Saturday, January 28, 2012

because policing the discourse is punk rock

Spencer Ackerman is upset that sometimes adults have to speak like adults, and that countries having explicit ethnic or religious characters sometimes makes conversations complicated, and that democracy means having to wade through righteous arguments that sort of look like ugly arguments if you squint hard and read uncharitably and (especially) if you have clear and obvious political motivations for dismissing those arguments. Oh, and Hitler Hitler Hitler.

Whenever I compare these situations to their analogs in discussions of race, or in discussion of other countries like China, the response is always the same: Israel is different. Israel cannot be discussed the way other subjects are discussed. Of course, voiced in a different context, that sort of talk is taken as self-evidently anti-Semitic. You see, it is not merely wrong but anti-Semitic to judge Israel differently than you judge any other nation-- except when it is not merely wrong but anti-Semitic to judge Israel in the same way that you judge any other nation. When it is necessary and convenient, defenders of Israel's oppression of the Palestinian people insist that any discussion of Israel that does not treat it like any other country is offensive. When it is necessary and convenient, failing to note how Israel is not like any other country is offensive. Leap from foot to foot as is necessary to win.

Glenn Greenwald is getting the usual treatment, in large part because he pointed out that taking a loyalty oath to another country might potentially be evidence that one has loyalties to another country. (Imagine that! Swearing loyalty to Israel might give someone the impression you're loyal to Israel!) Is it possible that Israel could have gotten involved in an armed conflict against the United States, during Jeff Goldberg's tenure in the Israeli army? Remember, it is not merely wrong but anti-Semitic to suggest that the relationship between Israel and America is unusually close or complicated. Suggestions that Israel functions militarily as an extension of American armed forces, after all, are routinely dismissed as anti-Semitic. It's therefore possible that armed hostilities could have broken out. So what would have happened, had Israel gotten involved in an armed conflict with America? I don't presume to know the answer to the question. What Ackerman and others are insisting is that any suggestion that Goldberg might have held to his loyalty oath and backed Israel is self-evidently anti-Semitic. Am I guilty of anti-Semitism for even thinking of the possibility? Are thought experiments, predicated on the simply observations that separate countries can go to war, potentially anti-Semitic? Are there any Israeli Americans who might consider their dedication to Israel more important than their dedication to America? Is asking that question anti-Semitic? If an Iranian-American joins the Iranian military, and war breaks out, would asking the same questions be indicative of anti-Persian racism? I no longer know how to even broach the question.

One could go on. As Philip Weiss points out, Ackerman attacks Max Blumenthal for referring to Goldberg as a former Israeli prison guard, which seems like an odd thing to complain about, considering that Goldberg is a former Israeli prison guard and that he was referred to as such on the jacket of his own book. Or we could talk about the fact that Goldberg uses Jewishness as license to psychoanalyze anyone and everyone. He engages in an absurd laundry list of claims about Glenn Greenwald. How does Goldberg know all of this about Glenn Greenwald? The only evidence for all of his claims is that Greenwald is (presumably) Jewish. If you've read Goldberg for as long as I have, you'd know this is his specialty. Once he knows a writer is Jewish, he feels that he has total authority to discuss that writer's character, beliefs, and psychology. That this is the elementary logic of bigotry-- the notion that one can know all of this intimate knowledge about someone thanks to his or her ethnic character-- seems not to bother Goldberg in the least. Perhaps I'll publish a piece psychoanalyzing Goldberg, each observation derived solely from his status as a Jew, and see how long I remain in polite society.

All of this happens for a purpose: to make it clear to anyone who might have a moral conviction about Israel's treatment of the Palestinians scared to talk about it. I know many people who have political stances on everything, and voice them without regard or fear, on questions of race, abortion, poverty, Afghanistan, gay rights, health care.... But about Israel, they won't speak. It has simply been drummed into their heads, by people like Spencer Ackerman, that this is no-go territory for them. They are mostly gentiles, as I am, and they know that speaking on this issue could easily result in accusations of anti-Semitism. So they shut up. And here comes Spencer Ackerman, and his red-baiting essay, and the predictable Hitler graphic. And so the task of pressuring "a recalcitrant Israel to come to its senses, especially about the insanity of attacking Iran" just becomes harder.

