Monday, January 16, 2012

Atzmon and Friends

Apparently the Friends Seminary in New York City is inviting notorious anti-Semite Gilad Atzmon to come and have a visit again ("again" because apparently he's stopped by before).

I've hung out in left circles enough to know the standard response to such an action (organize some sort of letter-writing campaign or petition urging them to withdraw the invitation); I've also hung out in left circles enough to know such response will not be forthcoming in a case like this. But honestly, I'm okay with that. Why? Because cases like this demonstrate, to me, just how impoverished that response is to those of us victimized when bigotry of this sort is sanctioned.

Suppose that such a campaign was organized, and that Friends did change its mind. What's the result? Well, aside from the inevitable carping and crowing about how "the Zionists" (or "the Jews", since Atzmon tends to at least be more honest than many of his fellows in not abiding by the charade -- if, as Martin Luther King put it, "when you criticize Zionism, you mean Jews", then Atzmon has taken that message to heart in exactly the opposite of how it was intended) have "silenced" him, all we'd have proven is that given enough pressure and bad PR, Friends will not act in an overtly anti-Semitic manner.

But that's not what I want. I don't want Friends to be vulnerable to a pressure campaign. I want Friends to not have invited Atzmon in the first place. I want it to have never occurred to them that it was remotely acceptable for them to allow in an anti-Semitic bigot within their walls. Of course, it's too late for that now -- the key battle has already been lost. So now I want them to, on their own, come to the epiphany that such hatred is wrong, that Jews are equal and valued members of the political community, and to treat us accordingly even when nobody is watching; even when nobody seems to care. I'm not optimistic, but any other "victory" is hollow and without meaning.
If one only has protections because one devotes every spare vote, dollar, resource and minute to secure them, one can hardly be said to be an equal. Equality comes when equality is normal — so normal, that you don’ t have to be perpetually on your guard to defend it. So normal that it wouldn’t occur to anyone to try and take it away.


troll_dc2 said...

I agree that a letter-writing campaign or petition is pretty stupid. But a real letter (written by one person) to the head of the seminary explaining why this man is wrong and asking why the seminary wanted to be associated with him might draw a response if it were written in a polite but firm manner, using argument instead of mere rhetoric. If there is a response, then you may have an opening to pursue the ultimate objective, which is to persuade the seminary that it made a severe mistake.

Cycle Cyril said...

Your gut response reminds me of the Robert Frost line about liberals:

"A liberal is a man too broadminded to take his own side in a quarrel."

Wake up and quarrel, it would make a difference and earn respect.

troll_dc2 said...

Cyril, you talkin' to me or to David? If to me, I would respond that I am all in favor of quarrel, but I want it to be effective. Noisy sloganeering protests may make the protesters feel good but don't do much to achieve their goal, which is to manipulate the minds of the people who make decisions at the seminary so as to get them to see that what they did they should never do again.