Reconciliation and understanding, not boycotts and exclusions

In the NY Times.

51 Responses to “Reconciliation and understanding, not boycotts and exclusions”

  1. benw Says:

    Hi David. Thanks for the link. I saw it a day or so ago when it first appeared on the NYT site, and I was struck by the following:

    “One of the young musicians, Qusai Samur, 17, looked blank when asked about the Holocaust. He said he knew only what somebody here had told him — that these people lived alone as children because their parents had been killed.”

    Someone who’s 17 is usually about to finish high school. Presumably this means that the PA’s high school curriculum contains nothing about the Holocaust. If this is correct, it’s quite shocking. Given the enormous significance of the Holocaust to Jews and its close relation with Israel’s founding, its omission from Palestinian text books would necessarily be a deliberate decision to hide this knowledge from the children. I can only think of one reason to do this: Because describing it would humanize the Jews of 1948 and make students sympathize with them, which would conflict with the PA’s desire to portray the Jews as the singularly evil aggressors who brought down the “Nakba” onto the innocent Palestinians, ejecting them from their God-given land.

    Someone, please prove me wrong. It’s simply too depressing to consider the fact that the PA may be deliberately brainwashing their young children to hate and dehumanize all the Israelis around them — how can peace ever happen in such an environment? But it all has a terrible logic to it — the most fundamental belief that the Palestinians hammer into their children repeatedly from a young age is of an unlimited right of return to Israel. In order to justify this and suppress all consideration of the effects such a mass movement would have on the Israelis, it seems to me that you need to convince children that your land was stolen from you outright in an act of pure evil with no mitigating circumstances. And in order to do that, as mentioned above, you need to dehumanize the Israelis. Teaching the Holocaust would probably fatally damage this goal.

    Again, someone please prove me wrong, please?

  2. Joshua Says:

    “She said that an Israeli playwright, Dan Almagor, had donated violins for the Jenin youths, and that the Mormon University in Jerusalem had given other instruments and equipment, but that the orchestra needed more.”

    It would be nice if Engage could organise an appeal for this as well as to pay for further trips to Israel.

  3. Mira Vogel Says:

    Read something recently that a large proportion of Arab Israeli school children think the Holocaust was made up.

    On the other hand this – Palestinian children sing for Holocaust survivors.

    And this paper in Teaching and Teacher Education

    • Joshua Says:

      ‘Isn’t Auschwitz the name of a beer?’

      “Auschwitz was the name of a type of beer or a religious festival, some British schoolchildren believe, according to the results of a survey published in London’s Telegraph on Monday.

      A survey of more than 1,000 secondary school pupils ages 11-16 revealed that a quarter did not know the purpose of the Nazi death camp.

      Of those, some 10 percent were not sure what it was, 10% believed it was a country bordering Germany, 2% thought it was a beer, 2% said it was a religious festival and 1% believed it was a type of bread.”

      • Bill Says:

        Joshua: forgetting that Auschwitz and the Holocaust is one helluva hole in the curriculum, humor me as I play a little devils advocate here (but giving no excuses by any means!).

        Give them a broader quiz on history (including the holocaust and british history as well), geography etc, and see how they fare overall. (For another example, google “Petition to Ban the Suffrage of Women” test). And give them some math and sentence diagraming too just to be a complete hard-ass and see what percentages you get. Break it down to those students who are bound for college and then curl up in a ball and cry like a baby.

        None of the above is intended to be funny, BTW. The cold fact is that the kids today ain’t getting the schoolhousin’ we got as kids. It upsets me to no end that they’re taught more to “care” about the world around them than to understand it. How do we expect kids and young adults as they start college (and go into certain coffee houses) to be clueless about Auschwitz and everything else and not be clueless about what is and isn’t antisemtic?

        • David Hirsh Says:

          Bill, you are beginning to sound like a real old fart.

        • Bill Says:

          The diagraming part gave it away didn’t it.

        • Brian Goldfarb Says:

          Actually, it was the bit when you said “and then curl up in a ball and cry like a baby” that gave you away, if only because I’d do the same. Pair of us sound like “real old farts”. Or, as David _might_ have said, “angry old men”, after a tv programme of the same name over here.

  4. Saul Says:

    Regardless of what is or is not taught in schools in Palestine; the fact that the 17 year old and others are now aware of it is surely part of the positive outcomes of this type of venture.

    It is hoped also that those who listened also became more aware of the situation that those same students also find themselves in; which, again, would be a positive outcome.

  5. Lynne T Says:


    Why the surprise? I understand that not all publicly funded schools in Britain include the Holocaust in the curriculum, and I’m not even sure that Canadian schools do either.

    And, franky, better that Palestinian children be taught nothing than be taught Holocaust denial. Education gaps can be addressed pretty readily. It’s much harder, if not impossible, to “unlearn” the lies and distortions of Holocaust denial.