If you'd like to consider how a man's obsession with the meta and his social positioning overwhelms his moral and philosophical understanding, just peep the sub-head to this piece.

Note to some of my fellow progressives: If we can’t argue about Israel without using anti-Semitic tropes, then the debate is lost before it even begins

I have to tell you, I just have no idea what that means. Just no idea at all. I can't fathom what that sentiment could entail. Who is the "we" who could possibly win or lose? This is not a debate to be lost by unaffected American writers. It is a matter of vital life and death, for one of the most powerless, beleaguered, and oppressed people on earth. No matter who wins or loses these arguments, the situation in Palestine endures. Ackerman's piece is one written by someone who has become completely unmoored from the actual, physical, material reality that he is purportedly writing about. I assure you: Ackerman, in the context of the conflict, has already won. The losers are the people who live in cities subject to 24 hour curfew, whose communities are illegally encroached on by settlers, whose homes are bulldozed without due process or review, who are intermittently subject to the horrible bloodletting of another Israeli incursion, as they have been for over 40 years. There's none of them in Ackerman's piece. None of them at all.

That it is self-evident that essays like Ackerman's make it materially harder to secure justice for the Palestinians will make no difference to him. He is proudly basking in the approval of people like Jeff Goldberg and Eli Lake, men who have never met an assault on Muslims and Arabs they didn't approve of. For a creature of Washington, as Ackerman is, justice and morality are minor concerns compared to the preeminent priority of securing the blessing of Very Serious People everywhere. Doubt me? Wait and watch, as the usual suspects in Washington flock to his aid. Spencer Ackerman cares more about their approval than he does about the security of the Palestinian people. And now you know his character.

46 comments:

Paul Sherrard said...

"They are mostly gentiles, as I am, and they know that speaking on this issue could easily result in accusations of anti-Semitism. So they shut up."

Yup. I wish they would just start talking about it en masse---maybe then they'd be to numerous to police. But I don't think that will ever happen. Thank you for your piece though, which as usual cuts right to the heart of the matter.

MikeAdamson said...

I don't agree with your analysis of this specific episode. I agree that the Israeli mistreatment of Palestinians routinely gets the kid gloves treatment but I disagree with the notion that we shouldn't slip into anti-semitism when we criticise Israel. Yes, the alarm is often sounded prematurely and inappropriately when a critic's statement veers close to the line but Ackerman's distaste for the term "Israel Firster" mirrors my distaste for the terms "appeaser" and terrorist sympathiser" when I argued against the war in Iraq. Another example is how James Taranto invariably introduces Paul Krugman as "the former advisor to Enron" instead of Nobel winner or Yale economist. Sure, it's true but it's a cheap rhetorical trick that grates and poisons whatever argument is being advanced.

Besides, any fan of the Misfits has got to be right IMO. Cheers!

Brendan said...

So you either 1) reject Ackerman's claim that "Israel Firsters" has an anti-Semitic history, or 2) you think it is sometimes necessary to use language with anti-Semitic history in order to "speak like adults."

Assuming it's 1), shouldn't you actually make an argument for your position? Ackerman says it was coined and propagated by a white supremacists. Is he wrong? If so, what's your evidence?

Freddie said...

I reject that the term is anti-Semitic.

Freddie said...

I perhaps could be convinced that the history of the term has anti-Semitic content, if that's the evidence. The question that's relevant is whether it was used with the intent to be anti-Semitic. (I don't presume that everybody who says "the heebie jeebies," "spic and span," or "jimmies" to refer to chocolate shots on ice cream does so out of an attempt to be bigoted.)

More to the point, the fixation on this particular term is a distraction from the broader questions about how to pursue justice for the Palestinians in a righteous way.

Anonymous said...

I'd refrain from using that term, just 'cause it seems to set people off, and I think that response is generally genuine.

But I mean, Joe Klein has used this term, among others. It's a term I wouldn't use, but it's not like, "OMG, Joe Klein said 'Israel firster', he obviously hates Jews, he should be fired like those low-level CAP staffers were". It's just not that offensive a term.

The reason for this giant froufraw and hullaballoo and hand-wringing, particularly from Jeffrey Goldberg, is to police the discourse and give a hard time to anyone who might make an argument he doesn't agree with about the relationship between the US and Israel.

Anonymous said...

