Monday, February 26, 2007

Jewish Antisemites? A Study of a Jewish Attack on Jewish Critics of Israel.

Not long ago I discussed semantics in relation to charges of “antisemitism” . I compared using the word “Jews” to walking in a verbal minefield.

An article in the “New York Times” entitled “Essay Linking Liberal Jews and Anti-Semitism Sparks a Furor” is timely because it shows that even Jews are being accused of antisemitism. The essay itself, which I’ll discuss below, reveals that the accused “antisemitic Jews” make my attacks on Israel and Zionism seem almost bland in comparison.

From the NYT:

‘The American Jewish Committee, an ardent defender of Israel. . . features on its Web site,, [an essay] titled “‘Progressive’ Jewish Thought and the New Anti-Semitism,” which says a number of Jews, through their speaking and writing, are feeding a rise in virulent anti-Semitism by questioning whether Israel should even exist.

‘The essay comes at a time of high anxiety among many Jews, who are seeing not only a surge in attacks from familiar antagonists, but also gloves-off condemnations of Israel from onetime allies and respected figures, like former President Jimmy Carter, who titled his new book on the Mideast “Palestine Peace Not Apartheid.” By spotlighting the touchy issue of whether Jews are contributing to anti-Semitism, both admirers and detractors of the essay agree that it aggravates an already heated dispute over where legitimate criticism of Israel and its defenders ends and anti-Semitic statements begin.’

Because you can read the NYT article yourself, there is no point in my quoting more from it before I turn to the essay which is discussed in the NYT article. (This is a long post, but it can remain a valuable resource in the future; please click on the title of this post and save the resulting web page as a Favorite.)

We can tell right away that the essay “‘Progressive’ Jewish Thought and the New Anti-Semitism” is going to be a propaganda piece because it compares medieval accusations that Jews poisoned wells with the obvious fact that Jews are “manipulators of American foreign policy.”

The author of the essay, Alvin Rosenfeld, defines antisemitism as “Hostility to Jews—because of their religious beliefs, their social or ethnic distinctiveness, or their imputed ‘racial’ differences.” He also presents the more extreme antisemitic belief “that Jews are today, as they always have been, a treacherous, conniving, untrustworthy, sinister, all-powerful, and implacably hostile people, the eternal enemy of both God and mankind.”

Claiming that a “new antisemitism” is on the rise around the world, he asks: “What does all this anti-Jewish hostility tell us? Despite the huge scandal of the Holocaust, which most Jews probably thought would prevent public manifestations of anti-Semitism from ever appearing again, the genie is once more out of the bottle.”

He indicates that the growing wave of criticism of Zionism and Israel is the major manifestation of this “antisemitism”.

His theme of particular interest to me is that some Jews, in particular “leftist” and “progressive” Jews, are joining in this socalled antisemitism. From the Forward to the essay: “Perhaps the most surprising—and distressing—feature of this new trend is the very public participation of some Jews in the verbal onslaught against Zionism and the Jewish state.” Rosenfeld calls those who deny the legitimacy of Israel’s existence “proud to be ashamed to be Jews”.

The essay states: “Apart from the United States, to which it is almost always linked by its enemies, no country on earth is as vilified as the Jewish state. Moreover, those who denounce it as an outlaw or pariah nation are found on both the left and the right, among the educated elites as well as the uneducated classes, and among Christians as well as Muslims.”

The Jewish critics of Israel whom Rosenfeld labels “antisemites” are identified one by one:

Jacqueline Rose, author of The Question of Zion (Princeton University Press,

‘As if it were foreordained from the start, “violence,” she writes,
“would be the destiny of the Jewish state” (p. 124). Moreover, the
“cruel powers” of this state have not only brought “injustice” to the
Palestinians, but have subverted “the moral mission of Israel”(p.
133), put at risk the Jewish nation’s own “safety and sanity” (p. 85),
and right now are even “endangering the safety of Diaspora Jewry”
by helping to provoke a new anti-Semitism (p. xviii). In sum, Israel
on its present course “is bad for the Jewish people” (p. 154) and also
bad for just about everyone else.’