    • benw Says:

      Lynne — true what you say about addressing education gaps vs. unlearning. But it still seems pretty depressing to me. It’s bad enough that some schools in Britain don’t address the Holocaust, but in Israel and Palestine it’s a fundamental part of understanding how the situation got the way it did and what motivates the demands that Israeli Jews make w.r.t. a potential peace agreement. Imagine if Jewish schoolchildren in Israel were taught nothing about the flight of Palestinian refugees in 1948?

  6. Lbnaz Says:

    It would be depressing if the NY article about the musicians from Jenin was connected to this YNet story:

    Jenin music center torched
    Directors believe fundamentalist elements set fire to center providing music lessons to some 80 kids from town and area
    Merav Yudilovitch
    Published: 03.18.09, 11:36 / Israel Culture

    A Jenin music center operated by the Ramallah-based al-Kamanjati organization was set on fire Monday night. The center’s directors said that they did not know who was behind the arson.

    The center, which ordinarily provides various music lessons for some 80 children, will be forced to shut down due to the severe damage to the structure and the musical instruments.

    Students arrive to the center from the Jenin refugee camp, the town of Jenin, and other neighboring communities.

    A statement to the press issued by the center defined the fire as “a crime against humanity and against the right of the Palestinian children and Palestinian society to culture and education.

    “Such acts will not deter us from continuing with our work, because music touches the soul and mind and helps them evolve, instead of materialism and walls.”

    Juliano Mer-Khamis, the founder and director of the Freedom Theater in Jenin, told Ynet: “This is part of an anti-cultural wave of arsons, from which we at the Freedom Theater also suffered.” Mer-Khamis was referring to a recent failed attempt to set the theater ablaze.

    “This feels like an assault on everything that represents culture and open thought. We at the theater received threats about a month ago, threats that were now realized at al-Kamanjati. There is a lot of tension here,” he stated.

    According to Mer-Khamis, the pressure has been mounting lately due to the recent boom in cultural endeavors in the area. In about six months a first cinema house is scheduled to open in Jenin, sponsored by the German government.

    Some fundamentalist elements feel threatened by this, he said. “The Palestinian Authority is making great efforts to catch the perpetrators. I assume that they have a religious affiliation, although the imam of Jenin stands behind us.

    “But there are quite a few elements, within Fatah as well, who believe that music and theater are a distraction. We’ve reached a critical junction, which I saw coming but feared from, and we will have to deal with it,” he concluded.

  7. Arieh Lebowitz Says:

    I shared this blog entry and the comments with a good number of ndividuals and institutions dealing with Holocaust-related education and reearch.

    FYI, the Christian Science Monitor also has an article on the same encounter / event:

  8. Jonathan Romer Says:

    This just in:

    “PA dismantles W.B. youth orchestra”

    Bill, Brian — you want more reasons to cry (and some company)?

  9. David Says:

    Apparently it’s OK for you to censor my cynical comments, but now one of the musicians has compared the Holocaust to Jenin. Will you say this is antisemitism, or perhaps you also will remove this posting?

    From Ynet: “Only people who have been through suffering understand each other,” added Zeid, who said his grandparents were Palestinian refugees forced to flee the northern city of Haifa during the war that followed Israel’s creation in 1948.

    • Brian Goldfarb Says:

      Oh come off it David, we’ve all had comments fail to appear, as you’ve been told before, indeed, one of my replies to you on another thread was edited out (not censored – the editors/moderators have _always_ reserved the right to edit these threads) and you were told _then_ by David H. that this happens and had happened to me more than once. I don’t complain about so-called “censorship”, however disappointed I am about failing to appear – and David H. knows this.

      Would you honestly expect every letter you write to the editor of a hard copy newspaper to appear, even in response to a presumed attack on you?

      I thought not.

  10. Absolute Observer Says:

    David Hirsh or anybody,
    Does anyone know how I can offer some financial aid for the rebuilding of this centre – i.e. an address, etc..

  11. Absolute Observer Says:

    I would really hope, that in the spirit of the East-West Divan Orchestra, invitations come pouring in for the orchestra in Jenin. (but, of course, they would only only be interrupted by prats like John Wight in the name of Palestinian Solidarity)

  12. Saul Says:

    Your comment is not cynical, just lacking in sensitivity.

    You state,
    “but now one of the musicians has compared the Holocaust to Jenin” and then follow it with a quote that says nothing whatseover about the Holocaust, but rather talks about “great suffering” (although in the context, that is probably what Zeid is referring to).

    No one here thinks that the Palestinians have not suffered. No one here thinks that the experience of the Holocaust denies or delegitimises people’s or peoples’ experience of their hardships, trials and “great sufferings”.
    No one here thinks that living in a refugee camp for some 60 or so years is not a “great suffering”.
    No one here does not recognise that both Jews and Palestinians and the people who comprise these people have suffered considerably and “greatly”.

    Zeid does not say that casue of the “great suffering” of the Palestinians is the same as the cause of Jews’ great suffering (although I should imagine Zeid does blame the Israelis for it and why not; it may not be the whole truth, but it is a large part of it. (A truth does not deny others’ responsibilities too; from the Brits, the Arab League, etc.).
    Zeid does not say that what the nazis did to the Jews is the same as what Israel is doing to the Palestinians.
    Zeid is not saying that it is because of the Holocaust that Jews/Israelis are doing the same to the Palestinians.

