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Alvin Rosenfeld Responds to his Critics:

Professor Alvin Rosenfeld, as readers may recall, is the author of the AJC study identifying and criticizing "Progressive" Jews who express hatred of Israel. The study caused a stir after being completely mischaracterized by the New York Times as a study from a "conservative" organization attacking "liberal" Jews [email correspondence with the author of the piece suggests that she likely believes that anyone to the right of Jimmy Carter is "conservative"]. Rosenfeld has written a piece in The New Republic responding to his critics. Regular readers of this blog will note that Rosenfeld and I have noticed the same dynamic:

The ubiquitous rubric "criticism of Israel," however, has also come to designate another kind of discourse--one that has almost become a politico-rhetorical genre unto itself, with its own identifiable vocabulary, narrative conventions, and predictable outcomes. At its ideational core is what the British scholar Bernard Harrison calls a "dialectical scam." It goes something like this: (1) Spot an Israeli action that can serve as the ground of "criticism of Israel" (e.g., Israel's military incursion into the area near Jenin in April 2002 in response to Palestinian terrorist massacres); (2) Then "dissent" in the strongest possible terms, for instance by likening the "razing of Jenin" to the destruction of the Warsaw Ghetto, while anticipating that "powerful" and "repressive" Jewish institutions will try to "silence" the critics by calling them anti-Semites; (3) When taken to task by more sober-minded critics who find that, contrary to your charge, there was no such thing as "the razing of Jenin" and that the IDF has nothing in common with the SS, cry "foul" and claim their censure perfectly illustrates the point that there really is a Jewish organizational conspiracy to silence "criticism of Israel" by branding the authors of such criticism "anti-Semites." For some, this dialectical scam works nicely and validates their sense of themselves as intellectual martyrs suffering for a higher ideological cause. Once one is on to it, however, the scam readily dissolves into what it actually is: political bias, compounded by a touch of hysteria, masquerading as victimization.

M. Simon (mail) (www):
It used to be that Jews were criticized for not having a homeland - rootless Jews.

Now they are criticized for having one. The "evil state" meme then becomes operational.

You'd almost think that some kind of prejudice was at work here.
3.6.2007 11:30pm
Hoosier:
Martyrdom without loss or suffering! What will intellectuals come up with next?

This scam fits into the "safe act of courage" category. Which I keep over in the corner with my collection square circles and well-crafted hair-metal cd's.
3.6.2007 11:51pm
Gideon Kanner (mail):
The process is more insidious than that because it judges identical acts by widely different standats.
Thus, we build a wall on the border to keep hungry Mexicans from crossing it to get jobs and that's OK. The Israelis build fences with a few wall segments to keep terrorists out and it's a "Berlin wall."
According to the LA Times it can take four hours to cross the Mexican border and that's, alas, necessary, but if it takes four hours to ccross an Israeli check point, that an outrage.
We in Southerm California live in gringo settlements on land conquered from Mexico and that's OK, but the Israeli "settlements" are "am obstacle to peace."
American troops are fired on in Afghanistan and fire back killing 19 Afghans, and it's a case of c'est la guerre. The Israelis are fired on and fire back hitting a couple of Arabs and it's an ourageous massacre.
3.7.2007 2:54am
logicnazi (mail) (www):
It's not a scam. These people really honestly believe that the Israeli actions are as bad as they claim they are and that it is readily apparent to any objective observer. They call reasoned rational criticism part of a conspiracy because it seems to them that's the only explanation for how one could ignore what seems blindingly obvious to them. I mean it is no more reasonable to call this a scam than it is to call a schizophrenic's conclusion that you must be in on the conspiracy because you pretend not to hear the voices a scam.

This dynamic is hardly unique to Israel. It's a frequent result of in group dynamics. It's present (in a lesser form) when conservatives decide that religion or Christmas is under attack and then blast the 'liberal media' for ignoring it. It's present when the crazy liberals in Berkeley demand some ridiculous anti-business policy and then rant about how the corporations control everything.

