03 May 2016

Open letter to Mike Sivier

In response to the previous post, Mike Sivier - the discoverer of Norman Finkelstein (or just because he planned to do so), Mike penned a new article, titled This revelation could throw the whole ‘anti-Semitism’ row into reverse. In this post, among other things, Mike drilled deeper into the mystery of the offending picture and discovered that... here I shall let the author speak for himself:

Vox Political can reveal today the origin of that image – the picture of Israel superimposed into the American Midwest that caused so much fuss last week, and This Writer can categorically state:

It is not anti-Semitic.

It was a reaction against proposals to forcibly relocate Palestinians from their homes in the West Bank, Gaza, or anywhere else claimed by the Israeli state, moving them into Jordan or even Saudi Arabia.

It was created for an article on a website called Redress Online [link removed], dated August 4, 2014. The site describes itself as “an independent, privately-funded, non-profit-making website dedicated to exposing injustice, disinformation and bigotry, and to providing thought-provoking interpretations of current affairs…
The site describes itself as it describes itself, as do many other similar sites. Should an experienced journalist take this description seriously without applying a bit of common sense? Because the picture, which Mike Sivier previously attributed to Norman Finkelstein is now attributed to the author of the Redress Online article. Take a deep breath - it is Gilad Atzmon.

I am not at all sure I understand now what kind of point Mike has intended to make, bringing up Atzmon to defend Finkelstein, but as a matter of common courtesy I have to respond. So:

Hi Mike,

Thanks for troubling yourself to respond. I shall try to answer your salient points one by one, instead of leveling general accusations that could hardly be addressed.

There is an interesting point to mention: your habit of putting the word “anti-Semitism” between quotation marks. The reason I find it interesting is that you've decided to be the judge of what is offensive or, in this case, anti-Semitic. Why don't you leave it to the target of the offense, namely Jews, to decide what is offensive to them? I remember reading about one of the leaders of African-American movement in US, who said that it is up to black people to decide what is offensive to black people. This should be something for all of us to think about, shouldn't it?

So, going back to the offensive picture, which you proclaim to be not anti-Semitic at all. First of all, again - the fact that somebody else has drawn it doesn't make it less offensive. Ms Shah doesn't get a get-out-of jail card for this reason. You are saying:
It seems clear he was saying there’s a world of difference between passing around a tongue-in-cheek image and actually going through with the action it suggested...
Indeed, there is a world of difference: the former is an act of anti-Semitism, as perceived by lots of people who viewed the picture and the latter is an act of ethnic cleansing. I can assure you than neither yours truly nor lots of people who have seen the picture are aware of its tongue-in-cheek background. It was, just as the taken out of context quote from MLK in that other picture you have used to defend Ms Shah, perceived by one and all as extremely offensive and yes, although I hate to use this word too frequently, very anti-Semitic.

Now to another point you made:
If Simply Jews knows of Atzmon, then it seems likely the site would have known of the Redress Online piece, but not one word about it is mentioned. Why not?
Sorry, Mike, I and many other people know about both Finkelstein and Atzmon, but not to the tune of following their copious writings on all sites all the time. The idea that I should know about every crappy publication like that is, frankly, a bit over the top. Believe it or not, I have a life.

To the next point:
Vox Political articles are often opinions – but always based on the facts available. That is where This Blog and Simply Jews part company, it seems.
If you indeed assign such weight to the facts, how come you are quoting statements from Atzmon without any shadow of criticism or a check with other source? Stuff like this:
The article itself states: “Israelis and other Zionists often call for a resolution of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict based on the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, namely, their “transfer” to Jordan or even Saudi Arabia.
You might really want to check this and, hopefully, not with Gilad Atzmon, Mike. Yep, there is a fringe group of right wing Israelis (I really don't know what is meant by "other Zionists") that might express such desires, but the all-embracing statement like the quoted could have been born only in the Jew-hating brain of Atzmon, that for sure.
This Writer was alerted on Twitter to an article about me on a site calling itself Simply Jews. It seems to be mostly a character assassination of Norman Finkelstein and the author of the Redress Online piece, one Gilad Atzmon, who is mentioned as having reblogged my article.
I disagree with your description of my post, Mike. Its main points were two, although not highlighted in any way, but I shall repeat them here:
You see, Mike, the map that calls for ethnic cleansing is offensive and racist, no matter who produced it. This is the first and the main point. And if someone else (Ms Shah in our case) publishes it again, it doesn't become less racist or less offensive. Which is the second point.
As for your reference to so called character assassination of Finkelstein and Atzmon: I really don't know much about you, and I am in a quandary here. So please help me out: could it be that you, a journalist, don't know anything about these two characters? If you do and still persist with the statement that what I said about them is a character assassination, I might have wasted my time. I offered you a link on Finkelstein in the previous post if you really need to get some info, and here is another link with some stuff about Atzmon. There is a lot more on the 'net, if you would only care...