Tuesday, June 08, 2010

All kinds of wrong

Within just one article (and some wild accompanying video), we have:

-The creepy solicitation of schoolgirls as young as 13 for what it's not entirely clear isn't at least partly about something even worse than dead-end attempts at becoming a supermodel.

-The exploitation of poor families.

-A racism so open that it demands specific amounts of specific ethnic blood, using genealogy as a guide. German blood, at that, with a teaspoon of Italian as some kind of eugenic self-tanner.

-All that fun body-image stuff. (Note the "don't feed the models" sign in the model holding pen in the video.)

-The journalistic technique of baiting readers with tragic yet titillating stories the face of which is a pretty young blonde. (See also: missing persons.)

************

Tangentially related, the Helen Thomas Palestine remark. What struck me about it - aside from the obvious - was the same thing that strikes me when reading works about The Jews by non-Jews in France, from the 18th and 19th centuries (and I suspect the same goes for earlier, but need to have a look myself to verify, something I intend to do once finishing up an unrelated academic project, aka my dissertation). Which is (and this is long-winded, but bear with me), for all the talk today about Jews' connection to the land of Israel as something Jews a) always cared about, or b) decided, with the advent of modern Zionism, to care about, or c) began caring about after the Holocaust, what's lost is the popular conviction among non-Jews that a) the land that's currently Israel was quite literally where Jews came from (and I'm not talking proto-Palins who may have believed in something apocalyptic, although of course this is an understanding of history influenced by the Bible), b) the "Jewish Question" was the question of what to do with a foreign group that was foreign on account of coming from somewhere else, and that somewhere else was Palestine, and c) the Jews' finest, most noble hour was when they had a land of their own. Which is to say, the notions that a) Jews are best as a nation in the geographic and political senses, and b) this nation is located in and around Jerusalem, were, historically, not specific to Jews. The classic example of this phenomenon, the anti-Semitic cry we don't hear so much these days of "Go back to Palestine," is telling, but it fails to capture that even kinder, gentler Gentiles (Montesquieu and Grégoire come to mind - I know I've seen this elsewhere but am not going through my notes for this post) understood Jews to be a people dispersed from the land of Israel. Of immigrant origin, as it were.

All of this is a roundabout way of saying that now that it's unpopular to suggest Jews belong in Palestine, now that the (re)placing of Jews in Palestine has turned out not to go 100% smoothly, it's like, who were those Jews to demand this? It must be their fanatical religion, telling them that some random bit of land is rightfully theirs. It's easily, easily forgotten that non-Jews also thought that Jews came from Palestine, and were sometimes if anything more convinced than Jews were that Palestine was the Jews' home in a way the European countries could never be. Not to generalize, but Jews were frequently more convinced than others that a Jew could truly be at home in this or that European country. It's not merely that Jews were amorphously unwelcome in various countries at various times. It's that Jews were understood to be unwelcome intruders from a specific geographic locale. It's not, "There was anti-Semitism, which Jews for some quirky reason decided to respond to by colonizing the Middle East." It's that anti-Semitism was intrinsically related to the belief that Jews belonged in the Middle East.

All of this, meanwhile, is a roundabout way of saying not that I personally believe that Jews today all have a traceable, historical connection to the Middle East. (My own family heritage, as far back as I know, is utterly Pale.) My point is that if Jews were/are deluded in thinking they belong in Palestine, if you're going to call Israel a great big mistake (which, for the record, if this hasn't been clear enough, I don't), the blame for this ought to fall a teensy percent to the Jews, for taking their religious texts so damn literally, but the bulk of the guilt falls on the people who actually ruled for all these years, who were in the majority, and who in effect determined the "truth" about who Jews were and where they came from. For supposedly educated, informed non-Jews today to throw their arms up and ask what the heck these white-as-white Jews were thinking, setting up shop in the Middle East of all places, is, on a historical level, disingenuous.

19 comments:

Petey said...

I thought of you when I heard the Helen Thomas clip.

Two otherwise sensible women who have trouble being sensible when the issue comes down to their own ethnic group's property title to the Levant.

Helen thinks the Jews have no right to the Levant and should "go back" to wherever. You think the Arabs have no right to the Levant, and should "go back" to wherever.

Much as the NATO decision to bomb Serbia turned out to be good for everyone concerned - good for the Kosovars and good for the Serbs - I continue to think NATO should start bombing strategic targets in Israel until the Israeli military leaves the occupied territories. Much like in Serbia, little blood would would be shed, and much like in Serbia, it would provide an external push for Israel to bring itself into compliance with international expectations and build a secure and humane future for itself.

