The Effects of Modest Amounts of Anti-Semitic Speech and Unfair Anti-Israel Sentiment on American Jews and Israel:

American Jews naturally worry about anti-Semitic speech, for the obvious reason that it could lead to anti-Semitic murder, other crimes, job discrimination, and more. They also worry about unfair criticism of Israel, because it could undermine American help for Israel, American trade and professional exchanges with Israel, and the like.

But it seems to me there are also contrary effects. American help for Israel -- especially private help -- is also undermined by any decline in American Jews' emotional connection to Israel, a decline that can stem from (1) growing assimilation, (2) a declining sense that Israel is unfairly embattled, and (3) a declining sense that Jews are unfairly embattled and need Israel as a defender and retreat of last resort. Likewise, what most undermines these days the welfare of the American Jewish community as an independent community (rather than just as individual people)? My sense is that the answer is assimilation and declining sense of common fate, rather than an unwillingness to identify as Jews for fear of ostracism or violent reprisal (a fear that was more serious some decades ago).

Modest amounts of anti-Semitic speech and unfair criticism of Israel, it seems to me, can strengthen American Jews' self-identity as Jews, and thus indirectly support both the preservation of the American Jewish community as a community, and strengthen support for Israel. Feeling embattled as a group tends to strengthen group solidarity. Hearing unfair criticisms for Israel tends to strengthen the sense that Israel is unfairly embattled and deserves more support. Feeling some fear of anti-Semitism reminds American Jews of the value of preserving American Jewish institutions. And it reminds American Jews of the value of protecting Israel, in case one day American Jews may need refuge somewhere just like European Jews once did. ("Home is the place where, when you have to go there, They have to take you in.")

If anti-Semitic speech became too common, these community-strengthening effects may be decreased (for instance, if American Jews became afraid to be publicly identified as Jews) or might be swamped by harmful effects (again, such as violence, ostracism, discrimination, or fear suffered by individual Jews). But my sense is that at modest levels, the existence of this speech in America is a net positive (not an unalloyed positive, but a net positive) both for Israel and for the American Jewish community. And we are talking these days about such modest levels, if one looks at the big picture of Jewish existence in America today.

So far I have tried to be purely descriptive: I have tried to describe what I think is an existing phenomenon, a phenomenon that is positive for Israel and for the American Jewish community as a community. (I should say that I'm a relatively assimilated Jew who doesn't care as much about the American Jewish community as a community as some do; I'm much more concerned with the welfare of individuals, Jewish or not, than with the welfare of the community. Still, even I see some value, so long as anti-Semitism does exist, in America and elsewhere, in protecting Israel and preserving American Jewish institutions.)

Now, though, let me shift to the prescriptive: I think that this phenomenon ought to further strengthen American Jews' support for free speech, including for free speech by anti-Semites and unfair, bigoted critics of Israel. (I think we should support such free speech even without this phenomenon, but I hope this phenomenon strengthens such supprot in others.)

Anti-Semitism, whether Muslim, white nationalist, or otherwise, is out there. Suppressing such speech might diminish anti-Semitism in some ways (for instance, if the suppression is effective and stops the persuasive or attitude-reinforcing effect of such speech), or it might increase anti-Semitism in some ways (for instance, for making the anti-Semites look sympathetic in some people's eyes, or making people who are from the same community as anti-Semites feel embattled and hostile to those who are seen as persecuting them). But on balance, the main effect of such suppression, if it is effective, will be to make American Jews feel more complacent. And publicly identifying and condemning such speech will remind American Jews that there is anti-Semitism out there, that it must be fought -- and that fighting such anti-Semitism and protecting against its most harmful effects is one reason that both Israel and American Jewish institutions need support.

Naturally, there are limits to this. Certainly no-one should foment anti-Semitic speech or conduct, or blow it out of proportion, or tolerate leaving actual anti-Semitic violence unpunished. Increasing group solidarity is not the most important thing.

