Update: I have moved Michael's response to this, my reply to him, and a related exchange to a new thread entitled 'Exchange with Michael Neumann' dated 2007 03 03.
The other day there was a discussion on Jews sans frontieres where
When I first read ej’s extracts, I thought that’s a clever rhetorical trick, but if he intends it as any more than that, it’s ridiculous. There is no reason to embrace anti-Semitism and it’s important to contest the Zionists’ attempts to coopt the term for their own nefarious purposes. In reality, elsewhere in the article ej quotes from, he does make an attempt to define anti-Semitism, although not entirely successfully, in my view. I think this is his preferred definition:
… action or propaganda designed to hurt Jews, not because of anything they could avoid doing, but because they are what they are. It also applies to the attitudes that propaganda tries to instill. Though not always explicitly racist, it involves racist motives and the intention to do real damage.
The article as a whole couches this discussion of the definition of anti-Semitism as part of an argument,
I think we should almost never take antisemitism seriously, and maybe we should have some fun with it. I think it is particularly unimportant to the Israel-Palestine conflict, except perhaps as a diversion from the real issues.
I gather that the point he is trying to make is that the vast majority of accusations of anti-Semitism are frivolous and that the recurring announcement of ‘the new antisemitism’ has never been more than a smokescreen for Isr
And this important observation in much the same vein,
To regard any shedding of Jewish blood as a world-shattering calamity, one which defies all measurement and comparison, is racism, pure and simple; the valuing of one race's blood over all others.
In the course of the debate on JsF, there was a link to another piece on Neumann’s site that appears to be a response to a criticism by the Canadian Jewish Congress and B'nai Brith, which had accused him of antisemtism. The article doesn’t link to whatever it is a response to. It begins with a defense of a passage he quotes from ‘a private email correspondence allegedly reproduced on the Jewish Tribal Review site’. Since he claims interpretation of that passage depends on missing context and he can’t even confirm the accuracy of the quote, I am not going to address it apart from suggesting that, if he actually did write, ‘‘My sole concern is indeed to help the Palestinians, and I try to play for keeps. I am not interested in the truth, or justice, or understanding, or anything else, except so far as it serves that purpose’, I’d have thought it would be rather a curious position for a professional philosopher to adopt. Also, I will return to the first sentence of the contested paragraph, about his ‘sole concern’, from which he doesn’t resile, and I surmise provides context for the balance.
Actually, there is a link on his tripod site labelled, ‘Here are some comments on a piece by Nick Cohen of the New Stateman [sic] concerning Ted Honderich and his views on terror and the Middle East. In some respects my views are not those of Professor Honderich, but the flaws in Cohen's accusations may be of some general interest.’
Coincidentally, Ted Honderich had a profoundly embarrassing piece on Comment is Free a few months ago where he also refers to Neumann. I only learned of the Honderich piece after comments closed, but I did write a critique of it.
Anyway, here’s my take on aspects of Neumann’s response to the CJC. In it, he quotes himself in the article linked above,
"Do we want to say it is antisemitic to accuse, not just the Israelis, but Jews generally of complicity in these crimes against humanity? Again, maybe not, because there is a quite reasonable case for such assertions. Compare them, for example, to the claim that Germans generally were complicit in such crimes. This never meant that every last German, man, woman, idiot and child, were guilty. It meant that most Germans were."
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
So Neumann’s analogy illuminates nothing. The question remains: Is it ‘antisemitic to accuse, not just the Isr
On the other hand, if the crimes against humanity Neumann has in mind are those that arise directly and inevitably from the very establishment of Jewish ethnocratic state, the ethnic cleansing of 1948 in particular, can anyone reasonably claim that the consequences are not inherently obvious? Do we need first hand knowledge of the events to know that the whole idea of a Jewish state is a racist atrocity? Is there any excuse for unquestioningly accepting the myth of ‘a land without people’? In my view, no, there is no excuse. In this case, you don’t have to go out of your way to inform yourself of the facts. On the contrary, you have to perform quite demanding cognitive contortions to avoid the conclusion that a Jewish state anywhere is an inherently racist undertaking and that a Jewish state in
Although it isn’t explicit in the article under discussion, the article that it quotes from leads into the quoted text with
Zionists came thousands of miles to dispossess people who had never done them the slightest harm, and whose very existence they contrived to ignore…the racial supremacist ideology…deliberately making Palestine unliveable for Palestinians…Its purpose is not defense or public order, but the extinction of a people…genocide that portrays its perpetrators as victims…Isr
Anyone who ‘supports
Neumann reckons, again quoting himself,
"it would still be reasonable to say that many, perhaps most adult Jewish individuals support a state that commits war crimes, because that's just true."
That would indeed be reasonable to say. It would be at least equally reasonable to say the same of Jewish children. I think it would be about equally reasonable to say it of non Jewish adults anywhere that there are significant Jewish populations, and certainly of the members of particular millenarian Christian cults, US politicians, and lots of other identifiable groups.
‘I stand by that statement. It has nothing to do with racism, which posits ingrained, biologically based faults.’
But actually, the definition he proposes for racism does not accord with the usual meaning of the term. He is identifying a population of Jews by unspecified criteria. But we know who he’s referring to. If the statement is meaningful at all, it can only be those of us who
How does this special responsibility impact on our culpability for
If an argument like this seems sterile and inconclusive that’s because it is. It is not useful to single out an ethnic group on that basis and assign special blame for their false consciousness and complacency. Nearly everyone in capitalist society harbours ideas – ‘the ruling ideas’, ‘the muck of ages’ – that are inimical to their own interests, to their workmates interests, and the struggle for human liberation. And nearly everyone supports ‘a state that commits war crimes’. It is, after all, euqally reasonable to accuse anyone who fails to condemn the
But that’s not the point. There are real distinctions to make. One of the tasks of the movement for peace and justice in
In this context, we can single out for special opprobrium the ideologues who promulgate the myths and lies and distortions that allow those ideas to persist – the Alan Dershowitzes and Joan Peterses and Ted Lapkins. And we can contrast them with those like Jimmy Carter and Norman Finkelstein and Tanya Reinhart and Antony Loewenstein and Neumann himself who are disseminating information about how
Neumann’s own position seems to be ambiguous. In the article he quotes from in the article under discussion, he is explicit about the crimes against humanity that the foundation of
‘I do not advocate the destruction of
If he doesn’t advocate the destruction of
To all appearances, his further apology, ‘I acknowledge Israel's right to defend itself, to fortify its borders, even to make genuinely pre-emptive strikes across its borders’, confirms that he accepts the existence of a racist Jewish ethnocracy, although he could be more specific. What could he mean when
Although it apparently conflicts with the position he took in the earlier CounterPunch article, I think what he is really getting at here is that like Jimmy Carter and many other supporters of the Jewish state, he regards establishing a Jewish ethnocracy on 78% of Palestine, massacring and expelling hundreds of thousands, refusing redress to the victims for six decades, making the survivors twelfth class citizens, in fact all the atrocities arising from the events of, as ok. The crimes that concern him are those arising directly from the occupation of the other 22% of
In any case, I agree with Neumann that because