August 5th, 2011 | Add a Comment
My 5-year involvement with the progressive-liberal Daily Kos blog site has been somewhat intermittent. Although I love to blog, there is still this other pesky thing called “life” that often tends to take precedence. At other times, despair about my main blogging subject (Israel-Palestine, hereafter I-P), and the apparent futility of the I-P scene here, had kept me away for weeks or even months.
So it was nearly 2 weeks late that I received the meta “headline news”: an Antisemitism epidemic was diagnosed at Daily Kos. The list of symptoms was detailed in a public letter, with dozens of examples from diaries and comments. The good citizens of this progressive-liberal community were called upon to take action, to eradicate the disease from among us – because at other times when good citizens looked the other way, such talk had “led to expulsions and mass murders of Jews” (direct quote). This time around, the damage from Antisemitism so far has been limited to “many Jewish bloggers” feeling “unwelcome” and leaving; but as the diary’s title exhorts us, we must not “turn away” lest things might get far worse. This urgent call was eventually signed by dozens and dozens of members, and – needless to say – made a strong showing on the rec list.
That show of solidarity was apparently insufficient for the letter authors, since they have continued to issue diaries exhorting site admins and the general community to show more vigilance, implement aggressive enforcement and eradicate the disease. The admins, it seems, are heeding the call. The violators called out by these diaries are banned swiftly and with little deliberation.
As you might guess, being Jewish myself I have an opinion on the matter, and I respectfully – but totally – disagree with the “Antisemitism epidemic” diagnosis. I do sympathize with the heartfelt distress with which it was presented. In general I am not a fan of site meta. Moreover, I have avoided to voice my opinions about the trials and tribulations of present-day Diaspora Jews, since even though I am Jewish and live in the Diaspora I consider myself mostly Israeli, and was not raised in a Jewish minority surrounded by a non-Jewish culture – which is the setting in which genuine Antisemitism and Antisemitism-fears develop.
But I think it is high time to break my silence, at least to the 3.5 Kossacks venturing to read this diary in its entirety.
I would like to offer my view of what’s actually going on. This will take (I think) 2-3 diaries, so don’t say you haven’t been warned. If you are a headlines-only person, then please take home the 2 messages that:
1. The issue of Antisemitic and Antisemitic-sounding expressions on Daily Kos is a problem almost exclusively confined to Israel-Palestine debates, and therefore any attempt to deal with it without addressing the entire I-P thread culture, which is exactly what is being done now (e.g., the “Antisemitism letter” and its sequels were published without the “Israel”, “Palestine” tags) – any such attempt is narrow-minded, tainted and eventually doomed to failure in the broader scheme of things. This will be the theme of the 3rd diary. And
2. That this is not a simple uni-directional problem of “more enforcement is good, less enformcement is bad”. There is more here than meets the unitiated eye. Sometimes ovezealous enforcement can turn into persecution. Or even worse: sometimes bigots can use a “pro-enforcement” atmosphere to further their twisted agenda. I know this from my own, real (not meta, not virtual) experience, and will talk about it right now.
So I begin with a side trip down my personal, tortured memory lane. The intersection, if you will, between virtual life and real life. Please follow me…
In the spring of 2009 I submitted a formal application for a tenure-track job at the Department of Industrial Engineering, Ben Gurion University, Beer Sheva, Israel. I had some prior informal back-and-forths with that department, and in fall 2008 was snubbed by them, became frustated and thought it’s better for me not to deal with them anymore. But now the opening was public and official. So to shut up my own conscience about trying my best to return to Israel (we’ve been living in Seattle since fall 2002), while remaining in the profession I had just spent years to acquire – I submitted a formal application, expecting a formal repeat of the informal snub.
It was therefore a bit of a surprise, when in summer 2009 BGU replied expressing strong interest. In fact, the senior statistician in the department told me in no uncertain terms that I am their leading candidate; they have no other viable candidate. By that time I had accepted a full-time job offer at UW (my current job). It is not tenure-track, but professionally very promising and challenging, and paying a living wage; not something to scoff at during the Great Recession. I informed the BGU statistician of that, but still expressed my interest in proceeding. When can I come give a job talk? She asked. Our next family visit to Israel was scheduled for spring 2010; but if BGU is interested, they can buy me a ticket and I can perhaps come around Thanksgiving without missing too much work time. “No”, she said, “We don’t have the budget for this; we’ll wait.”
