miércoles, 25 de febrero de 2009

What would YOU say?

Criticism of Judaism should be as possible as criticism of Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, and others. Having a strident critique of religion is fine, hating the adherents is something else. Although I do tend to think that people who quote the Talmud don't actually own it, but get their snippets from websites. As far as I know, the Talmud is Rabbinical commentary which, like all commentary, evolves over time.

But still, if certain people wish to imply that Judaism reckons it's "considerably more chosen than you," in the words of Loadsamoney, I'm not sure I'd consider it antisemitic unless that involved calls for open discrimination against Jews and such.

We live in times where previously very strident critique of religion is part of our literature. Whether you say, "Christianity is the most perverse system that has ever shone on man," or "The Qur'an is a fascist book," or "The Talmud says you can mistreat the Goyim," or whether you read Nietzche, or Dawkins, or other authors, this should be permissible.

I don't like the linkage some people attempt to make that in criticizing religion, you are by extension criticizing its followers. That can be the case, but it certainly does not have to be the case. It seems we now have a veritable encyclopedia of slurs we can throw at critics of religion to drown out what they're saying, from anti-semitic to the newly coined Islamophobia. The internet has been choc-a-bloc with critiques of Christianity ever since people started to get the hang of it. If it is not racist or any one of any number of other terms to write that material, it's the same for other religions.

If I was addressing a world conference on anti-semitism I would say this:

Real anti-semitism exists in former Eastern European countries and the return of nationalist fascists to countires like the Ukraine and Lithuania after the break up of the Soviet Union exacerbated the problem of anti-semitism.
Where extreme right wing movements, nostalgic for Hitlerism, exists.
Anti-semitism exists still in Austria and France and it is a problem in Latin America, which adopted some of the fascist ideas that were popular in the thirties and never let go of them.
Interesting thing - or appalling, if you will - is the degree of antisemitism in Spain, which has almost no Jews (they were expelled in 1492 rather than murdered between 1939 - 1945). To my surprise, a recent study showed that negative attitudes to Jews were higher in Spain than, for example, in Poland where is endemic.

I would then say:

We have to make a clear distinction between this very real anti-semitism, which needs to be dealt with harshly, and the political struggle in the middle east.

The Middle East was a relatively tolerant place for many years where everyone got along - in Beirut and Damascus and Cairo and so forth. It was only when Israel was established and Palestinians were removed from their lands and when they were exiled and made into second class citizens that Muslims began to see the fellow brothers of the book as enemies.

This was exacerbated when the US began to use Israel as a regional enforcer.

We have to make a clear distinction between anger expressed against an unjust regime currently in control of Palestine: Israel, and the supporters of and the intolerable and painful fact of the existence of real anti-semitism in Europe.

All efforts must be made to politicise the debate about Israel.

This whole "new antisemitism" thing is not serious and is merely a tactic used by some Zionists to deflect criticism from Israeli policies. The idea is that you spend so much time denying you're an anti-semite, that you get distracted from your original criticism.

Don't fall for it. It's what they want and is being used to defend war crimes.

There's an easy way to fix it. Next time someone says "you are an anti-semite", just say, "Apparently everyone who opposes Israeli policies is these days." If someone complains about anti-semitism, use their own definition to hang them with.

Though the purpose of shouts of "Hamas, Hamas, Jews to the Gas" etc, should not be diminished as responses to realpolitik. People should feel free to disagree with the way the Israeli government acted and should feel free to condemn those actions in the strongest terms. That I condemn wholeheartedly Hamas and Hizbollah's actions does not make me Islamophobic and I wouldn't pretend to suggest that criticism of Israel makes one anti-semitic.

However, in criticising Hamas and Hizbollah I would not even think of calling for the death of Muslims, let alone pronounce such thoughts. It just wouldn't be acceptable and would fundamentally undermine my own humanity.

Those who call for death to all Jews are of `questionable motive´. One wonders at their reasoning. I really cannot see how it can be a mere expression of anger at their perception of Israeli maltreatment of Muslims. Were such logic to prevail, they should also be chanting death to all Muslims at the continuing factional terrorism between Sunnis and Shi'ites in Iraq or at the humanitarian disaster of Darfur, the tribal fighting in Somalia, etc, etc, etc. The lack of moral equivalence must make one wonder as to the motives. Why is such vitriol reserved for Israel and for the Jews?

This is not, as I say, to discredit criticism of Israel. Many are, I'm sure, genuine and passionate and properly intentioned in their views. But one really must wonder...

That's what I would say.