Sunday, June 12, 2011

A post-sleep and post-red-meat round-up

-I've been debating with Mr. Athens and Mr. Jerusalem (nah, Alpheus and Withywindle) about the relationship between anti-Semitism and the left in America today. To summarize, and run the risk of conflating what are in fact several different stances - Withywindle and some commenting there are of the anti-Zionism-is-the-new-anti-Semitism school, and thus classify contemporary American anti-Semitism as coming from the left. Another commenter there points out that "Wall Street" and "Coastal Culture" have a history of being heard as code words for "Jews" by certain audiences, and that these views are coming from the right. To which Withywindle, in the comments, counters:

I also think there are substantive reasons to criticize Wall Street bailouts, Coastal Elites, and, indeed, the War on Christmas--and, indeed, I support all these critiques, because I am such a gutte neshumah. So I am very wary of any attempt to avoid the necessity to rebut these critiques by the cheap and nasty resort to, Oo! Oo! You just don't like Jews! I suppose I would keep a weather eye for developments, but in the meantime concentrate on the text, not the possibly Jewish subtext.
Without fully summarizing the thread, my response was - and is - that there are also substantive reasons to criticize Israel.... and that this in no way prevents some from using anti-Zionism as a cover for their anti-Semitism.

Now, I'm coming at this from a Zionist as well as an an anti-anti-Coastal perspective. My fury with Wall Street is, practically speaking, mostly limited to its irritating presence in my day-to-day life when in NY. But as I commented there, the difference between anti-Zionism and anti-Coastal Elite-ism is that one, if it's secretly about Jews, is - at least initially - secretly about Israeli Jews and their Jewish supporters abroad. The other, meanwhile, is, if it's about Jews at all, about American Jews. Because "coastal elites" is about culture, it hardly matters if a particular Jew actually comes from Minnesota and has never left that state. The person can still be described as "so New York." It's much more of a threat to American Jews if a movement emerges that doubts a Jew can really be American than it is if the folks getting worked up about American aid to Israel got super-mobilized.

-I had written a long post about the following, but it went off in too many directions, so I'll attempt to rein it in here. Basically, I was struck by part of a comment at Flavia's, re: college admissions: "[T]he true test is not if you can do pretty well with every advantage but if you can do even decently having to fight through obstacles the more privileged can't imagine." Struck, that is, by the idea of there being a "true test," and how this relates to "holistic" admissions, as well as the insistence we have in America (in some parts of the country, that is) with matching students up with colleges that match their unique personalities. Struck also with how this contrasts with Isabel Archer's response, in which she asks, "Isn't it simpler and far more attractive to just have admissions officers focus on [...] picking people who will be good college students?" It strikes me that the way to expand opportunity and reward those who do well in college would be to have everyone just go to a nearby public university, one with as close to open admissions and free tuition as possible, and - in the European manner, sniffs this grad student from her Paris dorm room - allow that a certain (large?) percentage of the matriculating class won't graduate. Sure, kids from upper-class families would probably be better-represented among the "pass" contingent, but there wouldn't be the same initial barriers to getting in, namely the near-need for wealthy and-or with-it parents. There should be a way of expanding opportunity that doesn't involve intricate moral judgements of who has overcome precisely how much suffering - this in part because some types of suffering are neither financial nor racial, and are the kinds of things students might prefer not to - or not think to - put in their application packages. And... there's more, but I'll see if there are comments on this, and maybe the side-tracked-ness of my mind on this issue will cease.

-While I have no trouble calling Valentijn de Hingh a woman, and am glad that someone from a very marginalized group has found a way to make a living, I'm not sure what to make of the apparent mini-trend of biologically male women's-fashion models. It seems hand in hand with the popularity of preadolescent (i.e. a young-looking 12, not an emaciated 16) mannequins. The concern, as far as I'm concerned, is not that a MTF woman or a 12-year-old girl is in some way taking the rightful place of a deserving 18-year-old biological-female model, or that it's confronting heterosexual men with images of female beauty that they perhaps wouldn't (or, in the case of young girls, absolutely shouldn't) pursue sexually. Rather, it's that the fact that these demographics are now "in" is merely the obvious result of a beauty standard that equates adult female appearance with ugliness. The born-male and the not-yet-14 don't have a heck of a lot in the way of cellulite.

41 comments:

eamonnmcdonagh said...

In Argentina anyone who finishes high school can study what they want at a public university for free. This results in massive dropout rates and the survivors mainly coming from privileged backgrounds i.e. state-subsidized but fee charging religious schools as opposed to the fully secular and free state school system. So the benefits of the supposed egalitarianism of the system are all/largely captured by those who don’t need them.
Oh and only the rich and plank thick plus a few religious fanatics afraid of being contaminated by secular society go to private universities here

rshams said...

Sorry for the length of this comment - I've had this discussion with quite a few people.

I dislike the "coastal elites" rhetoric as much as you do, but I find myself agreeing with Withywindle on this matter.

As you mentioned in one of your comments to Withywindle, a very large component of the association between Jews and "coastal elites" has to do with coded language and stereotyping. But with anti-Zionism (by which I mean denying Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state, not criticism of Israeli gov't. policy - or even criticism that I would strongly disagree with, i.e. Norman Finkelstein/Code Pink, not Jimmy Carter), there isn't even a code. They fairly blatantly say: Israel should not be a nation. Which to me is anti-Semitic by itself, regardless of any particular anti-Zionist's personal feelings about individual Jews, since they are only singling out the Jewish state for this kind of opprobrium.

