Saturday, April 16, 2016

Pluralistic Ignorance: Gay Marriage, Racism, Israel, and Anti-Semitism

I vaguely remember the first time I thought about gay marriage as a political issue. I was either in middle school or early high school (so around the year 2000). As I recall it, my main thoughts on the matter were:
  1. I couldn't think of any particular reason to oppose it; and
  2. Supporting gay marriage was, descriptively, a fringe position that was outside the bounds of mainstream political discourse.
Being 14 years old or so, the second point was enough to at least keep me quiet on the matter. Who wants to be a non-serious outsider?

A few years later, of course, things had changed. Well before Obergefell, gay marriage crossed over into being at least a plausible political position -- one that people in my circle could openly avow without embarrassment or fears of being shunned or excluded. And once that happened, reason #1 was left alone and asserted itself without trouble. I never looked back.

I suspect that many people experienced an evolution like mine. Most people are reticent to radically break from their social neighbors -- not necessarily something to be proud of, to be sure, but descriptively accurate. And it's not simple bandwagoning -- the privately held position is genuine, but it just doesn't manifest until we are confident that expressing the position won't cause us to be expelled from our relevant social groups. Of course, the "relevant social group" would differ from person to person. The sorts of signals which demonstrate that a position is no longer fringe in legal academic circles, differ from those which provide the same message to judicial elites, versus to Democrats, versus to Mississippians. Nonetheless, I think a story of this sort accounts for the astonishingly rapid shift in attitudes about gay marriage over the course of only a few years. From 2001 to 2015, support for gay marriage gained a whopping 38 points (from net-negative 22% to net-positive 16%).

One way of formalizing the story I just told is through the lens of pluralistic ignorance. Pluralistic ignorance exists when people may personally reject a given social norm but sharply overestimate the degree to which their fellows support it. So I personally have no problem with gay marriage, but I assume all my neighbors do (and many of them, privately, are thinking the exact same thing). Since people frequently won't articulate opinions they believe are unpopular within their peer group, this can result in the maintenance of archaic social norms even when many people privately would be fine with abandoning them. It also explains why, under the right circumstances, these norms can disintegrate with astounding rapidity. If some peer members do articulate the supposedly taboo "dissident" opinion and nothing bad happens to them, then it opens the door for everyone else to articulate their own true views.

 The example I just used is a happy one -- people rapidly changing their minds to favor gay equality. But pluralistic ignorance does not always dam up progressive social reform. A few months ago, I told a story about racism and the Donald Trump campaign that moves to a very similar beat. I hypothesized that a significant swath of Americans had learned to cover up their racial prejudices under the belief that such views would be seen as unacceptable by their fellows. If they expressed them, they would be ostracized and shunned (perhaps by the ever-mythic "PC police"). And then Donald Trump came along and said all of the outrageous, biased, bigoted, racist things these covert racists had been yearning to yell out themselves.

...And nothing happened. Sure, the media fulminated and Trump's opponents cried foul. But it didn't sink Trump's campaign. If anything, it strengthened it. There certainly was no social banishment, no exile to the fringe corners of outcasts and misfits. Instead, the racists found that there were in fact plenty of people who believed the same things they did, that they held a non-trivial swath of public opinion and political power. And once they realized that, the dam broke. All that suppressed racial ressentiment came pouring out in full force and fury, shocking even conservative political pundits. The outlook which had been the joke, the province of fringe lunatics, suddenly was looking like the dominant force in one half of America's two-party system.

This pluralistic ignorance story may apply to views on Israel as well. CNN may have overstated things when it declared that "Bernie Sanders Smashed the Israel Status Quo" -- as J.J. Goldberg and Gershom Gorenberg, among others, has pointedly observed, Bernie lies well within a perfectly recognizable strand of contemporary Israel advocacy that has never been troubled by "criticism of Israel" -- but it was hardly entirely wrong either. In academia, the rise of BDS is perhaps a more clear demonstration of the effect. It's less about whether they win or lose, and more about signaling that positions on Israel hitherto regarding as extreme -- challenging its entire existence, declaring the entire Jewish national project to be a form of illicit domination -- are not in fact fringe ones. Anti-Israel activists like to tell a story about how marginalized and muzzled they are, but in many ways they're experiencing the exact opposite -- they can give their blood libel spiel, spout vicious anti-Semitic slurs, even falsify their data, and they'll still have a loud and raucous band of petition-signers ready to have their backs. Just like the formerly covert racist who attends the Trump rally and discovers that he was not, in fact, exiled to become a complete social outcast, the extreme anti-Israel activists have discovered that there is a place for them in mainstream discourse. And that means that all those who were privately outraged that Jews dared have a state to call their own but assumed such thoughts could not be expressed aloud, now have an accepted public outlet for their fury. Ressentiment rides again.

