Archive | Anti-Semitism

Mockery of the Obamacare Pajama Boy Anti-Semitic?

That’s the claim made by one Jay Michaelson in the Forward:

Yes, Virginia, Pajama Boy is a member of the tribe. Look at him. Pale Ashkenazic skin, Jew-fro’d black curls, Woody Allen specs. Even the smart-ass expression on his face screams of the Wise Son from the Passover Seder.Parenthetically, the model himself is one Ethan Krupp, an Organizing for America staffer who is, in fact, Jewish. But whether Krupp himself is circumcised or not, Pajama Boy is semiotically Jewish, even stereotypically so.

Nope, not a satire. And more:

In fact, Pajama Boy stands at a centuries-old nexus of anti-Semitism and misogyny. As many scholars, including Sander Gilman, David Biale, Paula Hyman, Matti Bunzl, John Efron, and Daniel Boyarin have shown, Jewish men have been accused of being unmanly for hundreds of years – including by other Jews, such as the early Zionists, whose muscular Judaism was a direct response to diaspora Jewish emasculation. This is an old, old motif. The Jew is the Other is the Effeminate is the Liberal. He is the urbanite, the parasite, the usurer, the lawyer. His effeminacy corrupts the Volk or the Heartland or the real American values. He wouldn’t know how to drive a pick-up truck if it was on cruise control. And he definitely votes for Obama. Really, what’s “metrosexual” about Pajama Boy, anyway? The fact that he’s wearing pajamas? Drinking a hot beverage? No – it’s the way in which he so perfectly fits the Right’s image of the liberal Jewish girly-man. There’s a real “masculinity,” and then there’s whatever it is that Pajama Boy is embodying. (For the record, I have no idea whether Krupp is gay or straight. Neither do his haters.)

Still not a satire. Seriously, while I’m aware of the sort of anti-Semitism Michaelson is referring to, [...]

Continue Reading 0

Northwestern Can’t Quit ASA Over Boycott Because it is Not a Member

Northwestern University recently condemned the American Studies Association boycott of Israel. Unlike some other schools that quit their institutional membership in the ASA over the boycott, Northwestern has not. Many of my Northwestern colleagues were about to start urging a similar withdrawal.

Then we learned from our administration that despite being listed as in institutional member by the ASA, the university has, after checking, concluded it has no such membership, does not plan to get one, and is unclear why the ASA would list us as institutional member.

Apparently, at least several other schools listed by the ASA as institutional members say they have no such relationship.

The ASA has been spending a great deal of energy on political activism far from its mission, but apparently cannot keep its books in order. The association has yet to explain how it has come to list as institutional members so many schools that know nothing about such a membership. The ASA’s membership rolls may get much shorter in the coming weeks even without any quitting.

How this confusion came to arise is unclear. ASA membership, like that of many academic organizations, comes with a subscription to their journal. Some have suggested that perhaps the ASA also counts as members any institution whose library happened to subscribe to the journal, ie tacking on membership to a subscription, rather than vice versa. This would not be fair on their part. A library may subscribe to all sorts of journals for academic research purposes (ie Pravda), without endorsing the organization that publishes it. That is the difference between subscription and membership.

I eagerly await the ASA’s explanation of the situation. [...]

Continue Reading 0

BDS Advocate Roger Waters Holds Some Strange Views about Jews

Last week I wrote about the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement against Israel and the tenuous foothold it is getting in the American academy. I also happened to read an article that led me to think about how some individuals are so convinced that Israel is obviously evil that he believes that something must be amiss with “the Jews” if so many of them not only can’t see what he sees, but actively defend the evil state. Whether the fact that it doesn’t occur to him that a reasonable person might disagree with his understanding of Israel is itself a reflection of preexisting latent anti-Jewish prejudice or is simply the hallmark of a dogmatic ideologue who is not immune to anti-Jewish feelings assumedly depends on the individual in question.

Roger Waters (of Pink Floyd fame) has helpfully pulled the two things I was thinking about together. Waters is perhaps the most outspoken Western artist who supports the BDS movement, and is very active in attempts to get others to boycott Israel.

