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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Defining deviancy downward

For those of you who recognize Pat Moynihan, who was a US Ambassador to the United Nations and a Senator from New York, you'll understand momentarily why his picture is on this post.

I apologize to those of you who expected me to post more yesterday. I expected to post more too. But while most of the time most of my posts are scheduled, and therefore I am not up around the clock, on Sunday night, I was up until 3:30 am talking to one of my semi-adult children. As a result, I was more wasted than I expected to be last night, and simply wiped out.

Richard Baehr writes that by opening the tent, as proposed by Martin Raffel, to include in the anti-BDS movement those who 'only' advocate boycotting the 'settlements' we are doing what Daniel Patrick Moynihan (hence his picture) once called defining deviance downward.
In essence, the Raffel statement acknowledged that there are two classes of BDS supporters — “good” boycotters and “bad” boycotters. The good boycotters need to be welcomed within the community’s big tent, since they share the broader Jewish community’s consensus view of Israel — i.e., good boycotters supposedly have “demonstrated consistent concern for Israel’s security, support Israel’s inalienable right to exist as a Jewish democratic state, and consider Israel to be the eternal home of the Jewish people.” If such boycotters exist as Raffel articulates, I have yet to find them or hear from them. In fact, the category of “good boycotters” is relatively indistinguishable from the “bad boycotters” when it comes to events and campaigns targeting Israel.

Raffel also argues that these acceptable boycotters are needed within the big community tent in order to help persuade the more hardline leftists that Israel deserves their support (for example, because of women’s rights, LGBT issues, labor, and minority rights). Presumably, if the bad boycotters (the delegitimizers of Israel) were educated by other progressives about all the progressive features of Israel’s society, then the bad boycotters could be persuaded to move along the political continuum, maybe even becoming good boycotters themselves.

That the organized Jewish community has come to such a state of incoherence brings to mind the late Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s article from 1993 about “defining deviancy down,” which analyzed how communities react to increases in deviant criminal behavior.

Moynihan argued that as the amount of deviant behavior increases, the community becomes incapable of recognizing all of it, and adjusts to the new reality by lowering its standards. So, behavior once thought deviant (but not the most deviant of all criminal behavior), is no longer considered so.

Could a better description be offered for Raffel’s recent comment? The evidence abounds: Hillel chapters, in large part funded by Jewish Federations, are wrestling with whether to accept bad boycotters, who oppose the Jewish state of Israel (e.g. Jewish Voices for Peace). Jewish Federations in New York and Washington, D.C. are being challenged for funding theatres or other groups whose purpose seems to be to undermine the Jewish State.

J-Street, an organization which repeatedly and falsely proclaims that it is pro-Israel, pro-peace, has become part of the Jewish mainstream, with its conferences addressed by Israeli leaders, members of Congress, and Obama administration officials. Its leader is a frequent visitor to the White House and an invited guest to the president’s briefings to Jewish leaders. The organized Jewish community sees the enemy, and by and large, seems to be ready to surrender and call the enemy a friend – all in an ill-advised effort to expand or maintain the semblance of a broad communal tent.

The problem for the organized Jewish community world is, unfortunately, far bigger than figuring out how to deal with boycotts.
Read the whole thing. He's spot-on.

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At 11:34 AM, Blogger NormanF said...

The organized Jewish community no longer seems capable of differentiating between Jewish anti-Semites and pr-Israel Zionists. When you welcome any one into the Jewish community, "pro-Israel" soon loses its meaning.

A world in which those who think the Fogels got what they deserved can sit side by side with those who think the revanants are critical to Israel's survival make a mockery of ensuring Israel's survival.

Somewhere along the way, that bright line Jews had where they knew how to distinguish foe from friend vanished.

With anti-Israel activists now in the Jewish mainstream, Israel needs friends like them like it needs enemies.

At 10:44 PM, Blogger ais cotten19 said...

Redefining the concept of common ground will lead to a situation where gay rights activists can work along side proponents of Sharia law. Then, they will have to come up with a new and improved definition for the phrase "working along side". After that, who knows, maybe a new definition of peace on earth?


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