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Above email address currently deprecated! Use gary underscore farber at yahoodotcom, pliz! Sanely free of McCarthyite calling anyone a traitor since 2001!
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I've a long record in editorial work in book and magazine publishing, starting 1974, a variety of other work experience, but have been, since 2001, recurringly housebound with insanely painful sporadic and unpredictably variable gout and edema, and in the past, other ailments; the future? The Great Unknown: isn't it for all of us?
I'm currently house/cat-sitting, not on any government aid yet (or mostly ever), often in major chronic pain from gout and edema, which variably can leave me unable to walk, including just standing, but sometimes is better, and is freaking unpredictable at present; I also have major chronic depression and anxiety disorders; I'm currently supported mostly by your blog donations/subscriptions; you can help me. I prefer to spread out the load, and lessen it from the few who have been doing more than their fair share for too long.
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"The brain is wider than the sky, For, put them side by side,
The one the other will include With ease, and you beside"
-- Emily Dickinson
"We will pursue peace as if there is no terrorism and fight terrorism as if there is no peace."
-- Yitzhak Rabin
"I have thought it my duty to exhibit things as they are, not as they ought to be."
-- Alexander Hamilton
"The stakes are too high for government to be a spectator sport."
-- Barbara Jordan
"Under democracy, one party always devotes its chief energies to
trying to prove that the other party is unfit to rule --
and both commonly succeed, and are right."
-- H. L. Mencken
"Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom.
It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves."
-- William Pitt
"The only completely consistent people are the dead."
-- Aldous Huxley
"I have had my solutions for a long time; but I do not yet know how I am to arrive at them."
-- Karl F. Gauss
"Whatever evils either reason or declamation have imputed to extensive empire,
the power of Rome was attended with some beneficial consequences to mankind;
and the same freedom of intercourse which extended the vices, diffused likewise
the improvements of social life."
-- Edward Gibbon
"Augustus was sensible that mankind is governed by names; nor was he deceived in his
expectation, that the senate and people would submit to slavery, provided they were
respectfully assured that they still enjoyed their ancient freedom."
-- Edward Gibbon
"There exists in human nature a strong propensity to depreciate the advantages, and to magnify
the evils, of the present times."
-- Edward Gibbon
"Our youth now loves luxuries. They have bad manners, contempt for authority.
They show disrespect for elders and they
love to chatter instead of exercise.
Children are now tyrants, not the servants, of their households. They
no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents,
chatter before company, gobble up their food, and tyrannize
"Before impugning an opponent's motives, even when they legitimately may be impugned, answer his arguments."
-- Sidney Hook
"Idealism, alas, does not protect one from ignorance, dogmatism, and foolishness."
-- Sidney Hook
"Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted."
-- Ralph Waldo Emerson
"We take, and must continue to take, morally hazardous actions to preserve our civilization.
We must exercise our power. But we ought neither to believe that a nation is capable of perfect
disinterestedness in its exercise, nor become complacent about particular degrees of interest
and passion which corrupt the justice by which the exercise of power is legitimized."
-- Reinhold Niebuhr
"Faced with the choice of all the land without a Jewish state or a Jewish state without all the
land, we chose a Jewish state without all the land."
-- David Ben-Gurion
"...the proscribing any citizen as unworthy the public confidence by laying upon him
an incapacity of being called to offices of trust and emolument, unless he profess or renounce this
or that religious opinion, is depriving him injuriously of those privileges and advantages
to which, in common with his fellow citizens, he has a natural right; that it tends also
to corrupt the principles of that very religion it is meant to encourage, by bribing,
with a monopoly of worldly honours and emoluments, those who will externally profess
and conform to it;[...] that the opinions of men are not the object of civil government, nor under its jurisdiction; that to suffer the civil magistrate to intrude his powers into the field of opinion
and to restrain the profession or propagation of principles on supposition of their ill tendency is a dangerous fallacy, which at once destroys all religious liberty....
-- Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, Thomas Jefferson
"We don't live just by ideas. Ideas are part of the mixture of customs and practices,
intuitions and instincts that make human life a conscious activity susceptible to
improvement or debasement. A radical idea may be healthy as a provocation;
a temperate idea may be stultifying. It depends on the circumstances. One of the most
tiresome arguments against ideas is that their 'tendency' is to some dire condition --
to totalitarianism, or to moral relativism, or to a war of all against all."
-- Louis Menand
"The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis."
-- Dante Alighieri
"He too serves a certain purpose who only stands and cheers."
-- Henry B. Adams
"The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the
poor to beg in the streets, steal bread, or sleep under a bridge."
-- Anatole France
"When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle."
-- Edmund Burke
"Education does not mean that we have become certified experts in business or mining or botany or journalism or epistemology;
it means that through the absorption of the moral, intellectual, and esthetic inheritance of the race we have come to
understand and control ourselves as well as the external world; that we have chosen the best as our associates both in spirit
and the flesh; that we have learned to add courtesy to culture, wisdom to knowledge, and forgiveness to understanding."
-- Will Durant
"Glimpses do ye seem to see of that mortally intolerable truth; that all deep, earnest thinking is
but the intrepid effort of the soul to keep the open independence of her sea; while the wildest
winds of heaven and earth conspire to cast her on the treacherous, slavish shore?"
-- Herman Melville
"The most important political office is that of the private citizen."
-- Louis D. Brandeis
"If we desire respect for the law, we must first make the law respectable."
-- Louis D. Brandeis
"We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both."
-- Louis D. Brandeis
"It is an error to suppose that books have no influence; it is a slow influence, like flowing water carving out a canyon,
but it tells more and more with every year; and no one can pass an hour a day in the society of sages and heroes without
being lifted up a notch or two by the company he has kept."
-- Will Durant
"When you write, you’re trying to transpose what you’re thinking into something that is less like an annoying drone and more like a piece of music."
-- Louis Menand
"Sex is a continuum."
-- Gore Vidal
"I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should
make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibit the free exercise thereof, thus building a wall of separation between church and state."
-- Thomas Jefferson, letter to the Baptists of Danbury, Connecticut, 1802.
"The sum of our religion is peace and unanimity, but these can scarcely stand unless we define as little as possible,
and in many things leave one free to follow his own judgment, because there is great obscurity in many matters, and
man suffers from this almost congenital disease that he will not give in when once a controversy is started, and
after he is heated he regards as absolutely true that which he began to sponsor quite casually...."
-- Desiderius Erasmus
"Are we to have a censor whose imprimatur shall say what books may be sold, and what we may buy? And who is thus to dogmatize religious opinions for our citizens? Whose foot is to be the measure to which ours are all to be cut or stretched? Is a priest to be our inquisitor, or shall a layman, simple as ourselves, set up his reason as the rule of what we are to read, and what we must disbelieve?"
-- Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to N. G. Dufief, Philadelphia bookseller, 1814
"We are told that it is only people's objective actions that matter, and their subjective feelings are of no importance. Thus pacifists, by obstructing the war effort,
are 'objectively' aiding the Nazis; and therefore the fact that they may be personally hostile to Fascism is irrelevant. I have been guilty of saying this myself more than once. The same argument is applied to Trotskyism. Trotskyists are often credited, at any rate by Communists, with being active and conscious agents of Hitler; but when you point out the many and obvious reasons why this is unlikely to be true,
the 'objectively' line of talk is brought forward again. To criticize the Soviet Union helps Hitler: therefore 'Trotskyism is Fascism'. And when this has been established, the accusation of conscious treachery is usually repeated.
This is not only dishonest; it also carries a severe penalty with it. If you disregard people's motives, it becomes much harder to foresee their actions."
-- George Orwell, "As I Please," Tribune, 8 December 1944
"Wouldn't this be a great world if insecurity and desperation made us more attractive? If 'needy' were a turn-on?"
-- "Aaron Altman," Broadcast News
"The great thing about human language is that it prevents us from sticking to the matter at hand."
