Tuesday, May 20, 2014

"fizziks" and the Problem with Acknowledging the Obvious

Michael L.

oliphantIn a recent piece for the Progressive Zionist entitled, simply, False, our friend, "fizziks," gives his answer to the following central question:
Is it true, or is it false, that the primary venues of BDS and anti-Semitic anti-Zionism in the West today primarily come from the progressive-left, including the grassroots / netroots of the Democratic Party?
That is the question that is on the table and it is a question that is central to our comprehension of the aggression pointed at the Jewish people today.

In response to the question, "fizziks" writes:

It's as simple as that. In what follows, I will restrict the analysis to antisemitism and anti-Zionism in America, because that is how I assume the question was intended, given that it specifically mentions the Democratic Party.
The question, of course, was not limited to the United States, which is why it specifically refers to "anti-Semitic anti-Zionism in the West today."  If the question was concerned with "anti-Semitic anti-Zionism in the United States today"  that is precisely how it would read.

The problem out of the gate, therefore, is that "fizziks" simply does not answer the actual question under discussion, but a related question that is more easily answered in a way that suits his political predispositions.

That answer, by the way, the one that "fizziks" puts forth, puts him in serious disagreement with Professor Robert S. Wistrich, the Neuburger Professor of European and Jewish history at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and the head of the University's Vidal Sassoon International Center for the Study of Antisemitism.

Wistrich is considered the foremost scholar of anti-Semitism in the world today and is the author of From Ambivalence to Betrayal: The Left, the Jews, and Israel.

Nonetheless, let us consider "fizziks'" point of view.

He writes:
First of all, the focus on BDS is misleading. While BDS in indeed is a scheme cooked up to appeal to stupid leftists and liberals, and rears its head in left-leaning forums and organizations, we must not lose sight of the fact that BDS is only one small and very particular aspect of antisemitism and anti-Zionism.

If the question is about the problem of antisemitism or even anti-Zionism generally, then focusing on BDS in particular is like having a bad baseball team and focusing on the third base coach. It is not intellectually honest...
This is what I like to think of as "intellectual shadow boxing," but it is more commonly known as a straw-man argument.  {It is also a deflection from the actual question.} The fact is I have not given precedence to BDS over the more general phenomenon of anti-Semitic anti-Zionism of which BDS is the main organized political manifestation.

"fizziks" makes the claim so that he can then diminish the significance of BDS and thereby seek to obscure the fact that the primary venues of anti-Semitic anti-Zionism in the west, today, come out of the progressive-left, including the grassroots / netroots of the Democratic party.

Those who concern ourselves with rising progressive-left anti-Semitic anti-Zionism are not ignoring the other aspects beyond the BDS movement and suggesting otherwise will not relieve the progressive-left of the mounting criticism toward it viz-a-viz its shabby treatment of the Jewish State of Israel.

"fizziks" goes on to make this claim in bold lettering:
When antisemitism and anti-Zionism are considered in their totality, the primary venues in America are, quite simply, NOT the progressive-left and/or the netroots.
There is no evidence offered to back up the assertion, while there is plenty of obvious and direct evidence to make the opposite case.  In fact, it is precisely when anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism are considered in their totality that we see the contemporary progressive-left roots of the phenomenon today.

He then goes on to say that while some of us involved in this discussion come out of a miserable experience from the progressive-left political blog Daily Kos:
BUT... The stuff at Daily Kos is child's play compared to the antisemitism / anti-Zionism that can be found in right-wing forums. Spend any time browsing through right leaning forums and you will encounter antisemitism so bad it will make you want to run and hug Sandra Tamari screaming "Thank you for being so moderate!"
This is an example of what is generally referred to as "false equivalency."

First he diminishes the trend of anti-Semitic anti-Zionism to a fringe blog and then claims that we see even worse examples on the political right and goes forth to give us fringe right-wing examples of anti-Semitism.

"fizziks" refuses to accept the obvious fact that anti-Semitic anti-Zionism in the west today primarily comes out of left-wing venues.  These include media outlets such as the BBC, the New York Times, the UK Guardian, the Huffington Post and the New Statesman, among others.  This is not to say that these venues are inherently anti-Zionist, although one certainly wonders about the Guardian, but that they represent significant centers for the distribution of hatred toward the Jewish State of Israel and, thus, toward the Jewish people, more generally.

It also includes almost all the universities in Europe and many of the universities in the United States including San Francisco State University, the University California System, Vassar, and Brandeis - to mention just a few in which pro-Israel folks are currently seeking to stand up for the Jewish people - and any number of other college campuses where young Jewish men and women are abused by left-wing anti-Zionists at Apartheid Day rallies, which obviously are not being sponsored by Young Americans for Freedom.

It also includes the various NGOs and "human rights" organizations that take money from the European Union in order to demonize the Jewish State of Israel.  I feel reasonably certain, for example, that we can classify the New Israel Fund as "left-wing."

And then, of course, there is the EU, itself, which, as an organization, promotes BDS and is quite obviously left.

So for "fizziks" to take the western press, western "human rights" organizations, the western educational system, and the EU and to compare all of that to some schmuck ding-a-linging on some obscure sexist website is to demonstrate partisan loyalty more than it demonstrates a reasonable analysis of the sources of the delegitimization of the Jewish State of Israel.

What I am claiming is true on its face:
the primary venues of BDS and anti-Semitic anti-Zionism in the West today primarily come from the progressive-left, including the grassroots / netroots of the Democratic Party.
BDS is, of course, not the entirety of anti-Semitic anti-Zionism, however it is the foremost political activity of that movement.  It is not the western right that champions BDS, but the progressive-left - most obviously including the Europeans - and the grassroots / netroots of the Democratic party that does so and I say this as someone who comes from the left.

