Monday, October 08, 2007

Richard Dawkins and the "Jewish Lobby"

Well, Richard Dawkins turns out not to be a god after all, since he said a very stupid thing. (Hey, maybe he is a god). This is what it was, as quoted in The Guardian:

When you think about how fantastically successful the Jewish lobby has been, though, in fact, they are less numerous I am told — religious Jews anyway — than atheists and [yet they] more or less monopolise American foreign policy as far as many people can see. So if atheists could achieve a small fraction of that influence, the world would be a better place.
Dawkins, I suspect, will be painted as an anti-Semite, which isn’t necessarily true based on what he said. He is, however, misinformed, and jumps to an erroneous conclusion.

Yes, Dawkins qualifies his statement by saying “as far as many people can see,” but those are just weasel words. He would not have made the claim were he not one of those people. So let’s not let him off the skyhook just because of a phrase he throws into his assertion to give him a retreat position.

Is There a Religious Jewish Lobby in America?
It should be clear that Dawkins’s “American foreign policy” is a reference to U.S. support of Israel, and all the ramifications of that support. And, indeed, there are a number of lobbying groups — most members of which are Jews — that do urge support for Israel. But those groups do not represent all religious Jews. Many of the ultra-orthodox , including the numerous Satmar Hasidim, are anti-Zionists, because they believe that the state of Israel should not have been formed until the arrival of the Messiah. There are also plenty of less fanatic religious Jews who deplore the theocratic flavor of Israel’s government.

One religious group that is gung-ho about American support for Israel is the collective of fundamentalist Christians. Fundies make all kinds of noise about the “Holy Land,” but they’re not really tolerant of religious Jews (or any Jews, for that matter). So Dawkins can’t have it both ways; either religious Jews “monopolise” American foreign policy or they don’t.

Look, the world’s anti-Semites love to spout nonsense about the Jews’ desire for global domination, an idiotic conspiracy theory, rooted in fear of "the other," that has been tossed around for centuries. It took serious hold in America when Henry Ford paid to have The Protocols of the Elders of Zion published in the United States. References to a fictitious, super-powerful “Jewish Lobby” are variations on that theme. But the ultra-rationalist Dawkins ought to know that the book was a propagandistic hoax. Perhaps his hunger for evidence doesn’t extend beyond science.

What Is a Jew?
Not clear. The word “Jew,” as commonly used, has two meanings. One, of course, is “a person who practices Judaism.” People who dislike those "Jews" should be labeled as “Anti-Judaists,” not “Anti-Semites.”

The other meaning is “anyone descended from a distinctive ethnic group called ‘Jews’ who were never fully assimilated, for one reason or another, in any country.” In this sense, a Jew is someone whose mother, father, or both referred to family ancestors as “Jews.” A Jew, therefore, could be an atheist, a Hindu or a Buddhist or a Muslim, a Wiccan or a believer in fairies at the bottom of the garden, or even a practicing fundamentalist Christian. People who dislike these "Jews" should be labeled as “Anti-Semites.” Anti-semitism is about genetics; anti-Judaism isn't.

Is Supporting Israel the Same as Supporting Jews?
Many people believe, erroneously I think, that support for Israel is somehow support for “Jews,” under whichever definition you like. But let’s look closely at Israel. There’s no denying that it often seems to be controlled by ultra-nationalists, and that it’s a quasi-theocratic state. However, there’s another fact that is frequently ignored. Regardless of its location, Israel is a Western nation. The founders of modern Israel were Europeans, who brought their interpretations of Western Civilization to the Middle East. A large part of the anti-Zionist mentality in the area has to do with the hatred of Western ideas. If Israel were a state of mixed religions, or no religion, it would still be loathed by its neighbors. It’s easy to pin on “Jews” the entire phenomenon of Israel’s conflict with the Muslim world. But that’s a tunnel-vision approach. Lots of folks who are highly critical of Israel’s sometimes thuggish policies nevertheless favor the spread of 21st-century knowledge over the retention of 12th-century ignorance. It’s not difficult to find the Israelis’ basic acknowledgement of democracy and rationalism preferable to the region’s glorification of feudalism (our allies) and/or enforced superstition (all others). This preference is certainly not unique to a nonexistent "Jewish Lobby."