-- Lewis Thomas
"To be ignorant of what happened before you were born is to be ever a child. For what is man's lifetime unless the memory of past events is woven with those of earlier times?"
"Knowledge is of two kinds. We know a subject ourselves, or we know where we can find information upon it."
-- Samuel Johnson, Life Of Johnson
"Very well, what did my critics say in attacking my character? I must read out their affidavit, so to speak, as though they were my legal accusers: Socrates is guilty of criminal meddling, in that he inquires into things below the earth and in the sky, and makes the weaker argument defeat the stronger, and teaches others to follow his example."
-- Socrates, via Plato, The Republic
"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, represents, in the final analysis, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children."
-- Dwight D. Eisenhower
"The term, then, is obviously a relative one; my pedantry is your scholarship, his reasonable accuracy, her irreducible minimum of education, & someone else's ignorance."
-- H. W. Fowler
"Rules exist for good reasons, and in any art form the beginner must learn them and understand what they are for, then follow them for quite a while. A visual artist, pianist, dancer, fiction writer, all beginning artists are in the same boat here: learn the rules, understand them, follow them. It's called an apprenticeship. A mediocre artist never stops following the rules, slavishly follows guidelines, and seldom rises above mediocrity. An accomplished artist internalizes the rules to the point where they don't have to be consciously considered. After you've put in the time it takes to learn to swim, you never stop to think: now I move my arm, kick, raise my head, breathe. You just do it. The accomplished artist knows what the rules mean, how to use them, dodge them, ignore them altogether, or break them. This may be a wholly unconscious process of assimilation, one never articulated, but it has taken place."
-- Kate Wilhelm
"The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of true art and true science. Whoever does not know it and can no longer wonder, no longer marvel, is as good as dead, and his eyes are dimmed."
-- Albert Einstein
"The decisive moment in human evolution is perpetual."
-- Franz Kafka, Aphorisms
"All of old. Nothing else ever. Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better."
-- Samuel Beckett, Worstward Ho
"First they ignore you. Then they ridicule you. And then they attack you and want to burn you. And then they build monuments to you."
-- Nicholas Klein, May, 1919, to the Third Biennial Convention of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America (misattributed to Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, 1914 & variants).
"Our credulity is a part of the imperfection of our natures. It is inherent in us to desire to generalize, when we ought, on the contrary, to guard ourselves very carefully from this tendency."
-- Napoleon I of France.
"The truth is, men are very hard to know, and yet, not to be deceived, we must judge them by their present actions, but for the present only."
-- Napoleon I of France.
"The barbarous custom of having men beaten who are suspected of having important secrets to reveal must be abolished. It has always been recognized that this way of interrogating men, by putting them to torture, produces nothing worthwhile. The poor wretches say anything that comes into their mind and what they think the interrogator wishes to know."
-- On the subject of torture, in a letter to Louis Alexandre Berthier (11 November 1798), published in Correspondance Napoleon edited by Henri Plon (1861), Vol. V, No. 3606, p. 128
"All living souls welcome whatever they are ready to cope with; all else they ignore, or pronounce to be monstrous and wrong, or deny to be possible."
-- George Santayana, Dialogues in Limbo (1926)
"If you should put even a little on a little, and should do this often, soon this too would become big."
-- Hesiod, Work And Days
"Your Honor, years ago I recognized my kinship with all living beings, and I made up my mind that I was not one bit better than the meanest on earth. I said then, and I say now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it, and while there is a criminal element I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free."
-- Eugene V. Debs
"Reputation is what other people know about you. Honor is what you know about yourself."
-- Lois McMaster Bujold, A Civil Campaign
"All that we have to do is to send two mujahidin to the furthest point east to raise a piece of cloth on which is written "al-Qaida," in order to make the generals race there to cause America to suffer human, economic, and political losses without their achieving for it anything of note other than some benefits for their private companies."
-- Osama bin Laden
"Remember, Robin: evil is a pretty bad thing."
Gary Farber is now a licensed Quintuple Super-Sekrit Multi-dimensional Master Pundit.
