Abraham Foxman was for decades the National Director of the Anti-Defamation League, and is currently its National Director Emeritus. Paul Surovell, a Facebook friend of mine, is a peace activist and Chair of South Mountain Peace Action in Maplewood, New Jersey. The exchange between them (below the fold) is both revealing and astonishing.
Revealing because despite using them all his career, Abraham Foxman literally has no idea what the word “libel” or the phrase “blood libel” actually mean. Astonishing because Surovell’s final accusation really is as obvious as he says it is: Foxman’s aversion to the very acknowledgement of Palestinian suffering seems to suggest either that Palestinian suffering doesn’t exist, or that it’s deserved even in children, or that even if it exists, it doesn’t merit acknowledgement. Why else would that be, except on the assumption that non-Jewish suffering by definition takes a back seat to Jewish suffering? How much clearer could the sheer dehumanization of Palestinians get?
In my last (recent) post on this topic, I argued that it seems absurd to blame people, or pass moral judgments of any kind on them, for what they experience in dreams. It follows that it’s absurd to blame, judge, or morally assess someone for having racist dreams, or generally, vicious dreams. But, I suggested, certain sorts of passing, stream-of-consciousness thoughts seem to bear a closer similarity to dream states than they do to conscious convictions. If so, thoughts of this variety are not a proper subject of moral assessment either, or at least less so, in proportion to their similarity to the relevant features of dreams.
One implication of this claim is that a person who encounters a lot of racist noise in his head, even racist noise voiced in the first person, is not necessarily a racist himself, and not to be judged a racist simply on that evidence–a claim that contradicts not just Hursthouse’s view, but one held by other moral philosophers. A second implication is that insofar as implicit bias/association tests function to detect a propensity to give voice to involuntary, osmotic mental noise, we have (yet another) plausible explanation for their invalidity and unreliability, and should consider dramatically ratcheting back the use we make of them. Continue reading
We’re still reeling here from the Jersey City shooting, along with the string of anti-Semitic attacks that have come in its wake–
eight nine in the last few weeks,* and then another one yesterday. Here’s a nice statement from Jersey-area religious leaders of various faiths. I wish there was a secular one going around, but I don’t think there is. If anyone hears of one, please mention it.
*I miscounted. Eight of the attacks were in New York City (excluding the Jersey City attack); adding the Jersey City attack makes nine. The Monsey attack makes ten.
Talk of reparations has come back into common currency in American political discourse–meaning reparations to African Americans for the wrongs done to them since the beginnings of slavery. I don’t have a fully considered view on reparations (many of the arguments both for and against strike me as one-eyed), but I’ve both been surprised (and in another sense, not surprised) to hear libertarians insist so adamantly that libertarianism rules out reparations. Anyone who thinks this owes it to himself to read or re-read Robert Nozick’s Anarchy, State, and Utopia, if not cover to cover, then through the end of Part I, as I did on a recent plane ride. Continue reading
Below the fold, I’ve reproduced (with permission) the text of a letter regarding the P Is for Palestine controversy by Michael Lesher of Passaic, New Jersey, addressed to the Trustees and Director of the Highland Park Public Library, in Highland Park, New Jersey. More on the controversy from Jewish Link of New Jersey: Rochelle Kipnis (May 9), Elizabeth Kratz (May 17). From the Newark Star Ledger: Rachel Kleinman (May 9). From ABC News. From Fox News.
The library will be holding a public meeting on Wednesday, June 5th at 7:30 pm to discuss the matter. Continue reading
I went stark raving mad after seeing this video posted in a module of my Ethics course at Felician University covering multicultural counseling. Irfan and I have long talks about how upside down things are not only in the media, but in the social sciences where the truth of what one has to say appears to relate more to the color of their skin than what the person actually says.
The effect of the type of “reasoning” engaged in not only in the two paragraphs below, but in the video as well as the article on “white privilege” (just click on the link to see that article) was going to send me to the psych ward on suspicion of homicidal ideation if I did not speak up. So, I felt it best to do so in the interests of everyone’s safety. I didn’t have a lot of time to write this response so it’s rough, but it makes the points I wanted to make in essence. I think Irfan will follow-up with more to say. Continue reading
This has now become the standard conservative line on the Kevin Williamson affair, care of Bret Stephens of The New York Times. The “you” refers to Kevin Williamson.
