The Jewish Question has always been, for me, a European question

by Corey Robin on July 20, 2017

Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the French leftist leader who I was hoping would beat Macron in the last election (as Chris knows, I’m really not a fan of Macron), sullies himself with this comment about French collaboration with the Holocaust. Responding to Macron’s speech in which Macron said France needed to take responsibility for its role in the roundup and extermination of the Jews (long a touchy subject in France), Mélenchon succumbs to the worst nationalist impulses to defend the honor of the French people.

Never, at any moment, did the French choose murder and anti-Semitic criminality. Those who were not Jewish were not all, and as French people, guilty of the crime that was carried out at the time! On the contrary, through its resistance, its fight against the [German] invader and through the reestablishment of the republic when the [Germans] were driven out of the territory, the French people, the French people proved which side they were actually on.

There’s an argument to be had (and one could see why in republican France some would want it to be had) about the relationship of the people to a collaborationist government under foreign occupation. Had Mélenchon simply said, look, the French people were divided, it’s hard to generalize, many collaborated, some resisted, Vichy wasn’t the official representative of the French people, let’s have a more textured understanding of history—that would be one thing. But that’s not simply what he says. (I’m not a reader of French, so I’m relying on the translations here. I’m also an outsider to French politics, and by no means an expert on all the local nuances and subtleties of this engagement. Feel free to correct me if I’m wrong.) He goes further. With that last line in particular, he does more than try to remove the stain of collective guilt. He tries to claim collective innocence: what the Resistance did, that was France. What Vichy did, that wasn’t France. That was those evil ministers, forever betraying the French nation and the French people, who proved by the actions of the resisters who they really are.

Not only is what Mélenchon said an offense against the historical record, but it evinces all the worst features of nationalism that I loathe: the special pleading, the knee-jerk impulse to defend one’s own (with the implicit acknowledgment that the Jews aren’t thought of as one’s own), the retrograde identity politics (one might say the original form of identity politics), the offshoring of evil (though in this regard, Mélenchon ties himself in knots, saying, according to that Haaretz report, that Vichy wasn’t really France; France was off in London), the tribalism and groupiness. Even worse, this desire to assert and insist upon the purity of one’s group: deep down, we’re really good, it was those evil politicians, who weren’t really French in their hearts, who did the bad things. That kind of thinking is just the flip side of Bush-style axis of evil talk. The left should defend collectives, yes, but for God’s sake, let them be collectives based on justice rather than purity, and let them be collectives other than the French—or any other—nation.

This whole episode brings me back to a moment more than 25 years ago.

It was after my first year in grad school. I was spending the summer in Freiburg, learning German. At the language school where I was studying, I made a group of friends from Italy, France, Britain, and elsewhere. One guy, Pascal, and I really hit it off. He was from France, the south of France I think, and a hardcore leftist. Super sweet guy, with a German girlfriend named Claudia. I really liked them both.

One night, around the end of the summer, Pascal and Claudia had me over to dinner. They lived pretty far outside of the city, in the country. It was a lovely evening. We all spoke German (our one common language), with Claudia gently helping Pascal and me along when we needed help. There was a lot of wine.

Toward the end of the evening, the topic turned to French politics. Mitterrand in particular. This must have been some time around his second term as President. I don’t remember what prompted this, but at some point in the discussion, through my wine-sodden haze, I heard Pascal hissing that Mitterrand was a Jew. Everything bad that Mitterrand did—and Pascal really hated Mitterrand, from the left—was because Mitterrand was a Jew. It was a tirade: Jew this, Jew that. I think Pascal even began slipping into French: Juif, Juif.

(Mitterrand, incidentally, also liked to pull this line that France wasn’t responsible for the roundup of the Jews, that it was this alien, un-French presence called Vichy that did that.)

After a few minutes of this, I gathered myself, and said, as calm and composed as I could be (why is it so hard to assert one’s dignity in these situations?): Mitterrand is not a Jew, but I am.

It was a terrible moment: a wonderful summer’s friendship, across the barriers of language and nation, poisoned by this sudden extrusion of anti-Semitism. From the left.

I said I wanted to leave. They drove me home (as I said, we were way out of town). Claudia, the German, was scandalized by what her boyfriend, the Frenchman, had said and told him so. She couldn’t stop apologizing to me, up until the minute I got out of the car. He just drove, silently. That was the last I ever saw of them.

I’ve traveled a lot, have lived abroad, and have been friends with people from all across the globe. I’ve been involved in all kinds of anti-Zionist politics here in the US, with Jews, Muslims, Christians, Arabs, and atheists. But it’s only been among Europeans—I talked about my experiences in Britain here—that I’ve ever felt someone look at me and see: Jew Jew Jew.

The Jewish Question has always been, for me, a European question.



Jerry Vinokurov 07.20.17 at 4:48 pm

As I said on Corey’s Facebook post of the same content: I fundamentally don’t believe that Christian society, trained over the course of millenia to see Jews as the alien Other, is ever going to see us as true equals. Even the leftists and the secularists are infected with this virus.


bruce wilder 07.20.17 at 5:02 pm

If the Left doesn’t contest French national identity and claim it for its own cause, will it abandon nationalism entirely to the right?

I don’t think Justice can stand alone in this world.


bruce wilder 07.20.17 at 5:12 pm

On a purely personal note, I once had as a friend a French diplomat. I gradually came to understand that he was deeply anti-semitic, and experienced actual revulsion toward Jews. It struck me as bizarre, in this urbane, educated, supremely social fellow. As a diplomat, he was circumspect in his language, but a series of remarks and situations showed me his visceral reactions and prejudices. I let the friendship go, but I wondered if I had not glimpsed some deep substratum of some part of elite French society.


Shimon Edelman 07.20.17 at 5:36 pm

My first, perhaps mistaken, reaction to this piece was “What about Jew hatred in the US?” Having grown up in Moldova, I have experienced my share of European antisemitism; and somehow I was never surprised that many of the Gentiles born here in the “land of the free” would gladly see Jews burn again. And of course, to top it all off, in Israel, where I lived for many years, I belong in the category of “self-hating Jews”, because of my political views. As that old Jewish joke goes, can I have a different globe, please?


bianca steele 07.20.17 at 5:49 pm

I just finished H. Stuart Hughes’ history of French mid-20th century intellectuals (written in 1968), and while he emphasizes Dreyfus and the Jewish heritage or connections of writers like Bloch, Marcel and Maritain, he almost completely omits Vichy treatment of French Jews (the one exception is the discussion of Levi-Strauss toward the end) and the possibility of collaboration.


Michael 07.20.17 at 5:49 pm

I’m always amazed by how sheltered Robin’s life seems to have been. Or perhaps his memory of it is distorted by his politics. The notion that “all kinds of anti-Zionist politics” is free of anti-Semitism is, to say the least, implausible. (Witness the Chicago Dyke March kerfuffle, for example.) So it the notion that anti-Semitism is predominantly a European problem, exemplified by expressions of objectionable sentiments. If this is Robin’s experience, it’s no wonder he thinks Zionism is simply a racist colonial project, without genuine basis in the experiences of actual Jews.

My experience is a bit different. I was born in the USSR, where the word Zionist was the official way of saying “kike”—a word used routinely by ordinary people. My Jewish grandfather volunteered to fight the Nazis immediately upon the 1941 invasion, and died a few weeks later at the front. His wife was eight months pregnant with my mother, and was evacuated eastward. My mother was born fatherless, and lived the next 35 years as a second-class citizen. My father served three years in the Soviet Army, stationed in East Germany. His commander’s favorite pastime was to organize boxing matches between my dad and much larger, much tougher Russian soldiers. He enjoyed watching the little Jew get pummeled (until the little Jew learned to fight and started doing some pummeling of his own). Both of my parents endured daily humiliation, and were of course barred from jobs, promotions, apartments, etc. And when I came along, doctors, teachers, administrators, bureaucrats, classmates, and neighbors took turns abusing me as well. Walking home from school meant risking a beating (0r worse) from this or that ad hoc gang of bullies. There was no one to turn to for help, since assaulting Jews was socially and officially acceptable.

But then my family emigrated—thanks to Zionists and the state of Israel, and no thanks to anyone on the left. We arrived in the US in 1978, and a couple years later I went to an excellent public magnet high school in a midwestern city. School personnel couldn’t care less that I was Jewish, but it turned out that many of my classmates did. A few tried to bully me, and a couple attacked me physically. Having endured much tougher Soviet bullies, I was able to repel the attacks. But they stung nonetheless, since that sort of thing was not expected here.

I grew up and became an academic with political views closer to socialism than anything else. Yet in the progressive and leftist circles where I travel, anti-semitism is not taken seriously—even by Jews. No doubt this is because, like Robin, they mostly see it second-hand, or encounter it as “bad taste” ravings without the backing of overt social approval or political institutions. And then, without noticing, they provide implicit backing for anti-semitism thinly veiled as struggle for social justice.


Sebastian H 07.20.17 at 6:16 pm

Ugh. I’ve had essentially the same discussion with people about being gay. It can be very disheartening to see people’s prejudices turn in you.


Adam Hammond 07.20.17 at 6:36 pm

Have we not learned, in America, how to hide our prejudices (even from ourselves) more successfully than many in Europe? That is my impression, but I cannot claim adequate experience or data to back it up.


engels 07.20.17 at 6:46 pm

Really interesting post but just for an additional data point, I don’t think I’ve ever seen anti-semitic graffiti in London but when I was living in New York a few years ago I saw it quite often.


Keith 07.20.17 at 7:13 pm

Liberal Bankers have their redeeming features clearly. Mitterand off course was in the vichy Cabinet helping the General save France by collaboration ism. Just as Mussolini saved Italy by helping his friend MR Hitler. Then mysteriously when the other side started winning everyone decided to save Italy by overthrowing Il Duce, so ungrateful those Italians! I wonder who Americans would support in a similar context? Prejudice is everywhere but no one wants to admit to being prejudiced. I suspect it is no more European than Arabic, or Islamic. But one assumes white Europeans and Russians should be better than those others, which is another prejudice….


nastywoman 07.20.17 at 7:21 pm

Macron said:
“We will yield nothing to anti-Zionism, because it is the reinvented form of anti-Semitism.” – and for me the proof for this ”reinvention” was always Glenn Greenwald’s blog – with his – and even more so – the comments of his commenters.

But they were mostly ”American” – and after witnessing quite a few (heated) discussions about ”The Jewish Question” in the US -(and more and more on US blogs) – I sometimes wonder where the question – if anti-Zionism is nothing else than the reinvented form of anti-Semitism – is easier to prove?


Raven 07.20.17 at 7:22 pm

Corey, I am deeply saddened (though not at all surprised) by, and sorry about, your experience. I wish I could say contemporary anti-Semitism was limited to Europe; unfortunately it is still quite alive even in the United States.

