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March 2017

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david bowie realism _ truepenny

Scott Simon on anti-Semitism, and the memory of Stephen Tyrone Johns.

Comments

I agree with Mr. Simon.

It is sad we devote so much press coverage to the killer and so little to the victim who died defending something he believed in.

But the question remains how do we change the media's focus? Which ultimately comes back to how do we change the public's interest (since, to a degree, the media's focus is driven by the public's interest). How do we get the public to pay more attention to the victim and who he was rather than who the killer is?
You know, antisemitism still surprises me in a way that other forms of racism don't.

It could be that, as a Jew raised in comparative privilege among people who did not display antisemitism in any sort of obvious way, it was easier for me to be oblivious to it than to the casual racism concerning, say, blacks or Asians. The first time I heard, in person, a remark of casual antisemitism, I was already in my twenties.

Nowadays I know the history thoroughly, and I'm always struck by the irony that more than a millenium of massacre, torture, rape, kidnapping, arson and forced conversion, not to mention the Blood Libel, is culturally truncated into a single event (the Holocaust) and treated as if it were now "over," i.e., Jews now share in exactly the same colonial Western privilege as other white people, because we're comparatively free from overt oppression in two or three countries. Oh yeah, and there is one Jewish state (for a while, anyway).

So when I heard of a march by Kansas fundamentalist radicals in my home state recently, I was surprised to learn that they were protesting about the influence of gays and Jews at the same time. Bigotry against gays never surpises me; but I hear the anti-semitism and I think, "What? Oh, yeah, that's right. I forgot."
I think, as a non-Jew, I may hear more antiSemitism. It's anti-gay stuff people hide from me. *g*

Seriously, if somebody's gonna be a bigot, they may as well be a bigot to my face.
My background and experience is similar to yours. I think the thing that brought it home for me was learning about the Weimar Republic - realizing that a time that was progressive in so many ways could go *poof* into the worst of times.

Most of the time, though, I really do feel like anti-Semitism has been pushed back into the lunatic fringe, even if that fringe group is still lamentably large. (Also, there's a whole 'nother group who find it difficult to separate the entire population of Jews from the specific actions of Israel's government.) One of the things I thought after the shooting was, if anti-Semitism has been reduced so far and yet something so awful can still happen, how much more do we have to worry about forms of prejudice that are still more overt?
I grew up as an American expat in predominantly muslim countries. Not the gulf states, but marginal states where other cultures predominate although the official religion is some form of Islam. So it's not surprising that I, as a known non-Jew, became used to hearing the sort of anti-semitism that here in North America is sort of considered pre-20th century "Elders of Zion" stuff. Stuff like "jews bleed babies to bake bread" and "jews own all the banks, so they control the West."

But this was also mixed up in the "Pashtuns are stupid and dirty" and "Never trust a chinaman. They'll rob you blind," and "all black africans have huge d---s and you can't trust them with your daughters". The anti-semitic racism was not so shrill as it is today, and it was sort of part of a general racism, sort of closer to what my parents grew up with in the South (only one generation ago, we forget). While anti-semitism is, like you say, considered anachronistic in the U.S., I've found it's gotten worse, especially in the Gulf. Tour the comics of the region on a regular day, and you'll see what I mean.

In my life, I think a key turning point was when Menachem Begin was elected and invaded Lebanon. Up to that point, there seemed to be some sort of willingness to compromise on either side of the Green Line. That this would somehow be resolved. But instead, criticism of Israel gets tangled up with hate against Jews, and the converse is also true that criticism of Israel is delared anti-semitism by an increasingly strident and violent sector of Israeli society. Since then, as has been shown by Neve Gordon and so on, the violence has gone steadily up and up. It seems to be reaching a breaking point and neither side is willing to compromise anymore.

I used to work with a Human Rights Advocacy group when the International Criminal Court was being established. They worked long and hard to try to get the world to pressure the U.S. and Israel, along with China and Russia, to agree to endorse and be subject to the Court's rather narrow requirements, and the delegates flatly refused.

Now the facts have been so twisted around that a bona-fide war criminal like Sudan's Al-Bashir is issed a warrant by the ICC, and the iron-clad belief across North Africa and the Gulf is that the Americans and Israelis, all controlled by "the Jews", are using the ICC to crush muslim autonomy. It just makes you want to cry. Especially someone like me who is still holding out for Kissenger to be tried for the Secret War in Cambodia and the Pinochet Coup.

So it seems to me that anti-semitism is not just a Jewish concern. It should be everyone's concern. And I don't think not talking about it is the answer. You can't make a problem like that disappear by silencing the bigots. I think a real, hard look at all kinds of racism is in order. It's not going to come from selectively editing our social discussion. I think we really need to express this more soundly. This sounds like a job for the storytellers.

Pardon for the rant. It's been brewing.
Thank you. There's a bunch of stuff in here I didn't know, which will be fodder for future research.
Hadn't thought of that. You'd probably like Jerusalem 1913 for research purposes. It's an easy read, and Amy Marcus brings the transitional conflicts down to a human scale without losing balance and objectivity.
Agreed entirely with Mr. Simon. Also heroic: the guard or guards who took down the assailant, who to the best of my knowledge haven't been identified by name in any of the news reports. They saved any number of innocent lives that day.
Yes.