Friday, May 14, 2010

Oh So Polite

1. Harold Bloom on Anthony Julius:

2. Now oh so polite by S Delaney:

Bloom's broad assertion about "the English literary and academic establishment" is nonsense (i.e., that it denies Israel's right to exist) and he asserts that its (and I believe he means any) anti-Zionism is anti semitic. After all, why would British antizionism be different from anyone else's?? And is the English lit-acad establishment really such a monolithic entity? Please!!

Larry conveniently omitted several more quotations: The paragraph he cites concludes by referring to boycotts as "currently prevalent anti-Semitism"--and though I don't agree with academic or cultural boycotts, and in fact am currently at work on an essay for an Israeli festschrift, I don't think they amount to anti-Semitism.

Bloom, like most ultra-zionists, also identifies Israel as necessarily a Jewish state, so that to propose a non-theocratic, modern multinational andnmulticultural condition for Israel with equal rights for all its citizensnis, for them, to deny Israel's right to exist. That's why he can write so melodramatically at the end of his review of the desired destruction ofnIsrael by the Brits. When he says that "to disallow the existence of thenJewish state is another matter", the emphasis is on "Jewish", not on "state". For Zionists, there is no point to Israel unless it is a
specifically Jewish state. I am not in favor of that, nor of a Catholic state or a Calvinist state--how about Israel joining the 21st century, endorsing the separation of church and state and other advances of the great 18th-century revolutions (American and French)?

I do want to add that as a medievalist I am fully aware of the history of anti-Semitism in England--it was there, after all, that the blood libel was apparently invented, in the 12th century, and England has its share of massacres, persecutions and outrageous taxation. For further information, have a look at a collection I edited a few years ago: "Chaucer and the Jews" Routledge, 2002), particularly the essays by Colin Richmond and Anthony

3: The excellent answer by Larry Campbell:

First, re: my "convenient" omissions, here's the link to the whole review,, so that anyone can easily fill in any additional context. I'll just note that this is a funny characterization to come from someone who didn't bother to quote at all, but just badly paraphrase.

Second, Bloom's essay is a review of a book dealing specifically with *British* anti-semitism, but in the context of this email exchange that shouldn't necessarily be taken to mean that there's anything especially egregious about the Bristish variety -- it's simply one example of a more general sickness prevalent in left political circles these days. Not all anti-Zionism is anti-semitism, but the vast majority of its left-wing academic varieties is.

Third, and more consequential obviously, is Sheila's curious identification of something called "ultra-Zionism" with the idea of Israel as a *Jewish* state (emphasis mine). Of course Israel was founded as a Jewish homeland, and it's difficult to see what else would be the reason for its continued existence. But what are we to make of Sheila's alternative -- a "21st century" Israel, so to speak, without an explicit Jewish character?

Well, I don't doubt there are earnest, well-intentioned souls, however naive, who would like to see an end to ethnic nation-states, or for that matter an end to nation-states, the world over. But this anti-ULTRA-Zionism isn't really talking about that, is it? No, it's focused on the one small country that happens to be the only *Jewish*-based nation in the world.

Never mind that Europe consists of a multiplicity of de facto ethnically-based nation-states, nor that there are many such around the world, nor particularly that most of the other countries in Israel's region are, explicitly or implicitly, *Islamic* republics -- no, it's only the one *Jewish* homeland in the world that must be lost. It's not, such good souls protest, that they want to see the Jews of Israel exterminated, or driven into the sea, or driven out and scattered again, no, not at all -- it's just that they would like to see the Jews of Israel treated just like the Jews in the other countries of the region. That will bring it into the 21st century!

So here I think we begin to see the form of 21st century anti-semitism at least, particularly in its academic, left-wing varieties. That "immemorial stench" that Bloom spoke of has certainly reached the noses of these discriminating people, and has occasioned the need for some sort of cover. The roots of their bigotry, in any case, are to be found in the genteel and careful prejudice long practiced by clubs and institutions of various kinds, not in the crude racism of the Nazis. What an opportunity, then, to be able to take one's distaste and contempt and focus it on the one and only Jewish *nation* in the world.

What's been puzzling to many outside the hothouse academic coteries is not the criticism of Israeli policies (which, as Bloom says, might well be construed as philo-semitic), nor even a more general critique of the ethnically-based nation state, but rather the ceaseless, virulent, and extreme hostility to the ethnic character of Israel and only Israel that emanates from so many campuses. Anti-semitic bigotry, however discomfiting, is an answer to that puzzle.

4. The cop out by Sdelaney as to Larry Campbell's response:

Not superb at all—just typical zionist reductio ad absurdum. Their standard argument is always: “Look at how much worse other people/countries are!” –not exactly a logical reply. For the record, I don’t favor Islamic states, either, as my message made perfectly clear—so why bring it up? Also for the record, I’m done with this thread, stand by what I wrote, and urge all of you to read Norman Finkelstein’s work.

5. Some not so polite twitting by me:

Ah, exhortation and insult in the name of argument followed by the white flag of "I'm done with this thread", itself virtual muteness in the name of finality, capped off by the dodge of telling us to read Norman Finklestein "because I myself have no answer."

Of course, you're done with this thread.

No comments:

Post a Comment