Friday, February 01, 2019

Rep. Omar Says Something Very Important on Antisemitism

I don't mean to make today Ilhan Omar day, but while doing reading for my last post I came across an incredible passage where Omar addresses how she responded to criticism of her infamous "hypnosis" tweet. It might be one of the most important remarks from a non-Jewish speaker talking about antisemitism, and being accused of antisemitism, I've ever seen:
On Thursday, when [Trevor] Noah broached the subject, Omar compared her defensiveness about her tweet — denying that she was anti-Semitic — to the way poor white people react when some say they still possess “white privilege.”
“With that tweet, what I finally realized is the realization that I hope that people come to when we’re having a conversation about white privilege,” she told Noah. "You know, people would be like, ‘I grew up in a poor neighborhood. I can’t be privileged. Can you stop saying that? I haven’t benefited from my whiteness!’ And it’s like, ‘No, we’re talking about systematic, right?’ And so for me, that happened for me.
“I was like, ‘Do not call me that [anti-Semitic]. ... And it was like, ‘Oh, I see what you’re saying now.’ And so I had to take a deep breath and understand where people were coming from and what point they were trying to make, which is what I expect people to do when I’m talking to them, right, about things that impact me or offend me.” 
Damn, there's a lot of right in here. For starters, she identifies antisemitism as "systematic", rather than something that you can avoid being implicated in if you inhabit other marginal identities (I am sure 94,000 people are busy prepping their "take that Linda 'antisemitism isn't systemic' Sarsour!" hot takes, and I'm over it even before I hear the first one).

But the biggest deal is the explicit comparison of the reflexive defensiveness she felt upon being accused of antisemitism to the reflexive defensiveness many White people have (especially those Whites who are marginalized along other dimensions) to being told they have "White privilege". This is an analogy I've been trying to promote for years -- I think there is a very clear parallel between "White fragility" and what I might term "Gentile fragility", wherein even the invocation of potential complicity in discriminatory structures is taken as a sort of nuclear weapon -- but this might be the first time I've seen a non-Jewish speaker draw the connection.

This call to "take a deep breath" in response to these concerns is such good advice -- it is the actual payoff demanded from calls to show deference when you're accused of engaging in discriminatory conduct, rather than the caricatured "immediately scream out your capitulation, plead guilty to all charges and throw yourself down at the mercy of the Gods" -- and it led her in the absolute right direction.

At root, this relates to the worries I expressed regarding the antisemitism that keeps me up at night -- namely, the possibility that antisemitism, or defying or standing up to the Jews, will become seen as a positive rather than a negative. There's a clear overlap with how White privilege operates: one cannot even count the number of cases where White people confronted with allegations of racism turtle up, cry victim, furiously fulminate about how abused they were by charges of racism and then make a huge scene of defying the PC police -- and in doing so, they gain political traction and authority rather than lose it. One reason why people respond to the "White privilege" discourse the way that they do is that it generates political capital. It is a productive move.

And indeed, my earlier post specifically explored this as a path open to Omar -- she could very easily have cried victim, double-down, made a big show about how she wouldn't be cowed by those oversensitive PC Jews who are always trying to stifle debate and police language -- and the sad fact is many people would love her for it. That's part of the reality of antisemitism today. You can gain power and authority and credence by being seen as the sort of person who stands up to the Jews.

Which makes it all the more praiseworthy that Omar took that breath and chose not to go down that path. Perhaps a bit belatedly, perhaps after a bit of prodding, she nonetheless decided to model in her own case how she wants others to react in parallel cases. The model is important. The recognition that Jews and antisemitism are a valid case of the model is still more important. For that, Ilhan Omar deserves serious praise. Kudos.

That NEVER Happ--Oh, Wait, a Congressman Just Did It

Last month, I wrote a post that got some traction in the Jewish blogosphere, about how we sometimes seem to just randomly demand Black people "denounce antisemitism" among this or that Black speaker even in contexts where they have no real relationship to the particular antisemitic speaker other than shared racial background.

A lot of people responded favorably. But a vocal minority thought I was making the phenomenon up. "Nobody demands Black people condemn antisemitism at random! Where those demands are made, it's only in cases like Tamika Mallory and Louis Farrakhan -- where she's specifically praised the known antisemitic speaker!"