(And, I know. You don't really think the Arabs should "go back" to wherever. You just think the occupation should continue for generations upon generations until unicorns fly over the Levant and magically solve all the property title claims. And until the magical unicorns fly, it's just fine with you if the Arabs remain in the land Israel is occupying, just as long as they don't get to vote...)

"All of this is a roundabout way of saying that now that it's unpopular to suggest Jews belong in Palestine"

Hmmm.... Having the Jews in Palestine pre-1967 was pretty damn popular. Outside of the Islamic world, it was close to 100% popular. Now that Israel has been illegally occupying territory and delegitimizing its international status for 40 years, the popularity of the Zionist project has decreased. Funny how that works.

Serbia wasn't too popular during the 90's. Indonesia wasn't too popular during the East Timor mayhem. Illegal occupations without end are justifiably frowned upon these days by right thinking people.

Mark Cohen said...

Pale or not, latest research strongly indicates the Middle Eastern origins of the Jews, as this article reports
http://www.latimes.com/news/science/la-sci-jewish-genome-20100604,0,7364243.story

Phoebe said...

Petey,

"You think the Arabs have no right to the Levant, and should "go back" to wherever."

WTF? This is so plainly, patently false, which if you've been reading all this time you know full well. To equate anything I've said on this blog to Thomas's comment suggests you're here to get a rise out of me, not to discuss this sensibly. Even though you take it back right after (except not really), this is asinine enough to end the discussion. You're putting not only words into my mouth, but an entire plan for the Middle East that's both more specific than and unrelated to anything I've come up with. (I fully believe there should be a Palestinian state ASAP, and that Jerusalem ought to be an international city. I know, I'm basically Netanyahu. Do I know how to implement anything, where exactly borders should be drawn, and how to convince hard-liners on both sides to compromise? No. I suspect you don't, either.)

To be clear, I'm happy to get comments from one-staters, Zionism-is-racismers, pro-settlers, etc., people with whom I disagree about this issue, but once false statements about my beliefs are announced, my hope for a reasonable discussion with a particular commenter is gone.

Phoebe said...

Mark Cohen,

These studies are intriguing, but I tend to remain an agnostic on the whole where-were-my-own-ancestors-in-biblical-times issue. I don't think it should matter whether (Ashkenazi) Jews are actually of Middle Eastern origin or not. The fact is that this origin was assumed for so, so long, and not only by Jews. Acculturated European Jews were the ones fighting against the idea that Jews' true home was in the Middle East. What bothers me is the implication today that Jews all on their own decided they had some connection to Palestine, as though all along non-Jews had seen what a ridiculous idea this was, that Palestine was already inhabited, etc.

Mark Cohen said...

Well, sure. The link was just for fun, not to settle a point with the anti-Zionist crowd. Yes, it is ironic that today the trendy find it obvious that the Jews have no business being in the Middle East. But what's clear from commenter Petey and his ilk is that much of the concern for the Palestinians is just a politically correct way for right-thinking people to vent murderous rage. Petey is Ionesco's Rhinoceros, though calling in high-culture references puts the whole thing on too grand a plane. They are not partners for a debate. They're just dangerous people.

Mark Cohen said...

Well, sure. The link was just for fun, not to settle a point with the anti-Zionist crowd. Yes, it is ironic that today the trendy find it obvious that the Jews have no business being in the Middle East. But what's clear from commenter Petey and his ilk is that much of the concern for the Palestinians is just a politically correct way for right-thinking people to vent murderous rage. Petey is Ionesco's Rhinoceros, though calling in high-culture references puts the whole thing on too grand a plane. They are not partners for a debate. They're just dangerous people.

Phoebe said...

Mark Cohen,

Right, I didn't think it was about settling a point, and also right, it was interesting!

In terms of Petey, he's from what I can tell from other comments a J Street Jew, which is to say, not that much to my left on this issue, and I'm not entirely convinced that if given a checklist questionnaire on the region, we'd have radically different results. It's more that he seems to get some joy out of announcing that my views on this issue are far-right. This, I'm assuming, is why he didn't respond to the content of the post, which was not an argument either way about whether Israel was a good idea, ought to have been placed in Palestine, is fair to the Palestinians, etc., etc. (My views on this can be found elsewhere on the blog.) It was about the fact that we can't put it all on The Jews that there is currently a Jewish state in precious Palestine. Non-Jews in effect considered Jews to be immigrants from that spot for a long, long time. Again, I wish my post were more precise and academic, and this is a project I hope to work on at some point, but this is basically a pattern I've found so far.