    Zeid is recognising that both people have suffered each in their own way; each of which constitues “great suffering”.

    To think otherwise is to think that in the antisemitic framework that portay Jews as thinking that not only do they have a “monopoly on suffering”, but “use” that “monopoly” to oppress others, to “silence debate”, to “blackmail the world”; that the Jews “great suffering” has inverted into a weapon, or as other less reputable folk call it “the Zionists main card”.

    So, no, Zeid’s comments are not antisemitic in the slightest.

    In their trip to Israel, these teenagers have found that not only the Palestinains, but also the Jews and the Israelis have also suffered greatly.

    One hopes that those who spoke to the players and read this story also learnt the nature of Palestinian suffering.

    A recognition that “great suffering” is shared by many and can come in many different forms is not antisemitic; never has been and never will be.

    That is what Zeid meant in the sentence that,
    “Only people who have been through suffering understand each other” (a view that I think, though poignant is not necessarily the case).

  13. Saul Says:

    n.b. compare Zeid’s comments with those of Adnan Hidni – i.e. the Jenin bureaucrat instrumental in disbanding the orchestra,

    “The Holocaust happened [!], but we are facing a similar massacre by the Jews themselves”.

    [a view immediately contradicted by the alleged substance of the “similarity”,
    “We lost our land and were forced to flee. and we’ve lived in refugee camps for the past fifty years”.]

    The difference between Zeid recognition of Jews’ suffering and the Palestinians and Hindi’s rhetoric is immediate and apparent.

    Moreover, it is the dignity and strength of Zeid’s comments that it confronts Palestinian suffering on its own terms and one that does not fall into the murky trap of Holocaust “soft-denial” not only to make his point; but also to bring that point into even greater relief in its own right.

  14. David Says:

    Brian – this is not a newspaper, it’s a blog. Thus the number of letters that are “published” is not limited in the same way. I would have thought that obvious. The excluded posting wasn’t a response to an “attack” on me. It was a comment that was meant to be provocative (and thus the exclusion, I presume) and critical of the criteria that I believe are used frequently by posters on this blog as SUFFICIENT to merit the accusation of antisemitism. I do not believe there’s anything wrong with me protesting that without your finger wagging. (In the end, the blog is owned by DH or whoever and is not a democracy, that’s fine of course).

    Back to the matter at hand. I believe there to have been many accusations of antisemitism posted here for the offense of comparing the Holocaust to the suffering of the Palestinians – without the list of additional qualifications that Saul has slapped on it. That was my point. I obviously don’t believe Zeid’s comments to be antisemitic, and think to claim that they are antisemitic is as ridiculous as claiming that anyone makes the statement that there’s a powerful Israel lobby has met the necessary conditions to be accused of antisemitism. As has been done here.

    • Brian Goldfarb Says:

      Tut, tut, David, now who’s taking things out of context. I said, if you re-read my comment, “even”, thus suggesting that if the paper had (or had permitted to be printed) attacked you, you might reasonably expect (but not demand) a right of reply. By your own admission, your unpublished comment was “provocative”, but didn’t necessarily advance the argument. You’re beginning to sound petulant. We’ve _all_ had comments not posted. If appropriate, we repeat them, if not, we shrug our shoulders amd move on.

      So move on.

  15. David Says:

    Oops. In my last sentence I meant “sufficient conditions, ” not “necessary conditions.”

  16. David Says:

    Saul, I’m interested to know whether you would consider Adnan Hidni’s comments to be antisemitic. (He appears to meet your qualified definition, does he not, or is yet more required?). Thanks.

  17. Saul Says:

    As another poster noted,

    “The Holocaust happened, but we are facing a similar massacre by the Jews themselves”

    Adnan Hindi, Head of Jenin Refugee Camp’s Popular Committee, as quoted in the Guardian March 30 2009.

    Holocaust denial by false analogy?”
    (I believe the term is “soft-denial).

    So, we have,

    1. Jews are nazis [See EUMC definition of antisemitism).
    “We didn’t incinerate Jews in Gas chambers as Jews have recently incinerated Palestinian children with White Phosphorus.”
    “And now, Jews in Israel are doing the same thing to Palestinians, Nazism’s vicarious victims.”


    2. What the Jews are doing to the Palestinians is what the nazis did to the Jews – denial of the essence of the Holocaust; the extermination of a people (see 1) and /or

    “the disgraceful concert in Tel Aviv comes on the heel of Israel’s genocidal assault in Gaza where Israeli warplanes showered the children, women and men of coastal enclave with White Phosphorus and other missiles and bombs of death while Israeli Jews were gleefully celebrating the “victory on Hamas” and Israeli rabbis preoccupied with classifying gentiles into “children of light” and “children of darkness.”

    (Is this not a breach of Churchill’s copyright?

