Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Paul Berman on Tariq Ramadan: Part 7

(Image from Wikipedia)

Paul Berman spends some seven pages (29-35) discussing Tariq Ramadan's complicated views on Jewish intellectuals who supposedly put their ethnicity above universal principles -- the old and mildly antisemitic charge of dual loyalties -- an accusation that only turned in ironic embarrassment back upon Ramadan when some of those objects of his supposedly j'accuse ire turned out to be not Jewish, e.g., André Taguieff:
Taguieff's was the first name to come under Ramadan's attack. Taguieff is the principal historian of racism in France today, and, as it happens, he is not Jewish -- a mistake on Ramadan's part. ("The Islamist, the Journalist, and the Defense of Liberalism," page 32)
At its most innocuous, this mistake betrays evidence of Ramadan's sloppy scholarship. Less innocuous would be the possibility that it expresses something more widespread than careless research.

Berman therefore spends nine more pages (32-40) outlining the way in which antisemitism, antizionism, leftist politics, and Islamist movements have conjoined to produce the strange sort of left that we see today, not the old, harder left of socialist certainties and materialist analyses, a left that knew religion as the opiate of the masses and that despised fascist tendencies even where it only imagined them, but a soft left with multicultural beliefs in the goodness inherent to (almost) all cultures and with easy alliances of the heart to any who proclaimed themselves spokesmen (usually men) for the oppressed. That included hardcore Islamist groups.

Such is my summary.

Berman's analysis is a bit more nuanced, but you get a general picture of how the left moved from antifascist condemnation of antisemitism to an alignment bound so tightly to antisemitic Islamist groups that a milder salafi reformist such as Tariq Ramadan can speak in a way that sounds vaguely leftist and yet almost not even antisemitic at all by contrast with today's 'leftist' conspiracy theories about the role of Jews in the world.

I suppose that there's more to say about this, but anyone who hasn't noticed this shift on the left either is not very old or hasn't been paying much attention.

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At 9:47 AM, Blogger Hathor said...

Who do you define as the left. Is it at an extreme?

At 9:55 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

I'm not sure how small this left is. Some of the antiwar marches have been rather large, and one sees from the banners and signs a confluence of leftists and Islamists, among other factions.

That's not very scientific as a sampling, and is merely anecdotal, I admit. But I can't ignore the shift in the left's orientation over the past 30 years.

Berman does a better job at this than my summary does.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 11:45 AM, Blogger Hathor said...

I don't think all that are involved in antiwar marches are aligned with the Islamist. I think that some think the war in Iraq is reminiscent of Vietnam.
I never saw the distinction between the right or left kooks that were into conspiracy theories about Jews. You grew up in the south a little later than I.

At 12:12 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

"I don't think all that are involved in antiwar marches are aligned with the Islamist."

I agree with you, and some on the left, such as Berman himself, think that the left's alliance with Islamist groups is a disaster for the left since on nearly every social issue, the left and the Islamists are at odds.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 11:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I see what Jeffery is talking about amongst my North American and European left-leaning friends and acquaintances. The Palestinian plight is a pet cause for leftists on both sides of the Atlantic while US right-wing conservatives are staunchly pro-Israel. The brains behind laying the groundwork for the invasion of Iraq, Paul Wolfowitz, has a Jewish background as do some other key leaders, and this has been noted in some online discussions.

I wouldn't say that US leftists are "aligned with Islamists," but I would say there is a strong anti-Israeli sentiment that is extended to the world's Jews. For example, I recently received an email from an Israeli friend living in Scotland. It was a chain letter accusing the British ministry of education of bowing to pressure from Muslims and scrapping the teaching of the Holocaust from the national curriculum. I discovered through googling that the chain letter is an urban myth. British teachers in cities with large Muslim populations have had trouble with Holocaust deniers in classes, but there is no movement to abolish the teaching of the Holocaust. A friend of my Israeli friend emailed everyone back with what amounted to a vicious red herring attack on Israel and on Jews who, in his view, exploit the Holocaust for political and personal gain. I was shocked and sent him and my friend a strongly worded response. It's just one person, one anecdote, but this man is a barrister in Scotland, not some neo-Nazi.

