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February 13, 2013 6:03 PM   Subscribe

I know it's a hard subject to discuss civilly. I have a modest suggestion on how to improve such discussions.

1) Don't bring up comparisons with Nazi Germany and the actions of the state of Israel (bring up some other horrendous brutal regime if you want to make such comparisons - there are plenty to choose from).

2) Don't call fellow metafilter members anti-Semitic (nor imply they are) because of their critiques of the actions of Israel.

These two phenomenons seem to occur in every discussion of Israel (latest example).

Can we all agree that these two things don't help any conversation on this topic?
posted by el io to Etiquette/Policy at 6:03 PM (156 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

I think those are two very, very sensible suggestions. As someone interested in the area and the issues, I find it incredibly frustrating how often the discussion on good I/P posts gets derailed straight out of the gate - typically by a few of the usual suspects (on both sides of the debate) who should just stay the hell out of those posts, imho.
posted by smoke at 6:06 PM on February 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


I can agree these things don't help.

I'm not sure they are always undeserved though.

I've decided to no longer participate in I/P discussions because I am of the opinion that both sides are to blame. This makes me popular with no one.
posted by cjorgensen at 6:09 PM on February 13, 2013 [14 favorites]


Can we all agree that these two things don't help any conversation on this topic?

Definitely. Now if you can get the two-thirds of Metafilter users who don't read MetaTalk on board you'll be all set.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 6:11 PM on February 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's more than 2/3 isn't it?
posted by Justinian at 6:15 PM on February 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


I only come to MeTalk for the pictures.
posted by Ardiril at 6:16 PM on February 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


I know I don't read it.
posted by shakespeherian at 6:16 PM on February 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


Man this is just like Nazi … goreng, tasty and filling!
posted by klangklangston at 7:00 PM on February 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


This post may be of some use.
posted by thomas j wise at 7:10 PM on February 13, 2013 [6 favorites]


Can we all agree...

Unlikely.
posted by pompomtom at 7:11 PM on February 13, 2013


Miak. Authentic.German.Miak.
posted by mannequito at 7:11 PM on February 13, 2013


I don't think anyone has been called an anti-Semite because of their critiques of the actions of Israel. Lots of people manage to criticise Israel without making Nazi-comparisons, just as lots of people criticise Barack Obama without making comments about secret Muslims or worse.

Slap*Happy said
if you compare Israel to the Nazis, there are two things people think about you -

1) You have no sense of proportion and a grotesque and false perception of history and current events

2) You're kinda antisemitic. Israel is just as bad as Nazi Germany is a lie that implies the Jews had it coming, they are no better than those who murdered them by the millions. This is a common talking point in racist literature. That's the bed you want to crawl into seeking social justice? Really?
His first point is unarguably true. Nazi Germany is notorious for its systematic program of exclusion, dehumanisation, and eventual murder of minority groups, particularly Jews. Whatever you might think about Israel's actions in the West Bank, for instance, the comparison doesn't even begin to get off the ground: there was no population of Jews living normal lives within Nazi territory; and there is no Israeli program aimed at excluding Arab Israelis from normal social life. This is before we get into things like industrial murder, which is of course at the heart of why the comparison is outrageous: by the end of the war I think the Nazis were killing around 10,000 Hungarian Jews a day in Auschwitz alone.

Slap*Happy's second point, about the implications of the comparison is more subjective. People can be very wrong without being deliberately hateful. The comment that he was calling out is called the they-of-all-people argument and it's not only incorrect but morally obtuse. It's like saying Blacks have so often been the victims of crime that they should make a special effort to be law-abiding. I wrote about the comparison a few weeks ago, see here for links.

Finally, I was pretty shocked by this comment, and I think it's a pity the moderators chose to leave it up. It's not a criticism of Israel's actions; it's a criticism of Jews for chicanery in using historical persecution as a playing card to browbeat international opinion. My experience has been that as a rule, anyone who says he [is] not a hater of any one religion is like someone who says I'm not a racist, but ...: you're about to hear something nasty.
posted by Joe in Australia at 7:25 PM on February 13, 2013 [9 favorites]


I totally thought this post was going to be about intellectual property.

okay bye.
posted by insectosaurus at 7:27 PM on February 13, 2013 [6 favorites]


I don't think anyone has been called an anti-Semite "because of their critiques of the actions of Israel".

Joe, I think this is inescapably rich coming from you, when in the penultimate I/P thread - whether you agree or not - many felt you were throwing around accusations of anti-semitism like confetti at a wedding.
posted by smoke at 7:28 PM on February 13, 2013 [6 favorites]


Though, let the record reflect, I do wholly agree with you that Nazi comparisons are needlessly inflammatory, in poor taste and not necessary.
posted by smoke at 7:31 PM on February 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


For example.
posted by ChuraChura at 7:31 PM on February 13, 2013


Indeed, perhaps I'm a heavy-handed bastard, but I would just love the mods to initiate a "three strikes and you're out (of I/P threads, forever)" rule. I feel like those threads are consistently ruined by a very small minority - who have well and truly exceeded their strikes - and their absence would result in much healthier, more interesting, courteous discussion.
posted by smoke at 7:35 PM on February 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


I agree, though, that the comment Joe in Australia linked above is pretty bad.
posted by ChuraChura at 7:36 PM on February 13, 2013


We have, in the past, discussed having a way to ban people form certain threads, but it seemed like it would cause more problems than it would solve and we'd prefer just to tell people to do better and delete most I/P threads that don't appear to be doing that. That said, people don't really flag the I/P threads as much as they used to, they just flag the hell out of the comments and send us a lot of email. They're so not-awesome for here, a lot of heat and very little light.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:37 PM on February 13, 2013


I agree, though, that the comment Joe in Australia linked above is pretty bad.

Yes, I'm not defending that comment, by any means. There are definitely bad actors on both sides, that just aren't trying as hard as they could, here.
posted by smoke at 7:40 PM on February 13, 2013


Joe: while I may disagree with that comment, is it helpful to the discussion to then call the person a racist/antisemitic?

That being said, the link that thomas i wise gave was a pretty useful one.
posted by el io at 7:44 PM on February 13, 2013


I would just love the mods to initiate a "three strikes and you're out (of I/P threads, forever)" rule. I feel like those threads are consistently ruined by a very small minority - who have well and truly exceeded their strikes - and their absence would result in much healthier, more interesting, courteous discussion.

I'd actually be in favor of seeing this done to posters. There are several folks here who have a history of making multiple, argumentative posts to the Blue about Israel and Palestine that often as not get deleted for starting arguments.

Raise the bar for posts, and the tone of the comments will follow.
posted by zarq at 7:50 PM on February 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


I don't share your optimism, Zarq; today's OP was a good effort, I thought, as was the last one. Comments still were sub-par.
posted by smoke at 7:52 PM on February 13, 2013



Raise the bar for posts, and the tone of the comments will follow.
posted by zarq at 7:50 PM on February 13 [+] [!]


I was trying to decide the best way to say that without sounding preachy.

You'll never get anywhere by prescribing behaviour, and hell, sometimes people are being ant-semites, and sometimes things are appropriately discussed in relationship to Nazi Germany.

The best thing that a poster can do to raise the level of dialogue is to watch their own behaviour. Focus on being understanding, thoughtful, and respectful in your arguments. It doesn't mean that you can't speak your mind, but be as considerate and mature about it as possible. Raise the bar. We all struggle with that, but it really is all anyone can do. Meanwhile the mods will moderate. There's always a flag button if you think they need help.
posted by Stagger Lee at 8:12 PM on February 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


today's OP was a good effort

Didn't seem that way to me. Honestly, I thought it was a bit of a mess. I learned a bunch of important details from links in the thread's comments. A few of which, frustratingly, contradicted stuff claimed in the FPP.

No one knew he was imprisoned. Except his family. And apparently the folks in the Australian government that were told by the Israelis. And his lawyers. And no one knew he had died. Except his family, who buried him in Melbourne when he died and sat shiva in his house. And the Australian government. And presumably his lawyers. And a bunch of Jewish charities who expressed their condolences?

The Australian embassy was told he had been detained by the Israelis and didn't report it to Canberra, so the Australian public wasn't informed. The reason they now know what happened is Israel tried to censor the information and then reconsidered and lifted the gag order. Ha'aretz ripped them a new one over it.
posted by zarq at 8:38 PM on February 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


I appreciate that people are nitpicking whether this post was a good or bad example of I/P posts generally but we very badly need this thread to not be another place to debate the subject of that thread which is rightfully debated over there.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:40 PM on February 13, 2013


I would 100% be on board with both bans on comparing Israel to Nazi Germany, and calling out mefites as anti-semitic in I/P threads. Both are poisonous and serve to shut down conversation.
posted by empath at 8:43 PM on February 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


Helpful? I have no idea. Metafilter would be pretty empty if that were the criterion for a comment. But I think it's worth speaking up about racism, if only to reassure people that they're doing the right thing when they oppose it.

Smoke, I don't recall saying or implying that anyone in that thread was an anti-Semite; I said "the background to anti-Israelism is Arab and European anti-Semitism". It's an historical statement, not one about any individual's motivations. The development of modern European attitudes to Jewish nationalism is complex, but Arab attitudes towards it haven't changed much since the days of the Ottoman Empire: the Arab boycott really is that old.

I'd be happy to suggest some books, if you're up for it, but my point is that anti-Israelism has a historical relationship with anti-Semitism. This doesn't imply that critics of Israel are always (or indeed ever) wrong, but it does warrant a certain amount of thoughtful consideration. If I can offer a parallel, anti-Japanese sentiments during WW2 weren't solely a matter of race, but I don't think anyone would deny that racial attitudes came into it - and that the USA would have avoided making some bad decisions if it had been able to recognise the influence of these attitudes and talk frankly about them.
posted by Joe in Australia at 8:45 PM on February 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


Smoke, I don't recall saying or implying that anyone in that thread was an anti-Semite

I don't want to get into comment lawyering with you; it's profoundly unprofitable.