Now, if all, or even most, of the rhetoric about "coastal elites" were explicitly about Jews, or even not-so-explicitly, but fairly obviously, about Jews (i.e. using Jon Stewart and Goldman Sachs as examples of the elite, as opposed to Mad Men and JP Morgan), I would fully agree with you that that would be anti-Semitism, one which would negatively affect American Jews in a more immediate and direct way than anti-Zionism. But that's not really happening from any mainstream right-wing source.

People can feel threatened or alienated by the "real American" rhetoric (I certainly fall into the latter category). They might hate it because they live in a large city, or vote Democrat, or have gay friends, or watch Mad Men, or have PhDs, or like farmer's markets. Or because they're not churchgoers (whether Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, or atheist). But I can't see how they can reasonably feel that it is a specific and direct affront against all American Jews.

My point (arrived to after much long-windedness) is that anti-Zionism, in its literal definition, is very plainly and directly anti-Semitism. It is only about the Jewish state. Whereas the "real America" rhetoric can surely mask anti-Semitism (in a way that criticism of Israel that is not totally anti-Zionist can also do) and has the potential to single out American Jews more than it does now, but in its current form does not seem to be targeting Jews. That is why I consider the former to be a more immediate threat.

Miss Self-Important said...

Isn't what you describe already the model of public high schools? Would universities on this model suffer the same shortcomings (teaching to the average, grade inflation, obsession with discipline and attendance)? Given the ambiguous quality of such educations, the best university grads people pursue various forms of competitive graduate programs to obtain more advanced training just as now the best high schoolers compete for college admissions while the rest go to effectively noncompetitive institutions, and you might merely be putting off meritocratic competition for another four years rather than replacing it.

Moreover, if the basis for this reform is to address disparities in educational outcomes, I don't see how we could tolerate the massive college dropout rates you propose. That would seem to undermine the purpose of expanding opportunity since the outcome of open door admissions would be about the same as selective admissions--lots of college noncompletion, likely correlated to SE status. If the goal of this reform is to get more poor people to graduate college, that would justify much more active intervention in their favor to 'compensate' for their initial shortcomings--basically every kind of measure you now hear being advocated for bad grade schools: more funding, smaller classes, etc.

Miss Self-Important said...

Also, the college at UChicago used to be run kind of like this, with a huge dropout rate, and it became too embarrassing to continue once college completion became a major public policy focus in the country, so they started reversing these priorities in the '70s. People have a hard time believing you offer a great education and an egalitarian opportunity if they discover that half the students flunk out or disappear, although your reasoning may be technically accurate.

Phoebe said...

rshams,

I see where you're coming from, and yes, Withywindle makes a similar point - Israel is always about Jews, "coastal" only sometimes. However, I don't think it's accurate to say that non-Jewish yuppies also feel threatened by Palin. Those who have reason to be unnerved aren't cosmopolitans, but those who have a long history of representing cosmopolitanism. So while I agree with you and Withywindle that to single out Israel, the only Jewish state, and demand that it cease to exist, because it's so unfair for a state to be
Jewish, whereas we're totally OK with Christian or Muslim states, that yes, that's anti-Semitic, bad for the Jews, etc. But, practically speaking, if one person's anti-my right as a Jew to national self-determination (and a right I haven't personally taken up), others anti-my own very existence, yes, I'm more frightened by the latter.

That, and it helps to compare mainstream with mainstream. Mainstream on the left is Obama clashing with Netanyahu. Mainstream on the right is Sarah Palin's Real America. The latter strikes me as the greater threat, insofar as the former isn't about wiping Israel off the map.

Phoebe said...

Eamonn, MSI, FLG (and MSI in particular next...),

A few things:

1) The answer isn't necessarily to go the open-admissions route. However, our current system, at certain schools, has way overshot the mark in the other direction, promising not merely to put better students at more elite schools, or students with particular academic or professional interests at appropriate places, but to match student and college in terms of their very essence. There are schools for the nerdy but hippieish, for the sporty but serious, etc.

2) I did take a course, in grad school, that was in part on the French educational system, in which we read a super depressing article about kids who view themselves as college students and stay so very optimistic, even though the reality is that they will work at McDo forever. This kind of system raises expectations but doesn't necessarily deliver. This I must compare with my own anecdata, which tells me that this system can indeed allow those whose families were not exactly shepherding them to college, nor college-educated themselves, to become academic rockstars. This, after all, is what American schools are trying to do when they're looking for that hidden gem in Small Town America who's meant to make it big.

3) A problem with the American system - the major problem, perhaps - is that many, many resources get channeled into education, but not in the best way. As in, they get channeled towards making sure various individual students get into the "right" college. Rich families put in X amount, and then schools and institutions must do their best to match that, to create a parallel system of preparation. Which would all be great if "preparation" meant extra time studying. The problem is that the obstacles to even just arriving at college are largely a) not academic, and b) not much related to the student's own abilities. Knowing which classes and tests to sign up for and how, knowing which colleges to apply to and how, being able to pay or figuring out how to get there without the funds, etc. We ultimately reward parents for their privilege or hustling abilities, when we should be focusing on the merit of the students. The other system would be better at isolating the best students themselves. It wouldn't fix everything, and wouldn't change a society in which the best jobs go to the kids of those who have those jobs, regardless of where or if they go to college. But it would be something.

Phoebe said...

MSI,

"Isn't what you describe already the model of public high schools? Would universities on this model suffer the same shortcomings (teaching to the average, grade inflation, obsession with discipline and attendance)?"

What I know about this system anecdotally (re: France and Belgium) is, you pretty much just have to show up for the test. This means discipline and attendance aren't issues. As for teaching to the average and grade inflation, the lower completion rates would suggest these are not a problem.

"you might merely be putting off meritocratic competition for another four years rather than replacing it."