Given some controversial imagery he has used at his concerts, has been at pains to deny that he is at all motivated by anti-Semitism. Here he is in September, in an interview with the Israeli newspaper, Yediot Ahoronot:

“I absolutely defend my right to express myself in my artwork in the way that I find the most appropriate and fitting. The Star of David is the symbol of the state of Israel. If you start to throw around the term “anti-Semite” at everyone who criticizes Israel – and that’s what they’re actually doing – that weakens your next attack on people who really are anti-Semites, ones that really don’t like Jews or Judaism or anything connected with it. I’m not an anti-Semite.”

“Two years ago, I explained

Continue Reading 0

British Author Howard Jacobson on Left-Wing Anti-Semitism

Regular readers will recognize some themes from my blogging on related matters. Jacobson:

If we are to talk of tactics, then routinely accusing your critics of employing illegitimate tactics is a common, illegitimate tactic in itself. This particular one — that, as every criticism of anti-Zionism is motivated by bad faith, there can be no fair criticism of anti-Zionism — is widespread. The syllogism goes like this: Not all critics of Israel are anti-Semites. I am a critic of Israel. Therefore I am not an anti-Semite.

In this way has anti-Zionism become an inviolable space. Question it and you are deemed to have cried anti-Semitism (this, whether you have or you haven’t), and since to cry anti-Semitism is a foul, no position from which it is rational to question anti-Zionism remains allowable. By the infernal logic of this magic circle, the anti-Zionist is doubly indemnified, firstly against any criticism of his position whatsoever, since the status of such criticism has been reduced to that of “tactic,” and secondly against the original accusation of anti-Semitism, which anti-Zionism cancels out….

So now, the Jew is mistrusted, not for what he is, but for the anti-Semitism of which he is the cause. And no Jew is more the cause of anti-Semitism than the Jew who speaks of anti-Semitism.
Jews are considered to have forgone their right to own even a part-share in defining anti-Semitism, or to judge the extent to which they are, or indeed ever were, its victims. By virtue of their failure to learn the lessons of the Holocaust and implement them in Israel — or indeed in any other parts of the world they continue to scheme, lobby and exploit — they have cancelled out all entitlement to the usual decencies, let alone the usual legalities, in matters

Continue Reading 0

Europe’s Proposed Circumcision Ban: How Far Back We’ve Gone While Making Progress

The Council of Europe in Strasbourg has recommended nations consider banning child circumcision. Jewish groups, and the State of Israel, are predictably outraged by the recommendation, which if adopted would make traditional (and not just religious) Jewish life impossible on the Continent. Thus the law has been denounced as anti-Semitic.

While I have recently criticized European hypocrisy in matters related to Jews, here I find little to object to as a formal matter. European nations are well within their rights to ban such practices, despite the significant disruption it creates for religious minorities.

If democratically adopted, such bans would mean that a significant segment of European society thinks, as the Council said, that circumcision represents a barbaric mutilation of a child. That is a legitimate position of conscience; indeed, it is a quasi-religious belief itself, in that it is based on deeply held moral views about essentially unverifiable matters. As a believer in the covenant of Abraham I do not share these views, but they are far from absurd if one does not accept the validity of the covenant.

A majority has a legitimate right and interest to conduct society according to its moral views when articulated in laws that are generally and equally applied. Government is in part an instrument for the expression and transmission of values, and all legislation takes explicit or implicit moral positions. If the values that stand behind generally applicable legislation conflict with the views of religious or ethnic minorities, the majority should not be neutered or have its values annulled to protect the sensibilities of minorities who hold different views.

There are some who think the law is discriminatory, aimed at the religious groups who practice circumcision. It seems to me that circumcision, in a non-religious context, is common [...]

Continue Reading 0

“Free Gaza” Movement Founder Greta Berlin Promotes Anti-Semitic Nuttiness

First she sent out a tweet on Sept. 30 from @freegazaorg, stating that “Zionists operated the concentration camps and helped murder millions of innocent Jews.” The tweet linked to a video claiming, among other things, that the word “Nazi” combines the words “National Socialist” and “Zionist.”