    3. That the Jews are embarked on the extermination of the Palestinians.

    “Well, again the Nazi analogy is inescapable. Just imagine surviving Jewish children from Treblinka or Bergen Belsen made to sing to SS soldiers!!”

    4. If the nazis did to the Jews what the Jews are doing to the Palestinian’s then there was no Holocaust.

  18. Absolute Observer Says:

    Ask yourself who uses the Holocaust analogy and why?
    Ask yourself about the rhetorical claim of Jews as Nazis and its conflict/treatment of Palestinians as genocide?
    Ask yourself what it says about the nature of the Israeli State and its continued presence of Israel as a Jewish State?
    Ask yourself what it says about Jews?

  19. Saul Says:

    To clarify.

    Comparisons with the Holocaust are not of themselves antisemitic (one thinks immediately of Rwanda, of Serbia).

    Likewise the unthinking comparisons made in the past between the US government and police as “nazis” is not antisemitic. Just bloody stupid.

    As the comparison of the conflict in and between Israel and Palestine they are.

    The comparison not only ties Israel forever to nazism and nazism’s crimes, but also, as a consequence, turns Zionists into nazis and turns its crimes into nazi-like crimes.
    To paraphrase that well-known term – Israel becomes nazism by another means (or, rather, another word)
    It means that anyone who thinks Israel should not disappear is a supporter of nazism, and, therefore, turns the majority of Jews into supporters of nazism at best, and actual nazis at worse.

    It labels Jews and Israel nazis – that is, saying that Jews have adopted the very same characteristics of those who tried to exterminate them; that they themselves have become one with their exterminators – is antisemitic.

    Moreover, in turning Jews to nazis, it correspondingly turns the maxim “never again” into a weapon to be used against Jews in a post-Holocaust world.
    The Holocaust, the extermination of Jews, the Jews’ darkest moment in their entire history, becomes nothing other than a sledgehammer to be used against Jews and the continued existence of the Jewish state.

    That is why, in this context, the comparison of the Holocaust with what is going on in Israel and Palestine is antisemitic.


  20. Saul Says:

    And, as an afterthought,

    It acts so as to legitimase hostility to Jews – antisemitism – into a “respectable” anti-nazi position (an alleged hallmark, not only of, the left, but of any and all decent people – after all, apart from nazis, who else supports nazism?)

  21. David Says:

    I don’t have a strong view on this, but I’m trying to formulate one.

    I have heard many people, including many Jews (and not anti-Zionists) say “You would think that after everything the Jews have suffered, they would not treat the Palestinians so brutally.” Or even, “After what the Nazis did to us…”

    It seems to me there’s a comparison with the Nazis being made in those statements, but I find it hard to accept that such sentiments in isolation are antisemitic, at least separately from a whole lot of other stuff.

    It may be unpleasant to hear, especially from gentiles and especially for ardent supporters of Israel, but I don’t accept the unthinking comparison as antisemitic, or its speaker as an antisemite. When my grandfather says “I can’t believe that little Nazi Lieberman is Israel’s foreign minister,” he’s exaggerating. When he says “after what the Nazis did to us…” he certainly isn’t saying that Jews are supporters of Nazism. And he certainly isn’t an antisemite.

    I think that once again you’ve made a huge leap of reasoning and attributed a whole set of intentions and meaning that, as often as not, just isn’t there. The mere mention of a comparison doesn’t have to mean most of the things you claim (e.g. “that anyone who thinks Israel should not disappear is a supporter of nazism, and, therefore, turns the majority of Jews into supporters of nazism at best, and actual nazis at worse.”).

    Certainly SOME intend it that way (e.g. Adnan Hindi) and they know it’s hurtful to Jews. (Perhaps Palestinians feel really hurt when Israeli Rightists claim there’s no such thing as a “Palestinian.”. And they also know that the Holocaust is used by Israelis for an assortment of political purposes, so perhaps they don’t feel much of an obligation not to “take off the gloves.” That doesn’t justify it, but it certainly puts it into a context that may be hard for us to understand. I think some subtlety of analysis is required in these cases).

    But just because SOME people intend a full-blown comparison of Jews and Nazis for all the reasons you have suggested and quoted, that doesn’t mean that old Sol Feingold also means those things.

    Perhaps you intend your examples to constitute the definition, rather than your separate broader statement (please clarify):
    “Comparisons with the Holocaust are not of themselves antisemitic … As the comparison of the conflict in and between Israel and Palestine they are. ”

    Just how much of a comparison does one have to make before “J’Accuse” kicks in?

  22. Saul Says:

    The idea that Jews “should know better” is antisemitic (whether by intention or not).

    It turns the Holocaust into a moral lesson – one the Jews have failed to learn. That “even after all that” they still behave like that” type of thing.

    It also chimes with the notion of Jews as “immoral” or “amoral”.

    It also comes with its dialectical other – that the Holocaust has damaged the Jews and has made them aggressive, defensive, etc.

    (There is a rather unpleasant thread relating to Judith Suissa’s letter to the Guardian on just this issue elsewhere on Engage. It may be worth you looking at that.)