Yes, what an absurd thought? Who would ever do such a th--oh look, here's Congressman Lee Zeldin (R-NY):

If you listen to the voicemail Zeldin posts, one thing stands out very clearly: it's horribly, grotesquely antisemitic.

You want to know what doesn't stand out? Any mention, reference, or connection to Ilhan Omar. Because it's not there. Yet Zeldin just decided he was going to randomly call her out (they were in a larger war of words at the time) and ask "what part" of this antisemitic screed she "disagrees with". The caller doesn't talk about Omar, doesn't quote Omar, doesn't give any indication that there is any relationship to Omar other than presumed shared race (much of the call is about accusing Jews of harming Black people) -- but no matter: Omar apparently can be cold-called to deliver a denunciation.

Rep. Omar actually responded with a lot of grace, condemning the message as "heinous and hateful" and empathizing with Zeldin given that (unsurprisingly) she too gets a flood of bigoted hate mail. Does Zeldin take "yes" for an answer to his unsolicited call out? Of course not! He doubles down, asking her again "Are you saying you disagree w/everything said in that voicemail?"

So, yeah, this happens.

(Incidentally, while my critical readers generally thought my original post was a sub rosa defense of Mallory, she wasn't the case I had in mind -- which is why I wrote about "Black people who really do apologize for Louis Farrakhan's antisemitism" and clarified that "[t]his post isn't about them." The motivating case for me, other than the Charlie Rangel case I cite in the post, was actually Mercy Morganfield's expressed frustration about what happened after she condemned Farrakhan and antisemitism in the Women's March -- namely, that she was demanded to do so over and over and over again.)

Thursday, January 31, 2019

New Data on BDS, "Apartheid", and Antisemitism

A new report from the Institute for Jewish Policy Research explores who and how many in the UK that Israel is an "apartheid" state, how many think we should boycott Israeli goods, and the relationship of both beliefs to antisemitism. It's fascinating just as a treasure trove of data (though I'm not 100% sold on the methodology the authors use to draw inferences from that data). But even just looking at face value, there's quite a lot I find interesting:

First, lots of people in the UK just don't have an opinion on these questions. On the "apartheid" question, for example, the plurality winner was "I don't know" at 37% (only a minority -- 21% -- endorsed the apartheid label, but that was still slightly larger than the 19% who affirmatively rejected it. The remaining 22% neither agreed nor disagreed). Obviously, from a Jewish vantage these are very pressing questions and are occupying a lot of our attention with respect to British politics, but it's useful to remember that a great many people simply don't care about this issue. It isn't as big for everyone else as it is for us.

Second, respondents were far more likely to call Israel an "apartheid" state than to support boycotting it, which surprised me greatly. I figured that those who endorse the "apartheid" label are those who think Israel is the worst-of-the-worst, whereas boycotters would include that cadre but also some number of people with more moderate views who support boycotts for tactical or contingent reason. Instead, boycotting was pretty roundly rejected (9% support, 46% reject, the remainder split along "don't know" or "neither agree/disagree"), which means presumably there's a solid chunk of Brits who think Israel is an apartheid state but don't back boycotting it. I'm not really sure what to make of that.

Third, Labour doesn't stand out in these surveys quite to the degree one might think. Labour voters seem comparatively more supportive of both the "apartheid" label and boycotting Israel compared to Tories, LibDems, or UKIPers, but it's hardly a consensus view and there's far more expression of uncertainty than one would expect given current press coverage. On the apartheid label the breakdown is 27/16, with the rest undecided; and on boycotting Labour voters are opposed by a 16/40 margin (the rest, again, are undecided).

Finally, the study authors explore the connection between believing Israel is an apartheid state or supporting boycotts and more "traditional" antisemitic beliefs. They survey a battery of non-Israel related statements (e.g.: "Jews think they are better than other people" or "Jews exploit Holocaust victimhood for their own purposes"), and see how many people endorse zero, one, two, all the way up to six or more of these statements. Then they plot that against supporting BDS or the "apartheid" label.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, they find a pretty solid correlation. People who subscribed to none of the antisemitic statements are the least likely to support either boycotts (6%) or the apartheid label (16%). As people support more of the antisemitic statements, the likelihood that they back to the two anti-Israel questions correspondingly rises -- of those who endorse six or more of the antisemitic statements, 47% back the apartheid label and 52% back boycotting Israel.