For instance, the “sharp dealing” by the nearly universally WASP bankers and other financial traders of Wall Street’s upper end, such as led to the 2008 crash and other hardships on ordinary Americans… are, according to the common conspiracy theory passed around, the doings of the “international Jewish bankers”. Billy Graham was one of the Evangelical leaders known for dissing Jews, even on Richard Nixon’s Oval Office tapes saying Jews “are going right after the Church” and calling them a “synagogue of Satan”. The ethnic-slander-derived verbs “to jew” and “to gyp” are both still in use here. The prejudice is often smoothed over nicely in public, an icy surface of politeness, but the swift current keeps running underneath, ready to break through at any moment.


nastywoman 07.20.17 at 8:21 pm

– and then there is this – about Europe – from Laurie Penny:

”A letter to the German left:
Tonight, with days to go before I was due to get on a plane to give a series of fiction readings in Germany, my publisher contacted me to let me know that certain people on the German left were calling me Anti-Semitic. This is because I support people’s right to boycott Israeli products and services as a protest against the ongoing occupation of Gaza and the West Bank. It is, I would say, an unnerving experience for a foreigner of Jewish descent like myself to open up Twitter and find German people comparing you to Hitler.
At first, I was deeply offended, angry and upset. But rather than start flinging more accusations around, I think it would be useful to explain my position and ask what it is in our respective histories that brought us to this topsy-turvy place.
I am not German. I still speak very little of the language, and for that I can only apologise and say: ich versuche zu lernen. But I have come to understand that the German left is unique in Europe for its pro-Zionist stance, for its insistence on supporting the military actions of the Israeli state no matter what. And I can understand why.
German is a country haunted by its own history, and part of that history involves the mass murder of millions of Jews. That is both an unavoidable fact and a terrible legacy for succeeding generations to grapple with. Moreover, the resurgent far-right in Germany remains, as I understand it, violently anti-Israel (this is not the case in the UK – in fact, the now-disbanded fascist English Defence League carried Israeli flags as recently as 2011). So while I do not share the German left’s position on Zionism, I utterly support their right to hold that position.
I can see how Germans of good conscience would feel deep discomfort at refusing to eat an Israeli avocado, whatever the arguments about Israel and Judaism not being the same thing. There is simply too much history, too recent and too bloody, for that to be a neutral choice to make. If I were German, I would certainly feel the same.
I have always admired the capacity of the German people to interrogate their own history. It is certainly a welcome break from Britain, where schoolchildren are still taught to think uncritically about our imperial past. And sometimes I wonder if this is is not why Germany is today such a progressive cultural powerhouse – because Germans are not nostalgic for a lost golden age, they believe more in the future than they do in the past. Despite the rise of right-wing groups like AfD, that remains my overwhelming impression of Germany as a visitor.
I admire the young German left for the rigour of their self-scrutiny, their determination to break with history and make amends as they see fit. But here’s the important bit. Not everyone has the same cultural history – and it is offensive at best and actively culturally imperialist at worst to suggest that we all behave as if we do.
I deeply resent the implication that simply because my books are published in Germany I should be required to behave as if my ancestors might have been implicated in anti-Semitic genocide. In fact, my ancestors were the victims of anti-Semitic genocide several times over. That’s a history that affects my own politics and my own life choices just as much as yours affects you.
It means something very different for a British Jew to support a peaceful boycott of Israeli goods than it does for a German of Christian descent to support the same boycott. I understand that, so I’d like you to try to understand that when Israel carries out military assaults on the open prison of Gaza in the name of Jewish people worldwide, and of our families who fled oppression, that gives me an extra reason to oppose those attacks.
It would be ridiculous to claim that the wider European left is never anti-Semitic. As a half-Jewish person with a non-Jewish name, I have occasionally been invited into the conversations British leftists have about Jews when they think Jews aren’t listening. There are certainly those within the pro-Palestine movement who use anti-Semitic language, and there are also anti-Semites and racists with no love for the Palestinian people who have co-opted strategies like BDS for their own ends.
The language of anti-Semitism has become more acceptable in recent years as Europe and America drift inexorably to the right. For years now I have been harassed by racists online – even my Wikipedia page is regularly vandalised by Anti-Semites. And last week I had my first experience of Anti-Semitic bullying on public transport in London. In fact, racism and xenophobia of all kinds are becoming mainstream as the migration crisis tears up the map of European political assumptions – so right now it is more vital than it it has been for decades for all progressives and anti-racists to stand together.
I remain proud of my Jewish ancestry, and I will continue to stand against Anti-Semitism. It is possible to do so whilst thinking critically about the military actions of the Israeli state and pushing for ceasefire, as many Jews and Israelis are doing all all over the world today. I don’t condemn those on the German left who hold the opposite opinion, as long as they show the rest of us the same understanding. History places different demands on us all, which is just one more reason for approaching each other, at this difficult time for the global left, with compassion and tolerance, rather than condemnation.
My politics are international, intersectional, feminist, anti-racist and anti-capitalist. The more I learn about the world, the more I understand about how the history of violence informs our present politics, whoever we are. I believe the German left has every right to interrogate its current and past attitude to the Jewish people. But it is not the job of the German left to tell Jews around the world what political opinions they should hold – and it never will be.


Trader Joe 07.20.17 at 9:43 pm

+1 to Jerry at comment 1
Its quite similar to a comment once made to me by my best friend (who is Jewish, I am not). We were discussing the events in Ferguson a few years ago when the Black Lives’ Matter movement gained publicity and he observed something that has stuck with me ever since.

As I recall he said something like “I have a sense of what its like to be judged the way black people are, but its different since its usually not as immediate. In any interaction, any day or time, there might come a moment where a person who didn’t know I was Jewish will learn that I am and from that moment our relationship is changed.

From that point my actions will be judged by whether I’m confirming or going against every stereotype, slur or prejudicial view that person has ever encountered about Jews. In some ways it may even be worse than the instant judgement of skin color because a person may have already begun forming an opinion of me only to have it instantly repainted by the weight of my religion.”

One persons view, I know, but it share it as it was brought to mind by the OP and the comment @1 and seems to be something of an American adaptation of some of the further comments above.


Lynne 07.20.17 at 9:47 pm

Corey, that is sad. And the man didn’t even have the grace to be ashamed? I’m sorry that happened to you.


Raven 07.20.17 at 10:04 pm

On Bob Somerby’s Daily Howler blog, this anonymous comment from a Trump supporter exemplifies the issue:

This is bog-standard jewish tricks. The jews absolutely hate Trump, as Trump is far too goy-presenting. He fulfills all the goyish stereotypes that the jews have worked hard demonizing in hollywood films and television shows. Worse still, he wasn’t fully beholden to jewish money in the campaign, which means their control over him isn’t absolute.


Anarcissie 07.20.17 at 11:37 pm

So, is anti-Zionism really equal to anti-Semitism, as per Macron? His former competitor seems to have been playing a game of ‘No True Frenchman’, which I believe should be dismissed as politician blather; but Macron’s declaration seems more serious.


Tabasco 07.21.17 at 1:03 am

“the implicit acknowledgment that the Jews aren’t thought of as one’s own”

In or around 1976 a synagogue in Paris was bombed. Among the victims were people who happened to walking past on the sidewalk when the bomb exploded. The French Prime Minister, Raymond Barre, was outraged, not only because of the attack on Jews inside, because the victims included “innocent Frenchmen”. The implication of course was that those people inside were neither innocent nor French.


JM Hatch 07.21.17 at 1:25 am

Stay out of the Bible Belt. Anti-Semitism hate speech against both Jews and Arabs are still a Sunday pulpit staple.

Some of the extreme evangelicals may be helping Israel in Congress with the program to claims lands and expel non-Jews, but they do so expecting to speed on The Apocalypse and The Rapture, where they expect the Jews will get their just deserts, for what they did to Jesus from the hand of God himself.


Gabriel 07.21.17 at 1:33 am

Jerry (1):

I don’t know if you’re right or you’re wrong. I can definitively say, as a guy who grew a Lutheran in a small farming town in Midwestern America, I was infected with absolutely no anti-semitism growing up. Racism? Oh yes. Homophobia? You bet. But Jews were always portrayed as being ‘co-goodguys’ with the Christians, and Jesus’s Jew-ness was always acknowledged, even celebrated (we had a traditional Passover dinner in our church, for instance). I was shocked later in life to learn of Martin Luther’s anti-semitism, and when I presented the evidence to my mother, she flatly refused to believe it, as it conflicted so much with how she was raised and the views she held of the Jewish people.

This is an N of one. It probably doesn’t mean anything. But it certainly supports what Corey’s saying in the article, if just a little.


RD 07.21.17 at 1:45 am

What IS the Jewish question,
and what is the answer?
Move en masse to Madagascar?
My Stepson’s Father is Jewish. Likes his Scotch, pot and Camels.
My Stepson married a Jewish lady.Too busy with career to have time for “that bullshit!”
Therefore, my Step Grandson(?) is Jewish.Confused?
His Brother is an Ultra Orthodox Jew by choice. Moved to Israel.Joined Army.
His Father is totally secular. CPA for IRS.


Dr. Hilarius 07.21.17 at 1:47 am

I have observed an increase in anti-Semitism among people who describe themselves as progressives. It usually starts with anger over the 2008 economic melt down, the anger is directed at banks and bankers, this bumps up against conspiracy theories involving the Federal Reserve and the next step is posting paranoid stuff about the Rothschilds. Some stop there but others graduate to the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. When called on being anti-Semitic, most deny it and seem confused about why someone would think that. In our new fact-free reality a lot of beliefs seem to held without much consideration for implications.


Omega Centauri 07.21.17 at 3:30 am

I endorse Anarcisse at 17. I can almost dismiss Melenchon, as simply pandering to nativist pride. The sort we see from most politicians. But equating anti-Zionism with Anti-Semitism is an old Zionist trick. And it risks redefining the meaning of Jewish, to something that many Jew’s wouldn’t agree with. I think it paints nearly everyone on this list with the same broad brush.


Omega Centauri 07.21.17 at 3:37 am

I grew up in new Jersey in a middle and upper middle class town. We were Unitarians bordering on agnostics. We always had strong admiration for the high intellectual achievements of Jews, and considered them as a sort of fellow traveler. My MD sister had even converted, but had some sort of major falling out a decade or so ago, and she never wanted to talk about it. I’m 99% sure it was pressure to support Israel that did it.

Stories of people being bullied clearly don’t square with this picture from where I grew up.


Anarcissie 07.21.17 at 4:51 am

Omega Centauri 07.21.17 at 3:30 am @ 23:
But equating anti-Zionism with Anti-Semitism is an old Zionist trick.

Well, I don’t know. I don’t know what Macron means. Perhaps he, too, is engaging in the sort of phatic speech politicians seem to feel obliged to emit at regular intervals and it doesn’t mean very much. Or, it could be ‘favoring the establishment and continued existence of a Jewish state’ or even ‘Israel can do no wrong, and anyone who says otherwise is channeling Hitler.’ Does anyone know?


nastywoman 07.21.17 at 4:52 am

”So, is anti-Zionism really equal to anti-Semitism, as per Macron?”

No it isn’t as Macron didn’t say that.
He said:“We will yield nothing to anti-Zionism, because it is the reinvented form of anti-Semitism.”
And you have to very carefully read these words as Europe has a history which goes just back to the 60th and 70th of the last century – where Terrorist Groups like Baader-Meinhof and the Red Brigades – ”reinvented” anti-Semitism as a form of anti-Zionism.
And so – indeed – we have to see Macron’s declaration ”more serious” – as somebody who is aware of such current history and who was (nearly) as careful with words as the example – posted from Laurie Penny.

And about playing ”a game of ‘No True Frenchman’ – that should NOT be dismissed as ”politician blather” – as the ugly ”nationalism” has probably become the true ”Pest” of these times – even ”reinventing” Fascism – which is ”reinventing” all kind of ”anti-movements against ”the others” -(being Jewish – Muslim or any color the Trumpists don’t like)


Chris "merian" W. 07.21.17 at 6:54 am

I remember the exact moment when I went from liking Mélenchon to dropping him, though I don’t know what year this was (though as you’ll see from the story, it would be easy to figure it out). (I lived in France for 12 years, basically the second half of the 90s and the first half of the 00s. Being German, I didn’t have the right to vote nationally, but could vote in local and European elections.) There was a relatively good long-form TV report/short documentary following Mélenchon around, who was campaigning for something. He had just given a pretty good speech about something, and I was in agreement with him, given he was pretty much the only high-profile voice that was credible about caring about inequality and the living standard of the salaried classes. He was being filmed in a TGV train on his way home, surveying what the press was saying… and the press was busy reporting about some important developments in a Baltic nation, Latvia or Lithuania. Something relatively dramatic, maybe to do with NATO or EU or other international alignments. Anyhow, he was livid. “Who cares about fucking Lithuania [or Latvia]?!?!” he said, clearly angry.

