Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Rosenblum's Myths of 'Anti-Semitism'--Part 1

So, Nadia, I took your advice and read "The Past Didn't Go Anywhere: Making Resistance To Antisemitism Part of All of Our Movements." There is just so much that is distorted and untrue about it that I hardly know where to begin.

Don't me wrong, oppression of Jews qua Jews should be resolutely opposed but much of what Rosenblum calls "anti-Semitism" is not the result of some bizarre, mindless hatred of Jews but an understandable, if many times unjust, response to oppression by Jews of non-Jews. The myth of eternal, innocent Jewish victimhood has been so instilled into the minds of so many people that they literally cannot even bring themselves to wonder if some attacks on Jews might have a basis in material reality. As Orwell noted, "Orthodoxy means not thinking--not needing to think. Orthodoxy means unconsciousness."

If "Antisemitism's job is to make ruling classes invisible"--a proposition that has more than a little truth to it--then some anti-"anti-Semitism's" job is to obscure Jewish power and oppression of non-Jews. One of the saddest things is that April Rosenblum probably believes everything in her tract and she's done a masterful job at making and propagating her case. But spreading lies--inadvertently or not--is not going to make her or anyone else safer.

So, enough complaining, it's time to point out a few of the many possible examples of where Rosenblum is wrong. On page 2, she decries "the medieval myth that Jews ritually murder Christian babies" but thanks to Israeli Jewish scholars (Because who could believe a non-Jew?) like Ariel Toaff and Elliott Horowitz we know that there are historical facts behind "the medieval myth". As an aside, it's disturbing to me that just as many people did not accept Arab narratives of the Nakba until Benny Morris confirmed them, so European Christian narratives of Jewish violence were not believable until confirmed by Jews (and even now those Arab and Christian narratives are contested and not widely accepted).

Also, on page 2 Rosenblum writes, "December 2005: President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad declared the Holocaust a myth created by Jews." This is, apparently, a myth created by CNN and other Western media outlets. Although they acknowledge relying on Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) as their source, they reported the speech very differently. Here's how IRNA reported the remarks in question:

"If the Europeans are telling the truth in their claim that they have killed six million Jews in the Holocaust during the World War II - which seems they are right in their claim because they insist on it and arrest and imprison those who oppose it, why the Palestinian nation should pay for the crime. Why have they come to the very heart of the Islamic world and are committing crimes against the dear Palestine using their bombs, rockets, missiles and sanctions." Stressing that "the same European countries have imposed the illegally-established Zionist regime on the oppressed nation of Palestine", he said, "If you have committed the crimes so give a piece of your land somewhere in Europe or America and Canada or Alaska to them to set up their own state there.

"Then the Iranian nation will have no objections, will stage no rallies on the Qods Day and will support your decision." Ahmadinejad said some have created a myth on holocaust and hold it even higher than the very belief in religion and prophets because when a person expresses disbelief in God, religion and prophets they do not object to him but they will protest to anyone who would reject the Holocaust.

The idea of a "myth" is reported only once in the IRNA transcript and that is not a myth of the holocaust but "a myth on holocaust." At this point it is worth quoting Norman Finkelstein's remarks from Beyond Chutzpah, (p. 85) which was released just four months before the uproar over Ahmadinejad alleged holocaust denial:
Wrapping themselves in the mantle of The Holocaust, these Jewish elites pretend—and, in their own solipsistic universe, perhaps imagine themselves—to be victims, dismissing any and all criticism as manifestations of "anti-Semitism." And, from this lethal brew of formidable power, chauvinistic arrogance, feigned (or imagined) victimhood, and Holocaust-immunity to criticism has sprung a terrifying recklessness and ruthlessness on the part of American Jewish elites. Alongside Israel, they are the main fomenters of anti-Semitism in the world today.
The idea that Israel, let alone Jews, are "fomenters of anti-Semitism" is, however, one that Rosenblum has declared out-of-bounds. As she tells us on page 24, in large type, "But Israel did not, and does not, cause antisemitism."

