This is Mich
Thanks for sending me your post. I think (and hope) I've answered most of your concerns about my position on the Isr
For a start, I'd like to head off any misunderstanding about this quotation:
‘... since we are obliged to oppose the settlements, we are obliged to be anti-Semitic. Through definitional inflation, some form of anti-Semitism becomes morally obligatory.’
This could use more context. The sentence quoted describes the consequences of a ridiculous definition of antisemitism: "Suppose, for example, an Isr
Next, a brief comment on your remarks that
"When people accuse ‘most Germans’ of complicity with Nazi atrocities, they are not levelling that accusation against US citizens born in
"This is quite different from Neumann’s accusation of complicity by ‘most Jews’ in
First, when I discussed these matters, I meant just what I said. I said that we might not want to accuse someone making these accusations of antisemitism, because there is a quite reasonable case for them. This does not mean I endorsed the accusations. There is a quite reasonable case for the accusation that Bush was lying about weapons of mass destruction, but I do not endorse it: I happen to think he's just a self-deceiving idiot. There is a quite reasonable case that the Palestinian tactics are self-destructive, but I do not endorse it. There is a quite reasonable case that free trade is the best route to prosperity in developing countries, but I do not endorse it. My point was that assertions for which there is a reasonable case may not be racist, not that those assertions are true, and certainly not that I endorse them.
Now many diaspora Jews are very proud of their support for
As for your criticism of my analogy, diaspora Germans who actively supported the German government certainly were accused of complicity. Very large numbers of Americans were of German origin (including the
On the other hand - in keeping with what I said earlier - I personally reject the notion of (non-diaspora) German collective responsibility. One reason is that many Germans fought against the rise of Nazism. I also think the idea that Germans should have resisted Hitler's rule demands of Germans what no other people would have managed in their shoes. So the 'quite reasonable case' for German collective responsibility does not in the least incline me to accept the case for Jewish collective responsibility. Once again, though that case may be quite reasonable, I do not think it at all conclusive and I do not accept it.
Finally, a small point about the seriousness of antisemitism. Though I do think concern about antisemitism is vastly exaggerated, I believe one bad consequence of this exaggeration is its tendency to blind us to genuine dangers. That's why I said: "This is not to belittle all antisemitism, everywhere. One often hears of vicious antisemites in
When I received that I replied
Thanks for your response and for the useful link to that gross story about the Yekaterinburg murder. I have posted it as a comment under the blog post it responds to. I will post my own rejoinder once I’ve finished drafting it, which unfortunately may not be until some time tomorrow. You might like to have a look at the blog site, as there have been a couple of other comments.
One issue that remains obscure to me from what I’ve read is where you stand on the question of the Jewish state. The Counterpunch article seemed to suggest you rejected it, while the response to the CJC explicitly accepted it. If memory serves, so did The case against
This is my full response to his reply. He subsequently replied to my question about the Jewish state, which I post below, along with my response.
In reply to Mich
It's not just that the Zionist agenda makes too much of antisemitism. When an instance of antisemitism doesn't suit their purposes, Zionists make too little of it.
He exemplifies this with the ABC News report of the sentencing of five Russian teenagers for the gruesome hate murder of a young Jewish man in October 2005 by stabbing him with a cross.
In case there is any doubt, I did not intend to accuse Mich
The balance of his reply deals with the issue of collective responsibility. He starts out his discussion by asserting
I meant just what I said. I said that we might not want to accuse someone making these accusations of antisemitism, because there is a quite reasonable case for them. This does not mean I endorsed the accusations.
Clearly, I don’t possess the subtlety of a professional philosopher, because it seems to me that when you assert that ‘there is a quite reasonable case for’ something, it suggests an obligation to refute that case if you ‘do not endorse it’. Actually my understanding is so crude that to me, ‘I happen to think’ doesn’t constitute a refutation.
He proceeds to offer three examples of reasonable cases, without actually making those cases explicit.