One can be critical of Israel without being anti-Semitic. I am. However, strong negative feelings about Israel can, it seems, foment negative feelings about Jews as a group, or perhaps provide justification for anti-Semitism that would exist anyway even if there were an independent Palestinian state.

At 4:11 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

My experience over the years has been that the left has moved from an earlier identification with Israel -- recall the romance of the kibbutz, young European socialists heading to kibbutzes for a communal experience even up into the 70s -- to an almost total identification with the Palestinians, who have themselves moved from a secular movement under the PLO/Fatah toward an ever more Islamist orientation, such as one sees with Hamas (which is currently taking over in Gaza).

Islamist antisemitism -- which sounds ironic, given the Arab ethnicity of many Islamists but which we'll take in its meaning as hatred of Jews -- has been paralleled on the left by an emphasis upon the Jewish ethnicity of some Neoconservatives, the implication being that their Jewishness determined their political views, all of which were supposedly aimed at achieving Israeli foreign policy.

When a common leftist analysis is that Neoconservative Jews are manipulating American foreign policy in the interests of Israel, the parallel to Islamist conspiracy theories about the Jews (or even to longstanding, extreme rightwing antisemitic views) is ever more noticeable.

One can, of course, be critical of Israel's policies without being antisemitic, and I have criticized Israel at times. Many Israelis are critical of their state's policies, for that matter, and they're hardly antisemitic.

As for a leftist alliance with Islamists ... well, that depends on what one means. Leftists and Islamists appear in the same marches, which wouldn't prove anything, of course, but when the rhetoric parallels so closely, one begins to wonder. The alliance is one in progress, I suspect, as the left's support for Palestinians has gradually transformed into an effective alliance with Islamist groups even when the left refuses to see this fact.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 5:13 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I seem more in agreeance with sonagi here. I fully appreciate I do not realize the path that sonagi travelled to come to these conclusions.

I myself shifted continuously. While I agree with Jeffery's general opinion as to the left's outward "appearings", he seems to indicate that there is some room for adjustment in thinking, or perhaps "deriving conclusions."

In a purely nationalistic sense, one finds oneself becoming part of either a movement or a consensus. As an individual however: it is, as Jeffery seems to note, not necessary to agree with a consensus view.

It is possible for me at least, to recognize the incongruities of the Israeli official line while at the same time both recognizing and appreciating the Palestinian (seemingly general) view.

In doing so, it is not necessary for me to locate myself within either the Left nor the Right camps. Whether one takes an active role in a march does not indicate one's view.


At 5:18 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I left out what I meant to be the concluding sentence of my third paragraph. (Editing myself of course)

"And dangerous to do so."

At 5:31 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Thanks, JK, for the comment. I agree that taking part in a march doesn't add up to much. I've been in marches in Berkeley (e.g., anti-apartheid) that included political groups that I wouldn't identify myself with.

But the tendency that I see goes beyond this sort of thing. I've posted a bit on this today, in part 8 -- something of a detour, I suppose...

Jeffery Hodges

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At 7:41 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually Jeff,

I rather (sort of) expected, given the extent and expressive comments I've read, to see something of the sort.

I take heed of gypsy as you may know. I've just been busy. It's not to just you I proffer thanks to, for my greater understanding.


At 7:47 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Well, I've learned a lot by blogging because I've been compelled to look for the details to things that I've seen developing over the years.

Thank Gore for the internet!

(Just kidding ... about Gore, I mean.)

Jeffery Hodges

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At 9:17 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I seem to recall a fellow averse to his name being googled using that same, "thanks be to Gore."


At 9:33 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Use a different Al-Gore-Rhythm.

Not that he's got any.

Jeffery Hodges

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