Monday, April 19, 2010

Resembling Nazis

Previously, when blogging on the failure of UC-Berkeley's divestment vote, someone protested my labeling of the anti-BDS folks as "the good side". I've written at length regarding why I find the BDS movement to be morally pernicious, and specifically that the core of the movement, by its own admission, is implacably opposed to the existence of Israel as a Jewish state in any way, shape, or form. I feel no need to reiterate my arguments to this respect, curious commenters are welcome to search my archives. Suffice to say, I do not retreat an inch from my position that the BDS side is not a pro-peace side; it is a side that is predicated on continued conflict, on continued hate, on continued anger, and ultimately, on a one-state solution designed to restore Jews to their "rightful" place as global supplicants. If you're not on the side of TULIP and One Voice (and the BDS movement is locked in mortal combat with these groups), you're not on the side of peace. It's that simple.

I did, however, want to flag the experiences of a Berkeley student who attended the veto override vote:
The writers of the bill say that in itself, the bill is not anti-Semitic. Whether or not you believe that, I argue that whatever it is, something about the bill brings out anti-Semitic sentiment that I have never felt before. An Israeli man, probably in his forties, wearing a kippah, was tapped on his shoulder by the woman behind him (a supporter of the bill and local Berkeley resident), and told by her, “You know what’s ironic? You really look like a Nazi. There is something unpleasant about your face and features that really resembles a Nazi.” While this doesn’t reflect everyone in the room, I was shocked that someone would have the audacity to say that. I cannot think of something more offensive that could be said to a Jew. And here we are in 2010. When the bill was first voted upon and the veto was upheld, a hispanic student that had been sitting in front of me the entire time jumped up and turned back (where many of us who are against the bill were sitting) and yelled, “You killed Jesus.” I was shocked to say the least. Finally, a common refrain of “AIPAC is taking over the ASUC” was called out many times, partially in response to our newly elected Jewish president (what a relief). To me, this is the oldest of anti-Semitic claims - the Jews are running the world, they are running our government. To be honest, this was the first time I was scared because of anti-Semitism, and I really was.

I bolded that line in particular, because I think it represents a perfect storm of atrociousness. The student simply focuses on how viscerally offensive it is. And there is that. But consider deeper. The idea that particular facial features are symptomatic of being Nazi-like is essentially biological racism. There is little to distinguish it. The claim is that something embedded in this man's genetic code -- something as inherent as ones bodily structure -- is enough to make one into a Nazi. Ironically enough, it is precisely that sort of phenotypic sorting that most closely resembles Nazi practice. Looking like a Jew is itself a moral disease.

Even if we assume that the man had features that looked Germanic, instead of "classically" Ashkenazi Jewish, what is the woman forgetting? Who does she think was killed by the Nazis? Does she not realize that there were German Jews; that they, too, were victimized in the Holocaust. I believe she does. She has been squeezed into a contorted mask of moral hatred, and the BDS vote was what she saw as an appropriate outlet for it. It's indicative of a person who simply doesn't care about Jews, who doesn't care about Jewish experience, who fundamentally doesn't care about Jewish lives. And in my experience, while she may have been more overt in causing offense, that fundamental disregard for equal human dignity is indicative of the sort of person who joins the BDS movement.

30 comments:

PG said...

I wonder how many folks who will deny there could be anything anti-Semitic in the BDS movement and that these incidents, "if even true, are just a few bad apples," are passing around instances of racism by people in the tea party movement as proof that there is something racist in that movement.

joe said...

I certainly agree about the visceral offensiveness, but you could consider even deeper on the "looking like a Nazi" thing.

I think if we looked at the many, many movies and television shows over the past half century that depict Nazis, there is a preferred "look" for those characters (and it's not confined to just making sure they look sufficiently "Aryan" to be historically believable). Of course, this is hardly some unique Hitler Exception... it seems to me that using the specific features of actors to convey specific personalities or virtues/vices is a widespread cinematic tradition. I do think it's an interesting question whether this serves to display or appeal to latent or patent eugenic sentiment. I don't think you can extrapolate much that is unique to the BDS movement from this (even by the standards of anecdote), beyond perhaps an inclination to wear these attitudes more openly than most.

(None of this takes away from the fact the speaker made a calculated insult designed to cause particularized offense to this man as a Jew, which is by definition anti-Semitic.)

PG said...

Hmm, insofar as there's a particular "Nazi look" in movies, it seem to favor a conventional Western concept of masculine beauty, in a rather cold vein; the same actors who play Nazis could just as well play the heroes of Ayn Rand stories.

Kathy said...

You know, it's all very well to say that anyone who rejects the calls of organizations like TULIP and One Voice for a two-state solution is not in favor of peace, but you have to know what is meant by "state." Is "state" what Israel has -- secure, recognized borders; contiguous territory; independent access to its own natural resources; no foreign sovereign political entities within its borders? Or is "state" what Israel wants the Palestinians to accept: no contiguous territory, territory pockmarked with Israeli settlements, which are constantly being expanded; no independent access to natural resources; permits required to move around your own "state"; and hundreds of acres of Palestinian land on the West Bank eaten up by the apartheid wall which is buffered by multiple barbed-wire fences (on the Palestinian side only)?

