University Presidents, antisemitism, and moral panic

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ASPartOfMe
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12 Dec 2023, 5:51 pm

I have been having mixed feelings about the whole University President “antisemitism” hearings brouhaha. Jay Michelson for The Forward put together bits and pieces that have been running around in my head into a coherent whole.

The university presidents were right and American Jews’ moral panic is wrong

Quote:
American Jews are in a moral panic about antisemitism, and we need to get hold of ourselves before we do more damage to ourselves and the society we care about.

I’m referring, most recently, to the widespread outrage over three university presidents — now one ex-president — who testified recently on Capitol Hill about antisemitism on college campuses.

Because the presidents were right.

I’ve now read at least a dozen takes (and seen hundreds of social media posts) expressing outrage that these academics didn’t “condemn” calls for genocide against Jews. And indeed, they did not do so — because that is not what they were asked.

What they were asked is whether “calling for genocide against Jews” — more on that phrase in a moment — violates university harassment policies. And the correct answer is exactly the answer that they, coached by their lawyers, provided: It depends on context.

“At Harvard,” Rep. Elise Stefanik asked of its president, Dr. Claudine Gay, “does calling for the genocide of Jews violate Harvard’s rules of bullying and harassment? Yes or no?”

Sounds simple, right? But there isn’t a yes-or-no answer to that question. It’s a trick question. A trap.

If someone says “Gaza should be turned into a parking lot” in the Knesset, or at some right-wing political rally, that is indeed a call for genocide. But is it harassment? No. And yet, if the same phrase is shouted in the faces of Palestinians who are marching in their own rally, or if it’s spray-painted on a mosque, then it is.

Now switch out “Gaza” for “Israel.” The same logic holds. If someone says “Israel must be pushed into the sea” in a college political science seminar, that may be a genocidal statement, even an antisemitic one, but it isn’t harassment. But if someone spray-paints it on a synagogue, or shouts it at a group of Jews, that’s harassment.

In other words, the presidents were right.

Now, while they were correct as a matter of legal policy, they clearly made a gigantic mistake, politically speaking. As legal commentator David Lat pointed out, they failed to “read the room.” Meaning, they provided legally accurate answers but emotionally and politically inept ones.

A smarter response would have been “I completely condemn antisemitism, and any call for genocide against anyone. But you are asking about a harassment policy, and for something to qualify as harassment, there has to be a direct threat made to another person. When that is present, it is harassment. When it is not, it is protected speech on a university campus, even if it is antisemitic or racist.”

The only trouble with that response is that the right-wing demagogue Stefanik would never let them make it. Again and again, Stefanik refused to let these out-of-place scholars complete their sentences before yelling her next question.

Three highly intelligent university presidents tried not to step into it, but Stefanik got them anyway.

Fine – that’s Stefanik being Stefanik. But the mainstream American Jewish reaction — off with their heads! — has been wrongheaded, damaging, and frankly terrifying.

It’s not hard to see why we’re responding this way. American Jews are so traumatized by Oct. 7, by the war, and by much of the world’s reaction to the war, that we’re not paying attention to nuance. For entirely good reasons, we’re hurt, we’re angry, and we’re feeling defensive. The non-responses or hostile responses of many of our supposed allies still sting. So does the astonishing ignorance of those marching against Israel — a recent poll suggests that over half of people chanting ‘from the river to the sea’ cannot name the river and sea in question. And, of course, we’re afraid of and angry about the harassment and violence, from street attacks to vandalism of synagogues.

But when we react emotionally instead of intelligently, we make mistakes. And that is exactly what these wealthy, powerful Jewish donors, leaders and pundits are doing right now: making a huge mistake.

Just consider the optics. A university president says something that is ill-advised, yet accurate and nuanced. She apologizes for it soon after. And yet, for this sin, she is expelled from the community like a leper in biblical Israel.No teshuvah is possible, no atonement, no expiation. And by whom? Not some rabbinic court, but by elite, wealthy Jews using their money and clout to shut down discussion — exactly what antisemites say we do all the time. We are fulfilling their wildest bigoted fantasies. And this is going to come back and hurt all of us.

I’m not saying that American Jews shouldn’t be involved in politics, or that donors shouldn’t do what they want with their money.

But I am saying that we’re seeing a kind of angry mob, demanding resignations and firings without regard for reason or moderation. This isn’t legitimate philanthropy or activism. It’s weaponized rage.

