James Edward Johnson

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Archive for the ‘antisemitism’ Category

Further thoughts on antisemitism …

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I am always a little surprised by how fast professed anti-racists will engage in antisemitism. I have never experienced this phenomenon to the degree I have experienced it here in Iowa City. Most people here are really good people, but there is a small group of very vocal ideologues who are apparently not deterred in their open acts of antisemitism. Here are a few tips for avoiding antisemitism that I have recently considered:

Conspiracies are rare. Most cooperation is in the open. When I say something I am not speaking for any other Jew – either collectively or individually. When I act I am not acting on any other person’s behalf unless I am explicit in doing so. If you are quick to infer a conspiracy between my and other Jews, your inference is antisemitic. I am always shocked when people assume I am part of a Jewish conspiracy and not simply doing what I think is right on my own and for my own purposes.

Members of minority groups usually are angered when they perceive bigotry directed towards their group. Responses to such perceptions are not typically cautious and reasoned and can often appear spiteful or vindictive. Expecting minorities to suppress their anger and respond more civilly is a bigoted expectation. If a fellow Jew gets pissed off at you for your lack of sensitivity I am not going to try to put a leash on them. I do not infantilize Jews or anyone else by pretending my calmer response is more “proper” or “better” than their angry response. It is not my place to tell them how they should respond to your bigotry. Expecting one Jew to prevent another Jew from expressing their emotion in a visceral fashion is antisemitic. Expecting a male to restrain a female is doubly bigoted because it reinforces sexist stereotypes.

There are many individual members of every group who behave poorly at times. Attributing the actions of those individuals to their group, their community organizations or any other member of that group is a bigoted attribution. Minority communities tend to be well connected internally because of their minority status. That one poorly behaved member of a group might have connections to other members of the group is not evidence of general debasement of the group. It is evidence of the group’s normalcy. Expecting otherwise is destructive of minority groups, bigoted, and in the case of Jews, antisemitic.

More locally, there are a few groups (seemingly attended by the same small set of people) that routinely engage in these sorts of antisemitism. They are ostensibly pro-Palestinian in spite of having very few Palestinian Arab members. In practice, they are a lot more anti-Jewish, anti-Israel, and antisemitic than they are pro-Palestinian. What a shame. Don’t be enticed by the superficially tolerant rhetoric of such groups.


Written by JamesEJ

Thursday, December 16, 2010 at 2:39 am

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The Ghetto … worse than the films.

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A Film Unfinished is showing now at the Bijou Theater at the University of Iowa.  The Israeli documentary covers the known and lost footage taken by the Nazis of the Warsaw Ghetto.

I saw it last night and it is a very powerful film that makes even those familiar with the Holocaust pause in consideration of the terror of Naziism … well before the Jews were sent to the gas chambers.

Here is a preview:

Go watch it at the Bijou … between now and Thursday.

Written by JamesEJ

Sunday, October 24, 2010 at 5:44 am

Evangelical Christians show more tolerance than the Left.

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John Hagee

Pastor John Hagee at the 'Night to Honor Israel' in the Quad Cities.

On Thursday, I went to the Christians United for Israel ‘Night to Honor Israel’ in Davenport. The 2,400 seat Adler Theater was filled nearly to capacity with conservative evangelical Christians. This is not typically my sort of crowd.  Conservative preacher Pastor John Hagee, who is among the best known conservative evangelicals in America, was the keynote speaker.  The crowd was filled with people who have a strict view of a different faith than mine and who have fairly severe differences with me on a wide range of social policies.

And yet, I was warmly welcomed, as a Jew, among these people.  Hagee made clear that his love and support for the Jewish people is not based on any expectation that we convert to Christianity or any other sort of compromise of our beliefs.  The crowd echoed that view.

And so, I wonder, why is it that among the supposedly tolerant and accepting people on the left here in Iowa City, I feel no tolerance; while among the typically less tolerant and conservative Christians, I feel real tolerance … even acceptance?

By way of example, a far-left Democrat from here in Johnson County, told me at the state Democratic Convention that I was a disloyal American and that I should leave and move to Israel.  I feared nothing like that on Thursday evening.  In fact, I experienced the opposite … my Jewish identity was seen as a patriotic expression of my American heritage.  God bless these people for showing me real acceptance.


