Nadya Suleman Receives Death Threats

From the AP wire:

LOS ANGELES – Police said Thursday they will investigate death threats against octuplet mom Nadya Suleman and advise her publicist on how to handle a torrent of other nasty messages that have flooded his office.

Word that the 33-year-old single, unemployed mother is receiving public assistance to care for the 14 children she conceived through in vitro fertilization has stoked furor among many people.

Police Lt. John Romero said officers were meeting with Suleman’s publicist Mike Furtney about the flood of angry phone calls and e-mail messages against Suleman, her children and Furtney.

“We are aware of the media accounts of the threats, and that they are being sent to the West Los Angeles detectives for appropriate action,” Romero said.

Furtney said 500 new e-mails were received early Thursday.

The logic here is impeccable. I don’t like the fact that I will have to indirectly help pay to take care of this woman’s children. Therefore, I will kill her, necessitating several foster parents, and thus HEIGHTEN the cost to the state, which I will still have to help pay.

Kugelmass has it right: this actually has very little to do with who has to pay what and how many kids an unemployed single mother should or shouldn’t have. You don’t get this type of widespread, hyper-violent reaction from a question of economics – not even, I would argue, from people disgusted with the Wall Street bailouts. No, this is about “the worship of motherhood and the hatred of mothers.” And I don’t think you can have one without the other.

(Cross-posted at Alas, A Blog.)

Why I’ve Stopped Talking About Gaza

Short answer: because I can’t think of anything to say.

A few days ago, I came across this video on Jewschool:

There’s a midrash on the Jacob story that Avraham Burg mentions in his new book. According to the story, Jacob was “anxious and distressed” as he went to fight his brother Esau. He was anxious, the Talmud explains, because he knew he might die – but he was distressed because he knew he might kill.

Even if the attack on Gaza were 100% justified – even if there was absolutely no other action Israel could have taken – don’t these people care about how un-Jewish it is to celebrate killing people? Even if you believe this had to be done, what about it makes you want to dance a horah? Even if you believe that every single Palestinian who has died deserved to die, why would the task of ending someone’s life make you happy?

I meant to write about that video days ago, but I was distracted by the slew of anti-Semitic comments on, ironically, two parts of an essay about anti-Semitism. If we can wrap our heads around the idea that one can do something racist without hating POC, then surely we can fathom that, say, denying the existence of Gentile privilege is anti-Semitic even if some of one’s best friends are Jewish. I want Gaza to be centered in anti-racist, anti-capitalist work right now simply because at the moment, their situation is one of the most desperate and time-sensitive. But I can’t stand it when non-Arab, non-Jewish Americans shriek that even mentioning global violence against Jews is somehow hurting Gazans, and then develop a fucking martyr complex when a Jew angrily points out that decrying Jewish liberation work is anti-Semitic. (I also can’t stand it when the rhetoric in a “discussion” becomes so angry and inflammatory that anti-Zionist Jews are accused of being self-hating and are basically forced to leave. Fuck. That. Shit.)

If you seriously can’t believe that we can work on dismantling anti-Semitism without advocating the deaths of Palestinians, then I doubt I can work with you. If you’re itching to leave a comment along the lines of, “Jewish liberation?! That means ZIONISM,* right!? You must be a Zionist, right!? Because only Zionists care about Jewish liberation!!” then for God’s sake, read a book or two before you accuse me of being a racist anti-Palestine warmongerer because I don’t like it when flaming cars are driven into synogogues.

(On the anti-Semitic attacks in Europe – you wouldn’t believe the number of people I’ve seen saying, “Well, those Israelis have to learn somehow.” If you can’t figure out the distinction between a European Jew and an Israeli, and if you can’t figure out that violence against any ol’ Jewish person probably isn’t stemming from a sincere desire to help Palestinians, then I say it again: I doubt I can work with you.)

I think Mandolin’s post is right on.

