Watch Your Heart – Islamophobia and Antisemitism

I don’t have anything definitive to say on the issue of Israel and Palestine for a good reason: It’s a complicated situation and I haven’t done the homework. Even saying that, someone will come in the comments and try to tell me it’s really totally simple. Yes, aspects of it are simple. Massacres and apartheid and terrorism are bad, specific incidents and blatantly evil systems and institutions can be unequivocally condemned.

But taking a side in this conflict can lure you into affirming and amplifying your prejudices. Right now, creepy officials in the US are trying to force people to pledge loyalty oaths to Israel. That’s bad for us, bad for peace. France’s Emmanuel Macron has sad that rejecting Israel’s political will is inherently antisemitic. Again, compelling people to mindlessly support a state’s right to oppress an ethnic group. That’s bad stuff.

But all you have to do is raise the issue to see the antisemites and islamophobes crawl out of the woodwork – and to see people you’re normally inclined to like and respect start showing shades of those character flaws. Look at the phrasing of the comments on the Pharyngula post about this. Sometimes it’s subtle, but it’s telling.

The antisemitically inclined will list bad adjectives, then the word “jewish” among them. Maybe they aren’t antisemitic, but the way they phrased their comment unintentionally equates being jewish with being a fascist. Or maybe the outsized influence of the Israel lobby in the US provokes latent antisemitic feelings in them, about how jews secretly control the world.

The islamophobically inclined will say their feeling is that Israel will be more peacefully inclined and trustworthy than Palestine. They’ll remember the many instances of antisemitic rhetoric and actions being taken by Palestinians or people using them as a political cause, but forget all the islamophobic stew we’ve been swimming in since the damn 1960s.

If you are going to comment on the conflict in that region, do your homework first. That’s the reason I don’t comment on it – because I don’t have the time to take that step properly. And more than that, watch your heart. I’m inclined to trust the politically lefty to have the well-being of all people in their heart as they approach a situation, BUT I know damn well we are culturally cultivated to be antisemitic and many of us are just thoughtless enough to let that get out of control, get away from us.

All I want is for you to think before you speak, to search your feelings for prejudice. It may seem hypocritical of the guy with whose average post is tweet length, but bear with me. And good luck.


  1. BruceM says

    In the last election, if Le Pen had gotten more votes than Macron, would that mean that President Le Pen was now empowered to define the French national will? Would it mean she could say all Macron supporters were anti-French? Could US state and federal governments make it effectively illegal to claim that Macron had some good points, or that agreeing with Macron should not be illegal? Should France become a one-party political situation, where all other parties are banned?
    If it is legal in Israel for non-Likud people to say their opinions, why is it not legal for Americans to agree with those other Israeli politicians?
    If it is legal for US state and Federal institutions to put in viewpoint censorship, when will the US show their support for Israel by requiring the Israeli government to ban and exile all Non-Likud Israeli politicians?
    If the US authorities can require support for Netanyahu as a condition of employment in the USA, when can they also require total support for Trump as a condition for jobs or Medicare or Social Security or getting electricity and water hooked up to your house?
    Were the USA and/or Israel founded with certain values in mind? Can those now be totally rewritten? If this is acceptable, why should any country on earth ever again bother with elections? If the thinking is done, do we have nothing left to do but to submit to our holy prophet and revelator?

  2. says

    BruceM – I don’t have the sauce to engage with your comment, but you clearly have big feels and haven’t said anything bannable, so I let you escape the spam filter. I am curious as to why you were flagged as spam though. Might be because you tried to post the same comment from two different e-mails? Not sure. But you’re free now, so use your freedom well.

  3. brucegee1962 says

    I loathe Donald Trump and everything he stands for, but I don’t think that makes me anti-American.
    I don’t think much of Theresa May, but that doesn’t make me anti-British.
    So if I say that I can’t stand Netanyahu and his party for setting up a permanent system of apartheid, I don’t see why that should be considered anti-Semitic. I am sure that most people in the country are decent sorts, just like in every other country. But decent people can all too often get duped or scared into voting for real monsters — again, as we have seen in every other country in the world.

  4. says

    Conflating “against some action Israel takes” with anti-semitism is a trick that Israel’s supporters have gotten a great deal of mileage from. But it’s just a political judo-move; people who accuse others of anti-semitism, racism, islamophobia, or whatever, ought to focus their complaint on specific things that show prejudice. Supporting Palestinians’ rights does not mean one wishes to see Israel eradicated (in spite of what Sam Harris appears to think) it really pisses me off when someone tries to establish a false dichotomy between “either you’re in favor of genocide, or you’ve got to be OK with Israel doing retaliatory area-bombings against civilian targets.” Morality doesn’t work that way.(*)

    (* I think it doesn’t work at all, which is why I self-identify as a moral nihilist)

  5. says

    I disagree with nothing in 5 & 6 here. I’d merely add that many people in organized atheism deny islamophobia even exists, and while they may be right that accusations of it are used to shut down legitimate criticism of bad beliefs and practices within islam, that doesn’t magically make islamophobia fake, and it doesn’t mean we aren’t hella islamophobic, as a movement (such as we are one).

    And that said, I don’t think either of you have said anything islamophobic here. But any of us can go there, and any of us can reinforce antisemitism, if we’re not thoughtful about stuff. And you’ve both been thoughtful here, so cool. I just don’t think we should be dismissive of our own potential to fuck up.