    In other words, either the Jews are perceived as immoral/amoral or aggressive. Either way, they still appear to be trapped in the Holocaust. They are said to be damaged and are unable to act like any other Peoples (who have worked through “their trauma”. Fackenheim’s 613th Commandment comes to mind here. The Jews are “acting out” and the reason given is the fact that they were victims of a vicsious terror.

    As to the rest. I think the view I had before, that you note, is too abstract; too dogmatic. Context is important.

    In this instance, the comments made by Hindni and some web sites, are antisemitic for the reasons noted. Those by Zeid are not.

    One has to take it as it comes, and not decide a priori.

  23. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    Context is vital, not just important. But it goes further. Firstly, Jews can, indeed, be antisemitic: why should it follow that Jews must love (or at least not hate) their fellow Jews as a group? Remember also Anthony Julius’s comment that IJV, JfJfP, etc, are not self-hating Jews “…it’s their parents they hate”.

    Arguably more importantly is the idea _behind_ the assertion that “after all that, Jews should know better”, whether stated by Jews, non-Jews or, indeed, those who hate Jews and Israel(is). The underlying thought is that what Israelis are doing is comparable to what the Nazis did to the Jews of Europe. As we know (as we should know, if we use multiple sources of reporting), whatever it is that the Israelis are doing to the Palestinians, it isn’t an effort to exterminate them. Nor is it an effort to pen them in concentration camps – remember that the Israelis did not create, develop or continue the refugee camps of Gaza, the West Bank or Lebanon – the Arab nations who controlled those places did, Further, after 1967, the Israelis were expressly forbidden by the UN to dismantle these abominations. Would that Israeli had had the courage or wit to ignore the UN and dismantle these places and replace them with modern housing and solicit aid to develop the West Bank and Gaza economically. I know, I know, “if wishes were horses, beggars would ride”. Nor is what is happening in Gaza in 2008-09 remotely comparable to what happened in the Warsaw Ghetto, 1941-44.

    Nor can anyone find any mass graves in Gaza, the West Bank or anywhere else, of Palestinians slaughtered by the Israelis and the bodies dumped, unlike those uncovered in Bosnia – heart of civilised Europe, anyone?

    We have to (or _should_) start from the position that Israel is a state like any other, certainly, at the very least, any other born since the end of World War 2. As such, it should be treated like the others, but isn’t. Israel is held by the anti-Zionists to higher standards than, eg, Sudan, China, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Chile (in the 1970sand 80s), and so forth. Must I refer people, _yet again_, to Tom Hickey’s racist and antisemitic outburst in the online edition of the BMJ, July 2007?

    So the answer to anyone, Jew or non-Jew who voices the view that the Jews or Israelis should know better (whether it’s because of what happened to them or not), might, perhaps, best be, “Possibly, but, if so, so should Sudanese, Rwandans, Chinese, Saudis, Syrians, etc, etc., for the same reason – the ghastly example of what hatred can do if left uncontrolled”.

  24. David Says:

    Well I’m going to have to disagree with you on this.

    Your arguments are premised on the idea that “Jews should know better” is identical with “THE JEWS should know better.” (Saul has conveniently inserting the definite article into all his mentions!)

    It is absolutely and demonstrably false to state that all attributions to individual Jews or groups of Jews (including by other Jews!) are synonymous with attributions to “The Jews.” Not only false but actually one of the essences of racism itself!

    Moreover, if I say that “We Jews should know better” I am not attributing to Jews (as individuals or as a group) any of the things you state above – that Jews are immoral, amoral, aggressive, trapped in the Holocaust. That is utter nonsense. I absolutely refuse to accept that such a statement, on its own is antisemitic.

    I don’t believe that it’s racist to believe that groups of people should learn from their experiences, whether these are moral lessons or anything else. Is it racist for African Americans to use the history of their own oppression to argue against color discrimination among their own? Is it antisemitic for the Torah to state that we should learn a moral lesson from our own experience as a minority!?!

    If you have a theory the result of which is that the Torah itself is antisemitic, I would suggest discarding that theory!

    • Brian Goldfarb Says:

      If your comments are aimed at me, David, then you have mounted an ad hominem attack on me, based on nothing I said. I certainly did not say “Moreover, if I say that “We Jews should know better” I am not attributing to Jews (as individuals or as a group) any of the things you state above – that Jews are immoral, amoral, aggressive, trapped in the Holocaust.”

      If your comments are directed at Saul, say so: he certainly acquits himself nobly. If at me, then reread and rewrite, or at least respond to what I _actually_ said, not what you impute me as saying.

      Otherwise, what Saul says, up to and including his comments on the Torah.

      • Brian Goldfarb Says:

        Sorry for the mis writing of the quote: I should have said that I do not attribute any of the qualities ascribed to “the Jews”, let alone “Jews” that David asserts follow from the quote inside the quote. It is impossible to distill that from my previous comment.

        And, to repeat myself, if David is referring to Saul, then say so.