Suffice it to say, I - and several other mefites - feel that you have implied they or their arguments are anti-semitic, and that indeed this is a somewhat regular occurrence in I/P threads, from you.

This disingenuous "Who? Me?" schtick is wearying. If your goal is to shut down discussion of I/P issues here on metafilter and to keep me out (and, perhaps I flatter myself, I like to think I'm capable of nuanced thought, reasoning, and comments on the issues), then you are succeeding - as each sequential bunfight about this makes me ever more cynical about the motivations of those commenting, and skeptical that I will be able to learn something from those threads. For me, less than ideal.

I begin to appreciate why the mods are inclined to nuke each thread from orbit, regardless of merits. You will disagree - no doubt very eloquently - but I feel you are part of this problem, not part of its solution.
posted by smoke at 8:55 PM on February 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


Joe: By 'helpful', i mean conducive to a civil discussion.

As a rule, I think metafilter is great at civil discussion, and using that criteria for helpful, I think most posts in the blue about almost every subject are helpful ones.

I agree with you it's worth speaking up against racism (and sexism, and bigotry of all flavours), but accusations of antisemitism seem to flow quite liberally in I/P discussions, and I don't think such accusations are useful (at least least not the ones I've seen in the blue).

I'm relatively confident that the wise moderators (who I have great pity for in regards to trying to moderate I/P discussions) would quickly pull any openly racist comment in any thread (including I/P threads). I'm sure the mods would appreciate if everyone flagged comments that were racist.

But I don't see accusations of racism (/antisemitism) against fellow metafilter members being conducive to civil conversations. (ie: flag it and move on *please*).
posted by el io at 8:58 PM on February 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


I would 100% be on board with both bans on comparing Israel to Nazi Germany, and calling out mefites as anti-semitic in I/P threads. Both are poisonous and serve to shut down conversation.
posted by empath at 8:43 PM on February 13 [+] [!]


Yes, it seems that in I/P threads there are a few too many itchy trigger fingers ready to pull both of those out as soon as possible.
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 9:01 PM on February 13, 2013


But I think it's worth speaking up about racism, if only to reassure people that they're doing the right thing when they oppose it.

I do hope you realise that many of the people that disagree with you in I/P threads feel the same way, but that they might see the issue somewhat differently.
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 9:06 PM on February 13, 2013


But I think it's worth speaking up about racism, if only to reassure people that they're doing the right thing when they oppose it.

"Israeli policy towards the palestinians is racist."

"You only say that because you hate jews."

problem solved, I guess.
posted by empath at 9:47 PM on February 13, 2013


2) Don't call fellow metafilter members anti-Semitic (nor imply they are) because of their critiques of the actions of Israel.

Well, certainly it's never a good idea to call fellow members names, given that it instantly degrades the conversation. But a lot of the ways Israel gets criticized in the public sphere are in fact influenced by anti-Semitic tropes. (I'm mostly talking about rhetoric here, rather than calling out of specific actions.) Sometimes it isn't there, and the people who try to point it out are just being defensive or disingenuous . . . but sometimes it is there. And if a member links that kind of material, or echos it, I don't see why that particular criticism of their argument must be off-limits. It's not irrelevant.

(And it's not just not-irrelevant because anti-Semitism is always going to be a player in Israel's foreign relations. It's also not-irrelevant because the left has always had a small but nasty and constantly reappearing Jews-as-bloodsuckers trope, which dates back to way before Israel but now sometimes finds expression in discussions of Israel. For that reason, the pointing out of anti-Semitism in leftist discourse is relevant in itself. It's a pattern that deserves attention.)
posted by ostro at 10:06 PM on February 13, 2013 [5 favorites]


Hello, I'm David McGahan wrote: I do hope you realise that many of the people that disagree with you in I/P threads feel the same way, but that they might see the issue somewhat differently.

Sure. I think that Metafilter users are as liberal and tolerant as any group you would find elsewhere. When I call something out (which is actually not all that often) it would usually be because of a perceived difference in emphasis or context. But racism can't be addressed by treating it as something which betrays a horrible defect in the soul of the person committing it. If describing something as racist is such an awful, awful accusation we raise the bar for criticism and we can't, e.g., say that NY's stop-and-frisk program (which is undoubtedly supported by many otherwise tolerant people) is effectively racist.

It's OK if ChuraChura is wrong about Israel's treatment of African refugees being racist: that's still a discussion which needs to be had (not necessarily on Metafilter, I mean generally). It's OK if I'm wrong about the antecedents of the BDS movement being racist.1 There's a substantive point to both of these, and it's worth addressing them even if each side ends up being vindicated. I would personally be happy if a BDS supporter, having considered the issue, didn't change their mind on the morality of the substantive issue but spoke up against the campaign's use of racist images.2

With respect to comparisons between Israel and Nazi Germany, there is no doubt that some anti-Semites take a peculiar pleasure in making this connection. I don't think anyone here does it out of malice; I think their use of the simile is stupid, and facile, and betrays an unconscious double standard. I wish they would stop doing it. But it doesn't make them bad people.

1 I'm not. I can go on at length about it if you like. AT LENGTH.
2 It's specifically a blood orange, when one of the classic slurs against Jews is that they drink blood. The suggestion that Israelis drink blood appears in other BDS material, too.
posted by Joe in Australia at 10:17 PM on February 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


smoke: "I don't share your optimism, Zarq; today's OP was a good effort, I thought, as was the last one. Comments still were sub-par.
"

I'm not sure about the recent OP. It's not an uninteresting topic, just perhaps not one that lends itself to discussion well.

For what it's worth, I would be glad to participate in substantive comment threads on Palestine/Israel if they didn't always turn into the "you're evil" "no you're evil" fights that just make me GRAR.
posted by vasi at 10:20 PM on February 13, 2013


Joe, let us have no doubt. I think that equating Israel (or it's government, or whatever) to Nazi Germany is not only wrong, but stupid, and completely missing the horror of the holocaust.

But honestly, I think you need to start thinking about what you believe, and how you go about it. Cause as disinterested observer... you can always come up with a reason about with it's okay that innocent Palestinians die, but never the other side. And that's the problem, you're treating it like a football match. We both know it's somewhat more complex than that.

And, No. I don't need you to give me some books, I've read enough about this horror show sadly. Often people that disagree with you aren't misinformed. They just disagree with you.
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 10:42 PM on February 13, 2013 [5 favorites]


I agree, though, that the comment Joe in Australia linked above is pretty bad.

Badly put, and in a way that makes warning flags pop up yes, but the general sentiment, viz that the state of Israel/certain Israeli politicians do use the Holocaust as an argument for why their policies are right, shouldn't be controversial.
posted by MartinWisse at 11:04 PM on February 13, 2013


I said "the background to anti-Israelism is Arab and European anti-Semitism". It's an historical statement, not one about any individual's motivations.

Of course it is. With that statement you get to imply that any criticism of Israel is motivated by anti-semitism, all the while denying you do so. "Nu-uh I'm not saying you are anti-semitic, just ignorant of the historical roots of your hatred of Israel and don't look at the dead Palestinians behind the curtain".
posted by MartinWisse at 11:08 PM on February 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


It's specifically a blood orange, when one of the classic slurs against Jews is that they drink blood.

It's an orange because that's one of the quintessential Israeli products you find in any European supermarket, many of which come from Haifa, which used to be a Palestinian city until it was ethnically cleansed in the 1940ties. It's therefore a symbol of the way in which Israeli wealth was build on the blood of Palestinians. You can disagree with that, but it has nothing to do with blood libel.
posted by MartinWisse at 11:13 PM on February 13, 2013 [16 favorites]


Not to hog the thread, but I think it's an utopia to think I/P discussions will ever be as free from problems as your average political thread. Whereas with many other political subjects there's a broad, liberal leaning consensus on the site within which it is possible to agree to disagree and argue politely, this is one of those issues where there isn't a consensus, not likely to be one soon and quite a few people have genuine personal interests in. It will always be a fault line in the political culture here, just like any mention of Nader is in the context of US presidental elections.
posted by MartinWisse at 11:19 PM on February 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


What, nothing? And you know this how?

And if it were totally innocent, why would the campaign choose to use a blood orange and risk being accused of anti-Semitism? Surely somebody pointed out the implications to them. Unless, of course, it was about seeing what they could get away with.
posted by Joe in Australia at 11:20 PM on February 13, 2013


See what I mean?
posted by MartinWisse at 11:22 PM on February 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


This is seriously not the place to pursue even more I/P arguing.

I was on when the post was made, and I now wish I had deleted it. I think we want to give people the benefit of the doubt that they can discuss an issue or incident related to Israel or Palestine without making the whole conversation as reductive as possible, but this is not the case. As much as I hate to say it for any subject, we really, really do not do this well, and it's not limited to a couple of people whom we can just speak with and say, hey, you can't seem to moderate yourself when this subject comes up.

If people do want to discuss sensitive issues here, they need to do it better, and this isn't happening.
posted by taz (staff) at 11:22 PM on February 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


So yeah, I think I may have a more realistic and better solution (for me) than I initially proposed.

(i'm going to try to) Stay out of I/P threads.