Her demeanor was strange; on one hand, she was very clear about their dire need for another stat professor ASAP, and of my clear position as the sole adequate candidate for their post. On the other hand, she sounded as “enthusiastic”, as we say in Hebrew, as someone who had just swallowed a whole herring. Anyone even vaguely familiar with academia knows that the accepted practice is for inviting departments to pay a faculty candidate on their shortlist her/his travel expenses, and that there are budgets set aside for this when an official search is opened.
About the same time, a department colleague of hers, an applied mathematician, sounded far more friendly when he called my home. He was visiting the East Coast, and took advantage of the opportunity to introduce himself and have a lengthy phone chat with me. I decided there was something unclear in the whole affair, and started poking around with friends and acquaintances at BGU, to see whether if someone can help me figure out what the heck is up. There was no clear explanation to the department’s ambivalence; all my BGU sources agreed it seems strange. So I put the matter aside and concentrated on summer and on starting my job.
In September 2009, a couple of weeks into my new job, I get a call from my friend Yigal, a high-school buddy and fellow activist. “Haven’t you read the article?”, he asks. “What article?” He sent me the link. It was an article on Globes, (Hebrew link), Israel’s analogue to the Wall Street Journal – but without the national-politics angle. Well, almost without. Here are excerpts from the opening passage (translation mine with my comments in brackets and italics):
Israeli Lecturer Supporting the Comparison of Territories Policies to Nazis to Arrive in Israel?
by Ro’ee Goldenberg
Only two weeks ago, BGU was scandalized by a faculty member [Neve Gordon] publishing a LA Times editorial condemning Israel, and now a new scandal is about to erupt….
In recent months, BGU is considering bringing Dr. Assaf Oron, a statistics lecturer at the University of Washington, who has published in recent years several articles calling for organized refusal to serve in the IDF, and criticizing Israel’s policies in the Territories. Oron even edited, wrote and translated articles for the website of “Courage to Refuse” (where writings by Dr. Gordon were also published – RG)… among Oron’s writings, linked to his personal webpage on the UW site, he expresses support in comparing Israel’s activities in the Territories to the Nazis (“Does Israel have a monopoly on labeling its enemies and Nazis, while everyone else must shut up even when reality speaks for itself?”)…
During discussions at the search committee, some members alerted the department chair and the dean regarding the problematic nature of employing Oron in view of his opinions. One of them even declared he will work vigorously to convince his colleagues to vote, when the day comes, against granting Oron tenure at BGU. The chair and dean refused to address this issue, and even begged the committee member to resign because he places political considerations above academic ones…
My brain turned into a giant flashing red WTF? sign. I mean, beyond anything else, what the fuck kind of crap journalism is that? Where’s the story here? The public interest? Some idiot tries to bring politics into an appointment committee and is promptly told off, and everyone involved has zero name recognition, simply private citizens who happen to work in academia and perhaps blog their opinions from time to time. What about basic confidentiality of personnel matters? And this, in a paper that deals almost strictly with business. Since when has this become “business news”?
Well, if they made the story about politization of academia, maybe. But they did the opposite: the “big scandal” was the university’s apparent refusal to politicize a purely scientific appointment. And what about contacting the article’s victim – that would be yours truly? They contacted the university, this crapload of a reporter looked up my UW website – where, incidentally, my email address is posted in plain sight – but he could not bring himself to write me an email before publishing this on Israel’s most widely-read business paper. Where’s the editor in this story? Is there an editor in the house?
So my first impulse was to send a cease-and-desist style email to the editors. Relax, said Yigal, and said also Neve Gordon, who felt quite guilty about this story coming out as it was clearly related to his above-mentioned op-ed. Neve had good evidence to back his advice: he himself had spent a good few years fighting a libel suit against a far-right American-born jerk of a professor, Steven Plaut, who called him a “kapo” (Neve, btw, is a decorated IDF veteran wounded in combat stopping a terrorist boat on the Lebanese border). Neve won the “kapo” libel suit, then part of it got reversed on appeal, then he re-appealed… who knows how it ends? It wasn’t worth it. The best thing for me right now, they said, is to lie low. Besides, they know how it all started, because the idiot who started it is already bragging about it on listservs. He is one Professor Israel David, the very member from the appointment committee who protested my imminent appointment. Apparently he had some insider connection to Globes, and that’s how he got the story in there. “You are right”, they told me. “There is no genuine story or media interest in this, so just let it blow.” Unless – that is – unless I am interested in this particular BGU job and want to fight for it.