Parts of this are right on and parts of it are bullshit. This isn't an argument about Spencer Ackerman being too detached and removed or whatever.

It's an argument about the efficacy of language. Ackerman clearly thinks that the term 'Israel-firster' is counter-productive because of the response it provokes and effect that it has on debate. You and Greenwald disagree. That's the argument. I don't know whether it's true and neither do you and nether does Spencer and neither does Greenwald. It's theorizing about rhetoric. And unless any of you have got something empirical to back up your opinion (and I don't really know how you could), you should bear in mind that this is a subjective argument about language and sociology.

Freddie said...

I'd refrain from using that term, just 'cause it seems to set people off, and I think that response is generally genuine.

Same here.

Parts of this are right on and parts of it are bullshit. This isn't an argument about Spencer Ackerman being too detached and removed or whatever.

I couldn't care less about Ackerman's mental state; what I care about is his impact on the discussion. And the effect of his essay is to diminish the role of the Palestinian situation in this debate. Right?

Brendan said...

Isn't Ackerman on your side on Israel's treatment of the Palestinians? Hasn't he written about it a fair amount? You're acting like this one essay is all Ackerman has ever written about Israel and Palestine.

I'm not even going to try to convince you that it might not be your place to tell Jews whether or not a term coined and propagated by white supremacists is anti-Semitic. Or to intervene in an intra-Jewish conversation about anti-Semitism in the first place. You'll either realize that some day or not.

kris said...

The context of this discussion over the use of "Israel-firster" is important. It's not like the CAP folks accused of semitism started wondering about the divided loyalties of Israeli-Americans for no reason. It's not like the debate is whether we should ethnically profile against Jews or Israeli's in airports or whether Jews are loyal enough to the U.S. to be allowed to build a cultural center on the site of a Burlington Coat Factory.

Here is the context: In the minds of many people, including many strong backers of Israel, and many Jewish-American intelectuals, there is a strong case that the U.S. should take a stronger stand and it is in the interests of the U.S. morally and egoistically to take such a stand. Many arguments are written along these lines.

In response, many politicians and pundits will say that we should be "loyal to our friend Israel." This is their argument. They say that loyalty to Israel is an important consideration and may trump America's self interest and America's interest in pursuing a morally upright foreign policy.

In response, folks like the folks under fire at CAP say that it is unclear whether putting Israel's interest above that of the U.S. or above moral concerns for the well-being of Palestinians is justified. In so doing, all the CAP folks were doing is undercutting an argument that others had made that the interests of Israel -more than the interests of Palestinians, I suppose- should be a concern to Americans in deciding moral issuses in foreign policy. They then created a category of "Israel-firster" (more of a bland neologism in their minds than a scary dysphemism, even though it may have been used as a slur of some kind in the distant past.)

All the CAP people need to say is we apologize for using that word, unknowingly, but the point still stands. Should Israel's interests be a greater concern for the U.S. than moral worries about the oppression of a large group and America's egoistic (strategic) worries about keeping a calm middle-east. This is a serious debate and has precursosrs in debates regarding U.S. allies of the past.

kris said...

Excuse my poorly written post. I mean "anti-semitism" not "semitism" and "it is the interest of the U.S. to take a strong stand on Israeli settlements in the West Bank."

Freddie said...

I'm not even going to try to convince you that it might not be your place to tell Jews whether or not a term coined and propagated by white supremacists is anti-Semitic. Or to intervene in an intra-Jewish conversation about anti-Semitism in the first place. You'll either realize that some day or not.

The conduct of my country is my responsibility as a member of a democracy. If you don't want Americans to comment on Israel, then advocate that America stop subsidizing Israel. As long as we give money to Israel, defend Israel militarily, do whatever Israel wants diplomatically, share espionage and intelligence with Israel, and generally do whatever we can to support the country, we are involved. And that means it's not just my right but my responsibility to speak out on the conflict. Sorry. Spencer Ackerman telling me I'm not allowed does not overwhelm my responsibility.

J.L. Wall said...

"Are there any Israeli Americans who might consider their dedication to Israel more important than their dedication to America?"
--> The problem with this formulation, in this context, is that the concern isn't over what people think about Israeli residents of the US. It's over what people think about the loyalties of Jewish-American citizens. I qualify for the latter, and not at all the former.