Just look around you. Is it not odd that, if you’re a relatively moderate or liberal American Jew, your current villain is a distinguished university president and your hero is a hard-right rabble-rouser who campaigned for a guy who praised Adolf Hitler? (Carl Paladino, if you want to look it up.) Don’t you see that you’re being played? Our pain is being weaponized as part of a longstanding hard-right attack on institutions of higher education. Do you really think that will be good for the Jews?

As a vulnerable minority, Jews are safer in a country that values reflection, tolerance, education and reason — none of which our self-appointed guardians are displaying right now. Antisemitism is real, but these academic scapegoats are not the cause of it.

Jews are entirely justified in being hurt and angry — I certainly feel that way. But we need to pause for a moment before we hurt somebody. Starting with ourselves.


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13 Dec 2023, 12:39 am

Thank you. We need more voices of reason on this issue.


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ASPartOfMe
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13 Dec 2023, 4:14 am

Further thinking about this issue two thought come to mind that reflects more negatively on the college presidents.

You are welcome.

I never thought they were antisemites per se but I do wonder if their identity left ideology or more likely their cowering to that ideology factored in their inability or unwillingness to stray from a legalistic answer.

Sans prejudice or ideology is being that inflexible disqualifying for a president of an elite university?



In the article Elise Stefanick, Carl Paladino, and Hitler were “linked”. The author suggested readers look it up. I did.

GOP House candidate endorsed by Elise Stefanik said Hitler is 'the kind of leader we need today' in a 2021 interview, calling the Nazi ruler 'inspirational' and 'a doer'

Quote:
Carl Paladino, a Republican congressional candidate in New York, described the Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler as "the kind of leader we need today" during a June 2021 radio interview.

Paladino's remarks to WBEN were unearthed by Media Matters, a left-leaning nonprofit organization that reports on right-wing media.

"I was thinking the other day about [how] somebody had mentioned on the radio Adolf Hitler and how he aroused the crowds," Paladino said in the interview when asked how he would boost voter enthusiasm. "And he would get up there screaming these epithets and these people were just — they were hypnotized by him. That's, I guess, I guess that's the kind of leader we need today. We need somebody inspirational. We need somebody that is a doer, has been there and done it."

Paladino, a controversial figure who ran against former Gov. Andrew Cuomo in 2010, went on to say the New York GOP was "sound asleep" and criticized his party's communications strategy.

Paladino denied that he praised Hitler in his 2021 comments, but conceded it was a "serious mistake" to invoke the Nazi leader.

"Any implication that I support Hitler or any of the sick and disgusting actions of the Nazi regime is a new low for the media," Paladino said in the statement. "The context of my statement was in regards to something I heard on the radio from someone else and was repeating, I understand that invoking Hitler in any context is a serious mistake and rightfully upsets people. I strongly condemn the murderous atrocities committed against the Jewish people by Hitler and the Nazis.

In a Thursday interview with The Buffalo News, Paladino said he picked the wrong historical figure.

"I should have used Churchill," he told the paper.

On June 3, Rep. Elise Stefanik, the third highest-ranking Republican in the House, endorsed her fellow New Yorker for his bid in the 23rd district, which covers and area around Buffalo and the state's Southern Tier along the Pennsylvania border.

The congresswoman described Paladino as "a friend" and a "conservative outsider”.

Paladino deactivated his Facebook page on Tuesday after his account promoted a conspiracy theory regarding the May mass shooting in Buffalo. The candidate denied posting the message.

"I don't post," Paladino said, according to WIVB, the CBS affiliate in Buffalo. "I don't even know how to get on Facebook. My assistant does our posting only when I told her to post things."


Make of that what you will but that does not change an important point the author was making that Elise Stefanick is a leading MAGA.


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17 Dec 2023, 3:55 am

Those crowing over the university presidents’ humiliation risk drawing the wrong lessons about free speech by Cathy Young for the Bulwark

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The debates went into overdrive after the viral moment on December 6 when the presidents of Harvard, the University of Pennsylvania, and MIT, during a congressional hearing on campus antisemitism, declined to say that a call for the genocide of Jews would necessarily violate their schools’ policies against harassment. Republicans—including Rep. Elise Stefanik, who led the questioning—seized on the administrators’ non-answers as evidence of moral deficiency, double standards, and outrageous connivance in antisemitism. Many centrist liberals agreed. But critics of progressive campus orthodoxies, such as the libertarian-leaning Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE), conservative Manhattan Institute fellow Heather Mac Donald, and liberal Jonathan Chait of New York magazine took a different view. The three university presidents, they say, took the right position on offensive speech in last week’s hearing; the problem is hypocrisy, since they haven’t consistently applied these principles when it comes to offensive speech about other minorities invested with “oppressed” or “marginalized” status in the progressive worldview.