Which is precisely the point. If, in theory, anyone can go to college, then grad-level competition would be more meritocratic. Of course, if, as exists with high school, a parallel system of elite prep schools, tutors, etc. came to exist alongside the public options, then there would be that... but the difference in age makes it hard to believe that even if many of the 18-22-year-olds in question were living at home, their parents would be quite as involved.

"Moreover, if the basis for this reform is to address disparities in educational outcomes, I don't see how we could tolerate the massive college dropout rates you propose. That would seem to undermine the purpose of expanding opportunity since the outcome of open door admissions would be about the same as selective admissions--lots of college noncompletion, likely correlated to SE status."

The goal would be to expand educational opportunity and social mobility, not to guarantee that everyone graduates. If there weren't loans involved, failing or dropping out would be less dire, and with the absence of the obstacles I mention above to matriculating in the first place, yes, there'd be correlation with SE status, but not as extreme. And, I don't see how this system would in any way prevent the "more funding, smaller classes, etc." approach at the secondary level and prior.

Britta said...

rshams,
I think there is truth to what you have said, except that mentioning "New York and Hollywood" already is code for Jews. It's seems it's less that suddenly people started hating "the coasts" and Jews happen to be one group among many who mostly live on the coasts, but rather that rhetoric which used to be almost exclusively aimed at Jews has now widened a little to include others like vegetarians and gay people.
I agree that the statement "Israel doesn't have the right to exist" is repellent, but isn't the question then more what does that person think about other nation-states? There are plenty of people against nation-states in general, or against the founding of nation-states in areas of controversy, etc. Like, I know people who don't think N. Ireland should exist, but the subtext is not that N. Ireland's inhabitants should be murdered. What's problematic is if they're just singling out Israel, or if they seem to dislike Israel with a passion far about and beyond their attitudes towards other nation states (which is usually the case when people say Israel shouldn't exist, though not always). I wouldn't say though, that over the top anti-Zionism is always ipso facto worse than hatred of coastal elites.

Finally, for those who automatically equate anti-zionism with anti-semitism. 1) How do you deal with the large swath of fundamentalist Christians who support Israel solely to bring about the coming of the antichrist? Are people who think Jews have horns but still should be in the ME so they can bring about the end of the world and go to hell not anti-semitic? 2) How do you deal with the not insignificant US Jewish population which isn't particularly supportive of Israel? Are organizations like JATO (Jews Against The Occupation) merely full of self-hating Jews?

Britta said...

Oh, and I have to go, but it seems the goal for elite colleges isn't to admit good college students (in that case they could winnow out maybe the bottom 25% of applicants and just do it by lottery), but to admit people who will be wealthy and/or famous in later life, and thus confer prestige and gazillions of dollars on their alma mater. I'm sure Harvard would accept a homeless person off the streets if they could predict with 100% accuracy that they would win a Nobel prize, or become the next Warren Buffet (who btw didn't get into Harvard). (Swarthmore somewhat transparently changed its admissions criteria to admit more business-types looking to make money, since they were sick of having all their alumns become professors. Like, yes, profs are nice, but they usually don't get wealthy or famous enough to be a huge help to Swarthmore after the fact.)

For pluck vs. advantage, on the one hand, it takes a special personality to conquer all obstacles, so in one sense, those students might be the ones with drive enough to make it really big. On the other, someone from a really wealthy family either has resources to do something extraordinary, or if they're nouveau riche, hopefully acquired that sort of drive (plus some polish) from their parents.

Phoebe said...

Britta,

"for those who automatically equate anti-zionism with anti-semitism."

I think it depends how we're defining "anti-Zionism." I'd say it's by definition anti-Semitic if we're defining it to mean that Jews - but not other groups - lack a right to national self-determination. Or even, in less extreme terms, I'd say it's anti-Semitic to get all high and mighty about how backwards and intolerant it is for Israel to be a "Jewish" state, while at the same time not finding it problematic that, for example, damn near everything's going to be closed in ostensibly godless Frahnce tomorrow because of Pentecost.

However, if anti-Zionism=criticism of specific Israeli policies, of the settlements, of Netanyahu, of the amount of American aid, then no, anti-Zionism isn't anti-Semitic. Given that "Zionism" can mean everything from supporting Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state to being on the Israeli far-right, it makes sense that anti-Zionism means different things depending the context.

rshams said...

Britta,

Agreed with everything Phoebe just wrote. If the anti-Zionist in question is anti-nationhood in general, then no, he/she is not anti-Semitic. And I wouldn't consider mere criticism of Israeli policy - even that with which I disagree - to be anti-Semitic, unless there is serious demonization/double standards/delegitimization (the "3 D's") to be found.

As to fundamentalist Christians who support Israel, from both anecdata and reportage, I think in actuality a very, very small percentage of them do so to bring about the End Times. They usually cite Biblical or general conservative Republican principles as reasons for their support. One can disagree with their motives and conclusions, but I wouldn't call it anti-Semitic (though yes, if they supported Israel in order to bring about the death of Jews in the End Times, that would qualify as such.)

Phoebe,

I'd say the reason why Palin's "Real America" rhetoric was so noxious is precisely that so many different groups could find themselves as members of the "non-real." So, for sure, I think a non-Jewish yuppie could feel incredibly turned off by it, even though he might not be historically associated with cosmopolitanism. One would really have to make a few leaps and bounds to assume that Palin - a woman of limited historical knowledge, to be sure - knows about that association, and she and her ilk certainly were not expressing anything explicit that singled out Jews. So, any anti-Semitism on their part is assumed, hypothetical, or potential.