The case against you, as best as I can tell, rests on three charges. You think abortion is murder and tweeted — appallingly in my view — that doctors and women should perhaps be hanged for it. You believe “sex is a biological reality” and that gender should not be a choice. And you once boorishly described an African-American boy in East St. Louis, Ill., “raising his palms to his clavicles, elbows akimbo, in the universal gesture of primate territorial challenge.” …
Weighed against these charges are hundreds of thousands of words of smart, stylish and often hilarious commentary, criticism and reportage. …
Shouldn’t great prose and independent judgment count for something? Not according to your critics. We live in the age of guilt by pull-quote, abetted by a combination of lazy journalism, gullible readership, missing context, and technologies that make our every ill-considered utterance instantly accessible and utterly indelible. I jumped at your abortion comment, but for heaven’s sake, it was a tweet. When you write a whole book on the need to execute the tens of millions of American women who’ve had abortions, then I’ll worry.
We also live in an age — another one — of excommunication. This is ugly because its spirit is illiberal, and odd, because its consequences are negligible. Should The Atlantic foolishly succumb to pressure to rescind your job offer, you’ll still be widely read, presumably at National Review. If you’re really the barbarian your critics claim, you’re already through the gates.
The Atlantic did eventually rescind Williamson’s job offer, so I guess the barbarian has been ejected from the gates. Question in passing: if the consequences of the current spirit of excommunication are “negligible,” why the fuss? Continue reading
About a year and a half ago, having spent a summer in Palestine and a week on Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, I ventured the observation on Facebook that three political disputes I’d “recently encountered” (in a loose sense of “encountered”) struck me as fundamentally similar in nature, and yet attracted fundamentally different constituencies. For brevity’s sake, let’s call them “Malheur,” “Standing Rock,” and “Palestine,” taking those as shorthand designations for more complex things. Continue reading
A piece of advice: if you see a sign like this on a telephone pole in your neighborhood, rip it down.
A “Blood and Soil” sign in New Brunswick, New Jersey. Photo credit: Dario Gal
Don’t just leave it up and take a picture of it, and don’t bother calling the police to investigate. No one has a right to put a sign of any kind on a telephone pole without authorization of the owner, much less a sign of this kind. You’re not violating anyone’s rights by taking it down. If you have a genuine “civic duty” as an American, it’s to express your rejection of the politics of “Blut und Boden“–Blood, Soil, and Master Race–before it takes hold more powerfully than it already has. Continue reading
Some food for thought, in “commemoration” of the Balfour Declaration, drafted 31 October 1917, adopted by the British Government 2 November 1917.
(1) Lord Arthur Balfour, speech to Parliament on the need for the British to retain control of Egypt (1910)
First of all, look at the facts of the case. Western nations as soon as they emerge into history show the beginnings of those capacities for self-government…having merits of their own…You may look through the whole history of the Orientals in what is called, broadly speaking, the East, and you never find traces of self-government. All their great centuries–and they have been great–have been passed under absolute government. All their great contributions to civilisation–and they have been great–have been made under that form of government. Conquerer has succeeded conqueror; one domination has followed another; but never in all of the revolutions of fate and fortune have you seen one of those nations of its own motion establish what we, from a Western point of view, call self-government. (Quoted in Edward Said, Orientalism, p. 33)
(2) Balfour Declaration, Zionist Draft (July 1917)
His Majesty’s Government accepts the principle that Palestine should be reconstituted as the national home of the Jewish people.
His Majesty’s Government will use its best endeavours to secure the achievement of this object and will discuss the necessary methods and means with the Zionist Organisation.
(3) Balfour Declaration, Final Draft, (finalized 31 October 1917, adopted 2 November 1917)
His Majesty’s Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country. (Both drafts quoted in Charles D. Smith, Palestine and the Arab-Israeli Conflict: A History with Documents, 8th ed., p. 94)