  6. says

    All I know is, when one party (Israel) is constantly on the attack, continually violating the basic human rights of the other party (Palestine), they don’t get to claim “victimhood” or cry “terrorism” when members of the second party quite reasonably decide to defend themselves.

  7. wereatheist says


    it really pisses me off when someone tries to establish a false dichotomy between “either you’re in favor of genocide, or you’ve got to be OK with Israel doing retaliatory area-bombings against civilian targets.”

    Last year, the IDF bombed 100+ ‘targets’ (whatever this means), and the death toll was well below 100.
    I’m sympathetic whith the POV “one death is too much”, but retaliatory area bombing would yield much different numbers.
    Disclaimer: I think Netanyahu is an asshole. But unfortunately, Israeli society has shifted towards the far right after the Palestinians adopted the strategy of suicidal bombings.

  8. lanir says

    I really dislike the term antisemitism. It’s meaning has disintegrated under the pressure of being used as a club for decades. If you want to talk about racism, talk about racism. I think that term is a little too close to describing apparently common views in Israel about Palestinians though, while no one is going to accuse anyone of antisemitism against Palestinians.

    I also disagree with the idea that one should not comment or hold opinions about Israel and what they’re doing without burying oneself in the minutae of decades of conflict. The US government supports Israel monetarily, materially and diplomatically. It’s too late to pretend we’re not involved. That’s why the enforced loyalty to Israel is making the rounds. People who like the status quo are desperate to avert the changes they see coming and they’re acting out stupidly. Those laws are a panicked overreach and they’ll all fall like dominos as soon as a court case reaches the federal appellate level or the supreme court.

    I think this might be the only time I’ll ever say this ridiculous phrase without being sarcastic but “They hate us for our freedoms.” Specifically the freedom to call them on their BS. In this case “they” is probably more US groups that are pro-Israel than any particular group of foreigners but you get the idea.

  9. says

    Now we’re starting to get into the area of comments I disagree with, but I don’t mind differing opinions coming from a reasonable point of view, so no one is pushing my boundaries for the touchy banhammer of satan. Y’all good.

    WMDkitty – I tend to agree with you. Terrorism might be a word ready for the dustbin. Basically, it’s any warfare using the tactics available to the less powerful opponent. If any act of war or violence is justified, then a lot of what is called terrorism can be justified.

    wereatheist – Those numbers sound wildly at odds with some other numbers I’ve seen floating around. As I admitted above, I haven’t done the homework, but a source might be useful for such an argument. As to retaliating against suicide bombing with mass violence, flip that for a moment and consider if you might be a suicide bomber under a different circumstance. Think Randy Quaid in Independence Day.

    lanir – I most definitely disagree regarding the language issue. Racism is only one component of antisemitism. I think it has a lot in common with islamophobia, which is why I lump them together. There are jews from Eritrea to Ireland and back and in all shades, and muslims even more racially diverse and far flung. Racism is insufficient to describe the historic animosity against members of certain religions. Antisemitism might not be technically accurate (founded in older ideas about race or whatever, I’m no expert), but it has specific historical use hundreds of years established. Plus, when you talk about getting rid of the term bc it’s been used as a political club, you are saying something nazis love to say, however true it may be. If you’re agreeing with nazis about something, you might want to think more deeply about your feelings.

    On the political stance – that one shouldn’t need to become a mega-scholar to weigh in on the political issues of Israel and Palestine – I somewhat agree. I think someone should be willing to be more proactive, get out there and make sure justice is being served, even if the full scholarship isn’t available to ’em. For myself though? I don’t want to jump in a camp, because waaay too often I see that shit being creep-adjacent. Start talking shit about Israel and antisemites get boners, the reverse and it’s the islamophobes. I don’t personally want the ick on me, but someone else who is willing? Go for it.

  10. wereatheist says


    numbers sound wildly at odds with some other numbers I’ve seen floating around

    I tend to trust the official numbers given by the Gazan (i.e. Hamas) government.
    Of course, they’ll omit boring details such as how many of the dead were male, over 12-13 yo and in pretty close proximity to machine guns or something similar when hit, but I’m probabely asking for too much.

    As to retaliating against suicide bombing with mass violence

    Suicide bombing has been stopped. Whereas good fences don’t necessarily make good neighbours, in this case they made them less bad, at least.
    I could agree with nazis about the weather. Or not: our (German) rightwingers are AGW-denialists, too.

  11. wereatheist says

    Ah, you were alluding on the campaign against the so-called “attack tunnels”.
    Yes, there were thousands killed. In my opinion, this was a gross over-reaction by the Israelis.
    I mean, come on, “attack tunnels”? Just flood them with sea water and we’re fine.

  12. says

    See, this is part of why I don’t get into this discussion. Every aspect of what you’ve said here is something I’d have to google to discuss. In fact, not sure how comfortable I feel even hosting this discussion, since the more “facts” that are brought into evidence, the more likely I am to be hosting distortions that serve a prejudiced agenda. I don’t have the time and energy to do this right. I have shit going on.

    Anyhow, if anyone wants to talk with wereatheist about this from an informed perspective, I’ll let it go a little longer, but then I’m closing the comments.