Well, I’d be a complete idiot on insisting to get into that position now, wouldn’t I? I know enough about academia, and what chances has a beginning assistant prof whose arrival has already caused such hostility and conflict among tenured faculty, and who has no real ally in there? Not to mention that from a professional standpoint, this particular department has the smallest and least-established stat team among all Israeli university. Moreover, I had to consider to fallout onto my brand-new job, if I get embroiled in a highly visible political scandal back home.
So I lied low. And indeed, the story wasn’t picked up anywhere else. Which caused the said Israel David some frustration, as well. So he went to a Matt-Drudge-style online news site, and penned a story spilling it all out, titled “About Satan-Talkers and Transparency in Academia”
(Hebrew link, translation mine).
He starts by mentioning Neve Gordon, and continues…
…and now, Globes published an article about another “Tsorer” [a term used traditionally for someone persecuting Jews with a genocidal intent, quotes in the original] who is a candidate… Dr. Assaf Oron, a statistics lecturer… whose Sitna [literally “Satan-talk”, meaning rabid incitement] against Israel is even worse than [Gordon]: he calls for an organized refusal to serve in the IDF (a criminal charge that in some societies might carry the death penalty under certain circumtances, a mutiny), he systematically compares IDF soldiers and commanders to Nazis, and other “gems” anyone can read on his personal university website.
…Dear readers, … I myself is “that member” [of the appointment committee]…during the specific debate about Oron’s appointment on July 1, after indeed one member mentioned Oron’s activity against Israel and the IDF… the Chair went online to look at the texts himself. Then various opinions were voiced, with the Chair at first arguing that Oron might be an asset to the department because of his “social sensitivity” demonstrated when “helping the children of Nablus”. The Chair summarized that Dr. Oron might be adequate for our professional needs, but he suffers from “personality problems”; this appears in the official meeting protocol! The committee decided to ask a senior professor who was about to visit the US in the summer, to talk with Dr. Oron and ask whether he’d agree to keep his activism out of sight in case he is accepted at our department [that explains that phone call mentioned above; to his credit, that other professor did not mention politics in one word during our talk].
The article ends with Prof. David arguing against the confidentiality of committee protocols, trying to cast himself as a Wikileaks-style hero, rather than a wingnug McCarthyist jerk. This article made me mad at BGU. Sure, David is not the perfect reliable witness about the committee’s discussion, but he sounded pretty confident about the shameful direction that discussion took. In any case, the least they could do at that point was contact me and apologize, or something. I never heard from them.
A few months pass, and David went on to submit… a libel suit against the department Chair, because removing him from the committee hurt his good name! The suit ( .doc link, Hebrew) is one long libellous incitement against… me of course. I contacted Advocate Michael Sfard, asking whether I could/should join as a side in the suit or make a counter-libel suit. Just like Neve, he strongly advised against. I lied low again.
Only on the next round of Assaf-bashing did I finally break my silence. This happened in June 2010; I suddenly got several emails from people, some of whom I barely knew. One demanded to know if I supported academic boycott of Israel. Another (a former fellow activist) alerted me that David is again slandering me, this time on a social-sciences listserv whose messages reach the inbox of 3000 Israeli academics. Soon the listserv manager himself contacted me and suggested that I reply. Yigal and Neve were still opposed; they thought I might burn all my chances for an academic career in Israel. But I made the opposite calculation: when someone repeats the same lie about you with enough volume and conviction, it sticks. David was about to etch my image in the minds of Israeli academia, and not in a flattering manner. On the other hand, if I intervene I would not only foil his efforts, but also have a chance to become someone other academics might identify with and want to help. Moreover, I have to think of others who might find myself in my situation. Speaking out – when I have so little to lose now – will help them.
So I wrote the listserv ending with the message that this is not really about politics, but about whether or not society lets bullies dictate the rules. It was generally well received, and a couple of junior academics who encountered similar treatment wrote to thank me personally. Meanwhile, I interested the Seattle blogger Richard Silverstein (who just shortly before that became world-famous with the Anat Kam scoop) in the affair and he wrote a story, followed by Ha’aretz; so you can read all about it in English.
