Baseball Crank
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August 5, 2006
The Ugly Underbelly Of An Emotional Topic

Hello again. This piece below probably won't seem too controversial in this forum. In fact, I suspect it'll summarize the opinions of a lot of Crank's readers. Nonetheless, I put it up on my site early last week after observing an alarming trend on both the left & right extremes of the blogosphere. On my blog I labeled it "We Interrupt Our Regularly Scheduled Programming," because I tend to cover things from a humorous/entertaining angle, but I felt I had to do what I had to do. Here it is, in it's entirety (one or two minor edits for grammar/spelling):


I promised myself a few weeks back I wouldn't post on the current situation in Israel/Lebanon. And I'm sticking to my guns: too emotional, no resolution, no chance for people to see past their ideology; no opportunity for entertainment.

That said, I want to weigh in briefly on something that's been more than bugging me: a creeping, metastacizing anti-semitism in otherwise neutral blogs. Mostly from commenters, but from the authors themselves at times. I'm not talking about criticizing Israel's current policy, and I'm not even talking about writers against Israel in the big picture. I certainly don't mean commentators who question Israel's role in US foreign policy, and I don't overly scrutinize authors who wish to hold Israel to normal levels of accountability.

No. What I'm talking about are folks who need to say "Zionists" or "Jews" in place of "Israelis." Or people who can't stop saying "Neo-Con" when they actually mean "Republican" or "The Administration." Which says nothing about the growing hoards obsessed with the "Jewish make-up" of the "Neo-Cons." You know what I mean; the writers who need to allude at all times to Wolfowitz or Perle, but seem to conveniently forget that "Quayle," "Fukuyama," "Rice" and others fit well within the "Neo-Con" group as defined by the PNAC.

Other symptoms of which I speak: obsession with "AIPAC control" of the US government. The over-representation of Jews in the media, among the roll of US billionaires, in the financial world. The way that Jews will ultimately "support Israel over the US," or "send American boys" to do Israel's dirty work in the Middle East. Anyone who frequents the left or right reaches of the blogosphere knows what I'm talking about. For those of you not familiar, let me assure you: while not directly quoting, every phrase I've included so far is a faithful paraphrase of multiple posts I've read. And these sentiments are anything but rare.

I'll admit that beyond massive disappointment (and a small dose of fear), I'm mostly surprised at this. And I feel like an idiot for being surprised. I've long taken pride in my historical perspective on events, for always viewing events through a skeptical (some would say, cynical) lens. I know as well as any Jew the history of anti-semitism, of it's roots, its manifestations, its effects.

And, despite all that, I thought that the United States in 2006 was different. I honestly believed that the European left, the European ultra-right nationalists were capable of discussing what I've been reading. But I thought that in America, our faults notwithstanding, we'd moved beyond the most base forms of ethnic hatred, of racism. That these ugly phenomena had been "Americanized," turned into tools of economics, of marketing, of cultural compartmentalization.

Maybe I was right in that regard. Maybe, like so many otherwise well-intentioned people will tell me, I'm just paranoid.

But maybe I'm not. And I firmly believe that the final line from propaganda-to-action is shorter than that initial road from open mindedness-to-fear. Yes, you're following my point. As said, I harbor a small amount of concern.

Nevertheless, even for those who think that America is just exercizing some well-needed analysis of Israel's role in US policy, I think they need to admit to themselves that an ugly underbelly has been exposed for the first time in a while. First time in my life, and I've been politically/culturally sentient for three decades or so.

Now I know there are those who'll tell me that this element is always there. They've always been there. Just ignore them. They're the lunatic fringe. I hear you, you're right, they've always been there. But what's blowing me away lately is how they've all crawled out from under their rocks, and have started to speak. To yell. To pontificate.

And not only are they rarely called out onto the carpet for this by the rank-and-file in the cyber-community, but they're often encouraged. It's become a rather popular rallying cry among disparate communities of commentators. And it has me stunned.

I'm gonna keep my eyes and ears open. I wish I didn't have to. But, as I said, I know my history, and any Jew who chooses to pretend he doesn't at least recognize what he's seeing is a fool. And any American who chooses to see otherwise is fooling himself as well.

Posted by Mike Rogers at 11:12 AM | Politics 2006 | Comments (12) | TrackBack (0)
Comments

"...What I'm talking about are folks who need to say "Zionists" or "Jews" in place of "Israelis." Or people who can't stop saying "Neo-Con" when they actually mean "Republican" or "The Administration."

