Tuesday, May 21, 2013


Eric Yoffie says what I've been pleading for someone to say: Synagogues (or other Jewish communal spaces) are not open-mic nights. There is no obligation to let everyone speak. The Jewish community should welcome vigorous debate (it wouldn't be much of a Jewish community if we didn't), but it is also entirely appropriate to police the borders of that debate, and to declare that certain views are simply unwelcome. We should oppose ethnic hatred, racism, and bigotry. We should oppose those who object to Jewish self-determination or who think Jews can justifiably be murdered for having the temerity to live in their homeland. We should oppose those don't think Israel should be allowed to exist as a secure Jewish democratic state.

And to wit, Yoffie says: J Street yes, BDS no. CUFI yes, Pamela Geller no. And I agree with that. I'm no fan of CUFI, to say the least, but so long as it doesn't endorse one-stateism or other bigoted proposals, I'll disagree with them on the stage. And J Street and I also have our quibbles, but same deal. Meanwhile, I am a strong supporter of recognizing that the BDS folk and Pam Geller are more or less cut from the same cloth, in part because it causes both parties' heads to explode (both groups are also prone to calling for the other to be excluded while wailing about "censorship" or "muzzling" when they're left out).

So all in all, I consider Yoffie's typology to be pure win.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Scold in Chief

I am in absolute agreement with Ta-Nehisi Coates' discussion about how President Obama talks to the Black community. For all the talk about how President Obama is too solicitous to the "blahs", it is evident that he holds them up to a far higher standard than he does other communities. Which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it is a notable thing, and sometimes it can be a counterproductive thing. As Coates points out, there's nothing intrinsically worse about dreaming to be the next LeBron James as the next Peyton Manning, or the next Kanye compared to the next David Bowie. And I've always wondered how, if at all, the whole "reading a book is acting White" is anything more than a localized instantiation of the more general truth that nerds are unpopular.

Again, perhaps this sort of "tough love" outlook is a net benefit for the Black community. It certainly tracks what White people say they want Black people to say to their own community (though it is perhaps unsurprising that Obama gets no credit for it). But I can't help but note that we are much less approving of this sort of approach when it is directed at ourselves. "Tough love" when directed toward Blacks is "blaming America first" or "politicizing a tragedy" when it comes to Whites.