Behavior Is Fair Game–Identity Isn’t

The horrific attacks on Mosque worshippers in New Zealand are more evidence–as if we needed more–of the global eruption of tribalism and bigotry.

That bigotry has been encouraged, and defended, by Donald Trump and his supporters, who traffic in stereotypes and like to shrug off criticisms of slurs based on race, religion and sexual orientation as “political correctness.” They deliberately ignore the very consequential difference between legitimate criticisms of behavior and illegitimate accusations based upon identity that fuel intergroup enmity.

It’s a crucial distinction, and one with which even well-meaning Americans struggle, as we’ve recently seen in the debate triggered by Congresswoman Ilhan Omar.

I hadn’t posted about the explosive reactions to Congresswoman Omar’s comments, for a couple of reasons: first, there have been plenty of columns, blog posts and Facebook rants without my adding my two cents; and second, because I know very little about the Congresswoman and thus lack a context within which to evaluate whether her use of a couple of old anti-Semitic tropes was inadvertent or purposeful.

That said, I tend to give her the benefit of the doubt. I have a sneaking suspicion that she wouldn’t have been subject to such blowback had she not been Muslim. (It took years of overt hate speech before Steve King’s vitriol bothered his fellow Republicans. Islamophobia isn’t any prettier than anti-Semitism.)

Inadvertent or not, the reaction to her remarks makes it important to emphasize that criticism of Israel is not in and of itself anti-Semitic.  Plenty of American Jews are highly critical of Israeli policies and Netanyahu. I am one of them. Josh Marshall, editor of Talking Points Memo, is another.

As Marshall recently noted,

the Israeli right and its supporters in the US (who are overwhelmingly evangelical Christians) have reaped the whirlwind by making the Netanyahu government’s meddling in US politics so frequent and expected. It is not only wrong on the merits. It is insanely shortsighted for Israel. It also endangers American Jews.

As he concluded,

There is nothing wrong with criticizing Israel. I agree with many of the main criticisms. There’s nothing about criticizing Israel that is anti-Semitic, though the two things can overlap. And the history of anti-Semitism being what it is, it behooves critics to stay their criticism in ways that doesn’t easily play into anti-Semitic stereotypes. But the Israeli right and its American allies have made all of this more difficult for American Jews, who are overwhelmingly identified with the party the current Israeli government considers itself opposed to.

When critics suggest that Israel doesn’t have a right to exist, when they are conspicuously silent when far less democratic countries in the region like Saudi Arabia oppress women or kill journalists, or when they signal that their animus toward Israel extends to American Jews–yes, that’s anti-Semitic, and they should be called out on it.

For that matter, no one should be surprised that people who have a five-thousand-year history of hatred and discrimination would be a bit… sensitive… when old tropes play. But criticism of Israeli actions and/or policies is fair game, and it shouldn’t be deflected by unfair charges of anti-Semitism.

On the other hand, sweeping characterizations of Jews–or Muslims, or African-Americans or any other group–is bigotry. Condoning it–let alone tacitly encouraging it, as Trump clearly does– leads to tragedies like the massacre in New Zealand.

 

 

 

28 thoughts on “Behavior Is Fair Game–Identity Isn’t

  1. I for one would like to hear more from the Muslim communities here in the United States. We hear so little, and when we do it seems to draw nothing but outrage. Have we nothing to learn?

    Meanwhile, the President is threatening his critics with the army, the police and bikers. Yesterday he claimed that white supremacy wasn’t a big problem… just a few people involved in that he said. If you were not afraid before this past week, you certainly now have the shivers.

  2. The Israel of today is not the Israel which major nations in the world awarded statehood to in 1948; this county continues through all administrations to provide financial support and weapons as if there has been no change. Probably/possibly because it was a gradual change through administrations rather than the blatant Neo-Nazi, White Nationalist, KKK support Trump has opened the Pandora’s box to free the hatred on this country in only 2 years time.