It's meaningless to say that 78% of Israelis want a two-state solution and 74% of Palestinians want a two-state solution when the Israeli government's definition of a Palestinian state is one that no sovereign nation in the entire world would accept, when the Israeli military is bound and determined to continue to treat Palestinians like dogs and vermin, and when the Palestinian people themselves, no matter how much they might want a two-state solution, have absolutely no political or military power to make that happen on terms that are even minimally fair to them?

The reality is that nothing positive is going to happen until Israel stops treating Palestinians like Jews were treated in pre-war Germany.

BTW, your remark on another thread to the effect that Israel's "big fucking tanks" have done Israel a lot of good by preventing additional genocides against the Jews reminded me of something my father (who was a Holocaust survivor, as was my mother) used to say. He used to say that the Holocaust (meaning, not just the genocide itself but the way the rest of the world allowed it to happen) teaches two lessons: One, that nobody helped us when we were being exterminated, so now we will do whatever we want and think we need to do and the hell with everyone else; and two, that nobody helped us when we were being exterminated, so now we have to be always vigilant that we never, ever, do to others what was done to us, and that we stand on the side of those being oppressed or persecuted no matter who they are.

He chose the second lesson, and I always have, as well. I realize, of course, that not everyone feels that way.

David Schraub said...

...Israel stops treating Palestinians like Jews were treated in pre-war Germany.

This statement is inching towards a ban. Cool it.

It is quite evident that TULIP and One Voice and Engage and Yalla Peace are not advocating for the sort of pseudo-state you talk about. Unlike the BDSers, their activists have proven themselves time and again true, substantive supporters of two states, with full rights as states, existing side by side in peace. If you don't support their substantive vision, that's fine, but strawmanning out a different (mostly mythological, see below) position is meaningless handwaving. By contrast, PACBI has been quite honest in what it wants: the end of Israel as a Jewish state, tout court. And maybe you support that agenda; there are Jews who do, and that's their prerogative. But those folks (Jewish or not) aren't on my side, and I don't consider them to be on the side of peaceful reconciliation.

I'm not sure what it means to say that "Israel" unspecifiedly wants Palestine to accept a "state" along the parameters that you talk about. What you describe sounds like the status quo, but I don't think anybody in Israel or Palestine conceptualizes what Palestine has now as a "state", which indicates that they all expect a final status agreement to look different. At absolute minimum, I've never heard anyone suggest that a Palestinian state have non-permanent borders that could be encroached upon at will by new settlements. This is hackery taken to an extreme. It also is meaningless, since there is no reason to support this vision rather than that of the organizations outlined above.

As for the lessons of the Holocaust, I choose both lessons (sub the part where we do whatever we want, which I think is a rather cynical strawman of autonomy values), because I'm not hopelessly naive: One isn't exactly in a position to do anything to "stand on the side of those being oppressed or persecuted" when your only armaments are hippie songs from the 70s and pseudo-intellectual tracts on "anti-imperialism". The track record of this brand of "left" with regards to accomplishing jack for the "oppressed" is abysmal. Marches through downtown San Francisco may do wonders for the activist self-esteem, but it does little to nothing else. It's self-serving moral masturbation, nothing more. Check that -- (a) because it is detached from actual problem-solving work and (b) because well-established cognitive literature on group-dynamics (like-minded group members push each other to extremes), it does do something: it breeds extremism, and hate, and fanaticism, precisely of the sort witnessed at the Berkeley meeting.

Finally, I'd caution against the ossification of oppressor/oppressed binaries, which doesn't capture the complexity of the modern world and tends to be mentalities which re-entrench problems, not solve them. But then, maybe that's the point, too.

PG said...

The reality is that nothing positive is going to happen until Israel stops treating Palestinians like Jews were treated in pre-war Germany.

I don't understand how the term "Palestinians" is being used in the above sentence. Are Palestinians an ethnic or religious group (Jews can be conceived as both)? If so, presumably it would be a group demarcated as not-Jewish, i.e. in religion Muslim and perhaps also Christian, and in ethnicity as Arab, I suppose.

But then the analogy to Jews in pre-WWII Germany collapses, because the ethnically Arab, the Muslims and the Christians who are citizens of Israel are not at all treated the way the Jews were in pre-WWII Germany. Israel, so far as I know, does not seize the property of citizens, deny them employment or in most respects distinguish among its citizens on the basis of ethnicity and/or religion. So what is the meaning of "Palestinians" here? If it's actually a geographic signifier, then a comparison to how Nazi Germany treated, say, Poles might be more instructive.

Kathy said...

"It is quite evident that TULIP and One Voice and Engage and Yalla Peace are not advocating for the sort of pseudo-state you talk about."

I know that, lol. What I said was that it doesn't matter what TULIP et al. want or are working for if the people who actually have power in the govt. DON'T want it. Advocating and getting are two different things. Israeli and Palestinian peace groups have been advocating for a two-state solution for decades now. And we're farther away from that goal now, than ever.

"If you don't support their substantive vision, that's fine,..."

