We were recently treated in comments to an example of just how carelessly the term anti-Semitism is thrown around
. Since the person in question had the grace to identify himself to me, I think he's simply young and dumb. If he had done it anonymously, I'd think he was a thug.
But look how completely debased, how meaningless the term anti-Semitism
has become when an exchange like this can take place:
I say, Anti-Semitism is real and dangerous.
Dan says, I will conclude by going so far as to say that if you can't admit that anti-Semitism exists at all, you are in effect negating a part of Jewish history and the historical suffering of the Jewish people and then, yes, you are an anti-Semite. I hope you're not, and I hope you can find it in your heart at some point in your life to examine why you write posts like this about Jewish people.
What part of Anti-Semitism is real and dangerous
didn't you understand, Dan?
Despite the weasel words, Dan's statement amounts to a baseless accusation of anti-Semitism. It falsely claims that I have attacked Jews in general. It is a deeply irresponsible accusation; indeed, it verges on being libelous.
This sort of casual and offensive misuse of the term anti-Semitism trivializes the term and weakens the world's defenses against hatred of all kinds. Worst of all, the misuse seems to be for the trivial, venal goal of discrediting of an African American candidate purely based on who he associated with and not on any specific action or statement that could be construed as anti-Semitic.
Dan laid many other false-- ludicrous--accusations against me and against this blog, including:
1. stating that I "think Jews are somehow 'howling' about anti-Semitism where none exists". Absolutely false.
2. stating that Mercury Rising is "promot[ing] ideologies that aren't directly anti-Semitic, but are so focused on demonizing a tiny country called Israel that one cannot help but wonder what the agenda is behind such anger..." No example is or can be provided.
3. in a truly bizarre stroke of excess, equating the phrase "using charges of anti-Semitism" with "caricatured images of the greedy, sneaky Jew that Joseph Goebbels perpetuated relentless in Nazi propaganda." Um, sort of like missing lunch is the same as the Irish Potato Famine.
4. claiming that I have said that Joshua Wirtschafter speaks for all Jews. Joshua Wirtschafter was a fellow student of Keith Ellison who knew him well, worked with him, and-- because Wirtschafter was a Jewish leader-- understands the responsible and irresponsible use of the term "anti-Semitism."
Has this guy Dan even seen
5. claiming that I deny the right of Israel to exist. This accusation-- a boldfaced lie--is casually laid out as if there were even an atom of evidence for it.
These false claims range from dishonest innuendo to despicable lies.
Ironically, Dan's anger arose against me because he can't read.
I say, The Republicans-- and especially Jews who go along with them on this-- are playing with fire by using charges of anti-Semitism for political purposes. Anti-Semitism was deliberately stoked by Republican leaders like Henry Ford.
Dan agrees, Of course there are Jews who "cry wolf" about anti-Semitism, just as there are people of any group who see victimhood in situations where none exists. ...[Ford] WAS an anti-Semite, in the extreme. He was an active Nazi sympathizer/supporter [etc.]
But then his reading comprehension fails. Connecting the past fact that anti-Semitic Republican leaders like Henry Ford exacerbated anti-Semitism to divide Jews from others who would be potential allies to the present-- Republicans laying false charges of anti-Semitism against Keith Ellison to divide Jews from a potential ally-- causes core meltdown:
However, bringing Henry Ford into this argument simply makes no sense. When you talk about people using the issue of anti-Semitism, I take it you are objecting to ACCUSING others of anti-Semitism where it is not actually occurring. But this has nothing to do with Henry Ford. ...I'm really confused by your post. Do you somehow think Henry Ford wasn't an anti-Semite? Do you think the charges of anti-Semitism against Henry Ford were somehow "hysterical and baseless"? You seem to be linking him to the phenomenon of "lobbing charges of anti-Semitism" but he was indeed an anti-Semite himself.
If Dan could read, this is what he would have understood as the gist of my post:
Republican tactics of divide and conquer today are different than those of the past, but have the same strategic objective: to get minority groups fighting with one another rather than keeping their eyes on the prize, namely justice for all.
