Tag Archives: Israel

How to ensure that your lefty Jewish friends do not take you seriously.

I do not have the knowledge — or the kevlar underwear — to opine on the situation in Gaza, but I’ll say this:  nothing seems better designed to ensure that Jewish lefties simply tune you out than the choice to use inflammatory — borderline anti-Semitic — language.

I’m a liberal and a Jew, and would be the natural audience for arguments that Israel has — what’s the technical foreign policy term? — seriously fucked up this time.  But when I hear words like “genocide” or “apartheid” or see images of Israeli politicians with blood on their hands, I don’t think, “Hmmm, that person has an interesting point I should think about.”  I think, “asshole.”  Or, with slightly more nuance, “grandstanding asshole who is more interested in left-wing tribal solidarity than actually having a rational dialog.”  And ultimately:*

Image:  Graphic of the small toolbar from the upper right side of a web browser that offers the choices of minimize (a flat line), restore (two small squares), and close (an X), with a red arrow pointed to the X.

 

 

 

 

I know this can be said of almost any fraught issue in American politics today.  If you say either “baby killer” or “the government wants to own my uterus” you are not interested in having a rational discussion about abortion; you are expressing tribal solidarity.   I’m firmly convinced that tribal solidarity drives most political opinion.  Once you’ve identified as a Republican and that has become part of your identity, it’s hard to say, “you know, perhaps we should treat children arriving at our border with compassion.”  Your tribe has made it a mark of in-group-ness to decry these children as shock troops of an invading horde of Obama-inspired future Democrats,** and taking a contrary position would be as hard as making a Red Sox fan cheer for the Yankees.  It is similarly hard, I think, to get most Democrats to even admit that people who oppose abortion might do so from deeply-felt, well-thought-out reasons and not simply because they hate or want to suppress women.***

So ultimately if your goal in discussing the situation in Gaza is  just to express tribal solidarity with your co-opinionists, go for it.  Use whatever inflammatory language makes you feel like part of the in-group.  If you actually want to have a rational discussion with people who just might share some of your lefty views, you might want to reconsider.

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* Well, no, ultimately what I feel is fear, because historically when people start down this road, things do not end well for Jews.

** Not that there’s anything wrong with that!

*** Two additional notes about this.  First, these two examples are in no way intended to suggest some sort of faux balance.  In my view, Democrats remain largely right, policywise, and Republicans largely wrong.  Second, I think tribalism is stronger on the right than the left because one of the substantive values of the right is conformity, while one of the substantive values of the left is iconoclasm.  Which makes it all the more ironic and, to me, disappointing to hear left-wing tribalism.

 

 

Reason #1,000,000 why I love Dahlia Lithwick

I never know what to think about Israel.  Partly it’s ignorance.  Partly it’s my mixed heritage and the angst I feel about what I *should* be thinking as a half- (technically entirely-) Jewish, thoroughly liberal American.  I have friends and family with deeply-held, passionately-expressed, 180-degree opposite views on the subject.  Over the past week, one friend posted to Facebook at picture of a person wrapped in a red and green flag with the caption “When injustice becomes law, resistance becomes a duty,” while my dear cousin posted a link to “Friends of the IDF.”

Leave it to Dahlia Lithwick — the only person who could make reading about Antonin Scalia enjoyable — to say it perfectly.  Writing from her sabbatical in Jerusalem (emphasis added, as we say in the law biz):

I don’t know how to talk about what is happening here but it’s probably less about writers’ block than readers’ block. It says so much about the state of our discourse that the surest way to enrage everyone is to tweet about peace in the Middle East. We should be doing better because, much as I hate to say it, the harrowing accounts of burnt-out basements and baby shoes on each side of this conflict don’t constitute a conversation. Counting and photographing and tweeting injured children on each side isn’t dialogue. Scoring your own side’s suffering is a powerful way to avoid fixing the real problems, and trust me when I tell you that everyone—absolutely everyone—is suffering and sad and yet being sad is not fixing the problems either.

You want to hear about what it’s like here? It’s fucking sad. Everyone I know is sad. My kids don’t care who started it and the little boys in Issawiya, the Arab village I see out my window, don’t care much either. I haven’t met a single Israeli who is happy about this. They know this fixes nothing.

Thank you, Dahlia.