Thursday, September 15, 2011

Today in anti-Semitism

This I read more as someone who's taught college students than as someone concerned with The Jews specifically. But even those who've never taught anyone - and for the record, I've never experienced anything like this - will be shaking their heads. Meanwhile, there's perfectly good anti-Semitism right there in the Gawker thread - would you believe that you can't blanket-statement insult The Jews these days without being called an anti-Semite? Unfair!

And... yikes. And the victim was an exchange student at that. Furthering cultural exchange, indeed. I wonder how many exchanges go this way, producing understandings less about which countries do and don't put ice in beverages, more about where your kind can and cannot go? My first in Paris did, if less dramatically. (It was one RER ride under a "Mort aux Juifs" graffiti, which was still above and beyond anything I'd experienced in the States.) But I decided to study France, including French anti-Semitism, and eat my croissants too.

And imagine how much more fun the exchange would have been if the two young men had been not just dorm-mates (I think?) but roommates! And of course the racist twerp looks like a cross between "South Park's" Cartman and his inspiration, Archie Bunker. Not that there aren't perfectly lovely people who also happen to resemble those two, but anyway.


Britta said...

In the approximately 30 mins of training they give us at Chicago before teaching, one piece of advice that seems really valuable a prof told us was to avoid needlessly bringing up controversial topics. The example he gave is if you wanted to make a point about, say, sovereignty or some more generic point, don't use the I/P conflict as an example. I assumed it was to avoid needlessly getting your students worked up/distracted, but maybe it's also to save yourself from students like in the first example.

The second guy sounds horrible, it's good he was kicked out. It looks like he's a member of the EDL as well? On a more general note, I am always very suspicious of the motives of people who are not actually Israeli/Palestinian belonging to advocacy groups related to Israelis/Palestinians

J. Otto Pohl said...

The EDL is fanatically pro-Zionist and pro-Israeli. Go check out some of the stuff reported on the group's cooperation with Zionist groups in the UK at Mark Elf's Jews Sans Frontieres.

Phoebe said...


That's absolutely right that you want to avoid "needlessly" bringing such topics up, and it's a rule I followed (without, I think, ever having been taught it explicitly, but maybe?) when teaching French. I haven't looked at more than a couple reports on this particular case, but if the prof picked this "unacceptable opinion" simply to demonstrate an unacceptable opinion, not a wise move, but the student was still in the wrong, sounds like. But if he was making some more specific point about, say, which language can get you in legal trouble in Europe (Gallianosville), maybe he did want to give specific examples, and this was one that made sense, and all would have been controversial.

Britta, J. Otto,

I think the student's obvious racism (which, J. Otto, from your earlier comments here, I suspect you might consider valid protest against the evil state of Israel, but feel free to correct) was merely being compared with EDL racism, by Jewish anti-racist bloggers who are quite explicitly angry about racism against Jews and racism against Muslims. But it wouldn't be so odd for a 19-year-old, especially, to hold contradictory views. (See: my 'libertarian' phase around that age.) Or for a bigot of any age to pick and choose from different ideologies, say, if some allow hating Muslims, others allow hating Jews. It's tough in Europe these days to hate everyone from within the same organization. But once again, I did not see anything about this guy being in or sympathetic to the EDL.

Dan O. said...

Wow... I despised 90's-era identity politics in the mid-90's (I went to Oberlin, where it reigned), and I despise the current incarnation. What's remarkable is the right-wing's ability to speak that language while simultaneously complaining about "political correctness".

Teaching sociology has got to be an awful job. It's both pointless and risky.

J. Otto Pohl said...

I have never endorsed the abuse of individuals based upon their citizenship. So your comment is a rather cheap shot. Not that I am surprised.

But, the EDL routinely displays the Israeli flag at its rallies. It also regularly engages in counter demonstrations against BDS pickets in the UK often in cooperation with more mainstream Zionist groups. Finally, it has a Jewish section headed by Roberta Moore. Trying to tie the EDL to any type of anti-Israeli position is clearly bizarre.

The Far Right groups in the UK and other parts of Europes including the BNP have almost all become strong Zionists recently to reinforce their domestic anti-Muslim positions. After all the Israelis have killed a lot more Muslims than they could ever hope to.

Phoebe said...


"What's remarkable is the right-wing's ability to speak that language while simultaneously complaining about "political correctness"."

Yes - that's often the case with complaints about "underrepresentation" of conservatives on campus. Not sure what you're getting at re: sociology in particular - I'd think any contemporary topic would be tough going.

J. Otto,

Really? It wasn't such a leap not to give you the benefit of the doubt on this one, considering your response wasn't 'yes, what a racist fool,' but to pick up on the EDL bit, because never must an opportunity be lost to point out that Zionism=racism. Even when the topic at hand is a Jewish victim of anti-Semitic violence. You still must find a way to bring it back to criticizing Israel.

Anyway, there are of course white Christian/Gentile Europeans who hate Muslims and Jews, and who conveniently express 'anti-terrorist' or 'anti-multiculturalist' opinions when hating Muslims, 'sympathy with the Palestinians' when hating Jews, because there's no powerful, unified, let's-hate-everybody-different group in Europe these days. Such as.

eamonnmcdonagh said...

@Britta. I'm not Jewish and have long participated in pro-Israel advocacy, both on my own and - for a couple of years, now finished - as a blog writer for a big Jewish advocacy group in the US.

So what makes you suspect my motives?

Britta said...