And what of outright anti-Semitism (which, of course, is distinct from hostile attitudes towards Israel but certainly often comes clothed in anti-Israel garb)? While it is standard-issue nowadays to claim that anti-Semitism is over, that Jews have officially won the anti-discrimination game (look at how well we poll!), there is a potential pluralistic ignorance story to be told here as well. If it is widely assumed that it's "not okay" to hate on the Jews, then most people will not admit to doing so. The question is -- what happens if that consensus is broken? If people express anti-Semitic attitudes, is it viewed as unacceptable? Does it shatter their reputation, the way it is so often assumed to do?

Right now, things stand on uncertain ground. A Stanford student leader says it is important to consider whether Jews really do control the banks and media -- but then again, the reaction by his peers was clear and unambiguous (yet, on the other other hand, will there be any reputation lost for the Stanford professor who wants people to get their news from blood libel advocates?). An Oberlin professor posts a slew of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, and the university administration seemed barely able to muster up a response. But then a majority of Oberlin faculty did sign a letter denouncing them. But a significant minority of the faculty pointedly refused to do so, expressing "outrage[] at the irresponsible hostility drummed up against [Karega] as a scapegoated target." And round and round we go.

Pluralistic ignorance is by its nature a very speculative story to tell (at least projecting forward). And it depends on the peer groups one inhabits -- liberal college activist groups or conservative white nationalist communities are not every community (and it's worth noting that even in those communities pluralistic ignorance might manifest in its own way -- for example, progressive college students might feel compelled to sign on to far harsher condemnations of Israel than they personally feel are warranted because they jointly assume that is the norm position among progressive college students). But it is one reason I don't think one can rely on the stability of a "norm" against racism or anti-Semitism. It's possible it reflects genuine egalitarian commitments, free from misconceived notions about the attitudes of their peers. But it's possible it doesn't. And if not, the constructed edifice of respect and equality can all come tumbling down very, very quickly.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

People Who Object To Basic Norms of Academic Integrity Shouldn't Be Academics

Academia requires some very basic norms for it to function. Don't falsify data. Don't plagiarize sources. Don't misquote sources. Label your graphs. Use consistent metrics within a single graphic or chart.

Take the requirement that one use consistent metrics when labeling a graphic. This is a very basic norm of academic integrity, the sort of thing you learn in middle school. If I'm creating a chart of "Nobel Prize winners by country", we might reasonably question whether winners of the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel should count. But it is obvious that I should disclose my decision, and it is even more obvious that I can't say "they count for Russia but not for any other country." Likewise, if I'm doing a series of charts on the subject (say, one for each decade), I can't alternate between counting the Economics prize for the 1971-80 graph but not for the 1981-90 graph. And I certainly can't do any of that without disclosure -- making it clear that "I counted Russian winners of the Economics prize but not those from other countries" and/or "I included the Economics prize winners for the 1971-80 decade but not for the 1981-90 decade".

Adherence to rules such as these does not end academic disagreement. It does not even end a significant share of academic disagreement. It does not even end a significant share of academic disagreements that stem from the fact that academics, too, sometimes make terrible, misleading, biased arguments that show them off to be hacks. Playing by the above rules excludes a tiny, tiny sliver of outright academic misconduct. It doesn't make one a good researcher or even a competent one. It is the bare minimum requirement for counting yourself among the community of academic scholars.

Last month, McGraw Hill withdrew a textbook because it contained a series of inaccurate maps that purported to show changes in Jewish versus Palestinian land possession over the course of the mid-20th century. Jewish Voice for Peace has a letter signed by several professors protesting that decision. It provides a convenient list of academics whose graphical representations we now know shouldn't be trusted. In all honesty, it provides a convenient list of academics who shouldn't be in academia.

Now, before we go into the details of the map series at issue, let's step back a bit. Suppose you are a conscientious academic who wanted to create a map series showing changes in "Palestinian land" and "Jewish land" over the course of the 20th century. The first thing you would do, obviously, is decide what metric you're using -- that is, what is the criteria through which lands are labeled "Jewish land" or "Palestinian land."