There is a quite reasonable case for the accusation that Bush was lying about weapons of mass destruction, but I do not endorse it: I happen to think he's just a self-deceiving idiot. There is a quite reasonable case that the Palestinian tactics are self-destructive, but I do not endorse it. There is a quite reasonable case that free trade is the best route to prosperity in developing countries, but I do not endorse it. My point was that assertions for which there is a reasonable case may not be racist, not that those assertions are true, and certainly not that I endorse them.
It may not be a coincidence that I disagree with his position on two of those reasonable cases and don’t agree that there really is a reasonable case for the third at all. But that’s not part of my argument. The point he concludes with is baffling. I’d have thought that there were certain kinds of cases where the question of racism can’t possibly arise and is thoroughly irrelevant and all three of his examples are among them. For racism to be an issue, the subject of the ‘case’ must be a group of people that can somehow be constructed as a race in the mind of a racist. It’s not absolutely crucial that some racist have already constructed the race – you can construct a new one in your own mind.
I am uncomfortable with the whole idea of collective responsibility; in general I consider it a dangerous notion. However I don't have a strong case against the use of that notion. That's why I don't actually say it should be discarded. Though I can't reject the notion out of hand, my doubt is quite sufficient keep me from endorsing notions of collective responsibility applied to Jews or to any other large group.
The paragraph at issue from the CounterPunch article, reads in full
Well, virtually no Jew is in any kind of danger from speaking out. And speaking out is the only sort of resistance required. If many Jews spoke out, it would have an enormous effect. But the overwhelming majority of Jews do not, and in the vast majority of cases, this is because they support
First of all, I think Mich
Second, I think the argument in the paragraph supports his assertion that he is uncomfortable with the notion of collective responsibility. When he couches his discussion of what is ‘not racist, and reasonable’ as a condition, he can sustain a claim that he is not advocating the positions he outlines, which I suppose must be his point. But I think he could have strengthened the case that he rejects collective responsibility if he had acknowledged that it is racist, and unreasonable, to implicate Germans as a ‘race’ or ethnicity in the Nazis’ crimes, as it is to implicate all Jews in the Isr
In the next paragraph, he mentions that ‘diaspora Germans who actively supported the German government certainly were accused of complicity’, and in my view, this was in fact racist. Later, he says, ‘I personally reject the notion of (non-diaspora) German collective responsibility’. I surmise this is a response to what I wrote about ‘wilful ignorance’. And I think it’s true that I may not have been sufficiently explicit that the point I was trying to make there was that I thought a more reasonable case could be made for non diaspora German complicity in Nazi crimes than for diaspora Jewish complicity in Isr
Ultimately, however, both arguments are sterile, because we both claim to reject collective responsibility. I disagree with him, however, that it requires a clever person to make a case to discard collective responsibility because I’m obviously not very clever by his standards and I’m going to do just that.
Wikipedia defines collective responsibility as
a concept, or doctrine, according to which people are to be held responsible for other people's actions by tolerating, ignoring, or harboring them, without actively collaborating in these actions.
I think there is actually an inconsistency in the definition itself, because harbouring sounds like active collaboration of a kind, as well. Significantly, the definition is silent on what I think is a crucial issue – whether it applies in the case of an otherwise uninvolved beneficiary of another’s actions. In any case, neither of those issues matters to my argument, because in the kinds of populations at issue it is altogether possible for all members to tolerate or ignore the crimes they are held responsible for, but not to harbour the perpetrators or materially benefit.
In this discussion, I’ll assume that that’s the sense in which Mich
Now many diaspora Jews are very proud of their support for
he’s actually describing three overlapping, but probably not entirely congruent, populations – those proud of their support, those who provide material support, and those who affirm their complicity.
As I read the definition, material support would constitute active collaboration, so the complicity of those who provide it is not in doubt and does not rely on the concept of collective responsibility. I hasten to add that I would exclude kids collecting pennies for the Jewish National Fund that they believe are just going to plant trees and not knowing that the trees are being planted to obliterate any trace of razed Palestinian villages.
Taking pride in offering moral support for crimes against humanity, and even claiming responsibility, does not, in my view, constitute active collaboration. It’s deplorable, it’s disgusting, but it’s not complicity. So if we assign collective blame to these groups – ‘diaspora Jews [who] are very proud of their support for
There are actually two related arguments against collective responsibility. One of them is that it holds people responsible for crimes that they had no hand in setting in motion, committing, encouraging, aiding, or abetting. It was entirely out of their control that the crime was committed. They could not have averted it. In this way, it is unjust to hold them accountable, even if they are pleased at the outcome. It undermines the fundamental rights that ordinary people have fought for for centuries to due process and so forth.
Two factors make it even worse. One is that collective punishment can impact on people even beyond the population held collectively responsible. The other is that a population can be collectively punished for a crime that none of them had any hand in, or even when there was no crime at all. For example, when in 2002, the Afghan government demanded evidence from the
The second argument is that there is a strong tendency to assign collective responsibility on an explicitly racist basis, as with the diaspora Jews applauding Isr
I might just add parenthetically, that the myth of democracy feeds right into this. If it were really true, as the propagandists assert, that Americans control ‘their’ government, because it’s so democratic and all, the terrorists would be right to hold them collectively responsible. No, not really, after all, it would only be the majority who really deserved the dirty bomb, not everybody.
So the reasons we have to reject collective responsibility are basically that it undermines some of the rights we’ve won through generations of struggle and at the same time the kind of solidarity that will allow us to win further struggles, including, ultimately, the struggle to build a truly democratic society based on cooperation rather than competition, where we can work together to meet human need and nurture our only planet.
This is Mich
My position on the question of a Jewish state is pretty much stated in The Case, but maybe not all in one place.
'Jewish state' is ambiguous and Zionists make use of this ambiguity. Some pretend that
On the other hand, there are circumstances in which states, however illegitimate or abhorrent, have a right to defend themselves, and therefore, derivatively, to preserve their existence. This right is not intrinsic; it does not follow from the mere fact that something is a state. Instead it is parasitic on the rights of the population controlled by the state. States have a right to defend their existence is that's required for the legitimate defense of some or all of its population.
Clearly there are possible cases in which
Suppose there is a comprehensive peace agreement which includes the complete evacuation of the occupied territories and the creation of a Palestinian state. There might be other elements to the agreement, for instance that
This might not be a just or adequate solution to the Isr
None of this means that
And my reply
Thanks for getting back to me on that. As a matter of fact, I was just glancing through some of the passages I had highlighted in The case against
I kind of agree with you about the ambiguity of Jewish state. Certainly, Jew, Jewish, even Jewry, are ambiguous in a way that Judaism, the religion, is not. People even more pedantic than me sometimes insist that Judenstadt must be translated ‘state of the Jews’. Since both religion and ethnicity are categories that apply to persons and populations rather than to states, I think they are right. In that context, of course, at some abstract level, it could in principle be the state of the Jews who practice Judaism or of the Jews who are of Jewish ethnicity. But in practice, Zionism was always a response to anti-Semitism, a form of racism. Race, as I always argue, is a social category constructed on a fictive biological basis by racists. Antisemites may use religious observance as a marker of Jewishness, as indeed the Nuremburg Laws did, actually descent from a member of the religious community, but I don’t believe that those carrying out pogroms interrogated their victims closely on their observance of the laws of kashruth. For Herzl and all the other Zionist thinkers, therefore, the ‘state of the Jews’ was always the state of the Jewish ethnicity. And moreso, if possible, in the wake of the Shoah. I am not aware of Zionists exploiting the ambiguity as you assert. While the pretense that a claim to
You are probably also right to assert that states have an in principle obligation to protect the wellbeing of their citizens, although I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t couch this in terms of a right to self defence. Certainly Isr
But that’s not really what I thought I was asking about. My question, which I think is quite a different one, is whether you reckon it’s ok for a state to constitute itself specifically for the benefit of a particular ethnic group? And if so, whether it’s ok to carry out ethnic cleansing in pursuit of that objective? And if so, whether it’s ok in the particular circumstances of