That's why I would stand by my original point: anti-Zionism (surely not Obama; I hope I didn't imply he was an anti-Zionist in any way) is a direct, specific, and explict singling out of Jews. That is worse than the "real America" rhetoric - in its current form. If such rhetoric does begin explicitly singling out Jews, then yes, I will agree with you 100% about the immediacy of the threat.

Withywindle said...

A smallish note: you may be right that Jews feel more frightened by Real America rhetoric (whether or not they should), but a lot of other people are ticked off by it (infuriated, etc.), without being frightened.

Generally with rshams, unsurprisingly.

As always, I find the logic-chopping of the nature of anti-Zionism wearying--do we oppose Israeli policies or Jewish essences?, blah, blah, blah. In practice, I find the overlap with anti-Semitism overwhelming; a world of knaves and malicious fools, and a few genuine useful idiots. And if they've established that they are genuinely idiots without a grain of malice, I don't much care; they still advocate policies with horrible consequences.

Phoebe said...

rshams,

"I'd say the reason why Palin's "Real America" rhetoric was so noxious is precisely that so many different groups could find themselves as members of the "non-real." So, for sure, I think a non-Jewish yuppie could feel incredibly turned off by it, even though he might not be historically associated with cosmopolitanism."

Let me try to clarify what I was getting at before re: cosmopolitanism. The yuppies of today who fall into Palin's "unreal" category absolutely do have historical precedents, equivalents who were just as sneered at by populists Then as the farmers'-marketeers are by Palin, Now. The difference, then as now, is that Jews are not seen merely as a subset of this group, but as its very essence, even Jews who are not, as individuals, cosmopolitan.

As for Palin's intellectual capacities... There are definitely some - commenting on newspaper forums, for example - who take "Real America" talk to confirm what they've always felt re: the Jews. As for Palin herself, no, she probably isn't trying, consciously at least, to evoke more sinister populisms past, but that doesn't stop her from inadvertently (or, if we're going to get conspiratorial about it, under the advice of those more knowledgeable on these matters) repeating loaded tropes, ones that some but not all in her audience will appreciate. As with the blood-libel incident, it might not hurt if she or her minders were a bit more historically-aware.

Phoebe said...

Withywindle,

Oh yes, plenty of non-Jews are ticked off re: Real America talk. Thus the threats to move to Canada/Europe. But I think this is fundamentally different from thinking, hey, rhetoric like this preceded major oppression and violence against my kind back in the day. A yuppie can change jobs and move and become a Real American; a Jew can already live in Real America and not have a college degree and still not count.

Not sure what you find "wearying" re: discussing what anti-Zionism means. I think it's important because there are probably a lot of folks going around calling themselves "anti-Zionist" because they oppose the settlements, or because they think Zionism=opposing a Palestinian state under any circumstances. Similarly, to some, identifying as a Zionist means holding far-right positions. For those identifying as - or seeking to discredit - either position, it helps to be clear what, exactly, is meant. I mean, while I doubt if anyone who full-on identifies as an anti-Zionist shares precisely the same views as anyone who full-on considers himself a Zionist, the two labels may end up referring to ideas re: the I-P conflict that aren't even all that different.

PG said...

The range of possible meanings for "anti-Zionist" is a very good point to make. Is Tony Kushner (and are some anti-Palestinian Republicans) "anti-Zionist" because they're skeptical of the premise on which Israel was founded (a nation specifically for a particular ethnic/ religious group), even if they think Israel, having been established, ought to continue to exist?

Personally, being skeptical of purely ethnic/religious nationalism in the absence of a track record of oppression on the basis of that ethnicity or religion (which track record Jews obviously have at Olympic levels), I don't think Pakistan ought to have been created, but I don't think that the nation ought to be dissolved now. As I was discussing at David Schraub's blog, I have very little sympathy for my own family's ethno-geographic sub-subgroup's efforts to obtain its own state despite wah-wahing over being disadvantaged relative to another group that has the same ethnicity, language, religion and rice-growing habits. I hope this doesn't make me a self-hating member of this sub-subgroup.

David Schraub said...

I think it is also worth noting that anti-Zionism as opposition to the existence of the Jewish state (our agreed-upon "clear case" of anti-Zionism as anti-Semitism) is a fringe position on the American left -- far more fringe than "real American" rhetoric which, of course, was spouted by an extremely prominent Republican political figure.

I agree that "the Jewish state should be eliminated" is anti-Semitic (particularly when not paired with a general commitment to abolishing nation-states); I also agree it is more seriously anti-Semitic than "real American". But it is also considerably more marginal -- it's Code Pink, not Jimmy Carter. And by the time you get that far out on the equivalent right fringe, you find that brand of anti-Zionism is perfectly active there as well.

Meanwhile, as one pushes to the center, one can definitely find criticisms of Israel that may not be as obviously anti-Semitic as the brand of anti-Zionism we're discussing, but still should be considered as anti-Semitic because of their drastically negative substantive effects on Jews, even if it is absent any sort of intentional malice or malignant heart. And I think there is a place for that analysis, and perhaps it applies to some more mainstream left figures of equivalent weight to Ms. Palin. But the problem is that, again, if we make that extension, it applies just as strongly to conservative positions which also are forwarded with good intentions but could have catastrophically bad consequences on Jewish equal-standing -- e.g., Church/State fusion or calls by some prominent Republicans (like Mike Huckabee) for a one-state solution in Israel.

Withywindle said...

Phoebe: Wearying because I've been over this ground more years than I care to mention, and the ground never changes. Part of the ground is indeed that "anti-ZIonist," has a range of meanings, and the idiots who refuse to realize that it will always lend aid and comfort to the Jew-haters and Jew-killers will either 1) never acknowledge the predictable effects; and/or 2) end up soon enough in the avowedly Jew-hating/Jew-killing camp. Once you call yourself "anti-ZIonist," you're already in a field with little wheat and many tares.

rshams said...

