Friday, January 06, 2012

"Israel Firster" versus "climate denialists" versus Lindzen

An interesting article by Spencer Ackerman sounds off against the term "Israel Firster" as used by the American progressives as a label for Americans that support every Israeli policy and interest, especially the most aggressive and anti-Muslim policies.

My most left-wing views concern Israel, its shameful treatment of Palestinians, and the accurate description by Israeli politicians of that policy as "apartheid".  Still, I think I agree with Ackerman, not entirely but enough to say that the Israel Firster term should be dropped.  The key to me is that the term originates in anti-Semitism (this is my first and probably last positive reference to anything written by David Bernstein).  While the African-American community has shown how to reappropriate words with disgusting historical origins, that's not something to be done lightly.  Let this term go.

Juan Cole does a better job with the term Likud-supporter, describing the American politicians who reject as anti-Israel the positions favored by a significant strand of progressive Israeli politics.  I'm not sure that captures the thought of politicians who can't see any divergence between American and Israeli interests, but it's good enough for now.

By contrast, I've never bought the claim that "climate denialism" must not be uttered because of its similarity to "Holocaust denial".  I used climate denialism years long before it was claimed by opponents to be derived from Holocaust denial terminology.  Even if it was for some, the connection isn't nearly as seamless as the term "Israeli Firster" is with anti-Semitism.  These people truly are climate denialists and it has a connection to being anti-science, not to anti-Semitism.

And since we're on a related subject, there's the issue of Richard Lindzen claiming to be offended by the term climate denier because he claims to be a Holocaust survivor.  His claim is based on the fact that his Jewish parents emigrated from Germany in 1938, and he was born in 1940.  Even the broadest-accepted definition of Holocaust survivor would only include his parents, not him (and many would not include his parents, although they undoubtedly faced severe persecution).  Actual Holocaust survivors would have good reason to be offended by Lindzen.