Xenophobic France-first thinking (and the absence of an internationalist sensibility) is bad enough in a leftist. Now anti-Semitism, too….

I was disappointed when he declared his candidacy. A sign, too, that the PC never managed to turn around their decline. (A communist [democratic French variety], he isn’t, obviously. And for all their 293 obvious faults, I have some fondness for some of them. I was active in the late-90s successful push for a first version of a same-sex registered partnership, and the PC and the Greens were the only ones on the left who were actually helpful. Without both of them, the Socialists would never have stayed the course — they were barely touching the bill with a pair of fire tongs.)

Several of my friends voted for Mélenchon, and some of them are Jewish. I should ask them what they think, maybe. Me, hypothetically, I’d have pushed Hamon, and am still not clear why he tanked THAT badly. OK, he was only a little bit to the left of the detestable Hollande crowd, but he WAS a legitimate candidate, and after the experiences with post-Trump Democrats, and current UK Labour, building up renewed democratic socialist mass parties from whatever has inherited the cener-left banner is high on my wishlist. Though this would require discipline and the willingness to build coalitions and be pragmatic to a degree … and when I talked with my spouse about it, she just raised an eyebrow: “You expect discipline from the left?”

(Side note, we might have run around Freiburg at the same time, though I was probably a little later. I was visiting my first girlfriend, who was doing a doctorate in law at the university there.)


Raven 07.21.17 at 7:00 am

Omega Centauri @ 24: I’ll grant you, I’ve not heard of Unitarians bullying Jews.

But then, as a Unitarian, may I note the religious similarity (in denying the divinity of Jesus)? I got bullied enough for that myself. When I was young, my Fellowship’s part-time pastor, visiting down from Chicago, was Jack Mendelsohn, author of Why I Am a Unitarian [… Universalist], so some ethnic crossover was visible. The lady who became my wife, a daughter of Jewish parents, who herself prefers a neopagan path, found an unexpected but welcoming home in my UU church with its CUUPS chapter, and dove in headfirst, volunteering for everything she could handle.

Yeah, bullying in the US, but that doesn’t mean everywhere by everybody.


TM 07.21.17 at 7:15 am

Melechnon’s text can be found here:

“Après cela, déclarer que la France est responsable de la rafle du Vel’ d’Hiv’ est là encore un franchissement de seuil d’une intensité maximale. En effet, nul ne peut contester que des Français ont été personnellement responsables du crime comme ce fut le cas, notamment, dans la police qui opéra la rafle sans exprimer la moindre protestation ni acte de résistance, mais aussi de la part de toutes les autorités de tous ordres qui se rendirent complices, soit activement, soit par leur silence, soit parce qu’elles avaient renoncé à s’y opposer de quelque façon que ce soit. Mais dire que la France, en tant que peuple, en tant que nation est responsable de ce crime c’est admettre une définition essentialiste de notre pays totalement inacceptable.” etc. In the final paragraph, he says: “Ces débats ne sont pas nouveaux. Ils ont leur dignité aussi longtemps qu’on accepte d’en parler avec le souci de l’amour que nous devons à notre pays avant tout autre.”

L’amour du pays avant tout autre. But it’s “essentialist” to point out the crimes committed by notre pays. Oh my.


James Wimberley 07.21.17 at 7:15 am

Vichy’s anti-Semitic crimes were part home-grown, more cooperation with unrelenting German pressure. IIRC Laval refused in the end to hand over French Jews (foreign-born ones were fair game). The extermination of the disabled through starvation in hospitals was Vichy’s own idea. Didn’t it go further than its model?


Chris Bertram 07.21.17 at 7:19 am

@Keith above “Mitterand off course was in the vichy Cabinet helping the General save France by collaboration ism”.

Mitterrand worked for Vichy for two years, 1941-43. He was at most a minor official, he wasn’t in the Cabinet.


Chris "merian" W. 07.21.17 at 7:22 am

Reading some more of the comments, a note on this whole “is anti-Zionism ipso facto anti-Semitism” mess. Thing is, I have the hardest time with the term “anti-Zionism”. I’ve been trying to figure out what it means by asking my spouse for help (who’s a Jewish dual Canadian-American), but she, too, isn’t clear on it. Because before there is an Israel, before the Zionist project got to statehood, there can, of course be an anti-Zionism, i.e. being opposed to the project. But now, in the 21st century, Israel is a fact. Whether it was a good idea or not to create it is debatable (well, clearly some things went wrong!), and being German, I accept my people have a good bit of responsibility (like, 80%?) for it to happen.

If anti-Zionism means an opposition to Israel’s existence, well, it’s a) in this day, a pretty radical idea and b) opens the obvious question about what the anti-Zionists wants to happen. There’s a German concept called die normative Kraft des Faktischen — basically, reality creates norms. Furthermore, injustice against one group doesn’t make up for the injustice that group’s leaders did to others: it just compounds the total amount of injustice. I have never seen an anti-Zionist project that wasn’t either waffling about what concretely should be the future of the current citizens of Israel, or would create additional massive amounts of injustice. In this sense, anti-Zionism would be anti-Semitic, but also really really crazy.

If anti-Zionism is just about the ability to criticize Israel’s actions like you’d do for any other state,well, why do we need an extra word for it? To complicate matters, a good number of the Jews of my acquaintance are highly critical of Israel’s, and in particular the Netanyahu government’s, political course of action towards the Palestinians. But they’d be horrified to be called anti-Zionist: they consider the question, n addition to being about justice & human rights, as critically important for the future success of Israel as a state.


TM 07.21.17 at 7:27 am

Concerning antisemitism in the US, I have been surprised how little debate there has been in the left about the strong antisemitic undertones in Trump’s campaign, especially the final campaign video (see Dana Milbank in the WP ( It seems that it hasn’t sunk in at all that the global cosmopolitan conspiracy against America conjured up by Trump serves classic antisemitic stereotypes.


MFB 07.21.17 at 7:28 am

Melanchon’s line is actually standard French dogma. The collapse of France under Nazi invasion and the wholesale collaboration of the elite with the invaders was, of course, nothing unusual; it happened in most European countries which were conquered by the Nazis (with some exceptions in Scandinavia and the Netherlands). However, it was hugely shocking and hugely divisive, partly because it proved so disastrous (given the fact that the Nazis didn’t respond sympathetically to the French submission). Hence the mythologising around the French resistance, which obviously existed but which has been exaggerated. The first to do this was De Gaulle, which was a little disingenuous because most of De Gaulle’s colleagues were actually collaborators and the French resistance was mainly leftist and hence anti-Gaullist. Melanchon is in a stronger position than De Gaulle to say these things because he comes from the tradition which created the bulk of the French resistance. Also, of course, the very real collaboration with right-wing foreign aggressive imperialists by the French government has not exactly gone away since the Liberation.

I don’t see anything particularly anti-Semitic in this, however. After all, he’s identifying with the side which fought against the principal anti-Semitic actor in Europe in the 1940s. Obviously it’s important for right-wingers to smear Melanchon as an anti-Semite because that’s one of the main tools of right-wingers, but, rhetoric aside, there’s no substance there. Though as a non-Jew I can’t speak on behalf of Jews who are perhaps entitled to identify threats on fairly flimsy grounds.

Macron is just being the standard supporter of brutal military imperialism in the Middle East and suppressor of freedom of speech; nothing new there. Fortunately he’s cutting the French military budget so as to enrich the wealthy, so one hopes that eventually he’ll be in a weak position to kill foreigners in pursuit of imperialist goals in practice as opposed to flabby rhetoric.


TM 07.21.17 at 7:53 am

Addendum re 33: If I remember right, Corey spent a lot of time arguing that Trump was just another Republican. Maybe I missed it when he discussed his antisemitic appeal. For a while, from about October, I was too disgusted to read CT.


bad Jim 07.21.17 at 8:21 am

My early years were spent in a cosmopolitan suburb of the District of Columbia. We had Jewish neighbors. So did my grandparents. The Rexall drug store where we bought penny candy on the way home from school had Jewish proprietors; I was frustrated when it was closed for Yom Kippur. That said, we recited the Lord’s prayer every day in the public school.

We moved to Southern California, where we didn’t have the Lord’s prayer, but I encountered classmates who were openly anti-semitic. When my mother went into real estate, she was told that in one gated community she should not show properties to “those people”, meaning Jews. We were more bemused than horrified; it was hard to believe that this pernicious nonsense was still around in the 1960’s.

Almost 60 years later it’s still not rare. People cling to their childhood monsters.


Zora 07.21.17 at 8:22 am

One can be opposed to Zionism if one is opposed to any nationalism whatsoever. No Israel, no US, no France, etc.


Chris "merian" W. 07.21.17 at 8:36 am

MFB, it seems to me that your “standard French dogma” is from the time before the Papon trial.


nastywoman 07.21.17 at 8:51 am

”Macron is just being the standard supporter of brutal military imperialism in the Middle East and suppressor of freedom of speech;”

No! –
As Macron very clearly said: “cede no ground to messages of hate…”
“Every desecrated or vandalized synagogue, mosque, church, temple, cemetery must be a warning to us,”.
– which could be read as a reference to ”hate speech” – Macron – and most Europeans see quite differently than somebody who would be defining European laws against hate speech: ”suppressor of freedom of speech”.

They are NOT – as they clearly state:
”they protect individuals and groups from being defamed or insulted because they belong or do not belong, in fact or in fancy, to an ethnicity, a nation, a race, a religion, a sex, or a sexual orientation, or because they have a handicap. The laws forbid any communication which is intended to incite discrimination against, hatred of, or harm to, anyone because of his belonging or not belonging, in fact or in fancy, to an ethnicity, a nation, a race, a religion, a sex, or a sexual orientation, or because he or she has a handicap.”

And I never will forget – when France’s women’s rights minister, Najat Vallaud-Belkacem – – suggested that “hateful tweets are illegal”, -(because there used to be a torrent of them – by the right-wing followers of – not only LePen) – my friend Glenn Greenwald – of all people accused the Morrocan born – of all things – ”Hypocrisy”.

And when – Glenn Greenwald after the Charlie Hebdo Attack wrote in the British Guardian:
”Defending free speech and free press rights, which typically means defending the right to disseminate the very ideas society finds most repellent, has been one of my principal passions for the last 20 years: previously as a lawyer and now as a journalist. So I consider it positive when large numbers of people loudly invoke this principle, as has been happening over the last 48 hours in response to the horrific attack on Charlie Hebdo in Paris. in a supposedly ‘satirical”
AND then he posted (satirical??) the most nasty and anti-jewish cartoons he probably could find adding:

”Is it time for me to be celebrated for my brave and noble defense of free speech rights? Have I struck a potent blow for political liberty and demonstrated solidarity with free journalism by publishing blasphemous cartoons? If, as Salman Rushdie said, it’s vital that all religions be subjected to “fearless disrespect,” have I done my part to uphold western values?”

And I thought – very, very ”satirical”: What an ”anti-Semitic a…hole”.


Anarcissie 07.21.17 at 12:24 pm

Zora 07.21.17 at 8:22 am @ 37 —
Opposition to states in general, or to nationalism or other forms of tribalism in general, would probably not be called ‘anti-Zionism’. Anti-Zionism so named must be aimed at the Zionist project or Israel. I would think.

nastywoman 07.21.17 at 4:52 am @ 26:
”So, is anti-Zionism really equal to anti-Semitism, as per Macron?”’

‘No it isn’t as Macron didn’t say that.
He said:“We will yield nothing to anti-Zionism, because it is the reinvented form of anti-Semitism.” ….’