    I also give Congresswoman Omar the benefit of the doubt; inadvertent of purposeful she has brought attention to our continuing, escalated under Trump due to his family and financial connections, full support of Israel as if it is the same country, based on the same humanity, admitted to statehood in 1948. I have seen negative references to the ADL in this regard; references Marv made time and time again and were either ignored or there was a lack of understanding regarding his comments due to the lack of understanding of the Jewish religion. Are we supporting a denomination in Israel which is comparable to the evangelical denomination of Christianity now ruling the United States? Was this the basis of Congresswoman Omar’s comments?

    Congresswoman Omar has apologized for her comments if they were misunderstood or there was a lack of knowledge of our past support of Israel through decades. We are now back in the international news with Trump highlighted as a White Nationalist hero by the New Zealand terrorist (another home-grown terrorist in that country) who murdered 49 Muslims at prayer. This atrocity happened as this country watched our government fight against Trump’s racist fight against Hispanics to be handed billions of our tax dollars to build the useless wall which his own Republican owned Legislature, Executive and Judicial government would not give him.

    Trump’s behavior is based on his identity as a wealthy white man; in Trump’s case both are fair game and must be addressed and must be stopped.

  3. @ Teresa Bowers, “I for one would like to hear more from the Muslim communities here in the United States. We hear so little, and when we do it seems to draw nothing but outrage. Have we nothing to learn?”

    I submit that the Muslim community has, regrettably, learned to keep its head down lest the white supremacist islamophobes provde (yet another) reason to maintain a low profile. This is a time to use white privilege for good, not to Muslim-splain, but to provide space and to amplify their message.

  4. “There were no cameras in court when Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman faced the judge for their alleged roles in the massive college admissions scheme, but the public did get the next best thing: courtroom sketches. The colorful illustrations were immediately shared all over the internet.”

    The above is copied and pasted from a Yahoo post on AOL. Initial evidence that “Behavior” is fair game in this case while “Identity” was used as fair game to publicize another scandal involving the wealthy of this country who we are familiar with. Will they pay their way out of this scandal the way they paid their children’s way into chosen colleges? Were their children lacking in intelligence and/or athletic abilities and in need of paying their way into school as Bush and Trump’s families paid their way out of active military service? Will all those on the receiving end of the millions be “outed” for their behavior or are their identities not public fodder? Not only do “Politics make for strange bedfellows.” Our darker undersides are coming to light; let us not allow them to distract us from the life-threatening issues at hand in our government.

  5. Isreal 1948, takes Palistine,with the new world powers blessings,makes the start of this now mess. weve become king and slayer to goverments around the world. dubious CIA tactics prior to major world events,unreconized. power,now is a mercinary power, to support economic growth,of those chosen by major corprate and world leaders. we have become a army to defend resources,and corprate needs over the people..as the people watch the tube,mesmerized by the ,(just whatnthe hell is taking control of their minds?) dog whistle power of pictures and words. if ad agencies are targeting thier ads,based on educational mind set,of a third grader, then its really a mind wash of facts. (orwell had this down)those facts,carefully thought out by think tanks,and their govenours who pay,and investors,to kill the very people who watch them.(corprate media is complacent in this) rigged,sure,but that word rigged,is just a cheap way fo saying ,that money and hate run this country now.Time for change,and as sam jackson just said,”if your not saying anything about it,your complicit.”. my words to fellow workers run in those same lines,the majority,trumpers in my working world. they feel authoritarianism is a way they can relate to. few if any ever read history past what ever local school.(with segregated learning) and havent a clue. they still are swept up in headline news,bacuse they are too lazy,to read,and practice thier rights in a democracy. bubbas words over facts,bubbas ideals from hate.. this leads to New Zealand.. I read the words, the head PM Jacinda Ardern,These are the people with extremists views,and have no place in New Zealand,and in fact,have no place in the world,,, and trumps just shruggs..

