Saturday, September 08, 2018

Manufacturing anti-semitism

the stupid! it burns! Well! The Guardian manages to follow The Atlantic in The Stupid, it Burns! series. Never mind UKIP, Richard Spencer, the growing American neo-fascist/neo-Nazi/alt-right movements, etc., ad nauseam. In I still don't believe Corbyn is antisemitic – but his 'irony' comments unquestionably were, what's really important is for Simon Hattenstone to dissect a comment from British Labour Party chairman Jeremy Corbyn from five years ago to make a specious connection between anti-semitism and opposition to the democratically elected government of Israel (which government I do not support, and I would not travel to Israel for love or money... and I presently live in China). Although the stupidity and mendacity seems obvious enough, because this drivel was published in The Guardian, I will explain a bit.

In 2013, defending Palestinian ambassador Manuel Hassassian, Corbyn said that
Zionists who were in the audience . . . clearly have two problems. One is that they don’t want to study history, and secondly, having lived in this country for a very long time, probably all their lives, don’t understand English irony either.

Hattenstone sees clear evidence of anti-semitism: by "Zionists", Hattenstone claims Corbyn clearly meant Jews: Corbyn's comment "is unquestionably antisemitic."

Hattenstone's first tries the "swap the minority" argument:

And if there were ever a clear example of somebody conflating Zionist with Jews, this appears to be it. Let’s play the traditional “swap the minority” game. Instead of “Zionists” let’s make it, say, Muslims or African-Caribbeans or Asians or Irish needing lessons in history or irony. Not nice, eh?

This argument is beyond stupid. Any criticism or generalization becomes racist if you replace the object of criticism with a racial group. Murderers are violent => Black people are violent. The point is whether the initial object of criticism is itself a racial group, not that the comment is critical.

Next, Hattenstone tries to make the case that Zionist necessarily means Jewish. He quotes Shami Chakrabarti:
Crucially, I have heard testimony and heard for myself first hand, the way in which the word ‘Zionist’ has been used personally, abusively, or as a euphemism for ‘Jew’, even in relation to some people with no stated position or even a critical position on the historic formation or development of modern Israel. This has clearly happened so often over a number of years as to raise some alarm bells in Jewish communities.

This argument is just warmed-over third-hand Fox News "Some people say" bullshit. Just because some people use Zionist as a euphemism for Jew doesn't mean that Corbyn used it in that sense. Hell, I consider Republican and conservative as euphemisms for racist, but that doesn't mean that everyone who uses the former term means the latter.

Notably, Hattenstone does not link to the source (pdf) of the quotation, but to a summary article in which it does not appear. He apparently ignores such passages from the summary as Chakrabarti’s report "doesn’t deserve to be 'weaponised' in one direction or another." Chakrabarti "doesn’t offer an unambiguous definition of antisemitism and its relationship to anti-Zionism." Oh, and Chakrabarti calls for :a moratorium on trawls through the past statements of Labour party members." I suspect Hattenstone himself might not have the strongest grasp on the concept of irony.

Hattenstone continues:
Meanwhile, Labour’s new code of conduct states that the use of the word Zionism “euphemistically or as part of any personal abuse” may “provide evidence of antisemitic intent”. On both fronts, if Corbyn said the same thing today he would be in breach of his own party’s guidance.
But this would be true only if Corbyn actually did use the word Zionism "euphemistically or as part of any personal abuse," which Hattenstone has not, you know, actually established.

Finally, Hattenstone argues that criticism is indeed criticism. Corbyn said that
these British Zionists don’t study history, and they don’t understand irony . . . In other words, they are uneducated, they have failed to integrate or assimilate, they are outsiders, they don’t belong, they need to be taught a lesson. Sorry, Jeremy, this is the language of supremacism.

Hattenstone's extrapolation is complete nonsense. I cannot speak to British culture, but there are a metric assload of fully integrated and assimilated Americans who don't study history and don't understand irony. Most of them are in fact uneducated (although a lot of supposedly educated people don't study history or understand irony), but criticizing someone for being stupid is not saying they're "outsiders", except, perhaps, in that they are outside the group of intelligent people capable of basic critical thinking.

I'm not sure it's the hill I personally want to die on, or that the Western Left should die on, but the Israel-Palestinian conflict is one of the sharpest and most binary examples of social justice: The Israeli government and its supporters, Israeli citizens and non-citizens, are in the wrong, are acting grievously against social justice. It's impossible, I think, to be an honest SJW and not at least give lip service to the condemnation of the Israeli government's treatment of Palestinians.

I am hesitant to contradict Hanlon's Razor, even with all the charity I can muster, I can't explain Hattenstone's nonsense just with stupidity. This looks more like a malicious hatchet job: any challenge to the absolute authoritarian rule of the capitalist class must be smeared by any means possible. Hattenstone is lying, he knows he's lying, and he's lying on purpose, to discredit Corbyn and the Labour party. And The Guardian is complicit in this malicious purpose. One person might be just that stupid; it's too much of a stretch to believe that not just Hattenstone but also all the editors who published this crap are all that stupid.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please pick a handle or moniker for your comment. It's much easier to address someone by a name or pseudonym than simply "hey you". I have the option of requiring a "hard" identity, but I don't want to turn that on... yet.

With few exceptions, I will not respond or reply to anonymous comments, and I may delete them. I keep a copy of all comments; if you want the text of your comment to repost with something vaguely resembling an identity, email me.

No spam, pr0n, commercial advertising, insanity, lies, repetition or off-topic comments. Creationists, Global Warming deniers, anti-vaxers, Randians, and Libertarians are automatically presumed to be idiots; Christians and Muslims might get the benefit of the doubt, if I'm in a good mood.

See the Debate Flowchart for some basic rules.

Sourced factual corrections are always published and acknowledged.

I will respond or not respond to comments as the mood takes me. See my latest comment policy for details. I am not a pseudonomous-American: my real name is Larry.

Comments may be moderated from time to time. When I do moderate comments, anonymous comments are far more likely to be rejected.

I've already answered some typical comments.

I have jqMath enabled for the blog. If you have a dollar sign (\$) in your comment, put a \\ in front of it: \\\$, unless you want to include a formula in your comment.