Phoebe,

"A yuppie can change jobs and move and become a Real American; a Jew can already live in Real America and not have a college degree and still not count."

This is where I think our differences of opinion on this issue ends up resting on what are truly visceral reactions. You (correct me if I'm wrong) immediately noticed the connection between Palin's rhetoric and the more explicitly anti-Semitic populist rhetoric of the past. My reaction to Palin's rhetoric is that it is obnoxious, illogical, and divisive political rhetoric, not a conscious or unconscious effort to exclude Jews as Jews. I can totally envision an Iowan Jew with a degree from State U who votes Republican (the most important characteristic in determining real v. fake, in the Palinites' opinion) not feeling at all "uncounted" by this rhetoric.

rshams said...

Withywindle,

I agree re: how wearying it is to parse the varieties of anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism and their overlaps. Even though I've added the right disclaimers over what I mean by those words myself, I also believe it is a concession to those straw man-constructors who accuse all Zionists of conflating anti-Semitism and any criticism of Israel. Even though no one I know personally, trust as a source, or even have heard of in the broader community of pro-Israel discourse makes this conflation (and I'm not really left-wing in my Zionism).

Phoebe said...

PG,

I think the view you mention is anti-Zionist if those expressing it so identify. The issue is that "Zionist," much like "feminist," can refer to believing that the status quo should not be questioned (i.e., that women should be able to vote, towork outside the home; that Israel should be able to go on existing as a Jewish state), or it can refer to a desire to push things further, to the extremes, in the original direction (i.e., to classify makeup, long hair, heterosexuality, etc., as inherently oppressive; to support a Greater Israel). When I say I consider myself a feminist, some may react with, then why the nail polish, same as when I identify as a Zionist, it comes as a surprise that I think there should also be a Palestinian state.

David,

" I also agree it is more seriously anti-Semitic than "real American". But it is also considerably more marginal -- it's Code Pink, not Jimmy Carter."

Yup. This is where I was trying to go with my response to rshams ("That, and it helps to compare mainstream with mainstream. Mainstream on the left is Obama clashing with Netanyahu. Mainstream on the right is Sarah Palin's Real America. The latter strikes me as the greater threat, insofar as the former isn't about wiping Israel off the map.") Full-on Israel-must-go anti-Zionism is indeed worse than ambiguous folksy populism, but if we're comparing mainstreams...

I also agree with your point about the extent to which one finds the really out-there views re: Jews on left and right alike. I was thinking this before, re: the anti-bailout issue - suspicion of Wall Street and NY elites can be left or right; right-wing isolationist sorts are not all that pro-Israel, and the nuts among them sometimes view the U.S.'s lack of isolation from Israel in not-so-delightful terms.

Withywindle,

I guess I don't see the advantage of so labeling a whole bunch of people who are not anti-Semitic, simply because they're using a term that has multiple interpretations, of which some are and some are not about Jew-hatred. It seems to me like the kind of thing that discredits the pro-Israel side, the whole, 'see, they're calling all critics of Israel anti-Semites' issue. It helps, if you want to be able to say what is, in fact, anti-Semitism, to separate it out from what's merely a political view that you don't agree with.

Phoebe said...

rshams,

Agreed re: the diff in visceral responses.

" I can totally envision an Iowan Jew with a degree from State U who votes Republican (the most important characteristic in determining real v. fake, in the Palinites' opinion) not feeling at all "uncounted" by this rhetoric."

I suppose it depends the experiences this person had growing up, whether he was thought to be somehow cosmopolitan/"New York" despite his actual biography. In a sense, though, I can envision a coastal big-city Jew who votes Republican getting on board with "Real America" rhetoric because some people are that strongly politically identified.

Re: your response to Withywindle,

I get what you mean re: making a concession, but I also think calling all who identify as anti-Zionist anti-Semitic kind of is conflating criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism, something that as it happens I, like you, haven't known many pro-Israel/Zionist sorts to do, making Withywindle's remark something of an exception. I mean, like "anti-Zionist" the expressions "criticism" and "critics" of Israel can mean either of specific policies, of the state's current existence, or of - as PG notes above - the fact that it was formed in the first place. It just seems more effective to be clear - and, as you, Britta, David, and I have done fairly succinctly - what kind of anti-Zionism/criticism of Israel is anti-Semitic. Which isn't, I think, all that much of a concession, given that the side with that generally-straw-man complaint comes at things from the perspective of, only Nazism and similar counted as anti-Semitism, and certainly nothing related to the I-P conflict could possibly count as such.

rshams said...

Phoebe,

Agreed completely, with one caveat.

In my experience, there are not too many people who call themselves anti-Zionist who do not fall into one of the categories that you, David, Britta, and I outlined as anti-Semitic in effect. Even if they do not deny Israel's right to exist outright, they utilize double standards or demonizing rhetoric, or they display an obsession with Israel's real or perceived faults completely out of proportion with reality, etc., etc. I haven't heard of anyone who has a problem with Netanyahu or settlement policy call themselves anti-Zionist. So, if Withywindle is defining as anti-Zionist (and thus anti-Semitic) those who are defining themselves as such, I don't see a reason to disagree.

And not a disagreement, but an extension:

"In a sense, though, I can envision a coastal big-city Jew who votes Republican getting on board with "Real America" rhetoric because some people are that strongly politically identified."

Absolutely, and the "Real America" folks will happily accept him as one of theirs. See: Kristol, Bill.

eamonnmcdonagh said...