One possibility is "de jure authority": land is "Jewish land" if a Jewish state (i.e., Israel) exercises de jure sovereign authority over it, and is "Palestinian land" if a Palestinian state exercises de jure sovereign authority over it. The resulting map series might start before WWI and show that, at that time, none of the land was Jewish or Palestinian -- it was all under Ottoman authority. In 1946 it would all be under British control. Following Israel's War of Independence we would finally see some "Jewish land", alongside Jordanian and Egyptian land (as they exercised sovereign authority over the West Bank and Gaza strip), but still no "Palestinian land" (since a Palestinian state exercising de jure sovereign authority had yet to emerge). After 1967, all of the land in question would be Jewish land (and then some, if the date we picked included the years when Israel controlled Sinai). By 2000, though, the Palestinian Authority, would have (arguably) begun exercising sovereign authority over portions of the West Bank (and, for a time, Gaza) -- and so the map would adjust to remove those spots from "Jewish Land" and instead label them "Palestinian Land."

Of course, "de jure sovereign control" is not the only way to measure changes in Jewish versus Palestinian land. Another possibility is to look at private land ownership -- who owns the deed to particular parcels of land. This would be more difficult, but it's still theoretically doable. And we'd see some land owned by Jews, and some land owned by Palestinians, and some owned by neither (because its owned by a third party, or because it is state- rather than privately-controlled), and we could see how those proportions evolved over time. We could also do a map series defining whose land it is by reference to various international proposals that purport to allocate various lands to one group or the other. Any of these could be justified, so long as we were clear which we used and did not mix-and-match different metrics willy-nilly.

Importantly, doing this would not remove questions of interpretation or even bias. For example, if you started the "de jure control" map in 1975 and moved it to the present, it would look like the Israelis had actually ceded large swaths of territory to various groups, including the Palestinians. That would craft a very different, and arguably misleading, story compared to what emerges if you started the map series in 1946. By contrast, if you skip over the year 1975 entirely, you ignore a significant Israeli expansion in territory that it later contracted from, and that too could be said to be misleading. Likewise, the choice of one metric rather than another could be challenged for all sorts of reasons. As I said above, obeying the basic rules of academic integrity does very little to eliminate sources of academic controversy and disagreement. It is the bare minimum we can truly demand out of anyone who calls themselves a scholar.

Having said all of that, here are the maps that were challenged:

If it is hard to see, the green is labeled "Palestinian land" and the blue "Jewish land". The maps cover four periods --1946, 1947 (the Partition Plan), 1949-67, and 2000.

Pulling these maps, in all honesty, should not have been a controversial decision no matter what views you have on Israel and Palestine. The issue isn't that they tell an inconvenient story or pose difficult questions about the occupation. It isn't even that they are "misleading" or "biased" (though they are those things too). The issue is very straightforward: they don't use a consistent metric for what counts as "Jewish" and "Palestinian lands" (they also didn't disclose what metrics they did use -- presumably because doing so would have by necessity forced disclosure of how the metrics shift). That is flatly unacceptable for an academic work. Full stop.

Of course, since the metrics aren't disclosed, it isn't 100% clear what actually does provide the basis for why any individual plot of land on any given graph is consider "Jewish" or "Palestinian." But I think I can pretty well parse it out:

  • The right-most graphic (2000) seems to label as "Palestinian land" that land which is under the de jure control of the Palestinian Authority. And it shows as "Jewish land" the land that is under the de jure control of Israel. So it looks like we're getting a series showing who had de jure control of what land at what time. That's great!
  • Moving left, the next graph (1949-67) shows as blue "Jewish land" all the land under Israeli control during that time period. So far so good. But the green "Palestinian land" is not territory under control of a Palestinian sovereign. Those territories, at that time were under Egyptian and Jordanian sovereignty. The metric for "Palestinian land" now has switched from "land under Palestinian sovereignty" to "land not under Jewish sovereignty". Technically, one could say that's still the metric in the first graph (land that is or isn't under Israeli de jure control). That'd be more than a little shady (why should land under Jordanian control be labeled "Palestinian land"?), but I suppose technically it's not an inconsistency.
  • The next map shows the proposed 1947 partition plan. It has nothing to do with who has de jure control over anything. Neither Jews nor Palestinians had sovereign authority over any of that land at that time -- it was under British dominion. We've completely left the realm of "de jure control" for both Jews and Palestinians alike.
  • The final map, in 1946, is the most difficult for me to parse. It's obviously not about de jure control (again, it was entirely in British hands at the time). From what I can tell, it labels as Jewish land any land under private Jewish ownership -- a completely new metric. And is the green then "any land under private Palestinian ownership"? Nope -- the green is "everything else." Like the 1949-67 map, it's not even an internally consistent metric (let alone consistent across the four graphics).