But if you think that increasing group solidarity is on balance one important thing (either as an end or as a means), the First Amendment rights of American anti-Semites help you rather than hurt you. You shouldn't be demanding speech codes; you should be shipping in more video cameras (and of course demanding protection from violence for those who use them), and publicizing the bad speech that you find.

Free speech is valuable because it informs people -- and it informs people not just when the listener hears and believes the facts the speaker says, but also when the public learns more about the speakers. Publicly visible anti-Semitic advocacy is, at least in America today, an important informational tool: It informs American Jews of the value of Jewish institutions, and it presents this information in an especially emotionally effective way. Again, not in my view the best reason to support free speech, or even close to it. But those who don't share my views about the broader moral and instrumental value of free speech should, I think, consider this more immediate instrumental value.

Thank you for the post. It was a great example of balance reflection on a hard issue. I think the research on inoculation effects would suggest that even criticisms against a group that are reasonable could end up serving that group (at reasonable levels). They encourage group members to abandon loyalty for the sake of reflex or habit, and replace it with something else. Either they resolve their concern and stay with the group, or they abandon it.

Suppose they stay with the group. If they replace a reflexive loyalty with a more informed, cognitively based allegiance, one based on more facts than before (albeit incrementally so), that's great for the group as a whole. Not so suggest that members of that group will thereafter be 100% driven by rational analysis, since I suppose identification with a group will almost always have some emotional component. However, it strengthens the group if its members know clearly and logically why they are members, because then there is less likelihood of needing the defensive mental and emotional barriers that we employ to avoid logical discussion of illogical positions we take. Those barriers can project to outsiders a fierce loyalty to the group, but it's also a brittle loyalty. It's no accident that many groups employing irrational loyalty incorporate seclusion.

If the reasonable criticism drives some people out of a group, that's not necessarily a problem. Groups thrive due to their core membership, not their overall size. For me, the history of small groups (e.g., the Jewish people) suggests that the size of the conviction within the group matters more than the size of the group with some conviction.
6.1.2007 2:55pm
I was a rather weak 'Friend of Israel' until entering academia. The rhetoric of so many of my colleagues has driven me /toward/ support of aid to Israel, and made me increasingly skeptical of any anti-Israeli speech and writing.

I've only been there once. I'm neither a Jew nor a Protestant, so there's nothing millenarian about by pro-Israeli stance (Catholics tend to believe that the 'Revelation' has to be taken in the context in which it was written, to wit, anti-Roman apocalyptic literature of the time. We don't actually expect Jesus to return at any particular place.). So I have no inherent bias on this question.

But the vitriol is so over-the-top in academe that one has to ask questions, and to seek distance from the insanity.
6.1.2007 4:22pm
LM (mail):

I agree with your analysis on paper, but you don't seem to have considered how acting on it might do more harm than good. Assume that enough of the American Jewish community took your prescription to heart to cause a net pullback in it's efforts to suppress anti-Semitic speech. Don't you think that awareness outside the Jewish community of the fact of and motives for such pullback would ignite its own anti-Semitic backlash?
6.1.2007 4:28pm
Eugene Volokh (www):
LM: Here's how I think Jewish organizations should put this, to themselves, to the Jewish community, and to non-Jews:
There's a lot of anti-Semitism out there. Both Jews and non-Jews should know about it, and Jews in particular should keep its existence in mind: The presence of anti-Semitism should lead Jews to see the need to support Jewish community institutions and Israel.

Suppressing anti-Semitic speech will do little to actually decrease anti-Semitism. Rather, suppressing such speech will mostly just hide the existence of anti-Semitic sentiments, so that both Jews and the great majority of non-Jews who aren't anti-Semitic will become wrongly complacent. That's why we are trying to publicize the anti-Semitic speech, and not suppress it: Knowing about these evil speakers will help us better fight the evil ideas and actions than suppressing the speakers would.

