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April 17, 2014 / 17 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘racism’

Some of My Best Friends Are…

Wednesday, March 6th, 2013

I am not one to follow beauty pageants. Least of all those held in Israel. I am not going to get into the Halachic issues here – which do exist. As it pertains to this post it is a side issue. I am, however, going to get into another troubling issue – that of racism.

An article in the Forward cites an Israeli journalist that actually asks the question about whether Yityish Aynaw deserved to win the title Miss Israel. I don’t think that question has ever been asked before about any other winner of that title. No matter what she looked like. Why did he ask it here? Can anyone guess? Well, just in case you hadn’t noticed, the color of her skin is black. Here is what he said:

“I think it is really great that an Ethiopian-born woman won our national beauty pageant, I really do. If she were also beautiful it would have been even better.” Right! He thinks it’s great! And some of his best friends are…

What a disgusting comment! It is truly sickening when skin color becomes an issue in any circumstance. To say that someone who won a contest is not really all that beautiful but was chosen for political reasons in only this case is an insult to both the winner and to an entire race of people.

It is also an insult to me and to anyone with any sense of human dignity. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. That this journalist doesn’t think she is beautiful may in fact be true. Maybe he doesn’t. I will even grant that beauty pageants are political and winners are chosen for reasons other than physical beauty.

But this has always been true. And yet I don’t ever recall anyone saying that a beauty contest winner in Israel was not beautiful enough to have won. To do so now seems to show a certain degree of racism that is deeply buried in the unconscious mind of that journalist. He probably isn’t even aware of his own racial bias. Or… maybe he is and is disguising it by putting it in political terms.

Israel has recently been accused of racist tactics with respect to its Ethiopian immigrants. I don’t know how true that is. Although there is racism among some of its citizens as was pointed out last month by an op-ed in Ynet. But when journalist post messages like this on his Facebook page I think it exposes a certain degree of it. Even if it is only in the unconscious mind.

The unconscious mind dictates a lot of how humankind behaves. Decisions are often made that are racially biased and yet not realized as such by the decision makers.

I do not mean to impugn Israel. It is not a racist state. Far from it – despite accusations to the contrary. No one has done more for the plight of Ethiopian Jewry than the State of Israel. They have attempted mightily to mainstream these new immigrants and have achieved a measure of success in doing so. The fact that Miss Israel was an officer in the IDF at age 21 demonstrates that.

But the fact that there still exists this kind of subliminal thinking seems to be true as well. When journalists question why a black woman won a beauty contest – even if it is disguised as referring only to this particular black woman – it impacts on public opinion. I think that is sad. That he said it only on his Facebook page – perhaps thinking only his “Friends” would see it – makes it even sadder. That would mean he knew his comment wasn’t all that Kosher.

I’m sure that there are many (hopefully most) Israelis that do not have a prejudice bone in their bodies. But obviously there are some who do have a bone or two in their bodies that is prejudiced

Those who do, like this journalist – need to work on their attitudes and root out any and all prejudice whether conscious or not. It is the right thing to do.

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Bibi Blasts Erdogan’s ‘Dark and Mendacious’ Anti-Zionist Comment

Thursday, February 28th, 2013

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sharply on Thursday condemned Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s statement about Zionism and its comparison to fascism, calling it ”dark and mendacious.”

He said it was thought that Erdogan’s type of remark “had passed from the world.”

Erdogan spoke at the UN Alliance for Civilizations forum in Vienna on Wednesday and declared, “We witness on a frequent basis, the shutting out and despisal [sic] of the other, whereas understanding the beliefs, culture and feelings of the other is what should be done. “It has become inevitable for Islamophobia to be seen as a crime against humanity, just like Zionism, anti-Semitism and fascism”

Erdogan: Zionism ‘Crime against Humanity’ (Video)

Thursday, February 28th, 2013

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan chose none other than the UN Alliance of Civilizations” on Wednesday to declare that Israel and Islamophobia both are a “crime against humanity.”

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon sat non-responsively behind Erdogan as he spoke in Vienna.

In a chilling reminder of the United Nations’ “Zionism is Racism” Resolution passed by the United Nations in 1975 and revoked 16 years later, Erdogan stated, “Just like Zionism, anti-Semitism and fascism, it becomes unavoidable that Islamophobia must be regarded as a crime against humanity.”