I saw Waltz With Bashir the other night. I’d planned on writing a very nice, eloquent review of it, but really it would have all boiled down to this: it helped me stay human. Please see this movie and stay human. Now if only Palestinian filmmakers could enjoy international exposure.

By the way, how do I personally feel about Zionism? Do I identify as a Zionist, an anti-Zionist, a non-Zionist, or a post-Zionist? I honestly don’t know. If we accept that Zionism has come to mean a Jewish state in Palestine, then I’m an anti-Zionist. If we were to consider a Zionism that meant a Jewish state anywhere, then, depending on how much violence or alienation I was personally experiencing, I would be either a Zionist or a non-Zionist (someone who supports a Jewish state but doesn’t plan on moving there). But I feel like the whole question of whether there should be a Jewish state is moot; the fact is, there is one, and it’s not going anywhere. So does that make me a post-Zionist? Not quite; that term means something slightly different. What about the question of keeping Israel Jewish? What will happen when/if Arab births outnumber Jewish births, and the ratio begins to change? More ethnic cleansing is unacceptable (even having to write that seems to diminish its truth) – but if Israelis let their national character change, do they risk violence against Jews? Why is addressing root causes always out of the question?

Why do I feel like any time I write something that’s not explicitly condemning the actions of Jews, readers are combing over my sentences, looking for anti-Palestinian oppression? Why can’t anyone accept that it’s harmful when so many liberal and radical Jews feel like our Jewish identities have to revolve around feeling ashamed of Israel? I’ve literally seen people – Jews! – claiming that Zionism is the sum total of Jewish identity. That doesn’t make any fucking sense! Maybe sometimes I want to read my great-grandmother’s letters or take my Yiddish classes without thinking about Israel!

I wanted this post to be about Gaza, but the truth is, I don’t know anything about Gaza. I’m sitting here in California with palm trees swaying outside my spacious apartment and I have no fucking clue.

I think I’m going to start using this blog, in part, to rediscover and examine Yiddish culture. Partly it’s because I suck at timely commentary. Partly it’s because a Youtube search reveals a wealth of Yiddish theater, music, and dance. Partly it’s because the introspective styles of writers like BFP, Joan Kelly, Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore, and Little Light have taught me more about activist work than even the best political commentary. Maybe, by developing a firmer idea of where I came from, I can stop defining myself against the people celebrating the deaths of Gazans. Maybe if we remember how vibrant Jewish cultures can be, we can funnel our energy into art and writing and dance instead of wars. Maybe we can do the same for American cultures, maybe even for white cultures. Please, please, please, someone tell me you’re with me on this.

(Cross-posted at Alas, A Blog.)

* I’m not even getting into the problem with the “Zionism=murderous bloodthirsty racism” mentality… maybe in another post. I know I can’t hope for people to just look it up themselves, or ever believe that early twentieth century European Jews could possibly have sensible reasons for wanting a state. I know it’s too troublesome and complicated to accept that, while the decision to “buy” Palestinian land was obviously racist and unjust, the desire to escape violence by forming autonomous territory was understandable.


I don’t really have much to say about it, but tonight’s the 70th anniversary, so I feel obligated to post something. If you’d like to read more, Wikipedia’s always useful.

In other news, white people are feeling free to toss around the word nigger.

In other other news, here’s a story about my election day. I tried to give an elderly couple No on 8 flyers but they wouldn’t take them. “We’re voting yes,” the man said. “We think it’s a good idea!”

I couldn’t help but think of all the casual hatred that has simmered throughout the centuries – all the people who have thought of themselves as well-meaning, sensible, just concerned. I came across another anti-“Zionist” tirade the other day, on a site linked to by a major feminist blogger. Its reasoning went like this: 1. There’s no such thing as a secular Jew who isn’t a Zionist. Religious Jews aren’t necessarily Zionists, but no non-religious person would ever want to be Jewish and not Zionist. (After all, Zionism’s 100% of all Jewish cultures, right?) 2. Anyone who cares about anti-Semitism is obsessed with anti-Semitism, and thus does not care about Palestinians. 3. If you think I’ve got a problem with Jews, re-read #2.