"That it is self-evident that essays like Ackerman's make it materially harder to secure justice for the Palestinians will make no difference to him."
--> Being wary of phrases that carry the weight of their history (at least in the minds of those AT whom they're flung) -- or of rhetoric that veers toward dual-loyalty charges -- self-evidently hampers bettering the situation of the Palestinians? I don't see it. What self-evidently prevents anything is a national conversation that veers between "Israel-firsters!" and "The Palestinians don't exist!" A "conversation" in which both sides open by trying to alienate the other (and the middle) as much as possible is going to get nowhere.

And insofar as that is Ackerman's point -- and insofar as the word "Hitler" appears nowhere in the piece -- he's arguing something that is both valid and practical.

Brendan said...

The intra-Jewish debate I'm talking about is about the use of possibly anti-Semitic language by Jewish leftist critics of Israel, not about the policies of the United States or Israel, which obviously you are as entitled to comment on as anyone. Are you just misreading me deliberately?

J.L. Wall said...

"Spencer Ackerman telling me I'm not allowed does not overwhelm my responsibility."
--> Again, Ackerman doesn't say you can't speak out. Goldberg's didn't say that. Hell, even those I've read at COMMENTARY on this phrase haven't gotten into whether any criticism at all is invalid. Alienating, in your opening move, everyone who disagrees with you just doesn't strike me as the best practical move.

Because there's a difference between saying, "Israel's treatment of Palestinians is oppressive, wrong, and should not be subsidized by the United States"; and, "Anyone who disagrees with me has CLEARLY been bought off by the Israelis!"

Freddie said...

Have I used that language? Do I typically?

Look, friend: loyalty to country, ethnicity, and religion are all fucking loony tunes to me. None of it makes any sense. I am trying to work towards a moral policy by my country. Ackerman, by throwing his shoulder behind the position of people like Eli Lake-- people who are preventing a sane, moral, and equitable policy towards Israel and Palestine-- is making that harder. And he's doing it by unfairly dismissing critics like Glenn Greenwald, by insisting that Greenwald's language is anti-Semitic without actually making the argument that Greenwald's intent is anti-Semitic.

I am so tired of arguments like yours, as they take this debate completely out of the context of real life: a context where criticism of Israel is functionally silenced by the ceaseless identification of criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism.

insofar as the word "Hitler" appears nowhere in the piece

True. Where could I have possibly pulled the idea of Hitler from that piece? Perhaps the giant graphic at the top?

Brendan said...

Look, I'll ask this again: isn't Ackerman actually on your side, substantively? I don't know his work well enough and I can't go read it all. I thought he was, am I wrong? I could understand your anger better in that case.

Freddie said...

He's on the side of the angels, on this issue, in many ways. He is wrong to attack Greenwald, Blumenthal, et al for pointing out that there are prominent American commentators who evince support of Israel that seems unqualified and uncritical, but simultaneously attack those who point it out as anti-Semitic.

Frankel said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Frankel said...

I'm no fan of much of what Israel does, but as a Jew is it so unreasonable for me to become suspicious when I see so many people who have no skin in the game (that is, people who are neither Jews or Arabs) take such a critical concern to the behavior of Israelis?  And please spare me the line about the aid we give Israel.  The US gives plenty of money or other aid to countries with transgressions far worse than Israel and you don't hear a peep about it.

I mean, look how women, gays, christians and palestinian refugees have to live in most of the middle east.  I guess none of them are fortunate enough to be victims of Jews. 

FillerCrowley said...

but as a Jew is it so unreasonable for me to become suspicious when I see so many people who have no skin in the game (that is, people who are neither Jews or Arabs) take such a critical concern to the behavior of Israelis?

"Wait a sec--you're neither a Sudanese Arab, nor southern Sudanese, and yet you're criticizing the policies of the Sudanese government against the south? Do you think it's so unreasonable for me as an Arab to be suspicious of this so-called 'critical concern'?"

The US gives plenty of money or other aid to countries with transgressions far worse than Israel and you don't hear a peep about it.

Yes you do. In fact, you hear plenty about it on this very blog!

That Fuzzy Bastard said...

"Now you know his character."

Nope. No, you don't. Your assumption that you do is precisely what makes you unfit for grown-up conversation.

edwin said...