The Nightmare Upshot of Dawkins’s Comments
I strongly suspect that Richard Dawkins is not an anti-Semite, although he has apparently bought into the delusion that there's a "Jewish Lobby." But in the next few days, weeks, and months, he will definitely be given that label by a media hungry for sensationalism. Since Dawkins is perceived by many religionists as a major spokesperson for atheism, we nonbelievers may all have to fend off similar charges of bigotry.

I think Dawkins deserves credit for using his high-profile persona to warn the world of the god delusion. But he has hurt the atheist “movement” by his ill-considered statement. By suggesting that atheists emulate the mythological Jewish Lobby, he has given propagandistic fodder to the theistic masses. Those who know that there is no Jewish Lobby will dismiss Dawkins as a fool; and, people being what they are, will then feel free to reject everything he has ever said or written as equally unfounded in reason. On the other hand, those who believe that there is an international Jewish conspiracy for world domination, as manifested in the Jewish Lobby, will be delighted to demonize atheists whose “leader” clearly wishes to set up a similar cabal.

(H/T Atheist Revolution)

17 comments:

salient said...

Hmmn. I think that his comment should be interpreted as being quite flattering to the political success of the Jewish lobby.

It reminds me of a line in "The American President" where the President asks his girlfriend cum successful environmental lobbyist, "Why aren't you working for me, by the way?"

vjack said...

This makes a lot of sense. I agree with what I think he was saying but wish he could have said it differently. It seems like the pro-Israel lobby has as many Christian Zionists as it does Jews.

PhillyChief said...

I think he's becoming a loose cannon. I've hated the "Brights" thing, I hate that he makes accusations against religion in print and speeches without backing up his claims (something Christopher Hitchens can't be caught on) and now, either through laziness or having gotten used to this approach, he's saying shit like this with the weasely "in fact, they are less numerous I am told" and "as far as many people can see". Shameful.

I hate this thinking of since others do it, it's ok for us. This is my objection to Michael Moore most of the time and certainly my objection to Bush's policies such as torture and imprisoning people without charges. To show we're better we have to be better. Following the same shitty tactics as our opponents is wrong and does more harm than good.

If anything, atheists should be cozying up to the Jews and the moderate christians and muslims since they are against political involvement and encroachments by the fundies. Instead, this comment sets back relations not to mention exhibits poor form.

bbk said...

You've said a whole lot in your post.

How would you react if Dawkins used the term "Israel lobby" instead of "Jew lobby?" Given that Israel is the only Jewish nation in the world, and Jews live in Israel, and Israel has a theocratic and nationalistic government, etc., the two terms are synonymous.

This kind of parsing of hairs is as mind numbing as saying that a white person can't call a black person a "brother" because only black people are allowed to call each other "brothers."

It's a Jewish lobby, whether it's made up of Jews or Christians. There is such a lobby and if you look at what is supported by this lobby, it is not always in the best interest of democracy, peace, economic prosperity, or anything else besides the direct support of Jewish ownership of a piece of land in the middle east. Maybe you could call it an anti-Arab lobby, but both terms seem to be fairly accurate to me.

And even though there are many "atheist Jews" in America who don't lend their support, the typical synagogue does. And even though fundamentalist Christians make up the various pressure groups, many Rabbi are more than willing to appear in front of those congregations to raise money, sell issues, and make allies. IOW it an alliance of both Jewish and Christian organized religion, and it's a very influential alliance.

In my personal experience, I have lived in areas with a large Jewish population and I have seen just how extreme the supposedly non-existing Jewish lobby is. I served in the Marine Corps while Jewish friends I grew up with went to serve in the Israeli military, but none that I knew personally joined the US military. From what I understand, this practice is strongly encouraged by religious Jewish organizations. I don't know of any other group of US citizens who organize themselves to routinely serve in the armed services of another country. I drive by synagogues in the area and oftentimes after a major incident of violence, there are large banners hung on the sides of the buildings imploring people to contribute more aid to Israel. If you just look at the amount of money flowing to Israel from private sources, it's hard to say that it's insignificant in any way.