His speech was the keynote address at the 5th Global forum sponsored by the UN.

“We witness on a frequent basis, the shutting out and despisal [sic] of the other, whereas understanding the beliefs, culture and feelings of the other is what should be done. It has become inevitable for Islamophobia to be seen as a crime against humanity, just like Zionism, anti-Semitism and fascism,” he declared.

“None of the divine religions approves terror; and above all, Islam, which is a derivation of ‘silm,’ means peace. It is impossible for a religion of peace to encourage or approve of terrorism; we will never accept that. The Alliance of Civilizations is one of the most meaningful initiatives to remove prejudices and close the gap between sides.”

After his declaration that “understanding the beliefs, culture and feelings of the other” applies only to Islam and excludes Zionism, he mouthed off at the Western powers with a not-so-subtle swipe at the United States.

“We have to form an alliance between the permanent members of the UN Security Council. It is very difficult to reach a compromise at the Security Council. Whenever a member says no, the deal is done. This is something that needs to be addressed. Wasn’t the UN founded to maintain world peace? If so, the UN is in dire need of reforms.”

The United States, Britain, France, China and Russia are the five permanent members, and the United States has used its veto power, and the threat to veto, to block most anti-Israel resolutions.

His comments in Vienna came two days before he is to welcome U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to Turkey on Friday.

Without Israel, without Iran, without Syria, maybe he wants to ditch the United States, also, and declare Turkey a diplomatic island.

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Hikind Defends His Blackface Hoop Player Purim Shtick

Monday, February 25th, 2013

Brooklyn New York State Assemblyman Dov Hikind had “a lot of fun” by dressing up as a black basketball player on Purim, but now that the party is over, so is the fun.

He invited a professional makeup artist to his home on Purim to help him with his costume, complete with an afro wig, sunglasses, an orange jersey and – of course – brown face paint.

“I was just, I think, I was trying to emulate, you know, maybe some of these basketball players. Someone gave me a uniform, someone gave me the hair of the actual, you know, sort of a black basketball player,” Mr. Hikind explained to the Politicker website. “It was just a lot of fun.… The fun for me is when people come in and don’t recognize me.”

Dozens of people streamed in and out of his house to enjoy the Purim party, where his wife dressed up as a devil, which is probably what many people, black and white, are calling him today.

Jews dress up as just about anyone on Purim, from Arabs, to Haredi Jews, political figures, clowns, priests – everything. But recreating a stereotype of blacks is the farthest point away from being politically correct, especially for a Jewish politician,

Hikind sees no problem with his costume.

“I can’t imagine anyone getting offended,” he told Politicker. “You know, anyone who knows anything about Purim knows that if you walk throughout the community, whether it’s Williamsburg, Boro Park, Flatbush, Forest Hills, Kew Gardens Hills, people get dressed up in, you name it, you know, in every kind of dress-up imaginable.

“Purim, you know, everything goes and it’s all done with respect. No one is laughing, no one is mocking.”

Hikind told a WCBS 880 reporter that it “never crossed my mind for a second” that the costume might be offensive, and added, “If I was black, on Purim I would have made my face look like I was white.”

The New York Times reported Monday that Assembly Democrat, Deborah J. Glick of Manhattan, took to Twitter to state her objections to the costume and wrote, “Assembly member Dov Hikind in blackface was beyond offensive. A Purim party shouldn’t be cover for insensitivity.” City Councilman Mark Weprin posted on Twitter a simple question: “What was Dov thinking?”

Detroit Jewish Leader on Pro-Nazi and Convicted Killer’s Hit List

Monday, February 25th, 2013

The FBI warned the head of the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit that his name was on the hit list of a convicted killer and neo-Nazi sympathizer.

Scott Kaufman, CEO of the Detroit federation, was told last week that his name was on a list in a notebook kept by a Toledo man who was indicted last month on federal weapons charges.

The notebook was found Dec. 21 in the raid on the home of Richard Schmidt, 47, who served jail time for voluntary manslaughter in the 1990 killing of a Toledo man. The list made reference to the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit and listed its leaders, the Toledo Blade reported.

