February 2, 2005

by Andrew Silow-Carroll
Andy-semitism

Ami Eden replies to the fallout from his NY Times oped on anti-Semitism.

I had problems with Ami's piece, especially his contention that the moral power of the defense groups is being threatened by "an increasing reliance on raw political muscle over appeals to conscience." I think that put too much of the blame on the groups (and left him open to the charge that he had bought into the anti-Semite's fantasies of Jewish power), and not enough on the anti-tolerance camp that is exploiting their newfound political clout to marginalize diversity as "P.C." or "extremist."

UPDATE: Besides, I think he's wrong in labeling the tools used by the defense groups as "raw political power." Raw political power is what the PACs demonstrate when they flood a congressional race with cash to oust an unfriendly candidate. What ADL and SWC wielded is a sort of raw MORAL power, based on their ability to level or withhold a charge of anti-Semitism. That, of course, depends on whether such a chrage is considered damning. What O'Reilly and Gibson discovered is that the Jewish groups' power of moral suasion has eroded -- not because the Jews played the Holocaust card too often, but because the culture has become intolerant of tolerance. Their antagonists rightly calculated that being labeled anti-Semitic is not only no longer the stigma it once was, but that such a label can actually HELP them play to their base. That was Gibson's genius -- not Foxman's failing.

But I think Ami was right in diagnosing that the effectiveness of these orgs is on the wane -- witness O'Reilly's labeling Foxman a "nut" -- and they are going to have to rethink how to play the whistleblower. I think the answer lies in coalition-building -- let their Christian allies carry the water on Gibson-like controversies, for example, or quietly urge the British version of Veterans of Foreign Wars to lead the charge against a Harry. I think the Jewish community loses the battle whenever reporters write a sentence like "Baraka delivered a poem that JEWISH GROUPS considered anti-Semitic." Think how much more effective it would be to read that "civil rights groups and civic leaders considered the poem hateful.") Of course, that means less visibility for Foxman and Hier, which would hurt their bottom lines (and now I'm sounding like Daniel Lapin).


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#1

"I think the answer lies in coalition-building -- let their Christian allies carry the water on Gibson-like controversies, for example, or quietly urge the British version of Veterans of Foreign Wars to lead the charge against a Harry."


That's surely part of it. But the real answer lies is going back to the beginning. How did the ADL operate when civility wasn't taken for granted? As we are led back to the McKinley era, these questions take on added urgency.

Posted by: Reb Yudel at February 2, 2005 8:25 PM
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