In short, we have an inconsistent (and unlabeled) hodgepodge of standards, ranging from "private ownership" to "de jure control" to "international proposals" to "anything that isn't 'Jewish land'". There is no basis -- none -- for supporting this as a remotely valid piece of academic scholarship. If a student gave me these graphics, I would probably fail them, and I'd at least consider reporting them for academic misconduct (though I'd likely end up just  giving them a stern talking-to). If a professor defends it, they're basically saying that they can't be trusted to present information in accordance with basic standards of academic integrity -- or at best, that they can't identify basic academic malpractice in cases where the sources appear to advance to their preferred political outlooks. That any professor of any ideological outlook would stand in support of this is a disgrace to our entire profession.

The Id, The Ego, and Israel's Democracy

At the Times of Israel, Haviv Rettig Gur has a fascinating if sprawling piece on the state of Israeli democracy and the Israeli left. One of his claims is that the weakness of the Israeli left stems from its failure to engage in the sort of solidaristic politics that has generally characterized Israeli political identity since its founding. To the extent that's true, it strikes me as plausible explanation. There are absolutely critiques to be had of solidarity politics, but I understand its genuine appeal (one that is hardly restricted to Israelis). Likewise, he argues that given the general impotence of the Israeli left, the reason why the Knesset has not in fact passed all of the horrible anti-democratic bills one periodically sees popping up on the nightly news is that the Israeli right is blocking them. The left likes to claim credit, but in a parliamentary democracy these laws live or die based on their support in the majority coalition. And that strikes me as correct as well too.

Underneath Rettig Gur's narrative, however, is a story about the Israeli right -- one that is implicit in his story but isn't explicitly told. It presents a right-wing that is, at some level, in contradiction with itself. In many ways, the stability of Israeli democracy, under the narrative he provides, depends on this contradiction -- on the right blocking anti-democratic proposals that emanate from the right. The question is whether this contradiction can stand.

One of my perennial observations about Israeli politics concerns the lifecycle of right-wing Likud lawmaker. They enter the Knesset for the first time as firebrands, promoting extreme resolutions and uncompromising conservative views. The more time they spend in parliament, the more they moderate -- presumably, something about governance makes them recognize that their simple activist slogans aren't actually realistic or operationalizable. Eventually, they either take on the role of elder statesmen in the Party or bud off to form the latest centrist flash-in-the-pan (Shinui, Kadima, Yesh Atid, Kulanu...). Then they're replaced by new hotheads, and the cycle continues.

Rettig Gur's narrative buttresses this supposition. Over and over, he goes back to the same narrative -- yes, conservative Israeli lawmakers propose extreme laws. But they don't really want them to be enacted. They symbolically have them pass a first read to rile up the left, then acquiesce to letting them be swapped out for more moderate versions. They deliver fiery speeches about staying true to principles, then quietly submit to the demands of coalition leaders. They rail against an anti-democratic supreme court but never actually interfere with its constitutional authority.  When one of their wild proposals does end up passing "by accident", it ends up embarrassing even the authors (who "seemed more horrified at its successful passage into law than at its swift cancellation.").

The image one gets from this is of an immature adolescent who loudly proclaims his rebellious intentions but secretly craves structure. For all the fulmination against the rules and the authorities and the parents who just don't get it, he's well aware that these elder institutions are the only things standing between himself and some truly dire consequences. It's like the guy who fronts for a fight by yelling at his bros "don't hold me back!" Everyone knows that the last thing he wants his for his mate to actually let him go.

There's a degree to which this is a comedic farce. Unfortunately, in America we're witnessing the end of the play, and it's no laughing matter. For years the Republican Party had exactly these dynamics: backbenchers could put forward all the outrageous bills they wanted, and after a few loud hearings they'd quietly die in committee. Tea partiers were allowed to run wild on the campaign trail -- but don't worry, the party will decide the nominee. Ever-more extreme positions were ginned up to rally the base and get headlines, but there was nothing really to worry about -- everyone knows it's just for attention.

Until it wasn't. Until the minders stopped being minded. Until the id finally did break loose. And then we got Donald Trump.

Our one saving grace is that this colossal cock-up is occurring in our minority party -- the one which has won a national plurality exactly once in the past 24 years. In Israel, it's happening on the majority side that has been dominant in Israeli politics for the last two decades, in a parliamentary democracy which lacks the levers we have for the minority to exercise restraint. Donald Trump may destroy his Party, but he's unlikely to destroy the country because he can't get elected. What happens if the extremist cauldron bubbling on the Israeli right flank finally does boil over and takes control of the majority coalition?