The Rev. Wendell Anthony, the head of the Detroit branch of the NAACP, and his group also were on the list.

Federal agents who raided Schmidt’s house said they seized a video of a 2005 national meeting of the National Socialist Movement, a white supremacist neo-Nazi group, and a national list of Jewish-owned businesses, according to reports.

The Obligation to Avoid Anti-Semitic Behavior

Sunday, February 3rd, 2013

The Gerald Scarfe Sunday Times cartoon controversy has followed a familiar pattern, with some arguing that the depiction of the bloody trowel wielding Israeli Prime Minister torturing innocent souls – published on Holocaust Memorial Day – evoked the classic antisemitic blood libel, while others (including Guardian contributors and cartoonists) dissented, claiming that Scarfe had no racist intent and was merely critiquing the policies of a head of state who happened to be a Jew.

In response to some who have noted, in Scarfe’s defense, that he had previously depicted Syria’s Assad using a similar blood motif, Stephen Pollard of The JC aptly noted: “But there’s never been an anti-Alawite blood libel, and the context matters. The blood libel is central to the history of antisemitism.”

Though Scarfe may have indeed possessed no antisemitic intent whatsoever, Pollard is stressing that the effect of the cartoon simply can’t be ignored, and that historical context matters.

When we talk about antisemitism at the Guardian and ‘Comment is Free’ on this blog we’re not claiming to possess some sort of political mentalism – a piercing moral intuition which grants us access to the souls of their journalists and contributors.  Similarly, we’re not suggesting that we can ever tell with any degree of certainty that, when we argue that criticism of Israel crosses the line to antisemitism, the writer who’s the focus of our ire is necessarily haunted by dark Judeophobic thoughts.

Rather, many of us who talk seriously about antisemitism are skilled at identifying common tropes, narratives and graphic depictions of Jews which are based on prejudices, stereotypes and mythology and which have historically been employed by those who have engaged in cognitive or physical war against Jews.

Though I’m now an Israeli, an apt analogy on the moral necessity of understanding and being sensitive about the racist context of seemingly benign ideas can be derived from my experience growing up in America.

Those who grew up in the U.S. and inherited not the guilt but the moral legacy of slavery and segregation intuitively understand that we owe African-Americans an earnest commitment to strenuously avoid employing the linguistic, cultural and political currency of racism’s tyrannical reign.  Though race relations have matured immeasurably by any standard, and codified bigotry all but eliminated, there are, nonetheless, unwritten prohibitions against language which, even though often unintended, hearkens back to the past, evoking the haunting memory of the nation’s past sins.

In America, comedians don’t do black-face routines, in which white performers create a stereotyped caricature of a black person.  A mainstream newspaper wouldn’t publish a cartoon depicting an African-American as lazy and shiftless, nor would any publication present a black public figure (in any context) as  a boot licking  ’Uncle Tom‘.  And, someone using the N-word (in public or private) would be rightfully socially ostracized or at least stigmatized as crude racist.

Such political taboos in America have developed organically over time in response to a quite particular historical chapter, and are recognized by most as something akin to an unwritten social contract on the issue of race.  White Americans can not ever fully understand black pain, the learned cognitive responses from their collective consciousness, but it is reasonable of them to expect that we not recklessly tread, even if without malice, on their sacred shared memory.

Further, whites who honor this implied covenant – and avoid evoking such narratives and imagery – by and large don’t bemoan the so-called “restrictions” placed on their artistic or intellectual expression, or complain that African-Americans are stifling their free speech.  Rather, such unwritten rules, social mores and ethical norms about race are typically understood to represent something akin to a moral restitution for a previous generation’s crimes.  While in the U.S., the First Amendment affords legal protection to those who would engage in anti-black hate speech, it is largely understood that responsible citizenship often requires self-restraint – the greatness of a people measured by what they are permitted to do, but decide not to in order to preserve national harmony, what’s known in Judaism as Shalom bayit.  

When Jews talk seriously about antisemitism they are asking those who don’t wish to be so morally implicated to avoid needlessly poisoning the political environment which Jews inhabit.