Unfortunately almost everyone likes feeling self-righteous and thinking they are the beleaguered minority fighting the good fight. Combine this with the unfortunate tendency of people only search out confirming evidence and you end up with a situation where each group thinks it is so obviously write only some bias could explain why everyone doesn't agree.

Israel is just a really extreme example because the emotions run so high and the self-selection of evidence (particularly by the Palestinians) is worse than normal.
3.7.2007 4:06am
Justin (mail):
It makes it hard to support Israel with such disingenuous and slanderous arguments like Rosenfeld's being at the forefront of the movement.

The only reason that I remain a supporter of Israel is that he and his allies didn't tend to be (relatively) right on the merits. Just because Israel is deserved of support and is often wrongly blamed for certain actions does not mean that there isn't a group of powerful supporters of Israel who lobby the government in favor of that support (in a way only Cuban refugees even approach, in terms of lobbying to support allies or oppose enemies), and who overuse the anti-ssemitism card in a way that makes even Jews like me cringe.
3.7.2007 9:34am
Justin (mail):
BTW,

I do agree very much with what logicnazi says, although I think his phrasing may be a little over the top. Just because the anti-Israel group (which in my view is a more accurate term than pro-Palestinian, unfortunately) is wrong doesn't mean they're disingenuous, anymore than conservatives would claim that this Administration's many errors in the Iraq war is due to bad motives (reasonable people can disagree, to some extent, on that one).
3.7.2007 9:37am
davidbernstein (mail):
If one reads Rosenthal carefully, he is using "scam" not in the sense of that the perpetrators are intentionally being deceitful, but in the sense of "fallacy that many people fall for." After all, if they knew they were "scammers", it wouldn't validate their sense of self to engage in it.
3.7.2007 10:09am
Justin (mail):
Well, DB, if you redefine the argument as "powerful pro-Israel lobby" that tends to use "anti-semitism" as a way to avoid criticism (even when their positions can be defended on the merits), I do not think that its a fallacy. The idea that AIPAC and the neoconservatives (who, incidentally, are hardly all Jewish, but are still uniformly pro-Israel) hold a lot of sway in Washington is pretty self-evident.
3.7.2007 10:24am
davidbernstein (mail):
Rosenfeld's point, which is absolutely correct as I've previously documented, is that pro-Israel forces get accused of hysterically crying anti-Semitism when they do and it's rather obviously justified, when they don't, and even when they don't and they explicitly disclaim that they are accusing anyone of anti-Semitism. And, and Walt and Mearsheimer so blatantly show, individuals with no affiliation with any organized group are lumped into this "powerful pro-Israel lobby" and are held responsible for whatever idiot comments any other pro-Israel person may make. I'm against anti-Semitism, and thus I suppose by M&W's lights part of the "anti-anti-Semitism lobby" but that hardly makes me responsible for Abe Foxman's counter-productive and overwrought campaign against The Passion of the Christ.
3.7.2007 11:15am
Israelli Team:
These are all interesting points, but for a look on what life is all about in Israel visit www.isrealli.org. It is amazing what this country has to offer in terms of culture, science, technology, life style amidst the demanding political situation.
3.7.2007 11:19am
Justin (mail):
I don't think Rosenfeld's point is "absolutely" correct, or in any ways, correct. As I pointed out before, the conflation is with anti-Israel bias and anti-semitism, something significant parts of the pro-Israel lobby has been trying to conflate for years (they've also, very ironically, tried to conflate "the pro-Israel lobby" and Judaism), but are completely different, athough neither are normative "good" traits.
3.7.2007 12:45pm
Federal Dog:
"This scam fits into the "safe act of courage" category."