This, it seems to me, is both sound and defensible. Non-Jews who hear it should have no cause to condemn the motives -- because the motives are to expose the truth, and to get people to act in ways that protect against anti-Semitic conduct -- and thus little reason for any backlash. If anything, it may reduce the backlash that may stem from calls to coercively suppress speech.
6.1.2007 5:00pm
LM (mail):
EV: Put that way, I agree. My concern was over the appearance of protecting anti-Semitic speech to rally solidarity and support.
6.1.2007 5:40pm
DonWillis (mail):
I think Dr. Drake's committment to free speech is proper in principle, but also tactically advantageous to groups with unpopular views on campus. I earned a PhD. from UCI in 2005, and saw the activities and conduct of the MSA up close. They are a group of religious thugs and I think they probably alienated most Muslims on campus. There is no shortage of anti-Israel leftists on campus who who seemed to avoid coordination with MSA because of the group's behavior. If Drake will protect free speech, let some group duplicate the recent effort at SFSU (as reported by FIRE), where a College Republican rally included defacement of Hamas and Hizbollah banners. That school's admin. certainly didn't respect this as free speech, but caved in to Muslim demands that this represented anti-Islam hate speech. I think Greg Lukianoff described it as the first time in the US a public entity acted to enforce Muslim religious norms over the doctrine of free speech.
6.1.2007 6:12pm
Sarah (mail) (www):
I tend to agree, on balance -- but I've never been persuaded that speech, even hateful, biased, and nasty speech, is by itself all that harmful. I have an unfortunate tendency to align myself with groups that get a lot of heat (Jewish heritage, former Unitarian Universalist, now a Mormon -- whee!) and in general the people who've engaged in speech against me or people I identify with, invariably show themselves to be far sillier, less-informed, and often, significantly less likable than the people they're trying to demean, criticize, or weaken.

Together with the unifying effects of most types of suffering and oppression, there's a decided net positive to protecting (if not exactly "welcoming") such speech in my mind. Even acts of malice might strengthen a community: I mean, one of the favorite songs amongst Latter-day Saints includes the lines: "We'll find the place which God for us prepared, Far away in the West, Where none shall come to hurt or make afraid; There the Saints will be blessed." We sing that in Ohio (ironically, one of the places Mormons were driven out of,) probably once a month.

But I think there are an awful lot of people who think that feeling bad or being offended is objectively one of the very worst things that can be done to a person short of physical harm -- someone who tends to feel that way, who is confronted by speech that makes them very uncomfortable (which they believe is untrue,) and which seems very likely to upset or offend people with whom they identify, probably won't be mollified by claims that there's a net communal good from such oppositional speech.

There are secondary concerns for Jews in particular, obviously -- especially since anti-Semitism is often provoked by despotic leaders intent on controlling, conquering, and murdering the general public (and violence against Jews has been a tool used by far too many leaders over the last several centuries.) The complex relationship between religion and ethnicity, and between politics and a diaspora nationality, also contributes: "are you saying X because you think Israel is doing something bad that you want them to stop doing, or because you want all Jews to die?" I mean, when angry people have shouting matches and wave signs outside the temple in Salt Lake City, I'm pretty sure of exactly what they mean and why they're saying what they're saying -- and ever since the dawn of the last century, I'm pretty sure none of it is a call for the physical destruction of all my relatives.

None of which is an argument for suppressing such speech, but it might be part of the motivation for trying to (particularly amongst those who agree out loud that "free speech" is a fundamental right.)
6.1.2007 6:15pm
Stu (mail):
I have the impression that in much of western Europe where democracy rules, hate speech is termed incitement and suppressed. Instead, anti-semitic speech has morphed into anti-Israel speech, presumably because foreign countries are fair game for any kind of speech. I fear much more for the Jews in those places than I do in the U.S. because the underlying anti-semitism is still there, insidious, unexpressed and unabated. Again, that is an impression from what I read in the American press. I'm not worldly enough to know any better.