Now I know why I’ve never blogged about this sorry story before. It is too long.
Make no mistake: I was not a random victim for some deranged head-case. Yes, Prof. David is a strange figure with some sad personal story. After I finally spoke out, he sent me a couple of direct emails – something he’d never done before – treating me almost as a friend, the way only a bully fully attached to his faovrite victim does, I guess – and sharing more insider information and observations from the department.
But as I wrote to the listserv, this is not about politics, but about bully-victim dynamics. In particular, it is about group patterns of bullying, or in other words bigotry and prejudice. Because without the prejudice, without the rest of society (including, say, the department faculty) accepting that I deserved to be treated as less than human, Prof. David could not have gotten that far. So what kind of bigotry is this? It is the bigotry by mainstream Jews against dissident Jews who challenge the “Israel good, Arabs bad” dogma. In the mainstream Israeli (and older generation Disapora-Jewish) psyche there is a red line, usually referred to in Israel as a social-mental “Fence”, separating, supposedly, “legitimate” criticism and activism – but really demarcating tribal solidarity – from crossing over to become one of “them”.
Anyone who walks outside the Fence becomes immediately guilty until otherwise proven. You are disloyal, you are not a “true Israeli”, your mind is sick, your soul is sick, and you are fair game. You are a “Hamas fan” who “supports terrorism”, even if you have dedicated all your adult life to nonviolence (except for military service, unfortunately). The most lenient verdict on you is probably that you have fallen prey to your naive kindness and ignorance. Several times over the past few years, other Israelis have called me a “fanatic disciple” (disciple of what? Of whom?) or “brainwash victim”.
Maybe I am guilty as charged? Maybe I am this dangerous monster described in the Globes article, maybe according to the facts I did do these things? Here are the main wedge issues Prof. David used against me, as he lays them bare in his op-ed.
A. Supporting organized refusal to serve in the IDF, to the point of a mutiny: in January 2002 I was part of a group of combat reserve IDF soldiers who placed an ad in Haaretz declaring that the government’s actions and instructions to the military are not for defense, but for perpetuating the Occupation and settlement project. We pledged to stop serving that Occupation, or in our words (here’s the original link; the posted English translation is mine):
We hereby declare that we shall continue serving in the Israel Defense Forces in any mission that serves Israel’s defense.
The missions of occupation and oppression do not serve this purpose – and we shall take no part in them.
Pretty darn clear, no? This erstwhile group known as “Courage to Refuse” pledged selective refusal, not a total one. I neither judge nor condemn youngsters who now, for similar reasons to ours, decide to refuse to even enlist. I was fortunate to enlist in 1985, perhaps a more naive stage in Israeli history. But the fact of the matter is that I have never pledged nor organized outright refusal. Moreover, all the Israeli CO-support groups I’ve been in have never actively tried to recruit objectors. Conscientious objection and its consequences is a decision one has to actively choose, not be sold upon like a toothpaste. This is a matter of principle and despite some voices calling for it on the fringes, no Israeli CO-support group has ever tried to call for a mutiny.
What about that other, more prominent charge featured in the original Globes story headline? Do I
B. “systematically compare IDF soldiers and commanders to the Nazis”? Well, from early 2002 through the present I have written countless articles, blogposts, comments, etc. etc. Barely a handful of times, maybe even less, did I make any sort of reference, direct or indirect, that might be interpreted as saying that the Israelis are present-day Nazis. The lighting-rod passage David has built his entire thesis upon, was in fact a meta discussion of the game which I will now define as …. (drumroll….)
Americans are probably well aware of a related, but much simpler, game called “N-Word Gotcha”: non-Black people can never say any variant of the word “Nigger” lest they immediately be labeled as racists. On the other hand, African-Americans can usually get away with it, especially when they say it in an ironic manner.