I take ‘reinvented form of X’ to mean ‘X’, unless it is some kind of odd French idiom for ‘X-like but not quite X’ which I never heard of.


Sasha Clarkson 07.21.17 at 12:38 pm

I remember I had a conversation 10 years ago, with a Gaullist French friend of mine, who was a young boy during the war. He said that wartime collaboration still poisoned French society & divided families and communities.

Here, we’re fortunate that Britain wasn’t occupied. The only thing than comes close, I suppose, is that in mining communities it was very hard to live down being a “scab” during any of the major disputes.


Hal 07.21.17 at 12:44 pm

Over a century after Bebel we are just discovering the “socialism of fools”?


Donald Johnson 07.21.17 at 12:46 pm

It’s fascinating to see people go on and on about the evils of anti Zionism and get all perplexed about what could be motivating it and wonder what the end goal could possibly be without ever once using the word ” Palestinian”. Or somewhat better, but still bizarre, when people do mention the Palestinians but don’t seem to realize Israel is a Jewish state because of mass expulsions of Palestinians in 1948. You don’t have to accept an anti – Zionist solution ( more on that in the next paragraph) and you can also point to all the massive human rights violations in other countries, but it is no great mystery why someone who isn’t antisemitic could be antizionist. Such people reject the notion that Zionists had the right to expel Palestinians to form a state with the correct demographic composition.

Anti- Zionism in the real world comes in two forms and the desired end game also has two forms. One group wants one man one vote and a right of return for Palestinians. The ideal is a democratic state with equal rights for everyone. People can criticize this as unrealistic, though a 2ss also seems unrealistic, but it isn’t anti- Semitic. Then there are people who fantasize about an Algerian solution, where the people involved clearly are motivated by hatred.

Zionists also come in various flavors, though I think there is more of a gradation from pure racist contempt for Palestinians on the one hand to genuine desire to atone for the Nakba on the other, with a kind of ” white moderate ” position ( in Martin Luther King’s sense) in between.


Katsue 07.21.17 at 1:12 pm


I don’t know where you got the idea that the Zionist project is something that was accomplished in the past and is now unalterable. The dispossession of the Palestinians is ongoing, and groups like the World Zionist Organization are still actively pursuing that agenda.


Katsue 07.21.17 at 1:25 pm


You have my sympathies for what must have been a horrible experience. It sounds bad enough just reading about it.

Re: anti-Semitism in the US, I don’t think I’ve ever encountered anti-Semitism in person from an American, but from my exposure to American popular culture, it surprises me a little if you haven’t. Probably Eric Cartman’s defining villainous quality is his anti-Semitism, and I can’t imagine that would be the case if South Park’s creators hadn’t encountered anti-Semites in the wild.

A more obscure example would be Terry Goodkind’s Sword of Truth series, which I am embarrassed to admit I read. Well, I read as far as Soul of the Fire, which is an incredibly nasty anti-Semitic work, but really I have no excuse. After all, in the first book of the series we learn that Health & Safety is a Communist plot to enslave America.


WLGR 07.21.17 at 2:06 pm

I assume that by citing his involvement in Jewish anti-Zionism, Corey is reaffirming that nothing he says contradicts the fact that Macron is wrong about anti-Zionism being reducible to a reinvented anti-Semitism, and it’s disappointing but not surprising to see some commenters here echoing mainstream banalities like Macron’s. As a fellow anti-Zionist Jew, I’d go further and argue that Zionism itself is a reinvented anti-Semitism, in that its ideological stance against the figure of the anti-Zionist Jew is precisely copied from the traditional anti-Semitic ideological stance against the figure of the Jew in general, something like — “they may act as if they’re one of us, but don’t be deceived by their treachery; their highest commitment is to a global cosmopolitan ideology of multicultural assimilation, which is anathema the sacred and eternal connection between the blood of our people and the soil of our national territory, so the only way to protect the vitality of our nation is to expose this vile corrupting influence and reject it”. For a recent example see the Israeli state’s despicable collaboration with the Hungarian anti-Semitic campaign against George Soros, whose liberal internationalist version of Jewish identity is anathema to Israeli Zionism every bit as much as to old-school European fascism.


nastywoman 07.21.17 at 2:55 pm

@ 40
”I take ‘reinvented form of X’ to mean ‘X’,”

You shouldn’t – as it is almost always the context and the accompanying Y’ and Z’ and A’ and B’ which doe the ‘icing on the cake’ -(in a matter of speaking)
Let’s take for example your phrase:

”So, is anti-Zionism really equal to anti-Semitism, as per Macron?”’
Let’s say I would be a Linguist and being familiar with ”the Language of Internet” I firstly would notice you asking ”a question” which is written in a way -(with the addition of NOT an X but the word ”really”) that you intended to sow ”doubt”?

And I could be totally mistaken – but as I (ME) myself is a big fan of the expression: ”REALLY” – did you really want to question -(unconsciously or unconsciously) that ”anti-Zionism equals anti-Semitism”? – as per Macron?

And come on!
”as per Macron”?
How does that sound?
It for sure doesn’t sound as ”good” as:
“We will yield nothing to anti-Zionism, because it is the reinvented form of anti-Semitism.”…’

Don’t you agree?
And if I would give you Macrons whole context:
“We will yield nothing to the messages of hatred,” he said. “We will yield nothing to anti-Zionism, because it is the reinvented form of anti-Semitism.”

And wouldn’t you HAVE to agree – that what you call your X’:
”So, is anti-Zionism really equal to anti-Semitism, as per Macron?” –
sound sooo much worst?

And come on everybody – join in – in telling him that his phrase and especially the ‘really’ and the ‘equal’ and the ‘as per’ doesn’t ”equal” Macrons expression of ”reinventing” AT ALL!


steven t johnson 07.21.17 at 2:56 pm

CT favors on the whole, or is neutral towards, the Ukrainian fascist regime, which is a bloc containing elements that strongly identifies with the collaborationists. Seeing Melenchon’s desire to deny any affiliation with collaborationists as reason for condemnation is peculiar. Perhaps the real objection is to Melenchon’s perceived leftism? A leftist-sounding attack can be much more effective tactics.


engels 07.21.17 at 3:04 pm

Probably Eric Cartman’s defining villainous quality is his anti-Semitism, and I can’t imagine that would be the case if South Park’s creators hadn’t encountered anti-Semites in the wild.

Imo anti-semitism definitely does exist in US as I said above but that’s a really bad argument. South Park’s creators are right-wing free market nuts and instrumentalising anti-semitism for various political ends has long been a part of right-wing American politics.


nastywoman 07.21.17 at 3:30 pm

”It’s fascinating to see people go on and on about the evils of anti Zionism and get all perplexed about what could be motivating it and wonder what the end goal could possibly be without ever once using the word ” Palestinian”.’

As somebody who went on and on -(not about ”the evils of anti Zionism”) – but more about: ”We will yield nothing to the messages of hatred,” from a French – I might see ”the Palestinian question” perhaps pretty much from the same perspective as somebody like Corey Robin -(from what I read)


SamChevre 07.21.17 at 3:31 pm

I have a quick test for whether someone’s “anti-Zionism” is mostly anti-Semitism, or is mostly anti-population-exchanges: I offer it for your use.

If the person is as concerned by the ongoing injustice of the expulsion of the Pomeranians, or the Sudetendeutsche, or the Sindhi and Punjabi refugees, then it’s probably about the population expulsion. If not, it’s probably not.


nastywoman 07.21.17 at 3:41 pm

”and it’s disappointing but not surprising to see some commenters here echoing mainstream banalities like Macron’s”

BUT it’s NOT disappointing to see the commenters – who know how important it is in France right now to fight against ”the Hate” – echoing – what you call ”mainstream banalities’.’ –
As a lot of French might believe – that to stress those ”banalities” over and over again -(and even use laws against ”hate speech”) – is a way to find (back) to a ”more peaceful France”?


F. Foundling 07.21.17 at 3:44 pm

>let them be collectives based on justice rather than purity
>Mélenchon … sullies himself

Oh well. It would appear that M. Mélenchon is being a practicing politician trying to score some rhetorical points against an opponent (in this case simply by parroting the vintage Gaullist line). Of course, ‘France as a whole is guilty’ and ‘France as a whole is innocent’ are probably about equally wrong and meaningless, and the same applies both to ‘the real France was Vichy’ and ‘the real France was the Resistance’ (although there are good reasons to argue, as Mélenchon does, that the Resistance was, in some sense, ‘the legitimate France’). Nobody is denying that *some* of France was guilty/collaborating and *some* of France was innocent/resisting, so the argument is between different emotional/sentimental attitudes and emphases, not between different factual statements – is the glass half-full or half-empty? And, well, if one absolutely has to choose between the two – although one really shouldn’t, and it’s a pointless exercise – I suppose that for a collective as well as an individual, an optimistic *primary* identification with and focus on one’s positive sides might have some advantages over the subtle joys of self-flagellation. Also, as the US scene shows, self-flagellation does not exactly attract votes to your cause.

> Mélenchon … succumbs to the worst nationalist impulses …

Surely one can think of some worse nationalist impulses? This strikes me as rather undramatic, if somewhat pointless, stuff.


F. Foundling 07.21.17 at 4:02 pm

>Perhaps he, too, is engaging in the sort of phatic speech politicians seem to feel obliged to emit at regular intervals and it doesn’t mean very much. Or, it could be ‘favoring the establishment and continued existence of a Jewish state’ or even ‘Israel can do no wrong, and anyone who says otherwise is channeling Hitler.’ Does anyone know?

I don’t see how the Macron quote can be interpreted in any other way but number 2 and 3. Saying that ‘anti-Zionism (not ‘*some* forms of anti-Zionism) is anti-Semitism’ can mean only one thing, AFAICS.

@27, 42
>Now anti-Semitism, too….

What the OP mentions may have been overly patriotic sentimental rhetorical blather, but equating it with *anti-Semitism* strikes me as nothing short of absurd.

>I remember the exact moment when I went from liking Mélenchon to dropping him … he was pretty much the only high-profile voice that was credible about caring about inequality … “Who cares about fucking Lithuania [or Latvia]?!?!”

IMO, dropping ‘the only high-profile voice’ over a stupid short-tempered exclamation like this is only possible if ‘caring about inequality’ isn’t that much of a priority after all. Otherwise such pickiness just isn’t affordable these days.

@ 32
>before there is an Israel, before the Zionist project got to statehood, there can, of course be an anti-Zionism, i.e. being opposed to the project. But now, in the 21st century, Israel is a fact.

I think that anti-Zionism means, first of all, the recognition that one *should* have been opposed to the project because of its injustice before it was realised, and hence consistent opposition to those unjust practices that very much continue the tradition of the original injustice. I do agree that it’s unfortunate that the concept can also be interpreted as including extremist positions such as calling for the annihilation of Israel now.

@ 39
>And I thought – very, very ”satirical”: What an ”anti-Semitic a…hole”.

Yes, it *was* obviously satirical. Also, that ‘a…hole’ is a Jew himself! FGS.


F. Foundling 07.21.17 at 5:16 pm

I forgot this:

>the knee-jerk impulse to defend one’s own (with the implicit acknowledgment that the Jews aren’t thought of as one’s own)

I don’t see why such an acknowledgment should be implied. ‘It’s not true that our family is one where women are beaten’ does not automatically imply ‘We don’t consider women to be part of our family’. It’s self-evident that his defence concerns especially French *non-Jews*, since an accusation of genocidal anti-Semitism obviously can’t apply to French *Jews*. In fact, by saying ‘Those (among the French) who were not Jewish’, he very explicitly recognises the French Jews as French people.