Berlin and the movement later put out an improbable excuse claiming that the tweet was for a private group “discussing propaganda and racism, and this link was an example of the terrible propaganda that could be spewed on websites.” Ali Abunimah of the Electronic Intifada, a leading pro-Palestinian activist who tries to police his side of things to prevent it from being discredited by the anti-Semites who are naturally attracted to it, investigated and concluded that the claimed “context does not exist.”

Larry Derfner then interviewed her, and asked her about this and other instances in which she has seemed to promote anti-Semitic views (including those of Gilad Atzmon). She claims that Abunimah looked into the wrong private internet group, and that she was referring to another group. But she still refuses to release screen shots of the purported discussion in question to show the “context,” if indeed it exists. Derfner nevertheless believes her, or at least finds no reason not to believe her. Others might not be as credulous. Naomi Klein has resigned from the Free Gaza Movement’s Board of Advisors. Bishop Desmond Tutu, among others, remains. [...]

Continue Reading 0

Gilad Atzmon Update

Readers will recall the controversy over the University of Chicago’s John Mearsheimer’s endorsement of a recent anti-Semitic book, The Wandering Who, by notorious anti-Semitic provocateur Gilad Atzmon.  When Atzmon’s background and anti-Jewish passages from the book were called to Mearsheimer’s attention, to even his harshest critics’ surprise instead of backing down he reaffirmed his endorsement.  Almost no one defended Mearsheimer, save his University of Chicago colleague Brian Leiter, and, less prominently, libertarian activist Sheldon Richman (who I’ve known and otherwise liked for years, but who has a serious blind spot when Israel-related issues come to his attention.)

The latest news is that the “Electronic Intifada” website, which is exactly what its name suggests, has published an open letter signed by various self-described “Palestine Solidarity Activists,” calling for “the disavowal of Atzmon by fellow Palestinian organizers, as well as Palestine solidarity activists, and allies of the Palestinian people, and note the dangers of supporting Atzmon’s political work and writings and providing any platforms for their dissemination.” Perhaps to preempt Atzmon’s inevitable claim that this is further evidence of a Jewish conspiracy against him, all of the signers have noticeably Arab names.

Signators include such dubious characters as Columbia’s Joseph Massad.  As the Elder of Ziyon blog puts it, these activists found “Atzmon’s nutty anti-semitic rantings too crazy – even for them.” But not, apparently, too crazy for Mearsheimer and friends.

H/T Reader Louis Offen

UPDATE: I missed an earlier letter along the same lines, signed by dozens of far left “Palestine Solidarity” activists.  Apparently, though, not everyone has gotten the message–I see that Atzmon spoke today at the Mount Vernon Place United Methodist Church in D.C., and is speaking tomorrow at “Peace House.”

A postscript to this earlier letter states, “We wish to reiterate that we [...]

Continue Reading 0

Glenn Greenwald and the Neocons

Greenwald has another post on the “Israel Firster” controversy.  It’s easy to miss this in Greenwald’s typical avalanche of verbiage, but he (finally) acknowledges that the term was originally coined by anti-Semites, and is “gratuitously inflammatory.” He analogizes it to using the word “fascist”  to describe contemporary politics or making comparisons to Nazis.

This, however, is just a side point in a screed that among other things takes to task Jeffrey Goldberg and others for “smears.” The accusation that Goldberg is accusing Greenwald and others of being anti-Semitic and anti-Israel as a way of attempting to silence them.  Goldberg can speak for himself, as he has previously in response to Greenwald. [UPDATE: VC Commentor Eyeysay notes that Greenwald was far from precise in characterizing Goldberg’s comments.]

But what I find remarkable is that in a post devoted to “smears,” “silencing,” “trite attacks,” and the misuse of language for political purposes, Greenwald refers to Goldberg as a “neocon,”  even though, to my knowledge, Goldberg’s political views are centrist leaning a bit to the left, and Goldberg has no obvious associations with the Commentary crowd or other centers of neocon thought.

More within my direct sphere of knowledge, Greenwald links to one of my posts while putting me in the category of “neocons like Goldberg.”  I’ve written about neoconservatism a fair amount, and when I’ve provided a normative opinion, I am always very critical (for example, here and here; there are other examples, but the VC’s move to a new host seems to have ruined the links, at least for now.)

