Expliaiing the new Anti-Zionism/Anti-Semitism

Explaining the New Anti-Semitism/Anti-Zionism

by

Howard Adelman

Introduction

In part 1 I have included my son Jeremy’s response to my blog on “The New Anti-Semitism?” as he wrote it. In part 2, I repeat what he wrote but broken down into ten points and then include my responses to each point. In part 3, the most important, I convert the comments and responses into an argument and thesis explaining the phenomenon. Because there is a lot of repetition, if you do not require the repetition for comprehension, I advise you to skip reading the first two sections and simply jump to the third. However, if you need repetition for comprehension and/or if you are interested in one of the methods I use, you might be interested in following the process through.

Part 1: Jeremy’s Response (unedited)

I like this piece a lot.  There’s a feeling in the air (speaking historiographically) that the trentes glorieuses (1945-75) — or Since 1980, we’ve seen slower growth, more social exclusion, rising inequality, and fundamentalisms of all sorts the Mad Magazine Moment — look pretty good in retrospect: economic growth, social inclusion, pluralism, and the spread to democracy even in places that seemed allergic to it.  Jews were, one might say, were big beneficiaries.  Anti-Semitism waned, but so did other forms of bigotry

A paradox of globalization is that it has yielded more multi-cultural societies yet less social mobility. (Though, it’s worth saying, there is a lot of variation — Canada is remarkable for being so inclusive and having high rates of social mobility; the data comparing Canada to the US is really illuminating.  See Miles Corak’s work: http://milescorak.com/).  We are so befuddled because we live in worlds that are more and more mixed and yet display more and more friction.  And when the economy is not spreading the pie, the frictions rise. .  .  (The jury on democracy, paradoxically, came out in favor — though in the last 15 years we’ve seen backsliding on that front, too).

One effect (some might say the cause) of the wearing out of the social fabric that buoyed the tolerance and inclusion of the trentes glorieuses is the validation of one kind of argument about personal identity — that it is under threat, which justifies lashing out against what are perceived to be hostile forces.  My friend Dan Rodgers’ book, The Age of Fracture, is brilliant on this dissolution of the concept of “society.”

Increasingly, personal identities under threat need Safety Zones.  Maybe this is a phenomenon that’s restricted to American universities, which are increasingly seen as institutions that should defend Safety Zones.  But as one of my students, a Jew, noted in my seminar this semester after our discussion of Hannah Arendt’s Eichmann in Jerusalem, he felt that the kind of open talk we’d just had about compassion (in this case, we were debating whether Arendt lacked compassion), was really rare.  I was surprised.  Asked to explain, he told the rest of the class that he felt that students and professors shied away from talking about social tensions.  Classes in engineering were, in a sense, danger-free zones.  History had become perilous.

Something to consider: what’s the difference between renewed anti-Semitism and the more general rise in intolerance in which perceived slights or “micro-aggressions” are taken as hostile acts directed at others for their group traits?  In the eyes of some, Israel’s right to exist should be rescinded because it is a state — they claim — committed to exclusion.  That’s not so new.  The new twist is that now, people who defend that kind of state’s right to exist belong to the camp of micro-aggressors.  To defend Israel’s right to exist is an act of aggression.  The argument goes beyond Israel, though last summer’s war made it a lightning rod.  Universities across the US are under assault as institutions for defending free speech and open inquiry that shut down the Safety Zones.  The president of Princeton was publicly heckled by students at a service in which he tried to defend pluralism and encounters; he was condoning racism.

I think the question addresses your query about continuity vs discontinuity.  Is the new anti-Semitism new, or old?  I tend to think it’s new, and part of a Zeitgeist about the status of arguments about victimhood, its causes and its remedies.  During the Mad Magazine Moment, the view was that social policies and public institutions (including the creation of nation-states to support them, like Israel or Ghana) should act as vehicles for inclusion.  Now, those policies and institutions are treated as the threat because inclusion is seen to undermine the recognition of victims of “aggression.”

What I don’t know is whether this is a peculiarly American phenomenon.  From what I can tell, it’s not.  The French, too, are getting tied in knots over inclusion vs recognition.

Part 2: Breaking the Response into Points and Comments in CAPITALS

  1. The Mad Magazine Moment — looks pretty good in retrospect: economic growth, social inclusion, pluralism, and the spread to democracy even in places that seemed allergic to it.  Jews were, one might say, big beneficiaries.  Anti-Semitism waned, but so did other forms of bigotry;

YES

  1. A paradox of globalization is that it has yielded more multi-cultural societies yet less social mobility. (Though, it’s worth saying, there is a lot of variation — Canada is remarkable for being so inclusive andhaving high rates of social mobility; the data comparing Canada to the US is really illuminating.  See Miles Corak’s work: http://milescorak.com/).  We are so befuddled because we live in worlds that are more and more mixed and yet display more and more friction.  And when the economy is not spreading the pie, the frictions rise. .  .  (The jury on democracy, paradoxically, came out in favor — though in the last 15 years we’ve seen backsliding on that front, too).

