I want to thank the Dish readers who responded to my recent post on anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism. Yes, even the furious ones. You’ve helped clarify my thoughts on the topic. Below, I respond to several (overlapping) dissents. One reader writes:
Regarding Phoebe’s post “It really doesn’t matter whether or not you agree with the Israeli government’s policies,” I think she and others are misreading the NYT’s letter to the editor, or at least I (and I’m sure the many others to whom this letter is not “jumping out”) read it very differently. I do not read the reference to “patrons” to mean Jews living outside Israel. I read “patrons” to mean countries (obviously, most specifically in this instance the United States). The term “patron” is routinely used in the context of foreign affairs (and in the NYT) to describe one country that provides some kind of support (financial, military, etc.) to another country or entity. This is particularly true in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian/Hamas/Hezbollah conflict. The United States is routinely described as a patron of Israel, and Iran and Syria are routinely described as patrons of Hamas and Hezbollah. Given the context it is far less likely that the writer intended “patrons” to mean Jews or some “nice little loophole” than that the writer was simply using common vernacular to refer to the countries who aid and support Israel and who most certainly do have influence over the Israeli government.
These angles of the issue should really be addressed in a post like this on the Dish. While there should not be any connection between anti-semitism against Jews (whether in the U.S., Europe, or anywhere) and the Israeli government’s policies, it is a simple fact that there is a connection. Does Phoebe contend that there is not a connection between Israel’s policies and anti-semitism? (which, again, is plainly a different question from whether there should be a connection). And, if there is a connection then what exactly is objectionable in the writer’s paragraph about Israel’s patrons if “patrons” is read to mean the United States and other Western governments, as that term is widely used in foreign affairs?
I’ll address the second paragraph later, but first, the first: I agree that “patrons” is ambiguous, and that it’s entirely possible that Bruce Shipman meant countries (or just the US), not global Jewry. Indeed, the most charitable explanation I can come up with, reading, rereading, and rereading the letter some more, is that, by “patrons,” he meant the US government. If that was what he meant, though, he might have said so, and not relied on highly sophisticated readers catching the foreign-policy jargon. There would have been a clear way to indicate exactly which parties he was holding accountable, and he opted against. What reads to me, and to some other Jews, as a dog whistle doesn’t read that way to all. That’s… the trouble with dog whistles. Either you hear it or you don’t. As it stands, he used roundabout language that leaves very much open the possibility that he means Jews. After all, as another reader points out, many Jews do patronize Israel: