Tuesday, June 17, 2014

A Response to Fizziks

Michael L.

Those of you familiar with the apparently ongoing saga between myself and some of the old Daily Kos Jewish contingent know that Fizziks has been engaging me over at the Elder's joint.

I've decided to bring the conversation over here, if I can, and Fizziks, if he chooses to respond, needs to be engaged in a fair and decent manner.

Fizziks writes:
In your constant referrals to "progressive-left Zionists" do you mean A) people like David Harris Gershon and David Mizner - i.e. Jewish anti-Zionists who occasionally obfuscate the extent of their anti-Zionism? Or do you mean B) people such as myself...
I actually mean people such as myself.

By "progressive-left Zionist," I mean precisely what the words say. I mean those people who come out of a left-leaning sensibility and who are supportive of Israel as the national and historical home of the Jewish people.

Fizziks writes:
If it is the later, it is dishonest - actually simply false - to smear me and others like me with the charge that we are afraid to stand up to antisemites / anti-Zionists because we don't want to be ostracized by the progressive community or labeled Islamophobic.
I disagree.

The charge is not that liberal Jews are entirely afraid to stand up to obvious left-wing racists, but a nearly complete disinclination among most to consistently and strongly speak out against political Islam.  My suspicion is that, yes, we tend not to do so out of fear of being labeled "Islamophobic" or to run afoul of prevailing social and political sensibilities.

You, yourself, are a main contributor to a blog run by Jon Segall called "The Progressive Zionist." There have been hundreds of pieces published on that blog in the last few years. Can you point to three wherein the main theme is a criticism of political Islam?

I would be surprised if you could.

Fizziks writes:
you instead constantly lash out out at people without such a strong institutional soap box - such as myself - who instead really should be your natural allies.
My intention is not to "lash out" but to offer criticism.  I am sorry that you find my criticisms dishonest, but others disagree with that assessment, as do I, quite obviously.

When I say that progressive-left diaspora Jews have generally failed to stand up against the rise of political Islam it is because progressive-left diaspora Jews have generally failed to stand up against the rise of political Islam.

This criticism is not personal.  It is, in fact, a cold assessment.  After all, if the Jewish left really stood against political Islam, there is no way that they would fail to speak against the inclusion of a genocidal organization like Hamas in a "unity government."  If the Jewish left really stood against political Islam, there is no way that they would have failed to speak against the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, with a little help from Barack Obama, yet they did fail to speak.

What I would argue is this:

Most diaspora Jews come out of the left because as an historically persecuted people we relate to other historically persecuted people such as people of color, Gay people, and women. So naturally Jews tend to be on the left, just as I came out of the left and out of a family almost entirely comprised of Democrats... with, now, the exception of myself and a long dead uncle.

Nonetheless, my criticisms of the Jewish left, thus far, are these:

1)  There is a general disinclination to publicly discuss the rise of political Islam and the role of the Obama administration within that political development.

2)  There is a tendency to demean and denigrate those Jews who choose to live beyond the "green line" in the land of Israel.  The reason for that, as people like John Kerry constantly tell us, is because the "settlers" are viewed as an obstacle to peace.

3)  The Jewish left forever plays defense.  This was a criticism that I had even before my Daily Kos departure.  The pattern was almost always the same.  They attack.  We defend.  They attack.  We defend.  This is true throughout western-left venues, more generally.  It is not merely a matter of Daily Kos, but of the western-left political media, including places that I tend to highlight like the Huffington Post and the UK Guardian.

4)  There is also a tendency to buy-into what I call the "moral equivalency canard."  This, I would argue, is less a tendency among people such as Fizziks, or liberal-left Zionists, as a whole, but it is certainly a tendency within the left and, thus, among many liberal-left Jews who are not necessarily actively "Zionist."  The idea, of course, is that Israel's measures of self-defense are just as reprehensible as Arab efforts to kidnap or kill Jews.

5)  Ignoring Jewish history.  I am a broken record on this issue.  We must place our discussion of the conflict within thirteen centuries of Jewish submission to Arab-Muslim and Turkish imperial rule until the fall of the Ottoman Empire.  Discussing the Arab-Israel conflict without that frame of reference would be like discussing the history of African-Americans without reference to either slavery or Jim Crow.  Lacking the necessary historical context, the entire discussion become incoherent, unhelpful and unjust.

6)  There is the very strange and unique tendency among diaspora left Jews to partner with those who spit hatred at the Jewish State while contemptuously disdaining those who are terrific friends.  Maybe we should call this the Obama Syndrome.  The Evangelicals, of course, immediately leap to mind.  While I disagree with them on... well... practically everything, I definitely acknowledge that they are true friends to Israel.  The reason that I acknowledge that they are true friends to Israel is because they are true friends to Israel, although recent reports suggest that may be changing.

So, Fizziks, I have these criticisms.

They can be received as largely flawed analyses, largely correct analyses, or an attack.

Since, clearly, this is not academic work, and since I am hardly immune to the allure of occasional hyperbole, some of my fellow left-liberal diaspora Jews may perceive my criticisms to be a form of aggression.

All I can say is, from the beginning, that was not my intention.

I would also say that Fizziks is a good man trying to find his feet within a turbulent social-political environment... as we all are.

1 comment:

  1. The left has never NOT been angrily opposed to Israel. The only difference now is that they no longer hide behind the silly distinction between "Israel" and "Jew".