Sorry, those two things are not even vaguely similar. Either you are making your point poorly or you are understating sublte, underlying anti-Israeli (or perhaps Jewish) sentiments by comparing (?) it to what?, anti-Republicanism? Neo-Con and Republican are not necessarily the same thing. I have Republican friends (gasp) who in no way identify with Neo-Con thought and action. If anything the split is being more and more acknowledged within the Republican Party itself. Perhaps I am not getting what you are trying to say but I would think that identifying Karl Rove as a Neo-Con and Bill Buckley as a Republican (or Conservative if you will) is accuracy rather than generalization.

Posted by: jim at August 5, 2006 4:46 PM

I think the underlying bias is the assumption that Senators, Congressmen, and members of the foreign policy establishment who are Jewish are more interested in the interests of Israel than in the interests of America. Clearly there is some tug of divided loyalties, but I still consider it an unfair assumption.

Posted by: Jerry at August 5, 2006 5:47 PM

One of the saddest aspects of this whole situation in Palestine is how militarists keep getting the upper hand politically by baiting militarists on the other side. At best- and call me anti-zionist if you wish- Israel is the product of several long and brutal trends: the need for Anglo-American Oil interests to have a cat's paw in the region; the Second World War forcing Europe to deal in some fashion (of course self-servingly) with its sordid history of anti-semitism; the long history of the Jewish people- no doubt a partly a function of their isolation within almost every European society- seeing themselves as seperate and chosen and belonging to a land that, unfortunately, had people already living there. Remember: Zionists (as they called themselves) like David Ben-Gurion targeted British and French civil servants, as well as Palestinian community leaders, for death in the forties...why? to drive the Europeans out. Britain sought to manage an unmanagable conflict between prior claims of the Arabs who lived there and the Jews living there now. Read some of the documents- esp. the UN reports on the history of Palestine. The self-justification of the Israeli state is breathtaking. They never took there foot off the Palestinians neck for a moment.
Time and time again opportunities arose for the US to pull back its blanket support of Israel's policies viz. the Palestinians. It rarely did so, and usually only in a half-hearted fashion. These "efforts" may only reflect the real limits of US power in the region- those who subcribe to the idea of AIPAC's unlimited influence also seem to subcribe to a view that a certain range of policies- generally military- have predictable effects.
I don't. But there is no possibility for a full, open discussion of these policies in the US. Why? I don't know. Some people guess at a conspiracy. It is understandable.
Israel uses the US for its own short term survival- it is obviously not convinced that a political opening in Palestine will break to its advantage. The US uses Israel. Obviously. And many, many different reasons account for this. US politicians crawl over themselves to seem strong for Israel. Some are courting evangelicals who see the end of Israel as a stepping stone to the rapture. Others are up to their necks in defence industry payouts or payouts from Big Oil.
But we know who the victims are, Arab and Jew. And our republic at home.
Cui bono?

Posted by: higtaper at August 5, 2006 7:46 PM

How many strawmen does it take to unscrew this light bulb?

If you're gonna wax conspiratorial about...well...immanent conspiracies, at least have the self-respect to name names.

Perhaps "people" (whomever you may think you're referring to) feel the need to distinguish between Zinonists, Jews and Israelis precisely to avoid the ahistorical fallacies of presupposition that writers like you lay for them in rhetorical traps like these.

Fukuyama was not a member of the Bush Administration. Quayle, never a thought leader to begin with, hasn't touched policy in over a decade. And Rice, no PNAC signatory, certainly gets her share of licks from the left of the blogosphere.

Wolfowitz, meanwhile, was the Deputy Secretary of Defense, and Perle is widely agreed to have developed the Administration's Iraq policy. Both were trotted out regularly to the talking heads to sell the war in 2003. Perle's the one who said the whole affair would be over in weeks, the war would pay for itself, and there'd be a public square named after Bush in 2004.

You can go to bat for these creeps all you like, but to suggest that these individuals are cited frequently due to their religion or ethnicity, and not because they loudly sold us a false bill of goods, is to exactly retread the same sort of tendentious and unproductive charlatanism that Norman Finkelstein so effectively exposed in his book the Holocaust Industry.


Posted by: Maxwell at August 5, 2006 9:37 PM

Mike – Thank you for a thoughtful and timely post. As you can see, it’s a pretty touchy subject.

An article in the WSJ yesterday made a similar point (How do you Spot an Anti-Semite? Ask about Israel, by Bret Stephens). Only that article cited some ridiculous statistics that supposedly proved your level of support for Israel is directly tied to your level of Anti-Semitism.

