Saturday, January 05, 2019

Forever is a Long Time, Mr. Tobin

Benny Gantz, the centrist-cipher d'jour of the upcoming Israeli elections, said in a recent speech that a cluster of Israeli settlements -- "the Etzion bloc, Ariel, Ofra and Elkana" --  "will remain forever." Some of these settlements are ones which it is expected would become part of Israeli as part of land swaps in a two state solution. But others -- most notably Ofra -- are so deeply embedded in the heart of the West Bank so as to make it effectively impossible for there to be a Palestinian state at all.

Following Gantz's comments, Jonathan Tobin wrote a profoundly strange column of analysis. The thrust of the column is that Gantz's words demonstrate that it isn't just Bibi who is opposed to making territorial concessions to Palestinians -- even "centrist" candidates like Gantz stake out their opposition as well. As much as such concessions are a mainstay of Bibi's critics (particularly out of Israel), they are exceptionally unpopular in Israel itself.

That's fine, as far as it goes (though Gantz was always viewed as a relatively conservative figure on security issues, so his position here isn't exactly a shocker). But Tobin then proceeds to make some very weird choices of framing what Gantz's declaration that Ofra will remain in Israel "forever" tells us about the Israeli psyche. See if you can spot it:
[T]he importance of Gantz’s statement is that it demonstrates that even those who self-consciously style themselves as centrists don’t think it wise for Israel to make unilateral concessions to the Palestinians, or to plan on evicting even a minority of the hundreds of thousands of Jews who live across the Green Line in Jerusalem and the West Bank.
It’s something of a shock for most American Jews hostile to Netanyahu and his right-wing allies to realize that those who share their views in Israel represent only a tiny minority of voters. As has been evident since the Palestinian Authority literally blew up the faith of Israelis in the Oslo peace process during the Second Intifada, a consensus exists from the center left to the center right in Israel that at present, no Palestinian partner for peace exists.
That’s why Israeli centrists and even moderate left-wingers have largely given up talking about relinquishing up more territory for the foreseeable future. Though most Israelis would probably still be willing to trade land for real peace as opposed to more terror, the overwhelming majority understand that just isn’t possible right now. 
See it? "Forever" apparently doesn't last as long as you'd think it does. Tobin instead sees it is a rather contingent and temporary observation. To say Israel will stay in Ofra "forever" doesn't mean it will stay there forever. It just means "at present", or "right now", or "for the foreseeable future" -- until such time as a Palestinian partner for peace comes into being and a bilateral (not "unilateral") agreement can be reached.

This is what happens when you try to get too cute and clever for your own good. Using Gantz as a barometer, Tobin wants to demonstrate that global critics of Netanyahu who want him to be more proactive in ending the West Bank occupation are staking out a decidedly minority opinion in Israeli society. But the evidence he proffers does a lot more than that: if we take it seriously, it equally undermines the ever-present refrain, echoed by Tobin, that of course Israelis want peace and would be willing to withdraw, the conditions just aren't right "right now". The problem isn't with Israelis, who would jump at the chance of a deal, but with Palestinians who "are still clinging to their century-old war on Zionism."

But Gantz didn't say that Ofra will remain "at present" or "right now". He said that settlement bloc, which renders a Palestinian state an impossibility, will remain "forever." And so if he is a barometer for the median Israeli's political psyche, then the median Israeli is saying that their objection to a Palestinian state isn't a contingent appraisal of the contemporary political situation, but an objection in principle. If Tobin is correct about Gantz, then right now it is Israeli society that is "clinging" to a hardline, rejectionist position that opposes a final peace agreement outright. His column is, in its way, one of the more searing indictments one could possibly make of contemporary Israeli society: even its so-called moderates envision staying in the West Bank "forever"! It's not a "Bibi" problem, it's an Israeli problem.

Tobin can only turn "forever" into "at present" because he is committed to the notion that it is an inherent and permanent feature of Israel and Palestine that Israelis want a just peace where they live side-by-side with Palestine in harmony, and hence if a just peace hasn't occurred, the only reason must be that Palestinians don't want one. If Gantz's "forever" means settlements that would forever bar the creation of a Palestinian state, then it can't mean "forever" at all.