Using history, almost any action can be spun as anti-Semitic as necessary.

For example, it is possible to spin the existance Israel as anti-Semitic.

http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_oCEwFr2yk_g/RjtpcsqrysI/AAAAAAAAAF0/Uo7X1ErPlwk/s1600-h/ZioNazi.jpg"

"Boas's article described how Baron Leopold Itz von Mildenstein, a member of the Nazi party and of Hitler's SS, set out in the Spring of 1933, accompanied by his wife and Kurt Tuchler, an official of the Zionist Federation of Germany, also with his wife, on a journey to Palestine."

"But while Von Mildenstein was influencing policy, Der Angriff had a medal struck to commemorate his voyage to Palestine, a medal with the Nazi swastka on one side and the Star of David on the other."

A coin with two sides

It is possible to tar anything and everything with being anti-semetic as convenient.

Anonymous said...

"....is it so unreasonable for me to become suspicious when I see so many people who have no skin in the game..."

Insofar as you would concede to us the agency to have similar opposing suspicions, especially to those who do have "skin in the game" and therefore likely decidedly mixed motives, why no, not at all.

bobbyp

J.L. Wall said...

"Look, friend: loyalty to country, ethnicity, and religion are all fucking loony tunes to me."
--> Okay, taking that, and your following sentences into account, I see your point better. We're coming from such drastically different perspectives on that first sentence, however, that I manage to forget that difference is the case sometimes. I still remain unconvinced, ultimately, of your point on Ackerman, but...

As for the Hitler graphic -- right, that's an idiotic attention-grabbing editorial decision. Not Ackerman's wording. It's certainly fair game for criticism, but that criticism should be directed at Tablet more than Ackerman specifically, which was the sense I got from you.

Also, I didn't mean to attribute the second of those hypothetical statements at the end of my first comment to you, particularly. Wasn't quite satisfied with my phrasing when I posted it -- but I still think there's a practical limit to the usefulness of name-calling as the means of debate. It certainly leaves those who, like me, care about Israel, consider themselves Zionists, loathe Bibi and, are appalled at much of what's going on in/around the settlements with the feeling that there's no room in the discussion to have any practical effect. (This, of course, is also the fault of the "not-an-inch-of-distancers" -- but not theirs alone.) And this is partly why I think it was a poor choice for the ADL etc. to go nuclear on "Israel-Firster" and CAP. It was a bad choice of target for that level of backlash.

Anonymous said...

"As for the Hitler graphic -- right, that's an idiotic attention-grabbing editorial decision. Not Ackerman's wording."

And he objected to it strenuously and publicly -- oh, wait, he actually hasn't. So he's a coward (far from his devil-may-care punky self-portrayal) or he's in full agreement with what the graphic implies, or both.

Brendan said...

Freddie, Ackerman made a narrow point about certain anti-Semitic language. You seemed to have jumped from there to thinking that he finds most, or at least a lot, of criticism of Israel anti-Semitic. But he never said or even suggested that. How did you get there?

Rob said...

Yes, one of the worst aspects of the whole thing is the chilling effect on speech. Those going directly for the throat on this are partly responsible for the lack of substantive debate, and the status quo that lack of debate perpetuates. It needs to be said over and over again : Israel is a STATE, not a person. Period. Criticizing state policy (or Zionism in this case) should in no way reflect on all the people the state purportedly represents. This should not be complicated.
...
Some observations :
1) the outrageous Hitler graphic was probably the editor's choice, not Ackerman's.
2) the debate on Zionism and Israeli policy is more open in the Israeli press than it is in the US. This should tell you something.
3) I actually don't like the phrase "Israel-Firsters" either, as conjuring up issues of loyalty is getting into shifting territory - there is no reason to think that those who make decisions in Washington are any more concerned about the welfare of the majority of Americans any more than the likes of Sheldon Adelson or Jeffrey Goldberg, so it's pretty much a non-issue for me.
...
Lastly, here is a handy guide to understand the psychology of internet hasbara commentors, which can come in useful, as it is still highly relevant and has in my opinion never been bettered :
How to make the case for Israel and win :
http://jewssansfrontieres.blogspot.com/2008/07/how-to-make-case-for-israel-and-win.html
- Modify, salt and pepper at will

Freddie said...