Ummm, LOL. What can I say to this? I told you unequivocally that I support a two-state solution. That's why I don't support Israel's political and military policies and actions vis a vis the Palestinians -- because they are sabotaging any chance of a two-state solution. Even more to the point, my support for a two-state solution is why I speak out against Israel's treatment of the Palestinians. If you say you support a two-state solution, and at the same time you remain silent about and even defend the Israeli government when it does such things, then your support for a two-state solution means little. It's just words. (cont'd)

Kathy said...

(part 2, cont'd from previous)

"By contrast, PACBI has been quite honest in what it wants: the end of Israel as a Jewish state, tout court. And maybe you support that agenda; there are Jews who do, and that's their prerogative."

I have no idea what PACBI stands for, and again, your statement that "maybe I support the end of Israel as a Jewish state," needs to be taken as an indication that you think I am not being truthful when I say I support a two-state solution. That's fine, as it frees me to tell you that I question how sincere *your* support for a two-state solution is when you remain silent about Israeli actions and policies that violate every known standard of respect for human rights and that are destroying any chance for a two-state solution.

Kathy said...

Part 3, cont'd

"What you describe sounds like the status quo, but I don't think anybody in Israel or Palestine conceptualizes what Palestine has now as a "state", which indicates that they all expect a final status agreement to look different."

Really. And how do you expect to get to a "final status agreement" when Israel is doing everything in its considerable power to prevent that from ever happening? How do you explain the Israeli government's continued support for not only the existing settlements but for expanding them? How do you explain the mass deportation plans the IDF is putting into effect? How do you explain the fact that Israel has stopped giving residency permits to Palestinians on the West Bank and then telling them they will be deported if they don't have residency permits? How do you explain the fact that the apartheid wall and surrounding ocean of fences and the settlements and the planned expansions of the settlements have already eaten into hundreds of acres of formerly Palestinian land?

Are you really and truly telling me, with serious intent, that the Israeli government has acted in a manner that even remotely suggests they would ever be willing to stop expanding the settlements, dismantle those that are there already, stop providing support to the settlers against the Palestinians, and respect the civil and human rights of Palestinians?

Kathy said...

Final part, hopefully

As for "ossification of oppressed/oppressor binaries," or whatever you said, I *think* you mean to suggest that Palestinians are not oppressed, or that Israelis are oppressed as much as Palestinians, and that's just nonsense. As a nation, as a government, Israel is the oppressor in this conflict. Palestinians are not oppressing Israelis, although obviously the conflict itself is an enormous threat to Israel's security. That's why Israel's actions in fueling that conflict are so suicidal, in addition to being heinous. Like it or not, Israel has the lion's share of the power in this conflict. You have suggested previously that you are happy about this. Well, you can't have it both ways. If you're happy that Israel has its "big fucking tanks" that can crush palestinians at will, anytime, you cannot also maintain the fiction that both sides are equally oppressed."

"At absolute minimum, I've never heard anyone suggest that a Palestinian state have non-permanent borders that could be encroached upon at will by new settlements. This is hackery taken to an extreme."

Ahhhh, indeed. But have you heard anyone, other than Palestinian activists and some Israeli peace groups, suggest that the permanent borders of a Palestinian state should be drawn *in the first place* along the pre-1967 borders? You appear to be saying that once the permanent borders are in place, they would not be encroached. But that was not what I was getting at. My point is that the permanent borders, if Israel has its way, will be drawn to INCLUDE all of the current settlements and all of the expansions that Israel can get into place before the final status agreement, plus the land that the apartheid wall and surrounding fences sits on. The result, in other words, would be permanent borders that in fact expropriate huge swaths of land that did not belong to Israel before -- land on which Palestinian farms and businesses are located.

Of course, once the permanent borders are officially drawn, then of COURSE those borders will be totally, totally respected, and no, absolutely not, no settlements will be allowed to encroach. But all the settlements that have ALREADY encroached become part of Greater Israel.

Now there is an utterly fair and reasonable and just compromise that Palestinians should certainly be willing to agree to!

David Schraub said...

Kathy: Actually, nowhere on this thread have you, until now, made any indication one way or the other as to your preferences regarding a two-state solution. All you had revealed thus far is your desire to play footsie with a movement that quite clearly doesn't. I'm glad to hear that isn't your position, but I remain curious as to your flirtation -- and why you prefer working with groups whose goal you putatively oppose over ones whose goals you putatively support. I'm quite comfortable with my track record of criticizing Israeli and Palestinian human rights violations; I think I've got a public record that reveals my good faith. I have no idea what your record is on these issues.

I expect to get to a final status agreement by dissipating the power of extremists on both sides so that moderate majority's are in a position where they can come to a fair and just peace. That means (among other things) isolating the settler movement from the rest of Israeli society, engaging with and promoting the Israeli left and working class, delegitimizing anti-Semitic extremism in the Middle East and worldwide, and strengthening moderate Palestinian institutions. That's what my groups are doing, unsurprisingly, BDS stands in opposition to all of these goals, because these goals would lead to an outcome that the BDSers don't want.

I have class -- I'll have to deal with your misunderstanding of false binaries later on. This problem, though, involves more than nails -- your hammer can only get you so far.

David Schraub said...