I'm not saying that everyone who does is automatically a bad person or has unsavory motives, but it seems like it's part of the outsized element of interest/concern that makes a lot of the attention on the I/P conflict problematic. Like, not that there's anything wrong with caring about people unrelated to you in any way, but I don't see any Chechen support organizations, or Northern Irish solidarity clubs (outside of the UK/Ireland and Irish Americans.) It's like...why is this issue so important to people in a way other issues of similarly unrelated importance aren't? I mean, I get that some people have an interest in an area/culture and get involved in a great degree with that community, but it seems like most people on either side of the I/P conflict who are no I/P themselves use it as proxy or cover for their own less than flattering views.

eamonnmcdonagh said...

@Britta. fair enough. what I find odd is the dearth of people like me - broadly pro-Israel, no biographical link to the conflict - compared to the enormous numbers of other people with no biographical link to the conflict either but who are involved in anti-Israel, supposedly pro-Palestinian activism in a very energetic way.

Andrew Stevens said...

In the U.S. at least, there are probably more broadly pro-Israel people than broadly pro-Palestinian people. The energetic activism is on the Palestinian side because they want a change from the status quo. Pro-Israel supporters don't go out and demonstrate because Israel has the upper hand.

J. Otto Pohl said...

There are Chechen support clubs in the US, Europe and Middle East. They have been quite active in France and Estonia. There used to be regular demonstrations in front of the Russian Embassy in Tallinn against the Chechen war. Memorial in Russia has been heavily involved in defending the rights of Chechens. Just because you are not aware of these groups does not mean they do not exist. For the record my blog has 21 posts that mention the Chechens versus 27 that mention Palestinians out of a total of 1,466 posts.

eamonnmcdonagh said...


your thesis would seem to demand the existence of hordes of A State for Turkish Kurds Now!/Down with Gender Apartheid in Saudi Arabia!/Down with Military Government in Egypt!/Give Kosovo Back to Serbia! etc etc etc activitists with no biographical link to those conflicts but anxious to change long fixed American govt policy towards the coutries in question.

Pete, England said...

J. Otto Pohl -

The EDL doesn't give a f**k about Zionism - they wave Israeli flags purely to wind up Muslims. If there were no Muslims in the UK, they'd be throwing pigs' heads into synagogues on the way home from football matches. I've lived in England all my life and know these kind of people. They're beered-up football fans basically - not even a political movement.

They have been condemned outright by Liberal Judaism's rabbis (those most likely to be Netanyahu-sceptic over here)and are seen as a latent threat to UK Jews. I would imagine that their Jewish division consists of Roberta Moore and her cat.

Your attempt to portray them as hardcore Zionists is pretty transparent and doesn't stand up to a moment's scrutiny. I guess the frisson you get from almost calling Jews "Nazis" makes it worthwhile though.

Pete, England said...

I should that they've also been condemned by a wide spectrum of Jewish opinion over here - the pro-Israel, entirely mainstream Jewish Chronicle has repeatedly condemned them.

David Schraub said...

Pete, England is correct about the EDL on both counts.

With respect to the EDL's supposed support amongst the British Jewish community, to the contrary, it has been vitriolically condemned by virtually the entirety of mainstream British Jewish organizations. For example, The Community Security Trust, which is the primary British organization defending British Jews against anti-Semitism, accurately identifies the EDL as a racist organization. Union of Jewish Students, ditto. Indeed, various opponents of the mainline British Jewish community are so desperate to fabricate such a connection between Jews and the EDL that they tried (unsuccessfully) to rig a poll to falsely register Jewish support for that organization.

As for the EDL's supposedly philo-semitic views, these too are overstated. Even Roberta Moore, whom was cited as an example of a (fringe) Jewish participant in the EDL, disassociated from the organization months ago on the grounds that it was anti-Semitic. They might hate Muslims even more than Jews, but that is hardly the same thing as any particular love for Jews qua Jews.

Andrew Stevens said...

Eamon, I may have phrased it badly. My thesis was only an attempt to explain why there aren't many pro-Israeli demonstrations despite more people in the U.S. being broadly pro-Israel than pro-Palestine. It was not an attempt to explain why there were so many pro-Palestinian demonstrations. I agree with you that a separate thesis is necessary for that (and, for the record, I'm probably sympathetic to what I imagine is your thesis to explain it). But, for example, I am not Jewish (or an evangelical Christian) and I'm broadly pro-Israel. It has never occurred to me to demonstrate on Israel's behalf or even write a letter to the editor or my Congressman expressing my opinion. It is current U.S. position to broadly support Israel (including under Obama), so it just doesn't seem like the best use of my time and energy to picket the White House with a "Maintain the Current Policy" placard.

My thesis simply states that there probably won't be many people demonstrating on behalf of Turkey against the Kurds, on behalf of Saudi Arabian men against Saudi Arabian women, on behalf of the military government in Egypt, or on behalf of independent Kosovo against Serbia (unless Serbia looks like it's about to launch an invasion or something), even if those positions all enjoyed broad public support. Of course, I don't think those things do enjoy broad public support (except Kosovo), but I don't see much demonstration for those issues either.

Micha said...

Ultimately it's about haters. Some people just like to hate. Whether they are on the left or on the right, Muslim, Christian, Jew, Hindu or atheist, they will find somebody to hate vehemently. It's easy. All you have to do is get in the right state of mind.

The Jews make an excellent target for this kind of hatred because there is such a long tradition to draw on. Alas, the good reputation of hatred of Jews was tarnished by certain 20th century events. But fortunately, there are ways around that.

Hatred of Muslims also has its virtues. it's very topical but has a solid historical basis in Western culture.

Hating gays is another classic that transcends cultures.

If you live in the Muslim or Arab world, finding targets for your hatred is like shooting people in a barrel. So many choices.

And if you're not a traditionalist, you can always hate your political opponents.