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101 of 120 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Politics of Crying Wolf
"There's no more explosive topic in American public life today than the issue of Israel, its treatment of the Palestinians and its influence on American politics. Yet the topic is one that is so hedged with anxiety, fury and fear that honest discussion is often impossible."
--Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair
There has been a concerted effort in the...
Published on 7 Nov. 2003 by Amigo Paulo

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8 of 72 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Unpleasant
If you want justification for criticism of Israel and reassurance that it isn't wrong to do so then you MUST buy this book.

But why should anyone need reassurance...?

This book would be immeasurably improved if a single contributor could find the empathy to acknowledge that the vast majority of Jews today express their Judaism in diverse ways with a...
Published on 30 Oct. 2006 by Simon Myerson


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101 of 120 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Politics of Crying Wolf, 7 Nov. 2003
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This review is from: The Politics of Anti-Semitism (Paperback)
"There's no more explosive topic in American public life today than the issue of Israel, its treatment of the Palestinians and its influence on American politics. Yet the topic is one that is so hedged with anxiety, fury and fear that honest discussion is often impossible."
--Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair
There has been a concerted effort in the United States to block critical debate about what is happening in Israel-Palestine, and a pervasive last-ditch attempt to stifle criticism of Israel by smearing those who dare to raise their voices. This book is a collection of articles dealing with the means that the insidious slur of "anti-Semitism" has been used for political ends. The articles range from a philosophical examination of the term "anti-Semitism" to a survey of the topics that are not covered in US discourse because of self-censorship induced by fear, fear of being labeled an anti-Semite or fear of being targeted by pro-Israeli groups. The consequences of this are evident for all to see: an uncritical acceptance of interminable US wars, the generalized misery of the Palestinian people, bloated armaments budgets, and massive US resources siphoned off to Israel. To break the silence and allay fear over these topics requires critical appraisal of what anti-Semitism actually means and to tackle the taboo that it represents.
The philosopher Michael Neumann analyzes the term, discussing alternative definitions and examining the implications of these alternatives. Making the definition too broad cheapens the term, creating its own problems, while if the definition is too narrow, the accusation loses its political significance. Neumann points out: "... there is a choice to be made. You can use anti-Semitism to fit your political agenda, or you can use it as a term of condemnation, but you cannot do both." This is a superlative discussion, with important lessons for all.
Scott Handleman criticizes the way "anti-Semitism" has been portrayed in recent books, that is, the claim that anti-Semitism is something evil out there, irrational, and the responsibility of others. He offers an alternative appraisal of anti-Semitism by suggesting that the responsibility of its victim should also be taken into account. Again, this is an important discussion to place the various sanctimonious books on the topic into perspective.
There are several Israeli perspectives on the issue, including an important one by Uri Avnery. Avnery points out several Zionist myths and discusses how Israeli actions contradict those myths. Whereas Zionists claimed that Israel was needed as a refuge from anti-Semitism, the contradiction has arisen that Israel's policies are actually causing much anti-Semitism. "For Jews, this creates a dangerous vicious circle. Sharon's actions create revulsion and opposition throughout the world. These reinforce anti-Semitism. Faced with this danger, Jewish organizations are pushed into defending Israel and giving it unqualified support. This support enables the anti-Semites to attack not only the government of Israel but the local Jews, too." Avnery also makes the important point that Zionists should consider the implications of their actions taking into account that their project may go awry.
The self-censorship also affects people from whom one would not otherwise have expected it. Jeffrey Blankfort catalogs the unwillingness of many left activist groups to take a stance critical of Israel. He provides a series of amazing examples: the organizers of demonstrations against the US-Iraq war and their unwillingness to take a critical stance vis-à-vis Israel; unions barely willing to utter the word Israel in their literature or posters, and relegating a mildly critical comment about the condition of the Palestinians to the backside of a poster! For a critical assessment of the anti-war movement and what passes for domestic opposition to the neo-imperial US role, it is important to read this essay. It suggests that, for these resistance movements to be effective, they need to have a critical view of Israel. Unfortunately, such groups are reticent about starting this debate.
Kathy and Bill Christison offer an amazing overview of the power and influence of the neocons. They show that these rightwing zealots are inextricably bonded with Israel. However, it is surprising that questioning the loyalty of such policymakers is suppressed in the media discourse. In many cases, the neocons demonstrate clear contradictions between their "Israel first" proclivities and their presumed loyalty to the United States - the country currently employing them.
This book is important for all those concerned with peace and justice in the Middle East, and those wanting to change the US foreign policy agenda. It is also important for those seeking to understand the American political system and find ways of influencing it. The book addresses an issue that has caused much anxiety in the past. A discussion of "anti-Semitism" is important, to undo the pernicious political effects of its usage as a slur; the book also provides a basis for countering the slur. Finally, the book also surveys a range of important taboo topics in American discourse. Knowing what issues are sensitive, and why, should spur an opening up of the debate -- perhaps the greatest value of this book. The supporters of Israel may also want to read the book because it highlights an unintended effect of their attempts to block debate. That is, overuse of the anti-Semitic slur has devalued the coin, reducing its worth to that of crying wolf.
Many of the essays in this book have appeared on the CounterPunch website - an important online magazine which is edited by the editors of this book. Cockburn, St. Clair and the other authors must be commended for addressing this important topic with this collection of excellent essays. Unfortunately, criticism of Israel is still a taboo topic, and the first ones to raise questions will probably attract a significant amount of abuse. One must remember this when appreciating the courage of those who have produced this important book.
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8 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Crying Wolf, 27 July 2010
By 
S Wood (Scotland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Politics of Anti-Semitism (Paperback)
I've lost count of the amount of times I've been accused of being an anti-Semite when debating the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. It is the standard issue response so called "supporters" of Israel, no matter what, use against arguments and facts that are for them disturbing. There is some variety in how the abuse is delivered, ranging from it "pains me to say but my gut feeling is you are anti-Semitic" to the more frothy mouthed Zionists who accuse you of desiring a second holocaust, and wishing to drive every Israeli Jew into the Med without so much as a pair of water wings between them. The purpose is always the same: to head off legitimate criticism.