Okay, binaries. It's obviously true that Palestinians face oppression at the hands of Israelis. But that's not the only axis along which this conflict is operationalized. Israelis and Arabs. Moderates and radicals. Secular and religious. Jews and Muslims. Hamas and Fatah. Palestinian Christians and Palestinian Muslims. Ashkenazi Jews and Sephardic & Mizrachi Jews. And the conflict also plays out in a variety of different fora: the relative power and meaning of different groups various in, say, the United States versus the EU versus the UN versus the OIC.

The conflict is bound up in a variety of cross-cutting power dynamics, pressure points, histories, and oppressions, which dissect and vivisect the dispute at all points. To try and isolate any one, freeze it in place as static and essential, and then elevate it above all the others is a recipe for disaster.

The framing you want to use, where we talk about how one institution or another is "unconscionable" and is the mythical most-at-fault-party is useful only if one's primary focus is the apportionment of blame. But that outlook (even if it represents something "real", of which I'm doubtful) often, and here I think definitely, is at odds with a focus on solving the problem. It is unquestionable that resolving the Israeli/Palestinian conflict will mean grappling with extremist right-wing settler violence and negotiating fair and just borders and dissipating Arab and Muslim anti-Semitic hatred and providing just compensation to Jewish and Palestinian refugees and insuring that Jews don't feel like they have to be in a constant state of vigilance to preserve their very survival. We have to address all the balls, and that requirement does not mesh well with the "perpetrator perspective" (to borrow from Alan Freeman*) -- discrete wrongdoer and discrete victim -- that you seem to want to adopt.

* See generally Alan Freeman, Legitimizing Racial Discrimination Through Antidiscrimination Law, 62 MINN. L. REV. 1049 (1978)

Kathy said...

Actually, nowhere on this thread have you, until now, made any indication one way or the other as to your preferences regarding a two-state solution.

Hmmm, you're right. I was absolutely sure I wrote it, I remember writing it, but I also know I deleted some material in editing, so I must have deleted that part, too. So I apologize for that.

For the record, then, since it did not end up in what I published, I do support a two-state solution. I always have, since I first became aware of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict as a political issue. Although you may find it hard to believe, I would never advocate the end of the Jewish state, not after growing up in a family of Holocaust survivors and not after all the additional reading and self-education I've done on the Holocaust and its aftermath.

I just believe very deeply that Palestinians have been treated abominably by Israel and in fact by the entire Arab world (although that last does not diminish Israel's responsibility for its share) and it bothers me terribly that there is so little compassion or concern for the human rights of Palestinians from the very community of people who should, for historical reasons, care the most. And also, I think a two-state solution, with a Palestinian state defined in a way that is just to Palestinians and that does not simply further exploit them, is in Israel's self-interest and essential to Israel's long-term security. I am a big believer in enlightened self-interest, in general.

Kathy said...

I'm glad to hear that isn't your position, but I remain curious as to your flirtation -- and why you prefer working with groups whose goal you putatively oppose over ones whose goals you putatively support.

I don't work with groups at all, of any kind, on this issue -- or any other, when it comes to that. I'm not really a 'group' type of person at this stage of my life, although I have done in the past, but never on this particular issue.

I will confess that I really don't know much about the organized movement to divest from Israel. The support I expressed at the start of this debate is meant more for the concept of divesting economic interests from Israel while it is engaging in such horrific violations of human rights and international protocols toward the Palestinians. I supported the movement to divest from South Africa in the 1980s, too, and I just assumed this was the same general idea. I loathe anti-Semitism as much as you, or anyone, does, and if you or someone else could persuade me that these groups are anti-Semitic (as opposed to simply disagreeing with Israeli policy toward the Palestinians), then I certainly would acknowledge that.

As a matter of interest, I had not heard of those groups you mentioned and linked to (the ones you regard as truly pro-peace), but they do look like the kind of groups I would be comfortable with.

David Schraub said...

On anti-Semitism in the BDS movement, see, e.g., the post we're on (BDS supporters saying Jews have the features of Nazis, killed Jesus, etc.), here (BDS demands boycotts of anti-occupation Israeli institutions that don't disavow the existence of a Jewish state in any form), here (British union leading the BDS charge stands by South African BDS supporter found by the South African Human Rights Commission to have engaged in anti-Semitic threats towards Jews while promoting BDS), here (BDS supporters urge Scottish soccer fans to wave Palestinian flags in protest during a friendly match against an Israeli soccer team captained by an Israeli Arab and known for its support of interfaith and interethnic sports teams as a way of bridging divides), here (top North American BDS supporter is more disturbed by folks protesting Ahmadinejad's anti-Semitic speech than she was by the speech itself occurring at an "anti-racism" conference), here (BDS supporters stand in solidarity with a BDS proponent who alleged that opposition to BDS was funded by "bank balances from Lehman Brothers that can’t be tracked down."), here (BDS-supporting union summarily rejects requests to look into why Jewish members are fleeing the union in mass, allegedly due to intimidation and prejudice related to the BDS movement), and here (BDS is expanded to include all Jewish shops).

For starters. And that doesn't even count my tactical objections, which are a legion unto themselves (see, e.g., here, here, here, and here).

David Schraub said...