So my question is really, what part of the Jewish lobby doesn't exist?

The Exterminator said...

bbk:

I'll respond to the following ridiculous assertions you've made:

Given that Israel is the only Jewish nation in the world, and Jews live in Israel, and Israel has a theocratic and nationalistic government, etc., the two terms are synonymous.
Most Jews in the world do not live in Israel, and many Jews do not support Israel. So the two terms -- "Israel" and "Jews" -- are synonymous only to bigots like you.

It's a Jewish lobby, whether it's made up of Jews or Christians.
This follows only if one accepts your statement above, which no reasonable person would.

In my personal experience, I have lived in areas with a large Jewish population and I have seen just how extreme the supposedly non-existing Jewish lobby is. I served in the Marine Corps while Jewish friends I grew up with went to serve in the Israeli military, but none that I knew personally joined the US military. From what I understand, this practice is strongly encouraged by religious Jewish organizations.
Your anecdotal evidence, which you don't support in any way, even with detailed anecdotes, is just a load of anti-Semitic crap. I've known thousands of Jews, some of whom served in the U.S. military, and none of whom served in the Israeli military. So do my anecdotes trump yours, or do yours trump mine, or shall we just drop the homespun stories and turn to real evidence? And when you say "from what I understand" -- I guess you don't understand much. From whom do you get the facts that you claim to understand?

I don't know of any other group of US citizens who organize themselves to routinely serve in the armed services of another country.
In other words, although you don't spell it out, all Jews are anti-American. Right? This is Klan rhetoric, or a red-scare tactic right out of Joe McCarthy's playbook. I suppose you have the names of these anti-American Jews written on a list in your pocket. In any case, if I were you, as steeped in prejudice as you are, I would not base any rational arguments on what you do or don't know. You don't seem to know much.

So my question is really, what part of the Jewish lobby doesn't exist?
The entire part of the Jewish Lobby doesn't exist. It is a mythical construct to satisfy bigots like you.

bbk said...

Exterminator:

Most Westerners of any type or denomination no longer live in their native lands. That's irrelevant. It's understood that not all Catholics are Italian, even though that's where the Pope lives. That doesn't mean that the political interests of the Jewish community in the USA have nothing to do with supporting Israel.

Okay, if I was out raising money to and lobbying for support to send to Poland, you would call me the Polish lobby even though more than half of Poles live outside of Poland. I would not be getting my panties all up in a bunch because you called it the Polish lobby instead of the "Lobby for the interests of the People's Republic of Poland which happens to have a lot of Polish supporters living outside the boundaries of Poland and also includes some Italians and much of the Irish."

The Exterminator said...

bbk:

Your second response still assumes that just because Israelis are (mostly) Jews, Jews consider themselves Israelis. Poles, Italians, the Irish, Czechs, Aussies, you name the nationality -- all of them can refer to a land from which their ancestors came. Jews can't, because they've been dispersed all over the world for thousands of years.

Even when Jews were (sort of) the majority population in that small chunk of the Middle East, there were many Jews who lived elsewhere. And quite a few of them were Hellenized, Latinized, Persian-ized, Arab-ized, or otherwise -ized, and unwilling to consider Judaea their homeland.

Perhaps the modern-day Jews are all descended from the ancient Hebrews; perhaps some of them, or even all of them, are not. In any case, there are plenty of us who do not consider ourselves to be of the Israeli nationality. Hell, I, myself, don't even refer to myself as a Jew most of the time -- except when confronted by someone like you.

For those of us who don't believe that there's a god, much less one who's a real estate broker, Israel is just another foreign country.

Until, of course, the bigots like you, who talk about the "Jew Lobby," spout anti-Israel sentiments. Even those of us who deplore many, maybe even most, of Israel's policies can read your animus against that country -- and the "Jew Lobby" -- for what it is.

bbk said...