In the latest developments, the House passed a resolution on Wednesday—overwhelmingly supported by Republicans, but also backed by a significant number of Democrats—that slammed the three presidents’ testimony as “evasive and dismissive.” The resolution also called for Harvard President Claudine Gay and MIT’s Sally Kornbluth to resign, following the example of Penn’s Liz Magill, who stepped down over the weekend.

“Anti-woke” crusaders like Christopher Rufo see a culture-war victory. Free speech defenders, such as journalist and FIRE senior fellow Jamie Kirchick, see an occasion to abolish campus speech codes altogether. And many on the left see evidence that the real threat to free speech on campus comes, and has always come, from the right.

THE BACKGROUND FOR THIS WEEK of clashes is the decades-old mess of free-speech controversies in American higher education. The university presidents walked into Stefanik’s trap. Yes, they accurately described First Amendment norms, which private institutions (as all three schools are) do not have to follow, but which are the preferred standard for speech protections in the academy. But as New York Times columnist Michelle Goldberg noted, they came across as “morally obtuse and coldly legalistic,” unable to summon any hint of outrage or condemnation at protected but odious speech. (Goldberg also points out that if you watch the full video of the hearing and not just the viral clip, you will get a more accurate picture, including Gay repeatedly saying that calls for mass violence against Jews are “abhorrent,” “hateful,” and “reckless.”) Their repeated statements that calls for a genocide of Jews would amount to harassment only if they became “conduct” also allowed Stefanik and others to make the ridiculous argument that elite universities currently consider genocidal antisemitic speech actionable only if it escalates to actual genocide. In reality, “conduct” means targeted harassment or bullying, which could consist of, for example, Post-It notes saying “Gas the Jews” or even “Globalize the intifada” affixed to the doors of a campus Jewish center.

It is also true that Stefanik and others in the outrage chorus routinely conflate slogans like “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” or “Globalize the intifada” with calls for a genocide of Jews. It’s easy to read (or hear) the subtext of these slogans as genocidal—a Palestinian state from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea implies the destruction of Israel, and “intifada” refers, in its most common usage, to a violent uprising against Israeli Jews. But other interpretations are still possible. Belief in a single Palestinian state with full civil rights for Jews can certainly be seen as shockingly naïve, but we don’t restrict speech for naïveté. To legitimize campus bans or restrictions on speech which can be interpreted as support for genocide is likely to have far-reaching implications. Such restrictions can be used against supporters of the Israel Defense Forces. They can be applied to opponents of gender-affirming care for transgender-identifying teenagers.

But it is also true that the double standards are real and that speech and expression deemed discriminatory or “harmful” to oppressed groups are readily penalized on college campuses.

For that matter, Knowles was barred from speaking to a College Republicans chapter at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota because school administrators found his commentary on transgender rights too objectionable. In that case, no one was disciplined, but there is no shortage of cases with punitive outcomes. Leslie Neal-Boylan, dean of nursing at the University of Massachusetts-Lowell, was fired in June 2020, in the midst of the George Floyd protests, after a screenshot of her community email concluding with, “BLACK LIVES MATTER, but also, EVERYONE’S LIFE MATTERS” was posted to Twitter by an offended student. (The school said that it was “incorrect to assume any statement by Dr. Neal-Boylan was the cause” of her dismissal, but would not provide an explanation to anyone, including Neal-Boylan herself.) At Northwestern University several years ago, film studies professor Laura Kipnis was subjected to several lengthy investigations, though ultimately cleared, for writing an essay critical of what she considers overreaching sexual harassment policies. In September 2020, St. John’s University adjunct history professor Richard Taylor was found guilty of violating the school’s anti-harassment policy and removed from teaching for asking students to consider, in a discussion of emerging global trade and transatlantic voyaging in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, “Do the positives justify the negatives?”

THE PROGRESSIVE LEFT routinely dismisses reports of campus speech suppression as a “moral panic.” The latest round of this dismissal focuses on a FIRE-sponsored survey in which “only” 3 percent of students said they had been disciplined in some way for their speech or expression (defined as “otherwise lawful words or actions intended to communicate a message, and which would be reasonably likely to be understood by an observer”). But given that another 6 percent said they had been investigated or threatened with discipline for speech or expression, this is hardly a trivial finding—especially since far more students are likely to feel the chilling effect of disciplinary action.

