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Wednesday, December 31, 2003

The Chernut of Trent in the Gutter LA Times

Neumann: Antisemitism not a high priority, but a minor problem overblown
The LA TIMES on Dec. 28 sported two opinion pieces written by Jews, concerning the state of the Jews.

One, "Jews Face a Widening Web of Hate," was written by Abraham Foxman, director of the ADL. He makes a single declaration, that "Anti-Semitism is not a relic of history but a current event" and substantiates his argument with evidence: the recent bombing of two synagogues in Istanbul, the destruction by arson of a Jewish girls' school outside Paris and a holocaust museum in Terre Haute, the infamous speech of Mahathir Mohamad, etc. etc. He calls for "a united and vigorous stand by free nations and free peoples against anti-semitism" because "history teaches that we must not be complacent." Okay, well done. I agree, Never Again.

The other opinion, "Antisemitism: A Minor Problem, Overblown" was written by Michael Neumann, a philosophy professor at Trent University in Canada. I can't believe the man teaches philosophy; he is all over the place, with not a cogent argument in sight. He seems not to believe in the threat of current antisemitism, quoting Israeli (Jew) Ran HaCohen thus: "There has never been a better time for Jews to live in than our own."

Having not established that opinion by virtue of any reason, Neumann goes on to explicate how the charge of antisemitism is abused for political purpose. It worries him that Foxman tells us that "classic canards of 'Jews control . . Jews are responsible. . . and Jews are not loyal. . .' continue to be peddled in America." It worries him, NOT that these things are being said, but that Foxman is objecting. Come again?

Neumann further resists logic by pointing out that Jews are traditionally supposed to be responsible, to the poor, to one another, etc. What the professor doesn't seem to understand is the difference between responsible to and responsible for. How can you take anyone seriously when they don't get the nuances of simple prepositions?

Along yet another tangent, Neumann wants Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch (and himself and his friends) to be allowed to accuse Israel of war crimes and violations of human rights, without being labelled antisemitic. Free speech for his point of view, but no one else's, and no consequences. He lauds the (Jewish?) organization, Not in My Name, because it exists "to enable Jews to dissociate themselves from Israel's actions." Poor man, born with the burden of being a Jew, never able to fully dissociate, no matter how hard he tries.

Then, and this is a real kicker, Neumann goes on about how antisemitism may be important to him, "but is it important, period?" His answer to himself is really sick; he says it "cannot be dictated by 'Jewish sensibilities,' that is, he wants Non-Jews to decide what's important -- not because of what they say, but because of who they are. Neumann "illustrates" --
My background certainly predisposes me to regard anti-Semitic incidents with alarm. But time passes. Concentration camp survivors still alive deserve sympathy and justice, but they are few. Myself, I'd feel a bit embarrassed saying to a homeless person on the streets of Toronto, much less to the inhabitants of a Philippine garbage dump: "Oh yeah? You think you know suffering? My grandmother died in a concentration camp!"
Would he also argue that the importance of racism cannot be dictated by African-American sensibilities? That Whites should be the final arbiters of what is racist? Or that the parameters of sexism cannot be dictated by female sensibilities? Gotcha, Mr. Neumann. When you apply a different standard to Jews because they are Jews, it is antisemitic. Pure and simple.

Trying to tie up his non-argument, Neumann concludes by pointing out that hardly anyone has been prosecuted for the killing of 1,569 street children in Honduras, and 3 million have died in the Congo in 4 1/2 years. That's upsetting news, but do these facts limit the veracity or import of antisemitism, and if so, how?

Neumann's Record
HonestReporting is bent out of shape over Neumann-in-the-LA-Times because, they say, "Neumann has an established record of actively supporting . . . 'vicious racist anti-Semitism' to bring on the destruction of the Jewish state. Apparently, last year he wrote the following in correspondence with an antisemitic website:
My sole concern is indeed to help the Palestinians, and I try to play for keeps. I am not interested in the truth, or justice, or understanding, or anything else, except so far as it serves that purpose...I would use anything, including lies, injustice and obfuscation, to do so. If an effective strategy means that some truths about the Jews don't come to light, I don't care. If an effective strategy means encouraging reasonable anti-Semitism or reasonable hostility to Jews, I don't care. If it means encouraging vicious racist anti-Semitism, or the destruction of the State of Israel, I still don't care.
No one who walks on two limbs and has a brain in their head could deny that this is despicable.

HonestReporting holds that because Neumann's "nihilism and deep hatred for Israel are a matter of public record," the LA Times should not have granted "his voice the legitimacy of their opinion page." While I think it's valuable for people to know what a Jew-hater Neumann is, one hardly need go to his published record in order to refute this piece in the Times. What he wrote for the LA Times was full of fallacious holes, and can easily be condemned based on nothing more than the stupidity it reveals.

The mystery to me is why folks like Chernut and Neumann insist on publicizing not only their lack of simple reason, but their (sad) lack of a Jewish backbone. If we are to be responsible to them, then we should tell them to hide under their beds, and if anyone comes looking for a sign of the covenant, deny it . . . for our sake, as well as their own.