It's certainly fair game for criticism, but that criticism should be directed at Tablet more than Ackerman specifically, which was the sense I got from you.

Fair point.

Ryan said...

The question that's relevant is whether it was used with the intent to be anti-Semitic. (I don't presume that everybody who says "the heebie jeebies," "spic and span," or "jimmies" to refer to chocolate shots on ice cream does so out of an attempt to be bigoted.)

Wait, what? So I'm allowed to go around calling black people "my nigga" because I don't mean it in a racist way?

Freddie said...

Is that even remotely what I said? Troll harder, please.

Freddie said...

Serious question for people in this space: Greenwald has put together a list of people who have said, explicitly and straightforwardly, that Israel is their top priority, and that deference to Israel's best interests goes beyond any of their other duties. That's not conspiracy theorizing or reading of subtext. It's the text, right there in black and white.

So is it anti-Semitic to repeat those statements? When people explicitly state that they put Israel first, is it anti-Semitic to say that they put Israel first? Norman Podhoretz said that every Jewish journalists first priority is to defending Israel. And he explicitly said that was so even beyond their commitment to the United States. Is accurately quoting him anti-Semitic?

Anonymous said...

When people explicitly state that they put Israel first, is it anti-Semitic to say that they put Israel first?

Longtime Glenn Greenwald reader here. So, you'd probably guess that I'd answer No. to that question; and you'd be right. Although as a non-Jew, I'm relatively confident that my opinion doesn't count to those who matter.

However, I'm not precisely sure that's the right question to ask. As per the discussion in Greenwald's threads, there is probably no two or three word, twitter compliant, characterization one could use to signify the individual who has plainly stated that their first priority is Israel, and her interests. We could invent an array of them; no matter how nonsensical, or apparently benign, I expect each - in turn - would be deemed anti-Semitic. Testing that hypothesis might be an interesting exercise.

My own view - after years of these kinds of arguments - is that it doesn't matter what lexical innovation one could invent. The fact is, apparently, no Jew - and, preferably, no one "on the left" - should ever question the potential trade-off which lurks beneath the characterization. Because any potential straight out, cleanly specified trade-off between Israel's interests and those of the US should only be spoken of in quiet rooms, among those specifically anointed to have those quiet conversations, and certainly never in front of the public at large in any major venue.

~ bystander

Frankel said...

"So is it anti-Semitic to repeat those statements? When people explicitly state that they put Israel first, is it anti-Semitic to say that they put Israel first?"

No it's not anti Semitic to accurately quote people but that shouldn't automatically give cover to any anti-Semite who feels its important to highlight these quotes.  To put another way, people who are truly concerned  about the israeli-Palestinian conflict should be mindful that there are genuine anti Semites who use this conflict to highlight the dangers of Jews.  

And even if you feel that it is important to highlight pro Israel types who make Israel their top priority, there is absolutely no reason to editorialize by attaching historically anti-semitic language, such as Israel Firster.

And serious question to freddie and other critics of Israel:  how can you be certain that your motives are so pure?  Do you find it at all curious how no one in academia or journalism and human rights groups cared about the inhabitants of the west bank one iota while they were occupied by jordan after 1948? 

To see how this would work go take a read at Steve sailers blog where he and all his fans really don't believe themselves to be racist despite being totally obsessed with studies that promote the idea of blacks being dumb or violent.  After all, they're just discussing genuine scientific studies.

Anonymous said...

Do you find it at all curious how no one in academia or journalism and human rights groups cared about the inhabitants of the west bank one iota while they were occupied by jordan after 1948?

You can't be serious.

bobbyp

Frankel said...

"You can't be serious. "

Explain.  I'm more than willing to be corrected on my understanding of the conflict or it's history.  But the way I see it the plight of the palestinians seems to be put on a pedastal over the suffering of every other group on the planet.  The anger, outrage and criticism, (both in intensity and in prominence) attracted by Israeli actions seems to have nothing remotely comparable.

Rob said...