Most campus speech policing in recent years has come from the “social justice” left which, for various reasons, tends to exclude Jews from its definition of “marginalized” or oppressed minorities and to regard antisemitism as less worthy of concern than other forms of hate (especially if it comes from groups seen as more oppressed, e.g., Muslims or Palestinians).

But it is also true that even before October 7, some on the political right were pushing to apply the logic of “harm” from offensive expression to anti-Israel speech—for instance, to claim that protests or events hostile to Israel were antisemitic and violated civil rights protections for Jewish students. Consistent free speech defenders, from FIRE to individual academics such as Brooklyn College historian K.C. Johnson, have criticized these efforts. They note that, while anti-Israel and anti-Zionist speech often flirts with, and sometimes blatantly embraces, ugly antisemitic tropes, this is where the principle that “the answer to bad speech is good speech” can flourish.

YET IT IS ALSO UNDENIABLE that in recent years, and particularly since October 7, pro-Palestinian and anti-Israel activism on many college campuses has crossed over into direct bullying of Jewish students—whether they are Zionists or merely suspected of being Zionist because they are Jews.

Writing in the Atlantic, David Frum documents the intimidating, often physically harassing tactics employed by anti-Israel protesters in the past two months, ranging from blocking doors to mobbing individuals.

ne may debate the extent to which these actions target Jews as Jews. The protesters at Cooper Union, for example, explicitly denied targeting Jews, but it’s hardly surprising that Jewish students in a library felt particularly intimidated by a crowd yelling and pounding on locked doors when that crowd brandished signs like, “Zionism Hands Off Our Universities.”

An Israeli student encircled and mobbed by pro-Palestinian students chanting “Shame!” was reportedly targeted for filming protesters at a pro-Gaza “die-in,” not for being Jewish or even Israeli. Either way, such behavior still amounts to bullying and assault. Speech that involves screaming, banging, mobbing, chants intended to silence, etc. turns into conduct that cannot be easily countered with “more speech,” because its goal is, precisely, not to allow more speech.

And it’s this kind of conduct that campus speech policies should restrict. My alma mater, Rutgers University, offered a good example of such an approach earlier this week when it suspended its chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine. The suspension was not for offensive opinions, of which SJP has plenty, but for repeated disorderly behavior—including reported disruption of classes, meals , and study hours—as well as vandalism and occupation of buildings.

Students who feel “unsafe” because their beliefs are aggressively questioned or criticized—even beliefs related to their identity, be it Zionism, feminism, Black Lives Matter activism, or transgender advocacy—need to grow a thicker skin. Students who feel unsafe because their beliefs or identities—ethnic, religious, sexual, whatever—are targeted in a disruptive and physically aggressive way deserve a safer campus. Administrators should be careful not to conflate obnoxious or offensive speech with harassing or threatening conduct. And public officials should stop making an already precarious situation for academic freedom worse by using the issue for political theater.


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19 Dec 2023, 10:24 am

ASPartOfMe wrote:
I never thought they were antisemites per se but I do wonder if their identity left ideology or more likely their cowering to that ideology factored in their inability or unwillingness to stray from a legalistic answer.

A person committed to "identity left ideology" -- or even the slightest bit of sympathy for the Palestinians -- likely would have "strayed from a purely legalistic answer" by challenging the premises of the question. See:

Peter Beinart & Omer Bartov on UPenn President Resignation, Gaza & the Weaponization of Antisemitism



... produced by Democracy Now.

As the people in this video point out, "intifada" simply means "uprising," which can be either violent or not. The Second Intifada indeed featured suicide bombings, but the First Intifada was mostly nonviolent civil disobedience. So someone calling for "intifada" is not necessarily a call for violence. Depends who is saying it and in what context.

"From the river to the sea" is also ambiguous. It's a call for Israel, as an ethnostate privileging Jews, to be replaced by a single state in which all Palestinians could be full citizens. But it is not necessarily a call for Israeli Jews to be expelled, deprived of citizenship, or otherwise mistreated, just as the ending of South African apartheid did not result in the whites being expelled. The 1988 Hamas charter did call for the expulsion of Jews, but that's not what all pro-Palestinian activists are calling for.

I would say that people who use these slogans should be challenged as to exactly what they mean.