        • David Says:

          Please try to follow the object of the sentence:

          “Moreover, if I say that “We Jews should know better” I am not attributing to Jews (as individuals or as a group) any of the things you state above – that Jews are immoral, amoral, aggressive, trapped in the Holocaust. That is utter nonsense. I absolutely refuse to accept that such a statement, on its own is antisemitic.”

        • Brian Goldfarb Says:

          No, David, _your_ argument is based on asserting that “[Brian’s] arguments are premised on the idea that “Jews should know better” is identical with “THE JEWS should know better.” I made, make and will not make any such assumption.

          This is becoming typical of the way you respond, certainly to me. I made a perfectly valid argument as to whether assertions that Jews (whether it is all of them, some of them or only a handful, it matters not which) should know better was tantamount to singling out Jews and Israelis as somehow different from everyone else, and also threatened to treat Israel from all other nations.

          Nor can it be asserted that anything I said is equivalent to saying that “It is absolutely and demonstrably false to state that all attributions to individual Jews or groups of Jews (including by other Jews!) are synonymous with attributions to “The Jews.” Not only false but actually one of the essences of racism itself!” This is unequivocally _your_ false interpretation of what you wish I had said, or what you wish I could be imputed as having said.

          Your very first comment to something I wrote was “”Who on earth is/was Salo Baron?”
          I presume you are joking…if not as someone who has chosen to make something of the fact that you are a sociologist, you have just demonstrated a level of ignorance for which you should be thoroughly embarrassed. At the very least, you have made it clear that your academic position qualifications have absolutely no bearing on the significance or relevance to your comments on anything Jewish”.

          This was, rude, insulting, an attempt at character assassination and ad hominem attack on me – all the things you go on through your comments on that thread to accuse others of doing to you: not surprising, really, when you _start_ off like this, that others might well respond in kind. You deliberately decide to take no notice of the comment designed to offer a reason as to why I might have no knowledge of the historian in question. You prefer to traduce me.

          Please note that at no time do I raise the names of eminent sociologists whose writings might have a bearing on the matters debated here. Nor do I ever suggest, let alone state outright, that anyone who hasn’t heard, and read every word, of X is an intellectual ignoramus beneath contempt. But it’s an accusation you are fond of making.

          Further, until the very last comment of yours on that thread (before the moderator chose to close the thread), you made no reference to the _real_ reason for your ad hominem attack and attempt at character assination of me. It was because I had noted Anthony Lerman’s latest attempt to blame Jews in general for the rise in antisemitism across the west. He referred to Baron and _his_ reference to “lachrymose Jews”, and used this to say that until Jews started _not_ supporting Israel, antisemitism would continue (blaming the victims, _yet again_).

          This is that last comment, not quite in full:
          “Brian: The first comment on this thread consisted of your ad hominem attack on Tony Lerman. That’s all there is to it.

          You seem to have been unable to stomach any questioning of your knowledge of Jewish history…, even though you constantly parade around your own academic credentials.

          …I will join…the LONG list of those who…have been run off by the self-righteous crowd that seems to think character assassination on the Engage blog has some connection to fighting antisemitism…”

          Note that David _hasn’t_ been run off, but has come back. Note also that the above comment is his first mention of my allegedly ad hominem attack on Lerman (anyone going back to that article and the link to Lerman will say that I was far from ad hominem). Note also that he complained constantly of people being rude and insulting to him.

          But note also that his very first comment on me is everything he says others have inflicted on him. Note that he prefers to distort what others have done to defending Lerman from people like me – assuming that he thinks Lerman is worth defending, why didn’t he do this in his first comment? And if _my_ knowledge of and right to comment on Jewish history is so lamentable, how do we _his_ is any better? Or must we take his (suspect) word for it?

  25. David Says:

    The Torah specifically says “You were strangers in the land of Egypt” and that there are moral and political lessons to be learned from that experience in the treatment of other minorities by “The Jews” (in this case).

    If someone (including, perhaps, other Jews) says that “The Jews” or some Jews are not following this commandment, are they therefore saying that “The Jews” are immoral, aggressive and like Pharoah and the Egyptians (who enslaved the Children of Israel and murdered all their first-born male children)?? Of course not.

    Is it wrong for the Torah to reference that treatment by the Egyptians as a moral lesson to be learned by the Jews (slavery, mass murder, deliberate murder of children)? Is it antisemitic?

    If I said that after what we had been through in Egypt, after what the Egyptians did to us, you’d think “we” (or “they”) would have learned a moral lesson, does that make me antisemitic?

    Because this is precisely what the Torah states, clearly and unambiguously.

    I think that if someone says, nastily and with a sneer, “You Jews haven’t learned your lesson” or some such comment, it would indicate to me that this person dislikes Jews and is an antisemite. But merely referencing the notion of a moral lesson is not antisemitic.

    You can argue about whether Israel or any Jews are behaving like the Nazis or Pharaoh – (and of course they are not, and the suggestion MIGHT be evidence of a dislike of Jews) – but that is an argument over facts, and not an sufficient condition for someone to be an antisemite.

