February 7, 2005


When Jews wax anti-Semitic (Cathy Young, February 7, 2005, Boston Globe)

THE EXPECTATION that a commentator's views must be in lockstep with his or her ethnic, religious, or sexual identity is always distasteful -- particularly when blacks, women, gays, or Jews are labeled "self-hating" when they refuse to toe the perceived party line.

Then again, maybe the "self-hating" label is justified on occasion. That's what I found myself thinking when I read a stunning recent commentary by author and pundit Eric Alterman on the British Muslim Council's decision to boycott the ceremony commemorating the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. The reason given for the boycott was that the commemoration of Nazi death camp victims did not include the Palestinian victims of Israeli "genocide."

On his blog at MSNBC.com, Alterman sneered at critics of the boycott. "I'm a Jew, but I don't expect Arabs to pay tribute to my people's suffering while Jews, in the form of Israel and its supporters -- and in this I include myself -- are causing much of theirs," he wrote, suggesting that one might as well expect gays to honor "the suffering of gay bashing bigots." Alterman noted that "the Palestinians have also suffered because of the Holocaust. They lost their homeland as the world -- in the form of the United Nations -- reacted to European crimes by awarding half of Palestine to the Zionists. . . . To ask Arabs to participate in a ceremony that does not recognize their own suffering but implicitly endorses the view that caused their catastrophe is morally idiotic."

One hardly knows where to begin. There is, for instance, the way Alterman not-so-deftly conflates Muslims with Arabs and Arabs with dispossessed Palestinians, and then declares Jews responsible for "much" of the suffering of Muslims everywhere. Not the brutal theocracies such as the Taliban, which have tried to impose a medieval form of Islam through terror; not the equally brutal secular dictators of the Arab world such as Iraq's now-deposed Saddam Hussein, or the corrupt monarchies. No, it's the Jews -- all lumped together, including long-dead Holocaust victims.

By Alterman's logic, every Muslim is justified in viewing every Jew as the enemy. Alterman frets that his words will be "twisted beyond recognition," but it's hard to see how they can be twisted into something more indecent than they already are.

Seems a tad unfair to say he's anti-Semitic. If you look at what he has to say about things like extending Western values to the benighted Middle East it becomes fairly clear he hates everything about himself and his culture, not just his Jewish roots.

Posted by Orrin Judd at February 7, 2005 8:17 AM

Alterman is just a vile little girlyman, so typical of The Nation, its staff and its readership. We really should have a 'Philip Nolan Program' for these people, just hand them a check, and send them to the country of their choice if they agree never to return, and employing retinal scans at the border to make sure they never do.

Posted by: Bart at February 7, 2005 8:34 AM

Just to show that Alterman's hatred isn't all directed at Jews, he and Jeff Jarvis have been going at it for the past week over Alterman's speculation that some Iraqi bloggers are CIA agents, a claim he made on MSNBC while at the same time proudly admitting he had never read the weblogs in question.

Alterman is a self-hating Jew only to the point that he sees the state on Israel lined up as an ally of George W. Bush. When Muslims are seen as supporting Bush's policy efforts, he's perfectly willing to trash them too, and I'm sure the same standard would hold for any religious sect from Hundus to Bhuddists to Wiccans for W, if there actually is such a group.

Posted by: John at February 7, 2005 8:58 AM

OJ: Alterman does not get a free pass because he is a Jew. If any goy said what he says, everyone would condem it as anti-Semetic.

Alterman is a very long way from unique. He is part of a long and loathsome tradition stretching back through, Noam Chomsky, Susan Sonatg, Hannah Arendt (who started as Nazi philosopher Maritn Heidegger's girlfriend) to Karl Marx himself.

He is also part of the modern transformation of the left from communism, which is unsaleable given the collapse of the Soviet Union and the apostasy of China, to the ancient socialism of fools -- anti-Semitism.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at February 7, 2005 9:49 PM