[ an aside: I don’t object to the “N-Word Gotcha” game itself; even though it often seems to me that this rhetorical abstention white Americans have undertaken is really a cheap lip-service; that even African-Americans would actually much, much prefer if they did hear the N-word once in a while, but in return would also see Whites once and forall dismantle the racist policies and socioeconomic structures that still systematically send Black men to the jailhouse and Black families to the poorhouse. ]
In any case, as we Jews are smarter than anyone else, we have created our own far more sophisticated version of the game. Here are the rules of “Nazi Gotcha”, as far as I’ve managed to understand them:
1. Anyone, at any time, can compare Israel’s current and past enemies to the Nazis – and we are even encouraged to do so.
2. No one, at no time, can compare Israel’s current or past actions to the Nazis. This is an immediate red card.
3. It is completely okay for Jews criticizing other Jews from the right to the left (e.g., the right criticizing the center, the center criticizing the left, etc.), to compare their criticism’s target to the Nazis. For example, in 1995 during the Oslo process a center-right commentator said to Foreign Minister Shimon Peres to his face on prime-time live broadcast, that he is a member of a “Judenrat Government”. That commentator, Tommy Lapid, later became a political star and even served under Sharon as a senior cabinet minister alongside Peres.
4. It is completely not okay, for Jews criticizing other Jews from the left towards the right, to use similar imagery. Never. Barring highly exceptional circumstances, this offense also carries an immediate and irrevocable red card.
5. In other cases, we will send the “jury” (composed always of center and right nationalist Jews) out to deliberation, but in general if you are Jewish and not suspected of “anti-Israelism”, it is okay. For example, I don’t think Jerry Seinfeld paid any penalty for introducing the term “Soup Nazi” to English language and American pop-culture.
6. The meaning of a red card. If you were unfortunate to be issued a red card under rules 2, 4 and possibly 5 – then you are forever marked as someone “beyond the pale”, an “Antisemite”, a “self-hater”, or even worse. Pretty much nothing you will do can undo this verdict.
7. (almost) Finally…. any nationalist Jew is authorized to issue the red card to Jews on his left, or to non-Jews, upon witnessing an offense.
We are almost done. The last and trickiest rule will be demonstrated via the way in which I had fallen prey to “Nazi Gotcha”, and was issued – by the unquestioned authority of Professor Israel David – the red card. It is all due to an email I sent in March 2002 called “an open letter to Jewish Americans and other friends of Israel”. Why did I write it?
Our Courage To Refuse ad a couple of months earlier, well-timed with media articles about us, generated a political storm in Israel. The initial gut response of then-IDF chief of staff was to condemn and persecute us. But our numbers mushroomed from 50 to 100 to 200 over two weeks, and a lot of public voices expressed support either for our stand, or at least for our right to take it. So for a while, we were affecting the mainstream Israeli debate. Meanwhile, among Disapora Jews we were met with stony hostile silence. The only existing group finally coming out in our support was Tikkun. They published an ad in the New York Times, including a cartoon of a soldier with a statement like “Don’t say you were only following orders.”
Ha! Automatic Red Card by Rule #2. “Following Orders” can be read as an allusion to Nazi times. Tikkun were caught in “Nazi Gotcha”, and were verbally lynched across the American-Jewish world. Their board members were resigning one by one. Frantically, Rabbi Lerner emailed those among Courage to Refuse he could find their email addresses, an urgent plea along the lines “We helped you out, can you give us a hand here?” I was a direct recipient, but I was also not in Courage to Refuse’s inner circle. In that circle they decided to turn a cold shoulder towards Lerner. Their target was the mainstream Israeli audience, and the last thing they wanted was a “Nazi Gotcha” red card. Because, you see, the last and strongest rule of the game is:
8. If you happen to address a case when someone else was issued a red card, the only permissible response is to further condemn, denigrate, ostracize, denounce, renounce and cut all contact from the red-cardee. Any other response will make you automatically liable to being issued a red card yourself.
I, naive and idiotic that I am and ever have been, felt anger at the raw hate and rank hypocrisy that Tikkun had been served by their fellow American Jews in return for supporting us. So I sat down to write about it, and immediately sent it as an email to the Tikkun board members (whose addresses Rabbi Lerner had provided). In so doing, I violated Rule #8 and have been forever branded.
Want to hear something funny? Rabbi Lerner thanked me profusely, and then Tikkun went on to circulate my text. But not before they watered it down and removed the passage discussing Nazi references and allusions. See, they had already learned their lessons; while I who was stupid enough to try and save them from “Nazi Gotcha”, had my words return to bite me in the ass on national Israeli media some 7.5 years later.
