Sunday, July 25, 2010
Boycotting Israel. The idea is apparent, not abhorrent.
In this week's issue of Newsweek, Jacob Weisberg decides the best way to begin to advocate against the shunning of Israel by entertainers is to insult Meg Ryan. To show that he is fair and balanced, he then calls another performer who will not have concerts in Israel, Elvis Costello, a "thoughtful person". He ends the article by saying that both Ryan and Costello are hard to disassociate from Anti-Semitism.
Let's review. Mel Gibson equals Elvis Costello, much like David Duke equals Jimmy Carter. This is the position of "reasonable Jewish voices".
I don't like the "some of my best friends are _____" argument. It's been the last refuge of scoundrels since I was in knee pants. Yes, I have Jewish friends and cordial colleagues. I live in the San Francisco Bay Area, for pity's sake. I have friends and cordial colleagues from Cameroon. Even a cyber-hermit like me gets out and about once in a while.
Weisberg's main argument is that Israel is a democracy and we shouldn't do this to democracies. I'm old enough to remember Orson Welles going on TV and saying similar things about South Africa back in the 1970s. As much as I like Orson Welles' work, this memory is not one that helps Weisberg's argument.
I also remember something my dear friend Mina Millett said. Mina was a good Catholic girl from Los Angeles who went to Boston to get her bachelor's degree at Brandeis. She made a lot of friends on campus. Making and keeping friends was Mina's strongest suit among a plethora of strong suits. She also saw Jewish culture up close and personal for the first time at Brandeis, and her lasting impression was that the religion and the culture it engendered was determined to keep all wounds and injustices of the past seven millenia daisy fresh.
Liberals aren't 100% behind Israel as they were in days gone by. The conservative movement has a few anti-Israeli discontents like Pat Buchanan, but there are many more evangelical Christians who are staunchly pro-Israel, and more precisely pro-Israeli expansionism. Many born-agains think these are the End Times, but their reading of the Bible says the borders of Israel must be defined far beyond the current borders so that Armageddon may commence.
Mr. Weisberg, you want to persuade non-Jews to follow your advice. Follow the advice of this non-Jew. Speak out against the Jews who take these idiots' money and smile. The Christian Right make no bones about the end of the story being Israel's destruction and the slaughter of all Jews who don't convert. Playing them for saps perpetrates the stereotype of Hebrew venality.
Back when Saturday Night Live was fresh and new, Al Franken and Tom Davis did a skit where Franken played a midwestern beauty pageant contestant and Davis the emcee. When the usually innocuous question came, Davis asked, "Do you think Jews control a disproportionate amount of this country's wealth?" Franken's beauty queen waited three beats and answered with a pasted on smile.
Guess what? I was a kid from California. The Jewish question was barely on my radar. There were Jews in my high school, but I really didn't think about it much. I thought, correctly, that Franken was making fun of the character he played, the knee jerk anti-Semite from the great unwashed middle of this country,
Guess what? I'm not a kid anymore. Jews control a disproportionate amount of this country's wealth, not to mention political power and control of influential industries. They are 2.4% of the U.S. population. There are more Jews here than in Israel, but are still dwarfed by the size of other ethnic minorities in our population. There are six times as many Latinos, five times as many blacks and twice as many Asians. Look at the representation in Congress, the lists of most influential publishers, the leaders in the movie and record industry and most of all, the financial services industry. I'm not saying Jews in America haven't worked hard to get where they are, but I'm also saying they benefited from a Semitic old boy network established to counteract an older established anti-Semitic old boy network.
In several important industries, the Jews won and won big. It's more than a little galling to hear Jews whine about how oppressed they are as a people, especially in the United States.
I will not compare Israel to Nazi Germany. The Nazis are unique and comparisons to them because of a few superficial similarities by any other government ever are dull and facile. I will compare the Israelis to the people who gave them the land, Great Britain. The Brits thought that land they stole was theirs fair and square, and were happy to punish entire populations of people for the actions of a few people among those populations, as they did in the American colonies, in Ireland and in India. It took centuries, but Great Britain no longer has political control in those places. That shit doesn't play anymore, and the sooner that "reasonable Jewish voices" like Mr. Weisberg realize that, the sooner there will be something like a real dialogue.
Mr. Weisberg, sneering at Meg Ryan, like the vilification of Jimmy Carter, does not score any points, except with people who give you money and want to see you either dead or wearing a cross.
Here endeth the lesson.