[and mods, feel free to close this thread anytime you want, I don't foresee any great agreement on etiquette on this matter. my initial reservations about posting this to metatalk were well founded.]
posted by el io at 11:34 PM on February 13, 2013


I'm deleting comments that continue the argument, and yes, I'm inclined to close this, but will leave it for now in case people want to discuss the issue of how we all can handle discussions of this topic on the site, if at all.
posted by taz (staff) at 11:56 PM on February 13, 2013


(carefully worded discussion of blood oranges deleted, augh)

I think what really swamps down conversations in which anti-Semitism comes up is not the mention of anti-Semitism itself, but the way the conversation immediately reorients itself around that mention. Which is mostly due to the defensiveness of the people whose positions or rhetoric are being accused of it. Every comment that so much as mentions anti-Semitism instantly produces about five entirely devoted to how terrible it is that pro-Palestinian activists run the risk of being accused of anti-Semitism. I mean, yes, I do think it's unfair that pro-Palestinian activists have to deal with accusations of anti-Semitism for things that are not actually anti-Semitic. But given that anti-Semitism sometimes is there, there is no easy get-out-of-jail card for this one.
posted by ostro at 12:11 AM on February 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


funny, cause any criticisms of Israeli politics often get labeled anti-Semitic.
posted by Shit Parade at 12:21 AM on February 14, 2013


Yes, they do. It sucks. But given that anti-Semitism is still absolutely a player in this issue, those accusations are never going to go away entirely because some of them are true, and for any legitimate issue there are always going to be those who try to use it for their own illegitimate purposes, or who just have skewed perceptions. People who are experiencing that accusation can either address it or ignore it, as they see fit, but what often happens is that the entire conversation gets derailed to a discussion of how awful it is that the issue of anti-Semitism is being raised. And that derail can really only be solved by people choosing not to derail in response to provocation.
posted by ostro at 12:41 AM on February 14, 2013


I actually don't understand your suggestion. You think people should ignore claims that they are being anti-Semitic?
posted by Shit Parade at 12:52 AM on February 14, 2013


I think ostro means provocation from either side: ie do not respond to accusations of antisemitism nor accuse people of antisemitism.

And in general, that people are precise in their language when talking about I/P.
posted by MartinWisse at 12:59 AM on February 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


ostro, you keep hammering that "anti-Semitism is absolutely a player in this issue". I'm sorry, but most often it isn't (and definitely not here in MetaFilter: this is not Al-Manar).
More to the point, by systematically accussing Israel critics of anti-Semitism, you are actually handing that "easy get-out-of-jail card" to the actual anti-Semites, who can then claim that the charge of anti-Semitism is a mere gag against legitimate critics of Israel. Constantly crying wolf debases a serious, powerful charge. Even more so if you are doing it in defence of a state that has very serious human rights problems.
Don't worry though: I won't "derail" the debate discussing how awful it is when I'm accussed of anti-Semitism without reason for daring to criticise, say, the forced disappearance of an Israeli. I'll just call bullshit.
posted by Skeptic at 1:06 AM on February 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think they should absolutely address those claims if they think addressing them would best serve their larger cause and argument. In other situations, it can be best to just ignore the nutjobs. It all depends on what serves the larger argument best at the moment, how seriously onlookers seem to be taking the claims of anti-Semitism, etc. What they should not do is allow their outrage over anti-Semitism being mentioned in connection with them to become the main focus of the discussion.
posted by ostro at 1:08 AM on February 14, 2013


Sure, and everyone should be nicer, no one should go without a hug, nor die from hunger, or suffer from disease, I mean this list can get really long.

Preciseness in language? Seems prescriptive and vague at the same time, do you have something more concrete in mind?
posted by Shit Parade at 1:08 AM on February 14, 2013


I don't know ostro, I think you mean well, but language, rhetorical techniques etc etc are not an easy thing to guide -- perhaps plenty hinges in the minds of various proponents on whether they are viewed by the greater public as anti Semitic, and maybe it does?
posted by Shit Parade at 1:13 AM on February 14, 2013


I guess what I'm saying is that, in terms of how to prevent derails, the most direct solution is for people to learn to control their defensiveness a little better and focus on their argument. Because, in most cases, that defensiveness is the derail. Given that I don't think you can exclude a line of argument that is sometimes appropriate by modly fiat, it would also be nice if nobody arguing on behalf of Israel ever had a miscalibrated sense of what is and is not anti-Semitism (because I think that, at least on Metafilter, that's a lot more frequent than actual bad faith) but which of those is more likely?
posted by ostro at 1:28 AM on February 14, 2013


Also, "Modly Fiat" sounds like a delightful compact car.
posted by ostro at 1:29 AM on February 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Preciseness in language? Seems prescriptive and vague at the same time, do you have something more concrete in mind?

sometimes, it may be as simple as taking half a step back (and a breath while we're at it) and reminding ourselves that there's a big difference between A. being personally ___, and B. voicing an occasional opinion that could be construed as ___.

That is, just because, in the heat of argument, I may say ___ doesn't necessarily mean that it's a direct reflection of who I am. I may have just been a bit sloppy, thinking out loud and all that.

So, if you want to keep things civil, don't turn around and label me as ___, but rather point out the the flaw argument I just tried to pose.

I've been told that this is a difference between how Americans and Brits argue. Americans tend to go for the jugular, say, "You are flawed." Brits tend toward glancing blows, and say, "Your argument is flawed."

Being Canadian, I suspect that means I do a bit of both.
posted by philip-random at 1:32 AM on February 14, 2013


I guess what I'm saying is that, in terms of how to prevent derails, the most direct solution is for people to learn to control their defensiveness a little better and focus on their argument. Because, in most cases, that defensiveness is the derail. Given that I don't think you can exclude a line of argument that is sometimes appropriate

In the Conflict Resolution biz, the way they put this is to simply say that, until someone takes offense, conflict doesn't exist. In other words, I can say any number of times without there being conflict, that Robert E Lee was an egotistical idiot whose mother issues cost him to lose the battle of Gettysburg. But as soon as somebody frowns and says, "No. That's a rather idiotic opinion." there's conflict.

of course, an American would just say, "No, you're an idiot."
posted by philip-random at 1:43 AM on February 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


if nobody arguing on behalf of Israel ever had a miscalibrated sense of what is and is not anti-Semitism (because I think that, at least on Metafilter, that's a lot more frequent than actual bad faith)

ostro, I would say that, by definition, anti-Semitism involves bad faith. There isn't such a thing as unintentional anti-Semitism or unintentional racism in general: we are talking in any case about a conscious dismissal of whole groups of people because of their ethnic "tag".

There is a long and infamous tradition in all human cultures of deflecting outsider criticism by blaming it on the outsiders' own prejudices. That is basically what jingoism is all about. It is actively harmful in that it stops us from even considering whether that criticism is actually, factually correct, and whether we should do something about it.

Personally, I think that it is better to reflect first whether a criticism, whether it is adressed towards me personally or towards a group that I somehow identify with, is actually founded or not, and whether I ought to do something about it, before even considering the critic's motives. Simply because I may not be able to improve my critic, but I'm certainly able to improve myself.
posted by Skeptic at 2:00 AM on February 14, 2013


What I meant was that on Metafilter, I think most people who point out anti-Semitism where I don't think it actually exists are making an error of judgment rather than a calculated move to blacken their opponent's character, and that this complicates the issue because you can't really police people's honest errors in judgment.

Though I do think that unintentional/unconscious anti-Semitic/racist actions are not only possible, but sometimes the most common kind -- plenty of people aren't aware of the stereotypes they host, but that doesn't stop those stereotypes from coming out in their speech and actions. It's totally possible to say or do something anti-Semitic without being a Disney villain.
posted by ostro at 2:23 AM on February 14, 2013


ostro, I think that, while racist prejudice may be more or less unconsciously adopted, racist actions or even speech are necessarily conscious. This is why, for instance, some (few) good people sheltered Jews during the Holocaust despite being steeped in profoundly anti-Semitic prejudice.
It is for this reason that simply rebutting criticism of Israel as anti-Semitic can be so unhelpful. If you think that somebody's criticism is being informed by unconscious prejudice, first tell him why you think that the criticism is factually unfair, and only then let him ponder whether he may be influenced by unconscious prejudice.
posted by Skeptic at 2:44 AM on February 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't consider criticism of Israel, Israeli policies, Zionism or Jewish Nationalism to be anti-semitic. Most rational people wouldn't, even if they disagreed.

I do consider drawing imaginary parallels between Israel, Israeli policies, Zionism or Jewish Nationalism and Nazi Germany, Naziism, the Holocaust or Hitler to be amazingly tone deaf at best, and outright racist at worst.

Godwin, y'all.
posted by Slap*Happy at 3:10 AM on February 14, 2013


There's also the added complication of the several levels of meaning within the term "anti-Semitic".

Does it mean someone prejudiced against Jews, as in subscribers of Judaism? Does it mean prejudice against Jews as a race, (possibly largely descended from migrant Russian/Mongol and Eastern European converts)? Or is it prejudice against those who are the closest descendents of the original Semite peoples, probably made up of a great deal of Arabs? Some even use it to mean prejudice against those living in Israel.

The whole question is so dense, complicated and layered that "anti-Semitic" is much too blunt a term to use in almost all cases, in my opinion, and can cause more of an obstruction in a conversation than the statement to which it refers.
posted by greenish at 3:30 AM on February 14, 2013


On the face of it, it may seem complicated, however
while the term's etymology might suggest that antisemitism is directed against all Semitic peoples, the term was coined in the late 19th century in Germany as a more scientific-sounding term for Judenhass ("Jew-hatred").
posted by Wolof at 3:36 AM on February 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


Skeptic, of course it's possible to be unconsciously racist or anti-Semitic. To start with, there are people who firmly believe that they are being factual, not racist, when they repeat a stereotype. And then there are people who hold different opinions or react differently depending on someone's race. Some of these reactions can even be objectively measured.

If you think that somebody's criticism is being informed by unconscious prejudice, first tell him why you think that the criticism is factually unfair, and only then let him ponder whether he may be influenced by unconscious prejudice.

It may not be the criticism per se but the language used to express it. I don't think anyone would say this headline is racist: OBAMA TINKERING WITH TRADE BILL. Now substitute "monkeying" for "tinkering" - you'll find that it gives quite a different impression, even though the terms are almost synonymous. Let's say that a remark like this was made in all innocence: what would be wrong with pointing it out? Why on earth should the speaker's lack of ill will justify repeating it?

