Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Sometimes there's an easy answer

Or in this case, a few:

"The Right Calls Obama Hitler. Why Aren’t Jewish Groups Making More Noise?"

-Because Bush was also compared to Hitler, as was Giuliani, as was everybody, so calling a politician one does not like Hitlerian is just the MO of people with a certain lack of nuance or sensitivity who think saying "I oppose his policies" fails to convey that they approve a leader's policies, and want to add more punch. Ideally no one would make facile comparisons to genocide, but you know what? That ship has sailed. A certain tone of criticism will always 'go there.'

-Because "Jewish groups" are accused of if anything making too much "noise" on matters even indirectly related to oversensitivity regarding the Holocaust, and might want to sit this one out.

-Because no one, ultimately, speaks for "the Jews" - we do not all get together at special meetings and elect representatives. Many individual Jews are appalled by the discourse on the right, but not so much as Jews as as Americans. If American Jews are concerned as Jews, it should be because xenophobia-tinged populism is scary stuff, not because of polemicists failing to obey Godwin's law.


David Schraub said...

Except groups like the ADL have, historically (and correctly, in my view) taken politicians to the woodshed for obnoxious Holocaust references. Jerry Kilgore was a recent example, and in fact the ADL recently secured an apology from Alan Grayson for a Holocaust analogy foul.

The silence of groups like the ADL in the face of unrelenting Republican Nazi imagery (at least partially distinguished from its "Bush = Hitler" cousin because of the high profile status of its purveyors -- the NRCC is the latest to get in on the act) is a break from past practice, not its continuation. And it's the wrong one.

I'm certainly sensitive to the backlash Jews risk when they make noise about anti-Semitism, but I don't think we should capitulate to it. It wouldn't surprise if the RNC took the "Jews are too sensitive and whiny" tact, but at least it would show how disingenuous they are when they pretend to actually care about what Jews think (wah! why do they all vote Democratic when Republicans are so much more supportive of settlements that most American Jews actually oppose?).

Britta said...

There also seems to me to be a big difference between making rash Hitler comparisons and making inappropriate Holocaust comparisons/references. Although the Jews bore the brunt of Hitler's terrible policies, they were not the only group victimized, and negative Hitler comparisons can be made by people emphasizing, say for example, the gradual decline in civil liberties akin to those enacted by the Third Reich over the German people, etc. There is a history in Europe (or at least to my knowledge, Norway, Germany, and France) as well as in America, particularly on the Left, of comparing people/policies you don't like to Hitler and the Nazis. It might be hyperbole and in poor taste, but its frame(s) of reference are usually other crappy Nazi policies, not the Holocaust per se. As such, it doesn't seem to be minimizing/trivializing genocide nor anti-Semitic in the way a poorly done Holocaust reference would be.

Matt said...

The ADL doesn't seem entirely quiet.

Phoebe said...

I do think Jews should speak out against anti-Semitism. But I don't see "Obama=Hitler", dumb as it may be, as anti-Semitic, and this is coming from someone who has, in the past, labeled things anti-Semitic, and who will continue to do so when appropriate. I don't think this counts as such, first, because this is, as Britta alludes to, a sort of "Soup Nazi" evocation of that historical episode, "Hitler" or "Nazi" used as a stand-in for all that's bad in a general liberty-restricting sense. It's not just non-Jewish Europeans - even American Jews do this.

Next, because it's all in all a good thing for Jews that even right-wing populists in America associate Hitler - a man associated with anti-Semitism and not just totalitarianism - with "bad" rather than "good", even if many (most?) of us rather they not hate Obama, and that they consider Hitler not "bad" but "worst evil of all time."

Again, if American Jews are going to mobilize as Jews against today's conservative rhetoric, it should be because when has right-wing populism ever been 'good for the Jews', not because of Godwin-ignorant hyperbole of the same sort as came from the left during the Bush years.