The charge of "anti-Semitism" relies on falsely conflating being Jewish with being Zionist in order to link the actions of Israel with a whole race and religion. Once that fallacious premise is accepted the illogical becomes "logical" (ie. legitimate criticism of the Israeli state becomes illegitimate criticism of Jewish people everywhere). That this tactic in actual fact devalues the horrors of centuries of real anti-Semitism including the monstrous, murderous barbarities of Nazi holocaust is of no concern, as long as the "supporters" of Israel can intimidate, marginalize, smear and defame those who are speaking in a rational and moral manner about the brutal realities of Israeli policies in annexed Golan and East Jerusalem, the occupied West Bank, and blockaded Gaza. There is something morally repugnant about this abuse of past suffering of Jews in order to dismiss those who speak up about the current suffering of Palestinians.

Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair of CounterPunch are the editors of "The Politics of Anti-Semitism": a collection of essays and short pieces that deal with this phenomenon from a variety of points of view. Aptly enough the editors, with long years of service with CounterPunch, contribute a couple of pugnacious pieces; Cockburn dealing with his experience in the U.S. entitled "My Life as an `Anti-Semite'" and St. Clair, in one of number of the pieces that stray from the main topic, with an account of the Israeli attack on the USS Liberty in the early stages of the June 1967 war (people within the Navy who tried to get to the truth of the Israeli attack were labelled anti-Semites, as was the library built as a memorial to the 34 dead sailors).

Other highlights include Edward Said's concluding essay, a robust and principled re-stating of the Palestinian question; Economics professor M.Shalid Alim's account of his experiences writing and speaking critically of Israel in the US; the journalist and former Knesset member Uri Avnery's piece "Manufacturing Anti-Semites"; and not just for its title Robert Fisk's "Why Does John Malkovich Want To Kill Me?". On the down side Kurt Nimmo's "Poetry as Treason?" with it's defence of Amiri Baraka pernicious and pathetic poem on 9/11 is a waste of space; and Jeffrey Blankfort's "The Israeli Lobby and the Left" makes some valid points, not least in his criticism of Noam Chomsky's view of the lobbies influence as being marginal, but he does labour the point somewhat.

