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Web Letters | The Nation

Web Letter

Thanks for the article. It is an elaborate analysis for something many Jews and non-Jews have already admitted: excessive and inappropriate use of the word "anti-Semite or anti-semitism" for someone who disagrees with Israeli policy or perspective--especially when it comes to Palestinian issues and concerns. I am sorry that it is being used in academic circles--but I am not surprised. This is the reason many adjunct faculty, who should be teunured or want to be, are either not tenured or leave the academe. The debate gets very narrow and biased--crippling academic freedom, integrity, intelligence and the possibility of finding relevant useful solutions to such conflict ridden problems. Let us hope other communities (like some upper-class or upper-caste Indians) don't fall for this kind of "provincial paranoia and bias." They too need to look at themselves objectively and not let colonialism take away their spine or make it too rigid (extreme opposite responses), as the Holocaust has done to some academic or activist Jews.

Steve Sinikel

Waterloo (temporary), IA

Mar 11 2010 - 1:41pm

Web Letter

I think that, overall, Professor Alterman paints an untrue picture. While it may be correct that The New Republic is hypersensitive, the magazine has good reason to be such. Lest he notice, Israel receives a remarkable amount of criticism. During the first half of 2009, while Israel was being criticized over the Gaza war, there was a far more deadly war in Sri Lanka in which the number of dead, including civilians, dwarfs what happened in Gaza.

Why such harsh commentary against Israel, while little is said about Sri Lanka? Well, Israel is a Western-oriented country, but of course that does not account for the types or the extraordinary number of stories, the willingness to print bigoted rumors as fact (e.g., the Aftonbladet story about killing Arabs for their body parts), allegations of massacres that, on inspection, turn out to be bogus (e.g., Jenin), killings that turn out to be staged (e.g., the al Dura affair) and the lack of critical examination of statements and positions taken by Palestinian Arabs (e.g., Hamas's covenant, which makes Israel's destruction a religious duty and which also seems to advocate genocide), etc., etc. When these appear without any journalistic skepticism, the reasonable assumption is that the unwillingness to employ normal standards is driven by something else--a prejudice of some sort.

If you read Bernard-Henri Lévy's bookLeft in Dark Times, you will find that there really is a great deal of anti-Semitism, some of it right under your nose, if you are willing to look. I strongly suggest you read his book. It will open your eyes beyond criticizing just the most obvious allegations.

In his web letter, Stanley Hersh indicates that "the newspaper Aftonbladet published proof of Israel's plundering of the corpses of Palestinian." That is not so. The paper alleged that Israel killed Palestinian Arabs in order to harvest body organs. That was such a far-fetched claim that, absent pretty extraordinary proof--and there was no evidence, much less extraordinary proof--the reasonable supposition is that the author of the article and the paper that saw nothing odd about the story hold Jews in contempt. I should add that it was the sort of claim made over the centuries about Jews killing Christians for their blood.

R. Friedman

Boston, MA

Mar 8 2010 - 3:54pm

Web Letter

TNR has some great writing, particulary on the economy. Richard Posner's comments about "the sacred cow" of free trade appeared there. Also some of Martin Wolf's misgivings about the rise of China through unfair trade practices. There is, however, a barely concealed emotionalism in much of the writing about Israel that is disconcerting.

What gave me pause about Leon's comments tho, was the remarks about the Trinity, as if resurrection or life after death was to Jews a bizarre, incomprehensible idea. While Sadducees at the time of Christ rejected the idea, Pharisees, by and large, accepted it. It makes me think that Leon is more nationalist Israeli than ethnic Jew. Maybe Marty, too.

Bud Ilic

Bloomington, IL

Mar 1 2010 - 4:14pm

Web Letter

"Ironically, the true victors in this campaign are genuine anti-Semites, who are happily witnessing the weakening of what was once an extremely consequential, potentially career-killing accusation. "

Precisely! When the real wolf is at your door, your warnings shall go unheeded.

It will happen, an apocalypse unnoticed.

Adam Rurik

Mt. Pearl, Newfoundland, Canada

Feb 27 2010 - 2:37am

Web Letter

I wish to make four points:

(1) The political inflation of the meaning of the term "anti-Semitism" is a double-edged sword because definitional inflation also cheapens the currency by a dilutional effect.

(2) While the etymology of the term suggests it is directed against all Semitic peoples (which includes Arabs, Assyrians etc.), the term was coined in the nineteenth century in Germany to mean "Jew-hatred" and its modern use today is employed mostly to stifle debate and deflect attention from legitimate criticsm of the state of Israel; This was notoriously evident when Netanyahu (in person) accused the government of Sweden of anti-Semitism after the newspaper Aftonbladet published proof of Israel's plundering of the corpses of Palestinian men it murdered in order to harvest their body organs;

(3) When Jews themselves criticize Israel, the term "anti-Semitism" is accompanied by cries of "self-hatred," as was the case with Harold Pinter's Nobel speech and Joe Klein's June 24, 2008, suggestion that Jewish neocons pushed the Iraq invasion to "make the world safe for Israel." Similar accusations were made against two British parliamenterians, Sir Gerald Kauffman and Baroness Tonge, and famously against Judge Richard Goldstone. Israelis must be aware that the price of their misconduct is paid not only by them but also by Jews throughout the world, and the Jews in the Diaspora are increasingly expressing their displeasure. It would be a tragic irony if the Jewish state of Israel, which was intended to solve the problem of anti-Semitism, was to become a factor in the rise of anti-Semitism.

The term "self-hating" is actually a pernicious attempt to deflect "self-respect" for the value of human life, Jewish or otherwise, which, certainly in Gaza, Israel has been shown to lack entirely. The world was horrified to learn that members of the IDF have confessed that in Gaza, they were "ordered to kill anything that moved," which implies the inclusion of innocent babies and children.

(4) The exploitation of the Holocaust, by focussing only on Jewish suffering to the exclusion of everyone else's, is itself a cause for the rise of global anti-Semitism. A journalist of a Jewish newspaper in Texas was fired for stating that the slogan "Never Again" is hollow when it is has "come to mean 'Never Again' for Jews only."

stanley hersh

New York, NY

Feb 26 2010 - 12:13pm