I also feel like openly expressed racism can be answered, and is often answered by the press and other institutions rather than being ignored. And at the same time, it reminds Jews (I am one) of who they are. Neither is a bad thing, in my view. That is one of my problems with forced PC speech. Though it is intended to be unoffensive, it doesn't necessarily change the way people feel. It makes them afraid of a faux pas.
6.1.2007 6:34pm
LM (mail):
EV: Apologies, but I was interrupted while writing my previous comment, and I accidentally hit "Enter" when I got up from the computer. Here's my complete response:

Put that way, I agree. My concern was over the appearance of Jews strategically protecting anti-Semitic speech to rally solidarity, support and most important (and damning), sympathy. As I'm sure you're aware, the dominant subtext of Holocaust denial is that Jewry perpetrated the fraud to garner sympathy and reparations. That undertone carries over in the ubiquitous, if occasionally valid complaint that critics of Israel are reflexively labeled anti-Semitic.

I realize of course that there is a crucial distinction between fabricating atrocities and leveling false accusations, on the one hand, and refraining from suppressing someone else's Constitutionally protected fabrications and false accusations, on the other. Which is why I support your thesis wholeheartedly, in principle. I'm just afraid that in the real world the distinction would be muddied or lost when the motive for such concerted Jewish deference is self-protection rather than commitment to the Constitutional principle.
6.1.2007 6:48pm
johnmilk (mail):

The Saints were not driven from Ohio, they left of their own free will (or because the prophet told them to, I'm not sure it comes to the same thing, but whatever). Holy Joe wanted to repopulate the garden of eden (which is, of course, in Jackson Co, MO). The Saints were driven from MO and IL, but not OH.
6.1.2007 11:57pm
tom schofield (mail):
As I wrote above (tom@office) people being criticized can help or hurt, depending on the mettle of the person.
Consequently, I fully defend johnmilk's right to make gratuitous slam against Mormons.
6.2.2007 12:47am
Jack Diederich (mail) (www):

While rallying together against a common threat is a very healthy reaction it isn't a substitute for actual long term solidarity. Every group would be much better off if it didn't need an external threat to bind it together. A group responding to threatening speech with speech or the threat of violence with the threat of violence is fine but if threatening speech or violence is the only thing tying a group together it isn't really a group.

This goes double for Jews because historically there is always someone against them with hateful speech, possible violence, or real violence. Unfortunately I don't see anti-semitism going away any time soon. Please don't celebrate being irrationally targeted as a community crutch.
What would happen if there was a period where some other minority became the world's bugbear (e.g. Tom Cruise and John Travolta got nukes). Be a group first and respond to threats second. Otherwise you risk perishing during peace, however unlikely.
6.2.2007 3:08am
Justin (mail):
How are Tom Cruise and John Travolta going to get nukes when they won't come out of the closet? Just come out of the closet, guys. Really. Stan needs his closet.
6.2.2007 1:56pm
Shakespear's As You Like It, "sweet are the uses of adversity," right? Or just, "every cloud has a silver lining"?

Jews, stop kvetching. Antisemites, so long as they are not the frankly murderous sort, are good for your collective interests. (See analysis by Eugene Volokh for detailed explanation.) Appreciate how helpful they can be in encouraging your group identity, making the case for support of Israel, and more. Stop belaboring the likes of Chancellor Drake at UofC Irvine who, by declining to take any meaningful steps to stop crap served up by some of the militants there, is doing your children such a great favor. Don't you realize what a boon it is for them to have an experience like the one UCI is providing them. What excellent preparation for deal with brownshirts in the wider world out there. Do you really think they would be better off on a less "animated" campus, one without the benefits of unbounded "free speech" and "academic freedom"?

Do I sound scoffing? I hope so, because that is certainly my intention. While I am greatly impressed with Professor Volokh's intellect and have no reason to doubt his intentions, I think his post an expression of libertarianism when it gets to the edge of the cliff and goes over. When you are so abolutist about "free speech" and "academic freedom" that you would allow all but that which is frankly criminal (e.g., throwing cinderblocks through car windshields) on campus, you find yourself where Professor Volokh finds himself now, defending or rationalizing that which ought not be defended or rationalized.