(Note that I've seen media reports which appear to get this backwards, saying that 52% of boycott supporters also endorse 6+ antisemitic statements. That doesn't appear to be correct, and there is a very large difference between 52% of those who endorse 6+ antisemitic statements back boycotts, and 52% of those who back boycotts endorsing 6+ antisemitic statements. The Jewish Chronicle already issued a correction here -- it seems like this confusion was originally in the actual report as well -- and hopefully others will follow suit).

One thing that's immediately striking about this is, oddly enough, how low the support is for boycotting Israel/calling it an apartheid state is among the "extreme" antisemites (endorsing 6+ antisemitic statements). Intuitively, I'd suspect that someone who dislikes Jews that much would search out any and every possible means for striking out against Jewish-identified institutions. And to be sure, the fact that support for boycotts and the "apartheid" label increases significantly as one endorses more and more antisemitic statements is compatible with that story. But for the pretty sizaable chunk of extreme antisemites who don't seem to endorse anti-Israel practices, I wonder if we're picking up on the existence of significant "pro-Israel" antisemitism (or if another factor is in play).

Even with that caveat though, it's probably not that surprising that antisemites are more drawn to anti-Israel sentiment than are people who possess no antisemitic beliefs. Still, as is often rightly pointed out, correlation doesn't equal causation. For any correlation between A and B, there are three possible causation stories: A causes B, B causes A, or neither causes the other and there is a some other unstated variable that happens to cause both (the classic example of the last case is the correlation between ice cream consumption and crime. Ice cream consumption doesn't cause crime, and crime doesn't cause ice cream consumption. Rather, warm weather causes ice cream consumption and, by causing more people to spend more time outside, also causes increases in crime).

So what causal story can we tell about the correlation between antisemitic attitudes and support for (among other things) BDS? One possibility, of course, is that the correlation is spurious -- there's a confounding variable that explains both (the "warm weather" case). I'm open to that possibility, but I confess I'm not sure what likely candidate is. For example, imagine it was the case (and the data actually doesn't support this) that old people were more likely to be antisemitic and more likely to support BDS. Even if that were true, it seems highly unlikely that their antisemitism and their BDS advocacy were unrelated to one another (compare if there had been a correlation between BDS support and having "blue" as one's favorite color. If that was explained by old people being most likely to support BDS and most likely to favor the color blue, then it'd be very implausible that there was any causal story linking blue and BDS to one another).

Again, I'm open to the confounding variable explanation, but I'd need to hear the story. So let's leave that aside, and explore the other two possibilities.

BDS proponents usually seem most invested in falsifying the causal story whereby BDS support is caused by antisemitism. The reason that's so important is because, in popular argot, BDS is antisemitic if and only if it is motivated (caused) by antisemitic sentiment. This actually strikes me as too great of a concession -- I'm don't think the antisemitism of a given policy position can only be established via the existence of antecedent antisemitic beliefs that motivate it -- but I might be in a minority there.

In any event, the idea here is that if someone arrives at BDS without harboring any antisemitic sentiment, then their support of BDS is not antisemitic (and consequently BDS is not antisemitic at least so far as it is endorsed by that sort of person). Proponents of this view generally might concede that antisemites are attracted to BDS, but maintain that many people support BDS without harboring any antisemitic impulses whatsoever. Or put differently, antisemitism is a cause of BDS, but not the only cause, and it's unfair to tar the whole movement by focusing solely on that one cause.

Though it doesn't directly speak to this question, the JPR dataset does raise questions about this apologia, since only 6% of people who harbored no antisemitic beliefs backed BDS. That doesn't itself show that most people who back BDS harbor antisemitic beliefs -- we'd need to know more about the base rates to establish that. But it does raise the question of what causal force is operating on that 6% that doesn't apply to the 94% of their non-antisemitic peers who don't back BDS?

