Thursday, December 24, 2009

Conspiracies somehow involving Israel or Jewish people

In a previous post describing the controversy over the legitimacy of Israel as the central conflict of the Middle East, I was accused by a commenter, N. Friedman of believing in a conspiracy. What type of conspiracy was not specified, nor was what statement led him to that conclusion.

Non-Western readers may not understand what was meant by that comment, so I think it will serve as a good example of the accusation and one way to respond.

In especially European history, animus or hatred of Jewish people often was expressed in the idea that Jewish people have formed a secret conspiracy to control policies of majority non-Jewish political entities such as governments or intellectual, cultural or opinion-setting institutions.

Friedman, saying I believe in some conspiracy, is claiming that I am anti-Semitic. When the Leverett's go out of their way to describe the conflict between those who accept Israel and those that reject it as a conflict between pro and anti- Americans, they are attempting to pre-empt exactly Friedman's accusation.

I want to be clear about two things. 1) I am not an anti-Semite. I have no hatred or animus of any type against Jewish people. I do not believe Jewish people, because they are Jewish, have any kind of negative attribute. 2) There is no reasonable reading of my previous post under which I was in any way coming anywhere near making any anti-Semitic claim, nor was there any statement that could reasonably be read to imply any kind of conspiracy. Even if Friedman was honest in his response, he still was not reasonable.

People who argue against Israel's legitimacy will often be accused sometimes directly, sometimes obliquely as in Friedman's case, of being anti-Semitic. If dealing with a Western audience, it is very important to deal with the accusation head-on.

"I do not in any way hate Jewish people" "No statement I made can reasonably be interpreted as expressing hatred in any way of Jewish people". In dealing with a Western audience, once an accusation of anti-Semitism is made, it is better to make these statements too often and too vehemently than not often or vehemently enough.

We can't be sure that Friedman was being cynical. I know Friedman from earlier encounters and he has an emotional attachment to Israel that possibly colors his perception of statements questioning Israel's legitimacy. He may really have thought he saw a conspiracy somewhere. That really does not matter. I do not in any way hate Jewish people. No statement I made can reasonably be interpreted as expressing hatred in any way of Jewish people.

It is a very dangerous accusation because if I pre-empt the accusation by using "pro-
American" where I mean "pro-Zionist or pro-Israel" then my analysis suffers. It suffers in a way that Friedman would approve, because it would lead me to underestimate the price the US and West pay for their support for Israel.

There is not a mysterious anti-American force that has captured the hearts of millions of people in the Middle East. Contrary to what Friedman would want Westerners to believe, people in the Middle East do not accept the legitimacy of Jewish majority Israel just as reasonably as people in Africa did not accept the legitimacy of White majority South Africa.

This dispute, in which the Middle Easterners happen to be right, animates the most important conflict in the Middle East and exacts huge costs on Israel's supporters. But sorry, N. Friedman. I say that even as someone who is not anti-Semitic. Even as someone who has no reason anywhere in any way to imply that there is any conspiracy.


N. Friedman said...


I did not accuse you of being an Antisemite. Had I wanted to do that, I would have said so.

To read your comment, however, I frankly think you have no idea what Antisemitism is about. It is not a simple hatred. It has rather often been a movement among intellectuals who deny a personal animus against Jews. Note the cry, some of my best friends are Jews. Bernard-Henri Lévy mimics the Antisemite in his recent book, Left in Dark Times: A Stand Against the New Barbarism: "We have nothing against the Jews, nothing at all; except this terrible crime they have committed, this bad deed, this nasty habit, etc." That, in fact, is pretty much the accusation made by many on the far Left against Zionism, namely, that Israel committed some horrible crime in its birth and efforts to maintain itself while denying any hatred of Jews.

So, let's not mince words. Had I wanted to accuse you of Antisemitism, I would have. But, I had something different in mind when I wrote what I wrote.

What I said is that you believed in the conspiracy that things in the Middle East revolve about Israel - or, to be simpler, you hold an Israeli-centric view of the Arab regions. That view only appeals to people who believe in conspiracies because there is no substance to it.

That I showed your comment to be nonsense is, perhaps, why you manipulated my comment to be one about Antisemitism, which was not what I was thinking and certainly not what I wrote.

For the record, I think your ideas are simplistic, ahistoric, ill-considered and naive but that does not make them Antisemitic. Antisemite is a comment I would reserve only to extreme cases of bigotry. You, by contrast, seem obsessed by anti-colonialism, which to me is a theory which adds something but not as much as you think to understanding the Arab regions. Unfortunately, people like you have jumped to shortcuts, seeing Israel as an example of colonialism when, in fact, Jews manipulated the colonialists to permit migration and then expelled the colonialists - the opposite of what real colonialists would do.

And, by the way, my comment on the other post responded rather precisely to what you wrote in that article. Read what I wrote again.

Arnold Evans said...

You think I'm simplistic, ahistoric and the other things. That's fine. When you accuse me of believing in conspiracies, the accusation of anti-Semitism has to be put onto the table. If once it's on the table, you deny that you ever were insinuating that, I accept that. I'm fine as long as we have an open statement of whether or not you're calling me anti-Semitic.

I don't think my previous post was nonsense, or that you showed it to be nonsense, or that you showed much about it at all. Anyone interested can see for themselves. But as long as you're not calling me anti-Semitic, we can agree to disagree.

N. Friedman said...

Oh, and by the way, I never said that people in the Middle East are going to accept Israel. That may or may not ever occur.

My comment is that Middle East countries do not matter all that much because the whole of the Middle East, apart from Israel contributes very little and what is contributed is found in the ground. When that substance in the ground runs out, unless the Arabs grow up and learn to live in the world as it is, which includes Israel, they will fall even further behind than at present.

In any event, the future belongs to those with intellectual assets. The Arabs might consider how foolish they are to hold a grudge against people who are advanced in that regard.

lidia said...

Arnold, to be called A-S by a Zionist means one is in a good company (as a matter of fact it usually means you are right).

Now, I cannot got the badge of honour, being only "self-hating Jew" :)

Now, NF could shop for more suitable grounds for his Zionist prop - for ex, Christian Zionists - they ARE anti-Semits, but they are Zionists

Anonymous said...

Well put Lidia!