Monday, April 14, 2014

Mideast, Midwest

A brief interruption in my afternoon to respond, in vague terms, to something I've seen floating around online in various capacities: The proper response to a hate crime directed at Jews in Kansas City is not - I repeat, not - a discussion of Israel. Not of Zionism, not of the justification-or-not for a Jewish state, not of specific Israeli policies. Not of civil marriage or lack thereof in Israel. Ugh. WWPD-ing this so as to avoid potentially more time-draining Facebook discussions.

To refrain from using this recent crime as a point of departure for that conversation isn't, obviously, to say that Israel isn't flawed. In fact, this approach is entirely consistent with believing that Israel is the most flawed country to ever exist, should never have been founded, etc. The problem with this line of thought isn't that it's excessively critical of Israel, it's that a neo-Nazi white supremacist trying to kill Jews outside of Israel has zilch to do with Israel.

It's some mix of wacky and dehumanizing to treat an attack on American Jews as some kind of political statement about the Middle East, particularly given that what we're so plainly looking at here isn't a well-meaning pro-Palestinian activist gone violent, but an old-timey racist anti-Semite who expresses his anti-Semitism in the language of the day, which includes but isn't limited to "criticism of Israel." Say the attacks had been at Muslim establishments. Would that be appropriate impetus to launch a discussion of Iran or Saudi Arabia? I'd like to think that we'd readily understand that the issue was racism/xenophobia/intolerance, and not start turning to the victimized group in question and nitpicking the failings of some of its members.

Perhaps, given the method of choice, we might consider that this crime has something to do with gun culture in the country where this crime has taken place. I'm quite prepared to believe that the availability of guns, and not rampant anti-Semitism in pockets of Missouri's elderly population, is the real story here. Maybe we want to look into that, and not what Israel could change about its policies for the purpose of calming down revved up anti-Semites in the southern Midwest.

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