In The Holocaust Industry, (p. 3) Finkelstein argues:
"The Holocaust" is an ideological representation of the Nazi holocaust. Like most ideologies, it bears a connection, if tenuous, with reality. The Holocaust is not an arbitrary but rather an internally coherent construct. Its central dogmas sustain significant political and class interests. Indeed, The Holocaust has proven to be an indispensable ideological weapon. Through its deployment, one of the world's most formidable military powers, with a horrendous human rights record, has cast itself as a "victim" state, and the most successful ethnic group in the United States has likewise acquired victim status. Considerable benefits accrue to this specious victimhood--in particular, immunity to criticism, however justified.
Of course, the idea there is anything "specious" about Jewish victimhood runs counter to the main premise of Rosenblum's tract. In any case, my point in quoting this passage is to highlight the parallel between Finkelstein's idea of "The Holocaust" as ideological construct and Ahmadinejad's notion of "The Holocaust" as not a myth itself but the basis of a myth.

On page 3, Rosenblum claims that "the hit film that restaged the 'Passion plays' " is an example of anti-Jewish oppression in the US. So far as I know, much to the ADL's dismay, not a single Jew was actually 'oppressed' as a result of the The Passion. Oh, except, according to Rosenblum, it's "anti-Jewish doctrines" which constitute anti-Jewish oppression in the US. Ideas like the notion that the Iraq war was fought for "Jewish or Israeli interests" (p. 3). Don't think that, people, or you'll be oppressing Jews. Well, I do happen to think that, yes, Iraq was invaded in 2003, in no small part (though not entirely), for Israeli interests. And I don't accept the authority of people like Rosenblum to declare certain ideas to be thoughtcrimes.

On page 4, returning to the Passion theme, Rosenblum tell us anti-Jewish oppression was born when "Early Christian leaders portrayed the Jews as the killers of Jesus ..." I suppose it doesn't matter to Rosenblum that "Gibson's view of 'Passion' [is] supported by Jewish texts." if nothing else this fact complicates a discussion that Rosenblum would probably like to see kept simple. On page 6, Rosenblum mentions the "Crusader massacres of Muslims and Jews." She does not concern herself with the Crusader massacres of Orthodox Christians, Albigensian Christians, the sack of Constantinople, etc., presumably, because this would also disturb her tidy, little narrative.

In the box on page 7, Rosenblum mentions the Chinese Exclusion Act and tries to tie together "Asians, Arabs and Jews." Jews never faced explicit, blanket exclusions like the Chinese did nor did they ever face restrictions on their citizenship like Arabs did. Further, Samuel Untermyer, a nationally prominent leader, attorney, and Zionist objected strongly to any casual linkage between Jews and the "yellow races." In 1933, the first year of Hitler's regime, Untermyer gave a speech in New York. Addressing "friends and fellow Jews," he said:
The depth of the incredible ignorance of history and world conditions of this man Hitler and his affront to world credulity are best indicated by his absurd attempt to excuse the gratification of his long-cherished hatred of the Jews by his insulting fling at America, in comparing his persecution of the Jews to America's refusal to admit the yellow races to citizenship, as though there were the remotest room of analogy. They are as wide apart as the poles.

The Mongolian race represents an older and radically different civilization from that of the white races, founded upon different physical, mental and religious attributes that could not have been made to mingle and by common consent have never been permitted to mingle. [New York Times. Apr 14, 1933. p. 15]
So, Untermyer thought the Chinese Exclusion Act was just fine. I searched the Times' archives and found no evidence that any other Jewish leaders, or anyone else for that matter, objected to Untermyer's views. Elsewhere in the same speech, Untermyer refers to Jews as "the most educated and refined part of the German citizenship" and "the aristocrat of the world."

Echoes of Untermyer are heard in the 2006 remarks of Israel's ambassador to Australia, Naftali Tamir:
"Israel and Australia are like sisters in Asia. We are in Asia without the characteristics of Asians. We don't have yellow skin and slanted eyes. Asia is basically the yellow race. Australia and Israel are not--we are basically the white race. We are on the western side of Asia and they are on the southeastern side.

"Israel has a past and present in Europe, but no future. Israel is a part of Asia," he added.
For one contemporary view on immigration by a prominent Jewish American see "The Jewish Stake in America's Changing Demography Reconsidering a Misguided Immigration Policy" and "High Noon to Midnight: Does Current Immigration Policy Doom American Jewry?" Both feature Stephen Steinlight of the Center for Immigration Studies and formerly Director of National Affairs at the American Jewish Committee.