The delusion is exactly like claiming to "speak truth to power," when there is nothing quite so lucrative or safe or applauded as attacking Israel (or Bush, or the US, or white males, or whatever ultra safe target they have identified as the brunt of their current outrage).
3.7.2007 3:44pm
JohnAnnArbor (www):

something significant parts of the pro-Israel lobby has been trying to conflate for years

Just because this may be true does NOT mean that all those who point out errors in anti-Israeli positions are accusing those holding the positions of anti-Semitism.
3.7.2007 3:59pm
Justin (mail):
"Just because this may be true does NOT mean that all those who point out errors in anti-Israeli positions are accusing those holding the positions of anti-Semitism."

I obviously realize that, as I think the anti-Israel group is mostly wrong but also mostly not anti-semetic. But my point was not just that there was more charges of anti-semitism that DB's argument seems to allow, but there are rarely any responses by the left that claim unfair charges of anti-semitis, except in response to actual (explicit or clearly implied) charges. DB makes this broad assertion that this happens frequently, but he cannot possibly back it up except by pointing to people who are making more general arguments (like Richard Cohen, who is, surprise, jewish) that accurately respond to the above mentioned general charges.
3.7.2007 4:27pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
Justin, although "anti-Israel bias and anti-semitism are "completely different," the population of people who fit into each category overlap significantly. Indeed, one might suggest that the latter is a near-subset of the former.

You compare it to Cuba, but when people criticize our nation's Cuban policy, they normally discuss the powerful Cuban voting bloc in a swing state; they don't blame a cabal of Cuban-Americans in the government who have an agenda, "dual loyalty," and who put Cuba's interests ahead of the U.S.'s.
3.7.2007 5:00pm
Yankev (mail):
You compare it to Cuba, but when people criticize our nation's Cuban policy, they normally discuss the powerful

Cuban voting bloc in a swing state; they don't blame a cabal of Cuban-Americans in the government who have an agenda, "dual loyalty," and who put Cuba's interests ahead of the U.S.'s.


To say nothing of the accusation that Cubans generally control the nation's press, entertainment system and banking sytem, and use their power to punish anyone who exposes their power, their treason, and the evil nature of their goals.

Nor would such accusations, if made, be able to draw upon millennia-old stereotypes about Cubans.
3.7.2007 5:22pm
Justin (mail):
I think both David N. and Yankev points are off.

David claims that "Indeed, one might suggest that the latter is a near-subset of the former." Although I don't actually believe this is true (I've met more than my share of pro-Israeli antisemetic evangelical Christians in the South, where my father used to live until he made his way down to Orlando), I'll stipulate it for a second. So what? The question isn't whether antisemites are pro or anti Israel, but whether pro-Israel folks are antisemetic. My view, and this comes from knowing a fairly large group of anti-Israel people and anti-war radicals, is that they're not. Indeed, a substantial portion of this group *is* Jewish, and unless you're Muslim, you can't play any meaningful role in any of the major anti-Israel groups without finding yourself amongst quite a large number of Jews.

"cabal of Cuban-Americans in the government who have an agenda, "dual loyalty," and who put Cuba's interests ahead of the U.S.'s."

Well, that's in part because while the Cubans have a large influence on the government, they're rarely found within the government itself. And also because you're overstating the accusations made by anti-Israel people.

But while these claims are unfortunate (and untrue) they're once again based on anti-Israel bias. And the point I was making was that the pro-Israel lobby is *unique*, and they are, as you very much mention. Jews don't make up a substantial voting bloc of any important state, and in any event, they tend to vote (in large numbers) against the candidates that AIPAC supports.