Then there are criticisms that are unfair because they simply are not made about other groups: "Jews should have learned from the Holocaust," for instance. I have never heard similar criticisms made about other people who "should have" learned from the Holocaust; it might even be in bad taste to suggest that Germans should have learned from it. A statement like this implies that Jews lack the moral sense that anyone else would have had, if only they had experienced the same thing; they're not only doing something wrong, but demonstrating that they are bad people. I suppose that these comments may be made quite innocently, but again: what's wrong with pointing them out? Is it really necessary to tie a a bit of extra shaming to a presumably-factual criticism? If the critic is trying to communicate, rather than score points, they should be willing to make the same comment without the prejudicial observation.
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:50 AM on February 14, 2013


The problem is that you always seem to find some way that people are being anti-Semitic, unconsciously or not, when criticizing Israel, even when it's Jewish people that are making statements.
posted by zombieflanders at 3:59 AM on February 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


It may not be the criticism per se but the language used to express it. I don't think anyone would say this headline is racist: OBAMA TINKERING WITH TRADE BILL. Now substitute "monkeying" for "tinkering" - you'll find that it gives quite a different impression, even though the terms are almost synonymous. Let's say that a remark like this was made in all innocence: what would be wrong with pointing it out? Why on earth should the speaker's lack of ill will justify repeating it?

Because you're just picking at language instead of engaging with the substance, and if you want people to actually listen to you instead of just tune you out, then maybe you should keep your powder dry until you have a more cut and dry example.
posted by empath at 4:47 AM on February 14, 2013 [4 favorites]


"George Bush Monkeying with Trade Bill" on the other hand is a different sort of slight all together.

on the I/P issues: I've stopped talking about this with my mother. Neither of us invokes Hitler or anti-semitism but we've both realized that we can't have an intelligent conversation about it.
posted by sciencegeek at 4:54 AM on February 14, 2013


Joe's your mother?
posted by MuffinMan at 5:18 AM on February 14, 2013


I don't participate in too many I/P discussions on Metafilter. I have certainly seen anti-Semitic tropes and ideas being bandied about by people who are criticizing Israel on Metafilter. I've actually seen less of people being called anti-Semitic for just opposing Israeli policies and being anti-Zionist. Just because someone criticizing Israel does not think of themselves as using anti-Semitic tropes does not mean it isn't happening, and for people who aren't trying to be anti-Semitic, I would think they would welcome being apprised of the fact that they are trafficking in anti-Semitism. Even the perennial debate in these threads, displayed again up above, about how using the term anti-Semitism to mean "hatred of Jews" is a misapplication, and maybe a case of Jews holding themselves out to be special and in need of particular coddling and attention, is an example of this. If that level of knowledge and understanding is on display about the history of this issue, it stands to reason people will be making anti-Semitic comments that they may not understand to be so.

I have honestly never been exposed to more flagrant anti-Semitism than in discussions of I/P.

There isn't such a thing as unintentional anti-Semitism or unintentional racism in general: we are talking in any case about a conscious dismissal of whole groups of people because of their ethnic "tag".

This is so far from my understanding of how racism works that I almost cannot imagine that it's a serious comment. By supporting and furthering policies, rhetoric, positions, and false histories that they do not understand to be racist, people are unintentionally racist all the time. This comment seems to presuppose that racism is primarily about being a rude person, which is completely ahistorical.
posted by OmieWise at 5:27 AM on February 14, 2013 [13 favorites]


I also, as a separate issue, think that calling racists "racist" is a good idea. I don't understand the "it shuts down civil discussion" argument, since I consider spewing racism to be pretty uncivil, and I think always talking about it at one remove "Those ideas are racist ideas" provides cover for racists (or sexists, or homophobes) and allows them to game the system here. But I understand what the policy actually is.
posted by OmieWise at 5:30 AM on February 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


I wish this community could get its collective shit together enough to have a civil discussion of these issues. I would learn a lot about all sides from that theoretical discussion.

Oh well.
posted by lazaruslong at 5:32 AM on February 14, 2013 [4 favorites]


The problem is that you always seem to find some way that people are being anti-Semitic, unconsciously or not, when criticizing Israel, even when it's Jewish people that are making statements.
---
Because you're just picking at language instead of engaging with the substance, and if you want people to actually listen to you instead of just tune you out, then maybe you should keep your powder dry until you have a more cut and dry example.


The trouble with unassailable truths about Joe's behavior is that some lower-hanging fruit of a comment, probably reiterating an already-addressed stance, will come along before his next response, giving him a chance to dodge responsibility and focus on repeating himself. Failing that, he'll wait to comment until he can agree with someone who already agrees with him.

Don't get your hopes up, is all I'm saying. No good will come of it.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 5:41 AM on February 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Speaking as a secular American Jew, I get very frustrated when criticizing Israel is conflated with criticizing Jews. There is a difference between Israel's right-wing, anti-immigration, hawkish policies and the Jewish people. And there is a difference between criticizing those policies and criticizing the people. I'm sensitive to anti-Semitism. But when the accusation of anti-Semitism gets used as a bludgeon to keep people from criticizing policy, it's hard to actually have a substantive conversation.
posted by ChuraChura at 5:53 AM on February 14, 2013 [10 favorites]


I wish this community could get its collective shit together enough to have a civil discussion of these issues. I would learn a lot about all sides from that theoretical discussion.

The thing is, we have on numerous occasions. The way a post is written and presented to the community makes a huge difference towards whether the ensuing conversation will be civil. so does the poster's in-thread behaviour. Do they try to mod the thread and argue with everyone? Etc.

Go through my history for posts tagged "Israel" or "IDF". Not every conversation has been super-fantastic, but for the most part they've avoided turning into flamewars. Look at this post by y2karl. We're capable of discussing this stuff like adults.

We get out of Mefi what we put into it.
posted by zarq at 5:59 AM on February 14, 2013


Yeah, we'd really, really like to discourage the "oooh, this makes me SO ANGRY; I'm gonna go post this on Metafilter" thing. The site is supposed to be about neat and interesting things on the internet. Sometimes intelligent, interesting political/news discussions can be mustered from particularly good sources or especially good collection of sources and careful structuring, phrasing etc. But pretty much every post that gets made because someone is angry and wants to vent about the object of their ire turns out to be awful.
posted by taz (staff) at 6:11 AM on February 14, 2013 [4 favorites]


I have to share with you guys this HTML5-ized site exploring the 1918 World's Fair. It makes me so angry!
posted by shakespeherian at 6:19 AM on February 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


So comments get axed here now I see.
If anyone has my last one made about 1100 hrs could they memail it to me please.
posted by adamvasco at 6:23 AM on February 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


I made a note above that comments continuing the debate over here would be deleted, after we made two previous requests not to do that. I've mailed you your text.
posted by taz (staff) at 6:32 AM on February 14, 2013


Taz, I like you and I don't want to fight with you. Correct me please if I am wrong.
Meta is a place for the community to discuss things and not to be told by moderators how or what to discuss.
If someone makes a comment that is problematic then members of the community will say so and say why; this is what the grey is for.
You can take off your mod hat and comment, it would be welcome.
posted by adamvasco at 6:42 AM on February 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


By supporting and furthering policies, rhetoric, positions, and false histories that they do not understand to be racist, people are unintentionally racist all the time.

Hardly. Reasonably intelligent people do know when they are being racist, they just don't like to admit it (and it wasn't always so: until the mid-twentieth-century, "racialism" was often worn as a badge of honour).

This is why the whole "separate but equal" defence of segregation in the Southern US was such a sham: everybody knew that the whole point of keeping black Americans separate was to give then less-than-equal treatment. But admitting it defeated the whole purpose of the exercise.
posted by Skeptic at 6:45 AM on February 14, 2013


Before I read the title, I thought this post might be about the discussion in beer threads.
posted by slogger at 6:47 AM on February 14, 2013


Meta is a place for the community to discuss things and not to be told by moderators how or what to discuss.

That's not at all what Meta is for. It's for discussing site-specific issues.
posted by shakespeherian at 6:50 AM on February 14, 2013 [4 favorites]


Reasonably intelligent people do know when they are being racist, they just don't like to admit it

I absolutely agree that this is also true.
posted by OmieWise at 6:50 AM on February 14, 2013


when the accusation of anti-Semitism gets used as a bludgeon to keep people from criticizing policy, it's hard to actually have a substantive conversation.

I agree. I don't see that happening much here, although it does happen, and when it does it frustrates me. I also get frustrated when all talk about anti-Semitism gets equated with this kind of disingenuous use of the term. Both things are happening, to my eyes, and ruling out the use of the term anti-Semitism in threads about Israel makes it seem like only one is.
posted by OmieWise at 6:54 AM on February 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Correct me please if I am wrong.
Meta is a place for the community to discuss things and not to be told by moderators how or what to discuss.


You're wrong. MeTa is a very narrowly focused subsite that absolutely should be policed by the moderators in the way that taz did (especially given that warnings were clearly issued). It is even less a free space than the main site or AskMeFi.
posted by Etrigan at 6:55 AM on February 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


adamvasco, I've answered here and also in email, but I'll elaborate. Metatalk is for discussing things related to the site, how things work here, problems, ideas. It is very lightly moderated because we want people to be able to express the problems they have with how the site is operating without us leading or suppressing that discussion (while being on hand to respond to questions and suggestions), but we definitely will step in when the post is addressing a specific problem and people are insisting on continuing the very same arguments from the post on the blue over here, bifurcating the discussion and not allowing the Metatalk thread to serve its purpose, which is how do we handle this / how should we handle it / what can we do to make it better?
posted by taz (staff) at 7:00 AM on February 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


It is even less a free space than the main site or AskMeFi.

That's disingenuous. The bar for deletion is higher in meta than anywhere else. This doesn't mean the bar doesn't exist.
posted by cjorgensen at 7:02 AM on February 14, 2013


Reasonably intelligent people do know when they are being racist, they just don't like to admit it.

Not quite. And for proof I'll cite the Zwarte Pieten thread from a while ago. Plenty of stuff that is undoubtedly racist in one context might be completely unknown in another, which is why I have some sympathy about complaints about (unconscious) anti-semitism in criticism of Israel or Israeli actions.

The problem is however that there have been so many bad faith acusations of anti-semitism made whenever the topic of Israel/Palestine comes up (both here and elsenet) that personally, I no longer take them seriously unless they're coming from people I trust or I can see for myself something is not quite right.
posted by MartinWisse at 7:05 AM on February 14, 2013


It is even less a free space than the main site or AskMeFi.