Jim Harrison 07.21.17 at 5:18 pm

Growing up in southern California in the 50s and 60s in a WASP family, I experienced very little anti-semitism. It wasn’t just that many of my friends and classmates were Jews but that that fact was utterly unremarkable. In the local racial/ethnic taxonomy, the big divisions, the groupings that mattered, were white, black, Mexican, Asian. Everything else was trivial. In particular, Jews were just another kind of white guy, apparently regarded by the other kinds of white guys in much the same way that the Methodists regarded the Presbyterians. Many of the members of my extended family were vehement racists as far as black people were concerned, but none of them had anything bad to say about Jews. In unguarded moments, people didn’t draw me aside to share their dislike of Jews the way they expressed their disdain for black people or Chicanos. Anti-black and anti-Mexican jokes were prevalent. Humor about Jews was mostly of Jewish provenance and more affectionate than poisonous. As a bookish kid, I knew about hatred for Jews, of course, and not only the overt Hitlerite kind, but the subtler Gentleman’s Agreement variety. It just wasn’t part of my lifeworld as it certainly became a few years later when I went to school in New England.

Now I’m sure that all of this would have looked very different had I been Jewish myself or simply had a different set of friends and relations, but I don’t mention the autobiographical stuff as reliable evidence of the state of play in ancient Los Angeles—any conclusions drawn from what I lived through can be chalked up to accidents of sampling—but I think the situation I experienced is rather common. For lots of us, Jews and non-Jews alike, anti-semitism is an inactive fault that wouldn’t be of existential importance except for the very real prospect that distant plate motions may reactivate it at any time. Thing is, the faults that cause the catastrophe don’t have to be deep. It isn’t that anti-semitism is some basic fact about the human psyche or the essence of Western Civilization or anything else portentously structural. Hating on Jews, like many other features of the crazed surface of human civilization, is profoundly superficial. It’s just a script like many others. Everybody already knows their lines so that if it becomes useful to play a part in a revival of the old standby, we hardly need to rehearse. I have no reason or inclination to do so, but I could turn into an anti-semite at the drop of a hat or, more likely in my case, the leak of an artery. I could do a turn at of any number of other forms of bigotry or political craziness without extensive training. I guess the old song from South Pacific was literally correct. You do have to be taught to hate. What bothers me is that it doesn’t take much to learn such things and everybody has already learned them.


L2P 07.21.17 at 5:36 pm

There is plenty of anti-semitism in America, and it runs deep. I remember in High School a common insult would be something along the lines of “That’s Jewish.” It’d mean something like you unfairly got the raw end of a deal and were somehow cheated. And it was used A LOT. (I can’t get into all the more run-of-the mill stuff. It was pretty bad.)

But the amazing thing wasn’t the initial anti-semitism but the reaction to changes. People eventually complained, the school came down hard, and you just couldn’t say ‘That’s Jewish.” So most students just changed to saying, “That’s Buddhist” for the same sort of “I’ve-been-cheated” stuff. What does Buddhism have to do with sharp dealing, even in mythical and racist pop culture? Nothing. It was nonsense unless you knew it was really code for “That’s Jewish.”

Anti-semitism runs deep. Very deep.


Seth Gordon 07.21.17 at 6:55 pm

SamChevre: Heck, never mind the Sudetendeutsch. Just consider all the Jews who were expelled from Arab lands since 1948. The people who advocate a Palestinian “right of return” to inside the Green Line don’t seem interested in Sephardic Jews having a similar right of return to Egypt and Yemen.


Chris (merian) W. 07.21.17 at 6:56 pm

Katsue @44, well, that would be my case #2, and a whole lot of people, including a large majority of my Jewish friends and family members, would be “anti-Zionist”, but they’d be opposed to be labeled thus. I didn’t imply that the Zionist project, in the form that you define the term, is complete, btw. The whole terminology just looks like a multi-form, unstable, explosive can of semantic worms to me.


harry b 07.21.17 at 8:36 pm

Corey — spend more time in the US with protestant defenders of Israel. Its not pretty.

fwiw, my experience of the part of the left which both of us have hung out on in the US has been like yours — no sign of antisemitism, but that’s hardly surprising. Outside that world, and US academia, plenty of anti-semitism, as others are saying.

A funny story. A friend of mine who was (still is) a great left wing activist reported, 20 years ago, being at a dinner party at which someone said “Well, the Jews killed Jesus”, only to be corrected by someone else “no, they didn’t, the Romans did”, at which point my friend said “And I had to remain silent, feeling ignorant, because I’ve always believed that that we DID kill Jesus”.

I don’t think I ever encountered expressions of anti-semitism growing up in the UK. But I was aware it existed because a family friend (who I suspect was some sort of spy, to be honest) was a fervent anti-anti-semite, as, much later, was one of the guys I mention here (the one who subsequently spent decades in the British Army):

Oh, last thing on this, and another reason I was aware of antisemitism. Another sort of funny story. My uncle was leader of Waveney District Council in the 70s (it was thoroughly Tory, as he was — though he think he’s now a UKIPper!) and, bizarrely, facilitated the first nude beach on the east coast (nudists in the north sea? — only slightly nuttier than everyone else on those beaches). A colleague, in the debate about the beach, said, “Would you take your children to such a beach?” and my uncle, apparently, bit the bullet and said “Yes”. Then, as if it was a slam dunk, “Then what would you do if they saw a Jew?”. My grandmother told me the story, and said that my uncle’s language in response was entirely parliamentary, but that his language in retelling it to her was anything but. She was proud of both facts. I guess I am too.


Kiwanda 07.21.17 at 8:47 pm

Sam Chevre:

I have a quick test for whether someone’s “anti-Zionism” is mostly anti-Semitism, or is mostly anti-population-exchanges: I offer it for your use.

If the person is as concerned by the ongoing injustice of the expulsion of the Pomeranians, or the Sudetendeutsche, or the Sindhi and Punjabi refugees, then it’s probably about the population expulsion. If not, it’s probably not.

Israel is a top recipient of U.S. aid, and by far the top recipient per-capita, and among the richest. Military and diplomatic support is given to Israel by the U.S. in ways that are contrary to its own strategic interests. So the actions of Israel are much more a responsibility and concern of U.S. citizens than are the actions of other countries.


William Burns 07.21.17 at 9:11 pm

Sam Chevre,

Palestinians are an oppressed and brutalized population now; Pomeranians aren’t. See the difference?


anon/portly 07.21.17 at 10:19 pm

49 South Park’s creators are right-wing free market nuts and instrumentalising anti-semitism for various political ends has long been a part of right-wing American politics.

Stone’s mother is Jewish, and Jewish Kyle’s parents are named after Stone’s parents (as Stan’s parents are named after Parker’s). I was unaware that Stone and Parker are “right-wing nuts,” but it seems fair to say at times their humor is at least partly aimed at (or intended to irritate) a certain type of left-winger. But I would say some variant of this feeling is almost universal among comedians….

Given that Stone has that Jewish heritage, it perhaps explains something like the scene where Cartman will only save Kyle if Kyle hands over the “Jew gold” he has hidden on his person, to which Kyle first protests that Cartman’s “Jew gold” idea is false or a myth, but then in the end he hands it over.

My experience growing up was by far closest to that described by Jim Harrison in 56. Given the evil energy my schoolmates (and no doubt I) were capable of, I’d guess that less than .0001% if it was expended in anti-Semitism. I’m not sure many of them would have understood the concept, I recall having trouble grasping it at first. (In particular I remember being puzzled by an incident Jim Bouton recounts, either in Ball Four or its sequel, where his father was concerned that Jim and his brother would be seen as making fun of Jewish people).


Asteele 07.21.17 at 10:45 pm

Pomeranians have the right to move and live in their “ancestral” home and totanfreedom of movement to and from it. At that was the situation for the Palenstienians no one would be complaining.


Orange Watch 07.21.17 at 11:51 pm


Your failure to mention Uzbek population displacement from Kyrgyzstan makes it fairly clear that you are not in fact opposed to forced population transfer, but instead are merely anti-Semetic, anti-Polish, anti-Czech, anti-Indian, and anti-Pakistani.

Now it’s you’re turn: name a displaced people I didn’t, and it’ll prove I’m anti-Kyrgyz as well as anti-all-of-the-above. Then I’ll find one you didn’t to prove you’re anti-all-that, and we’ll keep playing this game, proving just as much as your “quick test” proves each time, until we run out of recorded displaced populations and one of us wins, or we get bored and quit. I’m betting on the latter, since this might seem fun for a too-clever-by-half fourteen-year-old, but is tiresome and idiotic from an adult perspective.


Faustusnotes 07.22.17 at 12:02 am

Why is Macron getting his baguette out of shape over left wing anti Semitic at a time when the right is yelling its anti Semitic views from the rooftops? As the alt right gets a voice in the whitehouse and his favourite hand-holdy president ran on barely-concealed anti semitism, with rabid right wing movements growing across Eastern Europe and a pack of fascists presenting themselves as the pro European force in the Ukraine; with brexit looming having been driven by a newspaper that supported Hitler and a movement that consistently finds its senior members are holocaust deniers, macron decides to focus on left wing anti semitism? And we on the left are supposed to respond to this by first agreeing that we are all a nonsense thing like anti zionists, and then because that’s anti Semitic just give up on our opposition to israels abuses? Do we have to stop criticizing Saudi Arabia too, for fear of appearing islamophobic?

This is weak sauce by macron and we shouldn’t fall for it.


SamChevre 07.22.17 at 12:22 am

Palestinians are an oppressed and brutalized population now; Pomeranians aren’t. See the difference?

Oh, I do; I very much do. That’s kind of the point. Both were expelled from places they’d lived a long time, during and after a war where they were (perceived as) part of the group who started it. The people who expelled them still rule the territory from which they were expelled. The difference is that the Germans didn’t pen the Sudetendeutsche up on the Czech border in camps and spend the last 40 years encouraging them to hate the Czechs. That somewhat highlights who is to blame for the fact that the Palestinians are still oppressed; it’s not the Jews.


Collin Street 07.22.17 at 1:11 am

But seriously: let’s not talk about israel. The flaws of israeli society are I think well-established.


Donald Johnson 07.22.17 at 1:39 am

Before I make my point, I want to say I would have been perfectly happy to lurk, as I know nothing about the extent of antisemitism in Europe. But quite predictably the anti- Palestinian arguments made an appearance.

Sam Chèvre–

. If people want to say Israel is just another country with a rotten human rights record, fine. If we want to give them billions per year for some obscure reason, spell it out and stop talking about our shared values unless this is supposed to mean a shared value of settler colonialism, which in fact is probably closest to the truth.. And yes, the governments in the Mideast which have expelled people should all be criticized for those and other violations, but I don’t see Americans constantly praising various other countries as bastions of democracy when they clearly aren’t. In the case of Israel people pretend to be baffled by antizionism and constantly try to make it seem that people who do criticize it are guilty of antisemitism until proven innocent. Palestinian rights don’t matter. They are the only people I can think of where any defense of their rights is automatically taken as possible evidence of bigotry against another people. You have to condemn every atrocity on earth before you can get around to criticizing the crimes of Israel in anything except the most gingerly of terms. This sort of argument is always made in bad faith, to shut people up with the threat of being called an antisemite.

As for why Israel is singled out for criticism, I would like to point out that other countries in that region are singled out for draconian sanctions which hurt ordinary people, and still others are singled out to receive armed assistance for rebels with dubious human rights records and still others, like Yemen, are singled out to be bombed with our help. Israel is singled out to receive billions of dollars of aid, endless praise from politicians, and on the negative side, boycotts of Sabra Hummus. People like me oppose support for Israeli oppression, intervening in civil wars, and the bombing of Yemen. But sure, make it all about the Pomeranians.


Orange Watch 07.22.17 at 2:05 am

That somewhat highlights who is to blame for the fact that the Palestinians are still oppressed; it’s not the Jews.

Not only the Israelis, but nothing you said serves as one shred of proof that it’s not at all the Israelis.