But the fact of the matter is, there is no permanent and unalterable political position that is "what Israelis want" or "what Palestinians want". These things shift based on a multitude of factors -- ranging from material conditions on the ground to efforts at persuasion. It is wrong to assume that the Palestinian position simply is, immutably, a desire for the destruction of Israel at the expense of all else; and it's wrong to assume  that the Israeli position simply is, inherently, a hope for peace if only the conditions were ripe. Sometimes either or both of these views might be the majority or dominant position in their respective camps. Other times it might be the opposite -- Palestinians hoping to simply bring an end to the conflict and set up their own state, with a majority of Israelis being indifferent and content to maintain the occupation "forever".

That these positions aren't built into the bones of their respective societies is what allows changes to be made. Even if Gantz is a barometer of Israeli society right now, that doesn't mean that position is forever -- that Israelis are hopeless, unpersuadable, locked into territorial maximalism. But changing minds takes work, it doesn't come for free. And it certainly won't come if it is taken as axiomatic that Israelis are -- by virtue of being Israeli -- automatically and inherently ready to deal if only the moment is right.

I'm That Guy! I'm That "Independent" Artist Guy!

You know the character. In a TV series or a movie, he's a talented artistic sort, but utterly rejects any commercialization of his product if it entails compromise in his work. Using his song for an advertising jingle? No way. Altering his masterpiece to suit the tastes of the wealthy client/benefactor? Absolutely not. He's fiercely independent, and disdains the trappings of popularity or financial reward if it in any way interferes with the sanctity of his art.

I always hated those characters. I found them sanctimonious, self-absorbed, and more than a little ridiculous.

Except I just realized ... I might be that guy, with respect to my writing.

Of course, I'm not a TV or movie character, so I'm a more filed-off version of the sort. I'm willing to publish my opinions in the popular press, and I don't harbor any particularly negative opinions about gaining popularity or exposure or money (I'll let the readers decide whether I'm "talented" or not).

But it is certainly not why I write, and I'm pretty consistent in rejecting opportunities for greater exposure if I have even the slightest concern that the medium will entail a dilution or compromise in my message. Which it usually will, since writing for someone else involves incorporating their editorial judgment and word count restrictions and other formatting strictures. Whereas when I write on this blog, where I can write for as long or as short as I want, on whatever topic I want, for whoever cares to read (or doesn't) -- none of that applies. I'm in control of my own message.

The same applies to other potential communicative mediums I might join in. Interviewed on a TV series? Someone else is the editor of the clip -- that makes me very nervous. Serving as an expert witness? You're supposed to give decisive judgments about whether X or Y did or didn't happen -- but what if I want to equivocate? This is also why I've never had an interest in going into politics: the arguments that win elections or change popular opinion aren't necessarily good arguments, and I don't have the stomach for making claims that rouse popular support even as I know they're not analytically precise.

Of course, these self-imposed limits mean that fewer people will be exposed to the arguments I make, and one might think that -- given all the energy I invest in crafting them -- I'd view that as a sizable loss. But ... I don't. Not really, anyway. I'm always happy when people read what I write and find it compelling or persuasive, but that's never been my primary motivation. I'm a very inwardly-motivated individual; I write because I want to get my thoughts out into the world. If they happen to spark some other person's imagination (or get me some freelance dollars), that's great, but it's just a bonus.

I'd like to think I'm not sanctimonious about the whole deal: I don't think I'm better or purer or more authentic because I've made the choices I've made. But I'm definitely making that style of choice. And the more I think about it, the more the closest archetype I'm falling into is one of those independent artist types. I am, it turns out, That Guy.

Friday, January 04, 2019

"[We] Did Not Make" the Women's March Embrace Antisemitism

I really, really like Carly Pildis' essay on how the Women's March can -- if it so chooses -- succeed and undo much of the damage it's done to Jewish and LGBT women.

In particular, I loved this section:
I did not make you go to Savior’s Day. I did not make you post on Instagram with a man that calls me a termite and my marriage a threat to black America. I did not make you attack the ADL and defame their anti-bias work. I did not make you say that feminism can’t include Zionism. I did not make you sit on a panel on anti-semitism while Jewish leaders were asking you not to. I did not make you say that anti-Semitism is not a systemic hatred. I did not make you go to Israel and call the founding of our homeland, our self-determination, our biblical dream, a crime against humanity. I did not make you march with Louis Farrakhan. I did not make you write that your Jewish critics were enemies of Jesus. I did not make you write cruel facebook posts that undercut your organizational message. Jewish women did not do this to you. The “right” did not do this to you, “The Jews” did not do this to you. You did this. You did all of this.
This this and everything this. So much of the frustration around, not the antisemitism itself, but the reaction of the Women's March to the controversy, centered on how it was portrayed as ginned up, a concoction, a plot that was crafted by enemies of progressivism and feminism in order to destroy the movement. So it is bracing and refreshing for Pildis to say, flatly, "we did not do this. You did this." I can't tell you how good it is to see that written in such an unflinching manner.