That's disingenuous. The bar for deletion is higher in meta than anywhere else.


But the intent of MeTa is much more narrowly focused. The mods' light touch doesn't mean that this is "a place for the community to discuss things and not to be told by moderators how or what to discuss."
posted by Etrigan at 7:14 AM on February 14, 2013


Reasonably intelligent people do know when they are being racist, they just don't like to admit it.

I'm not convinced of this. There are plenty of racist, sexist or antisemitic idioms which are still in common use. Folks may use them for years without ever thinking about deeper meaning. "Gypped" is a good example, and one we've spoken about in meta before.

Similarly, there are plenty of thoughtlessly perpetuated racist tropes in Western culture, too.
posted by zarq at 7:27 AM on February 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


It's for discussing site-specific issues
My bad I should have made myself clearer. i kind of took it for granted having been here rather a long time.

From upthread
.. today's OP was a good effort, I thought, as was the last one. Comments still were sub-par.

I'm not sure about the recent OP. It's not an uninteresting topic, just perhaps not one that lends itself to discussion well

today's OP was a good effort
Didn't seem that way to me. Honestly, I thought it was a bit of a mess. I learned a bunch of important details from links in the thread's comments. A few of which, frustratingly, contradicted stuff claimed in the FPP.

That is why I posted what I did; which then got axed.

It's no big deal it's just that I think that the modding is getting a trifle over the top at times.
In the tread there was a direct comment to take it to meta if you want to discuss moderation.
I am in Meta and I wish to discuss moderation. That is all.
Apparently that discussion is not wanted either.
I rather enjoyed Metafilter passe but then I am an old fart so I will shuffle along now and leave Etrigan to get another stripe to put on his sleeve.
posted by adamvasco at 7:31 AM on February 14, 2013


I am in Meta and I wish to discuss moderation. That is all.
Apparently that discussion is not wanted either.


Discussing moderation here is fine. Your comment which we deleted was continuing the argument here which we asked then told people not to do.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:37 AM on February 14, 2013


Not quite. And for proof I'll cite the Zwarte Pieten thread from a while ago.

Well, that opens a whole 'other can of worms. I personally believe that there is a clear distinction between racism and cultural insensitivity. As a foreigner who has lived in both Belgium and the Netherlands I do agree that the Zwarte Piet tradition is phenomenally insensitive, not just because of the connotations of blackface elsewhere, but also because of the link to slavery. However, I don't think that it's particularly racist.
posted by Skeptic at 8:23 AM on February 14, 2013


I'm sorry, but most often it isn't (and definitely not here in MetaFilter: this is not Al-Manar).

I guess this is just a difference of perception. Like OmieWise, I've been amazed at how many anti-Semitic tropes I've seen in these discussions. I generally don't go around pointing them out in-conversation because in most cases I think it would be unproductive and derailing, but they are there.

the accusation of anti-Semitism gets used as a bludgeon

What I don't get is: why is it a "bludgeon"? Why does the mention of anti-Semitism produce such a panic in ensuing discussion? If we expect defenders of Israeli policy to absorb and respond to accusations of much worse things without making the conversation all about their offense at those accusations, which we should, why shouldn't we expect the same from people who are being accused of the much smaller issue of spreading a prejudice?
posted by ostro at 8:38 AM on February 14, 2013


If we expect defenders of Israeli policy to absorb and respond to accusations of much worse things without making the conversation all about their offense at those accusations, which we should, why shouldn't we expect the same from people who are being accused of the much smaller issue of spreading a prejudice?

How about if we not play the "your prejudice is worse than mine" game at all?
posted by Etrigan at 8:40 AM on February 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


OK, maybe I should have said "not greater than" rather than "smaller than." Still. Why is it that the other example at the top of this thread, Nazi comparisons, which strikes me as roughly equivalent in offensiveness, never produces anywhere near the volume of derail-through-outrage?
posted by ostro at 8:44 AM on February 14, 2013


From my mod perspective, both tend to produce a pretty predictable volume of derail and bother. I removed comments along both lines from yesterday's thread and left two, maybe three different notes telling people to cut it out. Both are basically gas on the rhetorical fire and one of the reasons I find I/P threads more consistently tiring and unlikable than literally just about anything else on this site.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:48 AM on February 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Why is it that the other example at the top of this thread, Nazi comparisons, which strikes me as roughly equivalent in offensiveness, never produces anywhere near the volume of derail-through-outrage?

Do you not think that happened in the story linked in this post?

It seems to me that I/P stories, when they derail, derail in more or less equal measure because of "How dare you say that Israel is acting like Nazis!" and "How dare you accuse me of anti-semitism!", if only because one of them is inevitably followed by the other and they quickly merge. It's like asking whether the Ravens won the Super Bowl or the 49ers lost the Super Bowl -- there's a lot of "both," and even the identifiable things on one side or the other are largely reactive.
posted by Etrigan at 8:52 AM on February 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


You have yet to experience the whirlwind that is my forthcoming D.B. Cooper thread.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 8:52 AM on February 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


If we expect defenders of Israeli policy to absorb and respond to accusations of much worse things without making the conversation all about their offense at those accusations

You see, there are people like me who think that there actually isn't much worse than actual, honest-to-God anti-Semitism.

Having e.g. witnessed real anti-Semites (no, not Palestinian or Arab) cheering each Scud rocket that fell on Israel, I'm understandably upset to be tarred with the same brush for drawing certainly uncomfortable, possibly insensitive parallels between some current Israeli policies and the policies of oppressive regimes past, including, yes, the Nazi regime. Of course I'm not equating the one with the other: that would be disproportionate and profoundly stupid indeed.
posted by Skeptic at 8:56 AM on February 14, 2013


In this context they're both basically Godwins, rhetorically speaking, right? And as such basically equivalent to hitting someone over the head with the ring announcer's bell? It may well end the match, but it isn't necessarily a good tool to secure an uncontested win. Rather, a bunch of people will run on from the dressing room and start slugging it out in a noisy, chaotic fashion until the credits roll.
posted by running order squabble fest at 8:58 AM on February 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


I mean, saying Israelis are acting like Nazis is also pretty bludgeony. I've just never been bludgeoned with that particular argument. Either way, they shut down conversation and reduce nuance and get people pissed off.
posted by ChuraChura at 8:59 AM on February 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Bunny Ultramod: "You have yet to experience the whirlwind that is my forthcoming D.B. Cooper thread."

Was he secretly Irish? 'Cause....
posted by zarq at 9:16 AM on February 14, 2013


I am going to say that discussions of antisemitism in I/P threads are counterproductive, and most of the time people here are genuinely upset about Israeli policy, and that, when Nazi comparisons come up, it's a product of poorly phrased anger, rather than a desire to tar a group of Jews as being morally equivalent to the people that tried to destroy them.

That being said, people on MetaFilter are about as bad at discussing antisemitism as they are any discussion of privilege, and it's just as discouraging as it must be when the subject of racism is raised and dismissed or the subject of sexism is raised and dismissed. Antisemitic tropes do slip into I/P discussions, generally without awareness on the part of people who use the -- not as deliberate gestures -- and that lack of awareness is understandable, as non-Jews generally aren't going to be as sensitive about the subject as Jews, as they haven't experienced it in the same way or been forced to address it in the same way.

But it is impossible to raise those objections in the threads, in part because people's knees automatically jerk, and because they presuppose that any discussion of antisemitism in regards to Israel is a rhetorical gambit, designed to shut down discussion. And there are some people who do use it that way, just as there are some black people who call everything racism and some women who shout sexism at just about anything.

But the fact that some people abuse these terms does not mean that everybody does, and it does not mean that the subject is now verboten. In fact, thse accusations of people playing the antisemitism card are now effective bludgeons against even discussing antisemitism, and that's a problem, as we need to be able to address it when we actually see it.

I do not distinguish between "real anti-Semites" and accidental antisemities any more than I think the KKK are "real" racists and feel that the everyday unexamined unconscious racism that pervades American society is something that can then go undiscussed. So Nazis and people who cheer scuds falling on Israel aren't "real" antisemites while people who accidentally incorporate antisemitic tropes are worldviews into their arguments need not be addressed. I'm sorry if people don't like the fact that that word makes them feel they are being categorized as Nazis, but I feel that's an example of how non-Jews are disconnected from the everyday experience of antisemitism, which tends to be a lot more quotidian, consisting of mean-spirited jokes, or throwing bagels on the hockey rink when a team from a predominantly Jewish neighborhood plays, or spraying mocking graffiti onto a locker. That's the antisemitism that most American Jews experience, and I assure you it is real antisemitism, and worth being addressed, even if the people perpetrating it aren't nazis.

I would hope that the discussion could be in good faith. That people can listen to fair criticisms of Israel -- and there are many, and there are an awful lot of Israelis and Jews worldwide who agree with those criticisms -- and not have a knee jerk. But I would also hope that, when antisemitic tropes enter these discussions, even if unintentionally, that people can take criticisms of this seriously, at least here. I feel like these threads would probably go better if we presumed comments are meant in earnest, and not meant as silencing tactics, and that people who have criticism of Israel aren't antisemites but have real issues with the state, of which there are many issues to be had.

I guess, when antisemitic tropes come up, we could probably as that people consider what they are trying to say and how they are saying them, and point out that they are probably accidentally inserting a historic slur against Jews into their discussion. I mean, things like the erroneous idea that the Talmud says that its okay to kill non-Jews sometimes slip in here or there, and we have to be able to point out that this isn't true, but instead a historic antisemetic slur, and have to be able to do so without somebody saying that we're trying to shut down discussion.

Otherwise, it just become a shouting match between who is most willing to ignore the other person's viewpoint.

Also, there's no such thing as being secretly Irish, said the Irish-American who won't shut up about it.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 9:26 AM on February 14, 2013 [8 favorites]


Bunny Ultramod: " Also, there's no such thing as being secretly Irish, said the Irish-American who won't shut up about it."

