Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Your friends, your politics

The anti-same-sex-marriage-from-the-left arguments keep on popping up (along with passionate arguments about whether it is sheep-like or a nice gesture to replace one's profile picture with an equal sign, but these I don't find so interesting) on the ol' newsfeed. This, most recently. And somehow, reading this latest installment, it occurred to me what this reminded me of: anti-Zionism from within the Jewish community.

In both cases, what happens is, communities do - should! - determine for themselves what it is they want. LGBT rights shouldn't mean marriage just because straight people think that's how it goes, nor should pro-Jewish mean pro-Israel just because non-Jews not too educated on the issue assume The Jews everywhere want what's best for Likud. Internal debates are important.

But! Those who argue internally and only internally can lose sight of the broader debates about the issues that pertain to their community. With Israel, if you're only ever arguing with fellow Jews to your political right on this topic, you can miss the extent to which 'plight of the Palestinians' is, from certain non-Jewish quarters, code for anti-Semitism; unrelated to sorting out the actual problems facing any actual Palestinians, and; I should add, entirely compatible with anti-Muslim or anti-Arab bigotry. Similarly, if you're only ever discussing same-sex marriage in friendly environments where nobody doubts the humanity of gays and lesbians, perhaps only in spaces where everyone is him/herself gay or lesbian, you may naturally minimize the significance of hatred to the broader debate on this issue.

So what happens, in extreme cases, is the famous extreme-left meets extreme-right. While I am far from the first to mention that phenomenon, I haven't seen this particular explanation for how it comes about anywhere else.

4 comments:

Petey said...

"With Israel, if you're only ever arguing with fellow Jews to your political right on this topic, you can miss the extent to which 'plight of the Palestinians' is, from certain non-Jewish quarters, code for anti-Semitism; unrelated to sorting out the actual problems facing any actual Palestinians, and; I should add, entirely compatible with anti-Muslim or anti-Arab bigotry."

Excellent use of semicolons! The style of your writing is improving dramatically. Good work!

However, on content:

1) In the US, at least, the number of non-Jewish folks who discuss the 'plight of the Palestinians' as a means of coded anti-semitism is pretty infinitesimal.

2) The number of folks worldwide who discuss the 'plight of the Palestinians' as a means of coded anti-semitism while also having anti-Muslim or anti-Arab bigotry is pretty much zero. In short, that last clause is just absurd.

Phoebe said...

"The number of folks worldwide who discuss the 'plight of the Palestinians' as a means of coded anti-semitism while also having anti-Muslim or anti-Arab bigotry is pretty much zero. In short, that last clause is just absurd."

What about... Western Europe? This has come up here before. But if you haven't heard this or read about it, think of it like this: a certain % of white Europeans are racist. For different specific historical reasons, they are thus against Jews and Arabs. But with Jews, it's no longer socially acceptable (outside the extreme-right, or even there) to be openly anti-Semitic. So those who aren't thrilled with Jews refer to Jews as warmongers, conflating Jews and Israelis, and not being actually involved in doing anything particular to help Palestinians. (Arguably their quasi-involvement hurts Palestinians, perpetuating the false idea that support for Palestinians is anti-Semitic.) But! These individuals are just run-of-the-mill racist, and, in France especially, for certain postcolonial reasons, racism tends to be against Muslims of North African ancestry.

Petey said...

"What about... Western Europe? This has come up here before. But if you haven't heard this or read about it, think of it like this: a certain % of white Europeans are racist. For different specific historical reasons, they are thus against Jews and Arabs."

Sure. My point is just that these folks who are 'against Jews and Arabs', (quite literally anti-semitic), are not the folks discussing the 'plight of the Palestinians'.

You raise an example:

"'[O]ne group of extreme-right youths, who were found guilty of torching both a synagogue and an Muslim school, claimed they had set the synagogue on fire to protest Israel's policy.'"

So, we've got a gang who gets caught by the authorities torching places of Jewish and Muslim worship/education. And after getting caught and being brought to account in court, they raise the 'protesting Israeli policy' issue.

My query: do we think that gang was discussing the 'plight of the Palestinians' prior to getting caught and trying to lighten their punishment by representing themselves to the court as not solely motivated by literal anti-semitic bigotry?

I'll stick with my "pretty much zero" tallying of folks worldwide who are both anti-Jew and anti-Arab who spend time injecting themselves into the debate over the 'plight of the Palestinians'.

For literal anti-semites like that, (and I'm certainly not denying they exist), discussing the 'plight of the Palestinians' just isn't their bag. You can work up a Venn diagram, and there just isn't any real overlap.

"But! These individuals are just run-of-the-mill racist, and, in France especially, for certain postcolonial reasons, racism tends to be against Muslims of North African ancestry."

Sure. But again, if you're a racist in France, (very likely on the far-right of the political spectrum), who has a major xenophobic focus against both French Algerians and French Jews, you're not really interested in discussing the 'plight of the Palestinians' for what should be obvious reasons. Again, back to the Venn diagram.

(I will grant you that that last clause I objected to comes closest to not being absurb in the case of France. But it's still absurb. As one random data point demonstrating the Venn diagram in France, look at Marine Le Pen and the fact that in the last election, she attempted to position herself as a more pro-Israel candidate than Sarkozy, not to mention the bizarre attempts of the Israeli government to make common cause with her over the past few years...)

Phoebe said...

It seems you might be an example of the phenomenon I'm describing. If you're thinking of Europe from a distance, then yes, it might seem like the anti-Arab contingent would be far-right politicians and their supporters. But what about more casual anti-Arab racism? Do you assume that that's not found among those who voice casual anti-Semitism in politically-correct terms, i.e. 'Israel is evil.' I haven't researched this (how prevalent these attitudes are or where they come from), but my guess would be, it's Holocaust guilt and postcolonial guilt interacting with each other. Postcolonial - expressing sympathy with certain very much abstract Arabs. Holocaust - it's no longer acceptable to straightforwardly hate Jews.