"The Politics of Anti-Semitism" is a reasonable introduction into the insidious abuse of the term "Anti-Semite" in debates that effect Israel. As with all such collections the quality is mixed, though many of the pieces are of a high quality and offer an introduction to a number of writers such as Norman Finkelstein and Edward Said who have written impressively on the subject; and even with a couple of disappointing contributions it is a book that is worth reading.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Lifting the embargo..., 2 Jun. 2014
By 
John P. Jones III (Albuquerque, NM, USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Politics of Anti-Semitism (Paperback)
Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair has assembled this collection of 18 essays for the purpose of "lifting the embargo" on the discussion of the manner in which the casual charge of "Anti-Semitism" is used to deflect legitimate criticism of Israel in particular, and the Zionist enterprise in general. (Interestingly, my Microsoft spell checker indicates a misspelling unless I capitalize A-S). I've previously read some of the authors, such as Uri Avnery, Robert Fisk, Norman Finkelstein and Edward Said. Each has demonstrated strong moral character in addressing the immense wrongs that have been inflicted on the Palestinians by the State of Israeli, and its Jewish supporters, primarily in the United States. As for the other authors, it was a first-time experience. Overall the collection was nominally tied together by the title's theme, but the quality, perhaps of necessity, is variable. The collection was issued in 2003, as the neo-cons had finally achieved a cherished goal: using the 9-11 attacks as a pretext for invading Iraq.

The first essay is by Michael Neumann, who raises numerous "taboo" issues, including the most fundamental: Is Jewish identity fundamentally religious, racial, or a `cultural entity'? He addresses overall Jewish complicity in Israel's crimes against the Palestinians. In Cockburn's essay, I found an aside, concerning the application of moral standards, informative, and it had nothing to do with Israel. Billy Graham had apparently given his imprimatur to the killing of a million Vietnamese by bombing the dikes in northern Vietnam; for bombing the dikes in Holland in World War II, the German high commissioner in Holland, Seyss-Inquart, was sentenced to death at Nuremberg.

St. Clair's essay on the Israeli attack on the American warship, USS Liberty, in 1967, which left 34 US sailors dead, and 174 wounded, needs to be read by every American, particularly those who have a predilection for wearing the flag in their lapel. The actual attack was one horrendous crime, but the efforts to cover it up within the United States were at least a magnitude worse. As St. Clair says: "For the first time in history, an attack on an American ship was not subjected to a public investigation by Congress." From the highest level, to the smallest, far more than normal human pathos was operative: "When a small town in Wisconsin decided to name its library in honor of the USS Liberty crewmen, a campaign claiming it was anti-Semitic was launched... and when the town went ahead, the U.S. government ordered no Navy personnel to attend, and sent no messages."

Norman Finkelstein, who lost almost his entire family in the Holocaust, has been a long-standing critic of the misuse of Jewish suffering to support Jewish wrong-doing, in particular against the Palestinians. His book, The Holocaust Industry: Reflections on the Exploitation of Jewish Suffering is an essential read. In his essay, "Counterfeit Courage," which is in this collection, he concludes by addressing the German people: "The challenge in Germany today is to defend the memory of the Nazi holocaust and to condemn its abuse by American Jewish elites; to defend Jews from malice and to condemn their overwhelmingly blind support for Israel's brutal occupation. But to do this requires real moral courage- not the operatic kind that politically correct Germans so love.

Much is this book is imminently quotable. The 1-star reviews underscore the importance of lifting the embargo. 4-stars.
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8 of 72 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Unpleasant, 30 Oct. 2006
This review is from: The Politics of Anti-Semitism (Paperback)
If you want justification for criticism of Israel and reassurance that it isn't wrong to do so then you MUST buy this book.

But why should anyone need reassurance...?

This book would be immeasurably improved if a single contributor could find the empathy to acknowledge that the vast majority of Jews today express their Judaism in diverse ways with a common demoninator - Zionism. With that in mind an attack on Israel is an attack on Jews.

It should be obvious that there is a distinction between Judaism and Israel - and an attack on one is not an attack on the other. So, hey presto, no anti-semitism here! But that's just a cheap confidence trick.

The real issue is that, uncomfortable for these authors as it might be, there is little distinction between JEWS and Israel. And, if you accept as most people of goodwill do these days, that the oppressed define their own oppression, then an attack on one is an attack on the other. This book doesn't even acknowledge the argument. It's creepy.

PS - the other reviewer refers to the lack of "loyalty" of citizens of the US who support Israel but who aren't Israeli. That should tell you everything you need to know... Jews as 5th columnists/rootless cosmopolitans. That stuff is old - and dangerous.
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The Politics of Anti-Semitism
The Politics of Anti-Semitism by Jeffrey St. Clair (Paperback - 11 Jan. 2003)
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