  6. When people like Steve King and his ilk criticize someone, that person must be doing something good.

  7. I am pro Israel but anti-Netanyahu, the frequently indicted Israeli leader who has now aligned Likud with the far right for one purpose – retention of power. He is a wannabe dictator who interferes with our domestic politics while pretending to be the only democratic state in the middle east and thus justifying billions of our foreign aid as a foil to Iran. He is up for trial soon on bribery and other charges and is, predictably, a friend of Trump, another wannabe, who is already an unindicted conspirator in one court and perhaps up on other charges soon. Israel has had great leaders in the past and deserves better than this (though an MIT grad) miniature Trump. That said, I am not sure that he will not retain his leadership in the upcoming election, not because he is beloved – he isn’t – but because his opposition is in disarray. Let’s hope they can come together and finally come up with a two-state solution with their neighbors for the good of all in the vicinity – and the world.

  8. In my dreams I have David Ben-Gurion and Golda Meir paying a little visit to Bebe to remind him of the past and show him a scary future with the likes of him and 45 in charge. Perhaps a little trip with Dante to the “Inferno” might also be arranged. He is in the process of turning Israel into a pariah, with whom only despots will deal.

  9. The behavior of Israel towards Palestine is certainly not blameless. A people as oppressed as the Jewish people have been throughout history turning to oppression makes me heartsick.

  10. Note; the congresswoman apologized to those who misunderstood what she said–not for what she said. I love the reactionaries, including the DNC who said they would run a primary challenger against her next election cycle.

    Now, why would the DNC run a primary challenger against our first ever Muslim in Congress?

    Think about that long and slow…

    By the way, Nancy Pelosi is a featured speaker at the annual AIPAC event this year. AIPAC has been highly criticized for its influence on American politics.

    Criticizing Israel and AIPAC isn’t anti-semitic. I’m glad we can all agree on that much.

    The way Israel was installed, its expansion beyond original boundaries, and the treatment of Palestinians, opens itself up for lots of criticism. As a Muslim, the congresswoman has shared how the Muslim’s feel and we should embrace this–not condemn it.

    The Dems reactionary response is a response to AIPAC, not Jews. It’s political, and money motivated and does nothing to unify the party.

  11. Thank you Sheila,
    The simple fact is the internet and the US export terrorism.
    There is more than enough blame to go around.
    Who thought we would be here?

  12. Brian Shapiro Sheila: I hope that you rethink your comment: “give her the benefit of the doubt.” Tom Friedman has this 100% right in criticizing AIPAC as well as Omar’s sanctimonious, moral blindness when it comes to criticizing Israel: “When I see that dual-loyalty charge coming from a congresswoman who first signaled opposition to B.D.S. and then support for it, when I see it coming from a congresswoman who has never been to Israel, when I see it coming from a congresswoman who, to my knowledge, has never criticized the Palestinian leadership for its corruption and failure — time and again — to seize on peace overtures from Israeli leaders who, unlike Netanyahu, actually wanted to forge a two-state solution, when I see it coming from a congresswoman who seems to be obsessed with Israel’s misdeeds as the biggest problem in the Middle East — not Iran’s effective occupation of four Arab capitals, its support for ethnic cleansing and the use of poison gas in Syria and its crushing of Lebanese democracy — it makes me suspicious of her motives.”https://www.nytimes.com/…/opi…/israel-ilhan-omar.html… Democrats caved to bigots on the left. Instead of chastening serial anti-Semite Omar, they’re only encouraging her and others like her. Trump does not get a pass either for his intolerant comments, or lack thereof. Then, less than a day after the Democrats try to appease her, she turns on them, attacking Obama. Then Trumptina blames the media for distorting her words — except it turns out, they didn’t. Says something that in her remarks about Jews and Obama, she’s on the same page with white supremacists, namely, a hatemonger.

  13. “Now, why would the DNC run a primary challenger against our first ever Muslim in Congress?”

    Todd; is your comment referencing Congresswoman Omar? Have you forgotten Indiana’s exceptional Congressman Andre Carson, also Muslim?

