‘Commentary’ calls Walt an ‘intellecual terrorist’ and Khalidi an ‘anti-Semite’
Posted: 25 May 2010

This is whack. The June issue of Commentary, not yet on line, has a symposium on “Obama, Israel & American Jews: The Challenge,” in which Robert Satloff, the head of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, calls Stephen Walt an “intellectual terrorist” and Norman Podhoretz, pater familias of the Podhoretz clan, calls Rashid Khalidi an anti-Semite. (“…in spite of Barack Obama’s close association with the anti-Semitic likes of Reverend Jeremiah Wright and Professor Rashid Khalidi…”).
These are ugly attacks and reflect the lobby’s desperation in the struggle to maintain its purchase in the elites. Both the targets are Establishment players, which is the reason they’ve been singled out, they just managed to squeeze in the doors. Steve Walt is a genteel guy who supports the two-state solution (and has shown great tolerance on the issue Satloff is upset about, dual loyalty).
Khalidi is a New York-raised grandfather who has been extraordinarly accepting of Israel given his own family’s exposure to Israeli depredations. Yes, both are fierce critics of Israeli actions. But this is a power struggle; use anything. 

It wasn’t Edward Said that upset the students; it was the very word ‘Palestinian’
Posted: 25 May 2010

I remember AP week at Hunter High School in New York all too well. The SATs were pro forma. The Advanced Placements were this realer chance to prove—to yourself, to the kids surrounding you, to the college that had already accepted you—what you were definitely going to become in your near adult future. The tests were given in school, and the jokes about the Chinese kids suddenly showing themselves to be even more numerous than we’d imagined were funny.
You bet, extrapolate a census from one of those testing rooms and you’d likely have concluded that Chinese- and Korean-Americans ruled New York City—them, but also, of course, us. And yet when it came to tests and grades the Jew jokes were fewer—we were the jokers, that was part of it—we were more visible on stage and at parties, having more mixed sex, from Manhattan and Brooklyn Heights.
Being set apart in a castle on the Upper East Side of course had most of us conceiving of ourselves as an elect minority. Jewish or not, being elite was always tied up with being Jewish. (How many “honorary Jews” have I known?) I thought about the APs last week after a friend sent me a link to a an article in The Forward about a Facebook group recently created by two identifying Jewish high school students, one hailing from the city, the other, Long Island.
The group—directly named: “Protest the 2010 AP English Literature and Composition Free Response Question”—was an immediate response to a quote on the test attributed to the late Edward Said, who’d been identified as a “Palestinian American literary theorist and cultural critic.” In turn, the Forward writes that Ayelet Pearl—the 17 year-old Bronx Science student who initiated the protest by affixing a castigating note to the top of her completed response—“froze when she encountered the Said text.”
And I believe this. Were this just another American Zionist plea to keep Said—poor Said, posthumously murdered, buried, raised, and over again—out of it, I’d have forwarded the link to two likeminded friends, bookmarked it, repulsed, and moved on. But this protest doesn’t come from a professional Zionist’s core—5 on her AP or not, Pearl’s vocabulary’s limited, and forming.
She hasn’t yet been assigned Said in an Intro course taught by an English professor she’ll learn to see as Satan (and then, as the Golem); she hasn’t yet been taught by attractive upperclassmen Hillellers to hate the very name. Said’s finally incidental. Instead, as Alyssa Blumenthal, Pearl’s almost identically-profiled protest partner insisted on for the Forward, and then in an email to me: their problem wasn’t with the quote itself but with the accompanying identification of its author.
Which means that “the political situation” isn’t, like she says, the focus of the issue at hand; she’s not even in the orthodox tradition of eliminating anything resembling a Palestinian perspective from the public sphere. No, what she’s rejecting is that one unchangeably and automatically offensive word.
I don’t want to, but I believe this, too. Being elite like this necessitates feeling embattled. But more, and it’s true: at 17, the very mention of a word formed from “Palestine” registered as just flat wrong, like using “Indian” for “Native American” or claiming Columbus was first. You almost a priori knew that Palestinians didn’t exist, then.
Your Zionism, default. Now add to this the word appearing on the AP. The Ivy League, magnet schools, standardized testing (especially this last, which came of age with, has no history without, American Jews): birthright is a beautiful, virtual given, but at 17, these were my actual territories, what I was to live on. A sort of parallel promised land (I don’t know which is the bizarro), made in but also making the other’s image, less filled with physical enemies, but still similarly surrounded on all sides. Growing up in this the word “Palestinian” literally makes no sense.
So I do, I get this almost understandable reflex to expel an invading alien word—entering “subconsciously,” says Pearl—from a memory that knows nothing but Jews as jokers and victors. Half-apologizing, half-remembering, I say I had “no politics” in high school.
Nearly riffing on the same, both students justify their protest to the Forward by alluding to the inappropriate “political implications” of identifying Said the way the AP did (The College Board stated, in defense and in cahoots, that there was no “political subject matter” in its test). This, I think, makes them fit for a school of American Zionism which deems any pro-Palestinian perspective “political,” only to almost miraculously expel the thing deemed “political”—here, not a view, nor even a voice, but a word—on the grounds of its being unfit for children and conversation, systems of evaluation.
(Is it too obvious to point out that identifying Elie Wiesel as a “Jewish American holocaust survivor” on the AP could never be “political”?) There is in this something like Blumenthal and Pearl’s right, as American Jews, as New York American Jews, as smart New York American Jews, not to be faced with anything—their words—politicizing. In the spirit of keeping it so—and I’m going to have to show her this, I’m realizing—Blumenthal told me point blank that she’d have preferred the quote to “remain completely out of context”: a wish for purity, I couldn’t express it better.
Which does remind me of that parallel world, waiting for us when we’re ready, over there. Of the billboards, for example, enclosing Silwan’s “City of David” dig, which give a sort of panorama of an imminent totally-different-looking future exclusively populated by fit, golfing Ashkenazim, the rest, the Palestinians, written out—or rather, if you were born Jewish in the late 80s and early 90s in America, i.e., into a ready-made world, kept in but blessedly unidentified.

