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View Diary: How do I say this without seeming anti-Semitic? (267 comments)

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  •  I think I might be able to explain it, but (4+ / 0-)

    the explanation is so boring that I doubt many people will have the patience to listen to it. Racism is, among other things, a form of essentialism, meaning it attributes a certain property to the members of a given category qua members of that category. Essentialism is racism whenever the category in question is one of race (whatever that means - it's a purely culturally construed concept) or ethnicity. To say that Jewish voters support and vote out of concern for Israel is (a) bullshit and (b) clearly antisemitic, because it attributes properties (supporting and voting out of concern for Israel) to membership in the category "Jewish" that are clearly not entailed by it. Now suppose you single out certain members of the category in question, as when saying that for many Jewish voters in the U.S., the security of Israel is an important concern at the ballot box. This avoids attribution to the category as a whole, and to that extent it's not antisemitic.  However: you're still identifying the subset to which you are making the attribution as a subset of the larger category - and that's the only way you're identifying it. In other words, you're still talking about those Jewish voters who happen to vote out of concern for Israel as Jewish voters, and in no other terms. That makes your statement ambiguous and suspect with regard to your intentions - it opens you up to accusations of antisemitism. And there is no easy way to adjudicate such charges. The bottom line is this: as long as you talk in ethnic categories at all, people will be reading your pronouncements very very carefully, in some cases with a sense of alert, and some will jump to the conclusion that you are acting out of racist sentiment.  If you want to avoid that appearance, don't talk in ethnic categories. But if you want or need to immerse yourself in identity politics - and it seems as though that's inevitable if you want to win elections in this day and age, or even understand how elections are won or lost - then you may unfortunately not have that option. The best advice in such cases is this, I think:

    (i) Be extremely careful in identifying the group of people you are making an attribution to.

    (ii) Cite uncontroversial evidence for the attribution - if you can't, it becomes much more likely that readers will question your motives.

    Now did I put everybody to sleep?  

    "Maybe there's only one revolution, since the beginning -- the good guys against the bad guys. Question is: Who are the good guys?" ("The Professionals," 1966; Bill Dolworth (Burt Lancaster) to Hans Ehrengard (Robert Ryan).

    by brainwave on Wed Sep 21, 2011 at 08:27:32 AM PDT

    •  Thanks for the comment (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Oh Mary Oh

      I think that such a degree of care, though, would hamper one's understanding both of the result in NY-09 and of why we are about to veto (if the need arises) Palestinian statehood.  We have many freewheeling discussions here.  I'm uncomfortable with the notion that this must be an exception.

      The notion that much can be solved by just changing the "All" in "All Jews support Israel" to "Most" has some appeal, but I wonder how much of a difference it would really make.

      In my avatar, the blue bars show how many want Reps who COMPROMISE; the aqua bars show who wants Reps who STAND FAST no matter what. (Left=Overall; Center=Democrats; Right=Republicans.) And there's the problem!

      by Seneca Doane on Wed Sep 21, 2011 at 09:18:12 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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