Random Observation of the Day

I have noticed that if a political figure or pundit makes the observation that one political obstacle in changing our foriegn policies regarding Israel is the influence of the American Jewish population, then you are labled a “bigot” or “anti-Semite.”

However, if you make the observation that one political obstacle in changing our foreign policies regarding Cuba is the large Cuban population in Florida, you are labeled “Captain Obvious.”

I find the dichotomy interesting, because of course large populations of Americans with ties to a foreign country are going to have some influence towards our policies towards that country. So why is it okay to notice that some times and not others? After all, noting the imprudence of the Armenian Genocide Resolution doesn’t cause one to be labeled an “Anti-Armenian bigot”, even if you go so far as to note that the Armenian-American lobby had a lot to do with it.

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Alex Knapp
About Alex Knapp
Alex Knapp is Associate Editor at Forbes for science and games. He was a longtime blogger elsewhere before joining the OTB team in June 2005 and contributed some 700 posts through January 2013. Follow him on Twitter @TheAlexKnapp.

Comments

  1. Bithead says:

    I have noticed that if a political figure or pundit makes the observation that one political obstacle in changing our foriegn policies regarding Israel is the influence of the American Jewish population, then you are labled a “bigot” or “anti-Semite.”

    However, if you make the observation that one political obstacle in changing our foreign policies regarding Cuba is the large Cuban population in Florida, you are labeled “Captain Obvious.”

    Of course the largest number of people affecting polcies in both cases, is neither group. It’s true, those groups are the center of such support, but ask yorself; would such support for our current policy in each case, disappear, if the groups you mention did>

    I don’t think so, Tim.

  2. Alex Knapp says:

    It’s true, those groups are the center of such support, but ask yorself; would such support for our current policy in each case, disappear, if the groups you mention did>

    I don’t dispute that in the least. But I wouldn’t go so far as to say that those groups aren’t political obstacles to those who want to change the policies.

    And I say that, by the way, without respect to the merits of changing either policy.

  3. J.W. Hamner says:

    I’ve been wondering a lot about the Cuban analogy myself lately and I can only guess that Ad Hominem’s are less prevalent because our policy towards Cuba is just not that important to the country as a whole right now. 40 years ago I imagine it was a bit different.

  4. Michael says:

    I think a lot of it has to do with history and perception. People who are used to discrimination expect discrimination, and therefore tend to see discrimination even when it isn’t present. Kind of like how people from both the left and the right see media bias against them, even in the same story.

    You can tie this back to the debates about what comments are and are not racist, and you will find that those who believe they have been discriminated against in the past by those making a statement tend to find it racist, while those who have not been discriminated by those people tend not to.

  5. Ugh says:

    foriegn policies regarding Israel is the influence of the American Jewish population

    but it’s not the American Jewish population as a whole that gets pointed out, but a particularly hawkish and (supposedly) powerful segment of that population that gets pointed out, which leads accusations that the person is dragging up old stereotypes about Jews conspiring to control (or actually controlling) the world, etc. etc. etc.

    Because I don’t think a majority of the American Jewish population supports our (seemingly) “Israel can do no wrong” policy.

  6. Christopher says:

    Gee, Alex, maybe it is merely doing the right thing.

    Opposing communist Cuba and all of its horrible human rights violations and oppressing freedom, as well as confiscating hundreds of millions in US citizens property, maybe that is the right thing to do.

    Siding with Israel against Palestinian terrorist groups formed only for the oppression of Israel by other Islamic middle eastern countries, maybe that is the right thing to do.

  7. Steve Plunk says:

    I heartily agree with Christopher’s assessment and would like to add something else.

    A large part of the Cuban-American population in south Florida are displaced Cubans. Cubans or their descendants who came from the island. The regime they oppose has a history of rights violations and actual aggression toward the United States (justified or not).

    The majority of the Jewish-Americans are native born Americans with no ties to Israel other than their religion. The number of immigrants from Israel is a small subset.

    The differences in the struggles in each of the countries is very different. The players on both sides are very different. The goals of each group of American citizens is very different.

    The two groups and their politics are essentially not comparable in any meaningful manner unless someone wants to pick and choose characteristics of one group to impugn another.

  8. Hal says:

    Gee, Alex, maybe it is merely doing the right thing.

    Gee, that’s not what Alex is getting at. What he’s saying is that in one case, you’re labeled an anti-semite and in the other case, you’re not labeled as anti-latino.

    I know y’all like to use pretty much everything as a launching point for your ideas, but Alex didn’t say anything like what your comment is saying.