Personally, I'm mostly indifferent to the ultimate fate of the Woman's March. It wasn't my cup of tea to begin with -- which isn't a criticism, not everything has to be tea for me -- and to the extent it has become a vehicle for the specific careers of Sarsour, Mallory, Perez, and Bland, I have no particular stake in their continued prominence or power.

But for many other people, Pildis included, the Women's March does matter, a lot and so it does matter that there be a demarcated pathway by which the Women's March can accept responsibility and move forward.

Maybe they'll take it. Maybe they won't. But I can't say it's a bad thing that people are putting in the work to create it.

D.C. Circuit Dissolves Injunction Against Trans Military Ban

In a brief decision, the D.C. Circuit dissolved a lower court injunction against Trump's ban on military service by trans individuals who seek to transition, concluding that the injunction was not sufficiently deferential to the military and that in any event the ban was not a "blanket" prohibition on service by trans individuals because "not all transgender persons seek to transition to their preferred gender or have gender dysphoria".

If that latter determination causes you to roll your eyes, (a) you're right and (b) this is exactly what I've been warning about in, e.g., my "expelling Hillel can't be antisemitic because not every Jew likes Hillel" essays. This line of reasoning is one of the most powerful pathways for the conservative dismantlement of anti-discrimination law -- it is utterly unsurprising to see it used here to defend the otherwise transparently ridiculous assertion that the trans service ban isn't a trans service ban (see also: Trump v. Hawaii's "Muslim ban isn't a Muslim ban"). Find a tiny sliver of the relevant community you're okay with, gerrymander the discrimination so that sliver is admitted, and presto! No more discrimination.

As several other courts have also enjoined the trans ban, the D.C. Circuit's decision will not have any immediate effect.

Jews and Whiteness in America: The Spectrum of Opinions

"Are Jews White"? If you're Jewish -- or, it seems, even if you're not -- you have an opinion on this question. Those opinions lie on a spectrum, and I'm pretty sure I've seen every single possible iteration of views regarding the "White" status of Jews in America.

* * *

1) "No Jews are White. 'Jews', though, means pale-skinned Ashkenazi Jews who live in or immigrated from Europe -- which has nothing to do with 'White'. Persons who claim to be Jews but have different heritages or skin tones are probably not real Jews to begin with; at best, they can be accepted as Jews if and only if they perfectly accept and mimic the practices, beliefs, and ideologies of 'real' Jews. And if this sort of differentiated treatment appears to systematically benefit those Jews who appear White, that has to be a misnomer, since Jews are not White."

2) "No Jews are White. There are no distinctions of importance within the Jewish community along the axis of race. Antisemitism is the only relevant oppression a Jew can experience; it is racism with Jews as its target, consequently, any claim regarding 'racism' in America necessarily must apply with equal force to antisemitism. It is impossible for a Jew to benefit from Whiteness, because Jews are not White."

3) "No Jews are White, but some Jews, mistaken for White folk, might accidentally and idiosyncratically reap certain undefined and inchoate advantages of Whiteness outside of the Jewish community. However, these advantages disappear if and when they're recognized as Jews, and the dominant antisemitism reasserts itself. Within the Jewish community, there are no racial divisions of note, and only those who seek to stoke divisiveness try to argue otherwise."

4) "No Jews are White, but there are some Jews -- those who would, but-for their Jewishness, be seen as White in contemporary society -- who nonetheless benefit from some elements of what might be called 'White privilege', both inside and outside the Jewish community. These benefits, while real, are at the same time sharply limited by the antisemitism they experience."

5) "Some Jews are people of color. Some are White in a conditional or functional way. The latter possess some, but not all, elements of White privilege, both inside and outside the Jewish community. They might also face antisemitism, and this antisemitism mediates and modulates how they experience Whiteness (and vice versa)."

6) "Some Jews are people of color. Some are White. The latter possess most if not all elements of White privilege, both inside and outside the Jewish community, but might also experience antisemitism as a separate and distinct -- though still significant -- phenomenon from the advantages they receive from their Whiteness."

