of libertarianism is far removed from the original meaning of the term. they want to keep the label but not be associated with the way it has been bastardized. they havent seemed to have had any success tho in changing the way the word is definied in the US.

    but would a new term make a difference to the sort of people TGD was talking about in the post? i mean, how are you supposed to respond to the people who use zionist as code for all jewish peoples or who blame “the jews” when they mean aipac and lieberman and very specific people? feminists got so tired of being called bitches and cunts that eventually some of us chose to just accept the terms and redefine them in positive ways. i feel like the people who complain about zionists and use that to mean all jewish peoples just might not deserve a long winded defense of “nuh uh, its very nuanced and while sometimes i think i might have support for the idea of israel that does not mean i support their actions” becos it isnt going to change their minds. do people who think that “the jews and all their filthy jewish money control the government and the banks and everything” and who refuse to even entertain any counter argument at all, do those people deserve any of our time beyond “yeah, im a zionist, and what?” becos at least then they cant spit it at you like its the dirtiest worse thing you could ever be.

    i live in the rural midwest and have ran into too many hateful white supremacists to handle anti-semitism calmly, which is why when these issues come up on other blogs that dont feel like safe spaces to actually discuss nuance i tend to keep my mouth shut. if i got called a zionist in real life, in that tone of voice where you kno exactly what was meant by it, i would probably go “yeah, and what” but when it comes to the interwebs, i talk about these things only in safe spaces. i dont have any answer for the question posed in this post, the trouble is it doesnt seem any of us do.

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