Archive | Anti-Semitism

Sullivan v. Wieseltier

The New York Times reports on the Andrew Sullivan vs. Leon Wieseltier controversy.  The report is not quite right; it says that Wieseltier accused Sullivan of anti-Semitism, when Wieseltier actually accused Sullivan of recklessly engaging in venomous rhetoric that gives aid and comfort to anti-Semites and stokes anti-Semitism.  This may be cold comfort to Sullivan and his defenders, but we might as well get the story right, and the difference is important for reasons discussed below.  You can read Wieseltier’s original article here, Sullivan’s response here, and Wieseltier’s rejoinder (much better than his original piece, IMHO) here.

I have a few small contributions to make to the debate.  One is that I find it extremely odd that Sullivan is so vociferous in attacking Israel’s defenders (rather than just Israel’s policies) when, as Jonathan Chait points out, he himself rather recently was one of Israel’s most vociferous defenders.  If Sullivan himself was once persuaded that Israel’s cause is just, shouldn’t that lead him to some circumspection about attributing Israel’s support in the U.S. to a nefarious cabal of “neocons”, the “Goldfarb-Krauthammer wing” of the Jewish community, AIPAC, and so forth?  Maybe a lot of people find Israel’s case compelling for the exact same reasons Sullivan did as recently as eight years ago.   But Sullivan is almost uniquely uncharitable to people who hold the views he himself held just a few years ago, so this probably reflects a general “convert going after the heretics” mentality on his part.  Plus, given his blogging about Sarah Palin, Trig, et al., is there much reason to think he hasn’t gone off the deep end generally?

Second, Wieseltier’s notes, in his rejoinder, that Sullivan has apologized a couple of times for engaging in rhetoric perceived to be anti-Semitic, and adds, “There is [...]

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Foxman vs. Limbaugh

Rush Limbaugh made comments on his radio show (scroll down–if you find this post of great interest, you should probably read the whole three-paragraph monologue, which makes the relevant context abundantly clear) suggesting that Pres. Obama may be subtly appealing to anti-Semitism through his attack on “bankers” and “Wall Street,” and that Jewish voters, in return, may be abandoning Obama.

Abe Foxman and the ADL then issued a press release:

Limbaugh told his listeners: “To some people, banker is a code word for Jewish; and guess who Obama is assaulting?  He’s assaulting bankers.  He’s assaulting money people.  And a lot of those people on Wall Street are Jewish. So I wonder if there’s – if there’s starting to be some buyer’s remorse there.”

Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director, issued the following statement:

Rush Limbaugh reached a new low with his borderline anti-Semitic comments about Jews as bankers, their supposed influence on Wall Street, and how they vote.

Limbaugh’s references to Jews and money in a discussion of Massachusetts politics were offensive and inappropriate.  While the age-old stereotype about Jews and money has a long and sordid history, it also remains one of the main pillars of anti-Semitism and is widely accepted by many Americans.  His notion that Jews vote based on their religion, rather than on their interests as Americans, plays into the hands of anti-Semitic conspiracy theorists.

When he comes to understand why his words were so offensive and unacceptable, Limbaugh should apologize.

Now compare the bolded “quotation” from Limbaugh’s show with what he actually said:

Look, folks, there are a lot of people who when you say “banker,” people think “Jewish.”  People who have prejudice is the best way to put it. They have a little prejudice about them. So for some people, “banker” is code word

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Confusing Overrepresentation with Domination

An especially pernicious common fallacy is the assumption that if a given group is overrepresented in some field, that must mean that they dominate it, and are using their supposed “domination” to promote the group’s interests. My better half quotes this example described by historian Paul Johnson in his book Modern Times:

Of course underlying and reinforcing the paranoia [of the Nazis about Jews] was the belief that Weimar culture was inspired and controlled by Jews. Indeed, was not the entire regime a Judenrepublik? There was very little basis for this last doxology, resting as it did on the contradictory theories that Jews dominated both Bolshevism and the international capitalist network.

In the 1920s, Jews were indeed overrepresented (relative to their percentage of the general population) among both Bolshevik leaders and international capitalists. At the same time, non-Jews still greatly outnumbered Jews in both groups. A closely related fallacy was the assumption that overrepresentation in a field proved that the Jews involved in it were using it to promote some specifically Jewish interest. In reality, Jewish capitalists tended to behave much like gentile ones, focusing primarily on maximizing their profits. Jewish communists such as Leon Trotsky were brutal totalitarians. But their gentile counterparts, such as Lenin and Stalin, were much the same. There was no real evidence that either Jewish capitalists or Jewish communists were promoting specifically Jewish interests in any systematic way. Indeed, Jewish communists in the USSR actually supported the regime’s suppression of Jewish culture and religion.