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19 Dec 2023, 2:37 pm

The tactic to cry wolf and call pretty much any support of Palestinian rights or criticism of the state of Israel antisemitism is contraproductive. By now I think it is about to reach a point (if it hasn't already happened) when people outside of Israel and the USA don't take this rhetoric seriously anymore.


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20 Dec 2023, 12:03 am

BillyTree wrote:
The tactic to cry wolf and call pretty much any support of Palestinian rights or criticism of the state of Israel antisemitism is contraproductive.

I agree. Defending Palestinians does not equal hating Jews.

At the same time, I also think there's a real danger of a possible resurgence of extreme hatred of Jews, for reasons having little or nothing to do with Israel. The main harbinger of this danger, as I see it, is the popularity of QAnon and related grand conspiracy ideology.

According to a poll by the PRRI (Public Religion Research Institute) in 2021:

Quote:
A nontrivial 15% of Americans agree with the sweeping QAnon allegation that “the government, media, and financial worlds in the U.S. are controlled by a group of Satan-worshipping pedophiles who run a global child sex trafficking operation,”

Although this grand conspiracy ideology blames Satanists, Pagans, and occultists instead of Jews, it nevertheless tends to feature the same evil Jewish villains, e.g. the Rothschilds, that are also featured in the original anti-Jewish version. So this grand conspiracy ideology could easily evolve into a revival of the older, Protocols-like anti-Jewish conspiracy theories, coupled with an updated, more dirty-minded version of the medieval blood libel.

(It could also spark a revived witchhunt against Satanists, Pagans, and occultists, which would be a very bad thing in itself IMO.)

Anyhow, most progressive Jews would agree that sympathizing with Palestinians and opposing Zionism does not equal hating Jews. For example, I just now ran across Understanding Antisemitism (PDF) by Jews For Racial & Economic Justice. An excerpt from the introduction:

Quote:
In recent decades, the political Jewish right and its Christian allies (particularly Christian Zionists) have consistently spoken loudly against what they describe as antisemitism. While it is notable that they have sometimes seemed like the only people willing to discuss and call out antisemitism, they have distended the meaning of the term to include any critique of Israel or Israeli government policy (in some cases labeling such criticism “the new antisemitism”). While this is intended to suppress and delegitimize calls for justice in Palestine, it also spills over into other areas of social justice work. Individual activists, whole organizations and even entire movements have been tarred as antisemitic for the entirely legitimate act of criticizing Israeli government policy or the political ideology of Zionism.

In reaction to the manipulations of the right, many on the left haven’t wanted to address anti-semitism at all. To the extent that the left recognizes antisemitism, it often constricts the meaning to include only interpersonal, overt, or violent acts against Jews such as hate speech or vandalism. This ignores all of the historical evidence about the structural nature of anti-Jewish oppression. Originating in European Christianity, it incubated in the form of stereotypes about Jews and sporadic acts of small-scale violence, but then ramped-up and entered periods of elevated hysteria where it became institutionalized and sometimes extremely lethal.

But this is itself confusing, highlighting the wild extremes of Ashkenazi Jewish experience in the past century. In the 1930s and ‘40s, the Nazi Holocaust in Germany decimated Europe’s Jewish population but today American Jews are broadly secure and successful. For most of our history Jews have been small, vulnerable minorities in the societies in which we’ve lived, but in just the past few decades some Jews settled in and took control of Palestine and created Israel — an ethno-nationalist “Jewish State” complete with nuclear weapons. So what is it? Are Jews precarious and oppressed or safe and powerful? How should we think about ourselves, and how should others see us? And in this moment do we focus on the scary, striking similarities between social conditions in pre-war Germany and the United States today or on the many, many differences? It remains an open question whether the Holocaust was simply the latest, “greatest” outbreak of endless and ongoing cycles of antisemitism, or a last act that shifted the tide and marked a fundamental change in the world that forever ended the type of widespread institutional antisemitism and state violence against Jews that we saw in Europe for centuries. We may not have a definitive answer for decades or even centuries to come. However, the authors of this paper see the possibility that this dangerous pattern of blaming Jews for difficult societal problems could emerge again today.

I'm not Jewish myself, but I agree with their worries in that last sentence.

I've been concerned about this possibility ever since 2007-2008, when I noticed the rising popularity of Alex Jones. It is tempting to dismiss grand conspiracy ideology as just too nutty to be taken seriously, but the unfortunate reality is that it is growing -- and, therefore, is dangerous. We even have people in the U.S. Congress who believe in this stuff, e.g. Marjorie Taylor Greene. My concern about a possible revival of extreme hatred of Jews is one of the reasons why I think it's important to speak out against grand conspiracy ideology.