They are appealing to the better angels of their neighbors’ nature by asking them not to carelessly conjure calumnies such as the “danger” to the world of Jewish power or conspiracies , Jews’ “disloyalty” to the countries where they live, that Jews share collective guilt for the sins of a few, that they’ve come to morally resemble their Nazi persecutors, or that Jews intentionally spill the blood of innocents.

In short, we are asking that decent people avoid employing canards which represented the major themes in Europe’s historic persecution of Jews, and which, tragically, still have currency on the extreme left, the extreme right, and, especially, in much of the Arab and Muslim world today.

The Scarfe/Sunday Times row is about more than the cartoon itself, and it is certainly not about the “right” to offend. It’s about sober but passionate pleas by a minuscule minority that decent people not afflict the historically afflicted, and to recognize their moral obligations to not provide aid and comfort to anti-Jewish racists.

We are asking genuine anti-racists to resist becoming, even if unintentionally, intellectual partners or political fellow travelers with those who trade in the lethal narratives and toxic calumnies associated with the resilient Judeophobic hatred which has caused us immeasurable pain, horrid suffering and indescribable calamities through the ages.

Visit CifWatch.com.

Remember King For Fighting Hate Against All

Wednesday, January 16th, 2013

For those of us who closely follow the progress in America in the battles against racism and anti-Semitism, the observance of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday this year has particular relevance.

First, the King holiday, which this year is observed on Jan. 21, reminds us of two significant anniversaries surrounding the civil rights leader. It is the 50th anniversary of his historic “I Have A Dream” speech at the Mall on Washington and the 20th anniversary of all 50 states in the union observing the holiday.

Second, while leading the monumental struggle for civil rights in this country, King never equivocated in denouncing anti-Semitism.

“The segregationist and racists make no fine distinction between the Negro and the Jews,” he stated bluntly.

And in a letter to Jewish leaders just months before his 1968 assassination, King said, “I will continue to oppose it [anti-Semitism] because it is immoral and self-destructive.”

The message – that it is never enough for Jews and Jewish organizations to condemn anti-Semitism – remains terribly important for the country. Important leaders from all communities must follow King’s lead.

More specifically, King’s condemnation of anti-Semitism was and is important for his own African-American community. For too long, levels of anti-Semitic attitudes have been too high. And some African-American cultural figures utter sentiments about Jews and Jewish power that remain very troubling.

Not only did King react against blatant anti-Semitism, early on he anticipated the more sophisticated versions. In an appearance at Harvard, as reported by the scholar Seymour Martin Lipset in his book The Socialism of Fools, King responded to a hostile question about Zionism, “When people criticize Zionists they mean Jews; you are talking anti-Semitism.”

Third, King understood the importance of standing up for other minorities both as a value and to strengthen support for his work on behalf of African Americans. Perhaps King’s greatest legacy was his conviction that justice for black people could not be achieved in a vacuum, that all Americans must live free from oppression in order to guarantee freedom.

Why was obtaining civil rights for African Americans so important to the American Jewish community? Because it was the right thing to do, and because it was good for all and built coalitions in fighting all forms of prejudice.

Fourth, King knew that power politics were important to bring change. Speeches, marches, demonstrations and sit-ins were all about power politics. But he profoundly understood that ultimately, appealing to the moral values, the goodness and long-term interests of those who needed to change – the white majority – was the key to changing society.

In the long run, changing hearts and minds through education and appealing to the best instincts of America is the real solution.

Fifth, the civil rights revolution led by King also further opened up America for Jews and is one of the key elements as to why today American Jews are the freest community in the 2,000-year history of the Diaspora and why things are so much better for Jews today than they were 60 or 70 years ago. Civil rights legislation allowed Jews to challenge their exclusion. Even more, the revolution changed society in a way that being different and expressing one’s differences was no longer a liability.

The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s work in seeking equality for all was consistent with the values expressed by Hillel two millennia ago:

“If I am not for me, who will be?” One must have pride and stand up for one’s own.

“If I am only for myself, what am I?” To be fully human, one must go beyond one’s own problems and stand up for others.

“If not now, when?” Justice delayed is justice denied.

These values were King’s values. Too often in society today we stray from them. This 50th anniversary of his “I Have a Dream” speech is a good time to recommit to those things that brought us all together. JTA

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/remember-king-for-fighting-hate-against-all/2013/01/16/

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