Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Fear Driving Jewish Sentiment to the Right

Yoav Shamir's film "Defamation" takes aim at the New-York based Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and their on-going efforts to confront anti-Semitism in the world.

Shamir, an Israeli-Jew contends that he has never experienced anti-Semitism and wishes to learn more about this terrifying international phenomenon. Shamir's exploration leads him on a journey through Israel, America and Europe where he is able to clearly deconstruct the mechanisms by which the specter of anti-semitism is created and promoted.

In Shamir's sincere lampoon we are able to see that while the ADL does earnestly advocate for Jews who are not granted religious leave for Jewish holidays, the ADL's essential purpose is to promote the existence of anti-Semitism in order to reinforce it's own leverage as an international lobbyist in support of Israeli militarism.

The specific target of Shamir's irony is one Abe Foxman, director of the ADL. As we see Foxman cavorting with world leaders, we understand him to be playing a delicate confidence game, where his power to anoint anti-Semites leads to various international concessions to Israel and world Jewry. Shamir's point is that this anti-Semitism is largely amorphous and that Foxman's barking is self-serving hyperbole.

Norman Finkelstein author of "The Holocaust Industry: Reflection on the Exploitation of Jewish Suffering" is also featured prominently in Shamir’s film and often is the direct target of Foxman’s bark. More to the point, Finkelstein, whose very controversial view on the holocaust and the state of Israel are well considered has been publicly mauled. In an intimate scene in Finkelstein’s apartment we are privy to the impact that his stance has had on his life. Receiving hate mail, unable to gain tenure at a university despite an excellent academic record, Finkelstein is spurned to the margins where he struggles to address the public censure of his ideas and his label as an anti-Semetic self-hating Jew.

Naomi Klein, joins Finkelstein in controversy reasoning that a resurgence of anti-Semitism has been an important plank in the Israeli right-wing movement. In 2002, Klein pointed to the election of the far-right Jean-Marie Le Pen, who cashed in on a wave of anti-Semitism as a great victory for Likud leader Ariel Sharon whose policies were driven by the very fear of anti-Semitism.

Klein doesn't deny the existence of anti-Semitism as a potent political cache in Europe but argues that Sharon and his ilk certainly contribute to its existence and not surprisingly stand the most to benefit from its existence. The same holds true for Foxman who is chronically searching for the clear-cut case of anti-Semitism that proves out his point and justifies his organization’s stature as the best funded Jewish charity in the world.

Clearly, anti-Semitism is big business and recently, Rush Limbaugh, conservative American commentator and darling to an estimated audience of 20 million has weighed-in on the subject and earned the ire of Foxman who has labeled his comments as "anti-Semitic".

Limbaugh, the self-appointed moral compass of the Republican guard, wondered aloud if the American Jewish community (which reportedly voted about 78% in favour of Obama in the 2008 presidential election) was experiencing "buyers remorse". Here is Foxman's take on it: “Limbaugh told his listeners: ‘To some people, banker is a code word for Jewish; and guess who Obama is assaulting? He’s assaulting bankers. He’s assaulting money people. And a lot of those people on Wall Street are Jewish. So I wonder if there’s – if there’s starting to be some buyer’s remorse there.’” In context Limbaugh was in conversation with his Jewish friend Norman Podhoretz author of "Why are Jews Liberals".

Well, this makes for great stuff because for Foxman, Limbaugh has emerged as a great figure to prove his relevancy in America conveniently waving the age old flag of the Jewish banker who controls the nation's finances. It's scary stuff those Jews and their banking conspiracies and Foxman is quick to jump all over it aware, that Limbaugh's sword cuts with great incision as these Wall street bankers are none too popular in middle America these days. In this sense, Limbaugh's commentary is downright chilling.

But Foxman, perhaps a little naive has taken the bait and is now entrapped in Limbaugh's "who loves Israel the most" snare and Limbaugh has some pretty steadfast allies in the Christian Evangelical Right, and Zionist Organization of America (ZOA). What we have unfolding folks, is a well orchestrated campaign to challenge Jewish America's support of the Democratic party and the pervasive liberalism of American Jewish culture.

Indeed, Podhoretz, a long-time conservative commentator points out that the very factions of the American Jewish community that most closely align with the Republican Party are the orthodox Jews whose social values around key wedge topics like abortion and homosexuality resonate nicely with the Republican Party’s platform. Podhoretz makes the case that these orthodox Jews by virtue of their adherence to religious doctrine, are more Jewish than the melting pot of liberal secular Jews. Indeed, in my own experience skirting on the periphery of the ultra-religious Hassid communities, I have been challenged to consider that as a Jewish male dating a non-Jewish female, I am performing anti-Semitic acts that undermine the integrity of the Jewish people (as Jewish lineage is traditionally passed on through the mother). Moreover, this same significant faction would argue that real Jews follow Torah and secular Jews, are merely biding their time living wasted lives outside of the embrace of God. Podhoretz's essential conclusion is that these Jewish Liberals are not actually Jewish but liberal ideologues posing as Jews.

What we are seeing is a struggle to own being Jewish. The reward of owning the Jewish label in the post-holocaust world is multitude, a strong base of financial support, a powerful voting block, a strong sense of entitlement and, an unwavering moral authority. All of these benefits have a significant impact on the ability to control the American and international middle-eastern policy agendas.

Naturally, the currency that drives the market for Jewish allegiance is fear.

Foxman has built a career around it and with Obama seen as "soft" in support of Israel, Limbaugh is hoping to make some serious in-roads. But, the disturbing aspect is that the greater the extent of actual anti-Semitism, the greater the profit and benefit to those who use fear-mongering to own Jewish sentiment.

In returning to Shamir’s film, his view that anti-Semitism does not really exist might be a bit optimistic however, his point that the mainstream Jewish community perpetuates the fear of anti-Semitism as a means of maintaining a cloistered social order is well taken.

For Foxman and the mainstream Jewish leadership at-large, there is a great danger. In maintaining the air that dissent on Israeli military aggression is anti-Semetic, they have paved the way for the ultra-right wing conservative movement of the US to claim the mantle of Israel’s best protectorate.

The world is clearly becoming increasingly polarized around Israel’s ongoing occupation of the Palestinian people. If Foxman et all, do not open the scope of discourse on the matter they will continue to back Israel into a corner where their greatest allies are truly the most ardent of anti-Semites. In my view, stifling the diversity of Jewish opinion, the ADL does more to strengthen the culture for anti-Semitism than defeat it.


  1. Cumberland, eh? email me @ Mucho interest and some good hookups for you in the town of one of my heroes, Ginger Godwin.

  2. #39? John Mitchell?