I'll close with a few excerpts from "The Jewish Stake ...":
Equally, and more politically awkward for many Jews, we must save the pro-immigration argument from its own most extreme and uncritical proponents. Especially from those who see unchecked illegal immigration from Mexico (in the 1990s the source of one-third of all immigration to the United States and fully 50 percent of illegal immigration) as a brilliant strategy in an undeclared, low-intensity, and thus far remarkably successful war of Reconquista. With over 8 percent of Mexico's population already here, and who knows what additional percentage on the way, the notion of a de facto Reconquista, especially in the Southwest where the Mexican share of immigration is astronomical, sounds less and less like nativist hyperbole.
... is the emerging new multicultural American nation good for the Jews? Will a country in which enormous demographic and cultural change, fueled by unceasing large-scale non-European immigration, remain one in which Jewish life will continue to flourish as nowhere else in the history of the Diaspora? In an America in which people of color form the plurality, as has already happened in California, most with little or no historical experience with or knowledge of Jews, will Jewish sensitivities continue to enjoy extraordinarily high levels of deference and will Jewish interests continue to receive special protection? Does it matter that the majority non-European immigrants have no historical experience of the Holocaust or knowledge of the persecution of Jews over the ages and see Jews only as the most privileged and powerful of white Americans? Is it important that Latinos, who know us almost entirely as employers for the menial low-wage cash services they perform for us (such a blowing the leaves from our lawns in Beverly Hills or doing our laundry in Short Hills), will soon form one quarter of the nation's population? Does it matter that most Latino immigrants have encountered Jews in their formative years principally or only as Christ killers in the context of a religious education in which the changed teachings of Vatican II penetrated barely or not at all? Does it matter that the politics of ethnic succession — colorblind, I recognize — has already resulted in the loss of key Jewish legislators (the brilliant Stephen Solarz of Brooklyn was one of the first of these) and that once Jewish "safe seats" in Congress now are held by Latino representatives?

Far more potentially perilous, does it matter to Jews — and for American support for Israel when the Jewish State arguably faces existential peril — that Islam is the fastest growing religion in the United States? That undoubtedly at some point in the next 20 years Muslims will outnumber Jews, and that Muslims with an "Islamic agenda" are growing active politically through a widespread network of national organizations? That this is occurring at a time when the religion of Islam is being supplanted in many of the Islamic immigrant sending countries by the totalitarian ideology of Islamism of which vehement anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism form central tenets? Will our status suffer when the Judeo-Christian cultural construct yields, first, to a Judeo-Christian-Muslim one, and then to an even more expansive sense of national religious identity?

... For reasons that appear simultaneously self-evident and self-serving, spokespersons from the organized Muslim community regularly cite the figure of six million Muslims. The number is chosen because it constitutes both a form of demographic riposte to the hated figure of the six million Jewish victims of Nazism that Muslims believe confers vast moral and political advantages on Jews and, secondly, it allows Muslims to claim they have already achieved numerical parity with American Jews. ... Combined with low Jewish fertility and high levels of intermarriage, the rising Muslim population already represents a serious threat to the interests of the American Jewish community, and the danger will only increase with time.
Not that it is the case that our disproportionate political power (pound for pound the greatest of any ethnic/cultural group in America) [emphasis added] will erode all at once, or even quickly. We will be able to hang on to it for perhaps a decade or two longer. Unless and until the triumph of campaign finance reform is complete, an extremely unlikely scenario, the great material wealth of the Jewish community will continue to give it significant advantages [emphasis added]. We will continue to court and be courted by key figures in Congress. That power is exerted within the political system from the local to national levels through soft money, and especially the provision of out-of-state funds to candidates sympathetic to Israel, a high wall of church/state separation, and social liberalism combined with selective conservatism on criminal justice and welfare issues.
For perhaps another generation, an optimistic forecast, the Jewish community is thus in a position where it will be able to divide and conquer and enter into selective coalitions that support our agendas [emphasis added]. But the day will surely come when an effective Asian-American alliance will actually bring Chinese Americans, Japanese Americans, Koreans, Vietnamese, and the rest closer together. And the enormously complex and as yet significantly divided Latinos will also eventually achieve a more effective political federation. The fact is that the term "Asian American" has only recently come into common parlance among younger Asians (it is still rejected by older folks), while "Latinos" or "Hispanics" often do not think of themselves as part of a multinational ethnic bloc but primarily as Mexicans, Cubans, or Puerto Ricans.