If that's what we can say about "antisemitism causes BDS", what is there to say about the flip causal story: "BDS causes antisemitism"? Though it gets less attention, for me that's the story that's more interesting (and more worrisome). If this causal story is true, then people might arrive at BDS without any antisemitic ideology whatsoever, but the time spent in the "waters" of BDS would actually cause them to develop more systematically negative views about Jews qua Jews. And that would I think be a far more damning indictment. It's one thing -- arguably a trivial thing -- to say that antisemites will be attracted to any movement which seems to be sticking it to the Jews, and BDS happens to be one such movement. There might not be all that much the BDS movement could do about that. It's another thing to say that people who aren't antisemitic are more likely to become so the more interaction and engagement they have with BDS.

Put differently: it strikes me as likely that antisemites would be more likely to want to punish Bernie Madoff extremely harshly compared to the population writ large. It also seems likely that there are plenty of people who want to punish Bernie Madoff extremely harshly who are not motivated by antisemitism. But it strikes me as relatively unlikely that non-antisemites who want to punish Madoff harshly will emerge "out the other side" of that campaign as antisemitic. If BDS is different -- if people come in without antisemitic attitudes and come out with them -- that would be extremely worrying, and it would suggest that there is something fundamentally rotten going on inside the movement, such that it is actually generating of antisemitism.

That claim requires a lot more research to establish. But if that causal story is plausible, then we have to be able to talk about BDS as potentially antisemitic notwithstanding the fact that many of its arrivees don't start off as motivated by antisemitism. A movement which converts non-antisemites into antisemites is antisemitic even if the recruits don't come in with any particular desire to disparage Jews. This alternative causal story demands a different way of thinking about antisemitism beyond the question of antecedent motivations.

If Benny Gantz Becomes PM, It Will/Will Not Be a Big Deal

Benny Gantz is getting people whispering about an impossible possibility:

Bibi Netanyahu might not win reelection as Israel's Prime Minister. Gantz's new party is surging in the polls, and he's pulled even with Netanyahu in the "who should be prime minister question" -- an area where Bibi has reigned unchallenged for years (except for the always popular "someone else").

Is that a big deal? Well, yes. And no. It depends on your vantage.

On the one hand, if Gantz does take over the top spot, you can be prepared for the usual leftist voices to dismiss it as utterly meaningless. Since for them, Israel can never improve, only decay, they will immediately call Gantz a war criminal and indicate that he's not materially different than Bibi anyway. Since for them, the idea that Israeli society can meaningfully change via normal democratic processes is an anathema to the more fundamental proposition that Israeli society is rotted through and through, they need to deny the possibility that Gantz could possibly represent meaningful change.

But while the more uncompromising version of the "it's no big deal" take can be dismissed, it would likewise be wrong to view Gantz as the harbinger of some sort of resurgent Israeli left. Gantz is not a leftist. His roots are on the center-right, he's very much the consummate "good soldier" -- competent, effective, patriotic, and a good executor, but without much of an internal ideological drive.

Yet that doesn't mean his election would be no big deal.

First, Gantz is part of the "soft center-right",  generally comprised of political or military officials who, precisely because their main focus has been on military and security affairs, have concluded that the uncompromising Israeli right poses a long-term danger to Israel's security and survival. Given the complete disarray that currently characterizes the Israeli left, Israeli politics these days basically is a debate between "right-wingers who are marching full out towards annexation" and "ex-right-wingers who see the writing on the wall."

But while that might sound like a cynical way of putting it, the fact is that "security-minded ex-right winger who pivots to the center" includes several figures who have taken some of the most prominent steps towards Israeli/Arab peace. Ariel Sharon is the obvious name, but Tzipi Livni also comes from these roots. And more broadly, if there's one trend in Israeli politics that's seemingly remained stable over its existence, it's that the Israeli public is more willing to cut deals when they know that the dealmaker carries a big boomstick in case things go wrong. That applied to Sharon, obviously, but also Begin and Rabin.

Second, it is almost certain that Gantz's coalition will be well to the left of the status quo -- there's even been murmurs that some Israeli Arab parties will break their longstanding suspicion of joining a coalition. A coalition with Gantz at the head, needing to satisfy demands coming from his left, is going to be leaps-and-bounds different than a coalition with Bibi at the head, needing to satisfy demands coming from his right.