This is not a matter of partisanship, or interpretation, but of fact.

Only someone blinded by partisan political loyalties could deny that which is staring him so directly in the eye.

What most strikes me about this conversation, however, are the lengths that people are willing to go in order to protect their political homes and perceived political allies.  The fact that anti-Semitic anti-Zionism comes primarily out of the political left today is revealed by the very simple fact that the primary venues that support anti-Semitic anti-Zionism are of the left.  In fact, it is not even close.  It is not just that the majority of anti-Zionist venues in the west derive from the left, but almost the entirety of significant venues come from the left.

All those well-known magazines and NGOs and universities.

In response "fizziks" points to something called Return of Kings, which is apparently some Guys Guy magazine that I have never even heard of and that "fizziks" will not link to because it is apparently too dirty to touch.

new stateThe anti-Zionist movement, which is an anti-Semitic movement, did not just drop out of the sky and there is no equivalency between Return of the Kings, whatever that is, exactly, and the UK Guardian or the Huffington Post or the popular and mainstream left-leaning British political magazine, the New Statesman, that ran a cover showing a Star of David skewering a supine Union Jack.

In its contemporary iteration, anti-Semitic anti-Zionism derives from a variety of specific and significant political venues.  The vast majority of those venues, outside of the Arab-Muslim Middle East, emerged in recent decades from the western progressive-left.

It is not as if there is much in the way of historical disagreement around this fact.  It is not a controversial position, but one that is well accepted among professional historians, and other scholars, who concern themselves with such things.  One need only read the relevant scholarship among such people as Barry Rubin, Richard Landes, Edwin Black, Bat Ye'or, Phyllis Chesler, Matthias Küntzel, Ruth Wisse, and Paul Berman, among many others, to understand the contemporary challenges facing the Jewish people today are no longer among right-wing Country Club Racists out of Mad Men, or behooded Klansmen from a bygone era, but the rise of political Islam and its western-left apologizers.

In conclusion, I want to say that none of this is meant as an attack on "fizziks."  I have met the man and, in fact, he was once kind enough to actually give me a lift home from a panel discussion on Israel that I spoke at.  As I recall, we had a perfectly pleasant conversation during that buzz between Berkeley and Oakland.

Nonetheless, we cannot even begin to reform the progressive-left and the grassroots / netroots of the Democratic party until we acknowledge the problem.

For the moment, at least, that is what I am looking for.

A simple acknowledgment of the problem as it is.

So long as pro-Israel Democratic partisans refuse to even admit the nature of the problem, then it can never be honestly addressed... at least, not by them.


By the way, the cartoon that leads off this page was drawn by the famous political cartoonist Pat Oliphant who published the obnoxious anti-Semitic slur in that hard-right, fringe, political journal known as the Washington Post.

It did not, however, appear in Return of Kings, thank goodness, because that might really have caused problems.


  1. Fizziks is only accurate IF s/he believes that mainstream leftist, liberal, progressive, whathaveyou, blogs and publications are the analog, the precise opposite in scope, sizem intent, etc as the furthest fringes of the insane right wing neo nazis s/he discusses. Yes there is hate on far right wing, the VERY far right wing. Is s/he asserting that DKos or HuffPo is THE SAME as Veterans Today or Stormfront. If so - then fine, they own that. DKos is more or less the same thing as Stormfront in reverse. Fair enough.

    1. I am pretty sure that "fizziks" is a male.

      Either that or he's the ugliest damn woman that I've ever seen!

  2. There is plenty of Jew hatred to go around from all directions, and this includes on the right. Why the need to measure it?

    However, because many on the right are antisemitic, though less active in manifesting their view, should that excuse antisemitism on the left that is open and apparent?

    I direct the audience to the following post at Legal Insurrection, which I think has more value that in arguing which side is most antisemitic or that there is obvious antisemitism on the left, much coming from Durban, 2001:


    Why is there such hesitancy to acknowledge that anti-Israelism is part of progressive thought, that progressive thought is part of Democratic thought? Does the fact that it also exists elsewhere justify attempts to minimize or cancel it out, to argue that it is just a fringe, then suggest that it affects the mainstream of Republicans?

    To blame Republicans as the cause of all problems, as if Democrats have no role, and to mislead Democrats to believe so by misrepresenting what Republicans say, to stoke division and animosity, is cynical and just wrong. Hopefully, more Democrats will come to see they are being had by their corrupt leaders who too often are no different than the demons they fight.

    1. The tide is changing as I see it, even if others think differently, as the excesses of progressivism continue to manifest and people actually see the rigidity in conduct and how the high-minded utopian ideas do not work in a non-high-minded world, and contain the seeds of dystopia.

      When the conservatives re-assume the reins of power, or even ideas, the question will be whether they will again screw up with their own excess, and if they will practice inclusion, any different than what is seen from progressives. Probably not.

      Of course, this refers to those that lead. That goes without saying, except some like to misconstrue by diverting the issue. However, the zeitgeist of the leadership trickles down to the rest because the tools for manipulation are so powerful, often based on a foundation of demonizing the other side as evil, rather than showing why your side is good.

      Returning to the post, why does it matter that some Democrats will not see what is obvious? Better to show what they do not see and let them live with the cognitive dissonance. Maybe they will gravitate to the reality. Those that won't will not, no matter the evidence of how they have been misled by their own.