    Maybe you don’t disagree with me now, as you agree that the context is vital and important. All I’m saying is “be careful.”

  26. Saul Says:

    Most of your argument is abstract, and taken outside the context in which I was discussing.

    1.”The Torah specifically says”

    I think it was Marx who said that the time has passed to turn history into supersition.

    We are talking about an event in the 21st century. A poilitical event with political causes.
    And since when has the Torah a single interpetation.

    2. What moral lesson should be learnt from Passover? What bits should we actually remember?
    That “we” should universalise “our” oppression?
    Or that “we” should lay waste to another land, inflict its inhabitants with plagues, boils, etc. and, finally wipe out the first born and wipe out and drown an entire army?

    3. Please note the specific situation in which I said that the idea of “learning a lesson” turns the Holocaust into a allegedly moral learning experience. (Since it relates specifically to the Jews and to the Holocaust an to Israel.
    and to Gaza, the analogies with SA, etc. are not valid. Indeed, it is not used, other than by racists, in the post-colonial setting)

    4. Likewise, what ethical lesson is to be learnt from the Holocaust?

    That Jews should never be vulnerable again; that Jews must have their own state; that Jews must protect themselves by all means possible.

    You see the trouble with the “Ethics/Lesson” argument is, not only does it tie Jews/Israel to the Holocaust in an unmediated dialecitic, bur as with all such categories is deeply equivocal.

    4. The use of the definitive article was made purposely, since antisemitism works through conceptualising Jews into “the Jews”; and, since I am highlighting how antisemitism currently manifests itself, it seemed appropriate. As in “How can “the Jews” do such a thing?

    You also take ethics to be a law, a judgement, rather than an (always faliling) ideal.
    I think we would agree that Christianity and Islam and Hinduism are all religions of peace.
    All of them have fought wars, carried out injustices.
    Ethics always appear as absolute. Ethics are the “main selling point” of all religions. Consequently, human acts will always fail and will always be “guilty” in the face of that absolute.
    Ultimately, the ethics argument is hollow. But, in the present case, it is also a weapon to beat the Jews with, a weapon that, paradoxically, is rooted in their being marked for extermination.

  27. Saul Says:

    One further point.

    In an relatively temperate manner[!] AO posed a series of pertinent questions.

    Ethics and recourse to ethics do not work in a vaccum.

    In the present instance, it is in the context of the Israel/Palestine conflict.

    In this sense, the ethics argument is being used as a political tool. It is yet another means through which to delegitimse and demonise Israel and its Jewish (and non-Jewish) support.

    Its message chimes with the old one that Jews are unethical (See Kant and many others), Indeed, this presentation of the Jews (definitive article) is radicalised by their being the subject of extermination.

    It is currently part and parcel of the Israel/nazi connection. It defines Israel by the Holocaust and implies the flipping of terms.

    It is vile.

  28. David Says:

    Saul, The FALSE logical structure of your argument is as follows:
    (a) All Antisemites make negative attributions to individual Jews or groups of Jews which are meant to slander THE JEWS. (b) Person X makes a negative attribution to a Jew. Therefore (c) Person X is an antisemite.
    This is the same as “All crows are black, X is a black, therefore X is a crow.”

    If you replace premise (a) with All negative attributions to individual Jews or groups of Jews are meant to slander THE JEWS then the logic works. But then the premise is clearly false.

    As for the Torah, I don’t mean to assert its validity. But I think if the result of a definition of antisemitism has such an outrageously counter-intuitive result as that the Torah is antisemitic, then the theory needs to be replaced!

    (And your “many interpretations” claim is disingenous: The Torah is quite clear in the category of lesson to be learned, and it’s not to kill the “stranger’s ” firstborn etc as you suggest it might be: “When a stranger resides with you in your land, you shall not wrong him. The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as one of your citizens. You shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt; I am the Lord your God.” ).

    It seems that you are heading in the direction of saying that any use of the Holocaust as a “moral lesson” for the Jews is, by definition antisemitic based purely on an a priori reading of “context.” Of course, that’s totally circular reasoning. (I have no idea what an “unmediated dialectic” is – please can you define it?).

    All this I think answers AO’s “Ask Yourself” questions. Do you feel lucky?

  29. Absolutely Observer Says:

    “All negative attributions to individual Jews or groups of Jews are meant to slander THE JEWS then the logic works. But then the premise is clearly false.”

    Not at all. Depends of course on the negative attribution.
    “You (individual Jew) have not learnt your moral lesson” can only be a “negative attribution” in terms of a generalised view of you (Jews) needing to learn (and failing) a moral lesson from their extermination; i.e. one that is only meaningful in terms of a normative view of Jews, a norm that particular individual has failed, as well as the more troublesome aspect of the Holocaust as a “moral” event or moral “lesson” (a view of the Holocaust that is a stock in trade of antisemites – i.e. the Jews has a lesson coming to them and still they do not learn!)

    “You” here, is understood in it singularity but is meaningful only in its plurality.