(I am headed off for the weekend now. When I return, I will be interested to hear what more others have to say, especially EV. If this thread hasn't closed for comment before then, I may enlarge on the subject of libertarianism at and over the edge as it relates to "free speech" and "academic freedom.")
6.2.2007 3:17pm
Mike Zara (mail):
Professor Volokh's proposition strikes me more as an insightful eulogy than literal constructive advice. If the American Jewish community and the State of Israel are so lacking for support among American Jews that they need lean on Judeopathic hatred to inspire cohesion, then the "community" and Israel must be bereft of any positive, attractive qualities.

I'm overstating, of course, but it's rather the street gang mentality, isnt' it? I certainly wouldn't be enthusiastic about participating more actively with or supporting the Jewish community or Israel on the basis of common hatred.

Ironically, though, this is one of the two reasons I bother to self-identify as "a Jew." My view since middle school has been that I Am A Jew so long as people out there are looking to put Us in ovens. This despite my distaste for the religion and Israeli policy (support for which has become conflated in the Jewish community with Being A Jew).

The other reason for self-identification is that I treasure a variety of progressive Jewish ethics and other secular aspects of the European/American Jewish heritage. And really, I'd rather this be the only reason. I have no interest in shoring up my connection to fellow Jews with an enhanced sense of victimhood or siege.

With respect to neurodoc's comment, Yes, "free speech" means coming darn close to allowing almost all but "frankly criminal" acts. My understanding of the UCI affair is that there were two types of behavior seen as offensive by the UCI Jewish community: (1) criticism of Judaism and Israel, and (2) intimidation, violence and vandalism. The latter are, of course, to be forcefully protected against, but the former are fair game and should be, in my view. You can certainly argue on the fringes about incitement, but, otherwise, this is America and one is required to suck it up and combat it solely with more speech.

There does seem to be a rather disturbing kid-glove treatment applied to criticisms of Islam and the corrupt and brutal dictatorships that have adopted it. This is disturbing, of course, although I don't know that it has anything to do with Judeopathy so much as the unfortunate tendency to privilege religious beliefs and positions, no matter how ludicrous.
6.2.2007 10:40pm
There does seem to be a rather disturbing kid-glove treatment applied to criticisms of Islam and the corrupt and brutal dictatorships that have adopted it. This is disturbing, of course, although I don't know that it has anything to do with Judeopathy so much as the unfortunate tendency to privilege religious beliefs and positions, no matter how ludicrous.
Mike Zara, you assert "kid-glove treatment applied to criticism of Islam and the corrupt and brutal dictatorships that have adopted it" has nothing to do with "Judeopathy," whatever that is (antisemitism?), but instead follows primarily from an "unfortunate tendency to privilege religious beliefs and positions." But if that were the case, then wouldn't "Islam and the corrupt and brutal dictatorships that have adopted it" be treated no better than religions other than Islam and countries closely linked to other faiths? In particular, wouldn't Jews and the Jewish state of Israel be treated no worse than Muslims and Islamic states?
6.3.2007 1:21am
Mike Zara (mail):
Thanks, neurodoc. When discussing Israelis and Arabs I don't like to use the term "anti-semitism" to refer to hatred of Israel, Israelis or Jews because it is imprecise (Arabs are Semites, too). I've found one thing worthwhile in Alan Dershowitz's recent work, and that's his coining of the term "Judeopathy" to describe hatred of Jews as Jews. So much for terminology.

I didn't really assert that kid-glove treatment of Islam wasn't due to Judeopathy as suggest that such treatment was due to other factors. I know plenty of people who are neither Judeopaths nor "anti-semites" yet are far too "respectful" of Islam. What I was mulling was whether this inordinate "respect" was not just these people's tendency to accept without criticism any group's or person's wacky, offensive or unsupportable beliefs simply because they are "religious beliefs." That is, they're far too uncritical of Islamic claims, Christian claims, Jewish claims &c., in general, for fear of offending religious sensibilities.

