Thursday, January 28, 2010

Being Antisemitic is Hard Work

Jessica Montell, boss of B'tselem, has written Mondoweis to say that she's not certain there was an explicit Israeli intention to harm the populace of Gaza, but that an independent investigation would tell us more than we presently know. And of course, intention or not, Israel did all sorts of awful things in Gaza.

The readers of Mondoweiss don't like this line of reasoning, ultimately saying that no Israeli investigation will ever tell the truth, and Montell herself is too Israeli for their taste, and too squeamish (I'm paraphrasing).

I've got my issues with Montell and her small corner of Israeli society. Yet they are rational, facts matter to them, and they wish Israel would do better according to their lights. While the result of their actions is too often to supply false fodder to Israel's enemies, that's not their putative goal.

This means there are fundamental differences between them and the Mondoweiss part of humanity. The Mondoweiss gang imbibes a diet of untruths, outright lies, warped interpretations and malice. It's not possible to argue with them, because their assumptions, methods and frames of references are constructed so as to strengthen their opinions, irrespective of reality. They're so far out that a radical Israeli such as Montell is ultimately unacceptable to them, since she does care about facts, and does think that Israel can be saved from itself. The Mondoweiss gang don't think Israel can be saved from anything because in their minds, Israel is the problem. The root cause of Israel's evil is that Israel is evil.

The Mondoweiss community puts daily efforts into maintaining their edifice of malice. They've got a detailed narrative of Israeli evil, and they're constantly tinkering with it, bolstering it, adding new layers, incorporating events as they happen (or rather, incorporating a false version as reality does something else). They work hard at it. For these people, hating the Jewish state isn't a passing interest or an idle whim. It's a passion; it's a collective effort; it's a cult.


Anonymous said...

For someone to take seriously that "there was an explicit Israeli intention to harm the populace of Gaza", then even if they are "not certain" of that, they are wilfullly and pathologically uninterested in pursuing the facts. That is because, if there was such an intention, it could only have come from a sadistic bloodlust so intense and so widespread in Israeli society that the soldiers and airmen were willing to risk their lives to slake it, and the politicians and officers who ordered and controlled the actions must have been willing and able to participate in a gigantic, seamless conspiracy to pretend that the whole operation had a different purpose.

Anyone who was remotely interested in the truth, and who momentarily entertained the possibility that such an intention was behind the conduct of the war, would immediately realise that it would entail such a conspiracy, and that the existence of such a conspiracy is incompatible with countless uncontroversial facts, and would therefore drop the idea within seconds.

Those who don't, B'tselem included, are therefore putting daily efforts into maintaining their edifice of malice. Striving by all available means to legitimise the hurting of Jews, for being Jews, cannot possibly be a mere passing interest or an idle whim for them. It's a passion; it's a collective effort; it's a cult.

Erik said...

Ilmar Reepalu, Social democrat,and the mayor of Malmö, Sweden - Yes that Malmo, Israel, tennis - in an interview on Holocaust memorial day said the following:

"We don´t accept neither zionism nor antisemitism. They are both extremes that pose them selves above other groups and regard those [groups] as inferior."

(The quote in Swedish: Vi accepterar varken sionism eller antisemitism. Det är ytterligheter som sätter sig över andra grupper och anser att de är mindre värda.]

He also stated that in his view, the jewish congregation and jews as individuals have a responsibility for what others think of them:

"I would have wished for the jewish congregation [in Malmo] to take a stand against Israels violations of the civilian population of Gaza. In stead they choose to hold a demonstration at Stortorget [a big square in Malmo] that could send the wrong signal."

[Quote in swedish: Jag skulle önska att judiska församlingen tog avstånd från Israels kränkningar av civilbefolkningen i Gaza. I stället väljer man att hålla en demonstration på Stortorget, som kan sända fel signaler.

The link:

Anonymous said...


