Monday, January 23, 2017

Question of the Whenever # 8: Are pro-Israel Jews practicing identity politics?

Michael Lumish

It's becoming more and more clear... to me, at least... that "identity politics" is in direct opposition to the ideals of Martin Luther King, Jr.

If King's advocacy meant anything it meant judging people according to their individual personhood, rather than as some cog or spigot within a socially othered group.

It was as a liberal that MLK believed that we should judge people as people, i.e., according to the content of their character rather than the color of their skin.

Identity politics, as it is practiced today, is a different animal entirely. It does nothing but stick people into ethnic or gendered categories that they have no control over. It is for this reason that we are witnessing a backlash against it by all those heinous "regular white guys"... some of whom actually had the temerity to vote for Donald Trump.

So, my question is, are not pro-Israel Jews also practicing a form of identity politics?

Just how is it that our advocacy is not identity politics?

I honestly am not certain of the answer to this question.


  1. Funny you should bring that up as I have been thinking of this on and off for a short while, but not at all deeply. So, off the top of my head:
    What form of identity politics do you think pro-Israel Jews are practicing? I'm not sure what you're getting at. Do you think that by advocating for the security and continued existence of Israel we are practicing identity politics as it has come to be known and practiced? How broadly or narrowly do you want to define it? What if I'm the American ambassador to the UN, or any country? Is that a form of identity politics?
    I know I have said that identity politics is poison. But what I am usually thinking of is a bunch of leftish multiculturalists who accept the idea that any third world culture is superior to our own in some way, and besides, their cultural underdevelopment is all our fault anyway, and we need prostrate ourselves. To me it is a masochistic guilt trip full of humanitarian racism and division.
    I don't think advocating for a country under existential threat qualifies.

    1. I don't know, exactly.

      I'm just trying to tease it out.

      Part of the answer is that we don't make the Left's Hierarchy of Victimhood... which is good.

      I think what it really is, is that Jews do not define ourselves as in conflict with some overarching theoretical oppressor like white, patriarchal, capitalism.

      Instead we tend to be more concerned about a large and active political movement that is, in fact, chopping people's heads off.

      I want to get the answer to this question straight, tho.

  2. Identity politics is politics. Not of itself bad, but necessary. It depends on how it is practiced.

    Jews practice identity politics defensively. They have no choice. It is not about economics and political theory.

    Jews are sui generis. There is no group so small and so threatened, unquestionably documented by history. And still threatened. Is any other state or people targeted for extermination?

    It is probably different in Israel, where there is clearly discrimination. But compared to what? It's hard to decipher how Arabs in Israel would feel if not egged on by Palestinian Arabs. It's hard to gauge sentiment. Have to believe that Israeli Jews would be much less militant if the Palestinians were not obsessed with hate and violence.

    Since Jewish identity politics is not based on an offensive model to obtain an ideological objective, but as a tool of self-preservation, there is a distinction to be drawn. Offensive identity politics as practiced is less about rights than spoils. That is why it is so corrupt, divisive and dangerous.

  3. FWIW, according to Mort Klein of ZOA:

    I am speaking to as many Trump officials about these issues as I can. They have told me that they realize that ZOA is the Jewish organization that most promotes and reflects their views about the Arab-Islamic war against Israel. They know that almost all the other organizations support a Palestinian state, do not come out and say Jews have a right to live in Judea and Samaria. They have told me — one after another — that we are the only major Jewish group they understand reflects Trump’s views on these issues.

    Guess J Street would find this bad news.

  4. Back in the day we didn't worry very much about people breaking in and stealing electronics or personal items or jewelry. We did experience people breaking in and stealing food and clothes. So it became a tacit agreement that if we left food and clothes outside for them to take, they wouldn't break in. Everyone was happy, everyone's dignity was intact and no one got hurt.

    So the issue is what are you a victim of? And what kind of victim are you? The average oppressed victimized poor person in America is living with the appurtenances reserved for the very very wealthy of 30 years ago. Flatscreen, cell phone, a car with a digital control panel, a concierge doctor, of sorts at the CVS minute clinic, and a hundred other things. Now there's certainly a downside to being poor and living in a poor area; more crime, worse diet, worse schools and so on. But on the whole 'victimized' means something quite different here than it does elsewhere. Even in last weeks marches - women's rights groups protesting.....what, exactly? What is real or what they hope goes horribly wrong so they can protest even more?