Thursday, March 22, 2018

Hold It: Now Jews Talk About Antisemitism Too Little?

I don't really want to join the pile-on that greeted Jonathan Weisman's NYT column wondering why, in his view, American Jews aren't calling out antisemitism enough. If you'd like, here's commentary from Allison Kaplan Sommer and Andrew Silow-Carroll, as well as a follow-up interview Weissman did with the Forward.

I've actually written some things which might be thought of as in alignment with Weisman's thesis, e.g., praising the ADL but calling out other Jewish groups for going soft on Steve Bannon (the terrible revelation that many Jewish orgs kept quiet specifically to avoid alienating conservative donors would also fit very well here). That said, I think the story of whether Jews are or aren't sufficiently calling out antisemitism in America and globally is a complicated story; I don't think the answer is pat

But for now, all I want to add is this: How can we write a column on this subject, where the thesis is "Jews talk too little about antisemitism", without even acknowledging the trope that Jews talk too much about antisemitism? Isn't that the more pervasive stereotype? Certainly, it isn't dead yet -- as I found out a few years ago at an academic conference:
The folks questioning me seemed to think that the debate we were having was whether anti-Semitism is raised too often or just the right amount. But I don't think anti-Semitism is talked about the right amount; I think we talk about far too infrequently.... For all we have convinced ourselves that it is easy to cry anti-Semitism, that Jews don't have qualms about doing so when it's false let alone when it's real, the reality is far different. Pretty much all the Jews I know, especially those left-of-center (which is to say, most Jews), are keenly aware of the costs of anti-Semitism talk -- that each time they try to raise the subject (no matter the context or validity), they are feeding into this narrative of "there they go again."
A good chunk of the comments responding to the (very good) Trayon White apology this past week also were in this vein -- "look at the Jews, crying antisemitism just because someone says the Rothschild's control the weather!"

Just like conservatives started on "colleges indoctrinate impressionable youths with obscene smut and Marxist propaganda" and skipped on over to "colleges shield snowflake youths from controversial ideas and difficult viewpoints" without seeming to miss a beat. somehow we've hopped from "Jews always talk about antisemitism" to "Jews never talk about antisemitism" without even acknowledging the shift.

As it happens, I think I more-or-less agree with Weisman in that I think Jews aren't particularly vocal about antisemitism and that we should be louder on the subject. But one of the more plausible explanations for that observation is that Jews have grown gun-shy on raising the issues for fear of supporting the omnipresent narrative that Jews are too vocal and too loud on the matter. I find it baffling -- bordering on bizarre -- that one could write a column (hopefully not a whole book!) on this subject and just skip over that stereotype entirely.

Employers Don't Make Passes ....

A new, very depressing study finds that women applying for jobs are penalized (compared to men) for getting good grades in college. Basically, employers value competence in men but likability in women, and so they reward men for getting better grades (associated with competence) while viewing high-achieving women with skepticism (assuming they're less likable). The effect is strongest among women majoring math, because of course it is.

Ugh, ugh, and ugh.

Quote of the Day: Nozick on a REAL "Powerful Argument"

No joke, I had remembered Nozick said something like this but couldn't remember the exact quote -- then spent forever searching for it fruitlessly before someone completely randomly posted it on twitter today.

For the record, it's from Robert Nozick, Philosophical Explanations (Cambridge: Harvard UP 1981), p. 4.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

"I'm in a Book -- No, Not Because of That!" Roundup

The political theory class moves onto its feminism unit. I thought about recommending my students read Kate Manne's fantastic book Down Girl: The Logic of Misogyny -- after all, I'm in it! Upon reflection, telling my students that I'm "in" a book about misogyny may be a bad idea unless I provide considerably more context about the nature of my inclusion (I was discussant when she presented a chapter of the book at a Berkeley workshop; she was also generous enough to cite to my "Playing with Cards" article).

* * *

New Voices (a periodical promoting young Jewish writers) has a piece on Mizrahi Jews trying to find space for their stories in generally-Ashkenazi-dominated campus Jewish spaces.

Study: Middle School students (of all races) prefer teachers of color. Suggestive that implicit biases aren't as prevalent among tweens and young teens? Or that teachers of color who manage to overcome racialized barriers and mistrust to reach and keep their positions are particularly talented?

Oregon judge suspended after, among other things, putting up a picture of Hitler in his courthouse's "Hall of Heroes" (he also refused to marry same-sex couples, tried to use his judicial status to intimidate a youth soccer referee, and allowed a felon whose case he was adjudicating to handle a firearm in his presence).

BDS activists in Spain are suing an anti-BDS watchdog for "intimidation" stemming from the latter's successful legal efforts to overturn BDS ordinances passed in various Spanish municipalities. A judge is allowing the lawsuit to proceed. While there's something unnerving about a suit claiming that the counterparty winning discrimination suits constitutes a form of "discrimination", I try not to jump to conclusions about the meaning of pre-trial rulings in foreign legal cultures, because I have no idea what the relevant legal standards of review are in (in this case) Spain. So grain of salt.