Really, the only relevant things Jeffrey Goldberg and I–a moderate and a libertarian, respectively–have in common, and therefore the only reason to refer to us as “neocons,” is that we are both Jews who are far more favorably inclined toward [...]

Continue Reading 181

Glenn Greenwald on Anti-Semitism

Glenn Greenwald has a very Glenn Greenwaldesque post on the controversy over alleged use of anti-Semitic language by bloggers at the Center for American Progress, which I discussed last week.

One would never know from reading Greenwald’s piece that the controversy primarily revolved around the use of the term “Israel-firster” to describe supporters of Israel, much less that one can say two things about that term without much fear of contradiction: (1) it originated on the neo-Nazi fringe, and has only been adopted by left-wingers in the last few years; (2) it’s a term that not only substitutes insults for argument, but it implies loyalty to a foreign power, a longstanding theme in anti-Semitic literature.

As I said before, that doesn’t make the phrase somehow “objectively” anti-Semitic if used by individuals who had no anti-Jewish intent. However, as I also noted, most people of good will try to avoid using phrases related to Jews once they recognize that they have the odor of neo-Naziism about them (and indeed the CAP bloggers deleted the posts in question after the controversy broke). Others, however, like Greenwald, continue to think the phrase perfectly appropriate.

Moreover, left-wing writers tend to be especially sensitive about using language that has potentially racist implications, and also tend to be quick to accuse others of using “dog whistle” phrases–phrases that sound neutral, but are meant to stir racial animosity or invoke racial stereotypes.

In Greenwald’s defense, unlike many other left-wing anti-Israel writers who are quick to reject colorable charges of anti-Semitism, he has been a fearless opponent of political correctness, and has defended Republicans and conservatives from questionable charges of racism.

Actually, that’s not true. Actually, the opposite is true. Here, for example, is Glenn Greenwald in 2008, accusing John McCain of delivering “one of [...]

Continue Reading 170


There has been a controversy brewing over allegations that several bloggers at the liberal Center for American Progress have used anti-Semitic rhetoric when criticizing Israel and its American Supporters. Critics have particularly focused on these bloggers’ use of the term “Israel-firster.”

I haven’t paid all that much attention to the controversy, but today I came across a piece by Jamie Kirchik in which he alleges that the term “Israel-firster” was first popularized by Willis Carto’s anti-Semitic The Spotlight, and that the term gradually migrated from the anti-Semitic far right to the “Progressive” left.

So I decided to do some research. I couldn’t find any online archives of The Spotlight, but here is what I did find.

The “Israel-firster” slur was not used in “mainstream” discourse until the last few years.

Before that, you can find it occasionally in the early 1980s and 1990s in sources such as Wilmot Robertson’s anti-Semitic Instauration journal, a 1988 anti-Semitic book called “The F.O.J. [Fear of Jews] Syndrome, and a 1998 anti-Semitic book “Rise of AntiChrist.” I also found a couple of references to “Israel-firsters” in the extremist anti-Israel publication, The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, and from writers associated with this journal.

By the early 2000s, one can find “Israel-firster” being used by a variety of anti-Semitic “right-wing” sources like and the Vanguard News Network. As the decade wore on, the phrase occasionally pops up in far left anti-Israel sites that have ties to the anti-Semitic far-right or are known for playing footsie with anti-Semitism, like, Norman Finkelstein’s website, and Indymedia.

Finally, over the last few years the term has become increasingly used on the anti-Israel far left, especially by blogger M. J. Rosenberg of Media Matters, who Kirchik calls the “worst offender.”

Obviously, the phrase “Israel-firster” should [...]

Continue Reading 389

The original meaning of the 14th Amendment regarding interracial marriage

Over at Balkinization, Andrew Koppelman (Northwestern) has an interesting and thoughtful post on the state of originalism. Synthesizing analysis by Jamal Greene and Jack Balkin, Koppelman writes, “Originalism is fundamentally about a narrative of rhetorical self-identification with the achievements of a founding historical moment. That is the real basis of its power. An originalist argument will be powerful to the extent that can persuade its audience that it can keep faith with that identification.”