The dynamic Rettig Gur describes on the Israeli right isn't a sustainable one. Relying on the right-wing to indefinitely continue this dance -- riling up its hotheads and then counting on their elder statesmen to douse them off -- is a dangerous proposition. And Israel has far less room for error than America does.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

The Stanford Anti-Semitism Experiment, Part 2

Last week, I wrote on a Stanford student senator who, during a debate over a proposed resolution condemning anti-Semitism, argued that it was not anti-Semitic to contend that "Jews control[] the media, economy, government and other societal institutions." That episode has mostly wrapped up as the Senator has dropped his re-election bid, though it remains to be seen whether the student Senate can pass a resolution on anti-Semitism that is acceptable to the Jewish community on campus.

And on that score, they may have a new datapoint to consider -- this time on the faculty side of things. David Palumbo-Liu is a comparative literature professor whom I've run across before -- this Huffington Post article where he attributed Palestinian stabbings of Israelis to "an on-going campaign to desecrate and destroy holy sites that anchor non-Jewish peoples to their faiths", including an alleged conspiracy to replace the al-Aqsa Mosque with a new Jewish Temple. That was enough for me to recognize that we had a hack conspiracy theorist on our hands, and I didn't think much more of it.

Anyway, this past week in a Salon article,  Palumbo-Liu went even further. In suggesting alternative media sources readers should rely upon for accurate Mideast reporting (because the mainstream media is biased, as we know), he endorsed  Alison Weir "If Americans Knew" organization. For those of you who don't know, IAK is a group that has, among other things, argued that Jews really did ritually murder Christian children to drink their blood during Passover. Weir has also justified anti-Semitism by saying that the Jewish "race" has been "an object of hatred to all the peoples among whom it has established itself," regularly appeared on neo-Nazi and white supremacist media programs, and, most recently, objected to the Merrick Garland nomination on account of Judge Garland's Jewish faith. IAK's anti-Semitism has been sufficiently overt to garner condemnation not just from the Anti-Defamation League, but also by groups like Jewish Voice for Peace and U.S. Campaign to End the Occupation (more on that in a moment).

After public outcry, Palumbo-Liu removed the reference to IAK from his article with the following message:

While the organization If Americans Knew, which was previously listed here, provides much useful information from reliable, neutral sources, I disagree with many of the public comments of its director. I have removed the original reference to prevent any confusion.)
On Twitter, that played out like this:

Does Palumbo-Liu agree that IAK has engaged in anti-Semitism? Sure doesn't seem like it. There's no condemnation here at all: I "disagree" with my girlfriend regarding the merits of the movie Gran Torino, and in any event Palumbo-Liu can't even bring himself to say what it is he so blandly "disagrees" with. Certainly, he makes it clear that whatever "disagreements" he might have with IAK does not negate the reliability of the group as a whole. Who's to let a little blood libel disturb our credibility judgments?

There honestly isn't that much more to say on this event directly: A Stanford Professor thinks that an organization nearly-universally regarded as anti-Semitic is an important resource for persons looking for an accurate perspective on Israel, and Salon in turn thinks that an academic with those views provides a worthy contribution to its readers. That's depressing, but pretty straightforward.

But there are two more points I want to make. The first regards the role of the JVP condemnation of Weir in all of this. As I noted at the time, the JVP condemnation of Weir was itself quite mealy-mouthed (and they haven't been able to hold to it with consistency, either). They did seem to think, though, that their credibility as an organization that virtually never calls anything anti-Semitic would mean that their normal allies would give them credence here. This hypothesis was falsified rather quickly, and this event proves the point yet further. As soon as JVP strays from its box as the Jews who reassure non-Jews that they're totally not anti-Semitic -- that is, as soon as they do try to label anything anti-Semitic -- they become just as unreliable and uncredible as any other Jewish group. Palumbo-Liu, after all, had also listed JVP as another one of the organizations worth listening to -- but not, apparently, worth listening to when they call someone that Palumbo-Liu likes anti-Semitic.