Written by JamesEJ

Saturday, October 9, 2010 at 7:15 pm

AMIA massacre 16 years later …

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Z-Word over at the AJC comes through in reminding us of the AMIA massacre of Jews in Buenos Aires by Hezbollah 16 years ago today, and giving us an update on the current situation:

Though the AMIA massacre occurred on July 18th, 1994 the official commemoration of its sixteenth anniversary took place on the 16th. In these two stories covering the events that took place you’ll find Guillermo Borger, head of the AMIA community organization. the one directly affected by the attack, praising the “good performance” of the present administration with regard to the investigation into the attack and lauding Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s “bravery” in calling for the extradition of the Iranian fugitives in her speech to the General Assembly of the United Nations.

via Two Theses On The AMIA Massacre at Z-Word Blog.

Here in Iowa City, I have heard several people refer to Hezbollah as “brave”, “freedom fighters”, and other such nonsense.  Such people need to read about the AMIA bombing (that killed 85 and wounded hundreds) and learn that groups like Hezbollah are not simply enemies of Israel.  They are enemies of the Jews and all tolerant people everywhere.

Read the full post at Z-Word.

Written by JamesEJ

Sunday, July 18, 2010 at 9:51 pm

Satloff’s ‘Among the Righteous’ – bookletized.

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I am a fan of Robert Satloff’s book, Among the Righteous.  It provides an important opening into a serious discussion of the history of the Jewish experience in Muslim lands.  A booklet promoting such ideas, therefore, is a good idea in my opinion.

However, as Bataween, over at Point of no return points out:

Laudable though this initiative is, one cannot help feeling misgivings. As Lyn Julius wrote in her review of Robert Satloff’s book, Satloff has himself failed to convey a sense of the almost universal tide of sympathy the Arab world felt for the Nazis. Between 150,000 and 300,000 Muslims fought on the side of the Axis. The scholar Jeffrey Herf has researched the huge impact of Nazi propaganda on the mostly illiterate Arab World.

via Point of no return: Booklet on Muslim Holocaust heroes can mislead.

Bataween’s point is well taken.  If you are unfamiliar with this viewpoint, subscribe to Point of no return.  It, more than any other blog, is an excellent resource for understanding oppression and loss suffered by Jews in Muslim lands.

Written by JamesEJ

Wednesday, July 7, 2010 at 8:30 am

A neo-Nazi skinhead calls a Jew …

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Autobiography of a Recovering Skinhead

Autobiography of a Recovering Skinhead

You might ask, “calls a Jew what?” Ok, the title should probably say “former” neo-Nazi skinhead.  “On the phone” might also be an appropriate addition.

I had asked Frank Meeink, author of Autobiography of a Recovering Skinhead for an interview and today he called me back.  I have already written an as-yet-unpublished straight and simple review of the book for the Iowa City Press-Citizen.  But, the story is compelling.  There is a lot more to this guy and his story than can be included in a 600-word review for a local paper.

I haven’t settled on the exact topic of my next piece, but my talk with him will feature prominently.  It is rare that one gets a chance to talk to someone who was once a hard-core extremist, but who today is making amends.

I’m not going to say a lot about the book or my discussion with Meeink now, other than to say that you should buy the book.  If you are in Iowa City, see him at Prairie Lights on July 13th.

Written by JamesEJ

Thursday, July 1, 2010 at 7:38 pm

The increasingly common narratives of Israel bashing.

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Some excellent observations by Eamonn McDonagh.  Here is an excerpt describing the points he addresses:

Three aspects common to many recent critiques of Israel are present here: Israel is seen as having once been very good and much loved and now to be very bad and widely hated, the person making the critique is Jewish (in this particular case, there’s the added bonus of the fact that Stéphane Hessel, the cited drafter of the Declaration of Human Rights is a Holocaust survivor) and Israel is seen to be heading for catastrophe if it doesn’t change its ways.

via Three Aspects of Criticism of Israel at Z-Word Blog.

Written by JamesEJ

Wednesday, June 30, 2010 at 5:03 pm

Posted in antisemitism

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