Also, the fact that you really, really want to bring up the role of collective guilt based on perceived association along ethnic lines as anything so much as resembling justification of mistreatment of civilians says a great deal about where you’re coming from with this. And hey, I don’t even need to formally define a “quick test” to make that broad, sweeping assumption!


Anarcissie 07.22.17 at 2:23 am

nastywoman 07.21.17 at 2:55 pm @ 47 —
I included the word ‘really’ because I was about to cast doubt (‘No True Frenchman’) on Mélanchon; and because I think flatly equating anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism is a rather dubious move on the part of Macron, who seems to want to be taken seriously. You say that my interpretation of his words is incorrect, and I might concede the possibility of that if Macron were some kind of professional ironist. But I think he is supposed to be a Serious Person and his remarks were supposed to be taken unironically.

I wrote ‘as per Macron’ because different people mean different things by the same words, especially when the words are ‘anti-Zionism’, ‘anti-Semitism’, and ‘reinvented’. I don’t know what Macron means; the Latin preposition is a kind of scare-quote. I guess it’s not very elegant.


Keith 07.22.17 at 3:31 am

“Mitterrand worked for Vichy for two years, 1941-43. He was at most a minor official, he wasn’t in the Cabinet.” Well same for the Italian and German civil servants. Who knows what his career moves would have been if the axis was more successful?
In the channel islands the locals seem to have got on with the occupiers, and if the whole UK or USA was also under the jackboot who knows who would collaborate. To ape the prejudice of the boss is a good career move. My point is that prejudice is wide spread the conditions of the time decide if it is expressed. It is very hard to extrapolate back from the numbers of minorities killed to the level of prejudice in a population. The “banality of evil” implies evil is widespread since it is just following orders. Lots of other evils have happened and equally just reflect who has come to power…


Faustusnotes 07.22.17 at 3:38 am

Sam even if your just so story had panned out the way you describe and the Israeli government was completely innocent of all charges, it still wouldn’t be the fault of “the Jews”, since Jews and Israel are not the same thing. It takes a very staunch kind of Zionism – the kind that macron is espousing? – to think they are.


nastywoman 07.22.17 at 6:38 am

– but as a jewish friend of mine has this theory that ”Hitler had killed all kind of humor not only in Germany – but in Europe as a whole” – perhaps it’s the truly awesome and wonderful (jewish) humor which makes the difference that ”the jewish question”always will be a ‘European Question”?

And why is Crooked Timber generally such a humor free zone??
I mean Kant was… funny?
-(or not?)


nastywoman 07.22.17 at 8:26 am

”But I think he is supposed to be a Serious Person and his remarks were supposed to be taken unironically.”

I think so too – as Macron is facing a country which currently suffers… to say it in simple terms: ”very much from messages of hatred”…
Perhaps not as much as the US? – but as in the US the calls to counter such ”messages of hate” – with a ”clear” message ‘To cut it out” – especially by the President – were raised -(without any message ”to cut it out”) – Macron just did it – against the messages of hate –
and as France ”over the course of the past decade France never had less than 400 anti-Semitic acts a yearFrench – and Macron spoke at the Vel d’Hiv Holocaust memorial – his words (perhaps) should be understood as to ”f… CUT IT OUT – such s…? –
(to use some ”more familiar US words?”)


Raven 07.22.17 at 8:30 am

TM @ 33: “Concerning antisemitism in the US, I have been surprised how little debate there has been in the left about the strong antisemitic undertones in Trump’s campaign….”

A campaign supported by the KKK, Evangelicals who want Israel to exist solely for the purpose of Armageddon, and a host of other Confederate-flag-waving supporters who also hate Muslims, blacks, and other non-WASPs?

The absence of debate has likely meant simple agreement on that fact. But Trump gets along with Israel’s Netanyahu because he’s (1) right-wing, (2) anti-Muslim, (3) in power, and (4) not domestic. And he says he prefers Jews over blacks to handle his money. And his daughter converted to marry his son-in-law, so those grandchildren will all be Jewish; it gives credibility to the old saw, “Some of my best friends [and family]….” Never mind the little detail that his ex-wife reported his one bedside reading material was Hitler’s collected speeches.


engels 07.22.17 at 10:21 am

Depressing how quickly this thread turned into an argument about Israel.

AnonPortly (comment vanished) they both own guns for one thing which probably makes you a nut (if you’re white and well-off) by non-American standards. With hindsight their style of humour, based on frisson of seemingly purposeless transgression of mainstream ethical norms and antipathy to left-liberal moralising, looks like a stage in the development of American culture whose current end-point is the alt-Right.


nastywoman 07.22.17 at 1:00 pm

”based on frisson of seemingly purposeless transgression of mainstream ethical norms and antipathy to left-liberal moralising, looks like a stage in the development of American culture whose current end-point is the alt-Right.”

No here I have to object – as it has been proven that the ”seemingly purposeless transgression of mainstream ethical norms” -(by US Comedians) – has led in the US to a new an much more effective ”left-liberal moralising”.

Like – did you see the Pee Pee Performance of Clobert in Moskva?
It for sure makes you NOT hiring some hookers in order to pee on the bed the Obamas once slept in.


steven t johnson 07.22.17 at 1:23 pm

The prevalence of circumcision will affect the salience of Judaism as other, as will the prevalence of Christian Zionism. It is not at all clear how this kind of individualist moralizing/psychologizing analysis pertains to political events, or even to serious political analysis.


Anarcissie 07.22.17 at 2:17 pm

nastywoman 07.22.17 at 8:26 am @ 75 —

Given certain common meanings of anti-Semitism, Zionism, and anti-Zionism, one could be an anti-Zionist without being an anti-Semite; so it would have been possible for Macron to admonish whoever was listening to him about anti-Semitism without introducing the subject of the existence and behavior of the state of Israel as he did, thus, I believe, seriously (and deliberately) confusing the issues, because it makes the totality of the Jews responsible for political facts in which they have no participation. So he is actually promoting anti-Semitism. After all, Israel, being a state, and a religious-ethnic state at that, necessarily does all kinds of reprehensible things for which only its government and ruling class are actually responsible. So do most states, if they have the power; that’s what they’re for. Why is Macron picking on the Jews? I believe it’s because he wants to be one of the big dogs of global imperial capitalism, and it is convenient to sacrifice the interests of the Jews in favor of the interests of using Israel as an imperial instrument. But I’m just guessing; my French isn’t good enough to read his mind. I suppose it could have just been more vacuous political blather.


rogergathmann 07.22.17 at 2:21 pm

I am opposed to Israeli expansionism, but have always found the extension of that to anti-Zionism weird, for the same reason signaled by Zora in 37. After all, the expulsion of the Palestinians – a crime – is at least equaled by the destruction of the Indian nations in the U.S. – a crime made all the worse by the continued impoverishment and bigotry against those Indian groups. And how is a nation that essentially stole a third of its territory from Mexico in any position to judge Israel? The theft from Mexico is not some antique fact, but goes into the tenor of American politics today, and the way “illegal” immigration to areas the U.S. stole is used as a weapon of bigotry and further interference, always violent, into Mexican politics. This doesnt mean giving Israel a way out – the treatment of Gaza and the colonization of the West Bank is shameful. But it does delimit the terms in which Israel should be criticized, at least in my view.


Orange Watch 07.22.17 at 3:17 pm


As usual, well said. Better than what I’ve been saying in response to SC, certainly. Which suggests I should go back to lurking for now.


Chris "merian" W. 07.22.17 at 5:48 pm

SamChevre #67: (Context/disclaimer: My grandmother and (infant) father were expelled from Czechoslovakia in the summer of 1945 because they were Sudetendeutsche. It was certainly the worst and most dangerous time for my grandmother, and the start of many difficult years. The “old homeland” always played a role in her thoughts. The family also lost two family homes.) Speak about false equivalencies. Context matters. Relative power of the involved groups, and levels of support they receive matter. And above all, to compare the Arab side in a post-colonial fight in 1948 to what the Nazis did is wide off the mark.

nastywoman #74:
This is why in 1997, “La vita è bella” was greeted so positively: Finally a big-ticket film about life under the Nazis that wasn’t about the heroic outside saviours or the heroic Good German (a la Schindler’s List), but all serious and didactic, no smiling allowed. Not that it’s unproblematic, and of course the Jewish hero dies. Me, I used to feel the rebellion a little bit when I was young and wanted it all, but nowadays, I think not being flippant or making jokes about some things is a small prize to pay for one’s past crimes.
And Kant is funny. There’s this bit early on in the Critique of Pure Reason where he writes (paraphrasing from memory) that his readers now will expect him to talk about the question “What is truth”, but the problem is, this is the kind of question that is as if one person is trying to milk the billy goat and the other is holding a sieve under.


Donald Johnson 07.23.17 at 2:33 am

“And how is a nation that essentially stole a third of its territory from Mexico in any position to judge Israel? ”

That’s fair, if you think of it as one country criticizing another. I don’t think that is a useful way for individuals who are not government officials to think. The American government has been supplying Israel with weapons, money and diplomatic support for decades, so to some extent Israel’s crimes are our crimes.

Aside from that, one commonly sees people saying, as in this thread, that antizionism is antisemitism. Since virtually every Palestinian with any self respect would condemn their own expulsion, the logical conclusion is that any Palestinian who opposed the expulsion of Palestinians is an antisemite. Which is nonsense. Pointing to other examples of expulsion doesn’t justify the Nakba. The claim is that Israel is unfairly singled out, which again is another disingenuous argument. Israel is singled out for positive treatment and isn’t being bombed like Yemen or blockaded like Gaza– I for one would not support a policy that impoverished Israel the way Gaza is impoverished. It is utterly immoral in the case of Gaza and would be immoral to do that to Israel. BDS wouldn’t come close to that level of draconian cruelty. If it did, it would be front page news every day until the blockade was lifted.

Orange Watch– thanks. But your post brought out something about SC’s response I neglected to mention. He clearly just wants to absolve Israel of all guilt, as he says in his last sentence. Which again is nonsense. Blaming other countries in part for the plight of Palestinians is fine — there is blame to go around. But he showed his real motive there.

Engels–If you go to Corey’s own blog last I checked Israel didn’t come up in the thread below his post. Nobody jumped in to claim antisemitism was antizionism and I just lurked, because I had nothing useful to add on the topic of European antisemitism.


nastywoman 07.23.17 at 5:31 am

”But I’m just guessing;”

Me sometimes too – and again: As in France there were a lot of messages of hate lately -(like in the US) – and don’t have to guess that Macron – as the new French President wanted to say something against it – and as in France -(like in the US) a lot of – let’s call them in a US way : ”Haters” – have used anti-Zionism as an alibi to ”reinvent” ant-Semitism.
So Macron said what he said.

And that is NOT ”vacuous political blather” – as it is more than ”high time” that the US President calms down ”the haters” -(himself?) in his country

”And about your believe – it’s because he wants to be one of the big dogs of global imperial capitalism, and it is convenient to sacrifice the interests of the Jews in favor of the interests of using Israel as an imperial instrument.”
Good Lord! – ”Global imperial capitalism,” – ”imperial instrument.”

What ”vacuous political blather” is that – in times where some so called ”anti-imperial” and ”anti-capitalistic” Americans voted for a doofus and idiot – who pretended that he was some kind of (”anti-imperial”?) – ”isolationist” and ”nationalist”?