Which moves me to the next point. Palumbo-Liu, I have no doubt, thinks he has reliable instincts on anti-Semitism. As usual, I don't quite understand the foundation of that sentiment, but what I'm curious about here -- and this is a serious question -- is whether there is anything that would falsify that proposition to him? Clearly, "supporting things most Jews deem anti-Semitic" wouldn't do it. And apparently, "supporting organizations even groups like Jewish Voice for Peace label anti-Semitic" won't cut it either. So what would? My suspicion is that the answer is: "nothing". David Palumbo-Liu's stance as a reliable arbiter of what is and is not anti-Semitic is axiomatic -- unchallengeable by anyone or anything (no doubt if we try, it's just another Zionist Jewish smear).

Professor Palumbo-Liu might be past helping in terms of accurately appraising the reliability of his own instincts. But we -- the collective we, including the Salons and the Nations and the Huffington Posts that publish him -- still can make that assessment. We can still look at him and his revealed instincts and ask ourselves: Is this guy credible? Is the perspective he's offering one worth sharing? Is his contribution one grounded in assessments and appraisals that are considered, fair-minded, egalitarian, and respectful?

We can still do that. And, in turn, the way we answer those questions reveals something about ourselves -- our own instincts, our own sensibilities, and, ultimately, our own credibility.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Boos and Cheers from Bernie's Harlem Crowd

As many of you know, Bernie Sanders fielded a question at a rally in Harlem yesterday where he was asked about the "Zionist Jews run the Federal Reserve, they run Wall Street." Obviously, this is a very distressing thing. It's not the first anti-Semitic question Bernie has received this campaign, and it probably won't be the last. And I have to say -- as much racist vitriol as I can remember Barack Obama experiencing over the last eight years, I can't remember him getting a question quite like this at one of his own rallies. That this happened is an important testament to the ongoing salience of anti-Semitism in American political life. It falsifies the "nobody would ever say that about Jews" (the ultimate anti-discrimination winners) trope that is so common in American public discourse. Far be it from me to discount that.

I also understand Yair Rosenberg's frustration that Sen. Sanders' response was not as impassioned in denouncing anti-Semitic bigotry as it could have been, though I am also sympathetic to the difficult predicament Bernie was in. It is "easy", in some sense, for politicians to condemn bigotry against groups not their own -- but when they start tackling prejudice against their own people, they're immediately going to be hit with labels like "whiner", "special pleading", and so on. It's why Barack Obama must tread lightly around race, why Hillary Clinton can't be too loud about sexism, and why Bernie Sanders has to keep a low-profile on anti-Semitism. To be clear, Yair is well aware of these restrictions -- I'd wager we only disagree on proportions (I generally am sympathetic to the catch-22 Bernie was in, with a residual sense of unhappiness at Bernie's relatively muted response; Yair is unhappy with Bernie's relatively muted response, with a residual recognition that he was in a difficult situation).

But one thing that hasn't been commented on, which I think also deserves recognition, is the reaction of the largely Black, Harlem crowd Bernie was speaking to when the anti-Semitism occurred. As soon as the anti-Semitism became evident (it was "Zionist Jews" that was the giveaway), the crowd erupted in boos. When Bernie proudly proclaimed his Jewish heritage, the people cried out in cheers. When the questioner attempted to persist in making anti-Semitic remarks, he was drowned out with chants.

There is, as everyone knows, a particular narrative about resurgent anti-Semitism in the African-American community. It goes beyond the banal assertion that there are Black anti-Semites (which there obviously are, as this event demonstrated). It contends that the Black community is particularly anti-Semitic, and that as a community it is at best indifferent to Jewish suffering and at worst revels in it.

Over and over again, this hypothesis has been falsified. When Reps. Cynthia McKinney and Earl Hilliard drew the ire of the Jewish community, both were kicked out of office by their predominantly Black electorate. When Nikki Tinker ran a Jew-baiting campaign to primary out Rep. Steve Cohen (a Jewish congressman representing a majority-black district in Memphis), she got trounced. When Charles Barron's open anti-Semitism won him the endorsement of David Duke in an open New York congressional race ("It's a new morning in America when a white supremacist and a black nationalist can join hands in a shared hatred of Jews."), he was throttled by Hakeem Jeffries. Over and over again, the (very real) anti-Semitic wing of the Black community has vastly overestimated its support among Black voters writ large. And over and over again, the Black community as constituted by its voting public demonstrates in word and deed that they will, in fact, be there for the Jewish community when we need them.

And so I was pleased to note the headline JTA selected for covering this story: "Bernie Sanders’ expression of Jewish pride wins cheers in Harlem." Indeed, and while it is worth pointing out and taking seriously the anti-Semitism and it's worth interrogating why Bernie had to give such a modulated response to it, this is something worth pointing out too.