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20 Dec 2023, 1:53 pm

Mona Pereth wrote:
BillyTree wrote:
The tactic to cry wolf and call pretty much any support of Palestinian rights or criticism of the state of Israel antisemitism is contraproductive.

I agree. Defending Palestinians does not equal hating Jews.

At the same time, I also think there's a real danger of a possible resurgence of extreme hatred of Jews, for reasons having little or nothing to do with Israel. The main harbinger of this danger, as I see it, is the popularity of QAnon and related grand conspiracy ideology.

According to a poll by the PRRI (Public Religion Research Institute) in 2021:

Quote:
A nontrivial 15% of Americans agree with the sweeping QAnon allegation that “the government, media, and financial worlds in the U.S. are controlled by a group of Satan-worshipping pedophiles who run a global child sex trafficking operation,”

Although this grand conspiracy ideology blames Satanists, Pagans, and occultists instead of Jews, it nevertheless tends to feature the same evil Jewish villains, e.g. the Rothschilds, that are also featured in the original anti-Jewish version. So this grand conspiracy ideology could easily evolve into a revival of the older, Protocols-like anti-Jewish conspiracy theories, coupled with an updated, more dirty-minded version of the medieval blood libel.

(It could also spark a revived witchhunt against Satanists, Pagans, and occultists, which would be a very bad thing in itself IMO.)

Anyhow, most progressive Jews would agree that sympathizing with Palestinians and opposing Zionism does not equal hating Jews. For example, I just now ran across Understanding Antisemitism (PDF) by Jews For Racial & Economic Justice. An excerpt from the introduction:

Quote:
In recent decades, the political Jewish right and its Christian allies (particularly Christian Zionists) have consistently spoken loudly against what they describe as antisemitism. While it is notable that they have sometimes seemed like the only people willing to discuss and call out antisemitism, they have distended the meaning of the term to include any critique of Israel or Israeli government policy (in some cases labeling such criticism “the new antisemitism”). While this is intended to suppress and delegitimize calls for justice in Palestine, it also spills over into other areas of social justice work. Individual activists, whole organizations and even entire movements have been tarred as antisemitic for the entirely legitimate act of criticizing Israeli government policy or the political ideology of Zionism.

In reaction to the manipulations of the right, many on the left haven’t wanted to address anti-semitism at all. To the extent that the left recognizes antisemitism, it often constricts the meaning to include only interpersonal, overt, or violent acts against Jews such as hate speech or vandalism. This ignores all of the historical evidence about the structural nature of anti-Jewish oppression. Originating in European Christianity, it incubated in the form of stereotypes about Jews and sporadic acts of small-scale violence, but then ramped-up and entered periods of elevated hysteria where it became institutionalized and sometimes extremely lethal.

But this is itself confusing, highlighting the wild extremes of Ashkenazi Jewish experience in the past century. In the 1930s and ‘40s, the Nazi Holocaust in Germany decimated Europe’s Jewish population but today American Jews are broadly secure and successful. For most of our history Jews have been small, vulnerable minorities in the societies in which we’ve lived, but in just the past few decades some Jews settled in and took control of Palestine and created Israel — an ethno-nationalist “Jewish State” complete with nuclear weapons. So what is it? Are Jews precarious and oppressed or safe and powerful? How should we think about ourselves, and how should others see us? And in this moment do we focus on the scary, striking similarities between social conditions in pre-war Germany and the United States today or on the many, many differences? It remains an open question whether the Holocaust was simply the latest, “greatest” outbreak of endless and ongoing cycles of antisemitism, or a last act that shifted the tide and marked a fundamental change in the world that forever ended the type of widespread institutional antisemitism and state violence against Jews that we saw in Europe for centuries. We may not have a definitive answer for decades or even centuries to come. However, the authors of this paper see the possibility that this dangerous pattern of blaming Jews for difficult societal problems could emerge again today.

I'm not Jewish myself, but I agree with their worries in that last sentence.

I've been concerned about this possibility ever since 2007-2008, when I noticed the rising popularity of Alex Jones. It is tempting to dismiss grand conspiracy ideology as just too nutty to be taken seriously, but the unfortunate reality is that it is growing -- and, therefore, is dangerous. We even have people in the U.S. Congress who believe in this stuff, e.g. Marjorie Taylor Greene. My concern about a possible revival of extreme hatred of Jews is one of the reasons why I think it's important to speak out against grand conspiracy ideology.