And finally, Gantz winning means Bibi loses. That's a huge deal on its own. Netanyahu has been seemingly untouchable for a long time -- even the prospect of a criminal indictment hardly seemed like it would be a bump in his political road. Just dislodging the man on the throne is a legitimate shake-up in its own right. And it offers hope that things can change, that Israel can get out of the rut it's been stuck in and move in a different direction. Just the possibility of energizing a different cohort of voters beyond the settler right has the potential to be a game-changer.

So go Benny! You wouldn't be my first choice as Prime Minister, but if you can take down Netanyahu, I wish you the best of luck.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Ethiopian Jews Stage Massive Protest Against Police Violence in Israel

The story is here. The immediate spark of the protest was the fatal shooting of 24-year old Yehuda Biadga (he allegedly charged police with a knife; his family says he suffered from PTSD and claims the police used excessive force), but as one of the protest organizers put it that particular event was "the last straw" for a community that has long alleged it has been victimized by violent policing practices and other forms of discrimination in Israeli society.

In terms of demands:
The demonstrators are calling for a judge to look into Biadga’s death rather than the Justice Ministry department responsible for investigating police incidents. They are also calling for an emergency Cabinet meeting on police violence, beefing up a government task force on racism and the full implementation of the recommendations of the Palmor Committee on ending discrimination against Ethiopian Israelis.
Online, there's an interesting divergence going on among lefty-ish commenters who caught wind of the protest -- half of whom seem to think the march is against Zionism (it isn't) and are accordingly all for it, the other half of whom recognize that the marchers do not identify as anti-Zionist and accordingly think they deserve whatever they get. It's charming.

In any event, though, the Ethiopian Israeli community deserves our full support. Racism exists in Israeli society just as it exists across the world, and we cannot be in denial about it. All this talk about how "a Jew is a Jew is a Jew" just isn't reflecting the reality of Jewish experience -- if it was, we wouldn't be seeing protests like this. And I hope that Jewish organizations around the world -- inside Israel and out -- rally in support of our Ethiopian compatriots, standing with them as they define their ambitions, not imposing whatever narrative we wish they might be speaking of.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

When is a Boycott Not a Boycott?

When I go to Las Vegas, I don't stay at the Venetian.

It's a lovely hotel, don't get me wrong -- strikingly beautiful, in its way.

But Sheldon Adelson is a schmuck, and I don't want to give him my money, so I stay elsewhere.

Am I boycotting the Venetian?

I don't think so. In my mind's eye, I've never thought of myself as "boycotting the Venetian". But why not?

Some might say I am boycotting the Venetian, I just don't want to admit to myself that's what I'm doing because I don't like thinking of myself as a boycotting sort.

Perhaps. But there are some other potential distinctions. First, I don't position what I'm doing as part of any broader expressive mobilization campaign against Sheldon Adelson. I don't publicly announce "I don't stay at the Venetian" (other than the context of this post, of course), I don't link up with other "boycotters" to amplify my voice or try to convince others not to stay at the Venetian either. If boycotting feels inherently like collective action, my choice is personal and private, and I have no interest in extending it beyond that.

Second, my "boycott" -- if it is that -- is extremely lightly held. I've walked through the Venetian, taken pictures at the Venetian, shopped at the Venetian, ate at restaurants at the Venetian. There's no real coherency to it. And more than that, if (say) a friend was hosting a bachelor party in Vegas and booked us a suite at the Venetian, I'd attend without concern. It's not where I'd pick, but I wouldn't view it as violating any ethical commitments on my part. Boycotts seem to me like they have to positions of principle; at most my avoidance of the Venetian expresses a ceteris paribus distaste (one could characterize what I'm doing is drawing a line in the sand -- I'll patronize the Venetian to this extent, but no further -- but that's certainly not how I think of what I'm doing. In all honesty, I have a mild preference against staying at the Venetian, which can be overriden by any number of relatively mundane circumstances).