Yankev, on the other hand, is describing certain allegations that are completely nonexistent amongst any even remotely mainstream anti-Israel orgranization or population (with the possible exception of radical Muslims, which are a completely different breed of people than the ones I am used to dealing with). Yankev's description is more KKK, Neonazis, militia allegations - and those guys are voting *FOR* AIPAC's candidates most of the time.
3.7.2007 5:53pm
Bill Patry (mail) (www):
I find it impossible to stomach the assertion that those who claimed there was a massacre believed it. One can easily recall the distorted perspectives of photographs at the time, deliberately used to give the false impression that vast swathes of the city were under assault. And then there were the deliberately false statements made, recounted here in the Weekly Standard a month after the event:

PRECISELY A MONTH AGO, on April 8, the Palestinian news agency Wafa was reporting that Israel had committed the "massacre of the 21st century" in the Palestinian refugee camp in Jenin. "Medical sources" informed Wafa of "hundreds of martyrs." This was a lie, concocted not only for local consumption--to keep the Palestinian people whipped up in a patriotic, Israel-hating frenzy--but mostly for export to the West.

That same day, you could hear breathless reports of the supposed Israeli atrocities in Jenin being spread by Palestinian sources on NPR, CNN, and elsewhere. Typical was the hysteria of Nasser al-Kidwa, the Palestinian representative to the United Nations, on CNN: "There's almost a massacre now taking place in Jenin. Helicopter gun ships are throwing missiles at one square kilometer packed with almost 15,000 people in a refugee camp. . . . Just look at the TV and watch, watch what the--what the Israel forces are doing. . . . This is a war crime, clear war crime, witnessed by the whole world, preventing ambulances, preventing people from being buried. I mean this is an all-out assault against the whole population."
3.7.2007 6:01pm
Justin (mail):
PS - alot of the pro-Israeli that we're discussing - Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Bremer, Dick Cheney, Jenae Kirkpatrick, William Bennett, Peter Rodman (I think), Max Boot, Gary Bauer, and Charles Krauthaummer (I think), are, you know, not Jewish. When the anti-Israel people attack them, is it because of anti-Semitism? I'm not so sure.

What, of course, is missing from this, is tangible and credible quotes from real anti-Israel people accusing people of attacking them as anti-Semetic who had clearly not, or at least a list of anti-Israel people who are "clearly" antisemetic. DB posits that a substantial number of people fit into one of these groups, but nobody has bothered to list a single one.
3.7.2007 6:04pm
ed o:
usually, the anti-semitic and anti-Israeli and anti-Zionist share one characteristic-they hate jews and wouldn't much fret if they died in the millions for a second time in 100 years. why work so hard to excuse these people?
3.7.2007 6:06pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
Justin, you make this same insinuation twice:
Jews don't make up a substantial voting bloc of any important state, and in any event, they tend to vote (in large numbers) against the candidates that AIPAC supports.
and
Yankev's description is more KKK, Neonazis, militia allegations - and those guys are voting *FOR* AIPAC's candidates most of the time.
The implication in both cases is that AIPAC is Republican. This is, of course, entirely false.

The only way I can see one getting there is to work backwards from the false claim that everyone who is pro-Israel is a "Likudnik," and therefore "right wing," and therefore "Republican."

Not only is AIPAC -- despite its acronym -- not a PAC, and therefore it doesn't endorse or oppose any candidates, or even rate them, but it doesn't have any informal affiliation with the G.O.P., either. (It couldn't possibly be as effective as it is if it were tied to one party.) Even if we take your phrase "AIPAC's candidates" as shorthand slang for people who support AIPAC's policy agenda, it's just wrong. Democrats are just as likely to be "AIPAC's candidates" as Republicans are.
3.7.2007 9:03pm
Waldensian (mail):

Unfortunately almost everyone likes feeling self-righteous and thinking they are the beleaguered minority fighting the good fight.

Agreed. For example, consider the concept of the "victimized white male."
3.7.2007 10:42pm
Federal Dog:
"consider the concept of the "victimized white male."

