Tag Archives: politics

Five myths about anti-Semitism

Yair Rosenberg at www.washingtonpost.com: “For a phenomenon often dubbed ‘the world’s oldest hatred,’ anti-Semitism is not well understood.”

Jews in the US are annually subjected to the most hate crimes of any group in the US, even though we comprise only 4% of the population. In France, Jews are target of 51% of racist attacks, even though Jews comprise only 4% of the population.

Anti-Semitism crosses boundaries of left and right.

It’s OK to criticize Israel. Jews in Israel and everywhere in the world criticize Israel. But if you hold Israel to a different standard than other countries, congratulations, you’re an anti-Semite! The United Nations is a particular offender here, its “Human Rights Council has condemned Israel more often than all other countries combined, including Syria, North Korea, Iran and Russia.”

I quibble with the author’s fifth point — that anti-Semitism is unique among prejudice in that it harms the oppressors as much as the oppressed.

That’s because it often takes the form of a conspiracy theory about how the world works. By blaming real problems on imagined Jewish culprits, anti-Semitism prevents societies from rationally solving them. In one of the most famous examples, Nazi scientists shunned Einstein’s advances as “Jüdische Physik,” as opposed to “Deutsche Physik,” enfeebling their understanding.

As Bard College’s Walter Russell Mead has put it: “People who think ‘the Jews’ dominate business through hidden structures can’t build or long maintain a successful modern economy. People who think ‘the Jews’ dominate politics lose their ability to interpret political events, to diagnose social evils and to organize effectively for positive change. People who think ‘the Jews’ run the media and control the news lose the ability to grasp what is happening around them.” For this reason, Mead has warned, “Rabid anti-Semitism coupled with an addiction to implausible conspiracy theories is a very strong predictor of national doom.” This is one case where the hatred ultimately destroys the hater.

Partially true, but it is also true that societies based on bigotry are handicapping themselves no matter what the nature of the bigotry. Oppressed populations are, by the nature of oppression, blocked from contributing to the society as a whole to the fullest extent they might. And every oppression has its unique problems. Antebellum white American Southerners lived in terror of slave uprisings and had to devote considerable resources into policing the enslaved populations. The slaves themselves had no incentive to work harder than necessary to avoid the lash, and every incentive to undermine the system. In any society where members of an oppressed minority are closed to business, members of that minority will often turn to crime when they can’t get ahead any other way. And so on.

But, yeah, many societies, sadly, do manage to prosper, for a while at least, despite racism, whereas widespread anti-Semitism in particular seems to be a symptom of a society in its death throes.

Russia arrests American citizen on suspicion of spying

MOSCOW — An American citizen has been arrested in Moscow on suspicion of espionage, Russia’s domestic security service, the FSB, said on Monday.

The agency identified the man as Paul Whelan. A criminal case has been opened against him.

www.washingtonpost.com

Tit for tat to get back at US for arresting Russian gun rights activist Maria Butina?

“The African Queen” restored Humphrey Bogart, Katharine Hepburn and John Huston’s public images after speaking out against the House Un-American Activities Committee

You Must Remember This podcast

Women’s March in California canceled over concerns it would be ‘overwhelmingly white’

A Women’s March group is canceling its January rally in Humboldt County, Calif., over concerns that its participants would be “overwhelmingly white.”

The decision comes amid division and tension in the broader Women’s March movement, which has unified millions of women and men in protest in the past two years.

www.washingtonpost.com

I’ve been concerned about reports of anti-Semitism in Women’s March Inc. — which is only one of several groups organizing women’s marches, although I think it was the main organizer of the big one on the past.

I’ve looked into it and it appears that the local San Diego organization is not affiliated with Women’s March Inc.

Still, I’ll probably just sit out the women’s march this year. I’m not making a huge deal out of this because anti-Semitism isn’t my only reason for sitting out the march. It’s not even the main reason. I’m just not a marcher.

Inside Facebook’s Secret Rulebook for Global Political Speech

An unelected council of a few dozen Facebook employees decides what more than 2 billion people are allowed to share. Facebook “has quietly become, with a speed that makes even employees uncomfortable, what is arguably one of the world’s most powerful political regulators.” Max Fisher investigates in depth at www.nytimes.com

Gun suicides rise to highest level in 40 years

Suicide is an impulsive act. Half of suicide survivors report planning their deaths for less than ten minutes. States like Connecticut that have passed background check laws for handguns have seen precipitous drops in firearm suicides, and states with more lax gun laws experience higher gun mortality of all types. States that have repealed background checks for handguns saw increases in firearm suicides.

The most gun-suicidal populations are older white men and veterans. Guns are only used in a small minority of suicide attempts, but half of all successful suicides are firearm suicides.