It was a jokey reference to your Beatles post. Which also, surprisingly, turned into a whirlwind.
posted by zarq at 9:30 AM on February 14, 2013


I also, as a separate issue, think that calling racists "racist" is a good idea. I don't understand the "it shuts down civil discussion" argument, since I consider spewing racism to be pretty uncivil, and I think always talking about it at one remove "Those ideas are racist ideas" provides cover for racists (or sexists, or homophobes) and allows them to game the system here.

This is one of those, "you're right if you're right" situations. That is, if something I've said was, in fact, intentionally racist, then you got me. But what if it wasn't? You don't actually know for sure. You don't know my mind, only that part of it I choose to share with you (consciously or otherwise). So accusing me of gaming the system when I absolutely wasn't intending to -- well, that might get my back way up and only serve to feed tension, anger, incivility.
posted by philip-random at 9:31 AM on February 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


It was a jokey reference to your Beatles post. Which also, surprisingly, turned into a whirlwind.

Oh, trust me, I remember. It was like it happened yesterday, when love was such an easy game to play ...
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 9:32 AM on February 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


Reasonably intelligent people do know when they are being racist, they just don't like to admit it

Though this may be correct any number of times, it is to some degree playing darts in the dark. Yeah, you might get the occasional bulls eye, but it's also needlessly careless. Because again, you don't know my mind. You don't know my intentions, which is precisely why it's far cooler to stick a pin in the ideas that I'm trying to put forth than stick the pin directly into me. Not that both don't hurt -- just that the former tends to hurt far less than the latter.

that opens a whole 'other can of worms. I personally believe that there is a clear distinction between racism and cultural insensitivity.

Well, yeah. The first strikes me as maybe not conscious but certainly ingrained (learned from parents, friends, mentors etc) and thus the kind of belief that one is likely to fight for. Whereas the latter is mostly just an honest mistake, albeit one that can be embarrassing to have pointed out (akin to walking around with your fly open, or a bit of yogurt on your chin), so a little sensitivity from the pointer-outer is usually a good idea.

But again the real point is, how do you know for sure which is which in terms of the perpetrator's intentions? You don't. You can't. So, if the goal is to keep things civil, it's best to not act with certainty that you have made the correct assumption about the perpetrator's character.
posted by philip-random at 9:48 AM on February 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Maybe making it personal would help. Not "Israel does X," but rather "Netanyahu's government does X." Not all Israelis, much less all Jews agree with everything this government does.
posted by tyllwin at 9:55 AM on February 14, 2013 [5 favorites]


how to improve such discussions.

1) Don't bring up comparisons with Nazis Germany and the actions of the state of Israel (bring up some other horrendous brutal regime if you want to make such comparisons - there are plenty to choose from).

2) Don't call fellow metafilter members anti-Semitic or other names (nor imply they are) because of their critiques of the actions of Israel

[I Keed]FTFY HTH HAND [/Keed]
posted by theora55 at 10:51 AM on February 14, 2013


Perhaps I am a little confused here. Picture a hypothetical scenario where somebody says something that you feel does not distinguish adequately between the state of Israel and Judaism as a whole, so you respond by calling that person an Anti-Semitic. Which of the following is more likely to happen?

1) They feel like that are being personally attacked and respond in kind, making vicious accusations about your character.

2) They say "Oh snap! You're right! I was being anti-Semitic there! Thank you for enlightening me!"

3) Glowing unicorns that are spontaneously created by your accusation fly in (staying aloft via jet propulsion generated from their diet of kindness and rainbows) in order to do battle with the hordes of undead Nazis that were resurrected by the other person's poorly-chosen comment.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 11:06 AM on February 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


1) Don't bring up comparisons with Nazis

I disagree. Bring up Nazi comparisons when they are accurate, succinct.

The only rule we really need in this regard is along the lines of, don't be lazy and/or disingenuous with your analogies.
posted by philip-random at 11:13 AM on February 14, 2013


An interesting series of hypotheticals, wolfdreams01. I expect there are others we can come up with where somebody is able to communicate that something written has come off as antisemitic without it sounding like a terrible accusation, and somebody is capable of responding to it without knee-jerk defensiveness.

I mean, unless we can imagine such a hypothetical circumstance, and make it into a real circumstance, we're just not going to be able to discuss these sorts of things.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 12:08 PM on February 14, 2013


Wait unicorns eat kindness? They have to be stopped.
posted by shakespeherian at 12:10 PM on February 14, 2013


if something I've said was, in fact, intentionally racist, then you got me. But what if it wasn't? You don't actually know for sure. You don't know my mind, only that part of it I choose to share with you (consciously or otherwise). So accusing me of gaming the system when I absolutely wasn't intending to -- well, that might get my back way up and only serve to feed tension, anger, incivility.

Nobody cares whether the comment was intentionally racist or not, just that it was racist. Similarly, if someone brings up, say, the the-Talmud-says-it's-OK-to-kill-non-Jews canard in the full belief that it's true, it's not enough to tell them that it's not true. It's also important to make it clear that spreading that idea around is playing into an age-old slur that people have been killed over. You can't do that while dancing around the word "anti-Semitism."

It's gotten to the point where "oh my, what a pity we can't discuss these things freely without being accused of anti-Semitism" often pops up in threads before anybody else has mentioned anti-Semitism at all. (Though, happily, not in this most recent thread.) And that's just poisoning the well. It seems like a lot of people here are assuming that when people bring up anti-Semitism, it's as an intentional silencing tactic. But as long as it's a player in the issue, people are going to bring it up in good faith. Yes, having to deal with the suggestion that you may be prejudiced sucks, but the word isn't a red cape and you're not a bull. (For what it's worth, the same goes for people who instantly derail upon the mention of Nazis. Address and move on, or ignore and move on.)
posted by ostro at 12:18 PM on February 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


I mean, unless we can imagine such a hypothetical circumstance, and make it into a real circumstance, we're just not going to be able to discuss these sorts of things.

I'm not sure if it makes a difference, but I think I should mention that in my hypothetical example the unicorns happen to be playing Wagner's "Ride of the Valkyries" as they swoop in to attack.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 12:22 PM on February 14, 2013


The best song ever written about unicorns was written by a Jew.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 12:28 PM on February 14, 2013


The best song ever written about unicorns was written by a Jew.

BOOM! *drops the mic and walks away*
posted by RolandOfEld at 12:43 PM on February 14, 2013


The subject of anti-Semitic tropes also brings another overlooked issue, which is how often such tropes are trotted out, not by critics of Israel or the Israeli government, but by some of its current supporters in the West. From millennialist evangelicals in the US to European far-right activists, including some who once had quite open neo-Nazi ties, they make little effort to disguise their prejudices against Jews, yet sometimes appear less likely to be upbraided for anti-Semitism than some silly academic in a keffiyeh. Just because they "support" Israel, and this only because they hate Arabs and/or Muslims as much or more than Jews.
This has also somehow percolated into the general discourse. I find it profoundly disturbing, for instance, that the default caricature of a Muslim fundamentalist, for instance, has more than a passing similarity to some of the worst anti-Semitic standards, all hooked nose and ragged beard.
posted by Skeptic at 12:49 PM on February 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


. It seems like a lot of people here are assuming that when people bring up anti-Semitism, it's as an intentional silencing tactic.

That's because it so often is; viz the blood orange mentioned above.
posted by MartinWisse at 1:16 PM on February 14, 2013


If you feel Joe in Australia is attempting to silence discussion by bringing up antisemitism, that's your prerogative, and perhaps the best response would be to flag and move on, but I would say that one member doesn't equal "so often is" here on MetaFilter, and it might be nice if other discussions of antisemitism were presumed to be in earnest.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 1:19 PM on February 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


That's because it so often is; viz the blood orange mentioned above.

Reasonable people can disagree on this stuff. I don't want to get into it because the mods specifically asked that that line of discussion not continue in this thread, but my reaction to that ad was pretty similar to Joe's. Since I'm not being disingenuous about this, I assume Joe isn't either.
posted by ostro at 1:33 PM on February 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


The problem, I think, comes when you take a point of disagreement and automatically interpret it in the most inflammatory way. There is so much room for discussion between "I agree with everything you say" and "The only interpretation for is this that you hate Jews," or "Clearly Israelis are genocidal fascists." And those are not really exaggerating the positions that get taken in some threads.
posted by ChuraChura at 2:12 PM on February 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm a liberal Jew who is not particularly gung ho about Israel, and I get way too viscerally angry and upset to have these kind of discussions. Hey, I'm sorry that I hurt your feelings calling out your antisemitism, but you just fucking insulted my people and my history.

It all starts to feel like Carrie Prejean 2.0.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 3:12 PM on February 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


We are serious, do not make your comments into blog posts. Talk about MetaFilter issues in MetaTalk.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 4:15 PM on February 14, 2013


While we're at it, can we also call a moratorium on terms like "ethnic cleansing" and other accusations of genocide? There are plenty of examples of both happening even now, even in the Middle East, and misnaming a land war between multiple armed factions in a power vacuum "ethnic cleansing" (for example) when the group you support loses is both disingenuous and insulting to actual victims of genocide.

What I saw happening in that thread was that someone made the comparison of Israel to the Nazis, which in my opinion is often anti-Semitic (especially when any comparison of any other group ever to Nazis is considered Godwinning and ridiculed, even when it may be apt, yet somehow with Israel it's taken as a perfectly acceptable form of discourse, even when it isn't). This comment was then called out as being potentially anti-Semitic (but in a way that sounded like accusing the Mefite, which I think was not what the poster intended, but in any case was a poor choice of wording). Then out came the expected trope that no one can discuss Israel without being accused of anti-Semitism. Which was not what was happening in that thread. If anything, "no one can criticize Israel without being accused of anti-Semitism" is what is being used as a bludgeon, generally to shut down any possible exploration of the topic and making anyone who supports Israel or opposes the anti-Semitic underpinnings of many anti-Israel groups look like a knee-jerk blowhard.

