My letter in the July 6 Ames Tribune:
I find it ironic when someone makes it sound as if AIPAC were the lobby for a foreign government (‘Obama demands more of Israel’ June 28). I am a proud and patriotic American and a member of AIPAC. We lobby our American government as Americans who promote American interests in the world.
Often, those who oppose American greatness, our influence in the world and our efforts to promote liberal democracy, know that they cannot simply bash America. Instead, they bash Israel, a small liberal democracy surrounded by hostile and unfree states. They appeal to conspiracy theories and unexplained power (really just re-purposed arguments against other-things-Jewish).
Fortunately, the American people know better. Our Congress supports Israel because Americans, from across the political and religious spectrum, support Israel. And, we support Israel because we know that our values are at stake there.
In the past, Soviet-backed governments threatened Israel. Today, terrorists with fascist ideologies threaten Israel. Against such enemies, Americans back democracy and freedom.
James Edward Johnson
Today marks great tragedy and great triumph for the Jewish people.
Seventy years ago today, for two days in 1941, pro-Nazi Arabs rioted against the Jews of Baghdad. In a wave of violence, the Jews of Iraq were destroyed on a shocking scale – even in the context of the developing Holocaust. In the Farhud, which means “pogrom” or “violent dispossession”, approximately twice as many Jews were killed in Iraq as were killed during Kristallnacht in Germany. The only reason the Nazis did not succeed in exterminating the Jews of Iraq is that the British regained control shortly after the Farhud. Even still, Baghdad would be nearly Jew-free within the next ten years. One of the major centers of Jewish life for approximately 2,500 years was destroyed.
Forty three years ago today (on the Hebrew calendar), another center of Jewish life was restored. In 1967, Jews had been barred from their holiest sites in Jerusalem for 20 years – during the Jordanian occupation of the city. Although day-to-day control of the Temple mount, Judaism’s holiest site, remains under the authority of the Islamic Waqf, it and the Kotel, or Western Wall, was opened to the Jewish people under the sovereignty of the Jewish state. The return of this area to Jewish hands is marked by Yom Yerushalayim.
So, while on this day we remember a terrible tragedy and the destruction of a center of Jewish life, we also remember a great victory and the restoration of a center of Jewish life.
A nice Jewish man in Iowa City, Patrick McEwen, was brutally killed in his own home just over 3 years ago. His killer was up for parole last week – during Chag Pesach no less. Fortunately, it was denied for at least four more months. Here is the piece I wrote for the Press-Citizen just before the hearing.
So, I have been a long time in posting. My work keeps me busy this time of year. Even so, I have published a couple things in the interim:
If you read only one, read the book review.
I am always a little surprised by how fast professed anti-racists will engage in antisemitism. I have never experienced this phenomenon to the degree I have experienced it here in Iowa City. Most people here are really good people, but there is a small group of very vocal ideologues who are apparently not deterred in their open acts of antisemitism. Here are a few tips for avoiding antisemitism that I have recently considered:
Conspiracies are rare. Most cooperation is in the open. When I say something I am not speaking for any other Jew – either collectively or individually. When I act I am not acting on any other person’s behalf unless I am explicit in doing so. If you are quick to infer a conspiracy between my and other Jews, your inference is antisemitic. I am always shocked when people assume I am part of a Jewish conspiracy and not simply doing what I think is right on my own and for my own purposes.
Members of minority groups usually are angered when they perceive bigotry directed towards their group. Responses to such perceptions are not typically cautious and reasoned and can often appear spiteful or vindictive. Expecting minorities to suppress their anger and respond more civilly is a bigoted expectation. If a fellow Jew gets pissed off at you for your lack of sensitivity I am not going to try to put a leash on them. I do not infantilize Jews or anyone else by pretending my calmer response is more “proper” or “better” than their angry response. It is not my place to tell them how they should respond to your bigotry. Expecting one Jew to prevent another Jew from expressing their emotion in a visceral fashion is antisemitic. Expecting a male to restrain a female is doubly bigoted because it reinforces sexist stereotypes.
There are many individual members of every group who behave poorly at times. Attributing the actions of those individuals to their group, their community organizations or any other member of that group is a bigoted attribution. Minority communities tend to be well connected internally because of their minority status. That one poorly behaved member of a group might have connections to other members of the group is not evidence of general debasement of the group. It is evidence of the group’s normalcy. Expecting otherwise is destructive of minority groups, bigoted, and in the case of Jews, antisemitic.
More locally, there are a few groups (seemingly attended by the same small set of people) that routinely engage in these sorts of antisemitism. They are ostensibly pro-Palestinian in spite of having very few Palestinian Arab members. In practice, they are a lot more anti-Jewish, anti-Israel, and antisemitic than they are pro-Palestinian. What a shame. Don’t be enticed by the superficially tolerant rhetoric of such groups.
I have recently published a Writers’ Group column in the Iowa City Press-Citizen and a letter in the Des Moines Register. Enjoy!
Howard Jacobson’s “The Finkler Question” is an exploration of the relationships of three British men, two Jews and one philo-Semite, their struggles with the women in their lives, and their struggles with Jewishness and antisemitism. It recently won the Man Booker Prize, one of the top literary prizes in the world. … Read more.
The United States has an ugly history of red-lining and housing segregation. Beginning in the 1960s, we rightly began reversing this historic injustice. How odd, then, that we ask a foreign government to implement segregationist policies. … Read more.