Friday, December 17, 2010

The Simon Wiesenthal Center and the year's Top 10 Anti Semitic Slurs

The Simon Wiesenthal Center, attempting to capitalize on antisemitism and win a little publicity for itself, has published a list of the Top 10 Antisemitic Slurs of 2010. Though there's something vulgar about reducing Jew-hatred to a top 10 list, I know how the world works, and understand that this is an effective way to raise awareness. It's not the Wiesenthal Center's fault that the world responds best to silly lists, and bite-sized commentary. Also, there's nothing wrong with horn-blowing. I fully support the Wiesenthal Center's efforts to sell themselves, and their important mission.

Unfortunately, I do have to quibble about the contents of the list. Many of the quotes are indeed awful, and the speakers are exhibiting base Jew hatred, but others of these supposedly antisemitic statements don't sound especially awful to me. Take for example, the complaint offered by Christina Patterson in the Independent about her Hasidic neighbors (#9 on the Center's list of slurs):
I would like to teach some of my neighbours some manners... I don't care if they wear frock-coats, and funny suits and hats covered in plastic bags, and insist on wearing their hair in ringlets (if they're male) or covered up by wigs (if they're female), but I do think they could treat their neighbours with a bit more courtesy and just a little bit more respect.... I didn't realise that goyim were about as welcome in the Hasidic Jewish shops as Martin Luther King at a Klu Klux Klan convention. I didn't realise that a purchase by a goy was a crime to be punished with monosyllabic terseness, or that bus seats were a potential source of contamination, or that road signs, and parking restrictions, were for people who hadn't been chosen by God. And while none of this is a source of anything much more than irritation... it makes me sad.
Is this antisemitic, or is it an altogether accurate portrait of life in places like Monsey and Boro Park. (The article has many more examples of shabby hasidic behavior) Haven't we all see the sort of behavior the article describes? So why is it antisemitic to identify and complain about it? Moreover, the article isn't only about Jews. It concludes with parallel complaints about the Muslim community, with the angriest language reserved for female circumcision (that makes her much more than "sad") Aside for the comments about Britain's abdication of responsibility in allowing British schools girls to have their "labias hacked off", Patterson's message is simply that all people should be better behaved and less dismissive of each other. Who disagrees with that?

Later today, I hope to have something to say about some of the other  borderline examples of antisemitism that made the Wiesenthal Center's list.

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