Saturday, February 16, 2013

NormBlog and Zach on Tropes

Mike L.

The Huffington Post Monitor, of Matt and Zach fame, has a piece entitled NormBlog on Tropes which I am for my own purely selfish reasons swiping in its entirety for Israel Thrives.  Essentially what they are discussing is the progressive-left tendency to sweep anti-Semitism under the rug even as they take the most righteous stances against other forms of bigotry and recognize how, except in the case of anti-Jewish racism, negative racial tropes concerning an individual reflect on the group. - ML

I've already said my bit on those Steve Bell and Gerald Scarfe cartoons. But I cannot pass up the opportunity offered by a column of Hadley Freeman's to put on display the way in which legitimate worries about the use of traditional anti-Semitic themes and imagery get swept aside. - Zach 
[From Normblog
Freeman is of the view, articulated in just two stray sentences, that the Scarfe cartoon was anti-Netanyahu rather than anti-Semitic. 'Griping' about it, as she puts this, does little to combat anti-Semitism. The interesting thing is that this opinion of hers is stuck inside a piece devoted to taking a critical view of sexism in the media. Sexism includes not only 'viciously misogynistic elements' but also 'more insidious tropes'. Such as? Such as 'describing any female celebrity as "flaunting her legs/curves/body"'; or as describing an 'unmarried, unmothered woman over 30... as "brave" for which read: pitiable, for which read: tragic'. OK, you'll know how that works - demeaning or otherwise prejudicial stereotypes.

But for some reason, unexplained, while Freeman can see that the application to a particular woman of a general theme involves more than a comment on that woman, because it mobilizes a prejudice about women, she can't see, or doesn't want to, how showing a Jewish politician using the blood of Palestinians to cement a wall recalls a tradition of anti-Jewish hatred, associated with the 'blood libel', in which Jews take the blood of others for their own dubious purposes. Of course, Scarfe may only have had Netanyahu, and not Jews, in mind. There's no reason not to believe his own assurances on that score. But it isn't only about his mind, it's about - to repeat Freeman's own term - insidious tropes.

So, why are some insidious tropes more equal than others? Because some you consent to see, and others you don't. These less equal others are denied entry into the republic of tropes that are acknowledged to have a malign history. It's the Caryl Churchill two-step: she wasn't meaning all Jews, just some Jews. It is the strange fate of anti-Jewish tropes in some quarters today to have cast off all their generality and to be only ever about THIS.

Zach adds: The cartoons in particular are a good example of when some tropes just aren't okay because of the history of the subjects. For instance I also saw people claim that Scarfe's cartoons were acceptable because he also portrayed Margaret Thatcher as covered in blood. Well, Margaret Thatcher is not Benjamin Netanyahu and Israel is not Great Britain.

Before you start complaining about "special treatment" for Israel, that Britain can be criticized in ways that they can't, let me offer you an example of what I mean. During George Bush's administration, it was very very common to depict him as a monkey, including in political cartoons. But the one time that President Obama was depicted as a monkey, people flipped out and called for the cartoonist's head.

Why? Because President Obama is black, and African-Americans have an ugly history with being depicted as animals that white Americans have not experienced. That isn't a double standard in President Obama's favor, nor is he demanding special treatment. Because of his background, it's not okay to depict him as a monkey whereas it would be with a different President. Now getting back to Netanyahu, because he is Jewish and from the Jewish state particular kinds of labels that might be acceptable when leveled at Britain are not acceptable with Israel. There are plenty of ways to criticize people, I don't think it's unreasonable to ask Israel's critics to be drawn to something other than the lowest possible form.

Posted by Zach at 12:00 PM
The only thing that I would add to this is the fact that anti-Jewish racism has a special and delicious character all its own.   While it is true that the progressive-left, with the sole exception of political Islam, is the single most racist political movement in the west today, it is also true that it is on the left where anti-Semitism is becoming more and more acceptable in even fairly obvious forms.

This is why in a comment under a piece complaining of David Harris-Gershon's veiled racism against Jews within a "diary" entitled This Is Why We MUST Talk About Israel, we get Daily Kos administrator, Timothy Lange ("Meteor Blades"), castigating the complainer rather than addressing the fact of Harris-Gershon's spreading of the hatred toward a people among the most persecuted within recorded history, his own.

What Harris-Gershon wrote was this:
But when the hawkish, “pro-Israel” lobby in America can influence our representatives to sound as if they – well – are representing Israel’s citizens more than our own? We have a problem. A problem that must be discussed openly and honestly.
First of all, there is nothing particularly "hawkish" about the "pro-Israel" lobby, whatever that means exactly.  AIPAC, of course, is concerned about Iran's genocidal threats toward the Jewish State of Israel and therefore believes that Iran must be prevented from gaining nuclear weaponry, but how hawkish can they be when they will not even oppose the Hagel nomination?  This in itself represents a sort-of blood libel in which the Jewish people, through their primary organizations, are depicted as blood-thirsty war-mongers.

Furthermore, of course, Harris-Gershon promotes the classic anti-Semitic trope, though in a fairly nuanced and veiled way, that the "pro-Israel lobby," i.e., the Jews, have an undue and negative influence over the government of the United States.  This is precisely the notion that got my father's side of the family murdered in the Ukraine.  They were lined up in ditches and shot precisely because ordinary Germans were repeating the same kind of malicious lies that Harris-Gershon spreads.

Instead of speaking out against racism toward Jews Lange speaks out against a Jew who speaks out against racism toward Jews.  (How perverse is that?)  It's not particularly surprising, however.  Harris-Gershon is popular on Daily Kos precisely because he portrays the harassed and besieged Jewish minority in the Middle East as the oppressors of the majority Arab-Muslim population.  He does so despite the fact that Muslims oppressed Jews in a violent form of slavery (dhimmitude) from the 7th century until the end of World War I.

(It should be noted that even referencing this tremendous historical fact within the history of the Jewish people of the Middle East is considered racist by many on the progressive-left, including many Jews.)

Lange wrote this:
In fact, saying that a Jew... (18+ / 0-) spouting stuff that sounds as if it came from the Protocols is just short of calling someone a Nazi. It shouldn't be forgotten that some historians have argued, with good cause, that Hitler & Cronies used the Protocols as a rationale for the Holocaust. So what label is being attached when somebody says a person sounds as if he is echoing the Protocols. Personally, I'd call that way over the line.

Don't tell me what you believe, show me what you do and I will tell you what you believe. 
by Meteor Blades on Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 06:36:08 PM PST
What all this points toward is the fact that anti-Jewish racism is becoming more and more acceptable within the racist "anti-racist" progressive-left because they have honestly come to believe that the tiny Jewish minority in the Middle East oppresses the vast Muslim majority.  Furthermore, of course, anti-Semitism, unlike other forms of racism, tends to be genocidal which is what gives it that very special jeunesse qua.

Threatening the grandchildren of the Holocaust dead is a delicious forbidden thrill among some progressive-left racist "anti-racists." And make no mistake, when progressive-left racist "anti-racists" accept (as does Timothy Lange) or promote (as does David Harris-Gershon) classic anti-Semitic tropes they are threatening the well-being and safety of the Jewish people as a whole.

1 comment:

  1. That has always been the pattern there. Calling out antisemitism is a far greater crime than is antisemitism itself. If the latter is even recognized as such, or even considered a crime, for that matter.