Even though to me the connection is very clear between my story and the “Antisemitism eradication festival” currently raging on Daily Kos site pages, I have learned from experience that it is better to visibly connect the dots.
The question whether charges of Antisemitism and Nazi allusions are used to police and shut down I-P debate and/or inflame emotions on all sides, is a well-trodden often-debated one. But this is not what I’m talking about here.
I am talking about the use of this charged atmosphere, in order to isolate, demonize, dehumanize and persecute individuals. All of us write all kinds of stuff over the years, and we produce a range of expressions, reactions, contexts, etc. Hardly anyone would approve of every single thing someone else has written. Hardly any political blogger, esp. in I-P, has managed to avoid stepping on some verbal landmines, while still writing texts worth reading.
Calling people out when they overstep red lines, helping them understand what’s wrong with what they wrote, is one thing. But by letting games like “Nazi Gotcha” set the tone, we are allowing bigots to fish for expressions they can take out of context, and then aid and abet them in persecuting whoever made these expressions. So the community ends up engaging in de-facto bigotry, while feeling very self-righteous and morally justified.
I wrote about my experience, as an Israeli dissident, of having a mention of Nazism taken out of context and used as a rhetorical hatchet to persecute me. Nazi allusions are a favorite tool against people on the Left in intra-Jewish politics.
For non-Jewish targets, it might be easier to just smear them as “Antisemites”; exhibit A for this tactic would probably be what has been done over the years to poor Jimmy Carter – who, ironically enough, during his time in office has arguably contributed to Israel’s long-term strategic standing more than any other President.
Unfortunately, there is a direct path leading from the “Nazi Gotcha” games to physical violence. Accusing someone, like was done to me, of comparing Israel to the Nazis is bad enough. But even worse is the free-for-all license this game hands over to the Right to do the exact same thing that the Left is forbidden to do: namely, to use Nazi terms to slander their opponents, whether Arabs, Jews or other. It is a very dangerous license, and practically no one is standing guard against it.
In 1995, a few months after Tommy Lapid called then-foreign minister Peres “Judenrat” to his face, a heated demonstration against the Oslo process took place in downtown Jerusalem. In the crowd circulated flyers with Prime Minister Rabin wearing an SS uniform. A few weeks later, Rabin was almost mobbed by right-wingers as he attended a public ceremony. His bodyguards barely saved him. Another week passed, and he was murdered by a Jewish wingnut.
[btw, for years my own image appeared on the Kahanist “masada2000″ website, holding a sign whose original inscription was photoshopped to read “Judenrat”]
Bringing it closer in time and space: Rabbi Lerner, the very same Tikkun leader I tried to help and cost me my job prospects at an Israeli university, had his home vandalized 3 times this past year by right-wing Jewish hate groups.
Vandals plastered posters on the garage door of Rabbi Michael Lerner’s Cragmont Avenue home Tuesday night, according to Berkeley police. The posters depicted pictures of a Nazi carrying away a Jew….Lerner’s name is put on one of the Nazis and ‘Islamic extremists’ is written on the other Nazi…
Inventing Nazi slurs for people is a very dangerous game, indeed. Especially among Jews.
But this is precisely what is happening right now, right here at Daily Kos. And it is happening under the banner of “fighting Antisemitism”.
There is a site called Mondoweiss, started by progressive, Anti-Zionist Jewish journalist Phil Weiss and dealing primarily with Israel-Palestine and related Diaspora-Jewish politics. In the latest move of “enforcement”, this site was banned from being a source for Daily Kos diaries. I am not discussing the ban here. For those not in the know, Weiss was accused of occasionally entertaining Antisemites on his site, but – more centrally – of irritatingly engaging in chronic “Jew Counting”. There are legitimate reasons for other Jews to feel offended and angry by some of the stuff posted on the Mondoweiss site. I will not delve further into details here.
The banning was preceded via a series of diaries attacking that site, with the diarist inventing a nickname for Mondoweiss: “Mondofront”. This is a (very tasteless, needless to say) pun on the Stormfront site, the English blogsphere’s premier Neo-Nazi, white-supremacist outlet. All these diaries were tipped and recc’ed by pretty much everyone involved in the present Antisemitism-eradication effort.