Rosenfeld bitterly complains that Jacqueline Rose wrote, “I believe the creation of Israel in 1948 led to a historic injustice against the Palestinians” (p. xvi),” and that ‘her lexicon of descriptive terms for Zionism and its errant ways is overwhelmingly negative: “agony,” “anguished,” “belligerent,” “bloody,” “brutal,” “cataclysmic,” “corrupt,” “cruel,” “dangerous,” “deadly,” and “militaristic” alternate with “apocalyptic,” “blind,” “crazy,” “delusional,” “defiled,” “demonic,” “fanatical,” “insane,” and “mad.”’

As bad as Rosenfeld thinks Jacqueline Rose is, her evil pales in the hellish glow of his next candidate:

‘Rose’s unease is mild, though, compared to the pathological fury one finds among some other anti-Zionist Jews. As a telling example, let us review the reflections on Israel and present-day anti-Semitism of Michael Neumann, a professor of philosophy at Trent University in Canada and author of "What’s Left: Radical Politics and the Radical Psyche". Neumann accuses Israel of committing “Zionist atrocities” and of waging “a race war against the Palestinians,” a war whose purpose is nothing less than “the extinction of a people.” Toward this end, Israel has embarked on “genocide” against the Palestinians—“ a kinder, gentler genocide that portrays its perpetrators as victims.” The Palestinians “are being shot because Israel thinks all Palestinians should vanish or die.... This is not the bloody mistake of a blundering super-power but an emerging evil.” Moreover, the guilt belongs not only to Israelis, but to Jews in general, “most of whom support a state that commits war crimes.” Such support implicates all Jews, Neumann contends—so much so that “the case for Jewish complicity seems much stronger than the case for German complicity” in the crimes committed against the Jews during the Holocaust.’

Next in Rosenfeld’s line of fire is Tony Judt, described as a Jew on the left:

‘The historian Tony Judt, for instance, has published a series of
increasingly bitter articles over the past three years in the Nation, the
New York Review of Books, and Ha’aretz, in which he has called Israel
everything from arrogant, aggressive, anachronistic, and infantile to
dysfunctional, immoral, and a primary cause of present-day anti-
Semitism. “Israel today,” Judt avers, “is bad for the Jews,” and it
would do them and everyone else a service by going out of business.
“The time has come to think the unthinkable,” he writes, and that
is to replace the Jewish state with “a single, integrated, binational
state of Jews and Arabs.”’

Rosenfeld goes on to assault other Jewish critics of Israel:

‘Wrestling with Zion: Progressive Jewish-American Responses to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, edited by Tony Kushner and Alisa Solomon (New York: Grove Press, 2003) and Radicals, Rabbis and Peacemakers: Conversations with Jewish Critics of Israel, edited by Seth Farber (Monroe, ME: Common Courage Press, 2005). Liberally sprinkled through the pages of the first of these books are references to Israeli “apartheid,” “racism,” “colonialism,” and “ethnic cleansing”.’

‘Joel Kovel, a professor at Bard College, who is writing a book on post-Zionist Israel, suggests that Zionism “is equivalent to a form of racism” and is unforgiving
that it brought about “the Jewish homeland at the expense of another people”.’

‘The prominent poet Adrienne Rich proposes that the very word “Zionism” is “so incendiary, so drenched in idealism, dissension, ideas of blood and soil, in memories of victimization and pursuant claims of the right to victimize” that it “needs to dissolve before twenty-first century realities.”’

‘Sara Roy, who identifies herself as the daughter of Holocaust survivors, notes that “within the Jewish community it has always been considered a form of heresy to compare Israeli actions or policies with those of the Nazis” (p. 176). Then she
proceeds to draw just such a comparison by accusing Israel of replicating
Nazi occupation policies.’

‘Journalist Esther Kaplan, commenting on the charge by a young Rutgers University
activist that “Israel is a racist state, an imperialist state—it is and should be a pariah state,” remarks: “[I]f that’s what it takes to bring down the occupation..., Israel should absolutely become a pariah state.... The time has come when Israel must be totally isolated by world opinion and forced, simply forced, to concede”’

‘Steve Quester wonders if Israelis are “going to build gas chambers and kill them all” but then backs off from that idea and imagines that the Israeli plan for the
Palestinians is merely to “terrorize” and “starve” them out. Seth Farber himself holds to the harsher view and insists on conflating Israeli “racism” with “Nazi anti-Semitism”. And Rabbi David Weiss goes him one better by claiming that the Zionists have actually
been “worse than Hitler.”’