When you ask wouldn't Islam etc. be treated no better than others and wouldn't Jews and Israel etc. be treated no worse, I am not clear to what "treatment" you are referring. Treatment by whom? UCI administrators? The US government? Academia in general? The "American people"?

Your question implies that Jews are treated worse than Muslims and Israel and Israelis are treated worse than corrupt Islamic regimes and their peoples. By whom? I'm certain the implication is correct in some instances and incorrect in others.
6.3.2007 4:37am
Mike Zara, if you are unclear about what I was saying or trying to say, I'm not sure I can help you. I was only trying to get clear your meaning. If I didn't fully comprehend that meaning, then you must say what exactly you had in mind with your last paragraph:

There does seem to be a rather disturbing kid-glove treatment applied to criticisms of Islam and the corrupt and brutal dictatorships that have adopted it. This is disturbing, of course, although I don't know that it has anything to do with Judeopathy so much as the unfortunate tendency to privilege religious beliefs and positions, no matter how ludicrous.

I don't know why Dershowitz feels to coin a new word "Judeopathy," nor what exactly his neologism is supposed to encompass. "Antisemitism" has been around for a very long time, going back to the beginnings of Christianity, with its theologically driven denunciations of Jews collectively. The term "antisemitism" is not nearly so ancient however, being only 120 or so years old. (It does have a provenance.) The background notion of "semitism" may be dubious, but "antisemitism" was coined as a term to describe hatred of Jews, not a larger grouping, and until very recently was used exclusively for that purpose. Arabs can maintain if they want that they have been the targets of bigotry at times, but any claim that the term "antisemitism" is ambiguous or should be extended to cover Arabs as well as Jews is ridiculous. They can't be stopped from trying in this way to serve their clearly tendentious ends, anymore than the Humpty Dumpty could be stopped from giving words whatever meanings he wished to give them. There can be no genuine confusion as to what exactly "antisemitism" encompasses, though, and it isn't bigotry directed at anyone(s) other than Jews.

Perhaps if Hitler had sought to exterminate every last Arab on the face of the earth because they too were a "semitic" group, we might need to reconsider the meaning of "antisemitism," but he didn't and we don't. (BTW, did all so-called "Caucasians" originate in Caucasia, as the anthropologist Blumenbach did when he came up with that racial designator >200 years ago? I guess we needn't get into the precision/imprecision of "Aryan," since that term has lost relevance in the past 60 years except as it may still be used by some bigots to describe themselves.)
6.3.2007 3:31pm
Mike Zara (mail):
neurodoc, I simply prefer to use a less imprecise term than "anti-semitism," is all. I am roughly familiar with the provenance, and its European, white, Christian and pseudo-scientific roots are part of what led me to drop the term especially when discussing Arab hatred of Jews (while recognizing those Arabs borrowed heavily from Europe). Anyway, this is neither here nor there, just semantic dilettantism (I do also prefer not to use the term Caucasian :-)).

To the point, let me clarify what I said in the paragraph you cite. What I meant was:

- Many people are reluctant to criticize Islam and Islamic dictatorships.

- These people are probably not anti-semitic (or Judeopathic).

- Rather, they are probably just too afraid or "respectful" of religious beliefs in general.

I don't generally hear these people criticizing Judaism or Christianity, for example, either.

Does that clear it up? best, Mike
6.4.2007 8:06pm
Mike Zara (mail):
Oh, neurodoc, I think then my answer to your question that if my suggestion were accurate
then wouldn't "Islam and the corrupt and brutal dictatorships that have adopted it" be treated no better than religions other than Islam and countries closely linked to other faiths? In particular, wouldn't Jews and the Jewish state of Israel be treated no worse than Muslims and Islamic states?
is "Yes." And they are, in the aggregate.
6.4.2007 8:10pm
Mike Zara, I'm still not sure what it is that you wish to say. Last try be me so we might get clear what we agree/disagree on: "'Yes.' And they are, in the aggregate." means that you belief that Jews and Israel are not targeted with less fair criticism than Muslims and Islam? If so, then I disagree.

