Thursday, October 20, 2016

Mnyeh, Typical

Jews Sans Frontieres has several good new posts up, dealing with accusations of anti-Semitism against Jeremy Corbyn and his section of the Labour Party.  It happened that I read these a day after a Facebook friend linked to an article warning of newly increased anti-Semitism. These are important and contain valid information and arguments.  But I noticed something that bothered me here.
If you look at the way the Zionist movement is throwing its weight around in the UK ever since Jeremy Corbyn became leader, it's not an edifying spectacle. I mean it must be causing antisemitism given the unjust and unfounded nature of the allegations. 
And here:
Sadly it also has the effect of making ill-informed people subscribe to the old antisemitism because of course Dave [Rich, author of a book accusing the left of anti-Semitism] and others like him, including now a Home Office Select Committee have decided that Jews and Zionists are the same thing.  All very sad and very irresponsible.
I agree that many, probably most people react to the bad behavior of a few people by ascribing it to all members of the group they associate with the bad actors.  So, for example, I captured this specimen a year ago after the Paris attacks, in comments at another blog:
And yet yesterday evening I found myself thinking “what the f*** is wrong with those people”, and I’d be lying if said I meant just the murdering a*******. I should know better. I DO know better. And yet… I don’t know any muslims. It’s so easy to slip into that lazy, wrongheaded thinking, even when you know better. 
Since it's so easy to slip into that lazy, wrongheaded thinking, I think it's important that everybody be vigilant against it, in themselves and others, and challenge it whenever you encounter it.  It's not something that occurs only far away; it happens all around us.

I disagree with JSF and the commenter, though, that this tendency has anything to do with being ill-informed, or knowing any members of the group being demonized.  For one thing, even scholars fall into it: though they are generally very well-informed, they can't or won't apply the knowledge they have.  And contrariwise, anytime someone hears about some bad behavior and asks themselves "What's wrong with those people?", meaning not the specific perpetrators but their country, their religion, their political party, they need to stop and catch themselves.  You don't need to be informed, beyond the knowledge that no group is completely homogeneous.  You don't need to know any Muslims.  The burden of proof, and it's a heavy one, lies on anyone who claims that They are all alike, They are all responsible.  The variety within groups is always enormous.  (Think of the old Jewish proverb Two Jews, three opinions.)

In particular, if someone is angry about what members of the IDF, or settlers in the Occupied Terroritories, or members of ISIS or al-Qaeda have done, and then decides to beat up (or worse) the Jew or Arab or random brown-skinned person in their neighborhood in revenge, the legal penalty should be heavy, but more important, they should be shunned and generally given a hard time by everyone in their neighborhood.  If such a person tries to justify their violence by pointing to crimes committed against the ocean, the penalty should be even stiffer.  If only because such thinking and behavior lessens the safety of everybody in the vicinity, it needs to be nipped in the bud, killed before it spreads.

P.S. I forgot to mention that in a review of Dave Rich's book that JSF quotes approvingly, the reviewer says:
Clearly, insofar as some remarks are antisemitic they need to be confronted. Conspiracy theories, e.g. that Israel founded Isis or that Jews escaped 9/11, should be dismissed out of hand. 
People keep using this word, I do not think it means what they think it means.  Those aren't "conspiracy theories," they're simple falsehoods.  They may be used in conspiracy theories, but that's not quite the same thing.  But the important thing is that Dave Rich and the constituency he's writing for are conspiracy theorists, accusing the British left of deliberately fomenting anti-Semitism in order to bring down Israel.  As I've pointed out before, conspiracy theories are a thoroughly acceptable feature of mainstream political discourse, as long as they name the "right" conspirators.

But do read JSF's new posts.  Though they are about Britain, the same tactics are being used in the US.