I agree that some people out there questioning our support for Israel may be Anti-Semitic – Pat Buchanan and Mel Gibson come to mind. That such people exist and may be expanding in numbers, I am sure, is a terrifying thought for a Jewish American.

But a discussion of race and religion in 21st Century America should never be interwoven with a fact driven discussion of our policy towards the Middle East.

If I question the wisdom of George Bush’s unwavering support for Israel, the same arguments can counter my thoughts regardless of my feelings towards Jewish people as a whole.

The flip side of your concern is that people who want to revisit our relationship with Israel – a sovereign nation in a tumultuous area of the world -are assumed to be Anti-Semitic.

Do I have to preface any statement I make against Bush’s ‘Israel vs. The Terrorists’ view of the Middle East by saying, “I have lots of Jewish friends.”

I understand your concerns, but in discussing foreign policy, if we all just stick to the facts and the merits our positions. together we should surmise something better than the mess that exists today.

Posted by: patrick at August 6, 2006 12:42 AM

Good for you to raise this topic. higtaper rose to the bait and revealed precisely what you are talking about. Patrick on the other hand raises valid concerns of one who would criticize the US's backing of Israel at this juncture. Although I would not be as critical of US and Israeli policy as Patrick is, I do share his concern about being labeled.

I don't know if you would call it Anti-Semitic, but there are a lot of people, including at least one French diplomat, who want Islamist terror to go away (don't we all), and who believe that it would go away if Israel, who the Islamists ritually cite as their number one grievance, would go away. It comes down to the proper differentiation between recognizing that the world is morally obligated to support Israel, not because it is Jewish, but because it is a sovereign democracy whose history includes naked agression by its neighbors and relentless vicious terror attacks against its civilian population, and criticizing Israel's tactics in south Lebabnon at this particular time.

On my way home last night I heard NPR interview two "experts" on the "laws of war" asked to critique Israel's tactics of bombing of civilians. That was an easy call for NPR and its hand-picked "experts", but they grudgingly went on to point out how Hezbollah's deliberate use of Lebanese civilians as shields for its indiscriminate rocket attacks on Israeli citizens drove Israel to this campaign. All-in-all, valid criticism of Israel and not Anti-Semitic because they addressed the context of Israel's actions.

Here's what bothers me, though and maybe I missed it because I do not listen to NPR too much, when do they bring on experts and ask them to criticize the strategy and tactics of the terrorists? Sorry, I should have said, "militants". And it is not just Israel. NPR and its ilk routinely and justifiably criticize and point out the actions of US soldiers and marines who abuse Iraqis, but they are silent on analysis of the brutal and vicious tactics of the terrorists. If there is such discussion at all, there is a presumption of moral equivalence that I find objectionable and not very informative.

So here's the bottom line: Israel is criticized by some Americans because only the US is defending Israel and because Bush, being president at this time, is Israel's number one defender in the US. For various reasons, the media and the academic world are wont to be more critical of the US and Bush especially, and Israel becomes a victim of this by way of collateral damage.

Posted by: jimbo at August 6, 2006 4:01 AM

I think both Jimbo & Patrick engage in the kind of legitimate discussion I explicitly acknowledged:

I'm not talking about criticizing Israel's current policy, and I'm not even talking about writers against Israel in the big picture. I certainly don't mean commentators who question Israel's role in US foreign policy, and I don't overly scrutinize authors who wish to hold Israel to normal levels of accountability.

So, when Patrick observes that "The flip side of [my] concern is that people who want to revisit our relationship with Israel . . . are assumed to be Anti-Semitic," I understand his concern. It's bad when debate's squelched; no one should be shouted down. I also recognize the concern that leads him to ask, "Do I have to preface any statement I make against Bush’s ‘Israel vs. The Terrorists’ view of the Middle East by saying, 'I have lots of Jewish friends.'”

I'd say no one needs ask those questions, but I find myself needing to preface comments with "I'm Jewish, and I support Israel," in certain fora. To be fair though, I also need to preface my statements at other blogs by conversely prefacing them with, "A lot of my friends are Jewish, and a lot of them don't support Israel in this situation . . ."

Too much tap-dancing on both sides. Each side claiming the moral high-ground.

Anyway, Jimbo also notes a problem when he talks of "valid concerns of one who would criticize the US's backing of Israel at this juncture. Although I would not be as critical of US and Israeli policy as Patrick is, I do share his concern about being labeled."