Trump Secretary of State nominee Mike Pompeo is deeply tied to anti-Muslim bigots. There's a special place in hypocrisy hell for those in the Jewish community who went all-in on Tamika Mallory for her ties to Louis Farrakhan last week who back Pompeo this week (RJC, looking at you).

Professors in the Geography Department at the University of British Columbia successfully pressure their own students to cancel a gala that would've been held at the campus Hillel space. The gala would not (to my knowledge) have been Israel (or Jewish-related). Hey, I remember when we went through this at Brown!

Monday, March 19, 2018

Things People Blame the Jews For, Part XLIV/Rate That Apology, Part 8: DC Weather Edition

It's another two-fer!

Yesterday, two separate people texted me asking if I'd see the D.C. Councilman, Trayon White Sr., who blamed the Rothschild's for manipulating the weather in Washington and causing recent snowstorms. And I'm like -- dammit, I just wanted to enjoy my weekend. But alas:
“Man, it just started snowing out of nowhere this morning, man. Y’all better pay attention to this climate control, man, this climate manipulation,” he says. “And D.C. keep talking about, ‘We a resilient city.’ And that’s a model based off the Rothschilds controlling the climate to create natural disasters they can pay for to own the cities, man. Be careful.” 
Okay, first of all, as a long-time resident of the DC metro area, I can attest that I don't care one bit about snowfall -- the weather pattern that's worth developing a conspiracy over is our 95 degree/9000% humidity summers. That's hell on earth. Second, I don't think we've had a weather-related entry in this series since Jews created the tsunami that hit the Fukushima reactor in Japan, so way to give us a throw-back!

Anyway, because I'm old and slow and can't respond to things how I used to, I wasn't able to blog on this until after Councilman White issued his apology.

I actually really like this one. Let me explain why.

The first reason I like it is based on something perhaps not evident in the four corners of the apology itself, but which I've confirmed from other sources: White took it upon himself to reach out to Jews United for Justice (a DC-area Jewish group) to ask them what he had done wrong and how he should make amends. Now, just to be clear, this is not an "I-have-Jewish-friends" defense (that's bad). It wasn't even "after Jews reached out to me, I realized I was wrong" (better). It's "after realizing I hurt them, I took it upon myself to take the initiative and reach out to Jews to figure out what I should do better" (best).

But the bigger reason I like it is that it commits to the idea that White needs to learn. Yes, we can roll our eyes at the prospect that someone is utterly unaware of how "Rothschild" stands in for antisemitic conspiracies. But even if they somehow managed to be ignorant on the subject, that's no excuse unless it's coupled with a recognition that one clearly needs to learn more if one is to be a good ally to Jews. And that's what this apology does quite well. It speaks of how JUFJ is "helping me to understand," and that he is "committed to figuring out ways [to] continue to be allies with them." It doesn't claim that he's already exemplary on the subject, and that the video was some inexplicable blurt that shouldn't sully an otherwise perfect record. The contrast to, say, the Harvard Law Student who gave a decent apology for allegedly inadvertent antisemitism but didn't indicate that he thought he had more to learn on the subject is striking, and cuts strongly in White's favor.

One thing that it is often hard to remember for for those of us committed to fighting antisemitism is that our end-goal isn't to fight antisemitism, it's to beat it. And one corollary of that goal, then, is that any campaign against antisemitism worth its salt has to account for -- indeed, actively desire -- the possibility that some people who said or believe genuinely antisemitic things will, at some later date, change their minds. Put another way, we have to have strategies through which, when encountering antisemitism, we actually change minds. Naz Shah is a great example of how much power can emerge when this works.

I'm not saying that Councilor White has earned his stripes yet. That remains to be seen based on what he does going forward; one apology (even a genuine one) issued in the moment will not and should not suffice.

But it's a start. And as a start, it's a pretty good.

Grade: 9/10.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Things People Blame the Jews For, Volume XLIII: Uber Turkey

Where ever Uber goes, so go complaints from the local Taxi industry. I have some sympathy -- really, I do. Uber isn't exactly known for playing by the rules, and it seems reasonable enough to demand that Uber face the same regulations as taxis generally (whether that entails leveling regulations up or down, I'm agnostic to).

But regardless of how you feel about Uber, nobody should be surprised about who's being blamed for its disruptive effect (in Turkey, at least).
The president of the Chamber of Istanbul Taxi Businesses has accused Uber of being a targeted attack on his industry carried out by what he called “the Jewish lobby”, Turkish Jewish newspaper Şalom said
“The global thieving Jewish lobby is carrying out commercial taxi piracy in Turkey,” Eyüp Aksu told a crowd of anti-Uber protesters outside an Istanbul courthouse.
He said the Turkish media were joining in, attacking taxi drivers with biased articles.
For the record, "global thieving Jewish lobby" is offensive and inaccurate. We prefer the term "Guild of Jewish Thieves," which is much cooler.

Anyway, I use Lyft, so presumably I'm exempt from blame here? (Obviously I'm kidding -- the whole point of this series is that there's no escape from blame for anything).