There is little of geopolitical consequence in the religious tenets of most religions other than Islam. For example, while some Christians may want to spread the Word to all corners of the earth, I know of none in modern times who have dreamed of subjecting others to Christianity by force. A not insignificant number of Muslims belief that all the world should adopt Islam or be subjugated to the rule of Islam, and that belief animates them to make war on "infidels." It is on account of the "geopolitical" that Islam is being scrutinized and criticized, quite rightly I think. There are also the things that go on in Muslim countries in the name of Islam (women made to wear burkas, chopping of hands and heads, female circumcision, etc.) that are repugnant to many of us outside those Muslim societies, but they don't directly impact us.

If there is such a thing as "semantic dilettantism," I think it must be substituting a strange neologism in the midst of a debate, when an existing term (antisemitism) is unambiguous and very serviceable, with an indisputable provenance.
6.5.2007 9:12am
Mike Zara (mail):
Thanks, neurodoc. Yes, I think we understand each other (and I figured we did from the start, because your initial response was on point, just vague).

(1) Let's just drop "Judeopathy." I thought it was in wider currency because of Dershowitz's stature and because I'd never encountered an argument over the term. Apparently, I was wrong. (BTW, I used "semantic dilettantism" referring to myself, not you.)

(2) My point is that many people who do not criticize Islam and Islamic dictatorships refrain not out of anti-Semitism but out of a respect for religion in general. I know many such people. They are not anti-Semites. They just think that ludicrous or offensive claims are somehow beyond reproach just because they are framed as "religious."

(3) Your response was that, if so, Judaism, Jews and Israel should be subject to no greater criticism than other religions and their states, and Islam, Muslims and its states should be treated no better.

(4) I think this is indeed the case, in the aggregate, that is, worldwide. In my experience, and taking into account such things as US policy and politics, and world geopolitics, world Jewry is generally treated no worse than other groups and world Muslims are treated no better. Similarly, Judaism is accorded no less respect than other religions and Islam no more. Israel is treated no worse than other states and Islamic states no better.

(5) I say "in the aggregate" and "worldwide" because one has to pick a perspective and scale. In the Greater Middle East, of course, Jews, Judaism and Israel are not treated very well compared to Muslims, Islam and Islamic states. But in the U.S., on the other hand, Jews, Judaism and Israel fare much better than the others (except for Christianity, of course, but that's another story).

(6) You disagree. Am I correct that you disagree on the "aggregate," global scale? Or on some other scale only or all possible scales and perspectives? And is it the Jews, Judaism, Israel or all of them that come in for worse treatment? (We're playing rather fast and loose by conflating ethnicities, religions and states.)

(7) I disagree that "there is little of geopolitical consequence the religious tenets of most religions other than Islam." Many Christian Americans, for example and including quite a few in the current administration, believe that US domestic and foreign policy should be shaped by their literal readings of the Bible and their related dogmas. Similarly, many Jewish Israelis believe that Israeli policy and borders should be dictated by their literal readings of the Tanakh. Both of these sets of "religious tenets" have enormous geopolitical consequence, and should accordingly also be criticized and debunked where appropriate.

(8) You misunderstood me entirely if you think I do not think political and militant Islam and its existing and emergent theocracies are problems. Indeed, I implied they were not criticized enough, by saying they received "kid-glove" treatment.