I tried not to let it get to me, but you can see that it did.


Prop 8

Last summer, when the California Supreme Court ruled same-sex marriage bans unconstitutional, I found it impossible to get excited. I didn’t know why. It just seemed too good to be true, so deep down I didn’t think it actually was true. Same-sex couples around me started getting married and I tried to be happy for them, but I never quite believed it.

And, well, now I know why. Because it was too good to be true.

Last night, I watched one of our organizers start crying as he realized we were going to lose. I didn’t know what I could possibly say to console him. The stakes were infinitely higher for him than for the homophobes cheering in Orange County. I think of all the other married couples my husband and I worked with on this campaign, and it breaks my heart.

That’s really all I can say at this point. My heart is broken.

(Cross-posted on Alas, A Blog)

Privilege in Action

Earlier this week, Fatemeh of Muslimah Media Watch wrote an open letter to white non-Muslim Western feminists on Muslimista. Some highlights:

There are those of us who suffer. But don’t speak of us as victims if we are not dead. Don’t deny the agency with which we become survivors and active shapers of our lives. Don’t ignore the fighting we do for ourselves.

We can—and do—speak for ourselves. So stop speaking for us.

I notice a lot of condescension and arrogance when you talk to us or about us. Let me be clear: you do not know more about us than we know about ourselves, our religion, our cultures, our families, or the forces that shape our lives. You do not know what’s best for us more than we do.

If we want help, and ask for it, then do only what you’re asked.

When I read this, I thought back to a post on Feministe about the headscarf ban in Turkey. The focus of the post was on Fatma Benli, a Muslim feminist fighting against the classism, sexism, and Islamophobia behind the ban. Many commenters, though, weren’t interested in solidarity – instead, all they could focus on were the poor backwards Muslim women who were so brainwashed by Islam that they couldn’t cast off their oppressive head coverings and be like us.

You can’t get much clearer than Fatemeh’s words – “You do not know what’s best for us more than we do” – and yet, in the comment thread at Muslimista, two Western men swoop in with the same old tropes. To be clear, they may not be feminists, but rather right-wing trolls. But their sentiments very closely echo things I’ve heard self-identified feminists say. You have the Sweeping Generalization of the World’s Second Largest Religion:

While I understand some of the sentiment in this letter, the position of women in Islam, and Islam itself, is a sorry state of affairs.

Islam as it is currently practiced is so far from its original intention, as to make it almost unrecognizable.

You got your That Thing I Heard About on the News is the Only Thing That Matters:

I hate to break it to you, but we’re going to be continuing to use our freedom of speech given to us by our constitution whether you like it or not. Personally, as someone who stands for basic human rights I have no choice but to speak out against the most extreme, vile, and offensive aspects of (radical?) Islam. I will continue to oppose public stonings as backward and barbaric which they are. I will continue to oppose honor murders, which happen every day and not only in muslim nations but in the USA as well. I will continue to raise awareness for the victims of jihad, both historically and today. And if you don’t like it thats just tough for you.

And in case we didn’t hear him the first time:

I will be offering help to cure the backwardness and evil of radical Islam whether you want to help or not. The most important step is to ban public stonings FOREVER.

(Later in the comments, Krista points out that stonings actually aren’t that common, and this commenter doesn’t have any response to that.)

Finally, throw in a little You’re Just in Denial:

While I understand that there is misplaced criticism and help, whether due to lack of knowledge or organizational agendas, to throw up the “your not Muslim,” and “there are colonial overtones” cards is a really poor excuse. It is just a veil for Islam not wanting to recognize it is no different from the other world religions, and get off its arse and reform itself.

See the pattern here? The actual needs and concerns of real Muslim women are beside the point. The REALLY pressing issue is that I totally heard somewhere that Islam is like bad and stuff, and there’s no way I could possibly be wrong about that! Because I’m white! And (often) male! Tremble before my superior culture! Watch, as I set your agenda for you without ever learning anything about you! Why would I degrade myself by taking orders from a brown woman – can you imagine? – when I could take a token action to save you from yourself? After all, white people are never the problem – brown people are! We’re the saviors, silly!