Whatever might be said about Weiss, I am well-informed enough to confidently state that he is neither a Nazi nor an ally of neo-Nazis. This “clever” invention of a Nazi slur-nickname for him is a slippery slope. If here on a liberal site people call Weiss “Mondofront” and it becomes accepted and condoned, then next week on a right-wing site someone will call him Goebbels, and in the not-so-far future, some other bigoted idiot might physically attack him or his co-editor Adam Horowitz.
This stuff does happen. And it often begins in this way, too. Violence on the fringes is often egged on by extreme and violent rhetoric coming from the Center.
Please. If you preach highly to a large audience about bigotry and Antisemitism and their dangers, if you stake a claim to moral authority, please also make sure to clean up your own act. This behavior is disgraceful to our site. And yes, I am honestly afraid that you might be placing your target in physical danger.
Besides, if I am not mistaken the site I-P rules (if they are still in effect) in fact forbid anyone from using Nazi slurs.
So please stop.
ok, Enough with this inside-Jewish-Baseball !
The Elephant in the Meta Room we’re in is of course anti-Muslim, anti-Arab and anti-Palestinian bigotry. As I hinted in the intro, a quick check of the “Antisemitism letter” diary’s links reveals that most examples there come from I-P related threads and arguments (you are welcome to check yourselves). Alongside the problematic comments about Jews occasionally appearing on I-P threads, those other types of racism have a strong presence as well (to put it mildly).
As a dissident Jew I personally have encountered over the years a handful of hate-speech anti-dissident diaries and comments here on Daily Kos, from people considering themselves “better Jews” (i.e., “more pro-Israel”) than myself. More often, it was “dog whistles” insinuating that I am not a genuine Israeli or don’t show enough empathy to my compatriots; or innocently asking me how come 95% of the Israelis they know think I’m a nutcase; so maybe they are right and what do I have to say for myself?
But relatively speaking, I’ve been treated with kid gloves. Most of the pie-fights I’ve gotten into happened while trying to help out other members – usually Arab – who were being attacked far more savagely. Or while calling out ugly bigoted comments about Arabs in general or Palestinians in particular.
So the two problems are intimately interlinked. It is totally counterproductive to jump all over one, demanding constant attention from site admins, while completely ignoring the other. Anti-Muslim/Arab/Palestinian racism didn’t even make it into the list of “other types of racism” mentioned in the “Antisemitism letter” diary. I voiced this concern as soon as I’d heard about the “Antisemitism letter”, and the letter’s formal lead author quickly replied to me – along the lines of “this is none of our business, it is totally unrelated, if Arab diarists want to write a similar letter about anti-Arab bigotry they should go do it themselves”.
Excuse me, but this is an extremely childish, disingenious and irresponsible response. You call a community of over 100,000 bloggers up in arms against one type of bigotry, and conveniently neglect to even mention that other type of bigotry, its present-day mirror image that goes hand-in-hand, tit-for-tat with it? Why? Where’s the good faith? What’s the goal?
If we are to eradicate bigotry, we should approach the task with an open heart, an open mind and a generous dose of humility.
With a willingness to be educated while educating others.
With a readiness to acknowledge faults while finding them in others.
With a sensitivity to others’ vulnerabilities and fears, even as we share our own.
With a broad and inclusive perspective, rather than a narrow and self-serving one.
With a willingness to forgive and engage, rather than to demonize and persecute.
All this is sorely missing from the present campaign against Antisemitism on the site.
The strategy chosen might be great for scoring some meaningless meta points in the short term. But it harms the fabric of this community, and threatens the good name of those leading the campaign as true liberals and progressives. I implore them to change the approach they have taken thus far.
And I ask site administration to show better judgment, rather than be suckered into playing twisted Gotcha games that do not befit a progressive, reality-based community, and that could themselves easily turn into shameful displays of bigotry.
Written by Assaf Oron
Assaf Oron works as a statistician and moonlights (voluntarily) as a human-rights activist and blogger. He arrived in Seattle from Israel in 2002 for studies, and for now is sticking with the local greyness, dampness and uber-politeness, while plotting his glorious repatriation to the land of eternal sunshine and rudeness. Meanwhile, he tries to explain to anyone who cares to listen, what the Occupation is and why it must be ended now, not later. Assaf is webmaster for the Israeli human rights organization "Villages Group"
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