Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Oberlin College Controversy

There is an intense controversy going on at Oberlin College concerning BDS, those for, those against, with some flagrant anti-Semites contributing their bit to all involved — not merely that Jews knew in advance about 9/11 (since, after all, everyone knows *that*) but, moreover, that the World Trade Center was brought down not by al Qaeda but by, you got it, the Mossad.


Got to say I love that kind of innovative, ultra–imaginative brand of anti-Semitism. We should keep it around, when, if ever, it's no longer potent in the wild, much as we preserve a sample or two of Smallpox, for purposes of study.

But back to the Oberlin controversy: the best and most suggestive commentary on it that I know is by Hades Binyamin, "How Both Sides of BDS Debate Get Oberlin Anti-Semitism Wrong."

She writes:

"Anti-BDS alumni and pro-BDS campus activists both derail efforts to combat anti-Semitism by focusing this conversation around Israel. Through their polemics, they reinforce the myth that Israel is the only point around which American Jewish identity can be expressed and debated."

What a wise observation.

I'll try to add on to it to say saying that Jews here and, say, in France, England etc, have lost a primal sort of instinct for self-preservation and self-defense. Have off-loaded that element to Israel.

It might be useful for me to back off from Oberlin enough to say that I'm a Zionist, in the sense that I absolutely believe in Israel's right to exist. But Zionism, in that strict sense, is not, as should be obvious, the answer to all our problems. Israel can't protect Jews whenever bad things happen here, in France, England, wherever.

For those of us in the quote unquote Diaspora it's as if Zionism has left the station and here we are, dumbfounded.

I say quote unquote Diaspora because I don't think of Israel as anything other than an aspect of ongoing Jewish dispersion, a very special aspect, to be sure, the part with a state, of a special dispersion.

That said, there is a sense is in which Israel is a distraction, for those of us caught up in this unusual dispersion.

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