@ Frankel -
"No it's not anti Semitic to accurately quote people but that shouldn't automatically give cover to any anti-Semite who feels its important to highlight these quotes."
- It's true that simply quoting people to make a point is a bit facile, as that is what mainstream journalists do frequently when dealing with the government and other official agencies (Pentagon, CIA, etc.). One should ask WHY these quotes are being highlighted, and the answer is : to make a very narrow point, which seems fairly obvious. One can, however, question what the motives are for making that point ("loyalty", "Israel-Firster") in the first place. The fact that there is a history of anti-Semitic use of such language should not keep one from examining the truth of such claims. The question is : should it be a crime, or seen as something negative, to be loyal to another country? This is debatable. The fact that despicable people will use such phrases is unfortunate, but it does not totally invalidate the argument.
...
"Do you find it at all curious how no one in academia or journalism and human rights groups cared about the inhabitants of the west bank one iota while they were occupied by jordan after 1948?"
- The Jordanian occupation was qualitatively different from the Israeli military occupation, as it was legally a trustee, not an occupier - and it relinquished control anyway, and was never condemned by the UN. This comparison not really relevant.
https://talknic.wordpress.com/2009/11/17/simple-logic-tells-us-jerusalem-is-palestinian-its-in-palestine/
...
The answers as to why people seem to be so obsessed with this issue are :
1) They aren't - it's just that it is poorly reported in the media (like in matters of war), and there is a constant barrage of propaganda and misinformation regarding it, which forces those who actually know something about it to spend a considerable amount of their time rebutting false claims.
2) Americans partly subsidize the occupation, as Israel has been the prime recipient of US aid for several decades, and there are such close military and commercial, financial and diplomatic ties - this makes it a highly relevant and important subject for Americans, as it should be.
...
The simple fact remains that it is enough to enumerate the facts of the history of Israel-Palestine, without distorting them, to justify criticism of the Zionist project (especially in its present form). No elaboration or interpretation is necessary, the facts really speak for themselves - that is, when it's done by honest scholars - one example of which you will find here, although it's probably preferable that you buy it :
Finkelstein's Beyond Chutzpah :
http://www.scribd.com/doc/28838176/Finkelstein-Norman-Beyond-Chutzpah

Anonymous said...

Other than perhaps some partisans who do, but like it, some ridiculous babel here from what sounds like over-educated-but-under-thinking people who still can't even cut to the guts of what Ackerman is saying: To wit, that it's wrong to identify someone as something even if it's true. Even if they stand on the rooftops and shout it. Or, to put it another way, that some people—who just coincidentally tend to view a certain issue Ackerman's way—have the right to not be accurately identified.

Now, go from there.

pabelmont said...

Thanks for this very perceptive and straight-from-the-shoulder essay.

If we (Americans) cannot talk honestly about ISrael/Palestine, as indeed so far we cannot, then we also cannot speak honestly about other aspects of USA's foreign policy -- such as sanctions and war with Iran -- on which I've just written (and quoted this essay!)

Anonymous said...

Somewhat off-topic yet oddly irksome to me: Both Freddie and Sullivan take Goldberg to task for suggesting that Greenwald came to his views because "he had a rough time in Hebrew school." That is, they took this sentence seriously.

Now I would have assumed that after decades of exposure to the Marx Brothers, Mel Brooks, Woody Allen, Seinfeld, Curb Your Enthusiasm etc. y'all would have figured out by now that we Jews like to crack a joke now and then. But if not, let me clear this up for you.

This was a joke. Kind of a funny one if you've ever been to Hebrew school.

Ryan said...

@Freddie
I wasn't being a troll, although my example was indeed hyperbolic. I was demonstrating that your suggestion that only the intent of the speaker matters to determine whether s/he is being anti-Semitic is nonsensical when transplanted to a different situation. Obviously "Israel-firster" and "nigger" are not the same, but that does not mean that intent is the only thing that matters. The history of the term, the context in which it has been deployed, the kinds of people it has been deployed by and against--all of these things are relevant, even if the speaker is not intending to say something anti-Semitic (or racist).

Ryan said...

As it so happens, I agree that "Israel first" as a phrase probably does not have an etymological history tied to anti-Semitism. Again though, that is independent of the idea of intent.

demize! said...

Israel first is inaccurate. It is the only loyalty.

annie said...

there is not a 'history' of this word being anti-Semitic.

Leading Zionist historian was first to say ‘Israel Firster’– in 1960.

israel firsters don't like being called israel firsters so they are policing the argument by claiming it's anti-Semitic.

israel firsters are pushing us into a war with iran, so olease do not tellus we have no 'skin in the game'.

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