YES

  1. One effect (some might say the cause) of the wearing out of the social fabric that buoyed the tolerance and inclusion of the trentes glorieusesis the validation of one kind of argument about personal identity — that it is under threat, which justifies lashing out against what are perceived to be hostile forces.  My friend Dan Rodgers’ book, The Age of Fracture, is brilliant on this dissolution of the concept of “society.”

VERY INTERESTING. I WILL READ THE BOOK. DOES HE EXPLAIN WHY QUESTIONS ABOUT PERSONAL IDENTITY TRUMP OTHER ISSUES? WHY BLAME CERTAIN INSTITUTIONS AND PRACTICES AS RESPONSIBLE FOR THE THREAT TO IDENTITY?

  1. Increasingly, personal identities under threat need Safety Zones. American universities, which are increasingly seen as institutions, should defend Safety Zones.  One of my students, a Jew, felt that students and professors shied away from talking about social tensions.  Classes in engineering were, in a sense, danger-free zones.  History had become perilous.

WHY ARE THE SOCIAL SCIENCES AND HUMANITIES DEPICTED AS PART OF THE THREAT RATHER THAN SAFETY ZONES?

  1. Something to consider: what’s the difference between renewed anti-Semitism and the more general rise in intolerance in which perceived slights or “micro-aggressions” are taken as hostile acts directed at others for their group traits?

WHY DO MICRO-AGGRESSORS TARGET OTHERS FOR THEIR GROUP TRAITS AS THE SOURCE OF THREAT? WHY, IN PARTICULAR, FOCUS ON JEWS?

  1. In the eyes of some, Israel’s right to exist should be rescinded because it is a state — they claim — committed to exclusion.  That’s not so new.  The new twist is that now, people who attack [my emendation], Israel’s right to exist belong to the camp of micro-aggressors.  To defend Israel’s right to exist is perceived as an act of aggression.

I NEED TO THINK MORE ABOUT THE CONNECTION BETWEEN MICRO-AGGRESSORS AND THE ATTACK ON JEWS AND ISRAEL.

  1. Universities across the US are under assault as institutions for defending free speech and open inquiry that shut down the Safety Zones.  The president of Princeton was publicly heckled by students at a service in which he tried to defend pluralism and encounters; he was accused of condoning racism.

I NEED TO THINK ABOUT THE CONNECTION BETWEEN MICRO-AGGRESSION AND UNIVERSITIES AS A TARGET.

  1. Is the new anti-Semitism new, or old?  I tend to think it’s new, and part of a Zeitgeist about the status of arguments about victimhood, its causes and its remedies.

PERCEIVED VICTIMHOOD CONVERTS TO VICTIMIZING JEWS AND ISRAEL

  1. During the Mad Magazine Moment, the view was that social policies and public institutions (including the creation of nation-states to support them, like Israel or Ghana) should act as vehicles for inclusion.  Now, those policies and institutions are treated as the threat because inclusion is seen to undermine the recognition of victims of “aggression.”

UNIVERSITIES ARE TARGETED AS THREAT BECAUSE THEY PLACE THE HIGHEST VALUE ON RIGHTS, ON KNOWLEDGE, ON TRUTH, ON CONSISTENCY, ON CORRESPONDENCE WITH FACTS, NAMELY VALUES CONNECTED WITH THE IMPERSONAL AND UNIVERSAL VERSUS THE PERSONAL AND PARTICULAR RELATED TO IDENTITY. THE CLAIM FOR UNIVERSALITY IS PERCEIVED AS A CLOAK USED TO COVER A PERSONAL IDENTITY, HENCE, UNIVERSALITY AND THE IMPERSONAL ARE REGARDED AS MAGIC TRICKS AND ILLUSIONS AT ODDS WITH THE EXPRESSION OF AN AUTHENTIC PERSONAL IDENTITY.

  1. Is this is a peculiarly American phenomenon?  From what I can tell, it’s not.   Frhttp://www.bing.com/images/search?q=Alfred+E.+Newman%27s+face&id=39FF790EBC02341069AA65EFFFD81AD7BA51FB39&FORM=IQFRBA The French, too, are getting tied in knots over inclusion vs recognition.