So you couldn’t be more right: ”You’re just guessing;” – like I am – with the difference that I’m currently residing in the so called ”Dreiländereck” -(France-Germany-Switzerland) and having just celebrated Bastille Day with our friends in Strasbourg -(notice the French spelling) – and so I might be able to guess a bit better ”Whassup” with France -(and Macron) ?


nastywoman 07.23.17 at 5:54 am

– @80
– which could bring as back to the ”real” question of this thread –
”The Jewish Question”
– as the situation in France –
(with some – ”a lot”? – of French Jews leaving France because they can’t tolerate the anti-Semitism they are exposed to anymore)

Which let’s me guess the ”Jewish Question” is still very much a ”European Question” – even if some US bloggers and their ”fans” -(like ”the Cult of Green-wald”) – showed in such a nasty way how ”anti-Zionism” can reinvent ”anti-Semitism”.


Anarcissie 07.23.17 at 2:56 pm

Living in and around New York City most of the time, I don’t think I saw much anti-Semitism that did not seem to belong to conveniently dying-off older generations from the 1950s until the Internet burst upon the public in the mid ’90s.


bianca steele 07.23.17 at 4:00 pm

When I was growing up in pretty much lily-white Northeast Philadelphia, there was a clear dividing line down the middle of the part of the city that had been developed after 1960 or so. Jews lived on the western side of the line; most of the other side had an apparently deserved reputation for being “deplorable” and violent (though partly because those who weren’t could afford not to let their children attend school with the rest of us), and we didn’t go there if we didn’t have to. In retrospect this must have been “managed” in some way. (I assume it mostly doesn’t have to be these days, but then again I don’t know whether the eastern half has been at all welcoming to Russians and Asians as the other has been, or if not, how that happens.)

But I didn’t experience any anti-semitism other than the assumption that our football team was so bad because Jews can’t play sports.


alfredlordbleep 07.23.17 at 5:17 pm

Hope and No Change
Let na***woman continue to make CR a humor free-fire zone.

the Importance of Being Earnest
Apologies for continuing on the Israel-America theme in advance. In this zone the late Tony Judt, one of the NYRB’s former in-house stars, (seemingly) had to go to the LRB in 2006 for this, making a connection usefully repeated from time to time:

Since its inception the state of Israel has fought a number of wars of choice (the only exception was the Yom Kippur War of 1973). To be sure, these have been presented to the world as wars of necessity or self-defence; but Israel’s statesmen and generals have never been under any such illusion. Whether this approach has done Israel much good is debatable (for a clear-headed recent account that describes as a resounding failure his country’s strategy of using wars of choice to ‘redraw’ the map of its neighbourhood, see Scars of War, Wounds of Peace: The Israeli-Arab Tragedy by Shlomo Ben-Ami,​ a historian and former Israeli foreign minister). But the idea of a super-power behaving in a similar way – responding to terrorist threats or guerrilla incursions by flattening another country just to preserve its own deterrent credibility – is odd in the extreme. It is one thing for the US unconditionally to underwrite Israel’s behaviour (though in neither country’s interest, as some Israeli commentators at least have remarked). But for the US to imitate Israel wholesale, to import that tiny country’s self-destructive, intemperate response to any hostility or opposition and to make it the leitmotif of American foreign policy: that is simply bizarre.

Bush’s Middle Eastern policy now tracks so closely to the Israeli precedent that it is very difficult to see daylight between the two.


rogergathmann 07.23.17 at 5:24 pm

84 Well, I am assuming some complicity in the acceptance by Americans of laws and law enforcement that result in such things as 8 dead immigrants this morning in a trailer in Texas. I grant the point that one atrocity does not justify another. The Soviet support for anti-colonialism was a good thing, beyond the problems with the Soviet union. So there is that. On the other hand, the boycott of Israel, which really imports very little into the U.S. except academics, seems sort of pitiful to me. Maybe I am wrong, but supporting lobby groups like J Street would do more to express outrage at Israel’s apartheid. On the other hand, a boycott of Saudi Arabia, on the other hand, with demonstrations against weapons companies, oil companies, engineering companies and the whole gamut of American companies that collaborate in the continuance of the most totalitarian country in the Middle East would be far more righteous. Yet it receives very little attention in an academic world saturated with Saudi money. It is in these nuances that one has to ask about anti-Jewish sentiment. This isn’t necessarily conscious, but I don’t think we can escape history by cleansing our feelings and saying I’ve looked inside and I’m one hundred percent non-racist.


Anarcissie 07.23.17 at 7:10 pm

nastywoman 07.23.17 at 5:31 am @ 85:
‘… And about your [belief] – “it’s because he wants to be one of the big dogs of global imperial capitalism, and it is convenient to sacrifice the interests of the Jews in favor of the interests of using Israel as an imperial instrument.”
Good Lord! – ”Global imperial capitalism,” – ”imperial instrument.”

‘What ”vacuous political blather” is that – in times where some so called ”anti-imperial” and ”anti-capitalistic” Americans voted for a doofus and idiot – who pretended that he was some kind of (”anti-imperial”?) – ”isolationist” and ”nationalist”?’

From what I read, a lot of Left anti-Zionism (meaning in this case opposition to the behavior, policies, and perhaps the constitution of the state of Israel) is at least nominally connected to a belief in global imperial capitalism led by the United States government and ruling class. If you don’t believe that exists, many phenomena may be difficult to account for, and it will be difficult to understand Left anti-Zionists, many of whom seem to be Jews who are probably not anti-Semites. Maybe you don’t want to understand them. But if you want to actually deal with something you regard as a problem, it may be helpful to understand it.

I’m just going here by what people say. Note that the fact that a number of people voted for a candidate whose subsequent deeds were other than what seemed to have been promised is not something new in the world, nor does it say much about the virtues of the promises one way or the other.


grizzled 07.23.17 at 8:16 pm


I find your comments hard to understand because of their bad grammar. In particular, I recommend that you stop using dashes “-“. The result is that it is often hard (at least for me) to parse the scope of your references. You make it worse by sometimes leaving the dashes unbalanced.


SamChevre 07.24.17 at 12:56 am

To correct one clear implication of what I said that I did not intend (thanks, Donald Johnson @ 84 for pointing it out): if you or your family were directly affected by one of the violent expulsions of people based on their race/class/ethnicity, then no, I do not think focusing on that is anti-whoever. It’s not anti-Semitic for Palestinians to be bitter about the Nakba, any more than it’s anti-Slav for Chris “meriam” W’s grandmother to be bitter about the Czechs. It’s when out of all the expulsions in the 20th century that didn’t affect you directly, you pick the one where you can blame “the Jews” and focus on it, and allocate almost all the blame to Israel and almost none to the Arab states that didn’t resettle the refugees, that I start thinking anti-Semitism is likely to be involved.

On a different topic-my grandfather had plenty of stories about being bullied for being Jewish in 1920’s New York City, and not being able to live near where his father worked because that town didn’t allow Jews, and so on. I thought of that as one of those things that had certainly happened, but fairly long ago. I was startled a year or so ago when one of my colleagues told me: “I lived in the neighborhood where you live–we moved there when I was in high school. We couldn’t move to the town where I live now (a mile down the road from me); they didn’t allow Jews.” That was a lot closer in time than I thought of that happening.


Peter T 07.24.17 at 2:50 am

“let them be collectives based on justice rather than purity”

Just finished reading Robert Sapolsky’s “Behave”, a book on the neurological, neuro-chemical and other influences on behaviour. Purity and justice turn out to be almost the same thing in the brain.


nastywoman 07.24.17 at 6:23 am

It’s all my fault.

I got into a discussion with somebody on the internet about what is ”vacuous political blather” – while the topic of the blogpost is ”The Jewish Question” – and if it (still?) IS a European question.

And to help me: How do you think we got so ”sillily” sidetracked?
And I wonder about that because it seems to happen a lot on US blogs lately – or to say it in a ”funny” way: Everybody seems to insist to write about her or his favorite subject and words -(like ”global imperial capitalism,” – ”imperial instrument” or ”Hate Messages” – or ”vacuous political blather”) – while the issue was ”Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the French leftist leader, sullies himself with this comment about French collaboration with the Holocaust. Responding to Macron’s speech in which Macron said France needed to take responsibility for its role in the roundup and extermination of the Jews.

So let’s finally come to the point?
Do you think – France needed to take responsibility for its role in the roundup and extermination of the Jews.-(as Macron said)?

I think so!
-(and I promise no more ”Scaramuccing”)


faustusnotes 07.24.17 at 7:14 am

SamChevre, why would the expulsion of the Palestianians from Israel be the fault of the Arab states that didn’t resettle them? That does mean the holocaust was the fault of the western states that didn’t accept Jewish refugees?

The expulsion of the Palestinians from the newly-formed Israeli state was the fault of the band of gangsters and terrorists who formed that state and drove them out. It’s not anti-semitic to prioritize this 70 year running sore over some other expulsion, especially if you are part of a democratic nation whose leaders have consistently blocked any attempts to hold them to account. It’s especially not anti-semitic if, for example, nationals of your state were murdered by Israeli soldiers on a friendship boat just a few years ago, or nationals of your state were murdered by Israeli soldiers while protesting the demolition of a Palestinian home. You, SamChevre, might think that there are better things for nationals of those states to focus on, but making a choice to focus on a colonial policy that your nation supports is not anti-semitic.


nastywoman 07.24.17 at 8:00 am

”the Importance of Being Earnest
Apologies for continuing on the Israel-America theme in advance.”

Accepted – and that’s why it is so important sometimes not being ”earnest”.

”And now to something completely else”:
(courtesy: Monty Python)
And I think that always IS(was) the most irritating thing about the ”Full Greenwald” – like when everybody knew you(he) was just looking for another chance to ”dox” Obama -(or some ”Democrats”- or ”Israel” or ”the Zionists”) – he used the most unrelated issues in order to come back to… his favorite… ”hobby”? – like in the most hilarious comedies.


Katsue 07.24.17 at 1:35 pm


Would you say that South Africans or Irish people who are pro-Palestinian are also engaging in anti-Semitism?

How about the Yemenis who went to the demonstration in Sana’a last Friday?


Layman 07.24.17 at 2:02 pm

SamChevre: “The difference is that the Germans didn’t pen the Sudetendeutsche up on the Czech border in camps and spend the last 40 years encouraging them to hate the Czechs.”

This is an odd argument to make considering the current state of affairs in Gaza, where Israel is actively engaged in penning the Palestinians up in a camp and encouraging them to hate Israelis, using means up to and including a naval blockade. If other countries are at fault for this treatment of Palestinians in Gaza, is not Israel also at fault for this treatment of Palestinians in Gaza? If not, why not?


Petter Sjölund 07.24.17 at 2:10 pm

There seems to be a popular argument that Israel is singled out for criticism from the Left because of anti-Semitism. To me a much more likely explanation is that it is the last remaining of the classic big causes of the Left of the 60’s and 70’s: Vietnam, South Africa, the Latin American right-wing dictatorships, and to a lesser extent Northern Ireland. Countries and conflicts where the USA and the Right supported the oppressors, and the Soviet Union and the Left supported the opposite side. All of these have been more or less resolved, with the exception of Israel.


TM 07.24.17 at 2:37 pm

Raven 07.22.17 at 8:30 am
“The absence of debate has likely meant simple agreement on that fact.”

It seems rather odd that Trump’s appeal to antisemitic stereotypes wouldn’t even be mentioned at a site like Crooked Timber, which did have its share of Trump-themed punditry.

[Btw can the Israel dispute be moved to its own thread?]


F. Foundling 07.24.17 at 3:52 pm

Re the OP’s ‘The left should defend collectives, yes, but for God’s sake, let them be collectives based on justice rather than purity’:

Perhaps I’m the only one who has a problem understanding this part, but I think it could use a little bit of elaboration. Purity of what exactly? Can’t ‘justice’ also be ‘pure’? Some examples of collectives based on one and the other might also be helpful to the reader. And what about collectives that are neither based on one nor on the other?

