Sunday, February 28, 2010

Enabling Antisemitism

David Adler's guest post at Z-Word blog is definitely worth reading: John Pilger and the Enabling of Antisemitism.


  1. The ZWord blog is always interesting. And, the article is certainly a good one.

    On the other hand, the efforts thus far - and I am not singling ZWord out although I am not excluding it - to combat Antisemitism have mostly been pathetically ineffective.

    As I see it, such approach will never be effective because the approach is merely a reaction to Antisemitism. Once a matter becomes debatable, there is the pro and con side and each side's view is entitled to respect. Hence, answering the Antisemites directly, while interesting, is a losing strategy.

    Merely pointing out, as the article does, that Pilger has adopted an Antisemitic motif, that DemocracyNow ought to chastise Pilger and that Antisemitism is not something that blocks criticism of Israel does little to combat Antisemitism. It is self-congratulatory gotcha stuff. What is needed instead is an effort to portray Jews in a positive light and to address directly the type of hate that drives Jew haters and the sort of world such people envision - which is not a nice one.

    Instead, we have an incident by incident fire fighting approach. Even worse, we have Jews criticizing Antisemites in the same article they criticize Israel's occupation. That suggests to any neutral reader that there is something to what the Antisemites assert. Instead, the two topics needs to be separated entirely. The Antisemites are not half-right. There are entirely wrong. And, it is they should be under attack for being disreputable human beings and holding hateful views. That and nothing about Israel, since their concern is not really about Israel anyway.

    That's my view, for what it is worth.

  2. I don't think that just portraying Jews in a positive light is going to get anywhere with real antisemites - they simply won't listen or will misinterpret everything in the argument. People who are already convinced Jew-haters are unlikely to be moved by any arguments against antisemitism.

    The people who might be affected are those who are naive or who have just learned some idiotic anti-Jewish prejudices from their environment. When confronted with the reality of actual Jewish people whom they like, they will probably change their minds and try to root out their prejudices.

    I think of articles like David Adler's as not intended to convince the Pilgers or Atzmons of the world, but to affect those who might be inclined to respect them (or for that matter Amy Goodman).

  3. Rebecca,

    I agree with you wholeheartedly that Jew-haters do not care what Jews or anyone else says about Jews. In fact, I see no reason to address Jew haters at all. My point was a quite bit different.

    What I see occurring is that there is a felt need, driven by, perhaps, catharsis, to show that everything said by the Antisemites is false. That gives them publicity and because, in a debate, there are always two sides, it lends credibility to their position. As Nietzsche wrote - I paraphrase -: if you have to defend yourself, you have already lost.

    Instead, the issue should be the hatefulness of the agenda of the Antisemites and the positive contributions made by Jews to the world's well being. I recall listening to a person on NPR explaining that the best way to counter bad publicity is to create a new myth. He indicated that people do not respond to proving the falseness of allegations. Instead, people respond to a good story.

    This may not be dignified and it may not be common sense. However, it works. And, since I care about the future of my kids more than I care about the dignity of the effort to combat the Jew-haters, I believe that Jews should act strongly against the Antisemites before the US becomes a nasty place like Europe has become and is becoming. Groups like the UK group Engage - the so-called anti-racist blog against Antisemitism - has supposedly taken the high road. Yet, the Antisemites seem to be gathering strength in the UK.

    Again, look at what the corporations do when they have their reputation tarnished - and tarnished quite often due to bad deeds, not bogus allegations -. They response by recreating themselves in the public mind. How? By creating a myth about themselves that paints them in a positive light.

    Obviously, it is more complicated for a people than a company. Still, myth making is more likely to defeat myth slandering than demonstrating that this or that is the truth. And, Jews have a lot of great accomplishments with which to create a true, not a false, myth.