By Cory Doctorow at boingboing.net

The Dilemma of Jewish Privilege

Joshua Ladon writes at newrepublic.com about Jewish privilege, anti-Semitism on the left, and Jewish racism:

I am visibly Jewish. I wear a yarmulke; I have a beard. My tzitzit—ritual fringes—occasionally sneak out from under my shirt. I speak Hebrew-inflected English with my wife and children, all of whom have non-English names. I am an easy mark for anti-Semites. As a descendant of those who fled the Russian Pale of Settlement in the 1890s, I am also visibly Caucasian. With a cap, I look like many bearded white hipster dads in the San Francisco Bay area.

All of this is to say that I appear both white and “other” at the same time. I carry with me privilege constructed by the peculiarities of American history, the great possibilities provided for my people in 20th-century America, while also carrying the millennium-old consciousness of marginalization. I could easily hide my Jewishness, but choose not to, as a result visibly presenting my Jewishness while also enjoying the benefits of white privilege. When someone I do not know points out my identity, even simply by calling out, “Shalom,” I immediately tighten up. Will this be another encounter in which I am publicly harassed or screamed at? Last year, a car slowed down and a passenger yelled, “Fuck you, Jew!” Even when the person simply wants to extend an open hand, public attention toward my minority identity brings risk and baggage.

Unlike Ladon, I present as non-Jewish by default. I don’t look or act Jewish. But what he writes is true of me as well. Being Jewish in Trump’s America is being white and non-white — at the same time.

Anti-Semites on the left want to hold all Jews responsible for Israel’s sins.

Women’s March Roiled by Accusations of Anti-Semitism

Farah Stockman, www.nytimes.com:

Within days of Donald J. Trump’s election, a diverse group of women united by their concern about the incoming administration gathered at a restaurant in New York to plan a protest march in Washington. They had seen the idea floating on Facebook and wanted to turn it into a reality.

The unity did not last long. Vanessa Wruble, a Brooklyn-based activist, said she told the group that her Jewish heritage inspired her to try to help repair the world. But she said the conversation took a turn when Tamika Mallory, a black gun control activist, and Carmen Perez, a Latina criminal justice reform activist, replied that Jews needed to confront their own role in racism.

I’m skeptical. The Women’s March denounces anti-Semitism several times on its home page. Bigots don’t denounce bigotry. www.womensmarch.com

Trump the peacemaker?

Trump’s decision to pull out of Syria and Afghanistan could turn out to be a disaster. Or it could be the one great thing that comes out of his lousy administration, a foreign policy coup as significant as anything accomplished by most presidents.

Even a terrible president can do good things. Maybe this is one of them.

Ian Welsh, a Canadian political observer, loves it. He says he’s tired of valuing American lives over other lives, and America leaving Syria and Afghanistan will save a lot of non-American lives:

Trump has a chance to come out of this looking a lot better than Obama. All he has to do is stop a couple wars, and not start a war….

Non-American lives matter….

Plus it will correct a monumental geopolitical error. Bin Laden’s entire plan was to get US boots on the ground, prove the US military could be be beaten, and bleed America dry. Americans, in their hubris, walked right into his trap.

Maybe time to step out of it.

Also, it’s appalling to see politicians and talking heads who have not themselves served talking tough about war. A previous generation used to call those people “chickenhawks,” a fine old word that needs reviving. Trump is himself usually king of the chickenhawks. If you’ve ever left your house without a few bodyguards — perhaps to buy groceries or get a cup of coffee — congratulations! You’ve demonstrated more personal courage than Captain Bonespurs!

Trump the Peacemaker?

A new theory on why Republicans and Democrats see the world differently

Our political divisions aren’t red versus blue, but fixed versus fluid. Republicans are wary of change, Democrats embrace it. [Ezra Klein/Vox]

Discussed in this article but only partly explained: Why Republicans are so much more likely to believe lies and bullshit. The Republicans are the party of climate change skeptics, anti-vaxxers, and birtherism. Some Democrats believe crazy things too, but the Republicans made Fox News their favorite channel and elected an idiot conspiracy theorist as President.

What Are the France Yellow Vest Protests About? [Matt Taibbi/Rolling Stone]

Matt Taibbi says yellow vest protests defy easy narratives. They’re rioting against “centrism” and crossing boundaries of left and right.

“Centrism” is another word for government by and for rich people.

Over and over, a daft political class paternalistically implements changes more to the benefit of donors than voters, then repeatedly is baffled when they prove unpopular.

See: NAFTA, the creation of the WTO and GATT, deregulation of the banking sector, multiple unnecessary wars, tax holidays and other corporate subsidies like bans on drug re-importation, mass construction of prisons during an era of sharply declining crime (coupled with broad non-enforcement of white-collar offenses), and so on.” …

These dolts don’t seem to get that a gasbag like Trump only became a plausible political choice after decades of false promises and misgovernment….

Yellow Vests stand for and against many contradictory things, but are united in opposition to oligarchy [Cory Doctorow/Boing Boing]

“For years, the French economist Thomas Piketty has warned that we have attained levels of inequality last seen in the days before the French started building guillotines. Today, yellow vests are literally erecting guillotines in Paris.”