Since this is so easy, let's have some more fun looking at the naming conventions for various lobbies.

So, first there is the tobacco lobby. Do they represent smoker's rights, access to health care for treating lung cancer, etc? No, they represent companies who sell tobacco. Might be confusing to people who live on Mars, but that's ok.

Second, there is the environmental lobby. The environmental lobby represents the interests of sea otters. And the environment in general. But heck, you might say, sea otters aren't even people! Why are there people lobbying for the interests of sea otters? Geeze, now we're getting weird.

Third, there is the gun lobby. Here is a lobby representing the best interests of inanimate metallic objects. Right? Completely absurd to call it a gun lobby, isn't it? What else would someone who was born yesterday think, besides that?

So, what this is really about is your inclination to control and frame the debate. You don't like that the Jewish lobby is called the Jewish lobby, so you claim that anyone using the term is an anti-semite or ignorant. Where is the supporting evidence that this is so? Is there evidence that Dawkins is either an anti-semite or ignorant? Is there evidence that ONLY anti-semites use the term "jewish lobby?" Is there evidence that AIPAC doesn't exist, or that Jews don't support it, or that there is an alternative Jewish lobby that is against AIPAC? Well... no. but. Oh, because you said so. Oh I forgot, only your own critics have to substantiate themselves with references to unfalsifiable scientific proofs.

The Exterminator said...

bbk:

Can't you read English?

Here's what you just wrote: So, what this is really about is your inclination to control and frame the debate. You don't like that the Jewish lobby is called the Jewish lobby, so you claim that anyone using the term is an anti-semite or ignorant.

I'm not saying what I would or would not call the Jewish lobby. I'm saying there is no Jewish lobby.

We're done. You may, of course, leave further comments, but I won't respond to any of them.

bbk said...

Let's add something. Israel has one of the world's highest population of Atheists. Yet! AIPAC represents the views of a narrow group of theocratic conservative Jews. Is it right to call them the Israeli lobby? I don't think so, that's an insult to Israeli atheists. Maybe it doesn't represent the views of moderate Jews, but it does represent the far right Jews. So maybe let's agree to call it the Far Right Jewish Lobby. Not very catchy, but okay. Have it your way.

Here is an article from Salon about the "non existent" 2nd most powerful lobby in the USA. It talks about how, even though most Jews in the USA are far to the left of AIPAC, it continues to be the de facto spokesmen for American Jews, and how any criticism of this is met with the bizarre reactions such as yours.

http://www.salon.com/opinion/kamiya/2007/03/20/aipac/

Here is a Common Dreams article about American teenagers going to Israeli military training camps. Included is an account of an American terrorist wanted for murder by mail bomb in California serving in the Israeli military.

http://www.commondreams.org/archive/2007/10/01/4223/

Really, you call yourself a Jew and you claim to have no knowledge of Israeli military recruitment?

Here is an article from the Jerusalem Post discussing the trend of American Jews serving in the Israeli Defense Forces. It's a VERY interesting article. Included is a mention of, guess what, Jewish support for the practice where I grew up. There's your anecdotal evidence for you, backed up with FACT. "In the US, Rabbi Shmuel Kaminetsky, head of the Philadelphia Talmudic Academy, has been more publicly supportive."

http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull&cid=1149572637378

TW said...

Interesting post, and some interesting comments.

Part of me suspects there is a small element of national difference here and Dawkins should have been well travelled enough to be sensitive to the variation in terminology - in that respect he has certainly let himself down. Speaking as a fellow Englishman, I can say that the snippets of American culture we see this side of the ocean certainly conflate the ideas of a "Jewish Lobby" and "Pro-Israel Lobby" to the point most people would be hard pushed to spot the difference - and, if I am honest, less would care. You are quite correct that there is more than mere semantics in the difference, but in every day speech the two terms blend into one. It is laziness, it is wrong, but it happens.