I agree that the anti-Zionist who is all against either nation-states in general or nation-states with some kind of strong ethno-religious ethos in particular is not, in principle, an antisemite. Two questions though:1. Has anyone here ever met such a person? and 2. If you were such a person, why would you get all hot and bothered about the Jewish nation state and not any of the other nations states with similar characteristcis that one would imagine riling you up just as much? I mean it's not that one meets an anti-Zionist one day, an anti- Greek nation state-ist the next and someone who really hates Argentina because of the constitutional priviliges enjoyed by the RC religion the day after that.

Britta said...

In answer to eamonn's question, I'm someone who feels like the nation-state model has some serious problems, however I am no more hot n' bothered about Israel existing as a nation-state than I am about any other nation-state's existence. I think that, in ALL nation states, there is a fundamental tension between being a collection of liberal subjects who share a set of beliefs as outlined in a constitution, and being a gemeinshaft with shared culture/language/ethnicity. This tension plays out in some way in pretty every country on earth, and there are countries far closer to home personally that I spend more time thinking about than Israel. To the extent I do care about the I/P conflict, it is that in general I don't believe in warfare or terrorism or oppression. To that end, while maybe in a certain context, such as one where I say I don't think any nation-state should exist, I would say that Israel shouldn't exist, but pretty much every other time I will argue that Israel has as much a right to exist as Canada or France.

So...long aside aside, I agree with Phoebe that "Zionism" can have multiple connotations, and people who are pro or anti-Zionism might have the same viewpoint, just like feminism, as Phoebe points out. I grew up thinking Zionism was a positive term, and identified as such when I was younger, though now I might not simply because it's kind of a complicated phrase, so instead I might say, "I believe in a two-state solution" or something like that. Of course, supporting rshams, I would never call myself anti-Zionist either. Aslo, I think in the US a problem is that many self-identified Zionist organizations (like the ME Forum) are overtly Rightwing. When those who claim to represent the public voice of Zionism also whole-heartedly support the war in Iraq and rounding up American Arabs and putting them in camps (as Daniel Pipes did), then it's not hard to see why anyone to the left of hawkish neo-conservatism is turned off by the term. (I think there's a similarity to a term like "Christian," where saying "I'm a Christian" generally links you to a host of unsavory beliefs so that most mainstream Protestants are uncomfortable with using the term Christian, even though they are Christian. Maybe there could be a "reclaiming Zionism" as a movement by those who are leftist but support Israel.)

Related to that, "supporting policies that make Israel less safe is anti-Semitic" is pretty vague. I know people who argue that invading Iraq made Israel safer, so opposing the war in Iraq is anti-Semitic. Likewise, I know people who think that eliminating Westbank settlements make Israel less safe, so opposing those are anti-Semitic. At that point, anti-Semitism again is just a club to beat people you don't agree with over the head, and it doesn't really do much to make people want to see it from your POV.

Withywindle said...

What rshams said. When rshams has twins, will they be babyshams?

Miss Self-Important said...

The goal would be to expand educational opportunity and social mobility, not to guarantee that everyone graduates.
But open admission won't address discrepancies in opportunity or mobility unless it can be shown to narrow the disparity in SE outcomes, and that requires not enrolling in college, but graduating from it (a job at Goldman Sachs doesn't await dropouts). If disparities along SE lines remain in graduation rates, which seems likely given the extent to which preparation for college will differ along those lines (kids coming from Stuyvesant vs. Bronx HS Number Whatever), how will you account for that?

If, in theory, anyone can go to college, then grad-level competition would be more meritocratic...the difference in age makes it hard to believe that even if many of the 18-22-year-olds in question were living at home, their parents would be quite as involved.
Assuming the broader economic incentives don't change (that is, the job market remains the same), competition for desirable jobs will remain the goal of college for most and it will in no way diminish b/c of open enrollment, so people will simply find different avenues to compete for distinction in order to obtain them (I'm thinking grad school, but maybe other things). I don't think age would make a critical difference in the zeal of these self-distinguishing endeavors if what's at stake is a $200k/yr job and a lifelong career vs. McDonalds. You don't need nagging parents to figure out how important that is. Also, I don't know about Belgium, but France doesn't seem to be a good parallel since it does have highly selective institutions that serve as direct conduits to employment in desirable economic sectors.

The US has some really good universities, and some really bad ones. I'm not sure how this plan wouldn't just raze the good ones in order to create more bad ones--extensions of public high school for another four years, with all the mediocrity that entails--all so that a few thousand rich kids won't get SAT-prepped so much. That seems like a pretty unreasonable trade-off.

rshams said...

Withywindle,

I'm usually halfway decent at punnery, but I can't for the life of me get the joke :-/

Phoebe said...

Withywindle, rshams, Britta:

I, at least, can't really say whether I've ever encountered an anti-Zionist who was really just anti-nation-state, or anti-settlements, because I haven't engaged every anti-Zionist I've encountered (let alone seen assembled) on their broader views. What I can say is that it's assumed, when I say that I'm a Zionist, that I hold a series of views that range from to-my-right to abhorrent that, well, I don't, so it wouldn't surprise me in the least if some are identifying as anti-Zionist as a way of - and Britta was getting at this - distancing themselves from neoconservatism or just extremism. So basically, I don't think it's a safe bet to just call all anti-Zionists anti-Semites, and think that to do so is a pretty bad idea, with no obvious upside. All it will accomplish is, it will make the anti-Zionists who just mean they're center-left the new allies of the more radical ones, who will be able to tell them, see, make one teensy criticism of Israel, and you're called an anti-Semite... and they'll have a point.

MSI,

-I was not arguing that the open-admissions system would eliminate SE disparity, but that it would reduce it. I really don't see how, if we virtually removed the role of parents and of tuition from college admissions, that wouldn't happen.