He does not always refer to himself in the third person.
He is presently single.
The gefilte fish is dead. Donate via the donation button on the top left or I'll shoot this cutepanda. Don't you lovepandas?
Current Total # of Donations Since 2002: 1181
Subscribers to date at $5/month: 100 sign-ups; 91 cancellations; Total= 9
Supporter subscribers to date at $25/month: 16 sign-ups; 10 cancellation; Total= 6
Patron subscribers to date at $50/month: 20 sign-ups; 13 cancellations; Total= 7
...writer[s] I find myself checking out repeatedly when I'm in the mood to play follow-the-links. They're not all people I agree with all the time, or even most of the time, but I've found them all to be thoughtful writers, and that's the important thing, or should be.
-- Tom Tomorrow
I bow before the shrillitudinousness of Gary Farber, who has been blogging like a fiend.
-- Ted Barlow, Crooked Timber
Favorite.... [...] ...all great stuff. [...] Gary Farber should never be without readers.
I usually read you and Patrick several times a day, and I always get something from them. You've got great links, intellectually honest commentary, and a sense of humor. What's not to like?
-- Ted Barlow
One of my issues with many poli-blogs is the dickhead tone so many bloggers affect to express their sense of righteous indignation. Gary Farber's thoughtful leftie takes on the world stand in sharp contrast with the usual rhetorical bullying. Plus, he likes "Pogo," which clearly attests to his unassaultable good taste.
Jaysus. I saw him do something like this before, on a thread about Israel. It was pretty brutal. It's like watching one of those old WWF wrestlers grab an opponent's
face and grind away until the guy starts crying. I mean that in a nice & admiring way, you know.
-- Fontana Labs, Unfogged
We read you Gary Farber! We read you all the time! Its just that we are lazy with our blogroll. We are so very very lazy. We are always the last ones to the party but we always have snazzy bow ties.
-- Fafnir, Fafblog!
Gary Farber you are a genius of mad scientist proportions. I will bet there are like huge brains growin in jars all over your house.
-- Fafnir, Fafblog!
Gary Farber is the hardest working man in show blog business. He's like a young Gene Hackman blogging with his hair on fire, or something.
-- Belle Waring, John & Belle Have A Blog
Gary Farber only has two blogging modes: not at all, and 20 billion interesting posts a day [...] someone on the interweb whose opinions I can trust....
-- Belle Waring, John & Belle Have A Blog
Isn't Gary a cracking blogger, apropos of nothing in particular?
-- Alison Scott
Gary Farber takes me to task, in a way befitting the gentleman he is.
-- Stephen Green, Vodkapundit
My friend Gary Farber at Amygdala is the sort of liberal for whom I happily give three cheers. [...] Damned incisive blogging....
-- Midwest Conservative Journal
If I ever start a paper, Clueless writes the foreign affairs column, Layne handles the city beat, Welch has the roving-reporter job, Tom Tomorrow runs the comic section (which carries Treacher, of course). MediaMinded runs the slots - that's the type of editor I want as the last line of defense. InstantMan runs the edit page - and you can forget about your Ivins and Wills and Friedmans and Teepens on the edit page - it's all Blair, VodkaP, C. Johnson, Aspara, Farber, Galt, and a dozen other worthies, with Justin 'I am smoking in such a provocative fashion' Raimondo tossed in for balance and comic relief.
Who wouldn't buy that paper? Who wouldn't want to read it? Who wouldn't climb over their mother to be in it?
-- James Lileks
I do appreciate your role and the role of Amygdala as a pioneering effort in the integration of fanwriters with social conscience into the larger blogosphere of social conscience.