As I pointed out in a previous thread and I suspect I will again, that is nonsense. Criticism of Israel is not automatically anti-Semitism, and any attempt to shut down discussion by saying it is should be silenced, as should anyone crying anti-Semitism in bad faith or without backing up where the accusation comes from. But at the same time, I am starting to see a prevailing accepted opinion here that any labeling of anything as anti-Semitism should be disregarded as automatically false, and the person making the accusation accused of bad faith (no pun intended) (sorry, couldn't resist). And that too needs to stop. I too have seen many genuinely anti-Semitic posts in the I/P and Judaism posts, and in general I flag and move on, but I really shudder at how often I see people who call the poster out on those comments resulting in the accuser getting piled on. It's one of the reasons I don't feel comfortable participating in these threads, despite my own knowledge of the region and the religion, and I don't think that's what Metafilter is all about.
posted by Mchelly at 4:23 PM on February 14, 2013 [9 favorites]


Perhaps identifying edge cases of anti-semiticism would be helpful -- or when such an accusation is made it can be detailed beyond a shouting match.

but really i find the blame game once it starts impossible to end.

The entire problem is fraught: the greatest negotiators in world have failed. repeatedly.

take a thought expermint: you are the US you have i/p at the table. what are your first frammings and concessions?

I think my first condition would be to finish lunch exchanging polite small talk.
posted by Shit Parade at 5:31 PM on February 14, 2013


i'd love to hear what the mods think is a "good" I/P post or discussion.
posted by cupcake1337 at 10:13 PM on February 14, 2013


Perhaps identifying edge cases of anti-semiticism would be helpful --

I don't know if this (from earlier in this thread) is anti-semitism but it certainly caught my eye:

It's an orange because that's one of the quintessential Israeli products you find in any European supermarket, many of which come from Haifa, which used to be a Palestinian city until it was ethnically cleansed in the 1940ties.

Yeah -- the part about the ethnic cleansing. That's a hell of a loaded phrase for me. And in fact, it's the reason I decided to start tracking this thread. Because it got my blood boiling a bit, which is really all the point I care to make right now: just how easy it is for a few words to throw somebody on this particular, get them feeling more than thinking ...

And I'm not even Jewish, just a student of 20th century history, a topic I tend to take damned seriously.
posted by philip-random at 12:55 AM on February 15, 2013


antisemitism ... tends to be a lot more quotidian, consisting of mean-spirited jokes, or throwing bagels on the hockey rink when a team from a predominantly Jewish neighborhood plays,

Wait, what? Is this something that actually happened? Because otherwise, again, what?
posted by spitbull at 2:26 AM on February 15, 2013


If we can't even describe the driving of an ethnic group from the land it lives on so that another ethnic group can live on as ethnic cleansing, I'm not sure how we can discuss, well, anything that has to do with ethnic cleansing for starters.
posted by Pope Guilty at 4:29 AM on February 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Except that that isn't what happened. People weren't driven off the land. Arab leaders told people to leave and many did, expecting to wipe all the Jews out of the region and take over. Those who chose to stay and not take up arms against their neighbors are still there. Haifa has Arab citizens to this day. I would go into more detail but that would be breaking the guidelines, as is your comment.
posted by Mchelly at 4:40 AM on February 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


Or, in case my previous comment gets deleted, how can you talk about ethnic cleansing when members of the cleansed ethnic group persist in living, voting, shopping, serving in Parliament, and increasing their population in the same area as if it never happened at all?
posted by Mchelly at 4:43 AM on February 15, 2013


If that's true, then so was the comment I was responding to.
posted by Pope Guilty at 4:44 AM on February 15, 2013


Anyhow, and sorry for threadsitting, I don't think what we need is to ban all I/P posts. I'd just like to see a lot less outrage-filter posts and other situations where people feel like the only way to make their viewpoint understood is to demonize the other side. Both sides (if you can call it just two anymore, there are so many factions in play) have blood and poor decisions on their hands. If this was as simple or clearcut as some people tend to present it, there would be peace by now, either because the truth would be self evident, or because the "evil" party would actually have wiped the other out completely by simply following through with their dastardly plots.
posted by Mchelly at 5:05 AM on February 15, 2013


Both sides (if you can call it just two anymore, there are so many factions in play) have blood and poor decisions on their hands.

This is the point at which we step in and ask/tell people again to try to keep this to the MeTa topic and quit scooting it over to the I/P topic. MeTa threads are differently moderated and it's unfair to the community and to the mods to have MeFi-like posts and discussion here.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 5:48 AM on February 15, 2013


Wait, what? Is this something that actually happened? Because otherwise, again, what?

Yes. Everything described was from my own childhood, growing up in the largely Jewish suburb of St. Louis Park:

In February of 1993, an organization called the United Patriot Front appeared out of St. Paul. A flier against Jews shows a microwave oven, with slogans “Jew Dwarfs! There is an oven in YOUR future! Communism is Jewish! White America Unite!! Our Race is our Nation.” The flier against blacks shows two purported sketches of black men wanted by the police. The flier cries “WARNING White Citizens Beware! Black Crime Motivated by Pure Hatred for Whites!” There was some speculation that the anti-Jewish fliers were related to a bagel-throwing incident at a hockey game on January 9 between Cooper and Park, but the paper could not confirm that incident.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 6:03 AM on February 15, 2013


A flier against Jews shows a microwave oven, with slogans “Jew Dwarfs! There is an oven in YOUR future! Communism is Jewish! White America Unite!! Our Race is our Nation.”

I somehow doubt that these were pro-Palestinian activists...
posted by Skeptic at 6:14 AM on February 15, 2013


Understandably, as literally nobody said they were.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 6:18 AM on February 15, 2013


I'm somewhat comforted by the fact that the discussion on racism over here isn't going any better. But boo_radley found Jay Smooth's How To Tell People They Sound Racist video, which is probably applicable here too.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:39 AM on February 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


Well... the linked discussion seems to be going reasonably well, in the specific sense that a consensus has rapidly been formed, and yet people are still taking the time to talk to people outside that consensus and try to explain it to them. If someone decides to respond to that by ceasing to exhibit problematic behaviors, even if only for the sake of expediency ("but in the interests of a quiet life I will stop using my totally non-racist metaphorical structure in the presence of you utterly mistaken people"), that's probably a win.

In moderation/MetaTalk terms, it also seems to be pretty much a done deal. Blue horse has demanded to know why the mods did not protect her from the treatment she received, the mods have explained why and gone on to make it clear that the same kind of statement in the future is likely to get the same kind of response, and the maker of such a statement will not be protected by the mods. The rest is just exploration.

Something quite different happened here. The OP identified two behaviors as damaging. In response, one group has asserted the need to use what they see as rhetorically valid comparisons relating to certain actions or policies. Another group has asserted the need to highlight what they see as deliberately hateful messages in rhetorical approaches used by others, including the aforementioned group.

Both groups see these things as necessary tools - things they not only should be able to do, but need to be able to do in these discussions. Neither accepts that the other is using their tool in good faith. Both further believe that questions about their own use of their own tool will not be asked in good faith.

The mods have already given the moderator position on this, which is that deployment of both tools in MetaFilter discussions make their jobs harder and make threads in which they are deployed exhausting and unproductive, and makes it more likely that threads will be derailed and/or deleted. However, both groups feel that they have goals more important than having a productive discussion, or not exhausting the mods.
posted by running order squabble fest at 5:29 AM on February 16, 2013


I think the difference is that the roots of the argument re: Israel is that the hardcore Israel supporters feel that people criticize Israel for actions that they wouldn't criticize other states for, which is pretty much objectively true. The problem is that they feel that that is motivated by anti-semitism, which is not necessarily the case. There are other valid reasons, including Israel's close ties to the us government, the fact that its a western style democracy, etc, that would motivate a belief that Israel should behave better than its enemies, not to mention that its perceived that Israel and Israelis care about public opinion more than their neighbors, so criticism of Israel is effective in ways that criticism of Saudi Arabia isn't, which encourages more of it.

Israel also isn't the only state that is treated differently from its neighbors, either.
posted by empath at 6:36 AM on February 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


I think the difference is that the roots of the argument re: Israel is that the hardcore Israel supporters feel that people criticize Israel for actions that they wouldn't criticize other states for, which is pretty much objectively true. The problem is that they feel that that is motivated by anti-semitism, which is not necessarily the case.

Exactly. A couple comments were made in the last thread that basically came down to "Could it be that people are upset because this is Israel, hmm?" To which many people could say "well, yeah," but--and this is important--they're not upset because Israel is a Jewish state, they're upset because each succeeding Israeli government has seemed to revel in giving people a reason to distrust it. That includes a lot, if not most of us Jewish folks outside of Israel. For that matter, many Israelis seem to feel the same way, if the latest election was even the slightest indication. So when we hear stories about white phosphorous shelling, or Palestinian communities being bulldozed for Israeli families, or Israeli citizens getting minimal or non-existent punishments for crimes committed against Palestinians, a lot of us assume that the Israeli government (and an increasingly assholish Netanyahu in particular) has done something shitty once again. We don't assume it because of Jews, we assume it because its not out of line with the government's previous actions.

It's not helped that a lot of the language around Israel in the US isn't shaped by Jewish people at all. The trope of the self-hating Jew seems to be gaining as much traction as the self-hating gay or self-hating minority, since so many of us seem to be talking and voting "against our own interests," with those interests being largely defined by those who aren't even part of the culture or religion. Christian Dominionism combined with neoconservatism has come to define how the conversation about Israel goes, with quite a boost from media organizations like Fox. But that's not the stance that many Jewish Americans take, and it irks me to see that line of discussion replicated here. Sometimes the phrasing is so near to identical, I can't help but wonder if a stridently pro-Israel commenter is actually Jewish and/or Israeli. People are going to have to learn how to have a conversation where skepticism about Israel isn't automatically tied to anti-semitism.
posted by zombieflanders at 7:21 AM on February 16, 2013 [5 favorites]


In my experience, it's a lot easier to have a reasonable discussion about Israel with people who actually live there. They tend to have a much more informed and nuanced view of the situation, I think mostly because of factions in Israeli politics and different ethnic and religious conflicts among Israelis themselves that people who don't live there tend to not notice. (Ie conflicts between the ultra orthodox and reformed Jews, etc). A lot of Israelis oppose settlements as much as any ultra left liberal in the US, but you'd never think that listening only to American supporters of Israel, for example.
posted by empath at 8:18 AM on February 16, 2013


Part of, to me, the reason these conversations get really difficult is that, like discussions of racial issues, we have people coming from really nuanced "I am aware of all the politics behind this sort of thing" positions and people who understand the broad outlines of the topics without understanding more of the nuances. You also get a lot of people, in both these discussions, really mad at the US or other bad actors and who want to basically have that "Shame on you" conversation at the expense of all other conversations.