Mark Cohen said...

I don't want to beat this to death. We're both more comfortable in an academic environment (I'm outside the academy but have published a number of articles in peer-reviewed journals and have a new book out from a university press), but when Petey says, "I continue to think NATO should start bombing strategic targets in Israel," well I hope that is far to your left. I was surprised that you did not react to that statement at all, instead focusing on his misrepresentation of your position. Anyway, good luck with your dissertation and don't let people bully you out of getting the PhD. I let myself succumb to the pressure years ago and left NYU, where I was pursuing a PhD in English. We are not endlessly malleable and we just can't be anything at all. I wrote a brief post about this here http://stumblingintojews.com/seymour-krim-does-the-flat-foot-floogie/

Phoebe said...

I suppose I figured he was exaggerating his own views as much as he was mine, so as to make a point about how he's the right-thinking friend of the Palestinians, and I'm the racist proponent of a Greater Israel. But yeah, if he meant it, that was more than slightly... I don't even know if "to my left" covers it.

And... I can't say I'm at all worried about being bullied out of the diss - it's not on anything I-P related. Re: your post, I'm not sure if it's the one you meant, since it's not about your grad experience at NYU?

Mark said...

Oh, I went to NYU instead of Buffalo. But the point remains.

Phoebe said...

Count me clueless, but I'm still not sure what the point you're referring to is. Is it that one must choose between different paths, grad school being one of them?

David Schraub said...

My favorite pivot off the historical truth that Jews were often told precisely "go the hell to Palestine" is the folks who use that to try and indict Zionism as a racist tool of anti-Semitic oppression. By adopting Zionism, you see, we actually just capitulated to European anti-Semitism. The right path, of course, would have been to stay and fight for equal rights (or, to apply quite literally the phrase d'jour of global geekdom, "Go Die in a Fire").

Put aside the fact that I doubt anti-Semites are so unsophisticated as to be fooled that easily ("Jews say they are German now? Lo, I am foiled!"). It's asking us to integrate into a burning house. Guess what -- not our obligation!

The oppression Jews faced over the past two millenia represents some of this most sustained, violent, barbaric, brutal subordination mankind has ever seen. We get to decide how we respond to it. We get to decide if Europe and the Middle East and the rest of the Gentile world gets another chance. Not them. Us.

Petey said...

"But what's clear from commenter Petey and his ilk is that much of the concern for the Palestinians is just a politically correct way for right-thinking people to vent murderous rage."

Well, no, my concern for the inhabitants of Gaza and the West Bank is based on a couple of things other than murderous rage.

1) Actual concern for the inhabitants of Gaza and the West Bank, whose rights under international law have been violated for the past 40 years, with no end in sight.

2) Concern that as a self-identified Zionist, and as someone who takes the right of return of Jews to Israel as something potentially applying to me, I have a responsibility to speak up if Israel is acting in a psychotic, illegal, and vaguely fascist manner.

3) Concern that as a US citizen, support for the illegal occupation is being carried out in my name, with my taxes.

4) Concern that the occupation is fatally endangering the future of the Zionist project as a liberal democracy I could imagine living in, as well as endangering the future of Israel in general.

------

"To be clear, I'm happy to get comments from one-staters, Zionism-is-racismers, pro-settlers, etc."

I'm none of those. I'm a two-stater, pro-Zionist, and anti-settler.

(I generally like Tony Judt, but disagree with him on that particular point. However, the longer the occupation goes on, the more likely Judt's prescription will eventually come true...)

"In terms of Petey, he's from what I can tell from other comments a J Street Jew, which is to say, not that much to my left on this issue, and I'm not entirely convinced that if given a checklist questionnaire on the region, we'd have radically different results. It's more that he seems to get some joy out of announcing that my views on this issue are far-right"

While I am a rather garden-variety J Street Jew, I don't think the rest of this paragraph is true.

You take the position that "I fully believe there should be a Palestinian state ASAP", but only after magical unicorns fly over and determine all the property title concerns. This is quite literally the Likud position. It is a radically different position than the one I hold.

There is a considerable body of evidence that Israel has no real intention of allowing a fully independent Palestinian state on anything similar to the 1967 lines anytime in the next 40 years, any more than it has in the last 40 years.