Republican Party aligns itself with settler movement– game on!
Posted: 25 May 2010

Republican chairman Michael Steele appeared at a pro-settler rally in New York on Sunday, with all kinds of hard-core nuts there, Matt Duss reports, and said Obama was leaving Israel “to fend for itself.” Crazy. But it shows the political stakes here. And does suggest that the lobby is in play, politically, which would be a great thing. This means that Democratic-aligned publications are finally permitted to do reporting on tax breaks for the settlers.

The Twilight Zone on Capitol Hill
Posted: 25 May 2010

The U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation has boiled down last week’s House “debate” on authorizing another $205 million in military aid to Israel into a three-minute video entitled The Twilight Zone on Capitol Hill. They call it a “spoof.” I don’t find it the least bit amusing, but if you want a quick taste of the rhetoric our legislators use to justify giving their constituents’ dollars to Israel, this is a place to start.
The US Campaign has also discovered YouCut, a new web page set up by Rep. Eric Cantor, an ardent Zionist and the Republican Whip in the House, to solicit ideas about how to cut the Federal budget. I just offered him a few choice suggestions. Other Mondoweiss readers may wish to do likewise.

‘Tablet’ editor claims there is nothing but diversity in Jewish debate over Israel
Posted: 25 May 2010
Beinart keeps on delivering aftershocks. Trying to deflect his attack on the Jewish establishment’s hawkishness on Israel, Alana Newhouse, editor of Tablet, stakes the absurd claim at Foreign Policy forum that there is a ton of diversity in the Jewish community and “no monolithic Jewish establishment.”

[There’s] a tendency among Jewish intellectuals and activists on both sides of the political spectrum to conjure up this dichotomy, in often wildly distorted ways-to imagine the existence of cultural monoliths oppressing them and preventing them from speaking out; if only this or that monolith didn’t exist, the saw goes, everyone would hold the exact same views I do.
For the right wing, it is a Jewish establishment that fails to stand up to Obama, donates overwhelmingly to liberal causes, exiles conservatives to the political and communal margins, and keeps their op-eds from appearing in the New York Times. For the left, it is a Jewish establishment that worships Netanyahu, encourages right-wing feelings, marginalizes progressive voices, and keeps their views from appearing in the New York Times.
In contrast, the American Jewish community itself is marked by nothing so much as diversity, nuance and internal shades of difference (two Jews/three synagogues, anyone?)

This is absurd because you have never ever read a piece in favor of the right of return in any Jewish establishment publication. That would be a real diversity. Heck, our refugees resulted in the creation of Israel; their refugees have festered for 62 years. Can anyone make that argument? No. Orthodoxy on an issue seen as central to tribal life. I wonder how many pro-BDS pieces Newhouse has run at Tablet?
Oh and cultural monolith, has she ever published Tony Judt or Jewish Voice for Peace’s leaders, Rebecca Vilkomerson and Cecilie Surasky. Surasky helps run the site Muzzlewatch. How did it get that name? Because of Jewish orthodoxy on this issue, which we are breaking up. And still we are not represented in the “cultural monolith” that Newhouse says doesn’t exist.


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