7) "Some Jews are people of color. Some are White. The latter's Whiteness is generally indistinguishable from other Whites, though in a few idiosyncratic cases White supremacists might nonetheless hate them. Outside those rare scenarios, however, only Jews of color face any racialized form of discrimination. In general, White Jews not only sit at an advantage inside the Jewish community, they are also identically situated to other Whites in their social positioning outside the Jewish community."

8) "All Jews are White (if anything, they're extra-White). Even those who'd otherwise appear to be people of color are, in effect, White insofar as they're Jewish. Antisemitism is a minor problem of an otherwise-advantaged White group. It is impossible for Jews to experience any serious deprivation from antisemitism, because their defining feature is Whiteness."

* * *

I sit right in the middle of that spectrum (I'd probably line up as a "5", so if you want a full accounting of that vantage, I dunno, read the rest of my work), but I think any position that's between 4 and 6 is basically defensible. 

The "4s" are those who want to defend the view that no Jews are White while still acknowledging a material difference between pale-skinned Jews of proximate-European descent and those who are more unambiguously "of color". Unlike the smaller numbers, they don't fundamentally deny the reality that pale-skinned Jews benefit in many ways from the advantages of Whiteness, though they might be uncomfortable with actually adopting the "White" label.

The "6s" are those who think that pale-skinned Jews of proximate-European descent simply are White in the American context, but recognize that antisemitism nonetheless remains a very real and dangerous element of these Jews' lives (just one that is conceptually separate from their Whiteness). Unlike the larger numbers, they acknowledge that antisemitism is real and significant, and in that sense Jews are very importantly differentiated from "other" White folk.

"8s" almost exclusively consist of antisemites who dislike Jewishness and think that tying it to Whiteness justifies this dislike. Position 7 is the moderate version of that view, nodding at the theoretical possibility of antisemitism materially effecting how Jews relate to Whiteness while cabining it to its narrowest possible dimensions.

The "1s" are generally those in the Jewish community who are flatly racist. The "2s" are the color-blind cousins of "1s", and is thus mostly comprised of Jews who are, at best, utterly in denial about racism within the Jewish community or the differentiated social position of pale-skinned Jews of proximate-European descent Jews versus those racialized as Black, Latino, or Asian. Like many professions towards color-blindness, it also works just fine as a disguise for simple racism. It's also, oddly enough, the closest view to that of far-right antisemites (minus the concern about antisemitism). 

"3s" include those who kinda-sorta accept that maybe there's a difference between the social position of a Jew who looks like Natalie Portman and a Black person, but insist that it's fleeting and pales in comparison to the similarities between the two. It's the mirror of Position 7, where the existence of White supremacist hatred at Jews is kinda-sorta acknowledged but viewed as basically sporadic and unimportant.

Spend enough time on the internet, though, and you'll see every variant at least a million times. It's a fun game -- try to catch them all!

Thursday, January 03, 2019

Democratically-Elected Dictator Bracket!

It may not be March, but I say it's time for a good old-fashioned tournament! The competition? Democratically-elected authoritarians? Which world leader -- who came to power in a (relatively) open election -- is doing the most to trigger democratic backsliding and creeping authoritarianism in their country?

I'll get to seeding in a second, but first, the rules:
  1. Only (relatively) democratically-elected leaders count. So North Korea, China, Belarus, etc., aren't in the pool. There were some judgment calls: Iran's "leader", for example, arguably isn't the "relatively" democratically-elected Rouhani but the completely-unelected Ayatollah; Venezuela's elections really skirt the edge of "relatively". But hey, if these guys were perfect angels, they wouldn't be on the list.
  2. This is a "pound-for-pound" tournament, meaning that you should adjust for size. China is simply bigger than Belarus, its leadership has more aggregate opportunity to behave in a thuggish manner. But you should try to weight each leader's authoritarian tendencies proportionally.
  3. However, you can take into account the starting points of each country before the current leader came to power -- a leader whose nation was already on shaky democratic footing might get less credit than one who has successfully unraveled what had been a thriving democratic space.
Okay -- the match-ups will be posted as polls on this Twitter thread, but here are the contestants!