At this point, readers may be tempted to say that the crude errors of 1920s anti-Semites don’t have any relevance to us. After all, we are a lot smarter and more sophisticated than they were. Perhaps so. But similar fallacies in modern discourse aren’t hard to find, and are certainly [...]

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More One-Sided “Reporting” from the NYT

Here’s the way the New York Times describes an ongoing controversy over whether the Berkeley Daily Planet is obsessively anti-Israel and perhaps anti-Semitic:

For the last six years, The Berkeley Daily Planet has published a freewheeling assortment of submissions from readers, who offer sharp-elbowed views on everything from raucous college parties (generally bad) to the war in Iraq (ditto).

But since March, that running commentary has been under attack by a small but vociferous group of critics who accuse the paper’s editor, Becky O’Malley, of publishing too many letters and other commentary pieces critical of Israel. Those accusations are the basis of a campaign to drive away the paper’s advertisers and a Web site that strongly suggests The Planet and its editor are anti-Semitic….

Still, she says she has no intention of stopping the publication of submitted letters, citing a commitment to free speech that is a legacy of the city where the Free Speech Movement was born in the 1960s….

Ms. O’Malley denies any personal or editorial bias, and bristles at the suggestion that she should not publish letters about Israel ….

“I have the old-fashioned basic liberal thing of believing that the remedy for speech you don’t like is more speech,” said Ms. O’Malley….

The paper has published unpopular opinions on other subjects, including a commentary from a local activist arguing that the murder of four Oakland police officers — none of whom were black — by an African-American parolee in March was “karmic justice” for past police killings of civilians. But such pieces are in a section of the paper that clearly states they “do not necessarily reflect the views of the Daily Planet.”

I’ve never heard of the Daily Planet, much less the relevant controversy, but the Times’ piece seemed so one-sidedly favorable to the [...]

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Putting Heidegger in the library’s grave of discarded lies

Monday’s New York Times has an interesting article about the forthcoming English edition of Emmanuel Faye’s book Heidegger: The Introduction of Nazism into Philosophy in Light of the Unpublished Seminars of 1933-1935.  In brief, Faye argues that Heidegger’s pro-Nazi views were not incidental, but were at the core of his life’s work. Accordingly, suggests Faye, libraries should remove Heidegger books from the “Philosophy” section, and place them in the “History of Nazism” section. From what I know of Heidegger (he’s discussed in my forthcoming book Aiming for Liberty) his intellectual influence on the 20th century was highly pernicious. Heidegger, like Hitler, wrote books addressing the question of what it means to be a “German,” and came to similar conclusions. Both writers were verbose; Heidegger was superior in the fabrication of elaborate philosophical constructs, while inferior to his hero is writing comphrensibly. Given Heidegger’s own dedication to Hitlerism, it seems that Heidegger himself might have considered it appropriate for his books to be shelved next to Mein Kampf. [...]

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What Kind of People Affiliate with Human Rights Watch’s Middle East Division?

This kind: Helena Cobban is on the Board of Directors of Human Rights Watch’s Middle East and North Africa Division.  In a recent blog post, she took exception to the Weekly Standard’s Michael Goldfarb criticizing her because “she likes to compare Israel to Hamas.” (H/T: Richard Landes)

Cobban was offended not because Goldfarb was wrong, but because in her opinion any rational person knows that Israel is comparable to (or perhaps, judging by her tone, worse than) Hamas:

So here’s the thing that Michael Goldfarb and people of his ilk really don’t seem to understand: For the vast majority of the people on God’s earth today, Palestinians are just as fully human as Jewish people, and just as deserving as Jewish people of our compassion and our understanding.

(She later suggests that Gaza’s Hamasistan dictatorship is just as “democratic” as Israel.)

And who are Michael Goldfarb’s “ilk”?  Jews who support Israel and/or criticize Human Rights Watch (you tell me if the following individuals have anything else in common)!