We humans need to prioritize because we can not do everything. The natural instinct is to prioritize what is in front of us. When the “Understanding Antisemitism” article you linked was published in November 2017 Trump was in his first year of office, the “Jews will not replace us” rally had just occurred. The article reflected those times. No mention of Jews as racially privileged. In the next few years that priority seemed justified. The Tree of Life attack would be the following year and the Jews dual loyalty trope is a favorite Trump topic. He would go on to have lunch with Kanye and Nick Fuentes. People complaining about wokeness and hierarchy of oppression were easily dismissed as sheep or liars because so many previous anti cancel culture warriors were going beyond cancel culture to passing actual laws. That is why concerning incidents from “the left” during this period I described in a previous thread were dismissed or ignored.

Now to agreeing with your concerns. At a time when conservatives are beginning to get away from using “woke” and “wokeness” in practically ever time I listen to Jews discussing blowback be it Rabbi’s sermons or whatever its “woke”, “woke”, “woke”, “woke”, “woke”, “woke”. If they are not using that word they are discussing “the ideology” the describes Jews as white privilege. It is like they have all turned into Bari Weiss clones. I am concerned that traditional antisemitism is getting short-shrift. Right now the traditional antisemites seem content to sit back and enjoy while Jews and Muslims fight it out. The schadenfreude of progressive Jews describing the hurt of being “betrayed” by fellow progressives must be orgasmic for them. I think the election next year no matter what the results are not only going to revive the traditional kinds of antisemitism it is going to take them to unprecedented levels. The Israel-Hamas war will still be going on in form if we are lucky “just” an insurgency, if not so lucky a regional war so the antisemitism sparked by that is not going away.

A no win situation. The bothsidesism approach is flawed because at a particular time there are greater and lesser threats. Pick a priority and you enable a side you don’t want by seemingly validating them. Yet doing nothing is most often the worst option of all.


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21 Dec 2023, 12:53 am

ASPartOfMe wrote:
We humans need to prioritize because we can not do everything. The natural instinct is to prioritize what is in front of us. When the “Understanding Antisemitism” article you linked was published in November 2017 Trump was in his first year of office, the “Jews will not replace us” rally had just occurred. The article reflected those times.

JFREJ (Jews for Racial & Economic Justice) has not changed their position much since then, as far as I can tell. See the following pages on their site:

- Organizing Against Antisemitism
- Unraveling Antisemitism - Aug 03, 2021

ASPartOfMe wrote:
No mention of Jews as racially privileged.

That issue WAS discussed in the article I linked in my last post, though not in the section I quoted.

ASPartOfMe wrote:
In the next few years that priority seemed justified. The Tree of Life attack would be the following year and the Jews dual loyalty trope is a favorite Trump topic. He would go on to have lunch with Kanye and Nick Fuentes. People complaining about wokeness and hierarchy of oppression were easily dismissed as sheep or liars because so many previous anti cancel culture warriors were going beyond cancel culture to passing actual laws. That is why concerning incidents from “the left” during this period I described in a previous thread were dismissed or ignored.

Now to agreeing with your concerns. At a time when conservatives are beginning to get away from using “woke” and “wokeness” in practically ever time I listen to Jews discussing blowback be it Rabbi’s sermons or whatever its “woke”, “woke”, “woke”, “woke”, “woke”, “woke”. If they are not using that word they are discussing “the ideology” the describes Jews as white privilege.

I would say (and I think JFREJ would agree) that Ashkenazi Jews (but not Mizhrahi Jews, Ethiopian Jews, etc.) do have white privilege (in today's world, at least) -- BUT are also vulnerable to persecution as Jews, and the latter is still an important concern.

ASPartOfMe wrote:
It is like they have all turned into Bari Weiss clones. I am concerned that traditional antisemitism is getting short-shrift. Right now the traditional antisemites seem content to sit back and enjoy while Jews and Muslims fight it out.

Believers in grand conspiracy ideology aren't "content to sit back." They are still busily at work spreading their beliefs, including occasional attempts to do so right here on Wrong Planet. (These days the moderators have become less tolerant of this, especially new members who appear to have joined with the sole aim of promoting grand conspiracy claims.) QAnon hasn't been getting a whole lot of news coverage lately, but that doesn't mean it's dead or even dormant.