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Post- (and Pre-)National Roundup

No, this isn't about Tillerson (or Goldstein, or McEntee ... goodness, this was a hell of a morning). I delivered the lecture on Nationalism in our Political Theory class today -- which went fine, except that I also have to teach a section on Nationalism tomorrow and now I've used up all my knowledge on the subject. Time for many rounds of my old standbys -- "say more on that", "well, what do you think?", and of course "break off into small groups to discuss."

Anyway, roundup time!

* * *

Advances in turbine technology are making wind power a real player in electricity market -- and not grading on the "renewable energy" curve either.

A powerful story on a UC-Berkeley student living in an unheated trailer with no sewage hookup .... that he's about to be evicted from. This is an extreme story, but it gets to why I get very defensive when Berkeley students are attacked in the media as supposedly epitomizing careless, unserious millennial frivolity. Many of the students here are coming from places and backgrounds where they're well aware of what it means to be attending UC-Berkeley, and are behaving accordingly under conditions that God willing I'll never come close to. When they're lazily stereotyped as aimless hippie stoners, it disrespects them, their work ethic, their talent, and their perseverance.

U. Penn. Law Professor Tobias Barrington Wolff on his colleague, Amy Wax, whom he persuasively argues has converted into the academic equivalent of an Ann Coulter provocateur. This passage is also generally applicable:
What academic freedom does not provide, however, is a free pass entitling faculty who say inflammatory things to escape denunciation or to engage in toxic behavior without consequence. Invoking academic freedom to delegitimize sharp criticism or to claim impunity for improper conduct is a misuse of that principle.
Many people have seen Adam Serwer's excellent commentary on Tamika Mallory's relationship with Louis Farrakhan (a sterling example, incidentally, of how to explain the NoI's appeal to certain segments of the Black community without washing away it's hideously bigoted track record), but Stacey Aviva Flint is another good addition to the list of Black Jews whose opinions you should read on this matter.

Gretchen Rachel Hammond -- the half-Indian Jewish transwoman best known for breaking the story of the Chicago Dyke March expelling Jewish marchers and then being fired from her own newspaper for covering the story -- has a powerful piece detailing her experience and her "divorce" from the trans community in its wake. It is a poignant, cutting, and often very sad piece -- not the least because, for all her fulminations against "intersectionality", the concept in its original manifestation would be very well suited to articulating the sort of marginalization and exclusion Hammond details (one would not be off the mark in summarizing Hammond's experience as one of being "split at the root" -- Adrienne Rich's felicitous phrase which has often been approvingly quoted in the intersectionalist literature).

Monday, March 12, 2018

Trump's Mideast Peace Plan is Going To Be YUGE!

The Trump administration is getting ready to announce its big Mideast Peace Plan. Details are sparse, but we already know a few things which won't be included:
According to the report, the officials said the plan does not have a set of guiding principles.
Also, they said, the plan also does not prescribe whether the outcome should be one states or two states, nor does it call a “fair and just solution” for Palestinian refugees.
The White House must now figure out how to present the plan so that it is not immediately rejected by the Palestinians.
I'll bet.

Things People Blame the Jews For, Volume XLII: Russian Meddling in American Elections

Vladimir Putin wants you to know that it might not be (ethnic) Russians behind the attempts to meddle in the U.S. elections. It might have been Ukrainians. Or Tatars.

Or Jews.

Of course Jews.

And of course, people have thoughts on Putin suggesting maybe all this election interference really traces back to the Jews.

There's a bad piece by David Klion trying to defend Putin from charges of antisemitism, which asks why Putin "singled out" Jews alongside Ukrainians and Tatars (the latter two are maybe easy to explain -- they're the two largest ethnic minorities in Russia. Jews are ... not in third place), answers "it's complicated", and then seems to entirely forget to explain what's "complicated" about it in favor of a stirring ode to the advances Jews have made since the era of the Tsars and a list of all of Putin's good Jewish friends.

There's a better piece by Anshel Pfeffer, which seeks to absolve Putin of personal antisemitism while noting that he has long been willing to tolerate it as a useful vector for stirring up anti-Western resentment.

And then there's the best piece by Talia Lavin, who agrees with Pfeffer that Putin generally "launders" antisemitism through allies or (in this case) trolling, but observes that this doesn't actually provide absolution for promoting antisemitism.

Read them in order, and feel yourself getting smarter.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

One Great Argument Against Anti-BDS Laws? Who Enforces Them

In the abstract, there are solid arguments for or against anti-BDS laws (so long as they're written narrowly and carefully to avoid impinging on constitutional free speech rights).

In practice, anti-BDS laws are enforced by state bureaucrats. And state bureaucrats -- well, state bureaucrats are often the worst.

Hence, putting said bureaucrats in a position to embarrass the anti-BDS cause with boneheaded applications that create PR disasters -- as we've seen in Texas, Kansas, and most recently Arizona State University -- maybe isn't the best tactical move for people who oppose BDS.

Read the full argument in my new column for the Forward.