A UNIVERSAL PHENOMENON WITH DIFFERENT EXPRESSIONS IN DIFFEENT COUNTRIES. IN FRANCE WITH THE STATE IDEOLOGY EQUATED WITH SECULARIZATION, THE STATE IS A THREAT TO PERSONAL IDENTITY EXPRESSED THROUGH CLOTHING THAT CHALLENGES THE SECULAR FAITH IN LAÏICITÉ.

Reflections and Considerations

  1. The Mad Magazine Moment epitomized by the character of Mad Magazine which satirized the fetishizing of differences, either as positives or negatives. Perceived differences were seen to be both contingent and particular rather than eternal and universal (racism). Hence, the waning of anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry and the heyday of the university as a social service station as an authentic universalist foundation committed to the resolution of social ills. But the contradictions were obvious. Look at Alfred E. Newman, the mascot of the magazine.

His eyes are misaligned so that what he sees is disjointed and at odds rather than synthesized into a coherent picture. He has a gap-toothed smile, a broad nose and cauliflower protruding ears intended to catch every nuance which only makes him grin even more at the incongruencies and disjunctures. His bulbous cheeks and tussled red hair convey at once a healthy skepticism and bemusement. The sign that he wears – “What me worry?” – satirizes the exaggerated self-confidence self-satisfaction and faith in progress and blindness to the contradictions of this new triumphalist liberal faith.

  1. Globalization, which was supposed to be the extension of that faith to take in the entire world, ends up enhancing and expanding differences instead of reducing inequalities.
  2. Therefore, what was seen as the solution for identity problems gets blamed as the cause of those problems.
  3. The social sciences and humanities are the weak link in this vision of the university as borders between disciplines dissolve, and as a belief in a classic body of knowledge necessary for professional practice disintegrates and is reconceived as an agent of repression rather than a permit for freedom. The belief in a singular methodology for a discipline fractures and disintegrates so that, in the extreme, in the postmodern moment, there is neither method nor subject matter nor discipline.
  4. Jews are particularly targeted because they, specifically those Jews who have not discarded their group identity into the ash heap of history, remain affiliated instead of restless and rebellious, because they have retained a group identity but claim to be and occupy many of the pinnacles of the old universal institutional order and its faith in objectivity and universality. How can you be consistent and coherent if you carry your particularity up with you to the pinnacle of the ivory tower? The Jewish utopians who have abandoned their particularity fail to recognize that their selectivity, the passion and venom behind their denunciations of such contradictory behaviour, reveals in a much starker light their own internal contradictions between passion now emerging as visceral hate and an insistence that they embody the pure and true universalism. The utopian Jewish liberal cannot stand the pragmatic Jewish liberal who both recognizes and lives with his internal contradictions. Alfred E. Newman sits on the side amused and bemused by the spectacle of Jews with all their peculiarities best exhibited in the claims of each side that each sub-entity has captured the holy grail of universalism.
  5. The state of Israel emerges from its early socialist illusions to become the poster boy of globalized capitalism as the Start-Up Nation par excellence while exhibiting the bad temper of a society which is both very inclusionist and very exclusionist, allowing its enemies dedicated to destroying the state to not only vote but sit in Parliament at the same time as they are treated as second class citizens, allowing and encouraging that minority to achieve the highest ranks in the professions while exhibiting the historical deep-seated belief that the goyim cannot be trusted. That distrust becomes objectified into micro-aggressors who act out their extreme distrust of a leadership in the most powerful state and its closest satrap but determinately individual state. Hence, the BDS movement emerges as an alliance of micro-aggressors rooted in the politics of resentment and universalist utopian Jews, for they are united in their hatred of the group that seems to be able to live with those contradictions in a relatively healthy way.
  6. So these critics denounce the university for failing to defend universality as their mobs viciously attack and sling verbal arrows in the name of universal human rights to defend the particular rights of Palestinians of self-determination at the expense of the Jewish self-determination and do their best to undermine the university as a safety zone for civility, discourse and debate and set up a program of academic exclusion rather than inclusion, of shouting down speakers they dislike in the name of the rights of others.
  7. That is how self-perceived victims convert into victimizers.
  8. The resentment is heightened by the recognition that Jews were the first and benefited most from the university values of a faith in knowledge, a belief in truth, an adherence to coherence and consistency, and a reverence for facts. They have also been among the most successful examples of the use of particular self-determination to foster and enhance these universal values.
  9. France is an interesting perversion of that success as the repository of the rights of man that turns that faith into a secular religion that makes it illegal to emphasize and express particularities of religion yet treats its own citizens from a particularistic background in a most demeaning manner.
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