  9. Hal says:

    In any event, to give my answer to the question Alex asked, the reason why is that in the case of Israeli, the identity of the Jewish people is intimately tied with state of Israel. Further, this is largely driven by a *religious* identity, regardless of whether the people involved are largely secular or not.

    In contrast, Cuba is merely an identity for Cubans, not the whole of Latinos. Further, it is largely an issue regarding property and not one that involves religion – as far as I can tell, it’s completely devoid of it. So, seeing as how it’s dealing with a subset of a culture, and that it is blissfully free of any religious overtones, the knee to the groin isn’t involved when discussing the issue.

    WRT Israel, you have not only the Jewish identity and religion involved at the base, you have the large segment of Rapture lovin’ evangelicals who believe that Israel’s statehood is critical to the return of Christ. At which point, Israel will be destroyed in a bloodbath – something that inexplicably gets characterized as “pro” Israel.

  10. sam says:

    I know y’all like to use pretty much everything as a launching point for your ideas, but Alex didn’t say anything like what your comment is saying.

    Way, way too generous there, Hal.

  11. Bithead says:

    Gee, that’s not what Alex is getting at. What he’s saying is that in one case, you’re labeled an anti-semite and in the other case, you’re not labeled as anti-latino.

    Well, in truth, it’d be kinda hard to do that (the latter) anyway, since it’s only involving a small subset of Latinos… Cubans, specifically.

    I suppose, though that when one speaks out against the Cuban government, not the cuban PEOPLE, per se’, it’s recognized as not being racially motivated, but centering on the system of government, and further, it’s generally acknowledged that communism is an inherrently evil system of government. I’m unconvinced, then, that the comparison is a valid one.

  12. Bithead says:

    And Hal, you’re remarkably close, in your most recent post. Consider your comments, though in light of the word ‘culture’. Yes, here’s a religious element, to Israel, but I daresay that the majority involved with input on policy regarding Israel are not particularly religious, per se, being driven more by ethnicity, and cultural background.

    I don’t know where the lines are, particularly, here, I’m simply suggested another set of markers to work with, that might explain what’s being seen.

  13. Hal says:

    but I daresay that the majority involved with input on policy regarding Israel are not particularly religious, per se, being driven more by ethnicity, and cultural background.

    It’s pretty well known that a small, vocal group can be used by those with another agenda in a passive fashion while keeping plausible deniability. Regardless, there are plenty of issues where people feel quite passionate about, but we somehow manage to have the discussion without yelling “anti-semite” at the first sign of disagreement. The issue isn’t whether there’s far more at stake regarding Israel than its grounding as a religious and cultural identity. The issue is why does “anti-semite” get thrown out at the drop of a hate when criticizing Israel, when this doesn’t happen when discussing – say – Cuba, where equally passionate supporters are involved and the issues are easily as broad with as many varied interests.

    And the simple answer is that by yelling “anti-semite”, you can shut down the conversation and this is very, very convenient to a certain sector of the discussion. If the Cuban refugees could, they would be using the same tactic. The reason why they can’t and the Israelis can is simply because of the religious and cultural identity that is strongly rooted in the state of Israel. Without that, the cries of “anti-semite” would be laughable.

  14. Bithead says:

    Logically, this could (and I think should) be extended to cries of ‘racist’.

    Though I admit a certain sympathy for turning 30 years of crying ‘racist’ around on such as Wright, Jackson, Sharpton, et al.

  15. Christopher says:

    Hal,

    …………………hmmm…according to James I shouldn’t call people names or insult them when we disagree.

    But Hal, I gotta say, what in the world are you talking about?!?

    THE point was that policy was influenced by Americans with ties to a foreign country. MY point was that maybe policy ISN’T affected by that, and that current American policy was simply the right thing to do.

    Get it, HAL? Schools out.

  16. Hal says:

    Christopher, apparently you have less than third grade reading comprehension. Read this post again and then “school me” as to how in the world your comment has any relevance at all.

    Please, I’m waiting with a worm on my tongue.

  17. Bithead says:

    Oh, I understand him Hal.
    He’s reading the thread as “the influence being spoken of is leading us down the incorrect path”.

    Or, as an alternative, he’s suggesting that we’d be coming to the current policies, even absent the pressure groups involved, simply because what’re we’re doing (Supporting Israel and derailing Cuba) is the right thing to be doing.

    Seems to me his thought on this is of a peice with my own when I suggested that the policy might not change all that much absent those groups.

