That Anti-Semitism Article

I know I’m a week late, but I finally got around to reading Alvin Rosenfeld’s AJC article “Progressive Jewish Thought and the New Anti-Semitism” and now have some time to begin composing some thoughts about it, which I hope to roll out over the next couple of days.

First, a general suggestion: Let’s all take a collective deep breath. Yes, all of us. Lefties. Conservatives. Jews. Non-Jews. Zionists. Anti-Zionists. Bloggers. Journalists. The bloggers who ignored me the first time.

I’m not trying to defuse anyone’s passion. I’m not saying this issue doesn’t deserve serious debate. I’m saying if we want to be productive here we need to keep our wits. Right? Okay, enough of a preamble…

The article starts with a Foreword by AJC’s Executive Director David Harris, which affirms that central to the mission of AJC is

assuring the right of Jews to a national collective self-expression through the existence of the State of Israel. Those who oppose this basic right — whether Jew or gentile — must be confronted. Prof. Rosenfeld is to be thanked for exposing the vacuousness of their arguments…

Right off the bat, therefore, the article is situated within an ideological universe in which Jewish nationalism manifested in the Middle East is a priori moral and right.

From a rhetorical point of view, I would say, this introduction is a mistake. Whatever your thoughts about Zionism, I do believe an argument can be made that nationalism — of any variety — is not an ethically ideal construct. I also believe that a moral case for Jewish nationalism can be made, but this is the only option that Harris will allow and he calls the former possibility “vacuous.” Which means, of course, that the article that follows is not a debate, it’s a manifesto that buttresses the explicit mission of the organization publishing it.

This may be what the AJC intended, but we should be clear about it anyway. I’m not trying to be provocative, just honest: By its own admission, this article is more akin to propaganda (and I use that word in as morally neutral a way as possible), than to an academic exploration.

Posted on February 7, 2007

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