1. Vladimir Putin (Russia)
16. Sheikh Hasina (Bangladesh)

2. Rodrigo Duterte (Philippines)
15. Giuseppe Conte (Italy)

3. Hassan Rouhani (Iran)
14. Andrés Manuel López Obrador (Mexico)

4. Jair Bolsonaro (Brazil)
13. Uhuru Kenyatta (Kenya)

5. Aung San Suu Kyi (Myanmar)
12. Mateusz Morawiecki (Poland)

6. Donald Trump (USA) 
11. Viktor Orban (Hungary)  

7. Nicolas Maduro (Venezuela) 
10. Narendra Modi (India)

8. Recep Erdoğan (Turkey)
9. Bibi Netanyahu (Israel)

Yes, yes, I know -- your favorite wasn't included. Grousing about bubble teams is also a favorite side-game of a tournament.

Anyway, the polls will open shortly, so play away!

Wednesday, January 02, 2019

Nikki Haley, Heroic Figure!

Now that she's back in private life, former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley is showing that principled advocacy and public dignity that set her apart from other Trump administration apparatchiks.

Here she is trying to act like complying with simple anti-corruption measures prohibiting public officials from using the office to gain private benefit was a deliberate Obama-led plot to target her and her Twitter feed.

And here she is, on her newly relaunched Twitter platform, giving fulsome praise to newly inaugurated Brazilian President Jair "I'm pro-torture" Bolsonaro. His first acts as President, unsurprisingly, were sweeping attacks on Brazil's gay community (he famously said he'd prefer his son die in a car accident than be gay) and indigenous populations. Human rights!

In conclusion, Nikki Haley is a fair-minded, principled advocate for the dignity of the least among us worldwide and one of the rare bright spots to come out of the Trump Administration.

2019 Will Be a Fun and Normal Year for Israeli Politics

As 2018 drew to a close, Bibi Netanyahu dissolved his government and called for snap elections, which will occur in April. What's happened since then? Oh, many normal things:

  • Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked broke away from the Jewish Home party and announced the formation of a new right-wing party, which they've dubbed (creatively enough) "New Right". I am not the first to immediately think "Alt-Right" would have been more appropriate. Among their first pick-ups was far-right journalist Caroline Glick, who until now has mostly existed as living proof that I'm unfair to Liel Leibovitz when I call him the worst columnist writing in Jewish media today.
  • Former IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz launched his own party. What does it stand for? Well, in his words, Gantz's positions are "politically flexible", and pretty much every story on him has noted how careful he's been to not stand for anything in particular in the election run-up. This development (relatively well-liked political cipher launches vaguely centrist political party) is, in fact, very normal and expected, and seems to happen at least once per election cycle.
  • Despite (or because) all of this, and despite the fact that pretty much nobody in Israeli likes him, Bibi is overwhelmingly favored to secure another term as Prime Minister. His opposition is hopeless fractured and the Joint List (representing Israeli Arabs) historically has refused (and, to be fair, has not been welcome) to join any government. Without them, there's virtually no math getting a viable left-of-center coalition into the majority (the only hope would be a truly uncouth Frankenstein's monster which stitches together some ultra-Orthodox parties into the coalition. But while that's worked before in the past, those parties has drifted more explicitly to the right over the years at the same time that the margin for error has shrunk).

Monday, December 31, 2018

On Alice Walker versus LeBron James

Alice Walker, the renowned African-American author of The Color Purple, has come in for sharp criticism once it became widely known that she was an inveterate antisemite. Her sins on this respect were blatant, and despite her celebrated stature in the Black community few defended her (even as she tried to pull a Full Livingstone and assert that her ravings about the Talmud teaching Jews that they can rape babies is actually "criticism of Israel").

Indeed, by and large I've been pleased by the caliber of commentary on Walker -- from Roxane Gay's early contribution that she's taken to at least noting Walker's antisemitism any time she talks about her, to Nylah Burton's longer meditation in NY Mag on how Walker's antisemitism intersects with her own personal history. The consensus view seems to be that while much of Walker's work is important and remains important, she is pretty clearly an unrepentant antisemite and that needs to be acknowledged. It is, sadly, part of her legacy, and not one that anyone should defend.

Meanwhile, LeBron James quoted some rap lyrics that referred to "getting that Jewish money." Upon being informed that this was considered by Jews to be an antisemitic trope, he immediately apologized, and for the most part Jews moved on.
"Apologies, for sure, if I offended anyone. That's not why I chose to share that lyric. I always [post lyrics]. That's what I do. I ride in my car, I listen to great music, and that was the byproduct of it. So, I actually thought it was a compliment, and obviously it wasn't through the lens of a lot of people. My apologies. It definitely was not the intent, obviously, to hurt anybody."
This, too, struck me as how it should be. I'm not saying that this apology would have earned a perfect 10 in my Rate That Apology series, but given the scale of the wrong, it was fine. James made a mistake, he apologized for the mistake, and we accepted the apology (hell, even the rapper who wrote the lyrics apologized too!). His wrong was nowhere near as bad as Walker's (nor does he have Walker's history as a repeat offender on this score), and he didn't defensively double down when people raised concerns. So on my end: no muss, no fuss.