As said, while I can't speak for everyone, I have no problem with questioning of the US-Israel relationship. I may not agree, but that's irrelevant.

I won't go so far as Jimbo in saying that higtaper "rose to the bait and revealed precisely what [I'm] talking about." Perhaps he's stuck in 1948, what with his choice to note Israel's supposedly unacceptable methods to get the whole thing of the ground at the start. Nevertheless, I don't see anything anti-semitic in what he says, so I won't bust out that "card."

And Jim seems to object to what I said, but perhaps he's right and I just "ma[de] my point poorly." I didn't mean to conflate all GOPers with the "neo-cons." In fact, I thought I was doing the opposite, in that I took to task those people who called out Wolfowitz & Perle as insidious insiders, stealing the reins of republicanism & conservatism away from those well-meaning "Americans" who've run the movement without "Zionist" interference & nefarious goals for so long.

Finally, Maxwell said:

If you're gonna wax conspiratorial . . . at least have the self-respect to name names. Perhaps "people" . . . feel the need to distinguish between Zinonists, Jews and Israelis precisely to avoid the ahistorical fallacies of presupposition that writers like you lay for them in rhetorical traps like these.

Whoa! But ya' see, Max, we Jews can't help but lay traps for the innocent gentiles who wander into the lair where we hatch our evil plans! I'm accused of "waxing conspiratorial" even though I neither discussed nor alluded to any conspiracies. I don't think there's a conspiracy; only folks who think the Jews are out to get them, hiding under the bed waiting for the right moment to come out.

The following passage from Maxwell's comment is pretty much what I was talking about in my original piece:

Fukuyama was not a member of the Bush Administration. Quayle, never a thought leader to begin with, hasn't touched policy in over a decade. And Rice, no PNAC signatory, certainly gets her share of licks from the left of the blogosphere.

Addressing the three non-"Zionists" I mentioned, Maxwell excuses one from his PNAC signatory status because he's not a member of the administration, another because he's dumb & out of the loop. And he excuses the third because . . . well, she gets blamed too. I wonder if the fact that she's a black woman has any bearing on that. I'll let that fact stand; you can all draw your own conclusions!

And no mention of other signatories who're in the current Administration? Rumsfeld? No, not mentioned by Maxwell. Bill Bennett? Gary Bauer? Steve Forbes? Nah. Maxwell, who seems to know plenty about what he speaks, chooses not to address these folks.

But when he has the chance to discuss the usual suspects, no shortage of ammo there:

Wolfowitz, meanwhile, was the Deputy Secretary of Defense, and Perle is widely agreed to have developed the Administration's Iraq policy. Both were trotted out regularly to the talking heads to sell the war in 2003. Perle's the one who said the whole affair would be over in weeks, the war would pay for itself, and there'd be a public square named after Bush in 2004. You can go to bat for these creeps all you like

And there we go. Now maybe Maxwell agrees with me -- whether he supports PNAC doctrine, or doesn't -- that Rumsfeld, Cheney, Bush & Rice are the people most responsible for American foreign policy. If so, I'd love to see him say that. But until that point I'll have to conclude that like many others I've read, he believes that Wolfowitz & Perle, more than any others, are the prime architects and first movers of American adventurism, as well as the machinations of America'a ally, Israel.

If that's Maxwell's point, then he's an example of what I meant when I referred to the writers who need to allude at all times to Wolfowitz or Perle, but seem to conveniently forget that "Quayle," "Fukuyama," "Rice" and others fit well within the "Neo-Con" group as defined by the PNAC.

But again, Maxwell was obviously responding directly to my examples, so maybe he was merely keeping things on track. I'd love to give him the chance to explain that he meant otherwise.

Posted by: Mike at August 6, 2006 8:03 AM

Meh. I started to say something yesterday when this went up but decided against it.

Its about fear of the 'other'. Its easy to rant about other's anti-semitism or racism or bigotry when you see it. What's difficult (and more useful) is finding it in yourself and exploring the 'whys'.

Here I'll show you mine. About 2 years ago we had a trial down here for a guy named Durst that was accused of murdering his neighbor, chopping him up and throwing him in Galveston Bay. After the jury had the case for a week or so there were newspaper reports that the jurors were taking 8 smoking breaks a day, were charging off $300 lunches to the court and hanging out the jury room windows geegawing at people walking by on the sidewalk.

The judge laid down the law to them and the next day they brought in a verdict. A couple days later they had some of the jurors on the Today Show interviewed by Kooky Katie. I looked at the TV screen and was surprised to see a bunch of middle aged white women. I realized that without even giving it any active thought at all I had been assuming the jurors must be black based on the news reports about their behavior. Mind you, I hadn't paid much attention to the trial, I just kind of knew it was going on, I really hadn't actively thought about it at all.

Raised in the south. Spent 48 years thinking about race and what I think about it and why. No concious thought at all, yet I somehow had it in my mind they must be black. Incipient racism, that's what it is. Prejudice buried so deep you aren't even aware of it as it operates on you.

That's what I think goes on with regard to Jews and Israel. I have never understood anti-semitism, but we don't have a lot of Jewish folks down here so we don't have to categorize and label them to justify our fears.

What is gained by using the labels? Jew, Neo-Con, Conservative, liberal, Zionist, pro-war, anti-war, chickenhawk blah blah. Its short hand, that's all - it allows us to nod and wink; "and we all know what THEY think/say/do/want" because 'they' all think alike...right?

Doesn't matter in a way. People that want to improve themselves and overcome their own prejudices and biases will try to do it, those that don't will not.

I too am disappointed. The level of self realization I see in much of what's written on the net about the Israeli thing is disappointing. I thought we were beyond many of these things as a society. Sadly, I now think I was wrong in that belief. Still and all, that isn't a terrible thing - it just means we have farther to develop as a society.

Posted by: Dwilkers at August 6, 2006 9:06 AM

Honest stuff, Dwilk. I can respect you for sharing that. Tough to own up to our own dark ideas.

I'm not sure I have, myself. Which is one reason I've tried very hard not to pipe in too much on the "substance" of the whole Israel/Lebanon/Hizbollah/Syria/US/UK/Iran issue. I acknowldge I have a dog in that fight (as an American and a Jew), so my opinion about who's right, who's wrong, etc., may be of less value than I'd like to think.

Posted by: Mike at August 6, 2006 1:52 PM

Interesting story Dwilkers, but as I stated earlier it would be more appropriate in a discussion of Race and Religion in 21st Century America, rather than in a discussion of America's policies towards the Middle East.

Yes there are some connections, but the sheer breadth of the two topics require they be distinguished from each other if we hope to make any progress on either.

Jimbo, I can't take seriosly your concern that "[the media] are silent on analysis of the brutal and vicious tactics of the terrorists." Maybe "the terrorists" simply have hired a better PR firm.

Do you see the inanity of your thought process? First of all who are the "terrorists"? Are we talking about Mohammid Atta? Hezbollah? the Palestinians? Basque Separatists? Maoist revolutionaries in Nepal? Timothy McVeigh?

Secondly, can anyone who is referred to as "terrorists" by a significant portion of the population be receiving a pass by the media?

WHy don't you put a little more effort into describing Israel's neighbors? Try seeing them as people rather than terrorists. Are the Jordanians terrorists? How about the democratically elected government in Lebanon? How about the leaders we're trying to support in Iraq? How about the Saudi Royal family?

I am not saying any of the leadership structures over there is perfect, but to write them all off as terrorists is intellectually lazy and represents the mindset that has led to the current mess.

One final point: the true NeoCons were Scoop Jackson and Danial Patrick Moynihan, who stood in the seventies for reasserting America's leadership in the world after our withdrawal from Vietnam. They beleived we could not stick our heads in the sand and hope the world's problems went away. I would gladly cast my lot with the likes of these gentlemen.

Sadly the term has been bastardized by a crew of foreign policy crazies who have taken a sledge hammer to the worlds problems. I care not a lick what god any of these people worship -- I only wish they would shut up, or at least people would stop listening to them.

Posted by: patrick at August 6, 2006 2:26 PM

Interesting story Dwilkers, but as I stated earlier it would be more appropriate in a discussion of Race and Religion in 21st Century America, rather than in a discussion of America's policies towards the Middle East.

Patrick, after reading the blog post again to reconfirm, it isn't about America's policies in the Middle East but rather creeping anti-semitism in the conversation about that. But hey, if you think its inappropriate to talk about that or if it makes you uncomfortable, I'll leave it.

Posted by: Dwilkers at August 6, 2006 7:53 PM

Valid point...perhaps it is appropriate here...the point I was trying to make is that going back and forth between the two areas invites confusion and a blurring of people's thoughts and ideas.

Possibly I was more out of bounds by going down the Foreign Policy discussion route. Either way, good post.

Posted by: patrick at August 6, 2006 8:10 PM
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