The occupation could be over within 6 months in practical terms. But it won't be. More settlers move in to the occupied territories every day. And if you continue to support the occupation while seeking cover in the notion that you'd simply love to see the occupation end someday, I think your views on the topic really are pretty far-right.

At the end of the day, either you support the occupation's endless continuation, or you support ending the occupation. Supporting the occupation until magical unicorns settle all property title issues really is a far-right position, unless you are wearing Helen Thomas-style blinders on the topic that make you unable to see the situation from any POV other than that of your own ethnic group...

David Schraub said...

I think your assertion w/r/t Phoebe's position ("unicorns") is foundationless. Perhaps, instead of simply making conclusory statements and treating them as fact, you can point to some specific text where Phoebe in any way defends the occupation or the continued influx of settlers, or indeed says anything indicating that she thinks we should slow down or delay the process of unraveling the occupation (one of the nice things about having a published blog is that such text, if in existance, should not be hard to find).

"ASAP" and "when unicorns fly" are kind of at odds with each other, making your claims both (a) groundless and (b) at odds with direct evidence we have of Phoebe's position. It's really nothing more than a baseless smear.

Phoebe said...

I wrote a longer comment that seems not to be appearing, but anyway, what David Schraub said. Petey, find me the unicorns!

What we disagree on is, from what I can tell, a) whether to refer to Israel's failings in colonial terminology, and b) whether the fault of the conflict lies entirely or near-entirely with the hard-liners of only one side. What I don't get is what brings you here with these comments. There are actual far-right-wing blogs about Israel, people who defend settlements, who don't want to see two states until the coming of the unicorns, who refer to Judea and Samaria, who are holding on tight to Jerusalem, etc. Do you think that if you can somehow shift me a few inches to the left, I will use the magical power of WWPD to solve the problem once and for all? What great good in the world do you see as coming from trying to sway me to your position?

What irritates me about your response to this particular post has nothing to do with where you stand wrt this conflict, but that you ignored what I'd written (which was, remember, about how one ought to understand the situation even if, especially if, one thinks founding a Jewish state in Palestine was a massive mistake) and went on a generic rant about this debate. I was making a point that wasn't even pro-Israel, didn't have a thing to do with the left or the right as either exists today. Perhaps my point was way off, but whatever it was, it was a point someone could easily agree with even if they advocated a one-state solution.

And finally, all I meant with "To be clear, I'm happy to get comments from one-staters, Zionism-is-racismers, pro-settlers, etc." was not that (and how would this be possible?) I imagined you simultaneously hold all these views, but that I'm open to comments of whichever slant, provided they're actual comments on something I've written.

Jacob T. Levy said...

"1) Actual concern for the inhabitants of Gaza and the West Bank, whose rights under international law have been violated for the past 40 years, with no end in sight."

Petey, is it your view that the 1948-1967 situation was somehow morally or internationally-legally different for the Gazans and West-Bankers than the 1967-2010 situation? If so, why? If not, why "40 years"?

Petey said...

"ASAP" and "when unicorns fly" are kind of at odds with each other"

I agree. But that is the Likud (and Phoebe) position on a two-state solution. It should happen as soon as possible, and as soon as possible is when magical unicorns fly.

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"What we disagree on is, from what I can tell, a) whether to refer to Israel's failings in colonial terminology"

I don't think Israel is in a colonial position, and I don't think colonial terminology should be used in discussing Israel's failings.

Israel's position is that of Serbia during the 90's or South Africa from the 60's to 80's. They want to permanently occupy adjacent territory without letting the residents of that territory vote in their elections.

"What I don't get is what brings you here with these comments. There are actual far-right-wing blogs about Israel, people who defend settlements, who don't want to see two states until the coming of the unicorns, who refer to Judea and Samaria, who are holding on tight to Jerusalem, etc. Do you think that if you can somehow shift me a few inches to the left, I will use the magical power of WWPD to solve the problem once and for all? "

You are the only seemingly sane American Jews I "know" (aka read your blog) who have right-wing positions on Israel. And I have no interest in talking to insane right-wing American Jews.

And, yes, I actually do believe that if sane American Jews start coming out against the occupation, it will make a difference on the ground.

Given the reality of the political situation, when Alan Dershowitz and Phoebe Maltz come out against the occupation, the occupation will end. (Understanding the politics of this requires taking M-W a bit more seriously than you do, but there it is anyway.)

Helen Thomas is a sane American of Arab descent who has ethnic-blinders about the Levant. I'd have interest in commenting on her blog on the matter as well.

