Sunday, April 17, 2016

April 15, 2016

Via John-Paul Pagano on Twitter, what is going on with this article? Why, in 2016, is someone writing this?

According to Federation CJA, only 15%-17% of Jewish Montrealers live in intermarried (or common-law) households. For those under-30 it’s still only a quarter. (In Toronto, where Canada’s largest Jewish community resides, the self-segregation is slightly less extreme.) 
Inward looking and affluent, the Jewish community is quick to claim victimhood. But, like an out of control child, the major Jewish organizations need a time out. Without an intervention of some sort, the Jewish community risks having future dictionaries defining “anti-Semitism” as “a movement for justice and equality.”
Intermarriage! Having written my dissertation on intermarriage and anti-Semitism in 19th C France, I'm well accustomed to treatises condemning Jews for marrying in. But this is something Napoleon was fussing about in the early 1800s, and that had become passé by the end of that century. This is well out of the realm of whether anti-Zionism is/can be/is entirely separate from (and "can be" is the answer you're looking for) anti-Semitism. Dude is basically like, look at my brilliant and unique intervention in today's intellectual landscape! It's as if he thinks he discovered something, but all that he's landed on is... really, really old-school anti-Semitism. Jewish in-marriage is what he picks? Insufficient assimilation? I mean, does the man have views on women riding bicycles or the benefits of railroad over horse and buggy? There's dated, and then there's producing text that could have appeared, with very few tweaks, in 1820.

But it's also really classic anti-Semitism, in that way where there's this smattering of correct observations, but arranged in a way to suggest something sinister. Are there Jews who think Jews have had it the worst of any people, ever, and who fixate on this in such a way as to ignore racism against people who, if nothing else, have it worse in certain areas, in recent years? Yes. Parochialism is a thing - not just among Jews, but not not among Jews. And are Jews overrepresented among the highly educated? Sure, but this is not a plot of some kind. And! Do Jews/Jewish publications sometimes refer to Jews as the "chosen people"? Yup, but this has a religious connotation that flies over the head of this charmer.

What makes the piece really strange, though, is the leap from the so-very-now, as well as the not-unreasonable...
While Canadian Jews faced discriminatory property, university and immigration restrictions into the 1950s, even the history of structural anti-Jewish prejudice should be put into proper context. Blacks, Japanese and other People of Colour (not to mention indigenous peoples) have been subjected to far worse structural racism and abuse.
...to the borderline white-supremacist:
Even compared to some other “white” groups Canadian Jews have fared well. During World War I, 8,500 individuals from countries part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire (mostly Ukrainians) were interned while in the mid-1800s thousands of Irish died of typhus at an inspection and quarantine station on Grosse Ile in the Gulf of the St. Lawrence. Canadian Jewry hasn’t faced any equivalent abuse.
Once you're heading down that road - that is, the Jews-have-it-easier-than-other-white-people boulevard - you've crossed over from extreme-left to extreme-right. There's also the "white"-in-quotes, suggesting, what, that Jews should be hated b/c insufficiently white? (As vs. because white-privileged?) Which... makes sense, in conjunction with the endogamy complaint, but not as a progressive argument.

Pagano, the writer who shared the piece (to condemn it, to be clear!) is, it's my sense, a few notches to my right, and, on Twitter, presented it as an example of left anti-Semitism. Which in a certain sense it is - "Dissident Voice," the publication, has the subtitle - all lowercase, because capital letters are for capitalists? - "a radical newsletter in the struggle for peace and social justice." But that particular essay strikes me as branching off entirely, into the realm of ideological ambiguity, where the only consistency is that Jews are to be imagined at the center of all the world's problems. There's nothing particularly left-wing - and lots that's right-wing - about maligning ethnic and religious minorities for not blending into the general (white) population.

Moving beyond that particular article which, while abhorrent, is not necessarily representative of all that much: Left anti-Semitism is certainly a thing, but I'm not convinced it's more of one than the right-wing variety. Or varieties - there's the white-supremacist version (apparently now called alt-right?), which, in its milder moments, seems as if it's merely an isolationist alternative to neoconservatism (see: the mistaken relief over Trump offering neutrality in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict), but then you scratch the surface... But there's also the hawkish version, which involves being Rah Rah Israel, but hating actual Jews, none of whom will live up to the fantasy version. And then there's stuff like dude, where someone will ostensibly be coming from one or another point on the political spectrum, but this is clearly, if not his one issue, one of them, and he's coming at it from a perspective that's best described as anti-Semitic. Not left- or right-, just... that.

1 comment:

David Schraub said...

I'm genuinely curious: If I marry someone who was born non-Jewish, but she converts to Judaism, am I undermining or exacerbating the Jewish insularity problem?