I don't mean to keep harping, but there is one more thing that needs to be said. You just stated that you don't know that much about the BDS movement; presumably, your "sympathy" towards them comes from your sincere belief that Israel is doing terrible things, and that supporting BDS is a way of signaling that belief to the world, rather than flowing out of some deep engagement with what the BDSers say and advocate for and a considered judgment that BDS is likely to lead to positive change. The support, in other words, flows from purely expressivist considerations.

I made Herbert A. Simon my quote of the day last July, but I'll repeat it here because it's very important: "We are all Expressionists part of the time. Sometimes we just want to scream loudly at injustice, or to stand up and be counted. These are noble motives, but any serious revolutionist must often deprive himself of the pleasures of self-expression. He must judge his actions by their ultimate effects on institutions."

To be clear, expressivism can and does have an effect on institutions. The point is merely that expressive gains have to be a subset of a broader consequentialist calculus -- it has to come part and parcel with some broader narrative of how the expression is going to lead to the change it purportedly seeks. I've tried to map that out in, for example, these two posts.

The problem is that often, as seems to be the case here, the expressive element is not occurring as part of a broader consequentialist analysis (because, as you said, you really don't know much about the BDS other than they seem to be signaling beliefs you, too, want to signal). Absent that calculus, the non-extrinsic benefits of expressivism -- e.g., the self-soothing aspects ("I'm doing my part!") or the signaling to peers ("I'm one of you!") -- are dominant. And this sort of unguided expressivism is exceedingly dangerous, for at least two reasons.

David Schraub said...

First, the supposed benefits of "signaling" are tough to pull off under the best of circumstances. In a different context, Robert Farley noted several problems with formulating policy based on a desire to "send a message". Signals, being, well, signs, are fundamentally ambiguous -- there is no way to guarantee that all recipients will receive the same message. Where we might intend to signal "the occupation is intolerable and needs to end in a way that lets Israel and Palestine live together in peace", some might read the signal as "the world is amassing to recreate the oppression of the Jews", or "the world is on our side in our effort to destroy Israel once and for all" or any number of other things. Needless to say, these risks are accentuated when large bodies of the signalers haven't taken it upon themselves to do the aforementioned consequentialist calculus.

Second, untethered from deontological or (particularly) consequentialist restraints, pure expressivism often devolves into moral hatred. We see this in, among other things, the examples in this post and the links in the last comment. Unbound from normal social considerations of utility, well-known group dynamics cause a ratcheting effect which pushes the speakers to ever more radical positions -- the race is to see who can show themselves to be most outraged, most expressive. Once released, this demon is difficult to cage.

The issues at stake here are too important for folks to simply latch onto any group or movement that seems to "express" the right message. It needs people to do something much harder: to restrain their (perhaps understandable) desire to simply rage and lash out, to be expressionists, and instead do the difficult work of figuring out what tactics are likely to succeed in created conditions of sustainable justice.

Kathy said...

David,

Okay. I have looked at most of your links (there were a lot), and in the case of the BDS official site, I looked at it very closely, clicking on most of the major internal links, including ones that might be expected to say something that could possibly be considered or interpreted by a reasonable person as being anti-Semitic. I found nothing. If you would like to point me to some specific quote or action or policy that you feel is anti-Semitic, I'm willing to look at it.

Second, I have to admit lack of clarity in communication again. I told you previously that I did not intend to convey that I was active in the BDS movement, merely that I sympathized with the idea of divestment. That is still true. But now I find (and I realized this when I went to the BDS site) that "BDS" does not stand for what I thought it stood for. For some reason, I thought the "B" in BDS stood for "Berkeley" (maybe because I first saw the acronym in connection with the vote at Berkeley). And since I had never heard of the vote at Berkeley OR BDS, I jumped to a conclusion that B stood for Berkeley. Now I know it stands for "Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions." Which means it's not a "group" or "organization" at all. It's a broad movement, a coalition of groups and organizations and individuals, who have in common their horror at the continuing occupation and Israel's atrocious treatment of the Palestinians.

Aside from the fact that I saw no anti-Semitic words, statements, etc., on the BDS site, I also saw none in the other links you posted (many of which were to your own posts) at all. And in addition to that, the fact that BDS is not a relatively small university group, but a global movement, changes completely the assumptions I had, well, assumed, in thinking about the seriousness of your anti-Semitic charge. There's a huge difference between a campus group's membership being anti-Semitic (even somewhat) and an entire global movement being labeled anti-Semitic because (possibly, you haven't proved even this point) some or a few or some unknown number of individuals or groups of the hundreds if not more that are tied to the movement or sympathetic with the movement's goals may, possibly, be anti-Semitic.

Third, where in the heck does BDS say that they advocate boycotting any organization that does not disavow the existence of the state of Israel? Maybe I was just going through these links too fast. i didn't see that.

Finally, your "expressivist" argument against BDS and other such movements makes no sense to me. The substantive criticisms you make of "expressivism" could all (and do, if you accept the validity of the concept "expressivism") apply equally to supporters of Israel, such as yourself. And when I say "supporters of Israel," I do not mean "supporters of Israel's right to exist." I mean "people who either outright support or who refuse to publicly criticize, and remain silent in the face of, Israel's violations of Palestinians' human rights and its own international obligations."

David Schraub said...