I am somewhat intrigued by Phillychief's comments. Dawkins can be as much or as little of a loose cannon as he likes. Dawkins speaks only for himself and not "Atheists" as a group, so in reality he is not on any high horse to be knocked off. As to "cozying up" to moderate theists - that really is madness and simply a way of saying "My atheism is weaker than your belief so I will concede to you what you wish."

The Exterminator said...

TW:

I don't need to speak for Philly; he does an excellent job for himself. But in case he doesn't see your comment, I'll try to "interpret" for you what I think he meant.

I'm sure that Philly doesn't want to "cozy up" to anyone in the sense that you're using the term. He's not suggesting that we make any concessions whatsoever to the superstitious beliefs of others.He's merely pointing out that there are plenty of moderate religionists in the U.S. who believe strongly in the separation of church and state (a concept that you in the U.K. have yet to formalize in law.) There's no reason, therefore, why we atheists shouldn't make common cause -- if only politically and legally -- with those people, since our aims, for now at least, are essentially the same.

I disagree with you about Dawkins. Yes, we atheists understand that he speaks only for himself. However he has allowed himself to be presented -- "allowed himself" is really too namby-pamby a term; perhaps it should be "sought" -- as a leading spokesperson for atheists worldwide. Whether he enjoys that position or not, he'd be a fool not to recognize that he holds it. So it's crucially important that he not misrepresent the thoughts of atheists in general. In an interview, when he says something to which many atheists may take exception, he should take extra pains to point out that he is not speaking for all of us. His statement about a Jewish Lobby was an unreasoning, ahistorical lapse, and he should be ashamed of himself. Note that I'm not suggesting he offer a photo-op apology. I'm merely asking that he be as scrupulous with historical and political facts as he is with scientific ones. If he's not, how can he present himself as a rationalist?

PhillyChief said...

Dawkins more than anyone else is recognized as a leader or spokesman for atheism by theists and I dare say many atheists (there are fanboys even in atheism) so his comments and actions, like it or not, reflect upon us. Frankly, I think he relishes the position and makes efforts to drive the herd of cats with his "brights", the out campaign and his scarlet "A". So when he says things like this or flies a little fast and loose it hurts.

As for cozying, the Exterminator said what I'd say.

Anonymous said...

You are incorrect about your definition of Jew and Anti-Semitism. A Jew is someone who believes in Hebrew mythology and identifies themselves with the religious group. It is not a race, despite that Hebrew mythology claims that it is. There are jews who are European, Hispanic, Arabic, African, Asian, etc - all different "races".
You incorrectly claim that "Anti-semitism is about genetics". The word "semite" has absolutely nothing to do with genetics, it is a category of language. A Semite is a person of any group of people that speak a semetic language, such as Arabs speaking the semetic language, Arabic.
Catering to this nonsense of whether criticizing the religion of judaism or the racism,extremism or lobbying (AIPAC)of jews is "anti-semitism" is not only irrational, it is prostituting to judaism and jewish agendas.
Your denial of the obvious Jewish lobby (AIPAC)and its impact on US foreign policy only adds to showing that you need to learn more about the truths of this subject.

The Exterminator said...

Anonymous:
If I did want to learn anything further about anti-Semitism -- which I don't -- I would certainly not seek out a teacher whose grasp of history was as shaky as yours.

While Semititic is, in fact, a category of languages, it is also a term for the "racial" background of certain Middle Eastern peoples supposedly descended from Noah's son, Shem: i.e. Jews and Arabs. "Anti-Semitism," however, while perhaps not linguistically accurate when used to denote antipathy only to Jews, is nonetheless common parlance for that very thing: hatred of Jews for reasons other than their religion -- that is, merely because of their birth to parents one or both of whom called themselves "Jews."

If you feel like giving me any more history lessons, or linguistic instruction, or political non-insights, feel free to include them in further comments. But do bear in mind that I'm disinclined to give any credence to the rantings of someone who doesn't even have the balls to identify himself.

www.avila-3d.com said...

It can't work in reality, that is exactly what I suppose.

online pharmacy said...

Richard Dawkins is god?? I am not a religious person, but I think that calling a guy god is a little bit nonsense and I would say that I have to see it first before I believe it!