Thursday, May 09, 2019

"And Never Rat on Your Friends!": NYC Sexual Harassment Edition

If you've ever taken a company- or university-mandated sexual harassment seminar, you probably remember those multiple-choice quizlets they always hand out. The option set usually comes with one or two reasonable-sounding answers, one answer which the facilitator drummed into you is the wrong answer, and then one answer that's just flat bonkers. For example:
[New York City] councilmembers were presented with a hypothetical scenario in which they were “asked what they should do if they overheard a chief of staff making sexually inappropriate comments in an elevator” that “visibly upset” a female staffer.... According to multiple city councilmembers present, [Ruben Diaz Sr.] interrupted the presentation to scream, “I’m not gonna rat my people out! This place is full of rats!”
Oooookay. And Diaz is not even close to a first-time offender here.

Sadly, he's also not a complete nobody. Diaz is running in the Democratic primary to replace retiring Rep. Jose Serrano in a deep-blue district. You'd think a guy who campaigned with Ted Cruz and talked about how much he liked Donald Trump would be toxic in New York City, but for whatever reason Diaz seems to have strong local backing in his corner of the Bronx. We'll see if it translates to an entire congressional district though -- Serrano, for his part, is a member of the House Progressive Caucus and sports an A "progressive punch" rating, so it's hard to see the district as a whole voting for a self-described "conservative" like Diaz.

Wednesday, May 08, 2019

Things People Blame the Jews For, Volume LII: Extra Fizzy Drinks at Ramadan

Ramadan has begun, and with it a month of daytime fasting. Speaking as a Jew, that doesn't sound fun (I only fast for one day -- during Yom Kippur -- but we go for the full 24 hours). But at least at night you can eat and drunk what you want.

Just watch out for fizzy drinks, apparently:
A man speaking in Urdu talks about the importance of not having fizzy drinks to open your fast.
He goes on to say cold and fizzy drinks can have a negative effect on your long-term health and could even cause death.
But then a link is made to the fact that many of the major fizzy drinks companies are owned and run by Jews. The speaker also claims that according to the Quran, Muslims are not permitted to have relations or friendships with Jews in any way.
It further adds that during the month of Ramadan they have ‘purposely planned’ to increase the gas content in fizzy drinks so whoever consumes them will be affected.
I don't know much about the health effects of fizzy drinks -- though to the extent they're unhealthy I suspect it's the sugar more than the carbonation that's doing the work, so increasing the gas content seems like more of an annoyance than a devious plot.

But then again, I rarely consume fizzy drinks -- an admission which in the antisemitic imagination probably ranks right up there with saying that I skipped work in New York on 9/11. So take my advice with a grain of salt.

Anyway, if you're Muslim and fasting this month, I hope it is an easy one. And if you do like to break fast with a soda, I'm pretty sure you're in the clear.

Tuesday, May 07, 2019

Quote of the Day: Sartre on Just Remembering Jews

See if this one resonates with anyone:
In my Lettres Francaises without thinking about it particularly, and simply for the sake of completeness, I wrote something or other about the sufferings of the prisoners of wars, the deportees, the political prisoners, and the Jews. Several Jews thanked me in a most touching manner. How completely must they have felt themselves abandoned, to think of thanking an author for merely having written the word "Jew" in an article!
Jean-Paul Sartre, Anti-Semite and Jew: An Exploration of the Etiology of Hate (New York: Schoken 1995 [1948]), 72.

Why Bringing a Swastika To An Israeli Independence Day Celebration is Antisemitic (Really)

A student brought a swastika sign to an Israeli Independence Day celebration at UW-Milwaukee.

Confronted, he said the reason he brought the sign was actually not to make any commentary about Israel or Jews, but rather "because he knew it would draw attention at such a gathering and allow him to talk to the media about issues such as the rise in single mother homes, the opioid addiction and the high number of abortions."

Some might argue that this therefore was not an antisemitic act: the student was not motivated by a desire to hurt Jews, he was flying a swastika for idiosyncratic reasons. But these people are wrong. Though the student was not motivated by anti-Jewish animus, he still acted in a way that foreseeably and unreasonably would cause distress to Jews. He decided that this distress and hurt was less important than drawing media attention to himself and promoting his (unrelated) hobby horse. That sort of devaluing of Jewish sensibilities is itself antisemitic, albeit of a different kind from the explicitly-motivated sort. A person who acts in this way is a person who has shown themselves to be unreasonably cavalier and unconcerned with Jewish feelings.

It is an antisemitism of negligence, perhaps, but it is still antisemitic.

Monday, May 06, 2019

Israeli Supreme Court Overturns Ban on Palestinians Attending Joint Memorial Event (Again)

Last year, the Israeli government tried to ban Palestinians from attending a joint memorial service with Israelis from Tel Aviv. The Israeli Supreme Court overturned the decision. This year, Bibi Netanyahu tried to do the exact same thing. And the Israeli Supreme Court reversed him again, in a "re-run".
"It is not for the defense minister to intervene in how a family chooses to express their private bereavement, the sadness and grief that is present with the loss of a loved one," [Justice Isaac] Amit said, "The petitioners before us have gathered bereaved families who have chosen to express their pain and commemorate their dear ones in a joint ceremony, it isn't for us to intervene in that decision."
In court, the government claimed that the reason for the refusal was -- naturally -- "security", an argument which the court rejected and which Netanyahu pretty much abandoned following the decision in favor of the explicitly political rationale:
Netanyahu responded to the decision on Twitter, writing, "Today's High Court decision was wrong and disappointing. There is no place for a memorial ceremony that equates our blood with the blood of terrorists. That is why I refused to allow entry to the ceremony participants and I believe that the High Court has no place intervening in that decision."
Note that has nothing to do with security, and everything to do with to do with an ideological objection to Israelis and Palestinians grieving together. Whatever one thinks of that as a personal view, in a liberal society that state has no business imposing its judgment on individuals who view differently, and I'm glad the Supreme Court vindicated that right.

Quote of the Day: Sartre on Argument and the Antisemite

This is a pretty famous quote, but it tends to get cut off. I wanted to include the entire paragraph:
The anti‐Semite has chosen hate because hate is a faith; at the outset he has chosen to devaluate words and reasons.  How entirely at ease he feels as a result. How futile and frivolous discussions about the rights of the Jew appear to him. He has placed himself on other ground from the beginning. If out of courtesy he consents for a moment to defend his point of view, he lends himself but does not give himself. He tries simply to project his intuitive certainty onto the plane of discourse. I mentioned awhile back some remarks by anti‐Semites, all of them absurd: "I hate Jews because they make servants insubordinate, because a Jewish furrier robbed me, etc." Never believe that anti‐Semites are completely unaware of the absurdity of their replies. They know that their remarks are frivolous, open to challenge. But they are amusing themselves, for it is their adversary who is obliged to use words responsibly, since he believes in words. The anti‐Semites have the right to play. They even like to play with discourse for, by giving ridiculous reasons, they discredit the seriousness of their interlocutors. They delight in acting in bad faith, since they seek not to persuade by sound argument but to intimidate and disconcert. If you press them too closely, they will abruptly fall silent, loftily indicating by some phrase that the time for argument is past. It is not that they are afraid of being convinced. They fear only to appear ridiculous or to prejudice by their embarrassment their hope of winning over some third person to their side.  
Jean-Paul Sartre, Anti-Semite and Jew: An Exploration of the Etiology of Hate (New York: Schoken 1995 [1948]), 19-20.