If you can't see anti-Semitism in the guy who claimed that BDS opponents were funded by "bank balances from Lehman Brothers that can’t be tracked down" (a reference to the claim that Jewish investors embezzled money out of LB during its collapse), I can't help you. If you can't see anti-Semitism in a union happily inviting Bongani Masuku (a top leader of BDS in South Africa) who "conveyed a message to the Jews of South Africa" that if they supported Israel, they'd must be subjected "to perpetual suffering", that Jews were all "arrogant", that he couldn't be expected to regard Zionists as "human beings" -- statements, among others, ruled to be hate speech by the SAHRC -- I can't help you. If you can't see anti-Semitism in a union interpreting BDS to include boycotting all Jewish shops, I can't help you. If you can't see anti-Semitism in a leading pro-BDS union refusing to reflect on whether the fact that Jewish members say they're intimidated and are leaving the union en masse might be the result of anti-Semitism, I can't help you. If you can't see anti-Semitism in someone more distressed by non-violent protests against anti-Semitism than against the anti-Semitism itself, I can't help you. And it's not just isolated incidents -- when they come to the public eye, the institutional players in the BDS stand in solidarity with the anti-Semites. The "Lehman Brothers" guy got a unanimous vote of confidence from his colleagues. The UCU invited Masuku to speak at a BDS conference, and then rejected any calls to condemn him. There have been precisely zero efforts to expunge this sort of bile from the movement -- something I know because, unlike you, I've been following these guys for years. Frankly put, I don't know what your definition of anti-Semitism is, if this all doesn't qualify.

BDS is a global movement, but there are some linchpin players. Since they like to style it as a response to grassroots Palestinian advocacy, the entire movement can be traced back to PACBI (Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel). And the first link I gave to you demonstrated that PACBI is quite clear that promotion of Israel as a Jewish state is sufficient for a boycott: The Van Leer institute is firmly anti-occupation; PACBI's only complaint against it is that "It subscribes to the 'vision of Israel as both a homeland for the Jewish people and a democratic society, predicated on justice, fairness and equality for all its residents,' ignoring the oxymoron presented by this inherently exclusionary vision—a 'Jewish State' of necessity discriminates against its 'non-Jewish' citizens."

In South Africa, the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) takes the lead; their international secretary (Masuku) is the man found guilty of anti-Semitic hate speech. In Britain, several unions are amongst the BDS leadership, but the highest profile is the University and Colleges Union (UCU), which is the British union I keep referencing above which, among other things, invited Masuku. In North America, Naomi Klein is the key figure trying to get BDS to hop the pond -- she was the one more appalled that Jews had the temerity to protest Ahmadinejad's speech than she was by the speech itself.

David Schraub said...

Also, it's obvious that my critique of expressivism can be applied against anyone who supports a position solely on expressive grounds. I would never imply otherwise. Anyone who supports a given pro-Israeli action solely because it "sends a message" is quite vulnerable to my critique. My point was merely that you, particularly, seemed to be falling into this trap -- a folly that I imagine you share with some hypothetical pro-Israel supporters who also come out in favor of various acts for symbolic reasons without engaging in any consequentialist calculus. They are bad people -- but they're not on this thread.

Kathy said...

If you can't see anti-Semitism in the guy who claimed that BDS opponents were funded by "bank balances from Lehman Brothers that can’t be tracked down" (a reference to the claim that Jewish investors embezzled money out of LB during its collapse), I can't help you.

You do not provide a link to support this charge.

Kathy said...

If you can't see anti-Semitism in a union happily inviting Bongani Masuku (a top leader of BDS in South Africa) who "conveyed a message to the Jews of South Africa" that if they supported Israel, they'd must be subjected "to perpetual suffering", that Jews were all "arrogant", that he couldn't be expected to regard Zionists as "human beings" -- statements, among others, ruled to be hate speech by the SAHRC -- I can't help you.

You do provide a link to support this charge. That link goes to one of your own posts making the same charge.The first link in that post goes to still another one of your own posts. The links in that post goes to an opinion column by David Saks, of whom I have never heard, but the first sentence of his column says he full approves of Israel's invasion of Gaza (Operation Cast Lead) in which close to 2,000 civilians were killed and many more injured. That leaves me disinclined to take anything else he says as morally serious. But even if I were still so inclined, there isn't a single link in his column to any factual material that could back up what is, obviously, his personal opinion.

(cont'd)

Kathy said...

(cont'd)

The other link in your comment to which I am here replying ("PACBI is quite clear that promotion of Israel as a Jewish state is sufficient for a boycott") does (eventually) go to a primary source (the actual PACBI statement criticizing the fact that a book written by Sara Hanafi was partially funded by the Van Leer Institute).

Kathy said...

(cont'd)

You say, "The Van Leer institute is firmly anti-occupation; PACBI's only complaint against it is that "It subscribes to the 'vision of Israel as both a homeland for the Jewish people and a democratic society, predicated on justice, fairness and equality for all its residents,' ignoring the oxymoron presented by this inherently exclusionary vision—a 'Jewish State' of necessity discriminates against its 'non-Jewish' citizens." But this is not quite accurate. The original PACBI statement adds:

"Furthermore, Van Leer, like all other Israeli academic institutions, has never taken a stance against Israel's policies of occupation and racial discrimination, nor against the recent war of aggression on Gaza or the ongoing illegal siege of 1.5 million Palestinians there. The Van Leer is, therefore, an institution with strong links to establishment institutions in Israel. As such, it is complicit in maintaining and entrenching Israel’s regime of occupation and apartheid against the Palestinian people.
[...]
A project involving only Israeli academics, on the other hand, receiving support from an Israeli academic institution, may be seen as a justifiable exercise of a right or an entitlement by Israeli scholars as tax payers and, as a result, may not per se be boycottable."