-- Lenny Bailes
Every single post in that part of Amygdala visible on my screen is either funny or bracing or important. Is it always like this? -- Natalie Solent
People I've known and still miss include Isaac Asimov, rich brown, Charles Burbee, F. M. "Buzz" Busby, Terry Carr, A. Vincent Clarke, Bob Doyle, George Alec Effinger, Abi Frost,
Bill & Sherry Fesselmeyer, George Flynn, John Milo "Mike" Ford. John Foyster, Mike Glicksohn, Jay Haldeman, Neith Hammond (Asenath Katrina Hammond)/DominEditrix , Chuch Harris, Mike Hinge, Lee Hoffman, Terry Hughes, Damon Knight, Ross Pavlac, Bruce Pelz, Elmer Perdue, Tom Perry,
Larry Propp, Bill Rotsler, Art Saha, Bob Shaw, Martin Smith, Harry Stubbs, Bob Tucker, Harry Warner, Jr., Jack Williamson, Walter A. Willis, Susan Wood, Kate Worley, and Roger Zelazny.
It's just a start, it only gets longer, many are unintentionally left out.
And She of whom I must write someday.
NOW, CLASS, WHO CAN TELL ME WHAT'S WRONG WITH THIS? Anyone? You, there, in the back?
Israeli leaders and academics Monday slammed a vote by the largest university and college lecturers' union in Britain in favor of a motion recommending that its members boycott Israeli academics and institutions that do not publicly declare their opposition to Israeli policy in the territories.
The motion passed with 106 in favor and 71 against. There were 21 abstentions.
The 69,000-member National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education (NATFHE) debated the proposal for the boycott at its annual conference in the northern English city of Blackpool. Two parts of the motion passed with a show of hands while a third went to a vote. Under the boycott, union members also will not submit articles to Israeli research journals.
Yes, that's right: there's no British boycott of that fine and upstanding democratic nation that so honors human rights both in Tibet and at home, China.
Nor of Russia, which displays its fine treatment of human rights in Chechnya.
Nor of, so far as I know (I trust someone will let me know if I'm wrong), of Sudan, which behaves simply splendidly in Sudan.
Nor of that exemplar of human rights, North Korea.
Nor any boycotts over objections to Saudi Arabia's splendid upholding of women's rights.
Boiling people in Uzbekistan? A-ok!
No, clearly the most evil and oppressive country in the world is Israel.
Glad to know that British academia has taken a stand.
Bradley Burston calls it "Lawrence of Arabia Syndrome" and is a tad cutting.
Let us revel this morning in our own righteousness, our self-evident immunity from reproach, our moral stain-repellence, our unerring instinct for the just, our irresistible compulsion to right wrongs and raise the downtrodden.
Let's, just for the moment, be British leftists.
Save us, Britons. Save us from ourselves.
The Mandate never dies. It only changes uniform.
Yes, but they did such a splendid job in the first half of the 20th century: who wouldn't welcome advice from the former occupier? Father knows best!
Read The Rest Scale: if you weren't paying attention before (I was, but figured I'd wait until something happened; it's not like they care about my opinion), now's the time. Yeah, the vote will likely be overturned with the merger next week, but meantime, nice way to send a message that you care, NATFHE.
I'm a member of the AUT (with whom NATFHE are about to merge, and who have proposed their own boycott of Israeli journals in the recent past), and I rather wish they'd take more notice of China. The college I work at is keen to start offering courses over the internet for students in China - something that's closer to support of the Chinese regime than publishing a few articles in their academic journals.
That having been said, your objections and Bradley Burston's seem a bit generic. They remind me of the objections that right-wingers used to come up with in the 80s, when leftists passed motions about South Africa. Russia was much worse. Why didn't they pass a motion about them? Wasn't it racist for white people to presume that black people needed their help? Grasping at straws, basically.
As you've probably noticed, there are three posts on tehgrauniad's Comment is Free on this already. I'll just claim ignorance of the whole of the Middle East, but of their contributors, Steven Rose is by far the most intellectually impressive. (This does not of course mean that he's right outside his field, but he's the only one I've read a book by.)
I hadn't, because as of yet, at least, I've not developed a habit of perusing there, though I've read quite a number of posts when linked by others.
I take it you were also referring to this by a Brian Klug (which seemed eminently sensible to me), and this by a David Hirsh (also quite right).
Didn't see one by a Steven Rose until I looked him up by contributor and found this.