And that returns us to the topic of this post, namely anti-Semitism. I said and will repeat: Anti-Semitism is real and dangerous
But what is it? What is it not? Even getting a precise definition is very difficult.
One area everyone agrees on. The ADL
recorded approximately 1,000 anti-Semitic incidents per year in the United States, including violence, vandalism, defacing with swastikas, making of threats, Holocaust denial, etc.
Most would also agree that less clearcut examples should also be regarded as anti-Semitism. There's a history of discrimination against Jews in employment, residence, and opportunity. While in much of the country that is in the past, there's some residual discrimination. Furthermore, any time that kids are involved, most would draw the line more carefully than in interactions with adults. What adults can laugh off, kids sometimes can't. At work, we draw the line more carefully.
But from there on, it gets much fuzzier. It's easier to define what is not
It is not anti-Semitic to criticize Israeli policy. International law clearly states that Israel has a right to exist. The areas in which there is conflict between Palestinians and Israelis are, for the most part, not in the territory that international law defines as Israel. They are in land annexed by war and not sanctioned by the United Nations or treaty. Therefore, there will be debate about the appropriateness of actions by settlers who are clearly present in defiance of international law and of Israeli troops in those lands. Those who would suppress that debate with unsupportable charges of anti-Semitism simply trivialize the meaning of the term and diminish Israel's allies.
It is also not anti-Semitic to point out that not all of the hate in this world is directed against Jews. I have the horrifying memory of a young, hip Israeli telling me in all seriousness, "The only good Palestinian is a dead Palestinian." This was before the intifada, at a time of peace! But it's not just Jews, not just Palestinians, it's all kinds of people who endure hate. I even documented an unusual case of anti-Christian hate in a previous thread. If you want an example of a calm, measured discussion of hate speech, you can look to that.
The trouble arises in the gray zone between what is clearly anti-Semitism and what is clearly not. Human beings often use stereotypes, and most of the time those stereotypes are negative. Use a broad enough brush, and one can call almost everyone anti-Semitic. But Jerome Chanes
has identified clear criteria for when it makes sense to confront these borderline cases and when it's best to leave it alone:
The lack of nuance in the recent literature on antisemitism, particularly with respect to the delicate relationship between antisemitic expression and the security of Jews in the contemporary world, does these distinguished authors — and their public — a disservice. At bottom, for most Jews, the issue is not antisemitism, it is Jewish security. There is the need for analysts to distinguish, both in the United States and in Europe, between antisemitism — which does exist to a greater or lesser degree and must be monitored, repudiated and counteracted — and Jewish security, which is strong, especially in the United States and indeed in most places. Jewish security best may be defined as the ability of Jews, individually and collectively, to participate in the society at any level without the fear of anti-Jewish animus.... . In the United States, whatever antisemitism there may be has nothing to do with the security of Jews, which is unparalleled. Conversely, the threats to Jewish security in the United States come from sources that probably have little if anything to do with anti-Jewish animus; attacks on constitutional protections, especially on church-state separation, fall under this rubric....
So, who is the threat? Keith Ellison? Or Pat Robertson?
No, it's not an either/or choice, but one does have to keep priorities straight. We get into these absurd situations, where one ugly comment by Jesse Jackson made in private (calling New York "Hymietown") overshadows an entire career in seeking social justice for all-- even as Pat Buchanan can engage in Holocaust denial yet appear as a respected personality on cable TV and the Republican convention.
Do people like Dan understand how dangerous this sort of unequal framing is? How many people put in the position Jesse Jackson has been placed would not become bitter against those who keep holding this one incident against him almost two decades after he has apologized for it?
I have not seen one example of an action or a statement by Ellison that is anti-Semitic. Inviting speakers who are anti-Semitic is no more proof of anti-Semitism than inviting John McCain to New University was a proclamation that the institution had gone Republican. We have a statement by Joshua Wirtschafter-- who is not just by a Jew, but by a fellow-student who know Ellison and worked with him at the time--that Ellison never said anything anti-Semitic.
This looks like a Republican attempt to use bogus charges of anti-Semitism to destroy the career of a promising young African American. Whoever falls for it is dumb.
Speaking of which, Mr. Young and Dumb: your turn.