Another commenter points out that she does listen to the needs of Muslim women, and asks that Fatemeh not lump her in with “cultural imperialist feminists.” I’ll grant that this is a little more complicated. I still remember the sting the first time I heard harsh criticism directed at “white people” – as if we were a hive mind, and none of us were making any attempt to be good allies. So I get that it sucks (and Fatemeh responds very eloquently and effectively).

But there are bigger issues here than our feelings. We’re the ones with the power – locally and globally. If a POC lumps all white people together, a few white people get irritated. If a white person lumps all POC together, POC die. (Obviously there are exceptions to this, but I’m talking about the overall power structure.)

Also, it gets harder and harder to take it personally the more you see the shit they’re up against.

(Cross-posted at Alas, A Blog.)

Obama = Muslim Jew!!!

Or Jewish Muslim. Or Muslim Jewish atheist. Or atheist Muslim Jewish Muslim communist. What the fuck, America. What the fuck.

About 46 seconds in, look at the top of the effigy’s head:

(Via The Daily Dish. Thanks to Leila for the tip.)

I love how the star of David has become shorthand for everything that’s wrong with the non-Christian, non-white world. (Maybe that’s why I still can’t bring myself to wear mine regularly. It pains me to think that right-wingers are stealing our own symbol from us, just like they stole the word liberal.) What is the statement here? That Obama’s controlled by Jews? That Muslims are controlled by Jews? That Jews and Muslims and black people are all the same thing? And why didn’t the reporter mention the star in the description of the effigy?

Also, need I comment on how scary it is that this guy can hang A RACIST EFFIGY ON HIS FRONT LAWN and feel comfortable enough to discuss it – named – with the local media?

Racism, anti-Semitism, and other -isms always escalate in times of turmoil and economic distress, and we’re seeing that pretty clearly right now.

…you don’t say.

From the New York Times:

One of the fallacies this election season is that if Barack Obama is paying an electoral price for his skin tone, it must be because of racists.

On the contrary, the evidence is that Senator Obama is facing what scholars have dubbed “racism without racists.”

The racism is difficult to measure, but a careful survey completed last month by Stanford University, with The Associated Press and Yahoo, suggested that Mr. Obama’s support would be about six percentage points higher if he were white. That’s significant but surmountable.

Most of the lost votes aren’t those of dyed-in-the-wool racists. Such racists account for perhaps 10 percent of the electorate and, polling suggests, are mostly conservatives who would not vote for any Democratic presidential candidate.

Rather, most of the votes that Mr. Obama actually loses belong to well-meaning whites who believe in racial equality and have no objection to electing a black person as president — yet who discriminate unconsciously.

“In the U.S., there’s a small percentage of people who in nationwide surveys say they won’t vote for a qualified black presidential candidate,” Professor Dovidio said. “But a bigger factor is the aversive racists, those who don’t think that they’re racist.”

Faced with a complex decision, he said, aversive racists feel doubts about a black person that they don’t feel about an identical white. “These doubts tend to be attributed not to the person’s race — because that would be racism — but deflected to other areas that can be talked about, such as lack of experience,” he added.

One set of experiments conducted since the 1970s involves subjects who believe that they are witnessing an emergency (like an epileptic seizure). When there is no other witness, a white bystander will call for help whether the victim is white or black, and there is very little discrimination.

But when there are other bystanders, so the individual responsibility to summon help may feel less obvious, whites will still summon help 75 percent of the time if the victim is white but only 38 percent of the time if the victim is black.

Hey, Mainstream! Welcome to the party. Maybe now we can put to rest the idea that only KKK members are racists?

Or that only wife beaters are sexist?

Or that only neo-Nazis are anti-Semitic?

…yeah, I thought not.