"We recognise that this has not been an easy decision faced with the extreme pressure put upon the union by outside forces, including the Israeli government and the organised Israel lobby."
Twaddle by an apparent twat. That's all there is to his post: no argument -- just a bunch of adjectives and self-congratulation. But looking at his other posts, I see he has a consistent history of it. So at least there's that.
Mind, it's hardly as if I oppose criticism of Israel, you know.
I didn't notice a resolution boycotting Palestinian academics until they all renounce terrorism and blowing up children, by the way. Funny, that.
Another particularly odious thing about this resolution is its calls for boycotting of individuals unless they pass some sort of vague McCarthyite test of swearing a loyalty oath to... what, isn't exactly clear, insofar as I understand it. But also consider that even the most passionate Israeli academic campaigner for peace and justice might look at the notion that a bunch of foreigners are demanding that she or he must swear an oath to various foreign-imposed demands before they'll deign to have contact with you -- and yours is the only nation on Earth treated this way -- and it's just possible that they might want to spit in your face, deliver a grand "fuck you," and then go back home and to working for real peace where it matters.
But, no, probably that couldn't happen; completely unlike human nature, such a reaction, eh?
That it would be my reaction is surely atypical. I'm sure the resolution will be very effective. It has nothing to do with feeling self-righteous, and everything to do with actually effecting real change for the better.
But, sure, single out the one Jewish country in the world for this sort of thing; treat no other nation on earth like the Jewish nation.
Couldn't possibly be anything anti-Semitic about that, and it couldn't possibly have anything to do with the huge streak of anti-Semitism that has run through the British left in the last couple of decades or so. Pure idealism at work, clearly. Israel gets treatly uniquely among all the nations of the world because it is, clearly, the most evil. Obviously, if there were a more evil nation, it would be the one treated this way. Q.E.D. Lesson learned.
I'll go with the Klug and the Hirsh. Sorry.
(Now, if you want to call for Hamas to recognize Israel, and for there to then be fair negotiations between Israel and the PA for a mutually agreed upon settlement and border and treaty and peace, and for Palestine to have its capital in East Jerusalem, I'm right with you.)
My own guess is that Israel has come to be the default Country Against Which Leftists Pass Motions because of the support that Israel gets from America. Anti-Americanism is, for obvious reasons, very popular on the left. Criticising Israel encourages anti-semites, of course - just as racists use criticisms of African regimes as 'proof' of African racial inferiority - but I think you're getting cause and effect the wrong way round if you think it's anti-semitism that started leftists passing motions about Israel.
It's hard to take discussions of Israel and anti-semitism very far without starting a flame war, but I do wonder... I think we both agree that some of what the Israeli government is doing to the Palestinians is unacceptable. What, in your opionion, is the right way for someone who is neither Jewish nor Israeli to criticize that conduct? Or is it something to steer clear of entirely, as being too likely to encourage the anti-semites?
"...I think you're getting cause and effect the wrong way round if you think it's anti-semitism that started leftists passing motions about Israel."
I wasn't trying to suggest that, precisely.
But I'm really not particularly interested in the cause-and-effect, frankly. I'm not, I assure you, trying to insulate Israel from criticism; there are endless highly important criticisms and critiques to be made of many Israeli policies, and they need to be made and must be made.
But I do believe that there are legitimate and illegitimate approaches, just as there are of anything.
I have a post in mind criticizing Israel to do later today, myself, as it happens, if I can get to it (or, if not in the next couple of days, I hope), as regards the course of the wall and the effect.
"I think we both agree that some of what the Israeli government is doing to the Palestinians is unacceptable."
Yes, definitely and unquestionably.
"What, in your opionion, is the right way for someone who is neither Jewish nor Israeli to criticize that conduct?"
In a way that is no different than one would criticize any other country, and not disproportionally to the wrongs Israel is doing compared to both historic wrongs of other countries and the context in today's world of other countries' wrongs. That's about the only way I can put it off the top of my head.
