Friday, July 30, 2010

ADL-Approved Religious Discrimination

Absolutely outrageous. The Anti-Defamation League has released a statement approving of efforts to bar the construction of a Muslim mosque in southern Manhattan, several blocks from the WTC site. While attempting to disassociate themselves from the conceded "bigotry" which they acknowledge animates some of the mosque's opponents, the ADL claims that the site "will cause some victims more pain – unnecessarily – and that is not right." "[U]ltimately this is not a question of rights, but a question of what is right."

I submit that it is a question of both, and the precedent that the ADL is adhering to is one that is exceedingly detrimental to the safety and equality of religious minorities worldwide, including Jews.

The ADL's attempt to distinguish folks whose opposition to the mosque is based on "bigotry", and those for whom it isn't, is unavailing. It's all bigotry -- some of it is simply better dressed than others. Restricting the civil rights of a given population because some members of that population committed horrible acts is bigotry per se. There's no getting around it. We might sympathize with folks who -- having been brutally victimized by members of religious group -- are fearful or otherwise antagonistic towards that group as a whole. But such sentiments simply can't be given force of law. To force members of a religious group to bear additional burdens based on the actions of their brethren in faith -- actions which they themselves oppose stridently -- is bigotry in its purest form.

I am literally shaking with rage over this, because I trust the ADL to be there when the rights of religious minorities are threatened. I can no longer do that. That the ADL apparently views Egypt's treatment of its Jews as a model example of religious liberty is disqualifying for them to be taken seriously as a civil rights organization concerned with the fair and egalitarian treatment of all people. Their position on this issue is absolutely unconscionable, and is an embarassment to anyone who truly cares about the rights of religious minorities in the United States and worldwide.

Other commenters:

Greg Sargent: "On this one, you're either with the bigots or you're against them. And ADL has in effect sided with them."

Adam Serwer: "I learned a very important lesson in Hebrew School that I have retained my entire life. If they can deny freedom to a single individual because of who they are, they can do it to anyone."

Tablet Magazine: "Founded in 1913, the ADL, in its words, 'fights anti-Semitism and all forms of bigotry, defends democratic ideals and protects civil rights for all.' Except when it does the precise opposite."

Thursday, July 29, 2010


I will admit that I harbor some prejudice against Jews who convert to another faith. It's not something I'm proud of, but there it is. There is a feeling of abandonment -- we're an embattled minority, and these folks are taking the easy way out. A socially sanctioned (encouraged, even) Michael Jackson pill, if you will. And sometimes, converts, in their quest to prove their loyalty to their (new) faith, are amongst the most zealous oppressors of their former brethren (this, of course, is not limited to folks converting from Judaism).

But this my problem, and my prejudices do not deserve any more protection by the law than anyone elses. So when an Israeli Oxford Professor claims she was discriminated against after converting from Judaism to Anglicanism, assuming her story is accurate, I think she has every right to legal redress.

Of course I have the right to oppose anti-Jewish behavior from any source, whether it be from Jews, Gentiles, or formerly-Jewish Gentiles. But neither I, nor anyone else, has the right to take a preemptive strike -- discriminating for fear of discrimination. My prejudices are my own problem, and I should be the one (as much as possible) to bear their burden.


Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Tea Party?

Not Democrats -- they see the far-right movement as their best hope for keeping political control in 2010, by forcing the GOP to run terrifyingly fanatical candidates like Sharron Angle. But the GOP, which denounced as "quackery" a Democratic attempt to tie the GOP to the tea partiers, might be getting a bit nervous.

They got to be careful, though. Republicans who denounce the far-right tend not to last long in Republican primaries (Bob Bennett and Bob Inglis, wave from the galleries!). I hardly think the tea party will be thrilled by public GOP efforts to disassociate themselves. But I hardly think voters will be thrilled if they don't.

Rough gig.

Take Two

I'm not convinced that someone who truly screwed up (as opposed to committing the gaffe of honestly stating his beliefs) would need two cracks at the apology apple (see also: Fatima Hajaig). But I don't speak for the ADL.

Still, as far as I'm concerned, Oliver Stone is just a sober Mel Gibson.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Like Precious Little Snowflakes

Jeffrey Lord, a writer at the American Spectator has concluded that Shirley Sherrods lied about her father being lynched. Yes, her father was brutally beaten to death by a mob on the courthouse steps. But "lynching", we're told, requires a rope -- otherwise, it's just "a brutal and fatal beating," and an outright fabrication to say otherwise.

Needless to say, this doesn't track anybody's definition of "lynching", which generally refers to an extrajudicial execution by a mob (the Israeli commandos who claimed that the crew of the Mavi Marmara was preparing to lynch them were not referring to ropes). And consequently, it seems like virtually everybody is coming down on Lord -- from Matt Yglesias and Jeff Fecke to Radley Balko and Lord's own colleagues at The American Spectator.

But Paul Campos managed to nutpick a gem from a commenter trying, desparately, to defend Lord's statement:
Regardless of the dictionary’s definition, English is considered the most nuanced of languages because each word has a specific, unique meaning giving context and emotion to any written or spoken idea or statement. I don’t need a dictionary to instruct me on the accepted meaning of the word ‘lynching.’

That is so, so far from an accurate description of English that it nearly defies belief. Words in English rarely have just one specific meaning, and the idea that the word "lynching" tends to evoke a noose doesn't mean a extrajudicial mob killing isn't a lynching, any more than the classic image of a "picnic" occurring on a grassy field would mean someone is liar if their "picnic" occurred on a craggy mountain ledge.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

And Do You KNOW What Dancing Leads To?

A woman sued Girls Gone Wild for filming her without her consent at a bar. Basically, she was dancing at the bar, and somebody pulled her top down, exposing her breasts to the camera. The jury ruled against her, in what has to be some of the most stunningly offensive logic ever deployed:
After deliberating for just 90 minutes on Thursday, the St. Louis jury came back with a verdict in favor of the smut peddlers. Patrick O'Brien, the jury foreman, explained later to reporters that they figured if she was willing to dance in front of the photographer, she was probably cool with having her breasts on film. They said she gave implicit consent by being at the bar, and by participating in the filming - though she never signed a consent form, and she can be heard on camera saying "no, no" when asked to show her breasts.

I have to admit, it never occurred to me that dancing at a bar equaled implied consent to be filmed having your clothes stripped off (that "no" once again meant "yes" is tragically too common to comment on). But I guess I have one of those crazy, feminist conceptions of consent that doesn't let you have any fun at all.