Even with these caveats, an era of astoundingly disproportionate Jewish legislative representation may already have peaked. It is unlikely we will ever see many more U.S. Senates with 10 Jewish members [There are currently 13 Jews in the Senate]. And although had Al Gore been allowed by the Supreme Court to assume office, a Jew would have been one heartbeat away from the presidency, it may be we'll never get that close again. With the changes in view, how long do we actually believe that nearly 80 percent of the entire foreign aid budget of the United States will go to Israel?

It is also true that Jewish economic influence and power are disproportionately concentrated in Hollywood, television, and in the news industry, theoretically a boon in terms of the formation of favorable public images of Jews and sensitizing the American people to issues of concern to Jews. ... And television, the Jewish industry par excellence, with its shallow values, grotesque materialism, celebration of violence, utter superficiality, anti-intellectualism, and sexploitation certainly does not advance anything that might be confused with Jewish values. It is probably true, however, that the situation would be worse in terms of the treatment of Jewish themes and issues in the media without this presence.
I'll confess it, at least: like thousands of other typical Jewish kids of my generation, I was reared as a Jewish nationalist, even a quasi-separatist. Every summer for two months for 10 formative years during my childhood and adolescence I attended Jewish summer camp. There, each morning, I saluted a foreign flag, dressed in a uniform reflecting its colors, sang a foreign national anthem, learned a foreign language, learned foreign folk songs and dances, and was taught that Israel was the true homeland. Emigration to Israel was considered the highest virtue, and, like many other Jewish teens of my generation, I spent two summers working in Israel on a collective farm while I contemplated that possibility. More tacitly and subconsciously, I was taught the superiority of my people to the gentiles who had oppressed us. We were taught to view non-Jews as untrustworthy outsiders, people from whom sudden gusts of hatred might be anticipated, people less sensitive, intelligent, and moral than ourselves. We were also taught that the lesson of our dark history is that we could rely on no one.
Apart from the loss of political power that will inevitably result over time from the sweeping demographic reconfiguration of the American social landscape, undoubtedly the greatest immediate threat to the well being of the American Jewish community and its interests stems from large-scale immigration from the Muslim world. ...

The Jewish community's role in confronting the rise of Islam in America is (at least) fivefold. We must (1) seek to expose the real nature of our Islamist enemies, (2) attempt to support the emerging free thinkers within the Muslim community, and (3) work assiduously against Islamist political agendas, even as we seek (4) to reduce prejudice against Muslim immigrants. But, again, (5) we should be seeking reductions in the number of immigrants from Islamist societies given their enormous antipathy to Israel, Jews, America, and the West in general. And we should be especially vigilant in opposing the admission of those Islamists seeking asylum from political repression in countries where secularist governments in such places as Egypt, Jordan, Turkey, Uzbekistan, etc. are struggling against attempts to overthrow them by Islamist religious fanatics.

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i think you are way off base. i am planning a critique of the zine (and a video i think was made by the same people), but my critiques are very different than yours. some of the stuff you mentioned i will also be addressing in part 2-arab americans. i will come back and respond to this more thoroughly when i have time, but one thing i want to say now is that it is really a stretch for you quote some statements (or even a widespread belief) by racist white jews that they are superior to asians as proof that, contrary to what rosenblum asserts, jews really don't want to be associated with asians. it's weak. first, it assumes all jews are white. again, i will respond further when i have time.

also, i wonder, are you contesting the existence of bigotry towards jews? or do you just find fault with the way it was written about here?
I made no attempt whatsoever to prove "jews really don't want to be associated with asians." I simply think it is disingenuous for Rosenblum to graft "anti-Jewish oppression" onto the oppression historically faced by Arabs or Chinese people in/from the West. Edward Said, the person who arguably did the most to develop and popularize the critical discourse on Orientalism, recognized a distinction between "anti-Semitism" and Orientalism in his book, Orientalism, and elsewhere; he never conflated the two as Rosenblum has.

The only thing my quotes of Untermyer and Tamir prove is that some prominent Jewish Zionist leaders (not mere "racist white jews") strongly resist any identification with Asia or Asians. BTW, I don't even know if Tamir identifies as "white", that's your assumption, not mine. As for my assuming that all "jews are white," you're mistaken, I am well aware that not all Jews are "white."

You "wonder" if I contest "the existence of bigotry towards jews." If I did then I would not have written in the second paragraph "oppression of Jews qua Jews should be resolutely opposed."
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