Thus, “Originalist argument is an artifact designed to recall the Constitution’s origin and connect what we are doing now with that origin. Once this functional definition of originalism is understood, it follows that the range of possible original arguments is quite broad. It is not, however, infinite.” So, argues Koppelman, the fact that originalists differ among themselves in many important details about what “originalism” really is, is not a fatal flaw. Simiilarly, there are many different things called “aspirin” (e.g., Excedrin, generic products, St. Joseph’s children’s aspirin, etc.), but they all contain acetylsalicylic acid, and they all have a generally similar function. Which particular one you use at a given time will depend on the particular purposes for which it is needed.

I do want to quibble, though, with one particular legal history claim that Koppelman makes: “Thus originalists struggle with the problem whether the general purpose of the Fourteenth Amendment, to mandate the legal equality of blacks, should trump the framers’ specific intention to permit school segregation and miscegenation laws.”  Michael McConnell and Randy Barnett have written on the school segregation issue, but I’d like to add something on miscegenation. I don’t think that the historical record unambiguously supports the claim of a specific intent in the 14th Amendment to allow the continuation of laws against interracial marriage.

We do know for certain that one [...]

Continue Reading 44

Anti-Zionism and Anti-Semitism

Prompted by the controversy over Mearsheimer and Atzmon, Bob from Brockley has a good post on anti-Semitism, including this discussion of non-anti-Semitic anti-Zionism, with my added emphases:

Anti-Zionism that also takes a consistent opposition to all nationalisms (including Palestinian nationalism) is not antisemitic; Jewish religious anti-Zionism such as that of the Satmer Hasidim is not antisemitic; Jewish anti-Zionism which rejects the Zionist solution to the questions of Jewish survival and continuity (such as the position of the Jewish Socialist Group or others in the tradition of the Bund, folkism and other diasporist traditions) is not antisemitic [Editor: though one wonders about the relevance of these traditions in 2011, when there is an existing Jewish state with almost eight million citizens]; anti-Zionism from the perspective of Israeli citizens (Jewish or Arab) who want to see Israel as a democratic state for all its citizens (rather than a Jewish state) is not antisemitic; finally anti-Zionism which sees Zionism as a form of imperialism and takes a consistent opposition to all imperialisms without singling out Zionism as unique is wrong-headed, but not in itself antisemitic. All of these forms of anti-Zionism can be used as fig-leaves for antisemitism or be used to feed antisemitism, but they are not themselves antisemitic. [Editor: And I would add one more. Islamist anti-Zionism that is based on the idea that “Palestine” is Islamic territory that for theological reasons may not be governed by non-Muslims is not, by itself, anti-Semitic.]

Unfortunately, it’s increasingly the case that even those who approach anti-Zionism from one or more of these perspectives are at best tolerant of the anti-Semitism indulged in by some of their allies, and at worst engage in rhetoric that smacks of classical anti-Jewish themes, even if the individuals in question are not themselves anti-Semitic.

As I’ve noted [...]

Continue Reading 202

John Mearsheimer and Gilad Atzmon Update

A few days ago, I sent John Mearsheimer an email with my post inviting him to use the Volokh Conspiracy to defend some specific (and obviously anti-Semitic) quotations from Gilad Atzmon, given Mearsheimer’s insistence that Atzmon is not anti-Semitic. I have not heard back from Mearsheimer.

Meanwhile, Harry’s Place and Pejman Yousefzadeh have further documented Atzmon’s anti-Semitism, apparent both in his general writings and specifically in the book Mearsheimer blurbed.

Andrew Sullivan, who has turned harshly critical of Israel in recent years, seemed initially skeptical of the criticism of Atzmon. Eventually, however, did some additional research and concluded: “I still haven’t read the book but the excerpts are so vile and the mind behind them so patently warped and hateful, I really don’t care to. Why would anyone blurb a book like this?”

A group of far left British writers called on the publisher to withdraw Atzmon’s book given its overt anti-Semitism. The last few British leftists who were willing to have anything to with Atzmon at “Solidarity with Palestine” have renounced their ties with him (as discussed by leftist anti-Zionist Tony Greenstein in this post).