"Petey, find me the unicorns!"

Well, that's kinda the point. Unicorns don't exist. And they won't exist ten years or twenty years or forty years from now.

The Israeli military needs to evacuate the West Bank, giving the settlers six months notice, and give up claims of control over the occupied territories. Absent unicorns, that's the only solution to the situation. And unless you can find me the unicorns, that's the position you, and any other sane and moral American Zionist Jew, ought to hold.

-----

"Petey, is it your view that the 1948-1967 situation was somehow morally or internationally-legally different for the Gazans and West-Bankers than the 1967-2010 situation?"

Most definitely.

International recognition is quite important. The pre-'67 borders were recognized by the U.N. The post-'67 occupation is illegal in terms of international law.

And even if you don't think international recognition matters, then you are still stuck with the fact that under the pre-'67 borders, everyone in territory under Israeli control could vote in Israeli elections. Note the fundamental difference with the post-'67 situation.

If you, (like Phoebe), wish to argue for the endless continuation of the occupation, then you need to let the Gaza and West Bank residents vote in Israeli elections in order to not be Apartheid South Africa. And doing so would mean Tony Judt's prescription coming true.

This ain't complicated, folks. Just take off the ethnic blinders for a moment. You can't indefinitely occupy territory. Either you annex it and let its residents vote in your elections, or you end the occupation after a decent interval. 43 years has long since stopped being a decent interval.

Phoebe said...

Petey,

I take it, then, that you're not here to respond to the post to which your comments are affixed (about, again, the way Gentiles viewed Jews in 18th and 19th C Western Europe), but rather to explain while your place on the I-P spectrum is the only one a person who actually cares about humanity could actually have. Your comment, if I can rephrase, is that one cannot refer however tangentially to that part of the world without the post being titled "End the Occupation." This, I'm assuming, is why I wrote something I hadn't seen written elsewhere about the Helen Thomas remark, and all I got from you was standard I-P I'm-right-you're-wrong. Meh.

But since we're having this discussion... What I meant by "show me the unicorns" was that I wanted to see where I'd written posts defending the maintenance of current Israeli borders. I don't know exactly how borders should be redrawn, only that this has to happen, but suspect (naive, far-off American that I am) that making Jerusalem an international city akin to the Vatican could well be the way to go. (Yes, the Likud position.)

I do see the situation as being a conflict, by which I mean that both sides, not just the Israelis, are messing things up and need to make concessions. I don't know exactly what those concessions will need to be, because a) this isn't my area of expertise, and b) even people whose area of expertise it is can't sort this out.

Finally, my objection to Walt-Mearsheimer isn't that they question the US-Israel relationship, the US funding of Israel, etc. It's the way they speak of Jews in the book. It's if anything a shame their book is anti-Semitic, because it's a reasonable discussion to be having. (I'm linking to my article because I don't have the book in front of me, and would rather not reinvent the wheel in terms of having to look for the same quotes each time the topic comes up.)

David Schraub said...

Petey is, at this point, simply making an unfalsifiable claim regarding Phoebe's views re: the occupation. That's not that uncommon amongst commenters (who aren't really known as the brightest subspecies of the internet), but what is somewhat astounding is that he admits it.

The orginal claim, of course, was that Phoebe thinks "the occupation should continue for generations upon generations until unicorns fly." (See what I did there with the quotation marks?). The challenge was to "point to some specific text" (quotes again!) written by Phoebe which would back up that assertion, or as Phoebe put it, "find me the unicorns". And Petey's response was that he can't: "Unicorns don't exist." (This quoting thing is very taxing. It's a good thing I've attended two years of law school and thus have experience with this sort of exhaustive research). Admittedly, this last part is more likely the result of illiteracy: Petey apparently interpreted "show me the unicorns" as Phoebe's request for him to provide a magic bullet solution to the I/P conflict, rather than in the context Phoebe used it -- as a restatement of my post where I asked that Petey provide some tangible, textual proof that Phoebe holds a position on this issue that is predicated on unicorns flying (or anything similar).

Nonetheless, Petey's claim is, essentially by his own admission, unamenable to proof. Insofar as he actively refuses to find written text (from a blogger no less) that supports his assertion of what said blogger's views are, and discounts explicit textual assertions that demonstrate the contrary, he is essentially conceding that his belief as to what Phoebe's beliefs are lies outside the realm of rational debate. And since the internet is chock full of irrational debate already, I humbly suggest that Petey fills a niche in this comment thread that is somewhat superfluous.