Battlepanda: What's the more serious problem...


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

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

What's the more serious problem... America today? Anti-semitism or Islamophobia?

The answer seems self-evident to me. And yet I hear a lot about the former, often on quite tenuous grounds, and hardly a peep about the latter either on the right or the left. Josh Marshall complained about a lot of emails he's been getting with an anti-semitic spin. This I can well believe, there are lots of nutcases out there. But this is the example that he quoted for us in full:
Over the years I have been a strong supporter of Israel's right to be. Now I am wondering.

What kind of neighbor has Israel been? Would you want to live next door?

How would you like it if your neighbor annexed your land? Locked you up? Lied to you? Periodically threw bombs at your house?

What if Israel had taken a different path? What if they had been less afraid, less brutal? What if the billions spent on fences and bombs and soldiers had been spent on making sure their neighbors had a piece of the pie?

What if Israel hadn't relied on their military might so much? What if they had been the ones to help open health clinics, provide opportunities, help people build a good life (instead of Hezbollah)?

Maybe it's time for Israel to change its ways or move on.

To me, this is a prime example of something that is anti-Israel, but in no way anti-semitic. Much can be read into the implication of the "move on" part, but it seems the solution the emailer would like is one of peaceful co-existence. Unlike much of the anti-muslim stuff out there, it makes no mention of Judaism as being fundamentally evil or violent, or anything about the Jews in general. Much, much worse stuff have been said about the Muslims in outlets that are much more mainstream.

I think Yglesias said it best:
Certainly, that anti-Arab and anti-Muslim views exist doesn't make it okay for people to be anti-Semites. But while American political commentators seem very attuned to the fact that a certain proportion of criticism of Israeli policy is motivated by dislike of Jews or the idea of a Jewish state everyone seems oblivious to the obvious reality that a certain amount of praise for policies that involve killing Arabs or Muslims -- the American invasion of Iraq, the Israeli invasion of Lebanon, proposed American strikes on Syria or Iran -- is likewise motivated by racial or quasi-racial bias.

Commenter jlkenney (@ Yglesia's post) also had some wise thoughts:
What about criticizing the idea of establishing an ethnic state by the forced expulsion of the previous population of a region? That's what's always seemed rather the most indefensible thing about Israel. On the one hand, one certainly has people who criticize Israel because they don't like Jews. This is clearly unacceptable. But people who criticize Israel because they don't like "the idea of a Jewish state" seems a more difficult question. If Matt means people who don't like the idea of a Jewish state because they don't like Jews, then Matt is kind of making a distinction without a difference. But what about people who don't like the idea of a Jewish state in Palestine. Personally, in the abstract, I have a hard time sympathizing with the idea.

Now, saying that one thinks the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine which entailed the seemingly permanent forcible expulsion of a large portion of the previous inhabitants of the area was unjust, is one thing.

Saying that we should rectify this injustice by envisioning the permanent forcible expulsion of the current inhabitants of the area, most of whom personally had nothing to do with the founding crime of Israel, seems to be quite another. But envisioning, for instance, the establishment of a secular binational state in which both Israelis and returning (and remaining) Palestinians would be welcomed, seems more naive and unrealistic than racist in any way. All other things being equal, such an idea is a lot more appealing to me as a lax Reform Jew than a Jewish State run in some significant ways by Orthodox rabbis. Of course, all other things aren't equal, in the incredible amount of hatred which both sides have for each other at this point makes such a solution impracticable for the foreseeable future. But I don't see as it's morally repugnant.