Saturday, May 28, 2011

Criticism of the Israel lobby and U.S. attitudes vs. Anti-Semitism

Something that gets lost in the shuffle, in the back and forth, is that the nature of criticisms against the Israel lobby and against people who are uncritically supportive of Israel labels objects to the positions because they're fundamentally conservative. People who are uncritically supportive of Israel put their ethnic and religious interests in front of respect for universal rights much in the same way that folks alleging an extensive plot of oppression of Christians in Islamic societies and those who support their family's country of origin right or wrong do. The last time I checked, both of these tendencies, which could include for example support of right wing politics in Greece by the Greek community in the United States, and the same sort of thing, combined with religion, in the Christian Lebanese community in the United States, were conservative. This is important in that neither of these tendencies implies labeling people who are Jewish as embodying certain traits, being a united group who are all one way, or seeing them as somehow completely being separate from the greater community. There are folks who are Sikhs who support radical Sikh politics in India, yet to the extent that people are even aware of it I don't think that folks would label that some sort of dual loyalty. They have friends and family over there, and are passionate about politics over there, yet are citizens in the United States without contradiction. Maybe in Canada, with its different history regarding British colonialism and its aftermath, the situation is different, but my sense is not here in the U.S., although folks who wear turbans are of course singled out for being potentially Muslim. In any case.
The parallel can be expanded to other ethnic and cultural groups as well, for instance the Miami Cuban exile community. They're very passionate about what goes on in Cuba, have very definite ideas about what they want to happen, organize themselves as an interest group and pressure Congress, yet to criticize them does not imply an existential threat against their being. It only implies disagreement over the road they want to take, one that often involves threats and actions of terrorism against Cuba by members of the community.
Why should criticism of uncritical supporters of Israel be any different? For sure, the history of anti-semitism and anti-semitic ideology exists, but just because history has been a certain way does not mean that the present is necessarily an echo of the past. What people actually say and believe today should have more weight than haphazard generalizations based on past tragedy and experience. And the most virulent anti-semitism, historically speaking, was based not completely on the idea of people who are Jewish being particularistic and closed, only supportive of one another, which is what critics of the Israel lobby are often accused of believing, but on that idea combined with the notion that people who were Jewish spread morally degenerate liberal ideas.
German anti-semitism was not completely about the Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion, a forgery based off an anti-masonic novel written in France in the early 18th century, but also about the idea of people who were Jewish being predisposed to sexual degeneracy, moral degeneracy, spreading atheism, desecrating national and patriotic traditions, introducing things like Modern Art and music, supporting homosexuality, allying with African Americans in spreading that terrible, awful, degenerate art form known as Jazz, on and on, along with ideas about being greedy, crude, obsessed only with money, and only caring about other people who were Jewish. I would challenge anyone to find evidence of any of these stereotypes in progressive criticism of uncritical supporters of Israel and of the Israel Lobby. They are simply not there. The progressive criticism is not that people who are Jewish are somehow (on top of all being the same) threats to the American community, but that the fundamentally conservative policy of supporting Israel right or wrong undermines commonly held liberal values of fairness and human dignity.

No comments: