Thursday, March 10, 2011

Racists, Anti-Racists, Anti-Zionists and Antisemites

An interesting and at times rather vitriolic discussion has developed on a TNR thread (5) (6) in which this statement by Marty Peretz

"It is clear to me that Obama hasn't the faintest idea of what's going on in the AfPak region, and is in strategic rescue mode by his commanders who grasp what he cannot. Or refuses to."

was interpreted by one poster to imply the following meaning:

"Poor little nigger boy become prez; he needs to be saved by white generals."

I disagreed (in my contentious way) with the interpretation and much commentary followed, all of which I found unpersuasive. While I have my own opinion about Peretz's sporadic inclination towards making politically incorrect statements, I have never regarded him as even remotely favouring the type of raw and naked racism that this interpretation implies and consider it a straightforward slander.

2. Another discussion concerning the exact algorithms of an antisemitic expression/sentiment developed on Bob's blog,


I particularly liked this comment as it laid bare the antisemitic/anti-Zionist dialectic in novel and sharp clarity.

3. Commercial break

4. Anne Frank and discarded Jewish identities

5. Intervention in Libya? (Fact is, I don't know what to think)


In re-reading some of the stuff that gets revealed in Bob's threads about the Left's relationship with antisemitism, and the TNR thread about whether Peretz, a liberal devotedly pro-Israel journalist, is a rabid racist at heart, I get the impression that what I'm seeing are symptoms of a much deeper and troubling phenomenon. I get the impression that in spite of the clarity and undeniability of facts, they no longer matter. Passions, prejudices, perverted and contorted arguments are presented, in attempts to excuse or dismiss in the one case and to indict and condemn in the other.

These lines,

"The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity."

have never seemed more pertinent .

But what is that passion about? What exactly is the source? How come people who are perfectly lucid and intelligent when someone tries to explain to them certain aspects in Quantum Mechanics, seem to be overcome with a singular inability to discern fact from fiction, seem to want to look for monsters where none exist? As if the simple rules of rational thinking, presentation of evidence, making cogent arguments that would make sense even when you don't agree with them, all these are no longer considered necessary. It is enough that I feel something to justify a campaign of prosecution, if not downright demonization.

"A mathematician once said that algebra was the science for lazy people-- one does not work out x, but operates with it as if one knew it... Politics means operating with this x without worrying about its actual nature. Making history is to recognize x for what it stands for in the equation.” (Arthur Koestler, Darkness at Noon)

Is this where I might begin to understand, with trying to find this x, what it is, what role it plays, what premise underlies it, in the discussions (and others) I referred to ?

There is of course a political utility to accusing someone, especially a journalist, of racism. It takes away a person's moral authority. It yields double the profit when the accused is a Jewish journalist, and a triple dividend when he is a pro-Israeli Jewish journalist. A racist cannot and should not be believed when he points to antisemitic occurrences or, God forbid, that he should claim that some type of criticism against Israel is in fact concealed antisemitism. The tactic works like the weakening of a body's immune system, just waiting for it to be invaded with an infectious agent. It's rendering the target morally indefensible. It's like manufacturing defencelessness.

Concurrently, there is a persistent, consistent and insistent denial --in places where one expects to find moral authority, such as academia, media, Left-wing organizations like NGO's, or green parties or what have you-- that antisemitism is a legitimate grievance, a very present and growing phenomenon.

In effect, what we have is an attempt to fight what is perceived as paranoia by a counter paranoia. Thus, the claim of antisemitism is often dismissed as the collective fantasies of a damaged psyche (the Jews), while the same are being pilloried for being racists (mostly they are accused of being Islamophobes, or just plain racists).

So a person can be slandered but, due to his "record" as a racist, he has no defense against such vile imputations. He can explain or deny, try to prove, provide the necessary evidence, the words, the context, the arguments -- all of which he can do, of course. But who will listen, once that person has been maligned, except those who had never believed or accepted any of it, anyway?

And so it goes ...


At 11:01 PM EST, Blogger EscapeVelocity said...

Heard on the internet.

"One man's racist is another man's anti-racist."

At 11:43 AM EDT, Anonymous TNC said...

Excellent post, Noga. I hope you are well.

At 12:31 PM EDT, Blogger The Contentious Centrist said...

Great to hear from you, TNC. Where are you these days? I try to check your blog from time to time and always get a warning that the site might harm my computer. You ought to check that out sometime. Are you going back to blogging?

At 10:11 AM EDT, Anonymous TNC said...

I am mostly offline these days. Have not updated my blog since September. Work and family life have been keeping me busy. A little too busy. But better that than the alternative.

Not sure about the warnings. I don't see any warnings from my computer but I have not tried to visit my blog from another computer for a long time.


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