If NATFHE, or the new merged union, were to institute some sort of reasonable system of rating freedom, or democracy, or human rights, or whatever, of countries around the world, and work out some sort of system of different levels of pressuring them in response, fair enough. Israel wouldn't be being unreasonably singled-out in a way that is effectively anti-Semitic (because when you're treating Jews by a standard different from that applied to anyone and everyone else, yeah, that's effectively anti-Semitic, no matter the motive).
But the other aspects of this particular thing bother me greatly, as well, as I mentioned: the completely McCarthyite way it demands that Israelis -- and no other people -- must swear a personal political declaration in order to be treated like any other academic -- that's simply appalling, and and if people can't see it -- if they can't see what they'd think if it were a totalitarian right-wing government making such a demand -- then they're effing blind.
Similarly the focus on how such a declaration must be made in order to root out what Israelis are thinking.
I mean: !!!!!
It's one of the most fucking stupid things I've ever seen so many people do, and it's hard not to kick the British left as a whole, given how popular this idiocy has been (though, of course, fortunately not with all).
I know you guys are drenched on a daily basis with news of Israel's Apartheid Horrors (many exaggerated/slanted, some not), but this approach is still indefensible. And it's impossible to not see it as being about feeling self-satisfied that One Is Doing Something, rather than about merely actually accomplishing anything good beyond personal self-congratulations about one's virtue.
Want to really do good? Move to the Gaza Strip and volunteer. Or to the West Bank. Or to Israel. Or send donations. Or support organizations working for peace. Try to bring Palestinians and Israelis together. Whatever.
But instituting McCarthyite treatment of Israeli academics (almost all of whom are bloody left-wing, for pete's sake!) isn't the way to go.
Thinking about it, I wonder if the problem is that you're trying to advance arguments against this specific action when your real concern is the general tendency in the British Left that this is an example of. (Unless that's what you've been saying all along and I've just been misreading you of course. I am prone to that.)
If NATFHE, or the new merged union, were to institute some sort of reasonable system of rating freedom, or democracy, or human rights, or whatever...
Calling for a rating system is... odd. If it was really going to be fair, you'd have to apply it to every good cause supported by anyone anywhere - otherwise it would function as a barrier. The kind of fairness you're looking for is a too complicated to be reduced to a set of rules, I think.
...when you're treating Jews by a standard different from that applied to anyone and everyone else, yeah, that's effectively anti-Semitic, no matter the motive.
I don't agree. If you're treating Jews differently because they're Jews then that's anti-semitism. If you're treating Jews differently from another stated motive, then that's a reason to suspect anti-semitism, but not sufficient evidence to prove it. This is the basic stuff of discrimination cases.
In the case of the British left, I think there are enough other reasons for Israel becoming the baddy-of-the-moment to make accusations of anti-semitism dubious, at best. I've touched on some of those reasons already: I'd add to them that Israel is a functioning democracy, and that Israel's universities are part of the academic mainstream. (More on that last in a minute.) I do agree, though, that making Israel the baddy-of-the-moment creates a climate in which anti-semitism could take root, and that it's worth keeping an eye on that. Anti-racism and anti-fascism are traditions of the left, but traditions get eroded over time.
...the completely McCarthyite way it demands that Israelis -- and no other people -- must swear a personal political declaration in order to be treated like any other academic -- that's simply appalling [...] ...this approach is still indefensible. [...] ...instituting McCarthyite treatment of Israeli academics (almost all of whom are bloody left-wing, for pete's sake!) isn't the way to go.
Sorry for the slightly odd quoting there, but I want to address a few particular things you say as well as the genral issue of McCarthyism.
First off: I am prepared to defend their approach. It's not what I would have done, but I think there's a plausible reading of the motion that's neither evil nor amazingly stupid.
Second: a union is not a government, and it acts in a different context. Insofar as NATFHE members are part of international academic community (which may, admittedly, not be very far - I think they're giving themselves airs), this is better interpreted as shunning: a social sanction that takes place within the community. Social sanctions can still be oppression, of course, but there's a significant difference between "all citizens must sign the Loyalty Pledge" and "we're not talking to you until you admit you're wrong".