I beg to differ - the way Yaakov describes the people at B'tselem they adhere to a cult, the cult of holier than thou, demanding the impossible and regarding the achievement of "purety" as more important than sustaining a good life for their compatriots. Or put it maliciously they seem to be addicted to "whistle-blowing".
This to me seems to be a different cult as the one of the hate-spewing crowd. One testing point (Knackpunkt) on judging them thus might be If they were willing to earnestly consider that the consequences of their super-demands are probably even more damaging to the reputation of "ordinary" Israelis BECAUSE they seem to be so open to rational arguments which in turn makes them more credible to the "earnestly-nodding-their-heads-on-the-Israel-problem"-crowd in my country or put differently what in the end is dearer to them: Israel or the salvation of their souls (if there is such a thing in Judaism) - I am thinking of a test based on E.M. Forster's moral riddle that in an emergency he would hope that he'd decide to side with a friend against his country.

and Erik:
amazing again and again how much gray-cell-energy people invest into coming up with yet another angle on slandering Israel - what great story-tellers these people might be if they would focus all that imagination onto something worth while


NormanF said...

The Mondoweiss crowd believes all the problems of the Middle East would solved by Israel's disappearance. There is no reason to believe the Palestinians would succeed and the Arabs and Iranians are not going to end their quarrel just because a common enemy was vanquished. Israel is not the principal cause of the Middle East's ills and the Mondoweiss fantasy has no chance of ever being realized.

Anonymous said...

Silke: Your explanation (that B'tselem-like folks are merely addicted to whistle-blowing) does not explain why their whistle-blowing invariably has the attribute that it legitimises the hurting of Jews. Never the opposite effect, and never an effect unrelated to legitimising the hurting of Jews.

As for Forster's dichotomy - I disagree. To the extent that a situation demands 'siding' with someone, one should side with whoever it is morally right to side with under the circumstances. This is almost always (but not absolutely always) the side that is itself morally in the right. The whole concept of loyalty, regarded as a moral principle in its own right (as opposed to a consequence of moral principles as applied in particular situations) is a crude and immoral recipe for mindless violence.

Anonymous said...

not to be misunderstood - in real-life-consequences i.e. colouring/permitting/facilitating/legitimizing the office chatter of academics (Germans) the seemingly open to rational arguments relentless nit-pickers are probably a lot more damaging than are the nonsense hate-spewers. And as us from the subaltern crowd tend to take our lead from the so much better at arguing coherently as we are academics they are immensely damaging. As to only finding fault with your own that is something I have been probably taught to do already in the cradle - so maybe that's just western? cultural tradition?

In the few instances when I have been able to deflate the highly informed sounding but ultimately vacuous anti-Jewish/anti-Israel office chatter I managed to do so by inserting arguments of what I call my kitchen-derived-logic like how do you think you'd feel if one of those "non-killing" rockets had just landed on that patch of lawn out there? Stopped them for a while but made them also weary of saying anything again when I was around so I have no way of knowing whether it was at all effective.

Thanks for your comment on Forster - it keeps bothering me because he is also the man who said somewhere that one became only really humane if one had tolerated having made oneself ridiculous in the eyes of one of one's inferiors - something I find a very acute observation and a goal worth achieving

Sergio said...

It is hard to figure out the origins of the emotional energy that drives those obessed people; it surely depends on a multitude of factors interacting in a complicated way.

In any case, in an interesting article by
Eve Garrard (in fact, her articles are always interesting!) titled "Freedom of speech and religion" posted recently on normblog, she makes a point which I think is relevant to this discussion. Refering to what she calls "the human epistemic condition" she writes: "Most of our views are pretty confused a great deal of the time, because life is short and the human capacity to think clearly is limited and fallible." And most importantly: "It takes a lot of effort and constant attention to make our views properly answerable to evidence and reason, and most of the time we manage this very poorly..."

I totally agree: to bother with facts, evidence, reason and coherence is hard, unconfortable and, in a sense, quite unnatural. It entails constant self-awareness and self-doubt. Maybe that's why science is such a late and (fragile) bloomer of civilization.

No wonder a simplified worldview is much more attractive and "liberating", releasing lots of energy to be focused on some chimeric target.