That raises a third issue, which is that people decide not to buy certain products or patronize certain businesses all the time, for all sorts of reasons. Surely, if I don't go to a restaurant because I think the food is gross, it'd be weird to characterize me as "boycotting the restaurant" (even though one could say that my refusal to patronize is an attempt to pressure them to improve their menu quality). And that logic doesn't seem to change if my decision is based on the owner being rude, or the spokesperson annoying me, or any number of other reasons.

"Boycott" places a collective ethical imperative on decisions that ordinarily would simply fall under the ambit of private choice. There's no problem with that, except when the term colonizes actions that the actor doesn't intend to portray in that fashion. I know people who don't buy wines from the West Bank. They wouldn't say they're boycotting Israel, or even boycotting the settlements. And they generally don't view their decision as a means of exerting "pressure" on Israel (even to end the occupation). All it is that, for whatever reason, wine from the West Bank makes them squicky, and so they don't purchase it. I think a lot of people would characterize their conduct as a "boycott", even as I'm confident they don't see their action in those terms.

My gut instinct is that there is a real distinction here and it's one we should honor. I don't think boycotts are necessarily illegitimate -- their moral propriety depends on a host of questions including their scope, criteria for inclusion, and goals -- but I also don't think they conceptually cover any individual consumer's choice to abstain from purchasing a particular product. To boycott, to me, involves a self-conscious decision to join in collective action for purpose of publicly expressing a critical view with the goal of inducing a change in behavior.

If I decide to stay at Caesars rather than the Venetian, I don't self-consciously view myself as boycotting the Venetian, I don't locate what I'm doing into any sort of collective action, I don't publicly declare it as representing a critical or political view, and I don't view myself as trying to induce Sheldon Adelson to behave better.

I just think Adelson's sort of a schmuck. And so, all else being equal, I'd rather not give him my money.

Monday, January 28, 2019

My Thoughts on Jewish Organizations

There are a lot of Jewish organizations out there. And I have thoughts on them. Some I like a lot. Some I like less. I'm a progressive Zionist with more of an academic than a political bent, which means I don't like anti-Zionist or right-wing groups, and all else equal I prefer groups who are "wonkish" or "scholarly" to "political" or "activist". But the former part matters more than the latter -- I understand the importance of political organizing, even if it isn't my style; whereas groups which actively back settlements or BDS go a ways beyond "not my style".

Anyway, these are just my opinions -- do with them what you will (and yes, I know I forgot your absolute fave/mortal nemesis. It's not comprehensive).

* * *

AIPAC: Kind of an old, creaky battleship at this point. I actually think AIPAC probably does see the threats to its core mission -- namely, the growing partisanization of Israel as an issue -- but is too large and unwieldy to actually do anything about it. For all its supposed power, it's actually not that effective anymore (though it's very effective at being a boogeyman for "the all-powerful Israel Lobby").

Ameinu: I like them a lot. The former Labor Zionist Alliance has the right political orientation and tends to take a careful approach to things, which I appreciate. Its "Third Narrative" initiative is definitely my cup of tea.

American Jewish Committee: Deeply uneven. Sometimes stands out in front on human rights. Sometimes falls over itself to praise Jair Bolsonaro. Definitely not adjusting with the times, and definitely needs to fire whoever is running its Twitter account.

American Jewish Congress: Are they still a thing?

Americans for Peace Now: Of the true "left" groups, definitely my favorite. That's probably because its the only one that's still okay with Zionism, but also because it does genuinely important and substantive work and provides a much needed critical progressive voice inside Jewish communal structures.

Anti-Defamation League: My favorite of the major "mainline" groups. Does it bat 1.000? No. But it's right more often than it isn't, and it takes a lot more flak than it deserves. The effort by conservative voices to place it in the pocket of the left is ludicrous.

A Wider Bridge: In late 2015/early 2016, I started looking up which Jewish organizations not specifically focused on Mizrahi/Sephardic issues nonetheless mentioned Mizrahi/Sephardic Jews. My methodology was pretty basic and the bar was pretty low: do a google site search for "Mizrahi" or "Sephardic". The results were ... disappointing. A Wider Bridge was an exception. Generally does very good work, and the fact that it does good work is probably why its opponents are so desperate to smear it with the "pinkwashing" label.