Mearsheimer and Atzmon have received support or defense from the far-leftist conspiracy-mongering Counterpunch website, from various Neo-Nazi and 9/11 conspiracy sites, and, bizarrely, from Mearsheimer’s Chicago colleague Brian Leiter.

But then again, maybe it’s not so bizarre–perhaps what Leiter wrote is exactly what one would expect. As a Jewish [and I assume] anti-Zionist , Leiter’s prescribed role by the Elders is to help “deliver an image of pluralism” while secretly pursuing the Jewish supremacist agenda (as Atzmon put it in a recent charming interview explaining how Jewish anti-Zionists are secretly in league with the Jewish Zionists to promote Jewish interests, an interview that I came across via a link from Leiter). [...]

Continue Reading 219

A Challenge to John Mearsheimer

John Mearsheimer has written a lengthy and somewhat rambling response on Stephen Walt’s blog to criticism of him, especially by Jeffrey Goldberg for endorsing an anti-Semitic book by a kooky fringe anti-Semite, Gilad Atzmon. One could go blow by blow through all the overwrought distortions in Mearsheimer’s post, but I’m going to focus on one. Mearsheimer is not content to argue, as he does, that he didn’t know Atzmon from a hole-in-the-head, and endorsed the book because he found it provocative and interesting. If he had limited himself to this, he could have then added that he wasn’t aware of Atzmon’s anti-Semitic background and didn’t read the book in that light. Now that he knows, he regrets his association with Atzmon and the book.

Nope. Mearsheimer actually defends Atzmon from the charge of anti-Semitism. So here’s my challenge to Prof. Mearsheimer: I will give you space on the Volokh Conspiracy to explain how you can absolve Atzmon from anti-Semitism after reading this excerpt from an interview with Atzmon, not coincidentally hosted on the website of notorious anti-Semite “Israel Shamir”.

“There is a lot of pressure on me to denounce Obama. He has done quite a few things that have made me suspicious of him – but I want to give him a chance.

“I could see that the Israelis were really concerned and were quick to evacuate their forces before he took office.

“They have a lot of people around him already and reading the Israeli press they know something about this man being ethically concerned, and this is something that didn’t happen in America for many years.

He wants to amend the damage caused by those Jewish political strategies such as Neoconservatism, such as the sub-prime mortgage crisis that was led by Alan Greenspan, who is

Continue Reading 205

A Critical Review of Gilbert Achcar, The Arabs and the Holocaust

Writing a good book review of a bad book is always a challenge, and I always admire those who do so successfully. So here is a very well-done review by Matthias Kuntzel and Colin Reade of “The Arabs and the Holocaust.” One quick excerpt:

Achcar even manages to find excuses for the dissemination [in the Arab world] of Hitler’s textbook for the Holocaust, the so-called Protocols of the Elders of Zion. “There is a qualitative difference,” he claims, “between a delusive, anti-Semitic approach that believes, or seeks to make others believe, that the leaders of the Jews of the ‘Jewish race’ are conspiring against the rest of the world, and an equally delusive but not racist [!!!-DB] approach that seeks consolation by mobilizing a conspiracy theory [that Jewish leaders are conspiring against the rest of the world!–DB] to explain Zionist successes.” And that’s not all: he even deplores the failure of other authors to “make the necessary distinction between the anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist reading of the Russian forgery.”

Given that the Protocols constantly talk not about Zionists, but about “Jewry,” which, the Protocols claim, is seeking to take control of the world, Achcar’s attempt to defend Islamist propagators of the Protocols from the charge of antisemitism is truly bizarre. One might just as well recommend an “anti-Zionist reading” of Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf, another book with a wide circulation in the Middle East, and one which has an explicitly anti-Zionist orientation.

One could easily dismiss Achcar’s book as typical fringe claptrap, but for the fact that Kuntzel and Reade report that it’s being taken seriously in mainstream circles, in part because, as they acknowledge, there is some serious historical work mixed in with the vociferous efforts to justify, minimize, and sanitize anti-Semitism when the perpetrators are Achcar’s ideological fellow-travelers. [...]

Continue Reading 14