Of course, I would have understood a more trivial statement to the effect that the left shouldn’t unjustly favour and prioritise or unrealistically idealise some ethnic and traditional collectives (based on blood, language, religion, etc.) over others. Certainly, this is something that we should all try to avoid, and we should be especially careful not to give in to the temptation to unjustly favour or unrealistically idealise the ones that we ourselves happen to belong to. On the other hand, defending any sort of collectives, whether one’s own or others, when they are unjustly targeted in word or deed would seem to be fairly normal behaviour for the left. What can be argued about is exactly what was just in this particular case.


Dipper 07.24.17 at 4:36 pm

Ethnicity matters a lot in continental Europe. It doesn’t really matter for those of us in the United Kingdom and Ireland because (notwithstanding the NI border) they are islands; the world is divided into those on the island and those not on the island so our dividing line is ready made. For continental Europe there is generally no geographic reason for a border to be in a particular place, so ethnicities provide the main reason for drawing a division between two peoples.

Whilst European treatment of Jews has been horrific, it is sadly not the only case of people being discriminated against because of their race. Gypsies and Roma don’t get a great deal in many places, and the wars in the former Yugoslavia did not specifically involve jews but did involve lots of people being killed because of their ethnicity. Anti-semitism has a fertile ground of ready made ethnic awareness and hostility in which to grow.


Z 07.25.17 at 1:36 am

Having read the relevant parts of Mélenchon’s blog post and of Macron’s speech, I find myself agreeing much more with the analysis of Macron than with that of Mélenchon (a rare experience for me).

That being said, Corey’s criticism seems to me exaggerated: immediately before the paragraph quoted, Mélenchon writes “nobody can contest that some French were personally responsible […] especially within the police […] but also among authorities of all kinds which were complicit either actively, or by their silence […] But saying that France, as a nation, is responsible of the crime amounts to using an essentialist definition of our country which is totally unacceptable. France is noting else than its Republic. […] The Republic had been abolished. […] Nothing remained except a nation […] half of which was occupied by Nazi armies and the other ruled by people who had violently imposed a twin ideology.”

I am wary of conflating political categories (like France) with historical events so that statements “France is/is not responsible for the Rafle du Vet’ d’Hiv’” remain quite meaningless to me, and if I had to enter this category of discourse, I would still prefer the relevant part of Macron’s speech, but actually I don’t find what Mélenchon writes terribly different from “There’s an argument to be had about the relationship of the people to a collaborationist government under foreign occupation. [M]any collaborated, some resisted, Vichy wasn’t the official representative of the French people”.

There is an ironic coda to this discussion, which might have escaped non-French. The invitation of Netanyahu to the celebration has been received by many French as very problematic not (only) because he’s a far-right oppressor (who used the occasion to declare “Militant Islam wants to destroy our common civilization. The militant Shiites led by Iran, the militant Sunnis led by ISIS – both seek to vanquish us. They seek to destroy Europe […] They must vanquish, overcome, subdue, and ultimately eliminate European civilization. Israel is merely the first Western target that stands in their way”), but mostly because by doing so, Macron departed from now about 30 years of construction of a French memory of the French involvement in the Holocaust, which consistently considered the Rafle as mainly a French event, with French perpetrators obeying French orders to round up French victims. Inviting the Prime Minister of Israël and declaring that anti-zionism is a reinvention of antisemitism (to bear in mind the significance of that assertion, it should be recalled that antisemitism is a crime in France) in that context was a stark departure from that process.


James Wimberley 07.25.17 at 8:14 am

Keith #72: to round out the picture of the German occupation of the Channel Islands (I was brought up in Jersey). The Nazis and the local authorities reached an accommodation: no active resistance in exchange for kid gloves. This wasn’t collaboration in any real sense. The islands served the Allied war effort by attracting a wholly disproportionate effort in coastal defences, as Hitler imagined Churchill champing at the bit to take back British territory. In fact this would have been militarily pointless and the islands stayed German till VE day. Resistance took the form of listening to the BBC and helping the occasional Russian escaper from the forced labour building sites, both very dangerous activities that had some sent to Buchenwald, denounced by neighbours.


Colin Danby 07.25.17 at 4:24 pm

“This wasn’t collaboration in any real sense.”

Hardly kid gloves for Jews in Channel Islands. This sounds like the same exculpatory mythology for which Mélenchon is rightly criticized in the OP.


doubtthat 07.25.17 at 6:18 pm

Spent 5 months before starting law school living in Paris and traveling around Europe on their awesome Euro-rail system.

I tried to talk to as many people as possible to work on language skills. It was STUNNING how overtly anti-Semitic people were in France. I would be washing my clothes at a laundry mat, just chatting with someone about trivialities, and they’d casually say something about Jews controlling this or that – media, banks, auto industry (weird one that I remember).

Very disturbing.

As with the racist dickweeks I grew up with in Kansas, it’s the assumption that everyone you talk to will agree about the nudge, nudge, , that is most troubling. It betrays a belief so universal that they cannot even imagine it would be offensive.


basil 07.26.17 at 1:26 am

Hey Corey,
I loved your double rant on the Twitter. Blue-tick liberals are the worst.


Neville Morley 07.26.17 at 6:34 am

Dipper #103: “[Ethnicity] doesn’t really matter to those of us in the United Kingdom and Ireland because they are islands; the world is divided into those on the island and those not in the island.”

Seriously? Scotland? Wales? Different immigrant populations, xenophobic rhetoric of Brexit campaign, institutional racism? All imaginary, ‘cos really we’re united by being one side of the English Channel?


Katsue 07.26.17 at 1:40 pm

Dipper in 103 is of course entirely wrong. Ethnic and sectarian violence have been so fundamental to British and Irish history and modern day politics in both countries that it is impossible to understand either country without reference to them.

I mean, there’s a reason why it’s fans of Glasgow Celtic that fly the Palestinian flag.


Dipper 07.26.17 at 2:30 pm

@ Neville Morley – yes seriously. Scotland and Wales go on about independence by they don’t do this on any ethnic basis. The SNP has different ethnicities in its ranks and amongst its MPs. As for the “xenophobic rhetoric of Brexit campaign” there are Black members of UKIP because they don’t want more racist Eastern Europeans coming into a country that has largely dealt with its past institutional racism.

Notably the non-native employment rates are significantly higher in continental Europe than in the UK. so UK 2016 unemployment native vs non-native is 4.8% vs 5.5%, but Germany is 3.6 vs 6.8, Italy 11.4 v 14.9, Poland 6.2 v 10.2, Netherlands 5.4 v 10.6, France 9.2 v 16.7.


F. Foundling 07.26.17 at 5:52 pm

@basil 07.26.17 at 1:26 am



anon/portly 07.26.17 at 6:34 pm

77 With hindsight [South Park’s] style of humour, based on frisson of seemingly purposeless transgression of mainstream ethical norms and antipathy to left-liberal moralising, looks like a stage in the development of American culture whose current end-point is the alt-Right.

Obviously this side topic isn’t of much importance, but it seems to me that the Wikipedia article probably gets the views of Parker and Stone more or less right, and engels gets their views pretty much wrong.

If “antipathy to left-liberal moralizing” means that they like to mock certain types of left-liberal moralizing, I’d say that’s correct, but how many comedians or comedy writers don’t like to mock certain types of left-liberal moralizing? I’d say very few, although Parker & Stone probably go farther than most. However they go “farther than most” in a lot of directions, not just that one, as obviously an element of their humor is an embrace of the juvenile mindset. (It’s too much for me a lot of the time).

As far as “purposeless transgression of mainstream ethical norms,” well, isn’t that a description of at least a large part of what makes, say, the Marx Brothers funny?

Back to SP, I actually think Stan and Kyle are more less liberals and Cartman is the conservative. That Stan and Kyle see or uncover adult authority figures and their ideas as nuts, including some ideas that no doubt some CT commenters hold dear, does not make Parker and Stone “right-wing nuts,” in my view. To say that South Park (or for that matter Beavis & Butthead, which I thought did it even better in some ways) is to blame for the rise of the Alt Right is what I’d call blaming the messenger.


Dipper 07.26.17 at 6:45 pm

Katsue – how is Ethnic violence fundamental to modern day politics in the UK? The only example I can think of is the anti-semitic behaviour and threats in the Labour Party – is that what you mean?


Dipper 07.26.17 at 7:40 pm

I mean, seriously, Neville Morley and Katsue, in Eastern Europe there is recent history of ethnic war, mass graves, wholesale ethnic cleansing, and here in the UK we have two football teams whose fans chant at each other and wave flags, and that’s the same thing is it? Never mind the fact that we have multi-ethnic nationalist parties, that people of all ethnicities are now doing as well if not better than the native population in schools, entering the professions.

This is typical of modern left politics in the UK. You cannot just disagree with people, you have to invent facts, show a complete disregard for scale, slander your opponents by accusing them of things they haven’t done or accusing them of believing things they have specifically said they do not believe. You then use these inventions to denounce them as lesser people, people who do not deserve the kind of civil liberties and rights that decent people have, and then no-platform them, denounce them, engage in threatening behaviour unless they stop expressing themselves.

It is entirely appropriate that this stuff is coming up on a thread about anti-semitism.


Neville Morley 07.27.17 at 5:24 am

Starting to suspect that this is not a fruitful dialogue to be engaged in, but, Dipper #115, the statement you made was not “there are no violent ethnic conflicts in the U.K. comparable to the Balkans in the 1990s” but “ethnicity doesn’t really matter”. If you consider that ethnicity doesn’t “matter” to anyone unless it’s causing violent conflict, then I suppose your statements could be considered consistent, but that is basically nonsensical.


engels 07.27.17 at 11:19 am

Erm not really seeing the Marx Brothers’ comedy was about violating moral norms for the sake of it or bashing the left…


Katsue 07.27.17 at 1:05 pm


My point was that both Britain’s party system and Ireland’s party system originate at least in part from British colonial violence in Ireland. The current Tory* government rules, after all, in alliance with the Democratic Unionist Party, a party which was founded on the basis of violent opposition to civil rights for Northern Irish Catholics – in other words very precisely on the basis of ethnic and sectarian conflict.

More broadly, of course, the fact that Britain became united as one polity, while Ireland didn’t, is precisely the result of violence. And this violence often took the form of ethnic hatred. You can look, for instance, at the anti-Welsh legislation passed during Glyndwr’s rebellion, or at almost any of the many wars between Scotland and England.

* Incidentally an Irish word with the literal meaning of fugitive, used to refer to Jacobites.


Dipper 07.27.17 at 1:35 pm

@ Neville Morley

Ethnicity matters less and less in the UK. I realise this is a problem for those who rely on ethnic conflict to fuel their politics, but there are lots of cases of people of lots of ethnicities reaching positions of authority and power in the UK. My comparison with the Balkans coms partly from the report of a black British reporter who said that a British officer had said to him “these folks aren’t like us. Their ethnicity matters a lot”. I think this helps explains why there is so much anti-Semitism in Europe compared to the UK.

Anyway, to prove a point, here’s the new darling of the libertarian Brexit right.


J-D 07.27.17 at 11:14 pm


You referred to Rromani people. I don’t know of any reason why ethnicity would matter less to Rromani people in the United Kingdom and Ireland than on the European continent. It also appears that ethnicity matters a good deal to Irish Travellers.


Raven 07.28.17 at 9:47 am

J-D @ 120: R[r]omani and Irish Travellers would not be, either in the UK or on the European continent, among what Dipper called “lots of cases of people of lots of ethnicities reaching positions of authority and power”.


Raven 07.28.17 at 9:56 am

Katsue @ 110: Seeing English estates that were taken from abbeys, or finding “priests’ holes” as architectural features in old houses, and no-one ever even needing to explain why….


Raven 07.28.17 at 10:25 am

Dipper @ 103: You seem a bit over-optimistic about the situation of Gypsies/Roma & Travellers in the UK. Cf. (1) (2) (3-pdf) (4-pdf)

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