Be'chol Lashon: Can't rave about them enough. They deserve infinitely more attention, resources, and support from the rest of the Jewish community. I dare say the future of the vitality of diaspora Judaism depends on the success or failure of Be'chol Lashon's work.

Bend the Arc: Another group I'm generally positively disposed towards, though I have little to say on them specifically.

Conference of Presidents: More of an umbrella group, but it needs mention because for too long it's been far too solicitous of its right-wing members (see ZOA). American Jews vote for the Democratic Party at the same proportion as Idahoans vote Republican -- our conservatives should have exactly as much communal power as an Idaho Democrat.

HIAS: If you don't like HIAS, you're a monster.

Hillel: Desperately needs a dose of democracy. They're still the center of Jewish life on many campuses, and that's important in its own right. They're not the evil leviathan Open Hillel makes them out to be, but because they're not accountable to the student population they serve, they constantly fall into easily avoidable pitfalls. They certainly can't be trusted with something as sensitive as a partnership guideline. In my dream world, they become the bureaucratic arm of the American Union of Jewish Students.

IfNotNow: Everything you don't like about BernieBros, but trying to rip apart the Jewish community instead of the Democratic Party. Sanctimonious, smug, hackish, theatrical, and almost unfathomably self-righteous. For them, sparking a civil war within the Jewish community isn't a risk they hope to avoid; it's the point of the movement. "Some people have never met a forest fire they didn't ache to pour gasoline on." I went from "cautious optimism" to "deep disdain" in a hurry.

Israel Policy Forum: Somehow I'm always overlooking them. Don't know why -- they do really good work. Overall, I take a positive view.

Jewish Community Relations Councils/Jewish Federations: Depends on the federation, naturally. As always, I worry about the democracy deficit. Are they responsive to genuine community sentiment, or are they responsive to their donor base?

Jewish Voice for Peace: Ugh.

JFREJ: Everytime I read something from JFREJ, my reaction is always "meh". It's never particularly bad. It's never particularly good. It's meh. I'm if anything impressed by how consistently they make me shrug.

JIMENA: Sometimes takes a more conservative line than I would like, but overall an important voice for the Mizrahi and Sephardic Jewish community. When I've worked with them, I've had no trouble integrating my progressive Zionist positions into what we've done together.

J Street: Overall I like J Street (I definitely like this statement it just released on its commitment to Israel's future). It's a political lobbying shop, which means it makes certain compromises I wouldn't (less on issues, and more on using rhetoric that is mobilizing more than it is precise), but that comes with the territory -- a classic "not my style, but someone needs to do it" case. And, far and away, no group is maligned further out of proportion to its actual sins than J Street. It's not even close.

OneVoice: Not exclusively a Jewish organization, but it's so important I'll give them a pass. You want durable and just peace in Israel and Palestine? Do the hard work of building grassroots support and political infrastructure for non-extremism and co-existence. That's what OneVoice does.

Partners for Progressive Israel: I don't end up citing them a lot -- Ameinu ends up filling their niche -- but I'm generally positively inclined.

T'ruah: Another very good progressive organization. Their commentary on the UN resolutions criticizing Israeli settlements is one of my favorite statements by a prominent Jewish organizations on any Israel-related topic, ever. Definitely endorse.

Zioness: Came in deeply suspicious of them. Current posture is cautiously okay. They've filed off some of the rougher edges, and they haven't done what some groups in its niche love to do -- spend 90% of their time wailing about how mean people treat Israel before "proving" their progressive bona fides by writing a post about how terribly Saudi Arabia treats women (*cough* Women's March For All). They actually spend most of their time advocating for progressive ends that have no clear relation to Israel. Good on them! Still think they need to confirm that their progressivism extends to Israel itself, though.

Zionist Organization of America: It's tough competition, but Mort Klein might be the worst. And since ZOA has become almost exclusively a vehicle for his hard-right, racist, xenophobic, anti-Palestinian politics, they're the worst too. The only difference between them and JVP is that ZOA gets to be the worst from inside the communal tent -- which goes to show how systematically biased the Jewish community in favor of our fringe right-wing voices.