Kathy said...

So it's NOT the "Jewish state" part that PACBI objects to, and furthermore, your claim that Van Leer is "firmly anti-occupation" may not be true. PACBI claims Van Leer has never publicly come out against the occupation. Where that's accurate I don't know, but that contradiction should be addressed.


As for PACBI's rejection of Van Leer's stated vision of a Jewish state -- "Israel as both a homeland for the Jewish people and a democratic society, predicated on justice, fairness and equality for all its residents" -- on grounds that a Jewish state necessarily discriminates against its non-Jewish citizens: I disagree with the statement. I don't believe that the concept of a Jewish state that is democratic and "provides justice, fairness, and equality for its non-Jewish citizens" is an oxymoron.

However, I also believe that in practice, Israel has NOT treated its non-Jewish citizens with justice, fairness, and equality -- and that, in practice, Israel's democracy has been seriously compromised by its treatment of Palestinians. I don't think, even if you set aside the relatively narrow issue of how Israel treats non-Jewish Israeli citizens, that any country's democratic institutions are compatible with enforcing a brutal military occupation on millions of people.

I think where PACBI makes a big mistake, though, is in using the phrase "the Jewish state." I do find that objectionable. "The Zionist enterprise" is pretty nasty, as well.

I think where you make a mistake is in casting too wide a net in your accusations of anti-Semitism. I simply do not agree that anyone in the BDS movement who includes PACBI in their event planning is anti-Semitic. I don't even think that PACBI is necessarily anti-Semitic. I just don't think the anti-Semitic connotation of some of the language in this single statement means the entire organization is anti-Semitic and should be shunned. Maybe it is, but I don't think you can make that judgment based on one statement about the funding sources of one book.

It seems to me that your criteria for identifying anti-Semitism relies heavily on guilt by association. You have suggested that activists like Noam Chomsky and Naomi Klein, if not anti-Semitic themselves, are useful idiots associating themselves with anti-Semites. I frankly think that's ridiculous. You have to look at the whole of what a person communicates about themselves. I greatly admire and respect both Chomsky and Klein for the body of their work and for the causes in which they involve themselves, so maybe I'm not totally objective, but I will still say I think it's ridiculous to suggest they either are anti-Semitic or are willing to tolerate anti-Semitism.

Kathy said...

By the way, I don't support economic boycotts solely on "expressive grounds." I don't support anything solely for its symbolic value. I support the concept of not economically supporting that which you abhor, that is true. However, in the specific instance of Israeli treatment of Palestinians, I support the general concept of divestment because I believe that uncritical public support of Israel in conjunction with privately (maybe) "encouraging" Israel to behave in less barbaric and more civilized ways has failed abysmally.

That said, I think divesting from cultural and educational institutions is probably of limited value. Much more effective would be if the U.S. government placed military and targeted economic sanctions (possibly; I'm always uneasy about economic sanctions because they hurt the wrong people) on Israel until it starts behaving like a responsible global citizen.

David Schraub said...

Oh, for fuck's sake.

First of all, I did provide a link regarding the "Lehman Bros" allegation -- it was the third-to-last link in my string cite post. Contemporaneous reporting here (since apparently links to my own posts are suspect).

Second, regarding Mr. Masuku, rather than idle speculations about credibility, USE TEH GOOGLE if you're so suspicious. Or perhaps that's beyond your technical abilities, since the Saks column you reference in fact has nothing to do with Mr. Masuku, but regards an entirely separate incident revolving around Fatima Hajaig, a SA deputy foreign minister (Hajaig apologized -- eventually; to satisfy your veracity-concern-trolling that manages to both burn at your soul and yet not motivate you to do a simple internet search). That was not the incident I was referencing (I don't know whether Hajaig supports BDS); that was merely a lead-in linking up Masuku's remarks to a pattern of anti-Israel hostility in parts of South Africa's political elite.

Read the post again, or, if reading more than five lines of a post is too intellectually taxing, perhaps have someone read it to you. It's supported via primary sourcing from It's Almost Supernatural and Engage. Don't trust them? Maybe you could just read the ruling from the South African Human Rights Commission. Oh noes! It's posted on a Zionist blog! They probably doctored it (they fooled COSATU then -- they seem quite upset that they lost bigtime in front of the SAHRC).

David Schraub said...

What's amazing is how your "objections" seem to have almost no explanation behind them other than a sort of entitled aggressive ignorance of the subject matter.

1) You complain that I didn't substantiate the "Lehman Bros" allegation, even though it was linked to in the comment that listed off all my anti-Semitism claims -- links you claimed to have read. I'm guessing you either didn't read them all that carefully, or you have the short-term memory of a mescaline addict.

