Friday, July 30, 2021

  • Friday, July 30, 2021
  • Elder of Ziyon
The Jerusalem Post reports:
US President Joe Biden decided to nominate Deborah Lipstadt as the next US Ambassador to Combat and Monitor Antisemitism.

Lipstadt, Professor of Modern Jewish History and Holocaust Studies at Emory University, was the founding director of the Institute for Jewish Studies.

She is currently on the boards of The Jewish Forward Advisory Committee and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee and serves as a judge for the Rohr Prize in Jewish Literature.  During the Bill Clinton administration, she served in several roles at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
She is an author of eight books, including The Eichmann Trial; Holocaust: An American Understanding; Antisemitism: Here and Now; and Beyond Belief: The American Press and the Coming of the Holocaust, 1933–1945.
By any measure, Professor Lipstadt is an expert on antisemitism. 

The most important question is whether she agrees that much of modern antisemitism is manifested as anti-Zionism - and on that point, she seems unequivocal. In her 2019 book, "Antisemitism: Here and Now," she wrote, “The negation of Jewish nationhood is a form of anti-Semitism, if not in intent, then certainly in effect.” 

In a New Yorker interview about the book, Lipstadt seems to shy away from any definition of antisemitism as being incomplete:

I know it when I see it. Now, that’s not a sufficient definition, but it’s that way with anti-Semitism. I know it when I see it because these are the elements that are there—something to do with money, something to do with finance, that Jews will do anything and everything, irrespective of whom it harms or displaces or burdens. Both the right and the left share those kinds of stereotypes.
In a Haaretz article, Lipstadt seems to criticize the IHRA working definition of antisemitism - but not for the reasons the anti-Israel crowd does. She seems to believe that is doesn't do enough to describe right-wing antisemitism adequately:

Leading Holocaust scholar Prof. Deborah Lipstadt agrees that if you look at the IHRA definition, “you won’t find right-wing antisemitism there: you won’t find Pittsburgh there; you won’t find Poway there; you won’t find Halle, Germany, there; you won’t find what we saw from some of the groups on January 6 at the Capitol there.”
Clearly, the IHRA working definition includes the beliefs of right-wing antisemites: how Jews are too powerful, how they conspire to control non-Jews, government and the media, how all Jews are responsible for the actions of some, denying or minimizing the Holocaust.

So I believe that Lipstadt is saying that the IHRA definition and examples are incomplete, not that they are wrong - that there were some specific aspects of the antisemitism that animated Pittsburgh and Poway that are not covered by the IHRA definition.

On that point I happen to agree - whenever a definition requires examples it will always be incomplete. That is why I wrote my own definition that is meant to be complete and not dependent on examples. 

I would love to hear her critique of mine! 

Lipstadt also wants to distinguish between antisemitism that springs from deeply held beliefs and the idiots who mindlessly adopt BDS:

 I spent a lot of time on different campuses, and there are B.D.S. supporters who can’t find Israel on a map. There are B.D.S. supporters who think that, just like their parents’ or their grandparents’ generation fought apartheid with boycotts and sanctions, this is a way of improving life for a group of people that they see as oppressed and as suffering.

But I do think that the B.D.S. movement, at its heart—when you see what is really behind it, and the people who have organized it—is intent on the destruction of the State of Israel. If you look at the founding documents of the groups that first proposed B.D.S., they called for a full right of return, and, essentially, in practical terms, they’re calling for the destruction of the State of Israel. I think the ultimate objective of B.D.S. is not B.D.S. itself. If that were the case, we would all have to give up our iPhones, because so much of that technology is created in Israel. I think the objective of B.D.S., and especially the people who are the main organizers and supporters, is to make anything that comes out of Israel toxic, and I think they have had some success. So I see that, but I do not think that any kid who supports B.D.S. is ipso facto an anti-Semite. I think that’s wrong. It’s a mistake. And it’s not helpful.
Her political positions towards Israel are pretty much in line with the traditional Democratic mainstream pre-Squad.

I think the continued holding of the West Bank is problematic, because if you’re going to have a democratic state then you can’t have a whole population within that state who are not full-fledged citizens and don’t have the right to vote. It’s a time bomb.

You can criticize Israeli policies. I often say, “If you want to read criticism of Israeli policies, just start your day by going to—you’ll read criticism of Israeli policies from A to Z.” That’s not anti-Semitism. And I do think there are many Jews—particularly living outside of Israel, but also many in Israel—who mix that up and who, as soon as someone criticizes those policies, tend to fall back on “That’s anti-Semitism.” I think that’s dangerous, because it diminishes real anti-Semitism. And it’s just wrong.
In fact she describes herself as "center-left."

But when asked if Israel is guilty of apartheid or colonialism, she is unequivocal:
Colonialism is when a major country or entity — Great Britain or France or whatever it might be — comes and takes over your country. What great entity were these bedraggled Zionists, these Russian Jews who were the early pioneers — what great entity were they representing? They were dying of malaria and trying to eke out a living.

So criticize but criticize accurately. Don't take other contexts and put them on this issue.

Apartheid was created so that the black South Africans could keep a small group of white South Africans rich. That's not the case here. Here there's a fight over a piece of land. It's a different kind of fight.

Lipstadt readily criticizes antisemitism from the Left (and from Muslims) as from the Right. She agrees that being anti-Israel, in the sense of wanting to end the Jewish state, is antisemitic. She is against politicizing antisemitism and the Holocaust for any reason. She is intellectually honest. She knows her stuff.

I may disagree with her political positions on Israel, but I don't sense that they would color any of her job responsibilities. Deborah Lipstadt is as good a choice for this position as we can hope for.

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