Third, I think the fact that most Israeli academics are left-wing is exactly the point. I read this as a wake-up call to fellow leftists who are, in the opinion of NATFHE, tacitly complicit in the oppressive practicises of the Israeli government. I would be prepared to argue that they're being high-handed and provincial in their assumptions, but I'd characterize that as 'silly' rather than 'indefensible'. And, obviously, the reason they're singling out Israeli academics is that only Israeli academics are citizens of Israel.
As for why they're passing motions about Israel at all... The cynical answer is that it makes them feel important and it's easier than campaigning for better pay and conditions for their members. The only slightly less cynical answer is that passing motions on international affairs is a ritual affirmation of their commitment to international socialism. The important question though - and this is where we potentially disagree - is if they're doing even a little more good than harm by passing this motion.
"...I wonder if the problem is that you're trying to advance arguments against this specific action when your real concern is the general tendency in the British Left that this is an example of."
I don't think so. It seems to me that this particular type of action is particularly repellent, for the reasons I've described (as have many others, of course, though largely in parallel; I came to my conclusions before I went out and noted that, inevitably, innumerable others had noticed the same objectionable points): a) the absurdity of picking only on Israel, which is hardly the most offensive country on human rights in the world -- not even close; b) the offensiveness of demanding personal political declarations from individuals; c) the evil nature of demanding people correct what they think.
"Calling for a rating system is... odd."
Don't see why; it's what one would do if one genuinely cared about human rights, rather than about being fashionably anti-Israel.
"The kind of fairness you're looking for is a too complicated to be reduced to a set of rules, I think."
Gee, ya think? Funny, that. Actually, systems could probably be worked out, but, yes, they'd be complicated. If that's a problem, well, yes, being reasonable and fair and appropriate has its complications. It's easy to simply be absurd and unfair and arbitrary, on the other hand.
"If you're treating Jews differently because they're Jews then that's anti-semitism. If you're treating Jews differently from another stated motive,"
I'm really not very interested in motives. I'm not here to look into people's souls or hearts, or mindread them, and I'm usually only going to be guessing about motives, in any case, so largely I don't worry about them. I don't care if these people are anti-Semitic in motive, I care that they're being anti-Semitic in effect. And I think that's undeniable, when you treat the one Jewish state absurdly differently and disproportionately from all other states. It's hardly as if Israel, for all its wrongs as regards Palestinians, acts as badly as China does regarding Tibet and its other minorities, let alone Russia in Chechnya, etc., etc.
"Anti-racism and anti-fascism are traditions of the left, but traditions get eroded over time."
The tradition of leftist solidarity with Israel eroded away a few decades ago.
"Second: a union is not a government, and it acts in a different context."
You may want to read up more on McCarthyism: it was largely a private movement. All the blacklists, the "Red Channels" publication, etc., were private movements, done by unions and private associations and companies: they weren't government-mandated. No one on the left remotely found that a defense or defensible.
"I read this as a wake-up call to fellow leftists who are, in the opinion of NATFHE, tacitly complicit in the oppressive practicises of the Israeli government."
That's too fucking ignorant of Israeli academics for words.
Also, again, the paternalism is outrageous. Were I an Israeli, I'd say "piss off and take care of your own problems." If others in the world organized a boycott of British academics unless they signed a personal pledge to do more to fight racism and anti-Islamic and anti-Semitic and ant-gay sentiment, you'd probably think that ridiculous, and that Britain was working to deal with such problems. Israel has more serious issues, but it's hardly as if it's not also working on them, as well. Not fast enough for your satisfaction? Fair enough; so also do many Israelis think, and I'd like more speed, too; but boycotting individuals is an absurd way to try to deal with it. Frustrated you can't do more? Well, I haven't been able to do much about solving Chechnya, either; life doesn't provide easy shortcuts to such things. And attempts to get such shortcuts by punishing irrelevant people unfairly aren't reasonable.