-If the end result is too many Stuyvesant kids, that wouldn't exactly be an SE disaster. Half my homeroom class or so was on free lunch. Not "1250 from the South Bronx," but not privileged PA suburbs, either.

-"You don't need nagging parents to figure out how important that is."

But taking nagging parents out of the equation is very important, because it changes who gets ahead. It becomes that the kids (well, young adults in this scenario) who are motivated and talented win whichever spots.

-You're right re: France, that it has selective schools, as FLG pointed out, and as my dorm room is reminding me. While it's not the radical alternative, ala Belgium, it would be a radical shift in the same direction, insofar as a) students are not matched holistically with schools, it's, I believe, a far cruder best students go to best schools, and b) there isn't the whole network of not-super-elite private colleges, to which resources must go to match students, again, holistically.

-If what emerged were equivalents of the big state schools in the Midwest or West, places where it's just the default that even most top students will go to those, then I don't think it would be disastrous. It's all too hard to say, though, because yes, if the kids who now cluster at elite schools went to local public ones, those would be different places, but no, elite schools aren't going anywhere. Another possibility would be to save the few best universities, figure out a more streamlined admissions system for those, to at least reduce the influence of the SE-status-and-parents-saturated college process, and then have the rest of the college be, yes, local and public. But, again, I wouldn't lose sleep over it if you don't think it sounds advisable, because it's obviously not going to happen.

Phoebe said...

And Eamonn, for the first comment, consider yourself also addressed.

eamonnmcdonagh said...

Phoebe: But you don't to engage every antizionist on their broader views. If there were a lot of people who were anti-nation state/anti ethno-religious nation state one wouldn't be surprised if some were anti-zionist what is surprising - if these people see Israel just as a specific example of a regrettable phenomenon is the absence of anti-srilankists, anti-republic of Irelandists etc. among such people.

Of course none of this means that there aren't highly objectionable ways of being a zionist, of course there are

In my view zionism is the right of the Jews to self determination. If you are against them having that right your view is antisemitic, absent evidence of general opposition to the right to self-dtermination of all other ethnoreligious imagined communities too

Withywindle said...

Babychams ...

rshams said...

Withywindle: Had to wiki that too, but gotten :)

Phoebe said...

Eamonn,

I hear you (and Withywindle, and rshams), and I would also define Zionism the way you do. But am still not seeing the advantage of guilty-until-proven-innocent on this matter over the reverse. Sometimes, people aren't sure how to label themselves. For example, in my younger days, I thought I might be a libertarian. I went to a meeting of my college's libertarian club, learned a bit more both about libertarianism and about my own beliefs, and turns out, not so much. A young person who thinks he's an anti-Zionist because he wouldn't have voted for Netanyahu can either a) in time learn that self-labeling in this way is problematic because it means being conflated with those who think Israel should be wiped off the map/who hate Jews generally, or b) learn that The Jews think all who criticize Israel (which, by their defn, = all "anti-Zionists) are anti-Semites, get defensive, and bond with the hardcore anti-Zionists who do indeed want Israel wiped off the map/hate Jews generally.

rshams said...

Phoebe,

I see your point regarding not alienating and potentially enlightening those who are merely murky on the definitions and not truly against the idea of Israel as a Jewish state.

But what other politically identified group is required to repudiate its most extreme members on such a regular basis? Someone self-identifying as a liberal doesn't have to preface every statement by saying, "But I don't agree with Code Pink or anything." Your garden-variety Republican isn't required to disassociate himself from the John Birch Society.

But somehow, if you're a mainstream Zionist, you have to repudiate the settlers. And if you're a left-of-mainstream Zionist, you have to repudiate AIPAC. And whatever kind of Zionist you are, you have to make sure you articulate that criticism of Israel =/= anti-Semitism, instead of focusing on the aspects of the criticism with which you disagree. It seems to me that making these concessions so regularly allows this double standard to become more and more established.

Phoebe said...

rshams,

First, what about feminism, the example I gave earlier? The word perhaps ought to indicate support for existing women's-rights achievements, but is popularly understood as something far more extreme. I don't think Zionism's unique in that it refers to a movement that has ostensibly won, making it confusing, vocab-wise, what we call modern-day "-ists."

Next, there's also the fact that "liberal" is just one of many simple words used to denote that side of the political spectrum, and can be differentiated from "leftist," "socialist," "progressive," "communist." "Conservative" is a bit more complicated (there's "libertarian," but most everything else requires a modifier), but this at least gets at why those on the left aren't always having to explain themselves. They can get a lot across with just one word.

rshams said...

Phoebe,

With regard to feminism, there may be people who might not specifically define themselves as feminist due to the association with make-up-hating gender deconstructionists, but I'd say that - similar to Zionism - that there are very few people who would actually call themselves anti-feminist for those reasons. And if one does specifically call himself that, rather than merely being indifferent or passively supportive or criticizing particular aspects of radical feminism, then - similar to Zionism - it might not be unreasonable to think that he might have a problem with women's equality.

Most Americans who are not rah-rah Zionists are indifferent to Israel or passively supportive, or if they're critical, will point out specific faults. We're talking about people who self-identify as anti-Zionist. Despite the relative sound and fury that they create, there really aren't that many of them in mainstream society, and I see no problem in calling them out.

I was using "liberal" and "conservative" merely as examples of ideologies that don't require constant repudiations of their extreme wings. Maybe the moderate Republican will have to explain that he is socially liberal, and the center-leftist will have to state her support for slightly smaller government, but neither would be considered a crazed fanatic in the absence of such qualifiers.

eamonnmcdonagh said...

Phoebe: for me it’s not a question of guilty till proven innocent, it’s a question of crediting my interlocutor with understanding what he or she is saying and being able to take responsibility for it. Here’s a quick thought experiment. You are at some social event in the USA and you end up talking to someone who says that anti-black prejudice in the USA can be explained by the ¬fondness of blacks for selling drugs and committing violent crimes and if they slacked off a bit with that then, hey, that would be the end to prejudice against them. Your interlocutor claims to have no personal animus towards blacks.
Would you, a) think it premature and possibly counter-productive to label such a person as a racist and attempt to constructively engage with them on the basis that their views might not be fully formed and if they knew more about black history/ the prejudiced legal system etc. they’d change their view.
Or would you, b) conclude that you were in the presence of a racist and sidle away from that person/call that person on their racism or whatever
What I am laboring to say is that there seems to me to exist, not just in this discussion, a great striving not to name antisemitic behavior and views as such when there is no such hesitation (and quite right too) in naming, say, anti-gay or anti-black views or behavior.

Britta said...

I think with Zionism another part of the issue is that there are a very small but vocal minority of people who have co-opted the term, such that in the public sphere, "Zionism" means supporting a very specific agenda which within Israel and the US is considered to be Rightwing. When people not clued into the history of the term see it associated with harassing professors, or supporting bombing Iran, it's understandable why there isn't mainstream appeal to the term, even among people who would be considered Zionist by most definitions of the term. I think an analogy to "Christian" still somewhat holds, in that a vocal (hopefully) minority of people have co-opted the term to mean anti-abortion, anti-separation of church and state. As such, I would no more identify as a Christian in most circles, even though I had a mainstream protestant upbringing, than I would a Zionist in certain circles, even though I have and will continue to defend Israel's right to a secure existence. A movement to reclaim Zionism in the public sphere might be helpful.

Also, it IS true that this same vocal minority calls anyone who doesn't agree with them anti-Semitic, which results in the boy who cried wolf effect. I consider myself a Zionist, and I've been told I'm anti-Semitic because I think illegal West bank settlements are a bad idea, and (my favorite), that back at the height of the war in Iraq, that I didn't think France was evil. If being against the war in Iraq makes you anti-Semitic, then it gets harder for people to recognize real (though often subtle) anti-Semitism.

I do agree, there is a lot of anti-Semitism lurking behind the anti-Israeli movement, but I think calling anyone who disagrees with a very specific attitude toward Israel not even held by all or maybe even most Israelis anti-Semitic hurts much more than it helps. (Not accusing anyone here necessarily of doing it, but there are some pretty prominent figures who are guilty of this.)

It turns out there's actually a wikipedia page on anti-Zionism, which brings up many of the points we've been debating (i.e. the polysemy of the term "anti-Zionism" and what its link to anti-Semitism is) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anti-Zionism

eamonnmcdonagh said...

Perhaps a final point, perhaps. Zionism does not have to produce only good consequences for it to be justified nor do all Zionists have to be nice people. The existence of racist Zionists, stupid Zionists and Zionists who’d like to obliterate the Palestinians doesn’t mean that Zionism is unjustified, any more than the existence of racist, genocidal Argentines can be reasonably held to call into question the rights of Argentines to govern themselves under the supervision of the RC church.
Or, to put it another way, how come I don’t hear people calling for the abolition of Nigeria and its return to being a British colony because of 419 scams ?

Phoebe said...

Too much to get to all of this, but let's see...

My issue is, I do think people are overall too hesitant to call out anti-Semitism, that it's treated differently from other prejudices that people are far more willing to call out, etc. This is why I think the answer is to be precise when calling it out, and not to include huge swaths of the population that don't fit any reasonable definition of it.

rshams,

People are not so precise with their terms. I could very well see someone put off by what they see as metaphorical bra-burning declaring himself an anti-feminist. I suppose I don't think, with either ism, there's a great deal of precision on the pro- or con- side re: what's about supporting a status quo, and what's about demanding radical change.

Eamonn,

If someone said Jews are this way with money, that way with disloyalty, but that they had nothing against Jews personally, that would be the equivalent of your analogy wrt blacks. A better analogy would be someone holding forth on the inherent hopelessness of Africa (or, say, Haiti), where it's possible this person's prejudice extends to African-Americans, but not necessarily the case.

Britta,

Wikipedia comes through!

Anyway, I think one can say both that there's a "new anti-Semitism" hiding behind "anti-Zionism," and that that's not the entirety of what "anti-Zionism" means. Even though I probably don't share much ground with even the least anti-Zionist anti-Zionist, I think it pays to adopt the narrower definition of anti-Semitism.

Again - and I can't repeat this enough - we must remember that even a narrower definition than one that includes the whole of "anti-Zionism", one that includes only some "anti-Zionism," is far broader than what many many many on the anti-Zionist-broadly-defined side would like. They would like "anti-Semitism" to never be used in reference to anything that falls at all under the banner of "criticism of Israel." So I really don't think this is in some way capitulating to their demands, to reserve the term "anti-Semitism" for only the criticism of Israel that veers into that category.

PG said...

And if one does specifically call himself that, rather than merely being indifferent or passively supportive or criticizing particular aspects of radical feminism, then - similar to Zionism - it might not be unreasonable to think that he might have a problem with women's equality.

You might not think it unreasonable, but I assure you that the folks identifying as anti-feminist consider it grossly unreasonable. They will tell you that of course they support women's equality, and it's the *feminists* with their thinking that women ought to be able to get drunk without being sexually assaulted who really treat women as inferior to men, needing special protection, special rights, etc. Every anti-feminist Men's Rights Activist out there is convinced that what he wants is for women to be equal to men, rather than having greater rights and privileges than men do.