6.5.2007 10:38pm
Mike Zara, perhaps some correlation might be found between antisemitism and forbearance in criticism of Muslims and/or Islam, but I don't think they are highly correlated or that an explanation for the latter (reluctance to criticize Muslims/Islam) is likely to be found in the former (no reluctance to criticize Jews/Israel). As explanations, I would suggest:

i) "anti-orientalism" (my adaptation of Edward Said's neologism) - if "orientalism" is to be abjured, then Muslims/Islam must be cut some slack, indeed a great deal of slack.

ii) fear - Salman Rushdie, Danish cartoons, Theo Van Gogh, Hirsan Ali, and much war. In truth, we are fighting a global war against radical Islam, but to avoid candid acknowledgement of that fact, we characterize it as a war against terrorism.

iii) favor - the flip side of fear is the pursuit of favors, like the Saudis have handed out for years.

iv) "respect for religion in general" - too much variation in the "respect" paid to different religions and their adherents for me to accept the "general" part. But there is a peculiar deference that some of little faith grant those who are most fervid in their religious beliefs, e.g., radical Islamists, perhaps because they have no confidence in a religious belief system of their own.

(4-6) I certainly believe that "in the aggregate" and "worldwide" Jews, Judaism and Israel are treated worse than for example Christians. I am frankly amazed that you believe otherwise. (To be sure, the Islamist rhetoric is sometimes directed at "Crusaders," but it pales in comparison to that directed at Jews.)

(7) I think you imagine a much greater impact of "literal readings of the Bible and their related dogmas" on this country's foreign policy than is the case. And whatever that impact may be, there are not substantial numbers of Christians and/or Jews are seeking to impose their religion(s) on Muslims, whereas there are substantial numbers of Muslims willing to give their lives or take ours to achieve Islamic supremacy. Yes, the religious parties have influenced Israel's course to some extent, but their impact is much, much less "geopolitically" than that of religiously "animated" Muslims. And it is not because of those religious parties in Israel and their followers that there have been ceaseless hostilities for 60 or more years in those parts.
6.6.2007 2:23am
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
I think that the problem really is that the Jews in this country have to a very large extent assimilated. My parents, growing up in the 1920s and 1930s had no Jewish friends and knew almost no Jews. I, growing up in the 1950s and 1960s didn't really have Jewish friends until college, when I joined a fraternity that had a number of Jews in it (which is to this day humorous to us, as our symbol is a white cross). The Jews of my generation still faced a lot of residual discrimination. For example, one girlfriend told of going to Brown because she said it was one of the few Ivy League schools at the time that didn't have a Jewish quota. And she got a bit upset when I mentioned good friends who lived in an area near where she grew up - that allowed Blacks but not Jews. But now in my kids generation, that has grown up in the 1990s and 2000s, they sometimes don't know exactly who is Jewish and who isn't. Same schools, same houses, same neighborhoods, etc.

Let me note that this integration is probably even more advanced as to the Protestant/ Catholic divide.

What is interesting about Eugene's comments here is that Jewish identity does seem somewhat under seige, and much of that is a result of a quest for equality that has to a very great extent suceeded.
6.6.2007 9:31am
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
I don't know why Dershowitz feels to coin a new word "Judeopathy," nor what exactly his neologism is supposed to encompass. "Antisemitism" has been around for a very long time, going back to the beginnings of Christianity, with its theologically driven denunciations of Jews collectively.
I think to be fair, you have to also accept that it was running both ways at the time. A good part of this was a result of the Christians being thrown out of the synagogues by the Jews of the time. Judaism split, and the Christians were the initial losers. It took a couple of hundred years before the tables were truly turned. Both defined themselves as not being the other.

What is somewhat interesting historically about the Christian scriptures is that their origins can be fairly well dated based on the amount of anti-Jewish sentiment found in them. The earliest ones seemed to be saying that Jewishness was just assumed. Most of those of interest were Jewish, etc. In the middle period, Jews were the enemy, the cause of Jesus' crucifixition, etc. This is esp. notable as the Pharasees were recast to be the primary villians. These are the scriptures that have caused the most problems through the ages. And then the later ones somewhat ignored the Jews.
6.6.2007 9:54am