    The negative attribute is brought into relief by the collectivity.

  30. Saul Says:

    Apologies, Absolute Obsever, the above post is from me.
    Not for the first time, I was thinking of Absolute Observer’s comments when filling in the box!!

  31. Saul Says:

    One could put it in starker terms.

    Assuming that the very idea of a “moral lesson” is premised upon an antisemitic reading of the Holocaust as a lesson Jews needed to learn (that’ll teach them declaring war against us Aryans), any norm that emerges from it cannot escape its original premise – even the “philosemitic” one of the “good Jew” who has learnt his or her lesson.

  32. Absolute Observer Says:

    Saul, can’t even get your own name right!!
    Sharp, real sharp!!

  33. David Says:

    Saul: The logic only works if the premise is “All negative attributions…”

    How about you come up with a different premise that might work? Perhaps “All negative attributions to individual Jews…that draw a moral lesson from the Holocaust…”?? But that seems clearly false too. You need to be specific about precisely which attributions you mean, otherwise the logic is along the famous “all crows” example ie invalid. I don’t think you can come with something that won’t restrict the massively and overly wide net which you cast. That is my whole point.

    You state the following: “Assuming that the very idea of a “moral lesson” is premised upon an antisemitic reading of the Holocaust as a lesson Jews needed to learn…”

    If there’s an antisemitic reading of the Holocaust to begin with, then the logic is circular. That’s like saying “If X is an antisemite, then he’s an antisemite.”

  34. Saul Says:

    “If there’s an antisemitic reading of the Holocaust to begin with, then the logic is circular. That’s like saying “If X is an antisemite, then he’s an antisemite.”


    And that is but the beginning of critical thought.

    It’s been good chatting with you.

    Have a good Passover/Easter/Spring holiday.

  35. Saul Says:

    Oh, and one last thought before the season of bunnies, chocolate and matzo.

    On reflection, your formulations is wrong as it is framed.

    The formulation should not be,
    “If there’s an antisemitic reading of the Holocaust to begin with, then the logic is circular. That’s like saying “If X is an antisemite, then he’s an antisemite.”

    But, rather,
    “If there’s an antisemitic reading of Israel (as a Jewish state) to begin with, then the logic is circular. That’s like saying “If X is an antisemite, then he’s an antisemite.”

    Thus, the entire question is false, or rather loaded.

    The “moral lesson” Jews, and apparently only Jews, are meant to have learnt from the attempted total extermination is that extermination (since that is what the Holocaust was) is immoral.

    (What other lesson could be “learnt”, by the Jews and only the Jews, since this is precisely the “original” or “unique” aspect that defines the Holocaust itself.

    (“Administered killings” (but not complete extermination, the mark of the Holocaust) had been as aspect of Western policy (i.e. in the “colonies”) since, at least the late 19th century.
    If that is the case, then one can hardly say that only the victims of the Holocaust have a “lesson to learn” any more than India and many Africans states, not to mention the European “administrators” themselves.)

    So, the lesson not learnt – as well as the line being crossed – is said to be that the Jews and the Jewish state have not learnt that extermination (or, rather, total extermination) is immoral; that because the Jews were the object of total extermination, they shouldn’t be doing to others what was done to themselves (i.e. exterminate others).

    In other words, the entire “moral lesson” “argument” implies that what the Jews and the Jewish state is doing, say, in Gaza, is “exactly the same” as “unique”, so to speak, as what happened to the Jews of Europe – not onyl extermination, but total extermination, which is, of course, patent nonsense (including extermination per se) (After all, what other “moral lesson” would be specific to Jews and only Jews, as opposed to many, many, many, other states in the world?)

    The entire “moral lesson” “argument” as it relates to the Holocaust, is (yet another) claim to the idea that what the Nazis did the the Jews, the Jews are doing to the Palestinians.

    Not only is this empirically false, but according to both common sense and the EUMC, antisemitic.

    Again, good chatting with you.

    Take care,

  36. David Says:

    I can see I’m not getting anywhere trying to point out the cirularity in your logic, as you seem to think it’s OK to to use a premise y ou consider true a prioro to prove a conclusion that amounts to the same thing. But your premise cannot possibly be true a priori, as there are so many counter-examples that prove the premise not to be univerally true, as well as conclusions that are outrageously counter-intuitive.

    Try this one:

    If I was repeatedly beaten up as a child by the school bully, could I learn a lesson from it about being nice to people who are vulnerable? I assume so.

    If I am later unkind to Jimmy, who is in a vulnerable situation, is it somehow wrong for someone to say that “After the way you were treated as a child, one would think you’d be more kind to Jimmy. After all, he’s in a vulnerable position.”

    But your argument assumes this person is making all sort of other accusations that they are patently NOT making: That I am doing the same to Jimmy as was done to me (ie beating him up). That the person is making all sorts of aspersions about my character, that this person hates me in a unique way etc etc etc.

    Of course, that would be utterly ridiculous.

    A Happy Pesach or whatever you may celebrate to you too 🙂

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