Essay author Rosenfeld expects us to believe his conclusory rebuttal that, “No serious scholar of history would argue that Israel’s actions warrant legitimate comparison with the systematic cruelties of apartheid South Africa or the genocidal barbarism of Nazi Germany.” Although he has just lambasted a number of serious scholars of history, Rosenfeld apparently considers himself the only “serious scholar of history” qualified to characterize the actions of Israel.

He writes: “To the dismay of many [well, to the dismay of Rosenfeld, at least], Israel
itself has provided a disturbingly large number of writers, scholars, journalists, and others to feed this poisonous stream. One such was the philosopher Yeshayahu Leibowitz, who felt no reservations in talking about the “Nazification” of Israeli society and was fond of using the epithet “Judeo-Nazi” in referring to the Israeli army. And
Leibowitz was hardly alone in employing such corrosive language. It is a sad but familiar fact that some of Israel’s most passionate defamers live within the borders of the state and have judged it guilty of “racism,” “fascism,” “apartheid,” “ethnic cleansing,” “genocide”— vilification drawn from the same devil’s thesaurus of anti-
Zionist derisions and ex coriations that the Jewish state’s harshest enemies regularly dip into when leveling their own attacks.’

Near the end of Rosenfeld’s essay he quotes from a book by Ahron Cohen and Joel Kovel, more Jewish “antisemites”. That quotation is a fitting way to end this post:

‘Zionism ... is built on an impossibility, and to live in it and
be of it is to live a lie.... Zionism can only repeat its crimes
and degenerate further. Only a people that aspires to be so
high [above others] can fall so low.
Zionism and its deeds are the biggest threat to Judaism....
The Zionist State known as “Israel” is a regime that has no
right to exist.’


N. said...

hi fleming, I have been rummaging the e-world to find the article i mentioned in my post. I didn't find it, but I remembered the author was Hooshang Amirahmadi.

And I stumbled across something that is also very similar to the topic of your post.

I have left a comment about this in my original post.

But this just doesn't get any more clear, that Zionists are vehemently against Iran-US makeup!

Fleming said...

N., thanks very much. I'm now going to have a look that URL you included in your comment, as well as at your own blog.

joice said...

hi.. such an interesting place here. I was browsing around and ended up here through the blog neo-resistance.
I am brazilian and one of my blogs is supposed to be partly written in english too. So, I will link your blog there, you just let me know if this is not ok. I play with words for living too. see you, j.

Fleming said...

Joice, I am very happy that you have visited VIEW FROM THE MOON. Thanks for your comment. I especially thank you for placing links to my blog on your blog.

You're the first person from Brazil I've made contact with. Exciting! I've looked at your blog and will continue visiting there . . . looking for the pictures and the English parts!

How do you play with words for a living? For some reason I can't open your complete profile.

zealfredo said...

So, Fleming,
I am from Brazil too. I am here because joice watched my blog, and commented that.
Then, I watched Joice's blog and saw your comment there. Joice's blog is very interesting. So yours too.
And, by the way. That little post you have commented says something like "What fucking heat!". It is very hot in Brazil's south.

Fleming said...

Zealfredo, welcome! Thank you for commenting and for saying that my blog is interesting. It is great to have a visitor all the way from beautiful Brazil --- a place I'd love to see.

I've admire the appearance of your blogs but can't read them, except for the English in the Unix blog.

Please come back.

ben greenberg said...

I interviewed him very recently for CampusJ:

Ben Greenberg said...

I interviewed him recently for CampusJ at:

Fleming said...

Ben, thank you for your comment and for directing us to your interesting interview with Alvin Rosenfeld. Please come back and comment again.

Fleming said...

Ben, I meant to write this to you originally. Don't you think that Mr. Rosenfeld's (and some others') zeal for equating criticism of Israel with "antisemitism" in the sense of hatred of Jews, is a dangerous thing, in that it actually encourages non-Jews to lump "Jews" together with "Zionists" as Mr. Rosenfeld does?

In his answer to your first question, he refers to "the magnitude of the hostility towards Jews and the Jewish state which exists around the world." He speaks as if the two are inseparable. I am unaware of any general hostility toward Jews apart from hostililty toward Israel.

Compounding the unfortunate confusion is the fact that the ADL and others have been saying for decades that "Zionists" is a "code word" for "Jews". Basically, this kind of thing is meant to tar all critics of Israel with the "antisemitic" brush, and perhaps to frighten some Jews into the Zionist fold because they are supposedly disliked anyway. That is not good for anyone.