Here, though, there were some writers who seemed very angry that Jews weren't dragging James harder. Dov Hikind -- a (hardly) Democratic New York Assemblyman -- was irate that liberal Jews weren't "slamming" James over the event (given that Hikind has worn blackface to a party and has past links to a extremist Jewish terrorist organization, to say he lives in a glass house here is an insult to the durability of glass). 

James quickly apologized, saying he didn't understand the historical context of the slur, or even that it was offensive.
The NBA and James' Los Angeles Lakers accepted that lame excuse, and now want to move on. No mandatory sensitivity training for James, no scrutiny of pro basketball for evidence of a broader problem. Starbucks should cry foul.
If Starbucks' only sin was repeating and then immediately apologizing for repeating offensive musical lyrics, maybe they'd have reason to cry foul. But I digress.

Finley links James to a supposed explosion of antisemitism in the American Black community, starting with Alice Walker. But I think it's actually quite notable how differently the two have been treated -- a difference that reflects extremely well on the Black community and American liberals.

Walker's antisemitism was extreme, conscious, and repeated. James' was inadvertent, mundane, and idiosyncratic. James apologized immediately. Walker has shown no remorse. And so while James has basically been forgiven, Walker has been justifiably excoriated. That's how it should be. And it's all the more striking given that -- with all due respect to King James -- Alice Walker is a far more impactful figure on the Black civil rights movement. At least among the intellectual/political class, it's a far bigger deal to call out Alice Walker than LeBron James. And yet -- proportionality was preserved. The serious offender got serious censure. The more minor misstep was dealt with more gently.

It's things like these that give me this strange feeling of hope. Yes, Alice Walker's statements about Jews are monstrously antisemitic. But despite her celebrated status she really isn't being defended, and her attempt to deflect by citing her Good Progressive bona fides and righteous loathing of Israel didn't bear significant fruit. Yes, it's a troublesome that many people don't know why Jews squirm when folks talk about us holding all the money. But it's good when their first response, upon seeing us squirm, is to apologize -- not to lecture us about how we're just too sensitive and should understand it's a compliment and don't we know we really are all rich-os anyway? And yes, there are terrible columns being written by defenders of the Women's March suggesting that putative Jewish concern about antisemitism is actually a Putin con job. But the authors of those columns are -- remarkably enough -- apparently responsive to Jewish anger at the commentary. These conversations are happening, and they -- slowly, fitfully -- are bearing fruit.

Meanwhile, I don't know who Nolan Finley is (and I do know that Dov Hikind is basically a troll). But people of their ilk seem -- for my taste -- far too excited at the prospect of Black antisemitism. They just love the opportunity to drag on Black people and to feel righteous while doing so. It can't even all be traced back to cynical opportunism against political opponents: LeBron James isn't a particularly political figure, and yet nonetheless there is a clear thrill in getting to call him out, and an equally clear frustration that other Jews are not by and large joining in.

This feeling of thrill, this excessive focus on antisemitism when it emanates from Blacks, is a form of racism -- one that is identical in form to the feeling of thrill over and excessive focus on Jewish or Israeli misdeeds serving as a form of antisemitism. We should recognize it for what it is, because we have quite intimate knowledge of it. And that shouldn't be viewed as an apologia for anyone's antisemitism. But it is a problem when people try to treat LeBron James as a persona non grata in a world where Jim Hagedorn is elected to Congress, when Hagedorn's wrongs are both objectively more severe and completely unapologized for.

We all know why this occurs. As I've written before: people of color can be antisemitic, but they're also more vulnerable to disproportionate, overwrought, hyperbolic or excessively unforgiving attacks on the subject of antisemitism because of racism. The same, in reverse, is true of Jews. It doesn't mean anyone gets a pass, but it is something those of us who write on these subjects have to be mindful of.

I think that the comparative treatment of Alice Walker versus LeBron James -- that (most) people have recognized just how ugly Walker's words were, and (most) people have recognized that James' sin was comparatively minor and not worth a huge stink over -- is a good example of how to do this right. And if we can keep that trend up -- that would make for a nice 2019, wouldn't it?