  14. So much of trouble in the world has at it’s core theocracy. I don’t know if political scientists would judge Israel to be one or not but the truth is that the rest of the world deems their country, their government and their people to be Jewish that it really doesn’t matter.

    The Middle East is a giant mess of religous tribes with political power and now the US is effectively joining that mess as the Christian tribe.

    Welcome to the Crusades V2.0.

  15. Congresswoman Ilhan Omar and Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez are now prime targets for Fox News and other Reactionary Web Sites “shared” on face book.

    As Todd, wrote “Criticizing Israel and AIPAC isn’t anti-semitic. I’m glad we can all agree on that much.”

    The occupation of the West Bank and Golan Heights by Israel made military sense. The approval of Israeli settlements in the West Bank was a huge mistake.

  16. This statement at the beginning requires an intellectual leap that most Americans cannot or are unwilling to make. The Republicans have NO chance of understanding this, because they refuse to.
    That bigotry has been encouraged, and defended, by Donald Trump and his supporters, who traffic in stereotypes and like to shrug off criticisms of slurs based on race, religion and sexual orientation as “political correctness.” They deliberately ignore the very consequential difference between legitimate criticisms of behavior and illegitimate accusations based upon identity that fuel intergroup enmity.

    It’s a crucial distinction, and one with which even well-meaning Americans struggle, as we’ve recently seen in the debate triggered by Congresswoman Ilhan Omar.

  17. Palestinians have been brutalized since Israel was first established in 1948. Their story needs to be told. Israel is every bit as much as terrorist state as is Palestine. I applaud congresswoman IIhan Omar for her honesty. Would that there were more like her.

  18. JoAnn: “Todd; is your comment referencing Congresswoman Omar? Have you forgotten Indiana’s exceptional Congressman Andre Carson, also Muslim?”

    Andre is a male. And, he has not criticized the government of our great ally Israel.

    Women of color should be seen and not heard. Ya,know, they make great window-dressing for the party. Ilhan must learn to shut up and know her place. Ain’t that right everyone?

    https://www.sheilakennedy.net/tag/womens-march/

  19. The Truth; Behavior is fair game; keeping your identity secret to hide behind your behavior is cowardice…and the words we speak are our behavior. You have outed yourself as a coward and a bully of women proving you are a male but at the same time proving your are NOT a man and the name you choose to hide behind is a lie.

  20. I have urged those on my social media to sign up and read Sheila Kennedy’s blog posts. “I will only present this blog for you and urge you to sign up and read her cogent, calm, professional opinions supported with intelligent insight. Sign up! Spend 5 minutes getting insight, please. Even if you disagree, listen, please.”
    Thank you Sheila for the grand articulation!

  21. Charlie Belch, all citizens of Israel have voting rights. Palestinians who live in the occupied territories do not. That being said, African Americans in Georgia had voting rights for the 2018 midterms as well.

  22. Support for Muslims is a support for Sharia law. If you don’t know what it is , do yer research , and wake up.

  23. Years ago, when I was a teenager in the Navy, a couple of times I found myself in the middle of what could be described as being barroom brawls. In both instances it was complete chaos wherein the people that wanted to fight fought and those that were in the way, like me, had to also fight in order to survive and get out safely. They seem comical now but they weren’t then.

    Sheila’s topic for today made me think of those instances somehow given the complete and utter chaos we’re dealing with in this country right now. It’s as if up is down, down is up, left is right, and right is left and where no one on any side completely has their bearings or any real idea as to where we are all headed. To think that that between now and November 2020 all of this is very likely going to get even worse is a very scary proposition since everything else of any consequence and importance will be whipsawed right along with all of this chaos. Having Trump sitting in the White House sounded bad enough but having the whole country essentially melting down on virtually every issue imaginable will end up in the long run being an even more dangerous prospect. The Hoosier Motor Club (AAA) doesn’t have any sort of trip ticket for any of us on any part of this journey.

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