What about it?
3.8.2007 7:47am
Justin (mail):
AIPAC isn't "Republican" but in the past six years has supported neoconservative policies and candidates actively when they were up against other candidates.
3.8.2007 10:10am
Justin (mail):
PS - Matthew Yglesias (who, surprise, is Jewish) has written extensively on the pro-Israel lobby, and I believe is publishing a book on the article. From personal knowledge, he does occasionally receive emails accusing him of anti-semitism.
3.8.2007 10:12am
markm (mail):

It's not a scam. These people really honestly believe that the Israeli actions are as bad as they claim they are and that it is readily apparent to any objective observer.

Always remember, to most people an opinion in the realms of politics and religion isn't something they come to by examining the evidence and logically considering various possibilities. It's a mark of group membership. They decide what group they want to belong to, adopt that group's beliefs, and then try to find rationalizations for these beliefs.

But it's a very sorry thing when academia is run by people to whom "first conclude, then investigate" is standard operating procedure.
3.8.2007 12:29pm
davidbernstein (mail):
Yglesias is also someone who routinely accuses people of misusing allegations of anti-Semitism, even when they explicitly disclaimed making that allegation, as I documented in a prior post. He's also way too soft on individuals who express offensive, even if not intrinsically anti-Semitic, opinions about Israel.
3.8.2007 1:49pm
Yankev (mail):

Yankev's description is more KKK, Neonazis, militia allegations


You obviously did not see some of the comments directed at Sen. Lieberman at Daily Kos and other "progressive" venues during last year's CT Democratic primary. Among other accusations from the "progressive" left was that Jews care only about other Jews, that Sen. Lieberman took orders from Israel and puts Israel's welfare ahead of the US, snide comments about his wife supposedly being named after "something you eat on Passover", among other charming comments. I also invite you to view some of the photos at Zombietime and Protest Warriors web sites, which show numbersous anti-Semitic signs and banners displayed at various "peace" marches staged by the progressive left.

Jesse Jackson made anti-Semitism respectable again in mainstream politics. Walt Mondale, by condemning Farrakhan and giving Jesse Jackson a pass, condoned it. Thirty years ago and more it seemed you were more likely to hear anti-Semitic conspiracy theories from the right. Now they are more likely to come from the left, and seem to be relegated to the extreme margins of the right.
3.8.2007 2:14pm
Harry Eagar (mail):
Justin sez: 'The idea that AIPAC and the neoconservatives (who, incidentally, are hardly all Jewish, but are still uniformly pro-Israel) hold a lot of sway in Washington is pretty self-evident.'

Maybe because they have a good argument. Hardly anybody in Washington is agitating for a return to the gold standard, either, but that's because gold-buggery is a bad idea, not because of some political conspiracy.
3.8.2007 5:27pm
Christopher Cooke (mail):
The problem I have with David B.'s post is that it is impossible to know if Israeli critics do frequently claim to be victims of a false charge of anti-semitism, or if they are frequently falsely accused of it. How can one quantify this? You can't.

I suspect that those who are fervent supporters of Israel think it happens alot, just as fervent critics of Israel believe they are falsely accused of anti-semitism as part of an effort to silence their criticisms. In short, everyone looks in their own mirror of Erised (see Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone) and sees what he or she most wants to see. I for one we would get away from these labels and denunciations, and focus on the issues and ideas that the speakers advance.
3.8.2007 10:49pm
Yankev (mail):

I for one we would get away from these labels and denunciations, and focus on the issues and ideas that the speakers advance.



This is what makes Natan Sharansky's "functional anti-Semitism" analysis so useful. According to Sharansky, if the supposed criticism lapses into what he calls the "three D's" -- Double Standard, demanding that Israel conform to norms demanded of no other state, and overlooking far worse violations by Israel's enemies; Demonisation, blaming Israel for the world's ills in general, or false comparisons of Isreal to the Nazis or to Apartheid; and Deligitimization, arguing that Israel has no right to exist as a state. If these three tests are me, argues Sharansky, it does not much matter whether the critic is motivated by deliberate and concscious anti-Semitism, the functional affect is the same.
3.9.2007 10:02am