So, to someone who is really steeped in and conversant in racial politics, certain turns of phrase are well-known dog whistle type tropes where people from within the movement understand them tacitly to mean a certain thing ("states rights" is a notable example, but also other "separate but equal" types of suggestions. The way the words "final solution" are basically indivisible from Nazism now) whereas people who just mostly know what they read in the paper may be unaware of a lot of these types of things, unaware of the US's role in supporting Israel (a thing that has very little to do with Judaism) and unaware of how some of this looks from anywhere not-the-US. So you get people who are highly educated in these topics but who may have varying opinions about them, and then a lot of people who wander in hoping to learn something and feel like the battle lines are already drawn and people are reading WAY more into things than they feel is appropriate. And it's hard to have a general conversation. Especially when it feels like the same people having the same arguments and saying that it's so important the general topic, that we MUST continue to do it this way.

It's difficult to have these discussions at both a high level and at a general interest level at the same time. That MetaFilter manages to do this at all is a minor miracle. It would be helpful if people were a little more mindful of the varying levels of issue understanding that people bring to this topic (and many other topics, honestly) so that they could have conversations with everyone in a polite and respectful manner and not just shout at each other (and the mods) about not being able to have exactly the conversation THEY want to be having here. It's not about you. Find ways to interact with the entire community.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:07 AM on February 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


In my experience, it's a lot easier to have a reasonable discussion about Israel with people who actually live there.

thanks, empath.

Gets me thinking that MeFi needs an Israel/Palestine subsite. Maybe get all provocative and call it HolyLand.metafilter.com. In order to join, you would first have to pass a test.

Question 1: Do you currently live in Israel and/or Palestine or have you lived there in the past five or ten years?

answer of YES gets one immediate entry to the group. Answer NO gets one re-directed to empath's previous statement:

I think the difference is that the roots of the argument re: Israel is that the hardcore Israel supporters feel that people criticize Israel for actions that they wouldn't criticize other states for, which is pretty much objectively true. The problem is that they feel that that is motivated by anti-semitism, which is not necessarily the case. There are other valid reasons, including Israel's close ties to the us government, the fact that its a western style democracy, etc, that would motivate a belief that Israel should behave better than its enemies, not to mention that its perceived that Israel and Israelis care about public opinion more than their neighbors, so criticism of Israel is effective in ways that criticism of Saudi Arabia isn't, which encourages more of it. Israel also isn't the only state that is treated differently from its neighbors, either.

There is a series of questions asked which, if answered correctly, would ascertain that the individual "gets it" (ie: grasps the subtle nuances of not just the Israel/Palestine situation but how difficult it is to even word these nuances without causing drama) and thus be granted entry to HolyLand.metafilter.com. Incorrect answers would continue to loop back to empath's statement, followed by more questions ... and so on.
posted by philip-random at 12:09 PM on February 16, 2013


In my experience, it's a lot easier to have a reasonable discussion about Israel with people who actually live there. They tend to have a much more informed and nuanced view of the situation, I think mostly because of factions in Israeli politics and different ethnic and religious conflicts among Israelis themselves that people who don't live there tend to not notice. (Ie conflicts between the ultra orthodox and reformed Jews, etc). A lot of Israelis oppose settlements as much as any ultra left liberal in the US, but you'd never think that listening only to American supporters of Israel, for example.

American Jewish perspectives on Israel, Israeli politics, the Palestinians and the settlements run a full gamut. The Orthodox do tend to be more hardline right-wing. But one doesn't have to be an "ultra left liberal" to oppose the settlements. There are plenty of American Jews who aren't lefties who do. I'm one. There isn't a single overriding opinion on the topic, no matter how much groups like AIPAC would like to make it seem so. Note the rise of J-Street.

If you were part of a diverse Jewish community this difference of opinion might be more obvious. (Not a criticism, just an observation.) It becomes more apparent when you read a wide range of American and Israeli Jewish media (especially if you read a paper like Ha'aretz regularly.)

However, there are some common opinions that many American (and Israeli) Jews share -- some of which are borne out by historical evidence: That Israel is treated unfairly by the media and international groups, including the UN, and is held to a different standard. That there are several countries and groups who want to see Israel entirely destroyed and have tried in the past to do so. That long-term peace will not be possible until guarantees are made for the safety of Israel's citizens.

That complaint of unfair treatment comes up again and again. There's definite evidence to support it, yes. But it's often used as an excuse to dismiss valid criticism. Not to diminish the points made by zombieflanders, but I know plenty of Orthodox Jews who think that if you're not wholly in favor of the settlements and supportive of other questionable acts taken by the Israeli government, you're a self-hating Jew. And have been accused of the same to my face. Around here, Joe in Australia has raised accusations of bias against at least a couple of us who don't blindly support Israel. I've been accused of unfair bias and hypocrisy against Israel by him on at least a couple of occasions.

One of the reasons I objected to the FPP was it was mostly based on speculative rumors. Some of which then turned out to be false. The OP is now linking to articles that say some of the things asserted in his FPP were wrong, without pointing out the discrepancies. I think that's a bit telling: the facts being revealed change the story. But he's still pushing the by now disproven idea that Prisoner X was "disappeared." Dude wasn't disappeared. He had a lawyer. His embassy was notified. His family was notified (at least that he had died in incarceration,) and his body was returned to them so it could be buried in Brisbane.

It's a frustrating situation. We would have been far better off if the OP had waited a few hours to make the original post until some of the rumors were verified (or in this case, disproved.) But he can't exactly be blamed for that. On the other hand, now that facts are coming out which show his FPP isn't entirely accurate, it would be nice if he at least addressed that in the thread rather than doubling down. I suppose that's too much to ask. And of course, the thread's discussion has been poisoned now, so anyone who wants to jump in will now find themselves caught between 2 or 3 people with pro- or anti-Israel axes to grind. Which sucks because little to no reasonable discussion will be possible. So why bother?
posted by zarq at 1:31 AM on February 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


The gap between the initial reports and the corrected story was long enough that you can't fault the OP on that score. The story was widely reported, and nobody (least of all Australia's Foreign Minister) expected that it would turn out to be absolutely wrong. I don't like the OP's apparent determination to paint Israel as the successor to Nazi Germany, but either Metafilter has current news posts or it doesn't; and if it does have current news posts then a certain proportion will turn out to be misreported.

As for the unfair treatment, at a local (i.e., Metafilter) level there are undoubtedly a wide range of reasons for it; but the prime reason has to be that there's an excessive focus on Israel internationally: most people probably just pick up on that. I don't believe that this excuses the piling-on behaviour we see, which is basically just bullying. It's ugly when it happens to individuals; it's ugly when it becomes Let's All Bash Israel. There are few things meaner than an angry liberal with a sense of justification.

his body was returned to them so it could be buried in Brisbane.

In Melbourne. Most Jews wouldn't be seen ... sorry, too soon.
posted by Joe in Australia at 2:15 AM on February 17, 2013


Once again, talking about how we handle newsfilter is fine, but debatable details about this particular news story aren't our subject here.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 7:34 AM on February 17, 2013


zarq - if you post in the correct thread I will reply.
Joe you should rename yourself Jerk in Australia as you are a large part of the problem, not the solution.
posted by adamvasco at 7:58 AM on February 17, 2013


adamvasco: "zarq - if you post in the correct thread I will reply."

Wait, I'm posting in the correct thread! The construction of a post and members' comportment within a thread should be talked about in Meta, not in the thread itself. If I had posted this stuff over there the mods would have deleted it.

Joe in Australia: "The gap between the initial reports and the corrected story was long enough that you can't fault the OP on that score.

True. I actually didn't realize the time difference between the reports when I made my initial comment about the post being a mess. I obviously can't blame adamvasco for not linking to stories in his post that weren't online when he made it.

in Melbourne. Most Jews wouldn't be seen ... sorry, too soon."

Ah! Thanks for the correction. I have no idea why I thought the cemetery was in Brisbane.
posted by zarq at 9:09 AM on February 19, 2013


LobsterMitten: "Once again, talking about how we handle newsfilter is fine, but debatable details about this particular news story aren't our subject here."

FWIW, my comment was intended to address the way the post was constructed, the OP's handling of the thread itself, the way people are behaving in the thread and yes, the difficulties inherent to "breaking newsfilter" posts. I'm not trying in any way to start a debate about the thread topic here.
posted by zarq at 9:12 AM on February 19, 2013


seriously, i'd love to see what a "good" I/P discussion looks like. any links?
posted by cupcake1337 at 8:48 PM on March 8, 2013


"The Failure of the American Jewish Establishment" is one. I posted this, which didn't have a ton of comments, but went ok. There have been others. If you'd like me to try to find more links, I can.
posted by zarq at 6:36 AM on March 9, 2013


I know we keep referring to the original FPP as an I/P discussion, but the events had nothing to do with any Palestinians, as far as we know. So why was it an I/P discussion? Obviously because people wanted it to be one. There are no good I/P discussions because people are spoiling for a fight on those terms: "Oh, something bad happened in Israel? Quick! Let us bring out the Nazi comparisons and ask whether it is finally time for Israel to get its comeuppance!"
posted by Joe in Australia at 7:09 AM on March 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


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