2) You complain that the "source" backing the Masuku charge supported Cast Lead, which makes him inherently morally suspect. Cast aside the ad hom; all this revealed is that you're functionally illiterate, and/or you think Google is the devil's handiwork. That link was about an entirely different controversy. But if you were curious about what either Mr. Masuku or, for that matter, Ms. Hajaig had said, you could, say, search my archives (I've written at length). Or search teh intertubes. Not too difficult, but it would create knowledge, which apparently burns or something.

3) Then you allege my critique is "guilt by association". You fail to show how. I identified four key players in the boycott movement. (1) COSATU (2) UCU (3) Naomi Klein and (4) PACBI (I'm pretty sure I didn't mention Noam Chomsky anywhere). With COSATU, I cited statements by their International Relations Secretary -- basically, their top official regarding foreign affairs. With the UCU, I guess you could say half of my critique was "associational" insofar as it involved bringing Masuku to speak on BDS (though if the UCU invited David Duke -- not as far-fetched as you might imagine -- I'd have no trouble labeling that racist on its own merits); but the Lehman Bros issue was their own doing, as was their refusal to examine why Jews felt uncomfortable in the union and were resigning en masse. My critique of Ms. Klein was likewise on her own statements -- namely, her finding a relatively mild protest against anti-Semitism more disturbing than anti-Semitic activity itself. That leaves us with PACBI -- and you admit that the statements in question have anti-Semitic "connotations", you just assert that there are other problems as well. Three things: (1) I concede I was too flip in characterizing PACBI's objection as being solely to Israel's Jewish character -- they have other issues as well. But it is clear that they do object to Israel's Jewish character alongside their other issues. (2) I think that position -- labeling the existence of a Jewish state as inherently immoral -- is anti-Semitic on its own terms. (3) But insofar as PACBI is the fulcrum for the movement, what I was trying to demonstrate was that BDS is inextricably linked to opposition to Israel as a Jewish state -- which PACBI does oppose (even if they oppose other things as well), and that makes it a dangerous movement to support. Moreover, PACBI supports boycotts against organizations that under almost any metric are crucial to eventual reconciliation, because their own guidelines specifically demand boycott of "reconciliation" projects "unless framed within the explicit context of opposition to occupation and other forms of Israeli oppression of the Palestinians" (a framework which, needless to say, doesn't create the conditions necessary for frank, egalitarian dialogue).

David Schraub said...

4) And after all that -- some issues simply ignored (the audience members at Berkeley, the Italian union urging boycott of all Jews), others ignored but for handwaving (Klein), others unaddressed due to your own utter laziness and/or incompetence (Masuku, Lehman Bros), and others conceded(!) -- after all that, you have the temerity to complain that I've only, at worst, shown a narrow band of anti-Semitic activity in the movement, which isn't sufficient to condemn it in total. This is ironic, given that you don't seem to possess the attention span to read more than a few lines at a time (see #2). In any event, I think even by itself this is enough to show that the key players of the movement are shot through with anti-Semitism. But this demand that anti-Semitism always be seen as spurious and fictive unless it's accompanied by 90 footnotes, preferably not by folks who support Israel (none of which will actually be read) is a bullshit burden that betrays a fundamental lack of interest in combating anti-Semitism beyond simply padding one's progressive resume.


I am so fucking sick of people who are so opposed to anti-Semitism that nothing ever is anti-Semitic (or if it is, it's marginal and not worth getting exercised about). It's such a bullshit form of smug faux-progressivism; it makes me physically ill. What makes it particularly aggravating is that you've admitted you know nothing of this movement. But heaven help you if you listen to folks who do, rather than casting about for apologetics and explanations and excuse making.

I'm done with this. You've approached this entire discussion with such an air of entitlement that I have to be your teacher, but with any concurrent desire to learn anything on the subject -- if it isn't spelled out to you in perfect little nuggets (preferably 50 words or less), it might as well not exist. If it seems like I've lost my temper -- yeah, I have. But it's my blog. And I don't need apologists for anti-Semites in my backyard, and I particularly don't need it when they have the chutzpah to pretend like they actually do care about the issue when they clearly don't, and particularly when they demand an acre of source material, don't actually bother to read it, then complain about the sourcing.

Kathy said...

If it seems like I've lost my temper -- yeah, I have. But it's my blog. And I don't need apologists for anti-Semites in my backyard, and I particularly don't need it when they have the chutzpah to pretend like they actually do care about the issue when they clearly don't, and particularly when they demand an acre of source material, don't actually bother to read it, then complain about the sourcing.

It's your blog? Yeah, that I think is undeniable. I don't think you've supported your case that, as a global movement, Boycott,Divestment,Sanctions is anti-Semitic. You haven't factually backed up your argument that supporting the Netanyahu government, and Israeli policy toward the Palestinians in general -- as you have suggested that you do -- has been a more effective road to peace and justice for both Israelis and Palestinians than has boycotting, divesting, and sanctioning.

You call me an "apologist for anti-Semites." That is untrue. I won't say more than that, because it would be undignified and foolish to argue with you about my personal motivations when clearly you are in such a poor position to understand them.

Doubtless, the same is true of your personal motivations, as they appear to me. Since I recognize that my view of your personal motivations right now at this moment is probably colored heavily by the substantive disagreements between us, I won't even share them.

And I will leave your backyard now.