  18. Christopher says:

    Yes, Bithead is correct. Especially given that there was not a substantial Cuban population in the US at the time of Castro taking power. Plus, Jewish influence was not that great in WWII, marked by our extremely slow response to the Holocaust in Germany. (Israel was formed just after WWII, Hal, as you are probably unaware).

    Hal, you should go back to school. Maybe there is a liberal remedial school somewhere, but probably not-liberals like yourself do like to remain ignorant.

  19. Hal says:

    I completely understand what Christopher is saying – that isn’t a mystery. The issue is that Alex asked the question – and I paraphrase:

    Why is it when you bring up the observation that one political obstacle in changing our foriegn policies regarding Israel is the influence of the American Jewish population, then you are labled a “bigot” or “anti-Semite.”

    However, when you bring up an analogous observation that one political obstacle in changing our foreign policies regarding Cuba is the large Cuban population in Florida, you are labeled “Captain Obvious.”

    To this, Christopher – the master teacher – responded

    Gee, Alex, maybe it is merely doing the right thing.

    To which you have to either believe that the MASTER TEACHER is completely ignoring Alex’s question and running on about a completely different subject or you have to believe that the MASTER TEACHER simply can’t read. I chose the former and was castigated by the MASTER TEACHER for my choice.

    If I take the MASTER TEACHER’s response at face value, it parses as

    It’s okay to call people an “anti-semite” when they point out that one political obstacle of changing foreign policies regarding Israel because “it’s the right thing to do”.

    Now, maybe that really is what the MASTER TEACHER meant to say, but in that case he’s an absolute fool, not merely someone with a less than third grade reading comprehension.

    It’s pretty clear that Christopher barely parsed Alex’s post and responded with his lizard brain, thinking that Alex was asking why it’s wrong to criticize Israeli policy and why it’s wrong to criticize America’s Cuban policy.

    Obviously, he didn’t read the post before he responded to it.

  20. Hal says:

    Maybe there is a liberal remedial school somewhere, but probably not-liberals like yourself do like to remain ignorant.

    You really are a dufus.

  21. Michael says:

    Israel was formed just after WWII, Hal, as you are probably unaware

    Israel may not have declared statehood until 1948, but the formation and population of Israel by European Jews had been going on since just after WWI as part of the British mandate in Palestine to establish a Jewish homeland.

  22. Bithead says:

    Gee, Alex, maybe it is merely doing the right thing.

    To which you have to either believe that the MASTER TEACHER is completely ignoring Alex’s question and running on about a completely different subject or you have to believe that the MASTER TEACHER simply can’t read. I chose the former and was castigated by the MASTER TEACHER for my choice.

    You’re missing it, Hal. If the general perception is that our policies in each of these areas is the correct one, would that or would that not affect the reaction to those policies, thus altering the number of times ‘anti-semite/racist’ gets dragged out a a charge?

  23. Bithead says:

    oops.
    Sorry for the blockquote garble.
    I keep forgetting this theme doesn’t accept nested blockquotes anymore. Not proper XHTML and all that.
    My mistake.

  24. Hal says:

    If the general perception is that our policies in each of these areas is the correct one, would that or would that not affect the reaction to those policies, thus altering the number of times ‘anti-semite/racist’ gets dragged out a a charge?

    My god. Look, if you want to argue that question, that’s fine, but that IS NOT THE QUESTION ALEX ASKED.

    If you reread the post, the issue is that we have two cases on the table. One in Israel and one in Cuba. The issues are almost identical in that the main impediment to altering foreign policy is a passionately vocal group. However, in one case you get called an anti-semite if you mention this fact and the other you don’t. I don’t think that there’s any perception issue around whether our policies are the correct ones.

    And really, there isn’t any reason – EVER – to call someone an anti-semite, because they point out that the main impediment to changing foreign policy WRT Israel is “the influence of the American Jewish population” – regardless of what you think the foreign policy should be or where you think things should change.

    This is almost surreal. No, strike that. It is positively surreal. I can’t for the life of me understand why y’all can’t focus on the question and instead think that the actual issue is whether or not current policy on Israel is correct or not.

    I mean, my god.

  25. Bithead says:

    So, why is it OK to notice this sometimes and not others?

    I dunno, Hal. Sounds like he difference between the two situations is one of perception right or wrong, of the policies. thereby, it’s OK to notice it in onc place and not others.

    How is that any less than fully addressing Alex’s question?

  26. Christopher says:

    Hal,

    MASTER TEACHER?!?

    I guess then that you are the MASTER-BAITOR.

    hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!!!!