But the Michael Goldfarbs, the Norman Podhoretz’s, the Alan Dershowitz’s, and Robert Bernsteins of this world truly don’t get this. They truly think there is something so “special” about Jewish people and their experience in the world that somehow the [sic] (and especially the allegedly “Jewish” state, Israel) deserve to be given a free pass on the application of any neutral standards of behavior, such as would be applied to anyone else.

So there you have it.  Among other Jews, Robert Bernstein, the founder, longtime president, and now critic of Human Rights Watch is not merely mistaken when he accuses HRW of anti-Israel bias, he is mistaken because he thinks Jews should be held to different, lower standards than everyone else because he thinks Jews are “so [...]

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God Bless America:

You might have missed this, assuming that, unlike me, you don’t comb the NYT sports pages for odd little items like this. According to a report in Saturday’s paper, Irish tenor Ronan Tynan, a “a fixture at Yankee Stadium for years with his stirring rendition of God Bless America” during the 7th inning stretch, was supposed to sing at Friday’s opening game of the ALCS but was disinvited by the Yankees because of some unfortunate comments he was reported to have made the day before. Apparently, a real estate agent was showing Tynan and apartment and, jokingly, referred to other inhabitants of the building by saying “Don’t worry — they’re not Red Sox fans,” at which point Tynan responded: “I don’t care about that — as long as they’re not Jewish.”

The quintessentially New York remark – combining the Irish, the Jews, the Yankees, the Red Sox — and real estate!!

The outcry was loud and predictable. But in all seriousness – what’s really so terrible about what Tynan said? I happen to be Jewish myself (and a New Yorker to boot), and I think my antennae for serious anti-Semitic remarks are pretty well-tuned. But Tynan doesn’t like Jews – what’s the big deal when he says so? Unless you deny that Jews have any distinguishing characteristics — and no Jews I know (especially no New York Jews, for goodness sake, would say such a thing) then one has to expect that some folks aren’t going to like those characteristics — we’re too intellectual, too noisy, too argumentative, too this or too that. Tynan doesn’t want to live around us – bully for him (though he’s going to have a helluva time finding an apartment in NYC!). I know lots of people who aren’t crazy about Italians, or Irish, [...]

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Guardian Debunks Ahmadinejad Story

Not a Jew.

I pointed out previously that persons of Jewish descent in anti-Semitic societies sometimes become openly anti-Semitic themselves to prove their lack of loyalty to the Jewish community.  The flip side is that people with no Jewish descent (e.g., with very high probability, Hitler) are often alleged by their political enemies to really be Jews, an allegation that fits in with anti-Semitic conspiracy theories that Jews run the world via stealth.  To take an absurd example, neo-Nazi websites were circulating a phony genealogy last Fall claiming that Sarah Palin’s ancestors were Jews. [...]

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Was Mahmoud Ahmadinejad Born Jewish?

This could just be disinformation, but if true it explains a lot.  Note that some of the worst anti-Semites in history, including Torquemada and Karl Marx, were of recent Jewish descent, and used anti-Semitism to ingratiate themselves with their non-Jewish constituencies.

Ha’aretz: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s scathing attacks against Israel and his repeated denials of the Nazi Holocaust could be motivated by a desire to conceal his own Jewish roots, an Iran expert told The Daily Telegraph on Saturday.

The British newspaper examined the Iranian leader’s identity card which he displayed in public during his country’s elections in March 2008.

The ID card bears his family’s original surname, Sabourjian, which is a Jewish name that means cloth weaver, according to The Daily Telegraph.

The Sabourjians have historically been concentrated in the same region of Iran where Ahmadinejad was born, according to the report.

Ahmadinejad’s identity papers indicate that his family changed its name and converted to Islam after he was born, the British newspaper said.

Iranian observers suggested that the president’s constant verbal assault against Israel and Jews may be an attempt to prove his loyalty to Shia Islam while making every effort to hide his Jewish past.

UPDATE: Here’s the original Telegraph story.
FURTHER UPDATE: Admittedly it’s possible that Torquemada, et al., were just sincere anti-Semites, despite their Jewish descent.  But from medieval Spain until twenty-first century America (see War, Iraq), it’s been common for powerful persons of Jewish descent to be accused of using their power to further a secret Jewish agenda, whatever their expressed motives.  One way of trying to preempt such criticism is to get a reputation as a vociferous critic of Jews.

To get into more controversial territory, it’s certainly interesting that many leftists of Jewish descent who have no other connection with [...]

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