Not every believer in "Illuminati" conspiracy claims is a white nationalist, or vice versa. I'm pretty sure white nationalists are still busily at work too, even if the mass media have gone back to ignoring them for the most part. Some relatively recent news stories about what the white nationalists are up to these days:

- USA Today, Oct. 12, 2023
- NPR, July 19, 2023

White nationalists, as far as I can tell, typically hold one of the following two attitudes toward Israel. Either:

(1) They oppose U.S. aid to Israel, on neo-isolationist "America First" grounds, and point to U.S. aid to Israel as alleged evidence that the U.S. government is controlled by an evil, secret cabal of wealthy Jews. (I've seen this claim expressed or hinted at here on WP a few times. One of the purposes of my thread on Christian Zionism is to debunk the idea that U.S. aid to Israel is due to U.S. foreign policy being controlled by an almighty Jewish conspiracy.)

Or:

(2) They love Israel, as a shining example of what they think an ethno-state should be, and claim that white Americans need a white American ethno-state too, just like Zionists say that Jews need Israel. (Richard Spencer said this back in 2018.)

ASPartOfMe wrote:
The schadenfreude of progressive Jews describing the hurt of being “betrayed” by fellow progressives must be orgasmic for them.

I doubt that most of them are even paying any attention to political debates among Jews, or among progressives.

Most of the "Illuminati" conspiracy nuts are probably too busy vilifying George Soros, the Rothschilds, the Federal Reserve, and alleged "Satanic" hand signals by various celebrities.

White nationalists might pay a little bit of attention to debates among Jews, but most of them will likely just continue (1) seeking out and recruiting people who share their various bigotries, (2) picketing LGBTQ+ events, and (3) training for physical combat.

ASPartOfMe wrote:
I think the election next year no matter what the results are not only going to revive the traditional kinds of antisemitism it is going to take them to unprecedented levels. The Israel-Hamas war will still be going on in form if we are lucky “just” an insurgency, if not so lucky a regional war so the antisemitism sparked by that is not going away.

A no win situation. The bothsidesism approach is flawed because at a particular time there are greater and lesser threats. Pick a priority and you enable a side you don’t want by seemingly validating them. Yet doing nothing is most often the worst option of all.

From my point of view, the top priority should be to end U.S. government complicity in the humanitarian disaster in Gaza -- and, to that end, to encourage sympathy for the Palestinians (who are currently seen, by most white Americans, as just barely human). But, at the same time, be alert to any sign of anti-Jewish bigotry, and oppose that too when I see it.

Something like this seems to be the approach of groups like JFREJ and Jewish Voice for Peace.

Regarding JFREJ's positions on Israel/Palestine, see:

- JFREJ's Israel-Palestine work, Winter 2023 - Nov 21, 2023
- Announcing the Israel-Palestine Team & Process - Sep 01, 2021
- Israel-Palestine as a Local Issue


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21 Dec 2023, 4:15 am

While "left" Jewish organizations have become more of a public thing from what little polling there is and anecdotal evidence it seems like at the moment in the U.S. they are still outliers and are still living in 2015-10/6/23 world. My post was not really aimed at them but at those mainstream Jewish liberals who until 10/7 thought the progressives had gone too far but still especially compared to MAGA's had the basic idea right. I was trying to say now that you are fear woke, better late than never but please don't make the same mistake of taking the eye off the ball of traditional antisemitism as you did with "wokeism" because it is not in your face at the moment.

Getting hyper-fixated on people who you disagree with/hate, finding weaknesses and mistakes in people you disagree with/hate, and schadenfreude are the main features of social media. I see no reason why traditional antisemites would be generally less caught up in that. Certainly, the influencers understand that. The use of social media distinguished what was called the "alt-right" from the traditional illiberal right. If you are a white nationalist/neo nazi the smart thing to do is sit back and let the identity left make your points for you. As radically different as the wokes and various forms of traditional antisemites are they share two important things in common. The idea that Jews have unearned money and power and focus on identity. That is not to say there are not traditional antisemites who "did not get the memo" and will do terrorism. Another reason not to let one's eyes off the ball.

I will say two things again.

"White privilege" is a one-size-fits-all, racist way of describing the very real problems of prejudice and ensuing discrimination. It is racist because it associates a negative to people based on the group they were born into. The negative is that the said group has unearned things. These things could be unearned due to a grand conspiracy or just being unaware they are still unearned.

When Jews become racialized for whatever reason it is bad news.


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