Battlepanda: On Jew-blindness


Always trying to figure things out with the minimum of bullshit and the maximum of belligerence.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

On Jew-blindness

Kyle McCoullough is Jew-blind:
From Tapped, Ezra Klein writes, "When Jason Horowitz called to ask me about anti-Semitism’s influence in the blogosphere, my first response was... Say my name, real slowly, and then ask again." This reminded me of something that I have noticed before, namely that political writers seem to be able to recognize Jewish names easier that I can and--like Ezra--seem to expect everyone to be able to do this.

Growing up in a small southern town, I knew exactly one person who I knew to be Jewish--Amy Wolstein. (I didn't make acquaintance with her brother Byron, until after high school.) I just didn't have enough exposure to Jewishness to learn to recognize it; I'm pretty sure the first place I ever heard the word "dradle" was on South Park; I would have been about 37 or 38 at the time. (Not only did I not recognize Klein as a Jewish name, I was surprised to learn that Ezra was a man's name. Most people I can think of with similar sounding names are women--Essala, Evita, Elmira, Elvira....)

I am aware that there is a strain of anti-semitism in some parts of the country. I remember Daryl being surprised by it in Chicago. But some writers, who want to see anti-semitism in every sideways glance, need to learn that not everyone thinks that way. I, for one, had no idea that many neo-cons were Jewish until David Brooks accused liberals like me of being prejudiced against them for that reason.

Well, many Jews who criticize Israel are conveniently pigeonholed as "self-loathing Jews", so I'm sure they'll come up with a snappy label for people whose anti-semitism is so deeply rooted that they're not even aware that they hate Jews.

I too, used to be Jew-blind. Until I went to college, I don't think I really knew anyone Jewish as such. I mean, I must have known people who were jews, but it never came up.

My first Hannukah party, I tried to eat a small plastic dreidle because I though it was an oddly shaped piece of candy.

But, as the cliche goes, I started finding that some of my best friends are jews. I even helped cook for hillel. One piece of badmouthing I will pass on about the Jews -- they can't help stirring the rice. I tell them every time, leave the rice alone until it's done! If you stir it, it will turn mushy. But do they listen to me? No. We always end up with a big pot of paste for 30 people. Oy!

Now I think my Jewdar is a little bit more developed. It's still not great though. I guess I have more of a goydar, as in "that person with a mullet and a moustache getting into that pickup-truck -- I have a feeling he's not among the people of David". Yep. I'm real perceptive that way.

Needless to say, I find the argument that "if you're not on Israel's side all the time on every issue, you must be an anti-semite" incredibly idiotic. I haven't ever encountered it aimed at me personally despite the fact that I am often quite critical of Israeli policy. Maybe it's because I'm Taiwanese-American and people are afraid that I'll counter with "are you saying that all Chinese people are anti-semites? How dare you insinuate such an outrageous slur!" Apparently though, it is considered quite the killer move and certainly made otherwise articulate and forthright people censor themselves.

Some things that are needless to say should be said anyhow: The Israel-lobby should not be a sacred cow. We feel perfectly free to criticize the PRC without laying ourselves open to charges of anti-sinaism. So it should be with Israel. Anybody suggesting otherwise should be laughed out of town. If there is anybody who still needs any clarification on this issue whatsoever, I refer you to Arthur Silber.